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France trip report

Trip report!
We just returned from 20 days in France. I received my Pass Sanitaire 4 days before we left, 2 weeks after applying. We flew Icelandic, which had extra Covid precautions for transiting Iceland, including an on-line form agreeing to follow precautions. My husband got his Pass Sanitaire 6 days in, after having gotten an acceptance that forgot to attach the document the same time I got mine. His CDC card was accepted at all the restaurants and museums we went to prior to him getting it. Masks were worn in all indoor establishments other than restaurants when eating.
We picked up a car at CDG, which was quite a walk from the Icelandic terminal, but once underway was fine, it was a Saturday afternoon and skirting Paris the traffic was fine.
Giverny was gorgeous and not crowded even though we were there during the free access Patrimony weekend. Villandry was similarly quiet. We stayed at a lovely refurbished barn outside Chinon, and the innkeepers gave us a tour of the chateau they are in the process of bringing back to life. After 4 nights there, we drove to Sarlat for 4 nights. That was a long but very scenic drive. It was gorgeous, kayaking the Dordogne and going to the Lascaux IV museum, where the tour groups were kept small for Covid safety. There were lots of British accents, but likely expats rather than tourists. We had a night in Carcassonne, which was busy but not nearly as crowded as usual per the innkeeper.
We stayed 6 nights in an incredible apartment in Arles, where we had the exhibits at the Reattu, Luna, the Roman museum and Fondation Van Gogh almost completely to ourselves. The market there was wonderful and almost everyone was masked. We did day trips to the Camargue, Nimes, Uzes and Avignon. The Pont du Gard was busy but not crazy, we were able to walk right in with no lines. The TGV to Paris made me wish the USA had such amazing transit options.
We had 5 nights in Paris, which several people said was even quieter than the quietest part of the down season. There are essentially no tourists from Asia, and very few from anywhere else. We only heard American accents a few times the whole 3 weeks. The d'Orsay was a little busy only because of a late opening which pushed 3 timed groups together, and the Louvre was very quiet - only 20 people in line for the Mona Lisa, and the rest of the place extremely quiet. Due to a mix up, I had to buy tickets and was able to walk straight in after doing it online outside. We walked by the Effiel Tower and the lines didn't look bad at all. The Sainte-Chappelle was under tight security due to the Bataclan trial next door, we needed to purchase timed tickets ahead of time and go through TSA-like security. There were only about 20 people there when we were. The Marmottan was very quiet when we entered at opening but had about 15 people in line by the time we left.
For our exit testing, we just stopped by one of the pop-up tents that are sprinkled around the city, we had our results in 10 minutes, and they printed them out at the pharmacy connected with the tent. At the check-in desk for our airline, we heard a very frustrated young woman insisting that she hadn't gotten a test because she "couldn't find one anywhere" and she was not allowed on the flight. She was also fibbing, they were a common sight.
I had incredibly kind interactions with folks when lost, and I felt really welcomed and appreciated in my feeble attempts to speak French. The few times the other person didn't speak English, we got by with sign language. One time when Google maps was leading me astray in Paris, the young woman I asked for directions actually walked me to my destination and chatted with me on the way! No one will be surprised to hear that my husband and I fell in love with Paris and are already planning our return.

Posted by
4793 posts

What a wonderful experience! Thanks for sharing it.

Posted by
4622 posts

Thanks for sharing your amazing trip!

Would you please share names of your accommodations, specially the ones in Chinon, Sarlat, Carcassonne, and Paris?

I’d also appreciate names of restaurants that you enjoyed during your travels.


Edited to add one more question : )
Did you visit Giverny on day of arrival, or did you spend your first night there?

Posted by
1667 posts

hey hey erica
great report. you did what you wanted, took your time to enjoy the france atmosphere, the baguettes baking and the whiffs of escargot with garlic LOL
we spent 6 days in annecy and the lake, gorgeous. back to paris for 8 days, 2 years ago.
i was on a "mission" to taste who had the best eclairs!
always the case when you have a fabulous time, you're planning next trip on your flight home.

Posted by
36 posts

Thanks for this great post! Did you find that the places you visited were welcoming to visitors? My wife is concerned that Paris is going to be a little less friendly due to the high Covid rates in the U.S. As seems to be a trend on this board, there is little rhyme and reason to how the passe sanitaire is distributed ahead of traveling.

Posted by
2894 posts

Thanks for sharing your excellent trip report. We visited most of the same places and can understand why you are planning a return to Paris! “Paris is always a good idea.” Audrey Hepburn.

Posted by
11 posts

Kevin, I found everyone, Parisiennes included, to be very welcoming. I think everyone is excited for some sort of normalcy post Covid.

Priscilla, we visited the gardens and stayed in Giverny after an early afternoon airport arrival, then hit the museum the following morning before heading out to the Loire Valley. We didn't hit a whole lot of restaurants, just eating lots of fabulous bread and cheese and picnics from the markets.

The Cote d"azure and Alps are on the list for next time.

Here are the lodgings - some on Air B&B, some not.

Giverny -

Outside Chinon -

Sarlat -

Carcassonne -

Arles -

Paris -

Our guided tours were with Walks at the Louvre and with Carine at the d'Orsay from an AirB&B Experience.

Posted by
7729 posts

To reassure Kevin's wife: Friday, while signing up for my booster, my neighborhood pharmacist in France asked if there was much COVID in the US. If he's not paying attention, no one is.

Posted by
259 posts

I hope that not only the parisiennes but also the parisiens were nice.

Posted by
24 posts

Just curious, between Arles, Nimes, Uzers, and Avignon, what might have been your favorites or highlights? I'm traveling to that region in about a week myself, and still working out the details of my itinerary.

Posted by
11 posts

Alexander, Uzes was lovely for a few hours of just wandering around. Nimes was vibrant and busy, we checked out the Arena and other ruins, we spent an afternoon there. Avignon probably had more to offer than we saw, but we enjoyed checking out the Palais du Papes and wandering around for an afternoon. Arles and the art scene were the real highlights for us, there is so much art and energy there, we spent several full days just wondering around and touring the museums. There is a Roman arena and theater ruins there, and the market there was fantastic as well. If you have any interest in Van Gogh, the current exhibition at the Fondation Van Gogh has several of his pieces, and it is so quiet you can have them almost to yourself.

Posted by
8 posts

Can you confirm you were able to get in to the Louvre and other places without the French Health Pass. Another thread linked to you saying our CDC cards were being accepted everywhere and the pass was not needed. Can this be true?

Posted by
11 posts

Darlene, by the time we went to the Louvre, we both had our Pass Sanitaire, so I don't personally know. Many other people have reported they were able to get in with their CDC card. The first half of our trip, we had no problem getting into restaurants and museums with my Pass Sanitaire and my husband's CDC card.

Posted by
8007 posts

Loved your report, so detailed and helpful. I’ve been in Paris for 12 days now and have had the same experience as you did. Went to the Louvre last Friday, met my son there. No one asked to see my Pass Sanitaire but my son (who arrived separately from me) was asked. We’ve ridden a train 6 times and only once was asked for our PS. I’m loving Paris with so few tourists, it’s wonderful!

Posted by
10078 posts

I have been in Feance now for about a week. Mostly Bayeux and Colmar with changes of train and stations in Paris. Everyone, including the taxi drivers, have been friendly and welcoming. They are glad to have tourists back.

Tell your wife it will be fine.

Every museum and every restaurant has asked for the health pass. I have the health pass but I saw restaurants in tourist areas accept the CDC card.

Have a good time.