Top Tips For Holidaying in France


If you are planning to holiday to France then here are a few top tips.

Travelling-

  • If you are driving make sure you have checked what needs to be in, and done, to the car. Currently all passengers need a high visibility jacket; there needs to be a breathaliser in the car; spare car light bulbs; car lights need to be switched over; you need to have a triangle (in the car not the boot); Finally, you need to also disable anything which warns you of speed cameras.
  • If you are taking the boat then if you do happen to turn up early it is usually fairly easy to get on an earlier boat. Don’t ring to change as this costs you. Simply go to the customer service to see if the boat has spare places and then go to check in – Simple!
  • If you want to sit down on the boat, and it is busy, find a seat and try not to move from it. If you are in a group take it in turns to wander, shop and eat . Just use the seats you have found as a base. Trust me, once you leave a seat on a busy boat you will not get it back. Unless it is a stormy day and your seats are at the front of the boat!

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  • Once unloaded from the boat remember to –
    • drive on the right not left
    • speed limit 50km/hr; D&N roads 90km/hr; highway 130km/hr (110km in rain)
    • toutes/autres directions mean all/other directions, so if in doubt go that way (which we had to many times)
    • Lorries are not allowed to drive in the fast lane and cannot travel on a Sunday.
    • Be careful if someone flashes their lights at you. In France it is more likely to mean don’t pull out or get out-of-the-way! Especially if they are driving close to your bumper!
    • Have a plan for the toll roads if you are driving a right-handed drive. If you do not have anyone in the car with you prepare to do some bendy, yoga-esque arm manoeuvres to try to pay/reach tickets. You could always just hop out of the car as well! Once leaving the booth be careful as it descends into a chaotic wacky races with different vehicles going everywhere along an unmarked bit – Try to position yourself for the correct lane  (usually the middle for this bit to avoid the lorries).
  • My best tip for people driving anywhere near Lyon there is three different routes to take – the bypass is the best. Avoid the other two, if possible, unless it is in the dead of night on a Sunday. Otherwise, be prepared to be stuck in some traffic so plan some games to play. Eye Spy, Spot The Eddie Stobart and Sing-a-longs are just a few that I have had to take part in!
  • If you are driving up any windy, mountainous roads then do be careful. Especially if they are narrow! as you will often pass a very fast-moving car or motorbike coming the other way and usually more over into the middle of the road.

Where to stay

  • It is always best to have booked somewhere in advance if you know you will need to make a stop over on your journey to your final destination. There are always hostels (such as the F1) , local hotels or B & B’s. Always read the reviews, check out the local area and make sure it is feasible that you will make that stop. Don’t overstretch yourself or underestimate how tiring it can be driving whilst concentrating on which side of the road you need to be on.
  • If you haven’t booked then F1’s can be very accommodating. However, they do not have rooms with private bathrooms so people with young children may not want to stay here. They can often be used as truck stops so bear this in mind. There are plenty of fantastic independent hotels/ B &B’s to stay in so make sure you do a bit of searching. It is worth it to stay in somewhere comfortable! Maybe try to tie it in with an interesting town that you can do a bit of exploring in to break up a journey.

Once you’re settled (breathe a sigh of relief and relax!)

Shopping

  • Most French shops, Tabacs, Pharmacies etc are closed on a Sunday and they close for a couple of hours every day around 12-3 so make sure to stock up on all the essentials you may need, especially things for lunch! so do what the locals do and have a nice lunch then an  afternoon nap.

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  • It is not recommended to drink water from the taps so always ensure you have enough water for everyone to drink and to wash food in.
  • Try not to buy any bread or croissants from a shop. Instead have more of a treat and join the queue of locals early in the morning at the nearest Boulangerie. You will then be rewarded with lovely warm, freshly baked goodies and it is also a great way to get a feel for the local community.

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Food

  • One other tip is that , usually, each area has a speciality bread so either find out before hand or watch for what the locals order and follow suit. Don’t forget to have a bowl of chocolate milk to dip the bread into!
  • Do find out when the local day and night markets are on. They are always worth a visit and you can find some beautiful items and gorgeous, locally produced food.

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  • Find out what the local dish of the area is and try that. For example the local dishes of these places are :
    • Tarte Tropezienne (St Tropez)
    • Coq au Vin (Auvergne)
    • Bouillabaisse (Provence)
    • Clafoutis (Limousin)
  • You can’t forget that the French do cheese and wine really, really well so try to find the local cheeses and visit the local wine carve. Here, you can find the best wines at reasonable prices. Usually it means filling up a big container from what can only be described as a petrol pump that dispels wine!
  • Traditionally, the French eat dinner later as they usually have a fairly big lunch with all the family. Therefore, don’t be surprised if a restaurant is empty early evening as, more often than not, it will become packed as the evening wears on. If you do eat out try to choose the Plat Du Jour as it is usually very good value and a great way to sample the local dishes.

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  • When ordering coffee if you just ask for ‘Un café’ then you will be given a cup similar to an espresso. If you like milk then ask for it with ‘au lait’ or some more hot water (don’t ask for an Americano as they will charge you a lot more for this compared to asking for more water).

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  • If your order steak then always order one up from what you like, e.g if you like medium then ask for well done, if you like well done ask for very well done (or as the French joke- ask for burnt!).

Day trips

  • Plan your days and try to head out earlier rather than later. It is worth it if you managed to do a trip out and make it back to the pool for the afternoon to escape the heat.
  • Ask the locals where they would recommend a day trip too. The best people I have found to ask are usually the local bar owners and shopkeepers.
  • Markets are always a good place to start your day trip from.
  • There is usually lots of outdoor activities to try , ranging from horse riding to canyoning. Try to find the one with the best reputation and safety record and go there to have fun.
  • During the season there is usually lots of concerts and events on in each local town so try to pick up on posters or collect leaflets to make sure you don’t miss out!

Useful words

  • Please = S’il vous plaît (see-voo-play)
  • I am = Je suis  (zheu swee)
  • I am looking for = Je cherche (zheu share-sh)
  • I want = Je veux (zheu veu)
  • A hotel = Un hôtel (ern otell)
  • A room = Une chambre (une shombre)
  • To eat =  Manger (mon-zhay) 
  • To drink =  Boire (bwar)
  • To pay = Payer (pay-yeh)
  • To buy =  Acheter (ash-tay)
  • Breakfast = Petit-déjeuner (peuti – dayzheurnay)
  • Dinner = Diner (dee-nay)
  • A half pint of draught beer = Un demi (ern deu-mee)
  • A glass = Un verre (ern vair)
  • Some water = De l’eau (deu-lo)
  • A tea (with milk) = Un thé (au lait) (ern tay olay)
  • The restroom, toilet  =  La toilette (lar twa-lette)
  • Price = Prix (pree) / How much? = Combein
  • Credit Card = Carte de crédit (kart deu cray-dee)
  • A bank =  Une banque (une bonk)
  • Shops =  Des magasins (day magga-zan)
  • A supermarket =  Un supermarché (ern supair-mar-shay)
  • The train station =  La gare (lar gar)
  • The airport =  L’aeroport (l’aero-por)
  • A car = Une voiture (une vwa-tiure)

And 25 most useful French phrases

(Sometimes incorporating essential words from the list above)

  • Hello = Bonjour (bon-zhour)
  • 2.Thank you = Merci  (mair-see)
  • Goodbye= Au revoir (oh-reu-vwar)
  • I don’t understand = Je ne comprends pas (zheu neu kompron par)
  • I don’t speak  French = Je ne parle pas français (zheu neu parl par fron-say )
  • Could you speak more slowly please = Pouvez vous parler plus lentement, s’il vous plait (poo-vay-voo par-lay ploo lontermon)
  • Could you repeat that please = Pouvez-vous répéter, s’il vous plait (poo-vay-voo ray-pay-tay, see-voo-play)
  • Please, I am looking for = S’il vous plaît, je cherche……(see-voo-play, zheu share-sh ……)
  • Do you have …? = Avez-vous…. (avay -voo)  
  • Do you have a room for two? = Avez-vous une chambre pour deux personnes? (avay -voo une shombre poor deuh pair-sonn)
  • When does it shut? = A quelle heure est-ce que cela ferme ? (a kel eure esk slar fairme)
  • How much is it = Combien ça coûte ? (kom-bjanne sar coot)
  • Where is the toilet/ washroom please? = Ou sont les toilettes, s’il vous plaît ? (oo son lay twar-let, see-voo-play)
  • Where are there some restaurants, please? = Ou est-ce qu’on peut trouver des restaurants, s’il vous plaît? ( oo esk on peu troo-vay day resto-ron, see-voo-play)
  • One black  coffee and one coffee with milk, please = Un café et un café au lait, s’il vous plait (ern caffay ay ern caffay olay, see-voo-play)
  • Could I have the bill please? = L’addition, s’il vous plait (lad-eesi-onsee-voo-play)
  • To the airport, please = A l’aeroport, s’il vous plaît (ar l’aeropor see-voo-play)
  • A table for two/ for four  = Une table pour deux / quatre personnes (oon tarbleu poor deuh /cat-r pair-son)
  • I’m not feeling very well = Je ne me sens pas bien (zheu neu meu son par bjanne)
  • We want to go to …. = Nous voulons aller à …….  (noo voolon allay are…)
  • I am looking for an ATM/ cash dispenser = Je cherche un distributeur de billets (zheu share-sh ern dee-stree-beaut-eur deu bee-ay)
  • Could you please call me a cab? = Pouvez-vous m’appeler un taxi, s’il vous plaît  (poovay voo maplay ern taxi see-voo-play)
  • We are in a great hurry/ late = Nous sommes très pressés / en retard (noo som tray pressay / on retar)
  • What’s the weather going to be like today? = Quel temps va-t-il faire aujourd’hui? (kel tom vartil fair oh-zhour-dwee)

Most importantly – Bonnes vacances!

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