Advice for visiting France

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FrodoBaggins

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Hello all. Me and my family are considering going to France next year for our holidays and I wondered if anybody had any advice, either other people that have visited France or from somebody that lives there.

We will be going in August, we have 2 children who will be aged 6 and 4. We live in the UK.

We want something on somewhat of a budget, so not an absolutely extravagant kind of ordeal. We are not set on a specific location so thats our primary concern aswell as general advice for holidaying in France. We arnt set on a specific type of holiday however, a beach would be nice, things to do for the children but also we like the idyllic French country and villages.

We have just been looking at holiday parks on the north coast, Normandy area. Houlgate I believe was one such place that looked nice but I really have no idea and very little frame of reference- people from the UK don't seem to visit France often, and if they do it's usually a few nights in Paris. So Yeah, I guess really anything you can give me would be useful, thanks!!!

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Excitable_Misunderstood_Genius

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The Caen War Memorial museum is really powerful stuff ( http://normandy.memorial-caen.com ) but I don't know how a 6 and 4 year old will take it. Mont Saint-Michel is really cool but again I don't know how the kids will take it. Most of the other stuff we did in France involved going places and drinking what they made there which, again, the 6 and 4 year old.

One thing that might work is going along the Loire river valley and visiting the old chateaus out there. Some really great stuff if the kids will be able to manage it. Great wines for mom and dad, too.

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deerokus

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The west coast is beautiful and not crazy full of tourists but with tonnes to do, Nantes, La Rochelle, Les Sables D'ollone, Bordeaux. Awesome places all.

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FrodoBaggins

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@deerokus: @excitable_misunderstood_genius: I would love a full holiday of just checking stuff out like that but Yeah, I guess I'm trying to strike a balance between that and the children.

Thanks, I hadent really considered the west coast but we will certainly look into it now.

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deactivated-5a923fc7099e3

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Bretagne is great.

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soulcake

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If you like history Normandy and there second WW stuff are stunning. The American graveyard at Omaha beach is something everyone should once see in there lifes IMO. Also French toilets be aware of them at rest stops there just a big old hole in the floor and something i wish got banned in the 21 century. Also Mont St Michel is pretty impressive but super touristy, HonFleur and Daueville are nice places to visit in Normandy. And also i have being to Houlgate a few times it's a nice village, but there isn't a lot there to see so you tend to take your car and drive to other villages but it's a great place / base if you tend on seeing the whole Normandy. if you got any questions feel free to ask !

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TopCat88

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Loire Valley, I visited as a child with my parents. It's beautiful. We stayed with a camping company, giant tent provided and already set up when you arrive. It'll be hot, perhaps. But a good family spot. I can't remember the name of the company and they may not exist anymore, but if you're interested I'm sure my parents will remember. Next time I call them I can ask.

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diz

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#8  Edited By diz

You can get from Portsmouth to St Malo on a cheap overnight ferry ( as I did with some other UK bikers). Once there, northern France is great. The Mont Saint Michel is a nice spot to visit, as are the D-Day museums, beaches - and the villages (I stayed in Vitres, which was beautiful). We rode about a bit, then made it back to the UK via the Eurotunnel, that time. Also, if you can make it to Le Touquet, there are some lovely restaurants there and it had a faded glamour aura similar to Brighton.

P.S. Us Brits visited France for roughly 10 million trips in 2015, so I wonder about your earlier comment while hoping you haven't missed out too much on anything so far.

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isomeri

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Try to learn at least a little bit of the language. If you don't, you'll get poor or sometimes no service.

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void

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#10  Edited By void

@isomeri said:

Try to learn at least a little bit of the language. If you don't, you'll get poor or sometimes no service.

I once learned from a friend in France that if you start speaking in any non-English language first and then switch over to English you'll receive better service. It's when you start speaking in English and assuming they'll be fine with it that's the problem. But learning some French is of course even better.

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FrodoBaggins

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@soulcake: the place we were looking at in Houlgate was some kind of holiday park that had little villas and things to do for the kids, swimming and play areas etc. I figured as you say it could make a good base of operations.... how is getting around France/Normandy? How is public transport? Is it a good idea to rent a car? Are there plenty of car rental places? Thanks for all your suggestions every one, keep em coming.

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szlifier

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soulcake

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#13  Edited By soulcake

@frodobaggins: Public transport in Normandy is kinda non existent car rental is probably the easiest to get some where near the airport your landing, and a lot off highways in Normandy you have to pay Peagé witch is a standard toll you got to pay to use there highways. Also don't suspect good weather or clear blue waters in Normandy the water there good old Nord sea green and if your lucky in the summer you might hit 32°c or 90 F. If you want to see some nice water / white cliff hills, Eterat is kinda close but real touristy. and might be a bit far, but Seeing your a American we Europeans tend to think 30 miles as far off. O yeah when it comes to French a lot off older people tend to only speak french and only french witch kinda sucks but most off the younger folks tend to speak a bit of English

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AlexW00d

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@soulcake: the place we were looking at in Houlgate was some kind of holiday park that had little villas and things to do for the kids, swimming and play areas etc. I figured as you say it could make a good base of operations.... how is getting around France/Normandy? How is public transport? Is it a good idea to rent a car? Are there plenty of car rental places? Thanks for all your suggestions every one, keep em coming.

Generally public transport is much cheaper than here cause state owned (hell they own a large part of our rail lol) and/or subsidies, but I cannot comment on if it's reliable out in the sticks. Driving over seems like the easiest thing.

Also France is like the country we visit the 2nd most, after Spain, so I dunno where you got that from lol. I've only been to a small village in the Il-de-France and Paris, but both are wonderful. It was nice just being in the country for a bit, but it was a pretty expensive area.

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tatsuyarr

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#15  Edited By tatsuyarr

@void: As a french person I must agree with this unfortunately. French are very proud about their language (I am not ^^) so if you can say a few words in French first that will help a lot like "Excusez-moi mais je ne parle pas francais" (I'm sorry but I don't speak French). After that, usually, people will try to help you as best as they can. We're not as bad as people think we are (or so I hope).

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tatsuyarr

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@soulcake: the place we were looking at in Houlgate was some kind of holiday park that had little villas and things to do for the kids, swimming and play areas etc. I figured as you say it could make a good base of operations.... how is getting around France/Normandy? How is public transport? Is it a good idea to rent a car? Are there plenty of car rental places? Thanks for all your suggestions every one, keep em coming.

I recommend you rent a car it will be easier, especially if you have kids. Public transport are not too bad but they won't be better than a car. As long as you obey traffic laws you won't have any problem. I've already driven in the UK and there's not much difference except maybe tolled roads are more frequent in France but parking is way less expensive.

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FrodoBaggins

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#17  Edited By FrodoBaggins

I will most certainly try to learn a little of the language beforehand. I did know some bits and bobs at school but that's long since forgotten if I'm honest.

I guess I should have said in my experience because in all my long years I can't remember hearing anybody talking about their holiday in France haha.

What are people experiences flying to France from UK? I didn't really want to ferry it because of the 4+ hour drive beforehand but I could consider it I guess. Thanks guys!

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soulcake

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#18  Edited By soulcake

@frodobaggins: If your going to Normandy i would advice on taking the ferry to Cherbourg or Le Havre or just the tunnel. depends on where your coming from in the UK. ( Sorry i thought you where a American for a second :D ) O yeah and since your from the UK go checkout the Tapestry of Bayeux. It's nice piece of English history.

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Do_The_Manta_Ray

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Pick up a phrase book beforehand, I cannot stress this enough.

By phrase book I mean a little booklet that has a ton of typical phrases like "Where is the restroom?", or "How do I get to .....", etc, etc. These are incredibly useful, and usually, people will appreciate you attempting to speak their language rather than just assuming that they speak yours. It's a small thing, but it can be quite endearing to the populace. So attempt to learn a few of these by heart.

I don't think I have to say just how useful this would be in the case of an accident. There's still quite a few people in France who don't speak good English, especially people who have recently immigrated, or the elderly.

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AlexW00d

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I will most certainly try to learn a little of the language beforehand. I did know some bits and bobs at school but that's long since forgotten if I'm honest.

I guess I should have said in my experience because in all my long years I can't remember hearing anybody talking about their holiday in France haha.

What are people experiences flying to France from UK? I didn't really want to ferry it because of the 4+ hour drive beforehand but I could consider it I guess. Thanks guys!

I flew from Birmingham to CDG and its fine. It's pretty cheap to fly with Airfrance, and its like 50 minutes. CDG is a really poorly run airport though so coming back got a bit stressy but it's no real biggy.

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Excitable_Misunderstood_Genius

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@deerokus: @excitable_misunderstood_genius: I would love a full holiday of just checking stuff out like that but Yeah, I guess I'm trying to strike a balance between that and the children.

Thanks, I hadent really considered the west coast but we will certainly look into it now.

If you do plan on going places other than Normandy the south west is really great. Biarritz is gorgeous, there's a nice aquarium there the kids might enjoy, the beaches are super gentle, it's a really laid back family friendly area. Well, if you can deal with some topless grandmas at the beach.

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DrSlek

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Look up what type of scams tend to target tourists in France. Like pickpockets shoving fake petitions in your face to distract you while they steal your stuff. I had people try to pull that kind of stuff on me in Paris and Milan. Told them to piss off and continued to have a great time.

And as mentioned, learn a bit of the language before you go. Always try to start conversations in French.

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Hirst

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Avoid Paris, it's a tourist trap, know how in movies and TV shows it's totally romantic and all? Yeaaaaaaaaaaah, no. Imagine crowded people everywhere wanting to see the sights and it being swamped, you got people lined up to the sides trying to get money. It's been a disappointment to some natures, so much so they warn tourist about it. My advice is travel the country side and see the beautiful hills and areas beyond the big cities, they got some lovely villages and towns. Plus some magnificent castles! There are places of rich history and vast fields of grapes to be made into wine that will have you amazed how long and endless they seem. There is much charm to be had, hope you have a good time.

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krummi

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#24  Edited By krummi

Depending on your plans The Alpine region would get my recommendation. Plenty of small towns with cheap and good food and gorgeous views around just about every corner. Gorges du Verdun is pretty great. The closer to Riviera you get the easier it's to get by with English - but more touristy places get too of course.

Don't know how well a road trip of traveling suits a family with two children though.

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viking_funeral

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@isomeri said:

Try to learn at least a little bit of the language. If you don't, you'll get poor or sometimes no service.

The issue isn't so much the language, as it is the social rules. Greetings and farewells are a very important part of francophone culture. You don't have to kiss people on the cheek, but you should start every conversation with a formal 'bonjour.' A lot of what people consider rude responses are actually French speakers responding to what they consider rude behavior. Equally, leaving without saying goodbye in some form is also rude.

As an American living in a francophone society - suisse romande - it took me a while to grok this information. I'm used to a much more casual attitude towards conversation and coming 'n going. Once you get used to it, you'll find that francophones are much more casually friendly and are far more likely to say 'bonjour' to strangers passing on the street than even small town Americans. Well, at least in the non-Paris, Marseille, major metropolitan areas.

As for locations, the north is always a good choice. If you're looking for something cheap, off the map, and beautifully rustic I would recommend Ardèche. Very beautiful swimming holes there. Alsace can also be very nice, with some beautiful homes and architecture. The Mediterranean can be nice if you go some of the smaller, less crowded locations. We went to Six-Four-les-Plages this year and had a good time, though it is a very small town. It reminded me a bit of Kaua'i, in that there isn't much money or people but a lot of beautiful untouched locations. Plus it isn't far from Marseille, if that's your thing.

Oh, and obviously Paris is great, but get to the major landmarks early - like 8am-10am. That's the only way to avoid the massive lines. You can practically walk up to la tour Eiffel in the morning.