- By John
- On Nov 6, 2018
- Travel Tips
Among the many wonders of France – the Cathedral at Chartres, the Tarn Gorge, the wines of Bordeaux – many remain unlisted. Like the fact that France still holds the title for longest traffic jam ever. To find the Paris France tour on the site.
Somethings need to do know before your France trip
* Do look down when you walk. Almost no one picks up their dog poo, even though bags are provided in many places. Someone gets paid to do that, often with a mobile vacuum on wheels. It's an awful job but someone's got to do it. This is part of the liberté the French have held dear since the Revolution.
* Do not take a pedestrian crossing as anything more than a suggestion. You will die. You can shame drivers into stopping but you have to eyeball them and risk your life to do so. This is another part of the liberté.
* Do not be afraid of the cheese. The worse they smell, the better they taste. But not all: some taste as bad as they smell. You won't know until you try. Cheese is one of the glories of France, and a defining characteristic of its culture and diversity. Charles De Gaulle famously said "How can you govern a country which has 246 varieties of cheese?". I am almost certain the real number is far more. My local shop sells at least 30 types of goat's cheese – nearly all locally made. The Cheese Shop sketch from Monty Python does not work in France.
* Rent a small car, not a big one. French towns were mostly laid out before or during the Middle Ages. The streets are narrow and people park anywhere. Wing mirrors are a liability. Always take the full insurance because you will damage the car. It's almost impossible not to, when you have three centimetres of clearance on either side and a kid on a motorbike up your derriere.
Aside from all that, France is fabulous. Being the biggest country in Europe, it also has the most diverse terrain. You can hike in near desert in the south, or climb the snowy heights of Mont Blanc, or ride your bike up Mont Ventoux in the wake of Le Tour de France. It still has the best food and wine on the planet – although the food in tourist holes can be a worry. Here's another tip: never tip on a French food bill unless you want to reward the service – service is "compris'', meaning included, in every bill. It's the law, even in Cannes, where they try to tell you it's not. The bill is the bill. C'est tout.
The old idea that the French do not and will not speak English is also untrue. Even Parisians are less rude than they once were. French schoolchildren now learn English from an early age – not just in high school. If you learn some French, they will mostly respond with generosity and warmth. No one tells you that bit either.