A few weeks in France

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muthafunky
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A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:30 am

Overall we gave France two thumbs up! It was a challenging trip with a 1 year old, but we had a nice mix of museums, walks about town, art, kid's stuff, great food, and relaxation.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the French people, who were far more friendly than I remember, though it probably helps to be a mature adult and not a backpacker l00ser... it had been 20 years since I'd last been there. Seemed like everyone spoke English. It was nice to be in a place where it's not really socially acceptable to wear logo tshirts, baseball caps, cargo shorts, and the like. Makes everyone seem well dressed though really it's more like society's dress code is more formal rather than people actually being fashionable. French people seem vaguely disheveled, like many of them seemed to need haircuts or showers or their clothes needed a wash. No one seemed to have tattoos, not even the young people. Pretty white country outside of Paris too and there didn't seem to be many interracial people though a fair number of interracial couples. Like maybe a generation or two behind how things are here. The oddest thing was ever single security guard we saw was black. Literally ever single one. When I noticed I started really paying attention trying to find a white one. Saw very little obesity, which is another nice change. I was also impressed at how many Parisians sat in parks reading real books, writing in pads, sketching pictures. They do really seem to take the arts seriously.

It was funny to see that smoking is still a big thing there, even though you can't smoke inside. The weirdest thing for me was how normal smokers seemed there. Let's face it, in the US the only people that still smoke are older people (say 45+) who grew up when smoking everywhere was normal, the poor and uneducated, and tattoo artists. But there it was just normal people, smoking everywhere they could. I'd put the rate at about 80% for young women. Smoking doesn't bother me much, but it annoys my wife. The only really gross thing was seeing mothers holding babies while they smoked.

I was disappointed at how kid unfriendly France is, particularly Paris. I guess kids just don't go to restaurants because we hardly ever saw any there, there were almost no high chairs, and kids menus were hard to find. Not that many playgrounds. And don't get me started on the lack of elevators or ramps, which made strollers a challenge. I can understand not having an elevator to the top of Notre Dame or whatever, but there's no excuse having a transit system without elevators or escalators that are broken. It wasn't terrible for us since we had a travel stroller and there were two of us. What I really wondered is what on earth handicapped people do there? I guess you just stay at home locked away. The lack of support for handicapped people there would be illegal here. It was surprising to us because we figured Europeans would be better at taking care of the more marginalized people in their ranks.

The one really great thing for kids? Carousels everywhere. Our son loved them. I loved the relaxed attitude around them, you could just jump on them when they were moving and were left alone. In the litigious US you can't get close to them by yourself and kids have to be strapped in.

The time of year we went was really great. Cool in the mornings and evenings, but warm enough during the day for short sleeves and walking around for hours on end. There weren't all that many tourists, though the top spots still had crowds. I can't imagine what those places are like in July. The roads were pretty empty and we never really had to sit in traffic, which was a very welcome change.

There were a lot of troops walking around with machine guns and heavy security at all the tourist sites. I sort of knew that was going to happen, but it was still pretty surprising. Haven't seen a military presence like that on the streets since maybe visiting Egypt or Israel. Too bad about the radical Islam thing.

I was maybe most blown away by the service in restaurants. We had really great waiters for the most part and didn't have long periods of not being able to get their attention that seems so prevalent in other European countries. On top of that no tips! (though of course a 20% service fee is always added). France has almost sold me on the no tipping thing. Maybe my only quibble is they never seemed very knowledgable about the menu.

Also impressed with the health care system there. I had a bad sinus infection and ended up with Bell's palsy, which is pretty terrifying if you've never heard of it. I went to a private urgent care clinic. There were literally no patients there, it took 2 minutes to see a doctor who spoke English, and he quickly made a diagnosis without a bunch of tests and sent me on my way with a prescription for cortisone. Total cost for visit + drugs was 60 euros. My wife's sister is a physician's assistant and she said they would have ordered a catscan and blood work to make sure it wasn't a stroke. The French doctor felt a physical exam was good enough. I prefer the French way.

Uber is great there, we used it all the time and never bothered with a taxi. My rating did take a beating there though, probably because we took a few rides with a lot of luggage, had an energetic one year old with us, and on one trip our son puked all over (though none got on the seats). Airbnb was also fantastic, we ended up with 2 bedroom places everywhere we went with nice kitchens, living room, amenities and really for better prices than hotels. Every Airbnb had a pack and play available if you asked, so traveling with an infant or young toddler is easy in that respect. The woman who owned the place we stayed in Paris even let us hire her nanny so we had a babysitter three nights so we could go out and have late nice dinners. I'm usually pretty down on Tripadvisor but that nearby feature on the app seemed to always point us to great restaurants. Or maybe it's just that they don't have crappy restaurants there like they do here? We were also able to make reservations at most places through the Tripadvisor app, which was super convenient. Business hours are still pretty barbaric, with much closed on Sunday and evenings, so get your shopping down early.

The lines at immigration in Charles de Gaulle are beyond insane for non-EU citizens. Disorganized, chaotic, loud, hot, and it was literally a two hour wait to have some guy run your passport and stamp it. We were able to jump the line because we had a toddler but pity everyone else, including friends we had on the flight. That overnight flight from the US is really inconvenient if your hotel or Airbnb is booked. We basically had to kill a couple of hours in a park waiting for our Airbnb to be ready. If we go back I'd go to one of those hotels at the airport that sell rooms in multi-hour blocks.

Paris... well, what can you say, it really is a great city. Pretty, safe, relatively clean, a real joy to just wander around in (even with a toddler). I liked all the street cafes with seats pointed out to the street rather than across tables to each other. I wish we had that sort of thing here. It was fun to do kid things like go to the amusement park at Jardin d'Acclimatation or the playground at Luxemborg Gardens though overall I didn't think there were many playgrounds and I don't care for the French model of parks, which tends to be more ornate and less usable. Lots of dirt and gravel walkways rather than green spaces. Trimmed hedges and flowers that are fenced off and statues. You don't see people throwing frisbees, sitting on picnic blankets or playing soccer in French parks. The day trip to Epernay in Champagne was well worth it, the tour of Moet's underground aging rooms was really interesting and the tasting rooms in town let you sample a good range of the local product. We chose Epernay instead of Reims to visit because we read Epernay is smaller and easier to walk around. The trip to Versailles was disappointing. We knew we'd be rushed so we only planned to visit the gardens and I found them very underwhelming. Once again, gravel walkways and not much grass, trees and hedges behind ugly wooden fences, few places to sit down and enjoy the greenery. It didn't help that none of the fountains were working. Maybe French parks are meant to be photographed rather than experienced?

Glad we did the trip up to Normandy. Monet's gardens in Giverny are beautiful and worth a few hours wandering around in. Honefleur is a funny little port town and a good place to overnight. The Bayeux tapestry display is really well done and is the first time I've listened to an entire audio tour, though much like my high school history class I feel like they still don't give a good reason why William the Conqueror was historically significant. I'd sort of read about the cider trail, but was surprised at how big ciders were in the region, which was a pleasant surprise for my wife, who is a fan. We tasted a number of them and visited a distillery. The WW2 sites are moving if you care about the history, I really enjoyed walking on Omaha Beach at low tide. Mont Saint-Michel is very pretty to look at from a distance, is sort of interesting to walk through though full of tourist shops and cheesy museums, and the cathedral at the top is worth the steep price for the nice views. I'm glad we stayed overnight on the mainland so we could visit when there were fewer tourists and could appreciate the site from a distance, though the hotel and restaurant choices are atrocious. I guess it's even worse if you actually stay on Mont Saint-Michel itself.

Provence was a nice change. Normandy felt a lot like England, Provence felt more like Italy or Spain. It was warm enough for us to swim in the pool at our Airbnb but still not too hot to walk around for hours. The scenery wasn't quite as spectacular as I was lead to believe, but still pretty good and nice to tour around in with a car. We stayed in Avignon, so a lot of of sites were 30-45 minutes away and Avignon was pleasant enough as a base with a few things to see like the Pope's palace and a decent selection of restaurants and shops. Arles was dirtier than I imagined, but I really liked the Van Gogh easels they had set up throughout the town showing the scenes he painted. Baux was a nice enough ruined castle with some really good views and good picnic spots within. We did the Carrieres de Lumieres thing nearby, which is basically a music and classical art light show projected on the walls of an old quarry. It was odd and a bit nauseating. I'd give it a miss. Pont du Gard shouldn't be missed, I've seen a lot of Roman crap in my time and was still blown away by this aqueduct. If we didn't have a toddler I would have paid for the tour that lets you walk on the very top of it. We did a bit of wine testing in Cote du Rhone - Gigondas and Tavel. Really good stuff. French wine is pretty overwhelming, there are so many regions, wineries and certifications. Visiting a couple of the small and very scenic hill towns is a must.

We ended our trip with a couple of days in Nice with a side trip to Monaco. Definitely a much different feel in Nice even though it's only a couple hours away from Avignon. People wearing shorts, glitzy shopping, beach life. Too bad the beach is made of gravel. The oceanographic institute in Monaco was interesting and has a great location, though there was some really strange stuff in there.

Biggest disappointment of the trip - I never got my Royale with Cheese and a beer at McDonald's.

Some photos:

Sweet rides on the Champs-Élysées
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The boy was not impressed with Monet's Water Lilies
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Inside Sainte-Chapelle, each pane a bible verse
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Tuileries Garden... we were so happy to find some green grass in a park to sit on!
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Inside the catacombs
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I'm not a fan of modern art, so I tried to spice up this scene in Pompidou Center. All I accomplished was showing off my pinhead.
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Champagne aging nicely in the caverns of Moet in Epernay
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Pondering why there isn't more grass at Versailles. And which one of these has more stone in his head.
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Night falls on Honefleur's Harbor
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Carousels carousels everywhere!
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The wife was a fine arts major and loved Monet's gardens in Giverny
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Bayeux Cathedral
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Omaha Beach looking more inviting than it did in 1944
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The distant views of Mont Saint-Michel were the best
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The Airbnbs were fantastic. This was the place we stayed in Bayeux
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The little guy checking out alleys in Arles
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A little picnic spot we found in Crestet, one of the tiny hill towns in the Cotes du Rhone
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The (French) pope shacked up here for a while in Avignon
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Pont du Gard
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Rosé tasting in Tavel. They had displays to show what the soil they grapes in looked like for a few of their wines
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The Grumpy Man in Baux
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View from the castle wall in Baux
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Even their graffiti has to be all artsy
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The sensitive and informative display next to the Mexican salamander tank at the Oceanographic Institute in Monaco
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Old city in Nice
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Last day in Nice and we visited the water park. The French have some great fountains and water parks for kids
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Moethebartender
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Moethebartender » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:01 am

A well written piece. It pales by comparison, of course, to what the famed LP Author, Flapster!, has charitably crapped out freely on your site, but I admire your efforts even so. Interesting travelogue that I'm sure won't go unnoticed. Excellent pics. You've got a beautiful family and it looks like you all had a great time. Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great trip.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by temporaryhandle2 » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:03 am

Well isn't your boy a little cutie pie?!

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by veronica_inheels » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:09 am

I was there in august- interesting that my feelings about France and babies and children were much different than yours. I thought they ALL traveled with kids everywhere. they were much more visible than in Canada. It was awful.

But I liked France, didn't like the French much. But the countryside was wonderful. One of my fav things is rural France.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Bill Barilko » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:10 am

Well posted!

Love the Champagne shot and kid looks Happy.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by simon_in_exile » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:19 am

You wrote that just for here, or do you generally keep some sort of diary when you return from trips? Either way, what a great, honest read. Nice one mutha!

Also brings up a few points I'd like to help explain or add to (e.g. how do physically disabled people get around Paris when the metro doesn't have elevators? Is the rest of Europe like this? Etc.), but that's for later.

Glad you had a good time too - where's your next holiday going to be?
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by mad hatter » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:28 am

nice travelogue.

moe can you lift your game, we dont care about your infatuation with flobby.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Annotated » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:45 am

Not a bad report, but Flopster did it better.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:46 am

Moethebartender wrote:A well written piece. It pales by comparison, of course, to what the famed LP Author, Flapster!, has charitably crapped out freely on your site, but I admire your efforts even so. Interesting travelogue that I'm sure won't go unnoticed. Excellent pics. You've got a beautiful family and it looks like you all had a great time. Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great trip.


Thanks moe, that's very nice. We did have a great time, though it was definitely a lot of work with a 1 year old. I'm not sure that really came through.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Lime_Pickle » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:47 am

Great trip report, thanks.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:47 am

temporaryhandle2 wrote:Well isn't your boy a little cutie pie?!


Haha thanks. I think he's cute. I should post a pic of him throwing a tantrum...

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:50 am

simon_in_exile wrote:You wrote that just for here, or do you generally keep some sort of diary when you return from trips? Either way, what a great, honest read. Nice one mutha!

Also brings up a few points I'd like to help explain or add to (e.g. how do physically disabled people get around Paris when the metro doesn't have elevators? Is the rest of Europe like this? Etc.), but that's for later.

Glad you had a good time too - where's your next holiday going to be?


I wrote that just for you guys! I'm not sure any of the people I know in real life would appreciate a trip report. I did post a number of these photos to Facebook too though.

Happy to discuss any of the points raised though, I do have a genuine interest in how the handicapped fare in places like that.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:51 am

Thanks for all the kind words!

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by cummy » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:51 am

i really enjoyed reading your piece, mutha. loved it. it was very well written. i enjoyed seeing your perspective on things ... which were all spot on.
and i loved the pics too. your omaha beach pic looks like a painting. i am glad you made it to pont du gard. if it were warmer, you could have rented a small kayak for some water fun. thanks for sharing.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by guruwil » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:14 am

Very nice. I am jealous
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by harry_flashman » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:46 am

Passive Cigarette smoking seems to be tolerated right across the continent in my limited experience. I often find that with continental euros in Asia, lighting up without any sort of due diligence to your nearest neighbour has become socially ingrained. Smoking in France, as you would expect, is not just a filthy habit it’s a form of social communication. If a picture is worth a thousand words then the way your average frog blows his smoke or holds is fag can project any number of subtle interpretations on just about any topic. On the flip side, people generally dress a lot better everywhere on the continent in my limited experience.

Talking of presentation, I can’t help but notice you are started to look a little bloated about the midrift. I appreciate that by American standards of fatfuckery you probably don’t stand out but in another 10 years, given the American diet, you could end up looking like fatberg mothebuttender and I am sure you wouldn’t want to end up like her.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by mishmish » Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:08 am

niiiice! And what a cutie your little guy is. And your wife is a beautiful lady. You are way out of your league and out of your lane dude :wink: (not true. I just thought I'd try to embarrass you a bit, what with your abysmal reputation and all).

Oddly and unexpectedly, Monet's Giverny place was one of the more memorable places we visited, even though it was thronged at the time and I was truly expecting the worst of all possible depressing tourist traps. Airbnb in France must be fantastic. There was no such thing when we did the grand tour, and not traveling with little ones we only actually reserved the first two nights in France and the last couple of days in Paris, and stayed at haphazard hotels/inns en route for the rest of the trip. This is not a good plan if you want/need to hang around in one place for more than dusk to dawn. Some of those places rivaled the Mexican flop houses I stayed in when I was a footloose hippy.

I think the French take their public image of all prettied up, picturesque, and on best behavior pretty (way too) seriously. This theory would explain the lack of any accommodation for any sort of physical disability, unwieldy bags or babies. Logo'd clothing is viewed as the height of crassness. People really don't seem to take small kids to restaurants there. Apparently children may be seen, heard of, but never ever actually heard, except in designated Children Places, hence the lack of high chairs. Little guy tossing a pea or two on the floor simply will not fly. Also, aimlessly hanging about on public benches or grass is sort of frowned upon and may even elicit an unexpected call from those robocops. Who btw, gave me my first ever first hand glimpse of police brutality (not toward me). Loitering ls what cafes are for. If you are not walking from point a to b you have to be doing something acceptable. Like decorating something. Maybe a canvas (painting). I liked food shopping in Provence the best, either in occasional outdoor markets or shops. Just all around yummy. But I agree, the vistas are not really grand, pretty low key, and the ultimate of perfection for a road trip with many stops to taste wines, sniff the air, sniff the exotic soaps, check out markets, loll about in a cafe, etc.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by madmonday » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:19 am

Good report great pictures....
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by erkat » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:44 am

Cute kid, good report.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by andybox » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:54 am

that brings back some fond memories Mutha. Thanks for the report, I really need to get back to France. It's been 20 years for me aswell.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by tortuga » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:55 am

Nice one! Glad you had fun!

Most of your observations are pretty spot on, too.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by leela » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:05 am

Nice report and great photos. I love France.

And yep, elsewhere last night I mentioned how awful some countries are for attitudes to disability - and France is one of them. Neighbouring countries, however, are very much better.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Lost Soul » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:23 am

You reported on nice people in France that speak English? And nice waiters? I only found that in Normandy. Good to see it's spreading. Or maybe it's due to the wife and kid, and that you are no longer a rowdy young man. or maybe the wife speaks some French? I heard that's the key.

Nice trip report. Did you take a high speed train anywhere? I haven't done that yet.

The wife is cute and exotic. Maybe that's the secret to meeting nice French? Half Chinese or Cablinasian?
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Flora » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:58 am

Good report. A.

Interesting that you found it tricky with a kid in restaurants etc. I found that France is pretty good for kids - I've not had an issue in restaurants at all. We've been going since she was 3 months old, and always managed to find things to occupy her quite easily. I think they seem a lot more patient in restaurants etc than they are in the UK. Maybe we've been to more touristy places (or more 'English' places) in high season though - have to deal with tourists then! We went in May to Bordeaux on our own without her, and kept finding things that she would have really enjoyed.

I loved Giverny.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by simon_in_exile » Tue Nov 07, 2017 10:49 am

leela wrote:Nice report and great photos. I love France.

And yep, elsewhere last night I mentioned how awful some countries are for attitudes to disability - and France is one of them. Neighbouring countries, however, are very much better.
Europe as an umbrella word, is pretty much useless, the countries within it being so different from each other.


Agree with this.
London's Tube is also crap if you're disabled: steps everywhere in most stations. One solution in many cities: buses are rapidly becoming modernised and are much less of a hassle to access. I'd imagine that's a workaround in Paris too.
The Netherlands, in contrast, has an excellent public transport system if you're in a wheelchair (or have a baby buggy). Ditto Sweden, from experience, and also Germany.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by polardude1 » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:24 pm

Greta trip report and very nice looking family
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by avalon_ » Tue Nov 07, 2017 2:37 pm

Thanks for the trip report and lovely photos. It looks like you had a memorable time. I used to wonder about people with disabilities when I lived in Italy. It looked so challenging to get around. I would ask about it and just get shoulder shrugs or comments like, "In America you have more that's why you see them everywhere."

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by truenic » Tue Nov 07, 2017 4:27 pm

What a sweet family!

Thanks for the trip report. It's always nice to see when someone asks for advice, takes it and reports back. Glad you had a good time. (I have a similar pic at the Pompidou, because I think I said "what the fuck?" at every other piece.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by NorthAmerican » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:02 pm

Here's the retired editor to criticize, but I can only fault you on forgetting to put the umlaut in Moët.

My overall impression of your report can be boiled down to a few words: "I wanna go back!" Thanks for the great write-up and the excellent photos.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:22 pm

mishmish wrote:niiiice! And what a cutie your little guy is. And your wife is a beautiful lady. You are way out of your league and out of your lane dude :wink: (not true. I just thought I'd try to embarrass you a bit, what with your abysmal reputation and all).


Whaa? How dare you!

Oddly and unexpectedly, Monet's Giverny place was one of the more memorable places we visited, even though it was thronged at the time and I was truly expecting the worst of all possible depressing tourist traps. Airbnb in France must be fantastic. There was no such thing when we did the grand tour, and not traveling with little ones we only actually reserved the first two nights in France and the last couple of days in Paris, and stayed at haphazard hotels/inns en route for the rest of the trip. This is not a good plan if you want/need to hang around in one place for more than dusk to dawn. Some of those places rivaled the Mexican flop houses I stayed in when I was a footloose hippy.


Given the selection and prices, I can't imagine going for a hotel, particularly if you need multiple rooms like we did. The quality was really good and the Airbnb rating system ensures the owners really go out of their way to provide a good place and experience.

I think the French take their public image of all prettied up, picturesque, and on best behavior pretty (way too) seriously. This theory would explain the lack of any accommodation for any sort of physical disability, unwieldy bags or babies. Logo'd clothing is viewed as the height of crassness. People really don't seem to take small kids to restaurants there. Apparently children may be seen, heard of, but never ever actually heard, except in designated Children Places, hence the lack of high chairs. Little guy tossing a pea or two on the floor simply will not fly. Also, aimlessly hanging about on public benches or grass is sort of frowned upon and may even elicit an unexpected call from those robocops. Who btw, gave me my first ever first hand glimpse of police brutality (not toward me). Loitering ls what cafes are for. If you are not walking from point a to b you have to be doing something acceptable. Like decorating something. Maybe a canvas (painting). I liked food shopping in Provence the best, either in occasional outdoor markets or shops. Just all around yummy. But I agree, the vistas are not really grand, pretty low key, and the ultimate of perfection for a road trip with many stops to taste wines, sniff the air, sniff the exotic soaps, check out markets, loll about in a cafe, etc.


I was confused by the parks that did have a few nice green patches that were surrounded by 6 inch tall "fences" which seemed to imply you shouldn't walk or sit on the grass, particularly since everyone was sitting on benches on the gravelly areas. A couple of times we just said fuck it and sat on the grass and we wondered if someone was going to come along and tell us to get off.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:26 pm

And yep, elsewhere last night I mentioned how awful some countries are for attitudes to disability - and France is one of them. Neighbouring countries, however, are very much better.
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Maybe, but there are certainly some things you can say about them all. Given how widespread universal healthcare and social services in general are compared to the US I would have thought "taking care of everyone, particularly the disadvantaged" would be pretty universal, thus I was surprised that the handicapped are given the shaft. Not just the metro either, but roads walkways where cobblestones are the only option, lack of ramps on curbs, stairs in restaurants, tiny toilets, etc.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:29 pm

Lost Soul wrote:You reported on nice people in France that speak English? And nice waiters? I only found that in Normandy. Good to see it's spreading. Or maybe it's due to the wife and kid, and that you are no longer a rowdy young man. or maybe the wife speaks some French? I heard that's the key.

Nice trip report. Did you take a high speed train anywhere? I haven't done that yet.

The wife is cute and exotic. Maybe that's the secret to meeting nice French? Half Chinese or Cablinasian?


No French. Didn't even need Google translate except with our old Airbnb hosts in Avignon. Yeah, I thought people were nice and friendly all over, from the waiters (very surprising) to random folks on the street. Was a very pleasant experience. My only complaint was customer service was nothing like here, but I expected that and didn't chalk it up to unfriendliness.

We took the TGV to Champagne and from Normandy down to Avignon.

My wife is "exotic"? I don't really think so, but maybe that's because I live in Seattle. Here mom is white, her dad is 3rd generation Japanese.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by shilgia » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:42 pm

Sounds like a great trip!

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by eric84 » Tue Nov 07, 2017 5:54 pm

Well, you're certainly adventurous to do all that with a 1 year old. Did you plan activities around his nap schedule or did you just carry on and have him nap in the stroller?
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by polardude1 » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:01 pm

Mutha

Haha thanks. I think he's cute. I should post a pic of him throwing a tantrum...


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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:22 pm

Interesting that you found it tricky with a kid in restaurants etc. I found that France is pretty good for kids - I've not had an issue in restaurants at all. We've been going since she was 3 months old, and always managed to find things to occupy her quite easily. I think they seem a lot more patient in restaurants etc than they are in the UK. Maybe we've been to more touristy places (or more 'English' places) in high season though - have to deal with tourists then! We went in May to Bordeaux on our own without her, and kept finding things that she would have really enjoyed.


Interesting. Here in the US I don't think I've ever been to a restaurant that didn't have a high chair and/ or booster seat at the very least. Bonus points are kids menu, play area, paper and crayons, and receptive staff and patrons, and other kids. In France it was common to have none of those things. Like we'd ask for a high chair and they would just tell us they didn't have them. I'd say the waiters were typically pretty sympathetic and indeed often tried to entertain our son, engage with him, and that was appreciated. But overall it was challenging. I felt like in France it was more common for families to go to cafes rather than restaurants and to go quite early. We almost never saw other families or kids at the restaurants we went to. I didn't expect to at the fancy places we went, but we went to a lot of midrange restaurants. Could have been bad luck or the places we went I guess.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 6:26 pm

eric84 wrote:Well, you're certainly adventurous to do all that with a 1 year old. Did you plan activities around his nap schedule or did you just carry on and have him nap in the stroller?


In Paris we were out and about walking around so much that we tried to just have him nap in the stroller. In other places we either had him nap at our Airbnb or in the car. I wouldn't say that was ideal and his naps were shorter but it was usually not easy to get back to our Airbnb for a nap.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by ExPat From Hell » Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:23 pm

Lovely post and pics. Thanks for sharing.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by simon_in_exile » Tue Nov 07, 2017 7:35 pm

How did you feel about wine tasting with your kid in tow?

I'm still a bit surprised by this thread - your trip report reminded me about it.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Lime_Pickle » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:27 pm

The children's menu thing made me smile. My nieces and nephews (aged 1.5 to 14, now) are, for reasons unknown, all terribly anti children's menu. I experienced it again on Sunday.

Even the 3 year old will glower if a kind server suggests they bring such a thing. They order child's 'portions' from the main menu. Would the restaurants you went to - the mid range places, at least - have entertained that?
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:35 pm

Well when I think wine tasting in the US I think driving/ being driven around to a number of different wineries and hanging out at each for a while before moving on. We were a little afraid that a lot of driving and hanging around drinking wouldn't be much fun for a kid though we also didn't know what wine tasting would be like there. I don't know that I still know what it's "typically" like, but for us it worked out well. In Epernay we did the tour of Moet including the caves. I was actually quite apprehensive about that for a few reasons, the biggest being I pictured him getting bored and yelling in echoey caves while people tried to listen to a tour guide. But he was very calm through the 45 minute tour and the only bad thing ended up being (of course) the many sets of stairs we had to walk up and down with his stroller.

In addition to the tour, we did a few stops at this caveaus where you can sample a range of product from many different wineries, and that worked out really well. We did that in Epernay in Champagne and Tavel and Gigondas in Cote du Rhone. Those places were great because of the variety, the staff were fairly helpful, and they tended to have enough room for our son to walk around, read books, play with toys, while we sampled wine. We also could feed him while we were doing that. On top of that the caveau in Tavel had a kid's area full of chairs, coloring books, and toys and he had a great time there. These all ended up being single stop places where we didn't spend more than an hour, which I think made it tolerable for our son. At Gigondas, there was a really nice town square the caveau was on with fountains, so after tasting we bought a bottle and drank it in the square while our son ran around.

Here are a few photos of our wine tasting

Taking the TGV to Champagne
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In the caverns below Moet. No smile, but no crying!
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The boy wants Champagne! Enough people jokingly said he could have some that I wondered if they really thought it was ok for him to have some
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Mom drinking Gigondas and watching our son's antics
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Probably not meant for drinking, but what the hell
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Tavel did the best job setting up a kids' area so the parents could go get drunk on Rosé
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by leela » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:37 pm

The restaurants I've been to in (rural) France, tend to offer child sized portions of the items on the main menu. The only restaurants where I saw anything other, were in family chain hotels, such as Novotel.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:38 pm

Lime_Pickle wrote:The children's menu thing made me smile. My nieces and nephews (aged 1.5 to 14, now) are, for reasons unknown, all terribly anti children's menu. I experienced it again on Sunday.

Even the 3 year old will glower if a kind server suggests they bring such a thing. They order child's 'portions' from the main menu. Would the restaurants you went to - the mid range places, at least - have entertained that?


Maybe? Admittedly I didn't think of that and I would have thought they'd suggest that as a possibility after asking for a kids menu. We just ended up ordering a couple of main dishes and a couple of appetizers and splitting everything between the three of us. On the rare occasion they had kids menus one of the things I liked is they had "adult" food, like salmon and vegetables and such rather than just "kids" stuff like chicken nuggets or hamburgers.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Tue Nov 07, 2017 8:39 pm

leela wrote:The restaurants I've been to in (rural) France, tend to offer child sized portions of the items on the main menu. The only restaurants where I saw anything other, were in family chain hotels, such as Novotel.


I didn't see any in Paris, but outside of Paris some of the restaurants had kids menus, though many didn't.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by simon_in_exile » Tue Nov 07, 2017 9:33 pm

muthafunky wrote:On the rare occasion they had kids menus one of the things I liked is they had "adult" food, like salmon and vegetables and such rather than just "kids" stuff like chicken nuggets or hamburgers.

YES! I am so in favour of this attitude.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by Scrubb » Wed Nov 08, 2017 1:03 am

Sounds like a great trip. Love the photos too - your kid is really, really cute.
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by andybox » Wed Nov 08, 2017 8:12 am

Mutha, are you planning another trip to France? Did it have a lasting impression on you?
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by muthafunky » Wed Nov 08, 2017 8:54 am

The wife and I talked about going back to learn about and sample the wines more. But... there’s always so many places to go in the world. Doubt we’ll be back anytime soon.

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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by simon_in_exile » Wed Nov 08, 2017 9:01 am

How many times did you check the stew during your three week trip?
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Re: A few weeks in France

Post by shilgia » Wed Nov 08, 2017 2:56 pm

andybox wrote:Did it have a lasting impression on you?


Hard to judge a few weeks out, no?

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