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Random observations from recent visit to France

I recently visited France. Three weeks. Paris and eastern France from Reims to Marseille. It had been a number of years since my last trip to Paris. For those thinking about visiting France for the first time or returning after a number of years, I offer these random observations:

  1. I did not have a single unpleasant experience with anyone in France. Everyone whom I dealt with was cordial and helpful.

  2. Paris like eastern France was surprisingly clean. Litter was rare as were pet droppings. Riding on French highways in eastern France was eye-opening: No litter or billboards. Roads in good condition. Lovely and well-maintained countryside.

  3. Many menus have English descriptions of the listed dishes. Did not remember this from an earlier trip.

  4. The food in Paris was excellent. But food quality was at times an issue in smaller cities where the meat at times had noticeable fat. I think some underrate the quality of American restaurants in our cities.

  5. Paris has never been more lovely, and I was reminded that its Metro is a wonder.

  6. Petty theft is evidently an issue in the cities. On the Metro, there was one incident when a woman started screaming about her purse. Use common sense, and you should have no problem. Normally, my wallet and passport were kept in a hotel safe. I carried cash and occasionally credit cards in an inside jacket pocket with a zipper or my pants' front pocket. I will not use a money-belt. I never felt unsafe. I left Paris on Saturday when the yellow-vest protesters and others were on the streets protesting.

  7. I had to change planes in DeGaulle. Not my favorite airport.

Posted by
8293 posts

So nice to see positive reports and observations and happiness at having visited France. Not one bit of crankiness. Thanks.

Posted by
15993 posts

Thanks from me as well for your uplifting report, Richard! It has been a few years now since I last saw Paris but like you, didn't encounter any unpleasant experiences and we were surprised how clean most of the city was for the vast amount of tourists it hosts! The metro was great; CDG not so much but oh well, easily shrugged off for the lovely time we had otherwise.

Posted by
2576 posts

*2 For the size of Paris, it is very clean. Street cleaners are out every day, including Sundays, to scrub the streets. Each building pays a special fee or tax to the city just to have the sidewalks and streets cleaned regularly. Graffiti is removed by the city as soon as it is reported.

*4 Meat is different in Europe than in the US. Fat itself is not bad but overall, steaks are not dry aged in Europe nor are cattle fed chemicals or hormones to increase size. US beef is banned in Europe for this reason.

*6 Petty theft is indeed a big issue. One must keep alert religiously, particularly at tourist heavy locations and in crowds.

*7 Any award for service that CDG ever receives is not generally the good kind of award. CDG is typically on the list of the worst airports in the world. I use ORY whenever I can.

Posted by
2136 posts

Thanks for your positive report Richard! That mirrors our experience from when we were in Paris two years ago and when we were in the French countryside (Loches) three weeks ago.

I can’t recall a single negative incident from either trip. As you said,muse common sense and you should have no problem. I concur with your first item, everyone was cordial and helpful, even when checking out from a local supermarket where the cashier spoke no English and my French is pitiful. We laughed and gave each other a thumbs up when we achieved success!

The countryside was charming. We were far enough off the beaten path that when we went to visit Chenonceux, it was a shock to hear English.

I look forward to returning to France. There’s so much more I want to see and do.

Posted by
473 posts

We too had a great experience last summer in France. We are heading there again in two weeks. This time exploring the Provence region.

Posted by
163 posts

Thanks for the report. We returned from 2 weeks in France last week and we had the same feelings. We had a lovely time.

Posted by
50 posts

Thank you for sharing! These are great inputs. Now I can't wait to go back to Paris again. I know not much has changed but Paris always worth visiting.

Posted by
2030 posts

Richard, Thanks for posting this. Your experiences and observations are exactly what I have experienced going to Paris almost every year since 2001 -- that's why I keep going back.
Only thing that I don't like is all the graffiti, especially along railroad tracks (though I love all the street art).

Posted by
30 posts

Thank you so much for your observations. I'm going to Paris for the first time in September and this only reinforces that I will have a marvelous time.

Posted by
1205 posts

Richard, so glad you had a wonderful time in France. It really is a lovely country. I too, just returned from France after being there three weeks. I loved Paris and was also in eastern France from Reims and Marseille. I found the same things you did, how the food in Paris was excellent, how the Metro ran so well and how Paris has never been so lovely! The countryside was breathtaking and I look forward to going back to France in the future.

I never tire of France and there are so many other small towns that I would like to see and of course return to the South of France which I found so charming and delightful.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this beautiful country.

Posted by
12172 posts

Nice comments. Personally I met a few jerks in Paris but it was one out of hundreds. The vast majority treated me better than I deserved.

Parisians joke about pet droppings on their streets, glad you didn't notice any.

There are scammers in Paris, they are a constant around big tourist draws like Notre Dame and Montmartre as well as the train into town. If you take care of your belongings and watch your surroundings, you likely won't have an issue.

I prefer flying out of Orly both because it's smaller and easier to get to from Paris. I've been fortunate that each time I've arrived in CDG I've come from Iceland with passport already stamped and no checked bags.

Posted by
884 posts

I will admit being a Francophile......just LOVE that beautiful country. We have been to Paris 3 times......we realize how different our trips have been when we did not use the metro at all. We like to eat and feel like our daily walking helps to counteract all we consume....especially in Paris....we also like observing Paris at street level....so the trips with no metro use removed a level of stress that comes with all that the metro adds......pickpockets, rude people rushing by you as they push you out of the way, getting lost as we search for the right metro line to take. I also have 2 shops in the Marias that I have frequented every time I go. I made a point on the first trip there to introduce myself to the owners and tell them that I loved their treasures. These shop owners could not be kinder to me......each time I visit they always give me a free gift for coming in and tell me how happy they are to know someone that loves their wares. I have found that if I go out of my way to be kind to the French people as I come in contact with them, they always return the kindness. As I write this we are planning another trip there......just love it!

Posted by
5944 posts

Another Francophile here. I recall the first trip I planned to France--Alsace, Burgundy, Loire, Paris. When I told people my plans, I didn't get one positive response. Everyone just told me how terrible Paris was and how rude and elitist French people are. Well, when you go with that kind of attitude, I imagine that is exactly the feelings you have when you come home. We went with a positive attitude and just loved it. I found many people willing to help us. In Alsace, a man in a bar, got up from his bar stool and walked me to our hotel while my husband followed in the car. I had people that would take the time to make a map. I have many great stories about the French people we encountered. I haven't had a negative experience at CDG, but I would imagine that it depends on circumstances. We had to change planes to get to Basel. I recall it being a long walk. I like other airports in Europe better than CDG and I like Orly better than CDG.

Posted by
14580 posts

I have not been back to eastern France, ie Alsace-Lorraine, in a number of years but my most recent experience with Paris was last year, ie the first few days in May and then, after backtracking from Austria and Germany, the few days in June.

No unpleasant experiences either in Paris...just being back there is therapeutic.

Of course, you have to be alert and mindful as not to fall for scams and be picked in the Metro or elsewhere. I never felt unsafe either in any of my trips to Paris.

On CDG airport...my view on that is that one has to pay attention and get use to it. I myself have had no problems dealing with the airport, CDG doesn't bother me but I can understand why some might have problems. When I fly SFO to CDG, it's non-stop and it's my final destination, never had to change planes there which could be taxing.

Posted by
120 posts

You all make my day, that is what I like to read, merci! :)

Posted by
4240 posts

I was going to post some of my observations and you beat me to it. Just got back from 2 weeks on an RS Loire Valley to South of France tour. I'll probably still post but now I'll change my theme to more of thoughts on an RS tour. But I can back up your comments. The advice you hear a lot is to try and learn some basic french phrases-I can vouch that it does go a long way with the French if you try, we got a lot of smiles and thumbs-up for trying before they switched to English. The only thing that really disappointed me was the food, it was high quality but for me it was very bland. Our guide did tell me that pepper is about all the French use to season their food. On the bright side, I went to France for 2 weeks and lost 7 pounds!

Posted by
11447 posts

Nice list, great observations!

We spent 2+ weeks in France (Alsace, Normandy, Paris) in April/May and had so many positive experiences.

  • I have been working on learning a bit of French so I can stop abusing the pronunciation and so many people helped me in a very kind manner.

  • Food was, overall, fantastic. Maybe I am better at picking restaurants but it was far better than on previous trips.

  • Homelessness seemed less apparent in Paris.

  • Driving was far easier than in Italy. I hate driving (still) but I was less confused in France than in Italy.