Browsing Category

Destinations

Blog France Solo Travel

13 Things The French Do That Will Blow Your Mind

October 6, 2019

After living in France for months this year with my four children, which I will write more about soon, I’ve come to see that the French really do have a particular way–let’s say, often a very particular way–of doing things.

I’ve traveled and spent a lot of time in France over the years. There was that hot August month in Paris solo with my four kids, that time roadtripping along the Mediterranean after walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain (oh, how they were sooo tiny then), those times crewing and cheering at various UTMB trail running races, and that time hiking the Tour de Mont Blanc with the kids.

I thought these travel experiences, combined with what I had gleaned from my family’s French roots and my high school French teacher (who was unmistakably French in every possible way) imparted a decent education about France and its culture.

Pas Possible! How Wrong I Was and How Much I Have Yet to Learn

After living in France, I’ve learned this: there is so much to learn. Just when you think you’ve figured out something or you think you know something, you probably don’t.

If you stay in France long enough, some the things you’ll learn will surprise you, put a huge smile on your face, annoy you, drive you nuts, and perhaps even blow your mind.

Here are 13 things the French do:

1. Forget About Clothes Dryers.

The drying rack is your friend in France.

In France, what you’re going to wear for the week requires pre-planning. France is big into energy conservation. Hanging your clothes on a line dryer or drying rack is how you’ll dry your clothes. After the sun has gone down or on damp days, you may find your living room (salon) or kitchen overflowing with freshly washed, hung laundry. Clothes dryers just aren’t popular for energy reasons. You’ll find drying racks for sale in grocery stores, sometimes near the wine, if that says anything. 🙂

2. French Bureaucracy…The French Have a Thing for Paper.

Despite France’s eco-conscious push, it may come as a shock to know that France loves paper. Well, at least the government does. France even has its own standard paper size A4, which is slightly longer and skinnier than the American standard 8×11″ paper.

The first big purchase I made in France was a printer. Why? Because France requires many things to be printed, from visa forms to copies of electricity or Internet bills to medical authorizations to banking application materials. And on A4 paper. France simply doesn’t do the electronic thing like many other countries do; in fact, online banking seems like a “new” concept in France. French are big into presenting or keeping dossiers, folders containing your personal documents needed for various applications, such as applying for an identity card, an apartment, or even for registering your child for a short sports program. Even some banks insist on sending monthly paper statements. My kids were floored when we made a trip to the local Prefecture (government office) and saw a giant wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling paper filing system behind the main desk. They asked if this is what the 80s looked like when I grew up. Hmmm…. 🙂

3. Pass the Cheese.

When you get invited to someone’s house for a meal, there will be cheese. The French do cheese. And they do it at the end of dinner. In the Alps, one plate of five, local cheeses is typically presented, including the region’s specialty (in Savoie that’s usually Reblochon).

Cheese is life.

4. Forget Tampons on Sunday.

Unless you’re living in a tourist town, you’re going to find that most stores are closed on Sunday. That’s slowly changing. In some places, such as in Paris, there are efforts to create automated stores with zero human register checkouts on Sundays (similar to Amazon’s zero human interaction store in New York’s Lower Manhattan), as a way to meet consumers’ shopping needs within the framework of existing government regulations which are designed to give employees a rest day and to give people family time. Chances are though, if you didn’t plan ahead for the expected or unexpected, you’ll be out of luck in France. I love French culture and France, but I really wish stores were open on Sunday. And I’ve also got to believe that I’m not the only woman raising daughters who feels this way. 🙂

Continue Reading
Blog Destinations Europe Spain

Travel with Children to La Palma, Spain, Canary Islands

June 25, 2019

Just off northwestern Africa lies La Palma, one of Spain’s beautiful Canary Islands. This volcanic island, with its black sand beaches, forests, and natural beauty is one destination that I hope to return to soon with my family.

Our May trip to La Palma was a blend of trail racing, business, and family time. The weather in La Palma was consistently beautiful, and there was always a breeze near the ocean. The kids spent nights sleeping outside in the hammocks under the stars, my husband and daughter spent time trail racing, and I spent time scheming my future business project, reading, and enjoying quiet time.

Checking out La Palma’s coastal landscape.

How to Get to La Palma

The kids and I took a direct flight from London to Gran Canaria, the third largest island among the Canaries. It is there where we met up with my husband, who flew to meet us from the USA. We then grabbed a Binter flight and flew directly to La Palma. Binter was amazing! The hospitality was lovely. The kids received lollipops, chocolate wafers, breath mints, and fresh towelettes. Note: we also took Binter on our return trip, however, we had a brief stop and plane switch in Tenerife, and it was equally great in terms of hospitality.

Where to Stay

There are many AirBnbs and hotel options to choose from on La Palma. We preferred to have our own space, so we rented a beach house along the water south of the airport on the eastern side of the island. The rental owner was really helpful and nice, but the house itself, while remarkably beautiful and surely in the prime of its day absolutely jaw dropping, needed some TLC. The experience served as a good reminder that to improve the chances of a positive AirBnB experience to go for not only positive reviews, but recent ones.

Continue Reading
Blog Destinations Europe France

Visiting Southern France’s Aix-en-Provence with Children

June 25, 2019
Exploring Aix-en-Provence with Children

In the late spring, when my four children and I were staying in France’s Jura Mountains and it seemed that summer would never arrive, we jumped in the car and headed to the south of France. I desperately needed to soak up some sun.

Sun Seekers.

Our destination: Aix-en-Provence.

Aix-en-Provence, (Pronounced “EX”), is a small French city in Southern France about thirty miles north of Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea. Aix-en-Provence gets a whooping 300+ days of sunshine a year.

Where we stayed

I found a great centrally located and kid-friendly place for our three nights in Aix-en-Provence. Casa Appart, a self-catering apartment style rental is about a 2-3 minute walk from the center of the old town.

Our apartment in Casa Appart was lovely. I booked it through Booking.com, which is the site I use for most of my European travel (other than AirBnBs) because I can easily input my total guest count (me + 4 children) to find suitable room options. Our Aix-en-Provence rental featured two levels, a balcony, a small kitchen, and enough sleeping space for the five of us.

Casa Appart was super clean and cozy. While staying there, I felt like I was actually living in Aix, not just visiting the city as a hotel guest. I loved the shower and my bed was really comfy. I will note my only complaint with this location: a child unfriendly feature – an unbarred window in the lower level bedroom, which could pose a fall danger to a small child (it opens to an interior courtyard in the front of the apartment). Please keep in mind, this may not seem of concern to Europeans or anyone else traveling from other parts of the world, but to my American wired brain, this seems like an issue, though not enough to detract from this awesome rental pick.

Another plus. The staff at Casa Appart went out of their way to leave birthday balloons and treats for my child who was celebrating a birthday during our stay. Unfortunately, I think I messed up the review I left after staying there and I couldn’t figure out how to go back and change it. I intended to give it a 10/10, but think I must have skipped over a field because a lower rating was displayed. Additionally, there is a washer/dryer available for use ($) in the secured front apartment courtyard, which is always a plus when you’re traveling with kids or travel slow and light.

Continue Reading