"La France encore une fois? Mais pourquoi?" France by maykal
France Travel Guide: 59,448 reviews and 162,400 photos
I've seen a fair bit of France, and at the same time, I've hardly seen any of it! My first two trips were when I was very young...when I was 18 months old, my parents rented a flat at Cap d'Ail, just outside Monaco, and of course I remember absolutely nothing about that trip, apart from experiencing jelly shoes for the first time. Two years later, we stayed in a remote cottage near a lighthouse in Audierne, Brittany, and I only have very vague recollections of that holiday.
On the way to Switzerland when I was four, we drove through France, and again I don't remember much about that at all, other than leaving my teddy in the car overnight while we stayed in a strange hotel somewhere near the German border.
In my first year at secondary school, I learnt French and went on a school trip to Normandy...that ranks with the worst of all trips abroad, for reasons I can't quite remember...probably something to do with being forced to buy mushrooms for a class worksheet. We visited Bayeux, Etretat and Arromanches, and also had a rather disasterous day trip to Paris which coincided with a metro strike, so we had seven hours on a coach and only three to take a bateau mouche and visit the first floor of the Eiffel Tower...nobody was very interested in Paris, and the best thing was watching the illegal street sellers being chased by les gendarmes.
That trip put me off France, but returned a few years later for skiing trips to La Clusaz (with school...), Les Arcs and Val Thorens (with my brothers...I was allowed to drink alcohol, so they were far better trips than the school holiday!).
When I was 14, the whole family went on holiday together was to a cottage in Sarzeau in Brittany. I remember not looking forward to that holiday because in my book it wasn't exotic enough. I'd set my sights on a far-flung tropical beach, so Brittany didn't quite fit the bill, but it turned out to be OK...better than OK even, despite the weather. The highlights were cycling round the islands in the Golfe du Morbihan, swimming/battling against the waves and the cold off the coast of Ile d'Houat (one of my favourite beaches and islands), and St Malo before getting the ferry home.
And I'm forgetting my Mum's excellent French...after a long car journey, we all spilled out into the road, and my Mum explained to a passer-by that her "jambons sont fatigues"...we think she meant "jambes" (legs) not "jambons" (hams), but the passer-by was thoroughly nonplussed. Lowlights were the rain and Mont Saint Michel, one of the worst cases of a tourist trap I have ever seen.
Studying French for A-level, our teacher recommended that we did a French exchange, so off we went by coach (never again!) to the La Rochelle area, where we were put up individually by families around the town of Surgeres. I had persuaded one of my friends to come with me, as he had never been abroad before...the two of us were housed by two families in a small village miles from anywhere. First, my friend was dropped off at his host family...I thought he'd struck lucky when we pulled up at a rather posh house, and was sure of it by the time we pulled up at my accommodation for the next ten days...it was more like a barn, cats ate off the dinner table with the family, and there were pictures of French rock stars in the toilet! But my host family were great...they really looked after me well, bought me presents, chatted with me all the time in French, and even took me out in their car to La Rochelle. A couple of days later, I met up with my friend, who had initially laughed at me staying in the "barn", but was now very jealous of me...his host family weren't interested in him at all, and the children (the same age as him) ignored him completely. I'd been taken round La Rochelle, shopping in Surgeres, even watched a local rugby match...what had my friend done? Been to an aquarium...he hates fish with a passion and a capital P, and by all accounts so did the host family's children who were dragged along too! I'm still in contact with "my family", and they have even visited me here, whereas my friend has not written to his host family.
The school also organised day trips from Surgeres...we visited Saintes, Rochefort, Cognac and Futuroscope near Poitiers, and I recently found some photos of this trip...maybe a page will come of them, but not right now.
The Interrailing trip of '97 took me to Paris (much better the second time), Annecy (one of the trip's highlights) and Cherbourg (well, all we saw was the ferry terminal), and hopefully some pages about that might be built too.
Finally, the dreaded family cruise round the Med in August 08 included a brief stop at Villefranche-sur-mer. Unfortunately, a hail storm was expected for the afternoon, so shore time was cut to just a morning. Most passengers were booked on tours to Nice, Monaco and Cannes, but these were all cancelled. We also shared the port with another huge cruise ship, which meant that thousands of cruise passengers were stomping around the tiny narrow lanes of old Villefranche. It didn't feel like we'd even been to France, as the only voices we could hear were English ones, complaining loudly about the shortage of Daily Mails in the tabac. Villefranche looks to be a very picturesque place, and my brother and I did manage to leave most of the crowds behind by climbing upwards through steep alleyways...but it is too small to cope with cruise ships.
Oh, and I almost forgot...I think I've seen more than enough of Charles de Gaulle Airport to last a lifetime...such a ridiculous and confusing airport, it has to be one of the worst in the world, especially if you are in a hurry to make a connecting flight!
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