What we learned about France in the summer of 2016

• The French love a roundabout – possibly even more than the Brits
• Signage often stops just when you need it most..
• There is a lot of free parking in France and lots of parking spaces
o  Except in Cannes – you have to drive right through Cannes and walk back about a        mile to get free parking
o And Monaco – lots of underground parking areas, not free, but not as expensive as we were expecting either
• The toll charges are fairly reasonable in many areas, such as the west coast. It’s a little more expensive along the south coast and on the run back up to Paris (through the Ardeche)
o We were shocked by the sudden leap in charges when we left Paris for Normandy – in the end we left the motorway for the main roads. Next time we won’t go near the motorways!
• There are many monuments, churches, abbeys & houses that are accessible to the public and free, with far more access than we would generally enjoy at home

The chapel we found when visiting the Cascade de Pennafort (another lucky find)

• There are cycle paths almost everywhere. Unfortunately they’re not all separate from busy roads.
• If you want decent produce you need to use the markets, not the supermarkets. The produce on offer in the supermarkets is generally poor quality.
• The petrol stations rarely have shops . Instead they are mostly pay at pump. Much better.
• I found that many of the middle aged men we came across seemed to be a little …chauvinistic (there were, of course, a couple of notable exceptions – such as the lovely man who we hired our kayaks from).
• The majority of the women are lovely. Friendly and helpful.
• There are churches everywhere. At least as many as there are at home. Including some very large churches in some very small towns and villages
• There are some awe-inspiring cemeteries with real character

• French drivers are complete lunatics
• They are fascinated by our van and car combo. The men love to point out that it’s not allowed. We love to tell them that it is for us 
• The most expensive ferry crossing we’ve ever encountered was from Royan over to Le Verdon. It cost us about £80 for 20 minutes. It probably saved us 2 hours driving – but then again we had to wait for an hour for the next ferry (plus this is where we got stuck behind a German van in the queue which was just left there. We had to unhook to reverse and go past) Next time we will drive round.
• The motorway service stations are weird. We learned to appreciate those we have at home
• We love the Pyrenees
• Journeys always take longer than we expected! France is very big 
• There are medieval towns and villages round every corner

• There’s not much to see on the West Coast
• Many sights of interest are not highlighted at all. You just stumble across them, and can then find no information about them – such as the village that had fallen into the sea at Point Belvedere at Cap Ferret
• They are very welcoming of motorhomes and caravans. There are waste disposal points in most towns (just at the side of the road or within carparks).
• Our satnav loved to take us through city centres – even though we’d been very clear with it that we didn’t want to do that (i.e. quickest route). We sussed what she was doing in the end though, and every time we defied her our expected arrival time reduced by a good 30 minutes! My son is now the proud owner of said satnav
• We weren’t keen on Perpignan (and not just because the train staff were on strike when we were meant to be using them).
• We loved the South of France (but not Cannes so much)
• The public toilets are fairly plentiful, and, contrary to popular opinion, most DO provide toilet roll. Many toilets though are minus a toilet seat (even for the ladies) and soap. In all our time there I think we only found 1 or 2 toilets (including those on the campsites) that had a seat, paper AND soap.
• Versailles is an amazing place. And we need to visit again to get the most from it.
• If you want a good meal you must either pay through the nose, or visit an auberge (I think that’s what they’re called). The only problem with these is that you have no choice – there’s 1 starter, 1 main and 1 dessert (plat du jour) You also have to go in to find out what’s on the menu today! However, when we did eat in an auberge it was the tastiest meal we had.

• There is a lot of awful processed food on sale in the supermarkets (I mean A LOT)
• We loved the Ardeche – and will definitely return to kayak down the gorge
• Often the only place you can find open to eat on a Sunday (in smaller towns and villages) are a McDonalds – shame.
• Also many shops are closed for a few hours in the afternoon! We should be happy as we would probably have spent so much more money if they’d all been open!!
• Normandy. Beautiful area and very poignant. The war graves are beautifully kept. Again we shall definitely visit again – there is so much more to see.

• There are so many dilapidated houses all over the country – so sad to see them slowly falling down.
• We still love a French stick with pate.  And I love a chocolate éclair (but not a pillow meringue..) – hmmm xx


Author: MandoraTheExplorer

Having given up full-time work we currently work a year to travel for 4-5 months, and we're hoping to continue this until we can retire properly! Currently living, and loving, life to the full :)

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