Find out what to do when you’re in France, the country of culinary perfection, in Part II.
It’s 8:30 a.m. You are on your way to work. Strolling through the fresh fruit markets, you hear a street musician playing the violin from far away. Just before you take a seat next to your friend in a café for a ‘petit déjeuner’, you see a man buying a beautiful rose for his loved one. The sun rays are slowly making their way through the streets of the Ligurian houses. The streets are filled with romance, happiness and pure joy.
La France, la France. Oh, the beauty of my home country.
France is famous for a lot of things such as stunning coastlines, vineyards, valleys, beaches and – last but not least – a very good cuisine. That’s why I sometimes like to call France the culinary perfection.
France’s history has led to beautiful towns and castles (fr.: chateau), architecture and culture. Many towns and cities have museums dedicated to a historical event or person. It’s always an interesting experience visiting one of those sites to learn more about the place you are traveling.
Furthermore, being a country rich in history – both positive and negative events such as WWII or the French Revolution forming it – its citizens are very proud people. Despite what you may hear, the French are wonderful people who would love to stroll through the flower markets to smell those scents. They are also very friendly and open-minded people, always eager to learn about countries/people/history etc. A lot of locals hang by the fountains or cafés at the Carré, the square most often in the city center.
Generally, France is a peaceful and safe country. It’s not really affected by violence, brutality or hatred. You always have to keep in mind though that no country is 100% safe, every city has its suburbs where the crime rate is higher than in the center. I have traveled to France with family but also solo, and nothing has ever happened to me nor have I felt unsafe or uncomfortable. This is no guarantee though that nothing can happen to you there 🙂 Yet, Marseille is known as a city where a lot of people get robbed, so be sure to watch your back if you happen to travel to Marseille. Sadly, a number of terrorist attacks have been happening in France over the past few years (yet, these can happen anywhere). I was in Nice on July 14th 2016 (National Independence Day) when an act of terrorism occurred there. Thankfully, I was not injured or anything – I didn’t even realize that my city has been attacked until I got several texts from my friends asking if I was okay. Puzzled, I had no idea why I should not be fine, until they explained it to me .
Nevertheless, France is a quite expensive country. A nice hotel room can quickly cost around 80€ per night in the low season. The Central European standard is very high, so do not hesitate to look for a hostel or maybe even an Airbnb place for the night – you will not end up in a shabby place. 😉
The best and cheapest way to get around the 550.500 km² large country is by train. The TGV (fast-lane train) is expensive, be sure to travel with the evening or overnight trains to get the best price. Bought the day of travel, a train from Paris to Nice costs between 160-180€ whilst booking in advance Paris-Nice starts at 25€. Another good option, which takes longer but is a lot cheaper, is traveling by bus. FlixBus is well-connected throughout all of Europe and a trip from Paris to Marseille costs around 30€.
My absolute favorite thing to do when I’m at home – so in France – is to go to the boulangerie (the baker). The ‘pain au chocolat’ or chocolate breads are one of the best foods there. You haven’t been to France if you haven’t eaten at least one of them. To experience the full French cuisine for a fair price, do it like the locals. Make yourself some sandwiches or buy them at a local bistro (about 4-7€) and have a picnic in the park. Just sitting at a quiet place in a foreign country and thinking about how lucky you actually are brings peace to one. At least it does to me. And don’t forget, the market is your friend! There are dozens of markets in the cities: meat, cheese, fruit, bread, vegetables and many more. You will get to experience the local food as well, which is great and an experience you definitely shouldn’t miss out on. Most French citizens buy their food at the market, take it home and cook there. The herbs you can purchase in France are of high quality and make your meal perfect. Herbs are also a perfect souvenir or good for a small present for family and friends. You should definitely try frog’s legs. Don’t worry, they taste just like chicken and are actually pretty good 😉
- Restaurants: 5%
- Taxi: 10%
- Guides/Staff: 2-3€
- The French appreciate attempts to speak basic French. A simple ‘bonjour’ (hello) or ‘merci’ (thank you) is expected.
- Friends and family kiss both cheeks as a greeting. They start with the left cheek.
- You should have proper table manners.
- Don’t attempt to kiss cheeks with an acquaintance, simply handshake.
- Best manners are expected: avoid yawning without covering your mouth, shouting and chewing gum in public.
- Keep your hands out of your pockets when talking to people.
- Try to keep any history related topic off table. France has a very long and sometimes brutal history.