Transcript for Episode 496: Discovering the Northeast of France

Categories: Family Travel, French History, Hauts-de-France

Discussed in this Episode

  • La Côte d'Opale
  • Cap Blanc-Nez
  • Cap Gris-Nez
  • Calais
  • Mont Saint Michel
  • Amiens
  • Maison Jules Verne
  • Notre Dame d'Amiens Cathedral
  • Boulogne-sur-Mer
  • Boulogne Castle
  • Nausicaa Centre National De La Mer
  • Atlantic Wall Museum
  • Batterie Todt
  • Saint-Valery-sur-Somme
  • Baie de Somme
  • Rouen
  • Donjon de Rouen
  • Tour de la Pucelle
  • Rue Joan d'Arc
  • market square in Rouen
  • Church of Saint Joan of Arc
  • Montreuil-sur-Mer
  • Berck
  • Dunkirk
  • Battle of the Somme
  • Battle of Agincourt
  • White Cliffs of Dover
  • Rommel's tanks
  • Joan of Arc
  • Jules Verne
  • Julia Child
  • Harry Truman
  • Jean Valjean.

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 496, quatre cent quatre-vingt-seize.

Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we take a conversational journey through the beauty, culture, and flavors of France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:32] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Ken Ives. In this episode, I chat with Ken about his memorable journey through La Cote d’Opale in the Northeast of France.

We explore the stunning natural landscapes, delve into the region’s rich historical significance and highlight cultural experiences that make this area a hidden gem. From the white cliffs of Dover seen from Cap Blanc Nez to the historic town of Amiens and the vibrant city of Rouen, Ken shares insights and stories that will inspire your next French adventure.

Podcast supporters

[00:01:09] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the Southwest in my electric car. You can browse all of that at my boutique:

Patreon supporters get new episodes as soon as they are ready and ads free. If that sounds good to you, be like them, follow the link in the show notes.

The Magazine segment

[00:01:42] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after my chat with Ken today, I’ll go all cheesy on you and read you an ode to why you should not drive into any city centre in France, based on a Facebook post by Steve Stevenson. With a name like that, my response had to rhyme at least a little bit, don’t you think?

Bonjour, Ken Ives, and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:02:19] Ken Ives: Bonjour, Annie. I’m really glad to be here.

Exploring the Northeast of France: A Hidden Gem

[00:02:22] Annie Sargent: Oh, thank you for coming on the podcast, I’m delighted to have you. We want to talk about your trip through the northeast of France, which is a part of the country we don’t talk about near as much as we should because not so many people visit it.

And yet, it’s a lovely part of France, and I hope you’re going to make us want to go.

[00:02:44] Ken Ives: Well, it’s a very nice part of France and it’s also just full of history, if you are a history buff, which I am. So it was a really great place to see.

[00:02:55] Annie Sargent: So tell us about the trip. When did it take place and who were you with?

[00:02:59] Ken Ives: Well, I went initially with my wife,this was in September of 2003, we were in France for most of September, left, I think, the 2nd of October. So, that was a little over three weeks, and for two of the weeks, it was me and my wife. We did a big circle, well, a small circle actually, from Paris up into northeastern France, down the coast of the Channel into Normandy as far as Mont Saint Michel.

While we were in Normandy, we met my son and daughter in law and our three year old granddaughter there, and so there were five of us for about five days in Normandy. So, that was the group.

[00:03:38] Annie Sargent: Very nice. I’m assuming this was not your first time in France because most people wouldn’t go to there for their first time in France.

[00:03:45] Ken Ives: Well, actually it was our first time in France. It was supposed to be the second, but we planned this trip originally right after I retired. And this was 2019, early in 2019, and we planned, and we planned, and we planned. We made all the reservations, we got the last reservation made and about three days later, we canceled everything because of this COVID thing. And we finally made it back.

But anyway, yes, it was the first trip.

[00:04:13] Annie Sargent: So why, why did you pick that part of France? Was there a reason or was this just because that’s where you wanted to go?

White Cliffs of Dover from France

[00:04:19] Ken Ives: It’s kind of funny, but a lot of the things I saw were just things that I saw it and I just wanted to see it. And for some reason, I don’t know why, but I’ve always wanted to see the white cliffs of Dover from France. So I decided I would go up there and we’d do that, if the weather cooperated.

[00:04:36] Annie Sargent: So did it? Did you see?

[00:04:38] Ken Ives: Just barely. The entire time we were up there, the weather was overcast with the occasional band of sunshine and the occasional band of rain, and it was pretty windy. The day that I was up at Cap Blanc-Nez the channel was hazy, you could not see England, and I was watching, and one of those bands of sunshine came over, and as it came over for about two minutes, you could actually see the line of cliffs over there. Just barely.

[00:05:04] Annie Sargent: Very nice. Yeah, it is kind of far away.

Now, so we’re talking about a part of the country called La Côte d’Opale and it is between Cap Blanc-Nez, which means White Nose, and Cap Gris-Nez, which is the grey nose, and it’s about 15 kilometers long, more or less. It’s a bit west of Calais, and it’s a very wild coast because there’s a big part of it that is a natural preserve.

And there are actually no buildings in the natural preserve, which is very different from the rest of France and Europe. Because in France, they made these natural preserves long after there had been people there, and so they just typically leave the villages in place and all of that. But that one, it was empty.

And one of the reasons why it was empty is because it’s quite windy, and sometimes so windy that most people would think it’s a hurricane, but it’s just a windy day.

[00:06:08] Ken Ives: Apparently, that’s just a normal day there, but it was very nice. And as you say, it’s empty, and it was empty until the Germans came along in 1940. Then they, they filled it up with concrete block houses and big gun emplacements, they put huge guns there that could actually shoot all the way to England.

And they did bombard England from Cap Gris-Nez. One of the biggest batteries was right there. So if you are interested in World War II history, there’s a bunch of that there too, along with some very nice hiking opportunities. You can hike all over the place out there.

[00:06:43] Annie Sargent: Yes, and one of the things I would recommend, and I don’t know if you did this, but there are people who specialize in nature walks, and so they will bring the big binoculars, and the cameras, and all the equipment, and they will take you places where you can see the wildlife, which in this area is seals and what do they call them?

Oh, I had to write it down because I couldn’t remember the name, des veaux de mer in English it’s I think they call them sea, let’s see, where is it? Oh, sea calves, is what they are called in English. And lots of birds, obviously. So, you know, if you want to really enjoy the natural habitat and see it, then hiring a nature guide is a good way to do it.

GR 120 and the E9 European Long Distance Hiking Trail

[00:07:31] Ken Ives: Yep. If you’re a person who likes hiking, which I am, we’ll mention here, I think that France has a fantastic network of hiking trails. They’re called, what is the term?

[00:07:42] Annie Sargent: Les Voies Vertes.

[00:07:44] Ken Ives: The Grand Rondonnay. They’re called the…

[00:07:47] Annie Sargent: Chemins de Grandes Randonnées, Les Grandes Randonnées, Les GR.

[00:07:53] Ken Ives: Yes. And they’re all designated with the letter GR and a number, the Grandes Randonnées something or other. And several of them run through that area, the main ones, the GR 120, which actually starts at the Belgian border. The pictures I sent you, there was a picture of one of the signposts and it pointed that way was like 81 kilometers to Belgium and that way was 2000 and some kilometers to Portugal.

It runs the entire coast of France. And my understanding is that it extends, not the GR, but that the trail, you can follow the trail all the way through Belgium, all the way to Russia. And you can follow it the other way through Portugal, Spain, and back to the Mediterranean coast of Spain and into Italy.

You can walk all the way around Europe if you wanted to, and had the time.

So anyway, yeah, I did some, a little hiking, not as much as I’d like to, but a little hiking on the GR 120. And you’re hiking right there, you’re hiking right along the clifftops. So you’re looking down at the beaches and such, and there are some places where you can get down to the beach and the beaches are actually very nice.

They’re at the foot of this great big, tall white cliff, but…

[00:08:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so they have some sandy beach, they have some rocky beach. It’s also a place with a lot of marshland, you know, lots of very wet areas. So it’s gorgeous, I mean, it’s very green, it’s really gorgeous.

Okay, tell us specifically the names of some of the places that you went and perhaps what your favorites were.

[00:09:17] Ken Ives: Okay. We started obviously in Paris, this was the first trip. So you can’t go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower. You know, we had to do those things.

[00:09:24] Annie Sargent: Of course.

Maison Jules Verne, Amiens

[00:09:25] Ken Ives: Then we, after a few days in Paris, we took train to Amiens. And in Amiens, there was one thing in particular I wanted to see, and it’s a place that’s worth stopping. The thing I really wanted to see was the Maison Jules Verne or Jules Verne’s house. Which is in fact the house where the author Jules Verne lived for about a dozen years towards the end of his life. By the time he moved to Amiens, he was already a very famous author. He lived there for several years, was a leading citizen, was actually a member of the city council. And he died in Amiens. And a few years ago, I think it’s the city or it might be the department, but somebody bought the house and they’ve turned it into a Jules Verne museum. Now the main museum piece is actually the house, which is pretty interesting by itself.

I think the only thing in there that was original to Jules Verne was the, there was a desk in his study. And it was kind of interesting because he had this little study with a desk where he sat and wrote and when he got tired, he had a bed right behind the desk and I guess he could just lay down there and sleep.

But anyway, the Jules Verne house was interesting. The thing I’d say to anybody who goes there is you’ll get more out of it if you can read some French because not many English speaking people go there. In every room, I think there was one sign with some words in English about the room, but most of the signs on things were actually in French, which fortunately, I speak a little bit of French. It turned out to be very fortunate, as we’ll probably get to at some point here.

[00:10:57] Annie Sargent: Yes. Well, yeah, this is not a part of France that gets a ton of visitors, and so you will run into a lot of people who just speak French.

[00:11:05] Ken Ives: And the guides that we’re walking through, you know, there were guided tours, but they spoke all French too.

Notre Dame d’Amiens Cathedral

[00:11:09] Ken Ives: The second thing that we went to see was the cathedral. Everybody talks about Notre Dame in Paris. Well, I think every cathedral in France is Notre Dame.

This is Notre Dame d’Amiens, and it’s something like twice as big as Notre Dame de Paris.

[00:11:25] Annie Sargent: Is it? Oh, I didn’t realise it is that big.

[00:11:28] Ken Ives: It is huge. I actually read somewhere that you could take Notre Dame de Paris and set it inside Notre Dame d’Amiens. It would fit. And the cathedral itself was interesting. We went there, but the thing that was really interesting there, and we just stumbled on this. I was looking at things to do in Amiens and I saw this sound and light show.

They do a sound and light show where they have lights and music and stuff on the front of the cathedral. And I looked and it’s seasonal, obviously in the wintertime it doesn’t work. And the last day of the light show for the year happened to be the day we were in Amiens. So we went to the cathedral at dusk and sat down on the steps out front and watched this sound and light show, which was just really well done. Fascinating. And again, in the pictures, I sent you a couple pictures of, you don’t, you can’t get it from a picture, you really have to see the movie of it because it’s moving all the time, but that was fascinating.

[00:12:26] Annie Sargent: And this is free, right? They didn’t charge you for this.

[00:12:29] Ken Ives: It was free. Yeah, there was nothing. Just walk up and watch.


[00:12:32] Annie Sargent: And they don’t do this year round, obviously, but they do it, sometimes it’s just weekends, sometimes it’s from this day to this day. Yeah, you have to ask.

[00:12:42] Ken Ives: You have to find it. I would tell people, go to things like wherever you’re going, every place in France has some sort of a government body that is supposed to promote tourism. Find their website and you’ll find all these little things you can do that you never knew about, and that’s where I found that was I think it was the… oh, I think it was the department, or maybe it was the region, but at any rate their tourism website.

[00:13:08] Annie Sargent: It’s usually the department that funds the tourist office. And some of the more, like in Provence, where there’s a lot of tourism, or Normandy, they would also have a regional office for tourism. But in most of France is the department, which is great, but it’s also a problem because as soon as you leave the department, oh, well, they can’t tell you about that.

And sometimes, you know, you cross the street, you’re in a different department.

[00:13:33] Ken Ives: Oh, yeah, they want you to stay in their department for sure.

[00:13:36] Annie Sargent: Yes. Yes.

Jules Verne’s Tomb

[00:13:37] Ken Ives: And then the last thing we did there, of the things we did, and there were other things you could do, but of the last things we did, this was another one that was purely by accident, we ended up, we took the train there, and then rented a car for much of the rest of the trip.

And when I rented the car, of course, that’s the first day I’ve got the car and I’m like, okay, I have to drive in France. And I was, so I get out Google Maps and started trying to figure out how do I get from where I parked the car out of town and I don’t really want to get on the auto route right away.

I want to break it in a little bit here. I’m kind of mapping out a route along the D routes, and there’s this symbol on Google Maps next to the route. And I want to see what that was. It turns out that the Madeline cemetery just outside of Amiens, the tomb of Jules Verne is in that cemetery right next to the road.

So we drove there, we pulled off, parked, walked in the cemetery, took, you know, probably 20, 25 minutes. Went and saw Jules Verne’s tomb, which was pretty interesting, for me, again, for me, I was interested. And also one of the reasons I, in preparation for this, I did something I was really proud of.

I actually read 20000 Leagues Under the Sea in the original French.

[00:14:52] Annie Sargent: Oh, wow.

[00:14:53] Ken Ives: I managed to get it done before we went. When I read it in English before, I read it a lot faster, but anyway…

[00:15:01] Annie Sargent: Well, well done. That is not an easy feat, you know, it’s…

That’s great.


[00:15:05] Ken Ives: We did that, and then continued on, drove to Boulogne-sur-Mer, which was our base of operations for the Opal Coast.

Boulogne itself is very interesting. We actually, one day we went to the old walled city, the old city walls are still there and it’s actually a very nice walk around the city walls. And then in the corner of the city walls is what I guess in English you’d call the Boulogne Castle maybe, which was the seat of the Dukes of Boulogne back in the day.

It was a fortress back at one time. There’s now a museum inside it. I think it’s called the Museum of Boulogne or something like that. But it’s a very, it’s the kind of place I wouldn’t have gone because it’s got this very eclectic collection of stuff that has nothing to do with France. There’s stuff from the South Sea Islands and there’s Egyptian artifacts and so on and so forth.

We were walking around the courtyard of the castle, the museum entrance was right there and my wife ended up talking to the guy that was standing there at the museum entrance and she came over and said, she said, I don’t know why, but today the entrance to the museum is free, so we may as well go in. So we did. So we did the museum.

Nausicaa Centre National De La Mer

[00:16:18] Ken Ives: Some other things in Boulogne. Our hotel was right on the beach, directly across from Nausicaa. I think that’s the right pronunciation, which claims to be the biggest aquarium in Europe.

And we went in there thinking that we might, it might be worth a half day. We were in there almost all day.

[00:16:37] Annie Sargent: Oh, wow.

[00:16:38] Ken Ives: Very nice place. I’d recommend it, especially if you have kids. Kids would just have a blast there.

[00:16:43] Annie Sargent: They have the usual aquarium stuff, you know, there’s seals and there’s penguins and so on. And they also have the biggest Manta Ray you will ever see in your life.

[00:16:53] Ken Ives: That thing must weigh the better part of half a ton. It’s huge. And just majestic flapping along in that big tank with all the other fish. He doesn’t care about them.

[00:17:03] Annie Sargent: Oh, so this is The Centre National De La Mer. So it probably gets plenty of funding. If it’s a national center, it’s probably…

[00:17:13] Ken Ives: It was pretty clear to me that we were there in September and I suspect that during the summer it’s much more crowded because they had the, it wasn’t terribly crowded when we were there and there was, there were lots of windows that weren’t open. They had the capacity for to handle a lot more people.

And I’m pretty sure that during the school year, they also have school groups.

[00:17:35] Annie Sargent: Of course. Yeah. The photos look fantastic. I’m looking online at photos.

[00:17:40] Ken Ives: Yes, it is. It’s an interesting place.

[00:17:42] Annie Sargent: It looks like it’s a very large aquarium. That’s fantastic. Yeah. And I think with kids, aquariums are great. I mean, I enjoy them.

[00:17:49] Ken Ives: We enjoyed it, you know, it was a nice thing that was different.

The Atlantic Wall Museum, Audinghen

[00:17:52] Ken Ives: And then I spent a whole day up on the Opal coast. I went up, went up to Cap Blanc Nez. I came back and I stopped at a very interesting place, if you’re into that history again. I believe it’s called the Atlantic Wall Museum.

Yeah. That museum is actually established in one of those old German gun battery emplacements, a great big, huge, huge gun was there that actually fired on England. And somebody actually bought that huge gun emplacement and then they’ve put a museum inside it. They have sitting next to the museum, for those that know what this means, they have one of the two surviving K5 railroad guns in the world.

It’s again, a great big huge canon. The museum was pretty interesting. The area around it, if I’d had more time, I’d love to have just gone hiking out through there because it was, again, it’s wild and beautiful land.

[00:18:49] Annie Sargent: So the one I’m seeing, The Atlantic Sea Wall Museum that I’m seeing is by Caen, this is not the one you mean, right?

[00:18:58] Ken Ives: No, this is, the town, little town there’s called Audinghen. I don’t know if that’s pronounced right, but A-U-D-I-N-G-H-E-N.

[00:19:08] Annie Sargent: Musée du Mur de l’Atlantique.


[00:19:10] Ken Ives: It’s in one of the Batterie Todt gun emplacements. And I’m pretty sure it was called the Le Musée du Mur de l’Atlantique or something like that.

Yeah, so it is called Le Musée du Mur de l’Atlantique, or Atlantic Wall in German, I guess, and it’s in Audinghen. A U D I N G H E N. Yeah.

[00:19:31] Annie Sargent: Yes, interesting, interesting.

[00:19:33] Ken Ives: Oh, yeah. That was very interesting. It didn’t cost very much either.

[00:19:37] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so this one is by, oh, it looks like it’s really close to the Belgian border, isn’t it?

[00:19:45] Ken Ives: Well, it’s you’re at Cap Gris-Nez.

[00:19:47] Annie Sargent: Oh, Cap Gris-Nez. Oh, yeah, then it’s not, it’s La Côte d’Opal, yeah.

Un Welsh Complet

[00:19:50] Ken Ives: And so I stopped there and then on the way back, needed lunch, stopped at a restaurant in Audinghen, which I would suggest would be a good place for dinner if anybody was there. I was there for lunch and I really, most of the things they had for lunch was more than I wanted.

And I ended up having, it was something, I had something there that I had wanted to try. I don’t recommend it though. I had a Welsh.

Which is something, that if Americans have probably heard of like Welsh Rabbit or something like that, that’s what it is. But it came to northeastern France with British soldiers during World War I.

In my opinion, when the British soldiers went home, you should have sent the Welsh with them, but… but you didn’t.

[00:20:31] Annie Sargent: So, again, how do you spell that? I’ve never heard of it.

[00:20:33] Ken Ives: Welsh, W-E-L-S-H. It was on the, on this particular menu was ‘un welsh complet’.

[00:20:39] Annie Sargent: Un Welsh complet.

Well, I’m googling it right now.

[00:20:44] Ken Ives: It’s a Welsh with a fried egg on top of it. But anyway… To make a Welsh, you take cheddar cheese, not French, and some beer, and you melt it together to make the cheese sauce, and then you take basically it’s a piece of toast, and you pour all this cheese over it, the cheese and beer, you stick it in the oven, cook it till it’s got a crust on top, and you’ve got Welsh.

And if you throw a fried egg on top, you’ve got a Welsh Complet.

[00:21:08] Annie Sargent: Yes, I see a picture of that. The photo I’m seeing also has roasted potatoes and a little bit of side salad, but it looks like it’s mostly melted cheese. A lot of melted cheese.

[00:21:18] Ken Ives: Lots of melted cheese on a piece of toast. Was not my favorite thing, but it’s on the menus of many, many restaurants up in that area, especially near the coast where the British were. Yes. And it’s a non-French French specialty. And like I said, I wasn’t crazy about it, but I had wanted to try it anyway because I saw it on so many menus.

[00:21:41] Annie Sargent: You have to have it once. The other thing that they like to eat in that part of France that’s very strange is that they do canned peaches with tuna fish inside. I had to try it just to know. It’s a Belgian thing, but it’s, you know, you see it also in the French side and it’s a very strange thing.

I ate it.

[00:22:02] Ken Ives: Why not?

[00:22:04] Annie Sargent: Well, I never made it again, you know, but I wanted to try it. And it has a name, I can’t remember what it is, but they have some interesting, unusual culinary traditions in that part of France.

[00:22:14] Ken Ives: I ate my Welsh, but I feel no need to order another one.

(Mid-roll ad slot)


The French Medical System

[00:22:20] Ken Ives: Okay. And while we’re in Boulogne, maybe we should talk about our detour through the French medical system.

[00:22:26] Annie Sargent: Ah, what happened?

[00:22:27] Ken Ives: What happened is… okay, we’re in Boulogne. My wife and I, we’re both in our 70s and I’m still a pretty active 70s. She’s got some chronic medical issues.

She’s got a metal knee, and a metal hip, and some metal in one elbow and things like that. The other thing is that all her life she has been, we don’t know why, but she’s been susceptible to bladder infections. She gets them from time to time. Well, we’re in Boulogne and she says, I think I’ve got a bladder infection. And she knows the symptoms, and by now I know the symptoms, and yeah, what do we do?

So the next morning we get up and she said, I’m pretty sure it’s a bladder infection. I said, okay. And we got in the car and we got out Google Maps.

Google Maps is your friend, and found the Boulogne Hospital. And we drove over there to see if there was an emergency room.

There was. We found the emergency room with a little help from the front desk, and went into the emergency room and we were met by a nurse, who seemed to be in charge there. And she did not speak English, by the way, but later on she did find a nurse who spoke perfect English, so I would say first off if anybody needs to go to the hospital in France, and you don’t speak French, don’t worry, they’ll take care of you, one way or another.

Anyway, the nurse, after asking me some questions and such, we got to, okay, you know, a bladder infection isn’t an emergency, so what she did was she made an appointment for us with what my best translation of it would be something like the in house on call general doctor, something like that. And our appointment was for 9 o’clock that night, which surprised me, but anyway.

[00:24:09] Annie Sargent: At the hospital as well?

[00:24:11] Ken Ives: She showed me exactly where to go, came back to the emergency room, and go to this little waiting room off to the side and wait there for the doctor, appointment at nine o’clock. Okay. So I’ll just say that we came back at nine o’clock and it worked just like it should.

We walked in, we sat down a couple minutes, the door opened and doctor called her name. We went in, it turned out the doctor spoke perfect English, which helped.

He listened, he asked her about drug allergies, of which she’s got several and then he said, okay, and she was expecting the same treatment she gets in the US. What she got instead was the doctor said, okay, he wrote a prescription for a drug. I don’t know what it was, but you take this once. And he said, that will probably clear it up, and since you’re in France, you’re tourists and you’re leaving tomorrow, he wrote us two more prescriptions to use if we needed them.

One was for an actual go to a lab, get a urinalysis to see what, for sure, what you’re dealing with. He said, if in three days or so it hasn’t started to clear up, then go to a lab, get the urinalysis done, get the results from that. And then here’s a prescription for another drug that you’ll have to take for four or five days that will surely clear it up.

But he said, don’t use those unless you need it. And it worked out, like I said, just fine. That was late at night, so the next morning, and by the way, there was a system, he told us about it, where if we needed the drug now, we could actually, we had to go to the police station and the police would call the on call pharmacy and we could then go to the on call pharmacy and pick up our prescription.

[00:25:43] Annie Sargent: Ah, yes, because it was late at night. Yes.

[00:25:45] Ken Ives: She said, you know, I don’t need that, we’ll just wait till morning. In the morning I walked to the pharmacy down the street, handed the pharmacist the prescription, and for those who have been to a pharmacy in the US you hand them the prescription, and if you tell them you need it right away, then you can come back in about an hour.

Here she took the prescription, she entered it, she asked me a couple questions, she turned around, pulled the bottle off the shelf, and handed it to me, and I was out of there in five minutes.

And the cost, by the way, at the pharmacy, I think it was 12 Euros for whatever the drug was. For the hospital, they never even talked to us about cost, but I was sort of wondering if we’d get a bill and about a month after we got home, we did get a bill from the French government and it was only like 80 euros, which would be less than what your deductible would be in the US if you went to the emergency room.

[00:26:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:26:36] Ken Ives: Very reasonable and it worked.

[00:26:38] Annie Sargent: I’m glad they took good care of you. That’s great.

The system worked very well.

That’s great. It’s pretty normal, what you describe seems like, you know, what happens with urinary tract infections of who I’ve had a few. And they do typically give you more than one prescription just in case, especially if you’re going to be away, or if there’s a holiday coming up or, you know, they kind of plan for, they always have a plan B. You don’t want to let these things run too long.

[00:27:05] Ken Ives: No, they don’t get better by themselves.

[00:27:07] Annie Sargent: No, they do not. It just gets worse. And then it’s really good that you found a nurse and a doctor who could speak English.

[00:27:13] Ken Ives: I was actually pretty pleased with the first nurse, we were pretty well finished and I was pretty sure I understood it when she… she had obviously called for this other nurse, and she got there just about the time we were done, and then she explained it in English, which just confirmed that I had understood the French. It was what I had thought, but anyway, it’s just the point being that even if you don’t speak a word of French, they will take care of you.

[00:27:36] Annie Sargent: And it’s not going to be outrageously expensive, I mean, they sent you a bill, which is normal, but it was affordable, let’s put it that way. And typically French medical care is, and so if you feel unwell on your vacation, just see a doctor. And there are many ways you could find a doctor, but this way works.

You know, you went to the emergency room and they guided you towards a more appropriate path to get care, but it still didn’t delay you. They didn’t tell you, oh, come, you know, you’ll see this doctor in a week.

[00:28:05] Ken Ives: No, we were able to see a doctor, I was shocked that we got an appointment at nine o’clock at night, but…

[00:28:10] Annie Sargent: Yeah, he was probably on call.

[00:28:12] Ken Ives: It worked, yeah.

[00:28:13] Annie Sargent: Yeah. There’s a system that the French healthcare system is trying to do, it’s kind of to relieve the emergency room. Because there are doctors who are trained for, you know, cardiac arrests and very, you know, kind of urgent things. And then you have, you always have people who go to the emergency room for things that don’t really need an emergency room, but that’s just, that’s the only place they know to go.

And so they, these days, they typically have a doctor that they can, you know, send people to. It’s a way to lower the cost, I guess.

[00:28:44] Ken Ives: Yeah. And it certainly seemed to work. We were pretty happy with it all in all. So I would just tell people, if you need it, just do it.

[00:28:51] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and if you’re visiting with kids, you never know, they might, you know, break an arm or whatever. All these places, like you were mentioning the museum with the Atlantic Wall, all the gun things and all the, you know, cement, all of these things, you can climb on them.

And I’m sure there’s kids that break something.

[00:29:08] Ken Ives: And our granddaughter climbed on everything that she saw, so…

[00:29:12] Annie Sargent: There you go. It makes for good photos.

Exploring the Opal Coast Solo

[00:29:15] Ken Ives: So anyway, that was why for the Two Capes, the Opal Coast, I actually did that by myself, my wife stayed in the hotel because she just didn’t feel very good and she didn’t want to get too far away from the bathroom. So when I keep saying I did this, it’s because it wasn’t we that day.

Renting a car in Boulogne: Check the Schedule!

[00:29:30] Annie Sargent: Right, right, right. Yes, at times you had to go by yourself. Which is another good thing, you know, if you have a car and obviously we didn’t say this, but obviously this is a part of France that you cannot visit without a car, you need a car to get around.

[00:29:41] Ken Ives: You do need a car, and anybody who’s going to rent a car, this was one of the few problems that we had over there. It was a problem only in that I had a plan. Okay. My plan was we were going to take the train to Boulogne and then we were going to rent the car there. The problem when I got to looking was that the car rental counter at the Boulogne train station, well, we were arriving on Sunday, and they’re not open on Sunday. It’s a relatively small counter.

So we had to back up a day to Saturday and had to rent the car a day earlier than we intended to. And it turned out that in Amiens, the car rental counter at the train station was not open on Saturdays, but there was a rental agency in the downtown area that was probably 15-20 minute walk from our hotel, that was open, certain hours only, they had very limited hours.

I had to make sure I got there during their hours to rent the car. So anyway, check the schedules because they tend not to be open on Sundays, but they may not be open on Saturdays, and other days they’re frequently closed from like 12 to 2. So you need to check the schedule closely and so that you get there when they’re there so you can get your car.

[00:30:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah, bigger cities have longer opening hours. If you were going to rent a car from an international airport, probably it’s going to be open, you know, till 9 or 10 PM and over the weekend and all that. But in the smaller towns, especially if you’re renting from a train station or inside the city, it’s going to be limited hours.

And the other thing to know is that all grocery stores in France like Leclerc, Auchan, Intermarché, all of these, they do car rentals, but this is not for visitors. You won’t be able to rent a car there because they want a proof of where you live, and they will ask you for a lot of paperwork that you don’t have as a visitor, so don’t.

I’ve had people tell me, oh, this is super cheap. I can rent from the grocery store. I’m like no, they’re not going to give you a car if you don’t have what it takes to get a car.

[00:31:50] Ken Ives: I didn’t try that. I needed it to be close to where we were and we were at the train station, so.

Discovering the Baie de Somme and Tides

[00:31:54] Annie Sargent: Very good. All right. So, Boulogne-sur-Mer, what else did you do?

[00:31:59] Ken Ives: From Boulogne, we drove down the coast and stayed at a small town called Saint-Valery-sur-Somme, which is on the Baie de Somme, which is the, well, I think back in the day before humans came along, it was the largest salt marsh in France. It’s a big flat area. Now humans have drained some of the marshes.

And so now it’s a mixture of salt meadows covered with sheep, and marsh, and mudflats, and water in various proportions depending on the state of the tide. And one thing people need to know about northern France, compared to the east coast of the US, the tidal ranges are much greater. You have 10-12 foot difference between the high and the low tide and sometimes at the year it’s more than that.

That’s huge tidal differences. The water may be here at high tide and it can be up half, three quarters of a mile away at low tide. So, in the Baie de Somme, there are actually guided tours. There are guides who will take you at low tide for a hike across the bay from Saint Valéry to the town on the other side, which the name escapes me right now.

Which is supposed to be pretty interesting. We didn’t do that. It’s not recommended that you do that on your own because you do it at low tide. The reason is because there’s also a high tide and you can get in trouble.

The other thing there that we didn’t do, but look, we saw it and it looked really interesting is there’s a antique steam railroad that runs around the Baie de Somme and you can ride the railroad from the beach on one side through Saint Valery all the way around the bay to the town on the far side.

A neat steam train and all that. So that looked like fun. We just stayed there overnight. We had a hotel that was right on the water. We were looking out over the mouth of the Somme river from our hotel room. And there’s a long promenade, I’d call it a boardwalk except it’s not boards.

The whole length of town that you can walk. There’s also a few remnants of the original city walls up on the hillside. One of the city gates is still there and there’s a sign engraved in stone next to it that tells you about the day, I don’t remember the year, when a prisoner by the name of Joan of Arc was taken through this gate on her way to Rouen, which was our first introduction to Joan of Arc, whom we will see later in this show again.

[00:34:24] Annie Sargent: Very good.

[00:34:25] Ken Ives: I like the Baie de Somme. It was neat. It’s quiet and pastoral. Again, lots and lots of walking around you can do.

Saint Valery is a small town, but it’s a resort town, so there are lots of oportunities for restaurants and that sort of thing there.

It was very, again, it was nice, it was, we were still in that mostly overcast period. There was about a week there when it was mostly overcast with some bits of sunshine and occasionally a little bit of drizzle. That would only last for a couple minutes and then it would go away.

So the weather was fine, it was warm enough that, you know, a long sleeve shirt was all you needed. And the day we got to the Baie de Somme was the day that the weather kind of broke and the sun started to come back out and all that and the wind died down. So it was very nice.

Donjon de Rouen, Joan d’Arc

[00:35:12] Annie Sargent: And then, it looks like from that area, I’m hurrying you up a little bit because it’s going to go too long otherwise, from that area, it looks like you went to Rouen as well.

[00:35:21] Ken Ives: We did, we went to ….. and then to Bayeux, and we did Normandy. Rouen was a last minute addition to the trip. And it turned out to be a really good addition. The more I looked at Rouen, the more I went, why didn’t I want to go here before?

So yes, we went to Rouen, stayed in a hotel there, right next to our hotel was the Donjon de Rouen, which is the only remaining piece of Rouen castle. It was the keep of the castle. Big, tall, round tower. And it was literally right next to our hotel. And here I want to tell people about another little thing we found. There is one other remnant of that castle, which again, I stumbled on on the web when I was researching.

The Place where Joan of Arc was Help Prisoner During Her Trial

[00:36:04] Ken Ives: There’s something called the Tour de la Pucelle. You know, of course, who La Pucelle was. La Pucelle d’Orléans, or the Maid of Orléans, or Joan of Arc. It turns out that the tower in the castle where Joan of Arc was held prisoner during her trial, that tower has long ago been destroyed.

The only thing left is the foundation. I think they found the foundation when they were building a building. Well, they went ahead and built their building, but the foundation’s been preserved because it’s historic, and you can go and see the foundation, but you have got to know where to go. You have to go to Rue Joan d’Arc in Rouen. You go to number 102. I think I left, I think I gave you a picture of this. It’s just a painted door and next to the door, there’s a sign that tells you it’s a dentist’s office.

There is nothing else, but there is a, and you grab the door, the door’s locked, there’s an electronic lock, you push the button and click, you open the door, and inside you walk into what looks like a big round foyer in the building. And then in the middle of the foyer is the hole in the ground where the foundation of the tower where Joan of Arc was imprisoned is.

[00:37:20] Annie Sargent: Wow.

[00:37:21] Ken Ives: There is nothing to tell you this.

You literally have to go to, you have to walk to 102 Rue Joan d’Arc, push the button, open the door, walk in. There is no sign whatsoever.

[00:37:33] Annie Sargent: Right. Right. So it’s interesting because since it’s a, there are several dentists that practice there, if you ring the buzzer, they assume you’re going to a dental appointment.

[00:37:43] Ken Ives: I suppose, I don’t know. I pushed the button and there was a click and we open the door, you go in and it’s like a big round room and there are some doors off the room that point to dentist offices.

[00:37:54] Annie Sargent: But what do you see once you’re inside?

[00:37:57] Ken Ives: You see this big, there’s a big brown hole, and down at the bottom of the hole is the foundations of that tower.

Now it’ll only take you about two minutes to walk in there, see it, snap a picture, walk out. There’s nothing to do or anything. But to me, again, history nutcase…

[00:38:11] Annie Sargent: Well, yeah, people who are interested in the history of Joan of Arc would love to see that.

[00:38:15] Ken Ives: Yeah, and Joan of Arc was there.

Other than that in Rouen, there’s… well, of course, there’s the market square. I have to talk about the market square. First off, the market square is where Joan of Arc was actually burned at the stake. And there is a cross there to mark the spot, the Bucher Jean d’Arc. In English, you get burned at the stake, in France, you get burned on the wood pile, and I think bucher means something like a wood pile.

[00:38:40] Annie Sargent: Un bucher. Yes.

[00:38:41] Ken Ives: So anyway, there’s a cross, a huge cross. The thing is massive, huge, sticks up, I don’t know, hundreds of feet in the air. Marks the spot where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Also in the market square, they built, and I think this is an interesting dichotomy. Here’s where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for being a heretic. Right next to it is the church of Saint Joan of Arc. It’s possibly the greatest career comeback ever.

But anyway, the Joan of Arc Church, which incidentally I didn’t like, it’s a very modernistic building with lots of curves and stuff and just totally clashes with the marketplace, with all these medieval buildings around the marketplace with the half timbered fronts and all.

I just thought that the church just didn’t go there at all, but anyway, that’s just me.

[00:39:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

Adventures in French Cuisine

[00:39:32] Annie Sargent: Well, we’re really, really out of time, but I do want to tell us about the foods you like for this area. You told us about something you didn’t love as much, the Welsh earlier…

[00:39:41] Ken Ives: Okay.

[00:39:41] Annie Sargent: But you had plenty of things that you did like. So I want to hear about those.

[00:39:45] Ken Ives: Oh, there were lots of things I liked. Let’s see. My absolute favorite thing I got once was something called Clafoutis, it’s a dessert, and I thought it was just delicious. I loved it. Let’s see. The other thing is I developed a special relationship with crêpes by the time we had left. We did a lot of food on the go and you could get crêpes for lunch, any place, anytime.

There were stands all over and I was forever grabbing crêpes because that was kind of the thing to grab and the more I grabbed, the more I liked them. So, other than that…

[00:40:17] Annie Sargent: You mentioned the moules frites, which is also very common in the area.

[00:40:21] Ken Ives: Yes, I had a very good moules frites, while I was, that was in Boulogne. Also in Boulogne, my wife had her only real adventure with food, she tried langoustines. Which turned out to be pretty good. Let’s see. That’s probably the size of it. In Normandy lots of cider, tried lots of cheese, of course. A few restaurants.

La Couronne, Rouen

[00:40:43] Ken Ives: There was a restaurant I wanted to mention in Rouen. We didn’t actually go into it, but there’s a restaurant called La Couronne. It’s right on the market square and it claims to be the oldest eating establishment in France.

There had been an inn there for something almost a century by the time Joan of Arc was burned at the stake right in front of their front door. It’s also supposedly the restaurant where Julia Child had her first meal in France and fell in love with French cooking.

And many famous people have been there. They’ve apparently got autographed pictures of, you know, Harry Truman and I don’t know who all on the walls. We didn’t actually eat there, it’s very, it’s a very formal, fancy French menu, and we just weren’t in the mood for it the day we were there, but it would be an interesting place, I think, to try.

On Being a Picky Eater in France

[00:41:29] Annie Sargent: There’s a thing that made me laugh when I was reading your, you know, I always ask people to fill out a kind of document to tell me what we’re going to talk about. You say that your wife is a rather picky eater, which didn’t work out so well in France. Tell us about that.

[00:41:45] Ken Ives: Oh, well, my wife, yes, she’s a picky eater. She is in the habit in the US, you know, when she orders, she asks about this item and what is it, and what’s in it, and does it have this in it, does it have that in it, is it too spicy, is it too… so, lots of…

[00:42:01] Annie Sargent: Sounds like Elyse.

[00:42:03] Ken Ives: Yeah, lots of questions for the waiter.

And then she orders and she virtually always special orders. She always orders, well, she wants this but I want the chicken baked instead of fried, and I don’t want tomatoes, and I don’t want the sauce, and I don’t want any mayonnaise, and put the sauce on the side, and leave out the onions, and add this. And I told her that, I said, look my French is not going to support that. Okay. Plus my understanding is that it’s actually something you just don’t do in France. The kind of special ordering is sort of, you can, but it’s sort of, you know, not popular.

[00:42:45] Annie Sargent: You can try it. Some places will accommodate that, but I have to say, Elyse is like that. Elyse will always want, you know, she never wants the straight menu. She wants things done differently somehow.

[00:42:57] Ken Ives: Oh, well…

The first few times she just ordered off the menu. And then when we were in Amiens, the night we were in Amiens, we went to a restaurant and she looked at the menu and then our waiter spoke a little bit of English, but not very much, mostly French. And she was trying to ask him questions in English and he didn’t understand.

So finally, she just said she wanted a Caesar salad. Okay. Then my food came first and I got something that had a little side salad. Well, she was talking about, she, she didn’t really want the Caesar salad to be too big. She was afraid it was going to be too big. She wanted it to be the size of my salad.

Well, she ordered the Caesar salad in English, and when the salad came, I looked at it and I said, I don’t think that’s a Caesar salad. And then I was thinking about the menu and there’s, I don’t, I’m not sure I can pronounce this right, but they had a Salade Gézier. Yeah, it means gizzards. Okay. It’s a gizzard salad. And I said, I think he heard Salade Gézier when you said salad Caesar. And she said, what’s that? And I said, gizzards. And she almost lost her mind.

But then she tried to, she was trying to tell him she didn’t want that, she wanted a Caesar salad, but she wanted it small. She kept pointing at my salad and saying she actually wanted it to be that size.

[00:44:16] Annie Sargent: But they don’t do different sizes. They have a…

[00:44:18] Ken Ives: No.

[00:44:18] Annie Sargent: It’s the same size for everyone. Just don’t eat the whole thing, you know.

[00:44:22] Ken Ives: Well, that’s what I kept saying. Just take it, don’t eat it all. Well, she didn’t want to pay for something she wasn’t going to eat.

[00:44:28] Annie Sargent: Well, you’re going to have to.

[00:44:30] Ken Ives: Anyway. So the second thing that comes, the waiter then brings her salad.

Okay, she gets a Caesar salad plus the little side salad that she kept pointing at. And then she didn’t want that. So anyway. My point here is just order off the menu. It’s easy. If you can point at the menu and say, I want that thing there and they’ll bring it to you, you know…

[00:44:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:44:50] Ken Ives: Better, unless you are very, very fluent in French, to just stick with the menu.

[00:44:55] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and this is a very American thing. I think it’s only Americans that do this. Because I spend a lot of time in France, and in Spain. I don’t ever hear other diners asking for things on the side or remove this, or I want a half, or blah, blah, blah.

No, people just order what’s on the menu and you know, it’s only Americans that do this.

And Elyse, she’s lived in France a long time, but she still does it. Yes, well…,

It’s just how she is, you know.

France with Celiac Disease

[00:45:20] Ken Ives:

[00:45:20] Annie Sargent: But you mentioned that, isn’t it your son, who is gluten free?

[00:45:24] Ken Ives: Oh, yes. Yeah. He has a celiac disease and so he has to eat gluten free. Bad things happen if he eats gluten.

[00:45:31] Annie Sargent: Sure.

[00:45:32] Ken Ives: He’s been living with this for years and he knows how to do that. But in, for example, in Bayeux, an excellent restaurant was called Le Moulin de la Galette.

It’s the galette mill. And yes, there are specialties, galettes, which have no gluten in them.

We went there twice because not only did they have galettes, but they were really good galettes.

[00:45:54] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm.

[00:45:55] Ken Ives: And other than that, we were doing a lot of eating at our B&B while we were there.

So we would go to the grocery stores and just, we just had to read labels closely to see what we were getting. And our B&B also offered a breakfast one morning and we did that. And they were able to accommodate, they had special things for him that they said, this is gluten free, this is gluten free, this is gluten free.

[00:46:16] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:46:17] Ken Ives: And for the rest of us, they just had croissants.

[00:46:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. No, it can be done, but you have to be aware. But galette is a very good option for people who are gluten free because they are buckwheat, which is not wheat.

[00:46:30] Ken Ives: Yeah, buckwheat and usually, you know, eggs and cheese and things that have nothing to do with wheat on them.

[00:46:35] Annie Sargent: Right, right. All right, well, I’m afraid we’re out of time, Ken. It’s been lovely talking to you.

Thank you so very much for telling us about the Northeast of France. There’s lots to do, you know, but the Côte d’Opale sounds like a beautiful, beautiful place. And if you can go there in the summer months when it’s not too cold, it would be lovely.

Famous Battles that Took Place near the Opal Coast

[00:46:56] Ken Ives: That whole area is so full of everything. We only scratched the surface.

I mean, you have huge World War I sites there, the Battle of the Somme.

Of course.

And then on the bad news side, that’s also when we were at Saint Valery, that’s where Rommel’s tanks first reached the English Channel and completely surrounded the BEF in World War II.

They came right down the Somme River. The Battle of Agincourt was up near there in that area.

[00:47:26] Annie Sargent: Yes. Which again, I didn’t get to see. I’ve got to go back.

[00:47:29] Ken Ives: Because there’s so much more that we missed.

Montreuil-sur-Mer, Victor Hugo

[00:47:31] Annie Sargent: Well, another place called Montreuil-sur-Mer, which is pretty cute. And for me, who loves literature, Victor Hugo set, the very first part of the novel is set there in Montreuil sur Mer. That’s where Jean Valjean goes when he escapes, from the bagne. He goes, he ends up in Montreuil sur Mer.

He builds a business that’s very successful and at one point, somebody gets crushed by a cart and he’s able to lift that massive wooden cart off the chest of the guy. And somebody thinks: Oh, who is this guy? I know about a guy who has superhuman strength, and that’s how the novel starts.

[00:48:13] Ken Ives: The policeman comes after him. Yeah.

[00:48:15] Annie Sargent: They start going after him, but but it’s in Montreuil-sur-Mer, which still has this downhill cobblestone street that was the imperial route, the king’s route, the only road at the time. And at one point, it’s very, very steep, and so the carts had a habit of going much too fast. And the locals, whenever a cart would approach, they would come out with big sticks and they would push the sticks into the wheels to impede the progression of the cart.

And that’s where in French we get the expression mettre des bâtons dans les roues. To stick wood in the wheels, to impede progress is what it is.

[00:48:57] Ken Ives: Like gum up the works.

[00:48:58] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s why I gum up the works. That would be a good way to do it in English. Anyway, lots of things like that. And so I would love to go to Montreuil-sur-Mer, as well.

The city of Berck sounds like it’s…

[00:49:09] Ken Ives: Berck is a very nice seaside resort, which I just didn’t have time for. And up the coast a little bit, of course, if you’re into history, you’ve got Dunkirk.

[00:49:19] Annie Sargent: Exactly. So lots to do, you could spend a whole month in that area and not get bored, really. The only problem is the weather. And if you go there during the summer months, and some people would actually much prefer a cooler place than go to Provence and die of heat.

So if that’s you, then definitely consider the northeast corner. La Baie d’Otis, and all of that la Côte d’Opale, et cetera.

[00:49:47] Ken Ives: Like I said, we only scratched the surface, there’s much more for the next trip.

[00:49:51] Annie Sargent: Merci beaucoup, Ken!

[00:49:52] Ken Ives: Merci Annie. Au revoir!

[00:49:54] Annie Sargent: Au revoir, à bientôt!


Thank you Patrons

[00:50:03] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting this show.

Patreon supporters get new episodes as soon as they are ready and ads free. And if you want to do that too, you can follow the link in the show notes.

Patrons also get more exclusive rewards for their support, you can see all of them at And to support Elyse, go to And I don’t have any new patrons to thank this week because all of the ones who joined did it the free tier and it doesn’t help them or me. I don’t know why people do this. Probably because Patreon is pushing it.

Anyway, my thanks to Garth Stotts for sending in a generous one time donation to me, and Elyse as well. He wrote: ” I’ve been listening to department reviews: Ariège, Aude, Gers, Lot. I hope you and Elyse keep going through these. Full of great info”.

Yes, Garth, we will keep going through these, I think the next one that’s scheduled is Aveyron.

And thank you also Laura Hull for your one time donation. You can do that by clicking on any green button on that says ‘Tip Your Guide’.

And if you’ve been a patron for one year or more, and you are going to Paris, message me within Patreon and I’ll give you a free code to one of my VoiceMap tours.

This is also good for people who just join, but select yearly support.

If the podcast is leaving you wanting more, I offer two levels of Itinerary Consultations on Zoom to help you plan for your trip. It’s all explained on And right now I want to play you a recording from Kalena, talking about this service and how it helped her. And thank you, Kalena, for sending that in.

Kalena about the Podcast

[00:52:02] Kalena: Bonjour Annie. My name is Kalena. I live in Melbourne in Australia and I’ve actually only visited France once so far, last year in May 2023. While I researched the trip, I was very fortunate to find your podcast. I’ve been listening to it ever since. I absolutely love it and I finally subscribed to it.

Listening to Elyse and you is a real pleasure, and I like to put on a podcast while I’m painting or doing my domestic chores and it all feels so much lighter, and makes the time go very pleasantly. My journey with France came upon me quite unexpectedly. I got COVID in 2021 and I got very sick. And when I did recover, it was like I’d been possessed by a prehistoric French cave painting woman.

And I had a strong desire to get my hands on clay. I now make caves out of clay, I paint inside them the scenery and the animals seen in such places as Lascaux or Chauvet, and I hand build these similar animals such as the horses, bison, mammoths, cave lions, etc. It’s a really strong fascination. Something just opened up in me about this really strong love of France and history, nature, food, everything.

And listening to the podcast helps me stay connected and interested and continually learning more.

When I visited France last year, I went to Paris, I flew to Toulouse, I rented a car, and I drove around the Dordogne region, and to see as many caves as I could. I visited Pech Merle and then I went back to Toulouse, then I had a few days in Paris before coming home.

It was really too short, but it was all I could manage and afford for my first visit.

I was really grateful to make use of all the good advice you’ve given in many of the podcasts in regards to buying tickets ahead of time for the caves and various museums, and it made the trip much more efficient and a wonderful, seamless experience.

I also want to just thank you in regards to the work you do. You may not actually know this aspect, but for me it is, just listening to it is so pleasurable, it improves my mental health and therefore my quality of life. Just listening to it. I just wanted you to know that there’s another positive aspect and effect you may not have known you’re making.

So I’m very grateful, and I’m thankful, and that’s about it. Au revoir.

Reviews of Tours

[00:54:33] Annie Sargent: Somebody left this review of my new food tour in Paris, this week. Whoever it is, was writing about “Savouring Paris, a food lover’s walk around Les Halles” and he/she said: Fun, informative, and entertaining with very clear directions. Yes, thank you very much.

It is a fun one. I’m very proud of it. It’s my baby.

Driving a car in Major Cities of France

[00:54:55] Annie Sargent: All right. Now, let’s talk about why you should not drive a car into any major French city in France. The trend in France for at least 10 years, probably much more, has been to disallow cars in city centers. And honestly, city planners do everything they can to make your life miserable if you drive in the city.

Paris is getting to that point. Toulouse has been that way for a long time.

And Steve Stevenson was in Montpellier, and this is what he wrote: ” In Montpellier for three nights, I tried to move our car from its secure garage to the front of our VRBO last night. Google Maps tried to kill me in the process. Turns out that some streets close down at night or are only one way. This is news to Google Maps, which had me turn into a one way street going in the wrong direction. There was no traffic when I turned in, but that rapidly changed. And I found out that some French drivers have all the manners of New Yorkers. ( I lived there for 13 years. So please don’t jump down my throat for that one). I understand that drivers in Florida and elsewhere can get equally cranky but I never experienced that behaviour when I was stationed there. Two drivers halted the oncoming traffic and helped me get turned around, so there are some very considerate drivers here also.

Ended up giving up on getting back to our garage and parked far from our apartment. Two really nice teenagers walked me to the nearest tram station. Long way back in the morning to beat the cops to my car. Here’s my suggestion in the form of an ode.

ODE to not driving in city centers

[00:56:41] Annie Sargent: O traveller bold, heed this humble plea, to drive into a city’s core, A daunting spree, for France’s bustling urban veins hold trials and challenges, and often pains.

Narrow streets like labyrinths wind, with signs and signals that bewilder the mind. One way paths, where GPS may err, lead you in circles, and leave you in despair.

In Paris, Lyon, or Marseille Grand, where every corner a parked car stands, finding a place is a herculean feast. You’ll circle the blocks, mile after street.

The ancient roads will cobblestone charm, are treacherous for wheels, and cause alarm. With buses and trams on every side, you’ll wish you had just taken that ride.

Pollution tolls and access bans, For cars not clean, and others stand. In low emission zones, they toll an unwelcome cost for gasoline’s soul. Public transit!

Through metro lines and bus routes peak, It whisks you past the crowded strain, In comfort and speed a commuter’s gain.

So heed this ode, O driver keen, Let not city centres mar your scene, For trams and trains are the wiser course, And save you from that urban force.

Thus, leave the car on city’s rim, Embrace the walk, the ride, the whim, For in France’s heart, Sans striving woe, You’ll savour the journey and smoothly go.


Park and Ride

[00:58:32] Annie Sargent: Now you should know that French cities that have a tram system or a metro system typically have Park and Ride parking garages or parking lots at the end of the line. The idea is to encourage people to park their car, hop on the metro or the tram, go into the city.

This is always free, even though they normally ask you to get a ticket as you enter, because they don’t want people parking there if they’re not using the public transportation. So you get a ticket just like you would going into any pay parking garage, and you save that. And when you exit, having come back from your errands, on the metro, or on the tram, you insert that parking ticket, it’s going to ask you for money, and instead of putting in money, you put in the metro ticket or the tram ticket that you just barely used. And as a thank you, it’ll go to zero and the gate will open.

So that’s how it works in France. All major French cities, all the ones that have a metro, or a tram system do this. So please don’t drive your car into the city center anywhere because they don’t want your car in there. He says Google tried to kill him. It wasn’t Google. It was the city planners. They don’t want your car in there. Okay?

My thanks to podcast editors Anne and Cristian Cotovan who produced the transcripts.

Next week on the podcast

[01:00:01] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with Riana Ang-Canning about off season adventures in Provence and Côte d’Azur. It does not get much nicer than Provence off season, listeners. You don’t want to miss this one.

And remember, patrons get an ad free version of this episode, click in the link in the show notes to be like them.

Thank you so much for listening. And I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together.

Au revoir.


[01:00:30] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.


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Categories: Family Travel, French History, Hauts-de-France