Grau-du-Roi, in South of France
France is an absolutely stunning country. I can’t even explain how beautiful it is, you will just have to see for yourself. Here are 15 tips you should keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to “L’Hexagone” (France is called like this in France due to its shape, that of a hexagon). A trip to France should be on your bucket list! So read this list and start planning!
- Learn basic French. The minimum “bonjour” “s’il vous plaît “au revoir” and “merci.” When you walk into a store, say “bonjour,” and when you leave, say “merci, au revoir.”
France is more than Paris! and there is SO MUCH to see in other parts of the Hexagon. I’m a big fan of the South of France because that is where I studied abroad (Aix-en-Provence), where my husband is from and where I got married (Avignon), but all the regions are beautiful! L’Ile-sur-La-Sorgue
- Planning to rent a car? Remember most cars there are stick-shift! If you can’t drive a stick-shift (manual) make sure you ask for an automatic!
- Take the national roads (smaller roads) much prettier than highways (l’autoroute) and NO TOLLS!
- Read restaurant reviews before sitting down! Beware of tourist traps. Opt for places where locals eat. And while I’m talking about restaurants, don’t call the waiter by saying “Garçon” French people never do that… raise your hand and say “s’il vous plaît.”
A tip on tips: You DON’T need to add 20 percent, service is included! If service has been exceptional you can leave a couple of euros. photo credit: Euro coins via photopin (license)
- Santé! Make sure you look people in the eye when you are saying cheers (“santé”) if they are French.
- Be adventurous with food! Try it all: “stinky” cheese, frog’s legs, paté, different breads and jams. A great place to sample everything is at the markets! (Check out my market tips here.)
- There are restaurant shifts. While in the USA people eat whenever they feel like it, in France there are strict cultural norms about eating, and people don’t eat outside those times (that is why you see people at cafés having a coffee or a soft drink, because they do not eat in between meals). Not all restaurants are service continu (serving continuously throughout the day). Many restaurants have two shifts, lunch and dinner so you must plan accordingly. If you miss the window you might miss the opportunity to dine at a restaurant (or end up dining at a tourist trap). If this is the case, I recommend grabbing a crepe, or a sandwich or pastry at a boulangerie (bakery).
- Bread is created equally. You can order a baguette that is “bien cuit” (well-baked), “demi” (half-baked) or “blanche” (white, very dough-y). I say try all three, but my favorite is the demi.
- Beware of dog poop… it may happen.
- The first floor in France and in the USA are not equal. Beware that “first floor” in France doesn’t mean first floor in American terms- if you want the ground floor- that’s “Rez de chausée” – ground floor. “Premier étage” in France= 2nd floor by US standards.
- Sundays (mostly) everything is closed… plan ahead. If you think you are going to need to grab some groceries or pharmacy items make sure you get these on Saturday because Sunday most (really 99 percent) of stores will be closed.
- Transportation: Reliable, just have be mindful that they don’t run 24 hours a day (being from NYC I’m a bit spoiled). Also, beware of “greves” (strikes) that may disrupt service. In general, buses, trains are excellent ways to travel between cities and regions!
- Have a plan, but be open to just winging it. Some of the most picturesque things you will see in France are the small villages, the “ruelles” and little tiny churches that are not famous but are absolutely stunning. Make a plan to see the big sites, but also appreciate walking around and getting a bit lost in the beautiful cities and villages.
I recently visited France, check out the hashtag #ladydeeLGinFrance on Instagram!
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Have you visited France? What tips would you add to this list?