So this is going to be long winded. I'll likely end up posting my comments in the form of an initial post with replies to get around the post length limit. Skip this if you aren't in the mood for verbosity.
Synopsis: France today is a victim of its own success as a travel destination. As a result, its no longer worth visiting.
I've vacationed in France 3 times now. I'm in Chartres right now as I write this.
My first visit to France was in 1983 with my then girl friend and now wife. We were both about 26, inexperienced travelers with not a lot of money. It was my first international trip and visiting Paris was part of a 5 week tour through Europe that included 6 countries. Our pre-trip preparations consisted of airline tickets to London and back home from Athens, the purchase of 2 Eurailpass tickets and a single night's lodging for our first destination in London. No other reservations or plans were made ahead of time.
When we arrived at one of the Paris Gares (I don't recall which one) from the train ride from Calais after the boat across the English Channel, we had no hotel reservations. We were approached by an old man who offered us a stay in his apartment. Maurice was an odd character but his place turned out to be palatial. It was like staying in a museum, 300 year old antique furniture and paintings, he got us drunk on his voluminous collection of wine and liquor every night. The cost... $7.00 US a night. After 4 nights we said thanks and goodbye to Maurice and headed off the Amsterdam. But that experience put France on our list for future vacation destinations.
Our next visit to France was circa 1991. We were married by then and decided we'd dedicate 3 weeks of our limited vacation time to France since we had enjoyed Paris so much in 83. We traveled in May in order to avoid the high season. Again, limited plans were made ahead of time. I think we reserved our hotel for 3 nights in Paris ahead of time, which cost the grand sum of $30 a night, but the rest of the trip was only roughly planned. I had a list of destinations to visit, but we had no further reservations and traveled from city to city when we felt like it and got our hotels in each destination on our days of arrival. Always found a clean, affordable place to stay.
So now its 2018. I decided to take another trip to France. The wife wisely decided to skip this trip so I am traveling with my 24 year old daughter. I had purchased a copy of Rick's 2018 France guide and followed its advice to book as much ahead of time as possible. So I meticulously reserved every hotel and every train ride ahead of time from my home in California. I also selected a starting time of September 17 for our 23 day stay so as to avoid the high season.
The day of our flight from SFO to ORY I get an email from our hotel in Paris. They'd suffered a water leak and thus couldn't honor our prepaid reservation. So now I had about 6 hours to reserve some alternative for our 2 nights in Paris with less than 24 hours notice before I had to head to SFO. So I frantically searched the various hotel web sites. The best I could do was to find a squalid dump at the very end of one of the Paris metro lines for over $500.00 per night. So clearly, Rick was right, reserve well ahead of time, not that following that advice did me any good in Paris.
I haven't had any hotel issues since (no more water leaks), but what I hadn't anticipated was the hassle of going out to dinner. Apparently, in addition to reserving all of the hotels well ahead of time, its also necessary to do the same with every meal. In Beaune and now again in Chartres, the restaurants are all booked up by dinner time. And at other destinations, most of them have closed since its no longer the travel season. If I have to eat another of those buckwheat crepes for dinner I'm going to kill, cook and eat one of the local cats.