Oh France, what can I say? I fell in love with France ever since I first visited at the age of 12 with my family when we visited for a month. Originally I didn’t even want to visit France, I was too worried about leaving my friends and missing school (I was a weirdo, I loved school), but when it came time to fly home to New Zealand, I didn’t want to leave and knew that I’d be back sometime soon! Seven years later, I was able to make that wish come true!
While I was certainly old enough to remember a lot of my first trip to France, there are still some very hazy parts. My family and I visited cities like Paris, Limoges, Lyon and Nice along with a road trip through the French Alps and Provence where we stayed at a few really cute towns. I also remember staying at a family friend’s place in a small little town on the border of France and Switzerland, we crossed the border one of the days there to visit CERN.
On my latest trip I got to spend a little more time in Paris and revisit some of the places I saw as a child, while also visiting new places. I also lived on a farm in a small village just out of Limoges for three months with family.
Blog post: City in a Snapshot: Paris (4 Day Itinerary)
There’s something so surreal about being able to say you’ve been to Paris four times in one month, but that’s what I was able to say last year in July, and I visited a few more times after that too! I think Paris is one of those places where it’s almost impossible to see everything. There is always something new to see, which makes it such a wonderful place to visit.
Attractions and Activities:
Many of the stereotypical (but obligatory,) tourist attractions can be seen and experienced in just a few days if you plan it well. Paris public transport is also fabulous, so it’s never hard to get across the city in ample time. Some of the places I visited and definitely recommend include; visiting the Notre Dame, there was a choir performing when we visited which just added to the atmosphere, seeing 360 views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower, admiring the beautiful art at the Louvre and of course trying to see the Mona Lisa over the crowds. The Palace of Versailles was probably one of my favourites, everything about it is just so luxurious and to think people once lived in that palace is so surreal, also stroll or shop your way down Champs-Élysées and stop in at Ladurée for macarons, another good walk is through the Jardin des Tuileries was also lovely (although I was dying from the heat). Also make sure to go to Montmartre and see the views of Paris from the Sacre Coeur and maybe get your portrait done by one of the many artists in the area.
While as absolutely delicious French food can be, if you’re on a budget it can unfortunately get very expensive in Paris, especially if you’re in a very touristy area. My tips would be to have a look at the prices of a few places before making up your mind. Also check websites like Trip Advisor to see if people have recommended any cheaper eats in the area.
Another idea would be to go to a bakery and market or the supermarket and buy a fresh baguette and cheese and fruit for a cheaper (and still very French) lunch option.
Unfortunately I don’t have any recommendations, as almost every time I was in Paris I stayed at a family friend’s house in Versailles. However if you’re wanting a cheap and very basic place to stay close to Roissy (CDG) Airport, Premiere Classe Hotel Roissy Le Mesnil Amelot was a place I stayed while I was on transit and I had no problems with.
I’ve also heard that the hostel St Christopher’s Inn: The Canal is supposed to be a really great place to say. I’ve never stayed there before, but I’ve heard some really great things about it.
My first visit to Limoges was quite brief considering we were visiting family. I think we stayed for about 10 days. The highlight for me was going to two nearby villages, one was having a tour through the Chateau in Pompodour and also visiting Collonges-la-Rouge, a village made from red bricks.
My latest visit to Limoges was when I lived on a farm in the small village of Vicq-sur-Breuilh for three months. There is a new museum that has just opened at the village called Musuem Cécile Sabourdy, which was very small, but still very enjoyable.
During my time there I mostly stayed on the farm, but there were a few visits to the Botanical Gardens, the big Gothic-style Cathedral and the Museum of Fine Arts. Limoges is also renowned for its porcelain, so naturally, I visited the porcelain museum.
I’m not sure whether I’d call Limoges a must-see place if you’re visiting France, but I had a lovely time while I was there and it’s definitely a great place to spend a day or two in.
One thing I did remember about my first trip to France was going to Nice and seeing the weird pebbled beaches and riding on Le Petite Train.
Attractions and Activities:
My second trip to Nice I again went on Le Petite Train, it’s a great way to see some of city and learn about its history while also getting to ride in a cool little train. If you’re there during the summer, grab a beach towel and head down to the beach. I would recommend walking along the promenade a bit before settling down for the day, as it can get very busy right by town. Something else I really enjoyed was hiring a bike for a few hours and cycling along the promenade, both during the day and the night. There are plenty of bike stands around Nice, so you can pick them up and drop them off all across the city.
I also took a day trip over to Monaco which was awesome! We just caught the train for a few euros and spent the day there.
Being on a budget, I pretty much lived off supermarket food. There was a really great Monoprix that I’d grab food from each day, and it was a lot cheaper than going to a cafe or restaurant. There are of course many restaurants and cafes, especially around Massena Place and I did treat myself to brunch at Häagen-Dazs on my final day there.
Unfortunately I can’t remember the place I stayed, but it was just off the main road and while it was very very basic, the people were very friendly and helpful, if I can find the name, I’ll update this post. Otherwise, anything that’s in walking distance to the promenade is ideal.