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True Experience for Family

Hello All. Bonjour! I can't really speak French but me and the children are learning. We are taking a family vacation to France in March 2016 to experience the culture my family ancestors came from. First let me say that we have 5 kids, 3 are triplets (will be 4 yrs old when we go). I have already started teaching my children French as I want the REAL experience, not the tourist stuff. Here is my question....where can we go to stay, see the country side, visit the villages ect? I want the entire visit to be a real experience of being immersed in the culture from living, eating, conversation, ect. I find all the tourist stuff online like hotels, restaurants, ect but I want a cozy little home in the country....to go to a bakery or pub in a village....you know, like we live there. Those things I CAN"T find no matter how hard I look. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Merci.

Posted by
922 posts

My first thought is to find your ancestral home and start searching in that area. Once you have a town or region identified, I would go on VRBO.com or homeaway.com and find housing that suits your needs. You can rent apartments or entire homes for reasonable costs in many cases. You also have a kitchen, which help save on some of your meal costs. Bear in mind that if you end up staying in the countryside, you will need a van to get all of you into town to immerse yourself in the culture. I would stick to a city center near the train station if possible. Also, buy the Rick Steves France Guidebook. He lists lots of nice smaller towns that would fit your bill. For example, the section on the French Alps lists Annency and Chamonix as two great towns to visit. In March, you will still likely experience winter weather there. Skiing anyone? If you can provide some more detail around a specific area of France and specific dates, I'm sure you get more replies to you questions.

Posted by
8230 posts

Note that quaint villages in France are almost entirely tourist oriented; their economy is tourist driven. If by chance you find a charming village that is not touristy then it won't have a lively local culture either; the residents will be off working in a nearby city. We have been in such places years ago where you couldn't even get a cup of coffee during the day.

One approach would be to find a country gite where French tourists are likely to be so your kids could play with French kids on beach of playground. My niece rents a place for 6 weeks every summer in the south of France in a small city with her 3 kids and because they have established local ties, they are able to practice their French and do things with locals or at least other vacationers. But they are there for weeks at a time. A short visit makes it virtually impossible to socialize with anyone other than other tourists so look for vacation spots likely to be populated with French tourists.

Posted by
2 posts

I appreciate all of the advice and such good things to think about! Im not sure of where they are from as the elders are passed. I just know that i want my children to have the experience of being around that culture. I did not think about people being away working but you are so right! I lived in a tourist area and yes, I was working constantly! I'm not really particular in the area of France we go but after your responses, I am going to have to do more digging! Thank you again so very much for taking the time to put in your thoughts....it helps me to prepare.

Posted by
32266 posts

forever,

Are you able to at least get a general idea which part of France your relatives came from? That would at least provide an area to focus on in deciding where to stay. I doubt that you'll find an area that's completely free of tourists, but even with tourists you can still enjoy living a "local lifestyle".

You may get some good ideas by having a look at some of Rick's videos......

Also, the France guidebook has lots of information that will help your trip to go smoothly (the 2016 version should be released soon - I can't find the dates?) You might want to spend at least a few days in Paris, as there's lots to see there and it's a wonderful city.

Posted by
16100 posts

Just to add to the part about locals being busy with work and chores? In March, school-age children will be in school.

Posted by
14254 posts

You may be able to figure out the area from which your ancestors hailed by starting some research on one of the online genealogy websites such as Ancestry.com (you have to pay to get the good stuff) or FamilySearch.org (free).

Posted by
10355 posts

Your best bet for renting in a small town in a region is through the Gites de France organization. The housing is inspected, rated, and geared to families with children. They have an English language website available. This is the organization French families use for vacation rentals in the countryside.