A Travellerspoint blog

Going to Paris with Children?

Paris is a great city to visit with children from toddlers to late teens . . . Here are some ideas.


View Provence 2014 & Around France with Jean 2000 & Around France and through Switzerland 1998 & Pays de la Loire on Beausoleil's travel map.

Stravinsky Fountain near the Pompidou Center, a kid favorite

Stravinsky Fountain near the Pompidou Center, a kid favorite


If your children are teens, here are some suggestions. Below that are ideas for pre-teen intrepid travelers and below that Playgrounds in Paris .

The Géode at Cité des Sciences at the Parc de la Villette

The Géode at Cité des Sciences at the Parc de la Villette

A mother who was traveling to Paris, had only two days and was accompanied by her 13 and 14-year-old children. She asked me for ideas and here were some of my suggestions to her.

First, involve the kids in the planning. We had three children so everyone in the family had to list at least five things they wanted to see. Then we plotted them on a map and fit them into our trip. We tried to visit at least three things each person had chosen. Since we all made a list, Mom and Dad also got to see three things they wanted which was nice and the kids accepted as fair.

Next, get each child a camera even if it's a very inexpensive one. They will have a grand time with it and their own pictures will mean more to them than your pictures will . . . and they will take very different pictures. I was always amazed at what our kids saw that I didn't . . . and vice versa, of course.

Place des Vosges, happy families - Paris

Place des Vosges, happy families - Paris


I asked our kids to keep a journal and it usually worked. They still have some of them but most are long gone. If nothing else, it helps identify photos when you get home. If your kids are reluctant, try something easy like date and a list of places you visited that day or give them a goal like identifying favorite meals or activities. If there is mass rebellion, forget the idea.

Here are some things that are particularly fun for teens and you do have to take their tastes and your budget into consideration. Web sites listed below the suggestions are in English unless specified otherwise.

Notre Dame Cathedral: If lines aren’t too long, climb the tower to see the gargoyles up close and personal. The square in front of the Cathedral is always fun with buskers and tourists, birds to feed and there is even a nice park behind the Cathedral.

The Eiffel Tower from the Passerelle Debilly

The Eiffel Tower from the Passerelle Debilly


The Eiffel Tower: There can be a long wait to climb so you may want to just look and walk underneath for photo ops. If you can afford it, reserve lunch or dinner at one of the Eiffel Tower restaurants for great views of Paris without waiting in line to go up the tower. If you want to do something totally different, take them up the elevator in the Montparnasse Tower where they will have a great view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. You really can't see the Eiffel Tower when you are in it, so the Montparnasse Tower is great for a typical Paris photo with the Eiffel Tower in it. There is a viewing platform at the top and there are a couple restaurants.

The Rodin Museum and garden: The kids under age 18 are free but you have to pay. If you don't want to, skip the museum and go through the garden with lots of sculptures and it's only 4 euros for adults and the kids are free. There is a nice tea room in the garden and a playground for younger children.

A Fat Tire Bike Tour: If you have nice weather, this is the perfect thing to do with teens. You ride around Paris on bicycles with a guide who stops and explains the sights. We've never done it, but we've seen them going around town and heard the guides when they were in the Tuileries taking a break and we happened to be there. It looked like great fun, especially if your teens like bike riding.

Fat Tire Bike Tour taking a snack break in the Tuileries Gardens

Fat Tire Bike Tour taking a snack break in the Tuileries Gardens


A Segway Tour: We were crossing the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay once and were passed by a group on Segways. They looked like they were having a grand time and there were a lot of teens in the group. We saw another group on Segways in Nice and again, lots of teens and it looked like they were all enjoying themselves.

Cluny Museum (Musée de Moyen Age): This is one museum that usually doesn't have a line so is a good place to buy your Paris Museum Pass if you plan to get one. The Museum Pass is for Mom and Dad because most of the museums are free for kids under age 18. The Cluny is a small museum and very popular with school groups. You can spend as much or as little time here as you want and then have a picnic in the medieval garden outside. You can visit the garden for free if you don't want to visit the museum. For the picnic, get something from the nearby market or there are street vendors across the street. There is also a nearby McDonald's if the kids think that is cool.

Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens: You should try to visit one of these gardens and both if you have time. The Tuileries has a carnival in warmer months, a permanent playground all year, cafés, miniature sailboats to rent, fish to feed, the Orangerie Museum, lots of people to watch and great ice cream (gelato). The Luxembourg has pony rides, chess games, puppet shows, tennis, jogging, concerts, cafés, an art museum, fountains and more miniature sailboats to rent.

Tuileries Gardens, toy boats and country fair - Paris

Tuileries Gardens, toy boats and country fair - Paris


Musée d’Orsay: All the Impressionists are here; it's reasonably small so doesn't take all day, and even young teens should enjoy a short visit. There are special activities for different ages of children so ask at the desk when you enter. Kids often enjoy museums more when they go through with a purpose like filling out an activity sheet. If our own kids are any guide, most teens age 13 or 14 and up should enjoy limited visits to places like the Orsay. It's an old converted train station and just seeing the inside of the building is great fun.

Cité des Sciences at the Parc de la Villette: It’s the largest technical and scientific museum in Europe with lots of interactive exhibits. The famous Géode, a theater with a 180-degree screen would be fun too. There is also a Musée de la Musique in the same park with more interactive exhibits. You could turn them loose in the park for a while too.

Berges of the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the distance

Berges of the Seine with the Eiffel Tower in the distance


The Berges of the Seine: The banks of the Seine are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so in 2013 they removed the highways along the river on the Left Bank from Pont Léopold-Sédar-Senghor (formerly Pont Solferino) to the Pont Du Gros Caillou and it has been pedestrianized and set up with all sorts of activities that should appeal to nearly everyone. This is for Parisians and visitors. It even includes tipis that can be used for kids' birthdays. There are running tracks, meditation areas, lessons in all kinds of things from running to yoga. There are restaurants and even food mobiles. It all looks like great fun and especially in the summer when everyone will be out enjoying the river, it certainly would be worth exploring. Check the web site for the activity schedules or just go to the information booths that are on site. In April of 2017 the Right bank opened. Check the web site below for all the activities.

Here are some web sites for the suggestions above.
Notre Dame Cathedral web site
Eiffel Tower web site
Rodin Museum and Gardens (under age 18 are free)
Fat Tire Bike Tour
A Segway Tour of Paris
Cluny Museum or Musée de Moyen Age (under age 18 are free)
The Tuileries Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens (Don't switch to English or you go to the Senate web site.)
Musée d'Orsay (under age 18 are free)
Museum of Science and Industry (under age 2 are free; others have different rates, check the web site)
Museum of Music (under age 26 are free)
Berges of the Seine web site (For all ages, infant to senior citizens)

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Carousel in Parc Monceau in Paris

Carousel in Parc Monceau in Paris

Here are some suggestions for the preteens. A family going to Paris with children under age 10 asked me to plan three days for them focusing on the kids enjoying the trip. Here are my suggestions and you can take what you need from this. If you have longer, there are many more things for younger children in Paris. The French love children so will spoil them in restaurants and parks. You will get more attention simply because you have them with you. It's a great way to meet the French people. They had already planned their fourth day at Paris Disneyland. A good substitute for this is Parc Asterix, a very French theme park featuring the cartoon characters Asterix and Obelisk. If your kids insist on Disney, that's fine, but if they are up for an adventure, try Park Asterix. Parc Asterix web site

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Pony rides in Parc Monceau in Paris

Pony rides in Parc Monceau in Paris

They said they only had a half day for day one. Their idea of the Jardin des Plantes and a Seine River Cruise sounded great to me, and the little zoo at the Jardin des Plantes is fun. There are also ducks wandering the garden that you can feed if you take a few baguette crumbs with you. This is a much overlooked garden in Paris but it is truly charming and great for little ones because there are ducks and pigeons on the grounds and the little menagerie (zoo) is child-sized. In the spring there are baby animals and that is always fun. (There is a genuine zoo out at the Parc de Vincennes but that's a real day trip.) Jardin des Plantes web site in French

Day 2: Unless your kids are more patient standing in line than ours were, I'd just walk under and around the Eiffel Tower, buy them an ice cream cone, let them ride the carousel and leave. Walk across the river to the Trocadero (great Eiffel Tower views), let the kids buy a funky souvenir from the many vendors there and then get on the Metro #6 in the direction of Charles de Gaulle-Etoile. Eiffel Tower web site

Play Area at the Cluny Museum Medieval Gardens

Play Area at the Cluny Museum Medieval Gardens


This takes you to the Arc de Triomphe. At the Arc de Triomphe be sure you take the tunnel under the road; it's much safer than trying to cross the street. Walk around with all the other tourists, check the Eternal Flame and see if there is a huge line to go up to the top. If there isn't a long line and the elevator is working, go up and enjoy a fabulous view of Paris. If there's a huge line, I'd skip it. Get back on the Metro #1 in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes and take it to Champs Elysées/Clemenceau stop (4 stations from the Arc). Arc de Triomphe web site

Now get out and walk the Champs Elysées toward the Place de la Concorde. This takes you on the Champs Elysées through a lovely garden with the Grand and Petit Palais on your right. It's a lovely walk and skips all the overpriced stores on the previous section of the boulevard. At the Place de la Concorde, go up the stairs on either side and into the Tuileries Gardens. The kids can feed the fish in the first pond if they have a few baguette crumbs with them. Otherwise, walk through the Tuileries looking at all the fun things there. If it's summer, there's even a fun fair (carnival) in the Tuileries. There are also a couple outdoor cafes there and it would be a great place to stop for lunch with two kids. They can chase pigeons and ducks or sit and recover from the sightseeing. Lots to see and do including renting little sailboats if they wish. Tuileries Gardens web site

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A school group ahead of us entering the Château de Vincennes.

A school group ahead of us entering the Château de Vincennes.

After lunch you are right at the Louvre so this would be a good time to visit. You don't want to stand in line so go around toward the Seine, along the river and you will see two green lions at a doorway. This is the Lions' Gate and you can get into the Louvre there without any line at all. Check the web site and see what you think you and the kids might enjoy because you could spend a month inside the Louvre and not see everything. There's a fun Egyptian collection, the Napoleon apartments, neat sculptures . . . lots of paintings. Here's the web site: Official Louvre Web Site That should pretty much finish your day. Hop the Metro back to your hotel.

Day 3: Take the Metro to Hotel de Ville. Then you can walk across the Seine to the Ile de la Cité and visit Notre Dame. You don't have to climb the towers, it's great just to walk through and marvel at how big and beautiful the church is. There is a small playground between the church and the river and you will often see street performers in front of the cathedral. It's fun and the kids will remember it forever. (So will you.) Note there are 387 steps up the tower to see the gargoyles and there is no elevator (lift). Notre Dame Cathedral web site

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Lots of children in the sand - Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Lots of children in the sand - Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Next you can walk down to Pont Neuf and go across in one direction or the other. If you want to visit Invalides, walk the Pont Neuf to the right bank and go up past the east end of the Louvre to the Louvre-Rivoli Metro station and take the #1 Metro in the direction of La Defense for 3 stations and get off at Concorde station to change to the #12 Metro direction of Maire d'Issy and get off at Assemblée Nationale right at Invalides. Visit Invalides, see Napoleon's Tomb and stop at a nearby cafe for lunch. A good choice might be to pay the four euros to get into the Rodin gardens. (kids are free) There is a tea room in the gardens and you can eat while the kids run around in the gardens. There is a small play area and lots of French children will be there with them. It would be fun and you can enjoy the sculptures. That and getting back to your hotel will give you a full but fairly relaxed day. Invalides web site and Rodin Museum web site

Then you are off to Disneyland the next day and that will be a full day. Disneyland web site

Chasing bubbles in Parc Monceau

Chasing bubbles in Parc Monceau

If the kids can carry their own luggage, take the Metro out to CDG for the trip. Otherwise, you might find it easier to take a shuttle and let the driver deal with your luggage. We have used Paris Blue Shuttle and it's always been on time and reasonable. Paris Blue Shuttle web site

If you only do half of this, you will still have a memorable vacation and the kids will make it more fun. BTW, Parisians and the French in general, love kids so people will be happy to help you and give you directions. Just tell the kids to smile a lot and say "merci" a lot. Everyone will be enchanted. Have a great trip.

More suggestions including Playgrounds in Paris:

For small children, there are playgrounds and parks all over the city. The Luxembourg Gardens even have a special age-limited play area. There are puppet shows, pony rides, games, flowers (our granddaughter's specialty) and even toy boats to sail in public fountains. If you have a child interested in chess, there are public chess games . . . participate or watch.

For all ages, the Tuileries Gardens near the Louvre has a summer fun fair with a carousel and Ferris wheel in addition to the toy boats and in the far fountain, you can feed the fish. (Bring your own baguette or croissant crumbs.)

Enjoying the Berges of the Seine

Enjoying the Berges of the Seine

Are you visiting the Cluny Museum (Musée de Moyen Age) in the Latin Quarter? There is a wonderful children's playground in the medieval gardens right outside the museum. Get a sandwich from a sidewalk vendor across the street and retire to the gardens for lunch and let the kids run wild. They have recently enlarged the playground section and it is really nice.

Are you visiting Invalides and Napoleon's tomb? Right around the corner (west side of Invalides) along the rue Fabert you will find a small playground tucked into the grounds. It is shaded and quite private considering it is near a major tourist sight in Paris. This is geared more to smaller children.

Are you visiting the Rodin Museum? (If you're near Invalides, you might as well.) There are lovely gardens and several places for the kids including a sandbox at the far end near the tea room. Get a tea or coffee and watch the kids play in the gardens.

Are you visiting Notre Dame cathedral? Between the cathedral and the Seine river, there is a small playground where you can watch boats on the Seine and the kids can relax. This is for smaller children.

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Place des Vosges in Paris

Place des Vosges in Paris

If you are in the Marais, the Place des Vosges isn't a playground per se, but you will see many happy French families enjoying the grass, shade and fountains. Join them. The square is one of the most beautiful in Paris surrounded with cafés and galleries.

The Jardin des Plantes on the banks of the Seine at the eastern end of the Latin Quarter is great. There are plants, flowers, a Natural History Museum, a large metal ballein whale (I have no idea why), ducks wandering loose and in the northwestern corner there is a small zoo or menagerie which includes black swans, deer and kangaroos. Spring is fun here!

Walking to the Pompidou Center, plan to pass the Tower of St. Jacques. It has been completely renovated and there is a lovely playground on the grounds at the foot of the Tower.

The Stravinsky Fountain at Place Igor Stravinsky

The Stravinsky Fountain at Place Igor Stravinsky


Then go on over to the Pompidou and at Place Igor Stravinsky let the kids enjoy the really fun and colorful sculptures that rotate and spout water in the huge fountain. You can settle at the cafe while the kids enjoy the fountains. This is great for teens and pre-teens and they will have lots of company from all over Europe.

The Garden of the Palais Royale is always fun. Just outside the garden are the Daniel Buren sculptures that look like different sized pillars painted black and white. We have often seen Parisian children with their mothers playing on these. There seems to be a counting game that is popular there. Watch and learn.

Further afield, the Parc Monceau in the 8th is huge and full of happy Parisians relaxing. On holidays (and probably all summer) they offer pony rides. There are ducks and ponds, a carousel and refreshment stands. There are benches for mom and dad. Visit the Cernuschi Museum and the Nissim de Camondo Museum nearby. The Cernuschi Museum is free for all ages.

View from the Viaduc des Arts in Paris

View from the Viaduc des Arts in Paris


Have teenagers? They might enjoy the Viaduc des Arts in the 11th. You can climb up onto it from a block behind the Opera Bastille. Look for the stairs. Get a birds eye view of Paris.

Another age 8 to adult favorite is the Cite de la Musique. It is an interactive Music Museum where you walk through with laser-guided earphones. When you walk into an exhibit, the earphones play it for you. Outside is the Parc de la Villette with crazy chairs and statues and best of all, the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie. This is where you find the giant Geode Theater. You can't miss it. It is a huge cinema in the round inside a giant silver ball. The museum is just on the other side of the little canal. You might enjoy a canal-boat trip to and from the park.

If you're thinking of Disney Paris, reconsider and think about Parc Asterix instead. It's in the same general area as Disneyland and it is very French. It is a theme park based on the French comic book character Asterix and is loosely French-European history from the Celtic-Roman eras combined with rides, shows and food.

Keep your eyes open, there are many more places for children. Paris is a city that loves children.

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2016 Paris Pratique map booklet

2016 Paris Pratique map booklet


Get "Paris Pratique par arrondissement" a map booklet of all Paris. It has streets, gardens and parks listed along with all the subway, train and bus lines. Invaluable and available at any Paris news stand, most tabacs and lately, even at souvenir shops.

2014 Paris Pratique map booklet

2014 Paris Pratique map booklet

Posted by Beausoleil 16:51 Archived in France Tagged children paris france kids Comments (0)

What should you pack?

Especially if it is your first trip to Europe, there is always the question of what to pack. Here are some suggestions.


View Provence 2014 & Around France with Jean 2000 & Around France and through Switzerland 1998 & Pays de la Loire on Beausoleil's travel map.

Place Benserade in Lyons-la-Forêt

Place Benserade in Lyons-la-Forêt

Luggage and bags: Your destination and activities will guide your packing. Try to take as little as possible. Many airlines are charging per bag, including carry-ons so it's wise to take as few as possible. Check your airline for allowed bag weight and dimensions. Weigh and measure your bags to make sure you won't be repacking at the airport. We've seen it and it doesn't look like fun. We each take a carry-on that we check and a school-sized backpack that we carry on the plane. If it won't fit in that, we don't take it. Try to leave a little room for souvenirs on the return trip. If you are going to Paris, you will be taking your luggage up and down steps and on escalators so be sure you have rolling suitcases or backpacks. Our cardinal rule is: Be able to handle your luggage yourself . . . under any circumstances including while carrying an umbrella. (A large plastic garbage bag nicely covers your rolling bag in a rainstorm.)

Itinerary printed on a business card to fit a luggage tag

Itinerary printed on a business card to fit a luggage tag

It is a good idea to put your full itinerary on a luggage tag attached to the handle of your luggage. It is an even better idea to put another copy of your full itinerary inside each piece of luggage. If it is delayed or lost, you will eventually get it. If your home address and phone are on the tag, they will call you at home . . . only you will be on vacation and without your luggage. We've had our luggage shipped to us all over France and Italy when it disappeared. The longest wait was three days and it's usually on the next flight. If your info is with the bag, they can contact you and ship it to wherever you happen to be when they find it. Sounds silly but it works. I've attached a photo of a business card I use in my luggage tag and another photo of an itinerary placed inside the luggage. (The names have been changed for reasons of privacy.)

Itinerary printed on a sheet of typing paper to put in each suitcase

Itinerary printed on a sheet of typing paper to put in each suitcase

Le Quartier Saint Antoine (from near the château entrance)

Le Quartier Saint Antoine (from near the château entrance)

Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Many people want to avoid looking like a tourist. You can't. You buy your clothes where you live; they buy their clothes where they live so you are going to be dressed differently. Then there is the matter of class and gender. You can't win this one so don't try. Take comfortable clothes that are appropriate for the weather and your activities. Don't buy all new clothes for your trip. Nothing screams "TOURIST" more than clothes that still have the manufacturers fold lines on them. We simply take our normal clothes, enough for a week and then do a laundry when we need clean clothes. They sell anything you will need so if you forget something, buy it there . . . and you'll have a nice souvenir in the bargain. Always take two pairs of shoes. If you walk through a heavy rain, you will have a dry pair of shoes waiting for you. I take two pairs of shoes and a pair of sandals that I use for bedroom slippers. Men may want a suit and the easy way to do this is take a sport coat that matches a pair of your slacks. You can wear them separately or put them together for an instant suit. My husband uses his sport coat instead of a windbreaker-type jacket so he has one less thing to pack. We both take raincoats but wear them on the plane so we don't have to pack them. Tuck them in the overhead during the flight unless you are chilly.

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Ste. Odile Fountain in Place Beffroi, Obernai

Ste. Odile Fountain in Place Beffroi, Obernai

Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Make sure you have enough of your required prescription medicines and put them in your carry-on bag so they aren't lost if your luggage doesn't arrive with you. Accidents happen so carry an official prescription copy with you and have your doctor put it in generic form so it can be read by a European pharmacist. Other than prescriptions, don't worry too much about taking what you need. If you forget something, go to the nearest store and buy it there. They sell Ivory soap and Colgate toothpaste in Europe too. They have most of the brands you use at home and it's also fun to try local brands. We don't take most of our toiletries because we go for a month so we buy them when we arrive and they are usually gone when we're ready to leave. One less thing to put in the suitcase! If you are planning to drive, France requires you to have an extra pair of eye glasses with you in the car. It's always a good idea to have a spare pair of glasses in case you break yours. Sun glasses are not a problem because it is easy to buy them there if you forget them. I've also broken my glasses frames a couple of times and had no trouble getting them repaired in a village optical shop.

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La Porte Calendrale

La Porte Calendrale

Photo Equipment: This is very personal. I have a digital camera, an extra large memory card and 3 spare batteries along with a charger. You may want more equipment or you may want less. I also take a laptop and transfer my photos each night into a dated folder listing where we were that day. Then I burn a copy onto a flash drive and clear my camera disk for the next day. I keep a written journal to jog my memory when going through the photos at home later. It's given me a lot of pleasure but it's probably overkill for most people. DO take a dual voltage battery charger. Look on the back label for 110-240 or figures very similar. If your charger says 110-120, go to the drugstore and buy a dual voltage charger so you don't have to carry a converter with you. Most these days are dual voltage but it's a good idea to check.

Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: We used to put our camping equipment (including tent) into a large duffle bag and check it through. Since 9/11 and hypersecurity, we've given up camping in Europe. We camp only where we can drive, so in Europe we use budget accommodation, including Gites de France in France, Agriturisimi in Italy and Gasthauses in Germany. Check the Travel Guides for budget ideas in your chosen country. I highly recommend Logis de France (hotels) and Gites de France in France, and Italian Agriturismo in Italy. We love them.

Most public swimming pools in France require men to wear speedo-type suits and none that I've seen allow cut-off jeans or "made-up" swim wear. You may also be required to wear a bathing cap. Beaches along the Atlantic and Mediterranean have various to no requirements so check when you arrive. If you rent a boat, they will have the equipment that is legally required although you may have to pay separately in some places. Again, either check their web site before you go or check when you arrive. Local tourist offices are a great place to get recommendations. The more you can rent, the less you have to pack . . .

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Château de Fougères

Château de Fougères

Electricity: You can find all you will ever need to know (with photos) at: Electricity Information web site

There are two things to consider. First is an adapter that simply fits your plug into the European wall outlet. The second is an actual power converter that converts the 240 volt European electricity down to a safe 120 volt power that will be accepted by your appliance. The first (adapter) is inexpensive and light weight. The second (converter) is more expensive and very heavy. It is easier to avoid taking the converter by taking only dual voltage appliances. This is an appliance that says 110-240 v somewhere on the appliance, usually the bottom or near the plug. If it says 110-120, it is not dual voltage and you will need a converter. It must go up to 240 v. Always check your appliance; never assume it is dual voltage.

Château de Goulaine near Nantes

Château de Goulaine near Nantes


Basically, if you have dual voltage (110-240 v) appliances, you need only a small adapter so you can fit your plug into the wall socket. If your appliance is 110-120 v, you will need a converter to change the voltage that goes into your appliance. European voltage is 240 and that will fry your US 110-120 appliances and it may start a fire. You can get new dual voltage appliances or get a converter. The converters are available at Radio Shack, Walmart, Target, most drug stores and all department store luggage departments and luggage stores.

We always take a few of adapters because European plugs are shaped differently from US so you plug into the adapter and the adapter plugs into the foreign wall socket. These are very cheap so get one that takes grounded USA plugs and is adjustable for different countries, a universal adapter. The universal adapters are available at Radio Shack, Walmart, Target, most drug stores and all department store luggage departments and luggage stores. In addition to the Universal Adapter that can be adjusted to fit in any country, we take a few C adapters that are flat and can be used with either the older 2-prong outlets or the newer grounded outlets. If you have problems, ask at your hotel desk. They usually have a drawer full of different adapters. They will probably not have a converter so don't count on that.

View from Château de Saumur

View from Château de Saumur

If you take a hair dryer (I don't), be sure it is dual voltage or that you have a heavy-duty power converter (not an adapter, but a converter) to change the European 240 down to your appliance's 120. Most hotels and B&Bs have hair dryers so you probably don't need that hair dryer and converters are heavy and a nuisance to pack. It' something to consider. If you must take a hair dryer, the easiest and safest thing to do would be to buy a dual voltage travel hair dryer. Too many hotel fires have been started with hair dryers and inadequate converters.

Posted by Beausoleil 14:34 Archived in France Tagged france packing luggage electricity Comments (0)

Budget France - It does exist

We consider France a budget destination. Here are a few tips.


View Provence 2014 & Around France with Jean 2000 & Around France and through Switzerland 1998 & Pays de la Loire on Beausoleil's travel map.

Aix-en-Provence street market at Place Richelme

Aix-en-Provence street market at Place Richelme


France does not have to be expensive. We started on a budget and enjoyed it so much that we just continued our low-priced practices. Here are some of the things we do to save money. It is also a great way to meet the local people and get a taste of French life.

Downtown Barr in Alsace

Downtown Barr in Alsace

Accommodation: For hotels, try regional ones instead of international brand names. We use the Logis de France chain of small family-owned hotels. They come in all price ranges and are clean, comfortable and friendly. The Logis de France are not just hotels, but also have excellent restaurants. However, the meals can cost more than the rooms. We have our main meal there if we're there in time for lunch but not in the evening at higher prices. Food will be good but you pay for what you get . . . to paraphrase. They also have half board and full board options which can be nice if you are not near any towns. Logis de France English web site

If you can base yourself somewhere for a week, Gites de France are rental apartments or houses in rural areas and small towns that are often incredibly cheap. You have the option of doing your own cooking and that saves a lot of money if you don't mind cooking. We usually do cold cereal in the morning and bread, cheese, fruit and wine in the evening. We eat out at noon because we're usually touring someplace far from the house. If you are in a group, Gites are often a fantastic bargain. We recently rented an entire small château for under 500 euros for an entire week. We had three bedrooms, a huge kitchen, two separate living areas, two full baths and a WC along with a full dining area, tv, foosball and billiards. Try doing that in a hotel! Gites de France English-language web site

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Restaurant Le St. Andre in Bonnieux

Restaurant Le St. Andre in Bonnieux

Restaurants: You don't have to eat in expensive restaurants. Have a typical French breakfast of croissant and coffee at a small cafe or bar, eat dinner at noon when it's cheaper and have bread, cheese and fruit for dinner in the evening. We call it a French picnic and love it. Bakeries and pastry shops have take-out style foods that are excellent and inexpensive and supermarkets have deli sections that are cheap and good. Stay away from major tourist areas because they tend to be more expensive. If you are in a tourist area, walk a few blocks from the main attraction and prices will go down. Contact the local tourist bureau and ask for help finding budget food and lodging. They know where to send you. One trick we use is to ask local folks where they eat. Do not ask where they recommend you eat because they will send you to the nearest tourist restaurant. Ask them where they actually eat. It will be good food and reasonable prices and very friendly. This has never failed us and we've found some really nice restaurants this way.

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Leased Peugeot parked in Domme

Leased Peugeot parked in Domme

Transportation: We usually stay a month or more so we lease a car. We get a brand new car, fully insured with 24-hour roadside assistance all paid before we leave home. If you want to save money here, get a manual transmission. If you will be in a city most of the time, don't get a car at all. They are an expensive nuisance in a city. Check public transportation options because most cities have good transportation and often excellent bargains on day or week passes. Check those passes carefully though because some of them are actually more expensive than simply buying a ticket for each trip. Be very wary of tour companies and passes. It's usually much cheaper to go directly to the city transport web site for their passes. Here is more information on leasing a car in France: Leasing a Car in France by Beausoleil

Other options are car rental, bus and trains. With car rental, order ahead and do your research. We've used Kemwel, AutoEurope and a couple others. Check age limits both young and old and be sure you are insured for all the countries you will visit with that car. Sometimes, it's easier to rent a car in each country and take the train or bus between countries. Here is more information on renting a car in France: Renting a Car in France by Beausoleil

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Leaving Strasbourg for Paris

Leaving Strasbourg for Paris

Trains in France are prompt, clean and safe . . . although they do have strikes fairly often. It's good to keep up with the news and have a Plan B. We once planned a trip to Paris that involved a lot of day trips by train and were met with the longest train strike in French history (up to that time). They didn't strike all the trains on any one day so by following the news, we were able to plan around it. When using trains, keep in mind that the slower local and regional trains are much less expensive than the high-speed TGV trains. We always use the regional trains when we can. If you do use the TGV, book well ahead to save money. You might also look at the Ouigo trains that run with the TGV. They are very inexpensive and don't go everyplace, but if they are going where you want to go, it is a real bargain . . . and fast. Ouigo Train web site For general information on trains in France, here is a great web site: The Man in Seat 61 web site

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Bus stop 23 at the Nice Intl. Airport

Bus stop 23 at the Nice Intl. Airport

If you're planning to use the bus, keep in mind that each French region has its own bus service and they do not coordinate. This makes connecting and scheduling a bit difficult. If you are staying within one region, it's not a problem. There are some pan-European bus services now that cross regional borders and they may be worth a check. We haven't used buses except very locally so I can't help there. The local buses are usually a great bargain especially in Provence.

As far as flying, we avoid it whenever possible. There are budget airlines and if you are going a great distance, it may make sense. The generally accepted rule is that if the trip is five hours or less by train, take the train. Longer than five hours, take the plane. You have to factor in the time it takes to get to the outlying airports used by the budget airlines, cost to get to that airport, going through security and the general aggravation of flying. I would much rather take the time to enjoy a pleasant trip on the train and see the scenery than go through the process of flying.

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AutoRoute Toll Booth

AutoRoute Toll Booth

When you are driving, avoid the AutoRoute where it has tolls which is most of France. The smaller National and District roads, designated by signs starting with N or D, are very nice roads and do not have tolls. We actually prefer them because they go through the quaint towns and villages along the way where you will find reasonably priced and excellent restaurants. The AutoRoute has restaurants but they cost more than the food they serve is worth . . . at least to us. To get an idea of the cost of tolls or the lack of tolls, go to the Google or Michelin web sites and ask directions between two points. The web sites will give you routing and cost involved. Here are the two web sites. If you right click and choose to open in a new tab or a new window, you can check the map web site and close it and you will be right back here where you started. Google Map web site and Michelin Map web site

Here is some more information about roads in France: What are the different roads like by Beausoleil

Clisson from Château de Clisson

Clisson from Château de Clisson


Everyone says they want to avoid tourists and meet the locals, traveling on a budget does just that . . . and saves quite a bit of money in the process.

Here is some more information about Logis de France: Blog entry Stay Where the French Stay by Beausoleil

Here is some more information about Gites de France: Blog entry Rent a Gite de France by Beausoleil

Posted by Beausoleil 10:42 Archived in France Tagged hotels markets france rentals apartments restaurants budget money Comments (3)

What if you can't speak French?

Don't be afraid to visit France because you don't speak French. It's nice but not necessary.


View Provence 2014 & Around France with Jean 2000 & Around France and through Switzerland 1998 & Pays de la Loire on Beausoleil's travel map.

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A lot of folks tell me they are afraid to visit France because they don't speak French. I agree that it is very nice to speak French, but most Americans don't have a foreign language option in school and if they do, it is Spanish. That shouldn't keep you from visiting France.

Most younger French people speak at least a little English and many speak it fluently. The French love to help people so if you are struggling with the language, they will help you. If they don't speak your language, they will find someone who does.

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Rue des Trois Moulins in Lyons-la-Fôret

Rue des Trois Moulins in Lyons-la-Fôret

It helps if you start the exchange with, "Parlez vous anglais?" (Do you speak English?) This gives them a chance to mentally switch to English and you'll both be fine. English is a second language in many French schools. However, near borders, that changes. In Alsace near the German border, the second language is German and English would be a third language for them. In the Basque and Catalan regions of France near Spain, Spanish is the second language. In southeast France, Italian would be the second language taught in schools. Many will speak some English but it's difficult for them so be patient and willing to try your questions in several different ways. Speak slowly and clearly and don't raise your voice. Saying the same thing louder will not help and it makes people nervous because they think you are angry. Keep in mind English may be their third language or they may have had it in school twenty years ago.

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Half-timbered house in Honfleur

Half-timbered house in Honfleur


We've learned a lot of French over the years but we've discovered when we start with "bonjour" that we are nearly always answered in English. Try to learn hello, good-bye, please and thank you if you don't learn anything else and you will be fine, especially in the cities. (Hello = Bonjour; Good-bye = Au revoir; Please = S'il vous plaît; Thank you = Merci) The first two are very important because when you walk into a shop, it is considered polite to greet the shopkeeper so you must say at least "bonjour" when you walk into the store. It is also polite to say "au revoir" when you leave. It's just what they do, common good manners in France. If you do that, you'll be treated nicely and probably spoken to in English since your accent will give you away immediately. Use either of the two translators listed below to hear the correct way to pronounce these phrases.

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Here's a good on-line translator if you want to experiment. Click here: Reverso English-French online translator If you click the little loudspeaker icon above the translation, it will speak the French to you.

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Rue Saint-Michel in Rochefort-en-Terre

Rue Saint-Michel in Rochefort-en-Terre

When you are online, you can often highlight text, right click on it and scroll down to "Translate with . . . . " and get a good idea of what you are trying to read. When you write to Tourist Offices for information, write in English and you will probably be answered in English. I try to write in both English and French hoping they will understand one of them and nearly always get my answer in English.

Don't avoid France because you can't speak French. It's nice if you can, but it is not necessary. The French are very helpful and will do whatever they can to assist you.

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Château at Josselin on the Nantes à Brest Canal

Château at Josselin on the Nantes à Brest Canal


Here is another good translation web site. Type in your English and when you get your translation, click on the loudspeaker icon at the bottom of the translation box to have it pronounced for you.

Click here: Google Translate

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If you carry a smart phone or tablet, the Google Translate web site is good for instant translation. Type in the English and it translates into French. You have a box in English on the left and a box of French on the right. Click the loudspeaker icon for either and you have a talking machine. We met a French lady who used this. She didn't speak English so it was perfect for her. It takes a bit of time but it works.

Posted by Beausoleil 09:27 Archived in France Tagged france language manners Comments (2)

Restaurants and Customs in France

Eating in a restaurant is a little different in France . . . but delicious.


View Provence 2014 & Around France with Jean 2000 & Around France and through Switzerland 1998 & Pays de la Loire on Beausoleil's travel map.

Café Le St. Germain near our Metro stop in Paris

Café Le St. Germain near our Metro stop in Paris


Restaurants in France are required to post their menus outside. The French cruise the menus. You can do that too. Look until you find what you want at a price you like. Don’t go into the restaurant, sit down, read the menu and then get up and walk out because they don’t have what you want. It simply isn’t done. The menu is posted outside to prevent this. If there is no English menu and you don’t read French, you may step inside and ask to see their menu in English. If they only have one, they will get it for you. If you don’t see something you like, you may thank them and leave. If you decide you like it, you may ask to be seated. If you just want a drink, don’t sit at a table set for lunch or dinner. Find an empty table and sit there. If you don’t, you will probably be moved to one anyway.

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L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence

Most waiters in France are very professional and proud of doing an excellent job no matter what the prices in the restaurant. On the other hand, don't expect French waiters to introduce themselves to you when they arrive at your table. "Hi, I'm Jacques. I'll be your server today." It just won't happen. They will take your order. You will receive your order. No one will come back (when your mouth is full) and ask if everything is okay. They expect you to have enough sense to tell them if something is wrong. If there is, tell them and they will fix it. Don’t call the waiter garçon. It translates as “boy” and you wouldn’t do that at home so don’t do it in France. Use Monsieur for men and Madame for women unless they are very young and then you may use Madamoiselle. You will not see them again unless you call them. They think it is rude to interrupt your meal so they leave you alone to enjoy it . . . nearly forever unless you realize you won't get the bill until you ask for it.

What many people regard as poor service is just a cultural difference. They will not try to hurry you. The table is yours until you ask for the check. If you don't ask for the check, you can sit there all night because it is considered very impolite to interrupt your conversation. If you need to have a quick meal because of a tour or concert, tell the waiter before you start and he will see that you make your appointment. If he can’t meet your timetable, he will tell you before you sit down.

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Place de l'Horloge in Avignon

Place de l'Horloge in Avignon

A menu in France is called a carte. The word Menu refers to a selection of courses at a fixed price that are listed on the carte. (This can also be called a Formula or Special du Jour.) There are usually two or three choices at different prices. When you order, you simply ask by price, e.g. for the 15 euro Menu (or Formula or Special). If there is a choice of appetizers or any other courses, the waiter will ask your preferences, but the cheaper the Menu, the fewer your choices will be. If you like the fixed choices, it's a great bargain and one we often use. If you don't order a Menu, you order a la Carte (or off the menu card) and it can be more expensive depending on how many courses you choose and their price. You will be charged extra for drinks unless they are listed as part of the menu. You may ask for a free carafe of tap water and no one will think you odd. Ask for a "carafe d'eau." If you just ask for water, you may get mineral water and it's expensive. These days the tap water is usually chilled.

You can also order "a la carte" or off the carte and choose anything on the menu. If you order several courses a la carte, it can be very expensive, often nearly twice as much as a Menu. The fixed price Menu choices are a great bargain. In cheaper restaurants they are often the best tasting items on the menu because that is what the regulars will order and the chef knows better than to provide poor food for his regular customers. However, if you only want a salad, ordering a la carte may be a less expensive choice for you.

La Chaumière des Marais Restaurant in the Loire-Atlantique

La Chaumière des Marais Restaurant in the Loire-Atlantique

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L'Ancolie Restaurant in Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany

L'Ancolie Restaurant in Rochefort-en-Terre in Brittany


Sometimes we forget where we are. Once in Brittany we walked into a little country restaurant and without thinking asked for the menu. After a decent interval, the waitress brought out a starter. We were quite surprised as we expected a printed menu to make our choice, i.e. the carte. This was followed in due time by a wonderful roasted chicken dish and a lovely tart. We noticed most of the people in the little restaurant were eating the same thing and that they all knew each other. Our waitress didn't speak English; she wasn't used to dealing with tourists as all the patrons were local and to her, the menu that we asked for was the "Special Menu" of the day. They didn't have a choice of menus at different prices. Each day there was a special and that was your choice unless you ordered a la carte. Fortunately, we loved the meal . . . and quickly realized we were back in France!

Posted by Beausoleil 14:43 Archived in France Tagged food france restaurants cafes customs Comments (0)

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