"I'm Jan and I've travelled to France over 30 times. I enjoy helping others discover France -- particularly unique experiences that often aren't found in travel guides!"
Janice Chung runs the blog France Travel Tips, and she was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about her life of adventure. Read the answers below.
You never go to Paris just once. Look at me -- I've now been 32 times.
Janice: I first went to France (gulp) 40 years ago with my family. We visited Paris and then stayed with friends in Gordes, Provence. While I had always liked the idea of visiting France, it wasn't until that particular trip that I got hooked. The atmosphere of living in the south of France, drinking Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine and soaking in the culture did it for me. It was the most enjoyable experience ever.
Janice: While my age would suggest I specialize in "boomer" travel, I think I'm young at heart and write about a lot of active experiences, such as running in the Paris Marathon or the Marathon du Medoc where each water station has wine (and food like grilled beef, oysters, and ice cream). There are posts about hiking, kayaking, and biking as well.
Janice: Taking a French Immersion course in Roanne (just west of Lyon). I've been to the school three times (Ecole des Trois Ponts) and one of the times there were classes in the morning and cooking classes (in French of course) in the afternoon. Full immersion and delicious!
Janice: In France I have yet to visit Gorges du Verdon, which is often compared to the Grand Canyon in the U.S.
Janice: I always pack my Bose noise cancelling headphones. While they're great on the plane, they can help out at night if my accommodations are noisy.
Janice: When you visit France and you are from North America, do NOT expect it to be like home. Adjust to the way the French do things, like always saying, "Bonjour" when you enter an establishment (i.e. a store).
Janice: I really like the blog by pastry chef David Lebovitz. He writes about a lot of foodie places (shops and restaurants) in France. Another is France Today. One community I really like is the Facebook group, Join Us In France. This group is an offshoot of the podcast, Join Us in France. I have given two interviews about experiences in France.
Janice: While Paris is one of the top cities to visit in the world, I would still recommend a visit there in 2019. It has so much to offer -- numerous museums, and recently a number of truly unique food places have opened such as Beau Passage, which is a high end "food court" that has a number of restaurants by Michelin chefs like Yannick Alléno, chef at Pavillon Ledoyen in Paris. Each month there are festivals and celebrations, so you're never without something to see or do. In October, for example, there was the Fete des Vendages, the annual wine festival in Montmartre where the area around Sacre Coeur is closed off for food and wine booths. There are also many free tours like a tour of the Montmartre vineyard and behind the scenes of the Moulin Rouge.
Janice: I use FranceToday.com as it highlights new things to see/do in France. For Provence, ProvenceGuide.com is excellent as it has up-to-date information on the area's activities. Finally the official French tourism board's website is excellent (http://ee.france.fr).
Janice: I have to say every major city in France is excellent for the solo traveller, particularly Paris. There will be a wide range of prices for one's accommodation, you can get there easily by train, and there will be many food choices. Plus, the bigger cities always have events going on that are great for single travellers. In addition to Paris, I have found this in Aix-en-Provence, Nice, and Lyon. All great cities with lots to see and do.
Janice: I think first time visitors to Paris worry too much about seeing all the top sites. Often they're visiting for only a week and feel they need to see everything. They have to slow down, sit at a cafe and enjoy the sites. They also need to realize that they WILL return. Everyone does. You never go to Paris just once. Look at me -- I've now been 32 times.
Janice: Most people know that France has amazing food. Croissants and baguettes can be found in every town and just be sure you get a croissant au beurre -- a croissant made with butter. Sadly there are some made with margarine. Each region has their specialties and I would highly recommend the following for these regions: the aperatif called Pommeau in Normandy -- a mixture of Calvados apple brandy and apple juice; Cassoulet, which is a stew with duck, pork, and white beans from the south of France; Boeuf bourguignon made with lots of red wine from Burgundy; oysters in Brittany (Cancale is renowned for being the centre of the oyster region); Ratatouille which is a French stew made with Mediterranean vegetables and popular in the Cote d'Azur.
Janice: I was recently in Paris and I got so frustrated with people standing either in the middle of the sidewalk having a conversation or trying to locate something on a map or they were at the top of the stairs of the Metro. In both cases it was really busy and crowded and they were blocking our path! They were oblivious to the people trying to get by.