Things to do in France?
« on: June 15, 2009, 09:26:25 AM »
hello everyone,

my name is Harry,

i have always wondered what France would be like - finally i decided to not wait until tomorrow so i'm heading to France in July - my first trip there.

I'm very excited - where should i go / what should i do?

I'm want to experience France like a French person if that makes sense

eg. - eat where French people like to eat - not tourists.

I'm a DJ - all vinyl - rare Disco, Italo, Boogie, Proto house.... and i'm excited to see and hear some good DJ's!!!!

I know that France is THE spiritual home of Boogie and Disco and Soulful music

I'm taking CD's with me - if anyone could hook me up with some gigs that would be appreciated!

I'm also taking my Guitar - gonna busk - i'm right into Jazz, Brazilian,
(Jobim, Edu Lobo, Luiz Bonfa, Hermeto Pascoal, Wes Montgomery, Bill Evans, Davis, Trane, Hancock etc...)

would love to catch up with other musicians to jam ect.. or diy friends!!

so suggestions please!


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2009, 10:13:38 AM »
Where in France are you going?

-I'll guess that you're flying in to Paris, since that's where most people first set foot on French soil.

I've been occasionally traveling to and around France over the last 35 years, and here's the deal which I made with my wife when I first took her there (it was her first ever overseas trip, about 12 years ago): However many days you spend in Paris, spend AT LEAST the same number of days AWAY from Paris.

Paris is great. -It has things to see, things to do, culture oozes from every sidewalk crack. There are museums with a mind-numbing panoply of treasures. There are galleries with collections of art which is so beautiful that it can simply make you weep. The architecture is astounding. They have palaces replete with the most achingly gorgeous grounds that your head may swim. The sheer difference in the collective cultural approach beggars belief. You'll probably love it.

But it's not "France".

Visiting Paris and regarding that as being a representative visit to France would be like visiting New York, and imagining that to be representative of the USA.

No, you have to get OUT of the city. You have to get AWAY from the city in order to appreciate the real 'France'... or -more accurately- A real France.

To explain a little: around Paris, the citizens see almost nothing but tourists all day. They're stopped in the street and asked directions in a multitude of foreign languages regularly; -exchanges which usually devolve into sign language and napkin-drawing. -They naturally have little interest or fascination with this tide of visitors, since the tide (while ever-changing) always remains the same, and is basically a part of the city to them.

But if you get OUT of the city, into the countryside... it's a glorious thing.

The downside is that you'll probably have to learn some French. -Or at least TRY.

My own experience (speaking enough French to make myself quite easily understood, but painfully aware that those around me speak it much better!) is that once you get outside the larger cities (Paris, Lyon, Marseilles etc) the life becomes rather more relaxed. -If you make the effort to speak the language, people will usually warm to you. Further from the cities, overseas visitors become less of a 'nuisance' and somewhat more of a 'curiosity' to the locals, (who have never had to cope with an endless torrent non-French-speaking English, Germans, Spaniards, Americans etc) and -if you really TRY, you should discover an eagerness to introduce you to the secrets of THEIR region of the country.

There are far too many wonderful aspects of each département for me to even attempt to list, so I might suggest a driving trip heading generally west and South from Paris down the Loire Valley (Val-de-Loire). There are so many chateaux along the Loire that it's staggering. in Loire-et-Cher (close to the confluence of the two rivers) you'll find Chenonceau, -one of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful castles anywhere (including Mad King Ludwig's folly at Neuschwanstein... -sorry everyone!) -Stop and say hello to the shaggy-coated donkeys which you'll occasionally find in fields along the roadside... bring a carrot and you'll have a friend for life!

But you simply MUST do the following, wherever you go:

Unless for whatever reason you have forsworn alcohol, you must drink the local wine. -Don't even bother obsessing over finding 'the perfect wine'... -Look at what the locals drink, and have the same. -A local 'vin de table' from a roadside cafe is likely as wonderfully enjoyable as any mid-priced wine you could find at a supermarket here in the US.

Allergies and religious diet permitting, you MUST try as much of the local food as possible. French bread CANNOT be bought and eaten over the course of a couple of days as it is elsewhere in the world... It is purchased in the morning, and frequently eaten by afternoon. If you want bread in the evening, you buy the afternoon bake. -This seems like a bit of a stricture, but once you've 'discovered' real French bread, you'll appreciate why the doughy, stodgy rubbish which we see here in the US is NOTHING like the real thing. -A REAL baguette (or Ficelle, or Flute...differing diameters basically) is a fresh, brittle crust, which should sound like "a symphony of crackle" when you squeeze it slightly (phrase borrowed from the movie 'Ratatouille' because I've never heard a more fitting phrase) and inside should be a gossamer-light fluff of translucent, wispy flesh. After 4 hours, this dries up and -while still edible- is just NOT the same thing AT ALL. A simple 'sausage sandwich' for example, should be FRESH bread, some fresh butter, and slices of country sausage (often resembling salami) but able to change your life.

The patisseries. "Pastry-shops". -Cake and pastry shops. My daily delight is to go to different patisseries and try different creations in choux pastry, tart shells or light sponge... -Made without recourse to artificial colours, excessive sugar or corn syrup. Just honest ingredients, carefully baked by a local person who has spent a lifetime doing just that, and who possibly learned it from their parents.

Food, food food. -You should love it. -You don't need to seek out the haute-cuisine, simple food is so wonderful that there's simply no need, unless you really WANT to.

Cheese. -There are WONDERFUL cheeses. Many perhaps won't be to your taste, but only last year for example, I discovered one which was previously unknown to me: 'Cabecou'. A fantastic, nutty-flavoured goats cheese. France is proud of its cheeses, and I believe that it has more officially recognised types of cheese than there are days in the year. -And that DOESN'T count things like "Cheddar" (Which is truthfully an English cheese, which is only made in the town of Cheddar...). You may not care for many of them; -I'm not a big Brie/Camembert eater for example, but I simply ADORE Roquefort (a blue cheese) whereas my wife is the precise reverse.

I could go on for pages... -I'm certain that some of our French contingent will give other suggestions, but I'll close with one last thought: -Don't do what I did last year (booked the dates without thinking!) and visit during August. the month of August is basically the 'fermeture anuelle' -the time of year when EVERYONE goes on vacation. -Most of the lovely patisseries are closed, as are so many other things... pharmacies etc. -It put a serious crimp in my enjoyment of my trip there last year, and I should have thought when I was booking the dates, but it totally slipped my mind.

If you're renting a car, rent a small Turbodiesel. Fuel prices are righteously high over there.

If you're not venturing outside Paris, don't rent a car. A car is as much of a liability as it would be in Manhatten. Parking is similarly impossible. -Visiting Paris and not venturing beyond is not a "bad" thing to do; -By all means do so, if that's what you're thinking. -But just don't take away the notion that you've 'seen France'. -You've merely visited its largest city; there is SO much more in which to take delight.


« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 12:59:08 PM by SSLtech »
"A waist is a terrible thing to mind"
Quote from: PRR
Ah, but that was 1999; we don't party like that any more.


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2009, 10:39:09 AM »
What a beautiful post, Keith.  And I'm not even French...   :)

Entropia Cub

Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2009, 11:13:04 AM »
Nice post Keith!
It says the most important!  :)

For the jazz jam, there's one @ the Duc des Lombards, each Friday and Saturday night at midnight, you can also go to a gig there, there's some famous artists...

Spacecho, where when do you go to France?

//edit: typing error...
« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 01:16:50 PM by Entropia Cub »


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2009, 12:53:56 PM »
For the jazz jam, there's one @ the Duc des Lombards...

That was really quite close to where I stayed last time: At a hotel on Rue de Rivoli, directly at the point where the Musee du Louvre meets the Tuileries. I made a habit of eating at a few of the street-side cafes there; in fact I discovered the Cabecou cheese having the salade fermiere at a cafe in the Marche saint-honore. -The only Patisserie which was open in that area during August was between there and L'opera, as it happens.

My 4-year-old son (and keeping him occupied) was the only reason which we didn't travel outside Paris on that particular visit.

Any visit should naturally be tempered by budgetary constraints; At the time I was there last year, the dollar was absolutely in the basket, so most things were additionally expensive... but plan ahead. -Things can be had on a budget, though it does require additional planning.

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind"
Quote from: PRR
Ah, but that was 1999; we don't party like that any more.


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2009, 01:19:48 PM »
Very nice post Keith!
Although you can't see it in my profile I just moved to France, Ardeche to be precise. I'm here for three months already and I have to say the landscape is absolutly beautifull. There are so much different landscapes in the Ardeche, up high on the planes (1200 m) or down south, it's totally different.

@Harry, over here are lots of very nice old villages with hippy people who would really enjoy some guitar playing I guess.
Thing is, when exploring the country side you WILL need a car.
OTOH, travelling from city to city is very fast in the TGV trains.
Speaking French is a must and, for me, proves to be quite a task.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 01:40:28 PM by radiance »
"Knowing that you are dreaming, however, does not automatically guarantee full rationality.
Then again, being awake doesn't ensure good thinking, either." -  Lynne Levitan


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2009, 01:35:57 PM »

Eat good food and stare at the pretty women, both of which are in abundance.


Welcome to the GroupDIY leper colony! when something falls off, we just replace it with a tube!
occupation: General Electron Mayhem

Alesis X2 information repository:


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2009, 02:05:11 PM »
eat cheese (from "Auvergne" it's the best), drink wine(from everywhere, no need to be expansive), have fun

thanks for this beautyful description Keith, it's always better when it's done by a guest, and be carefull, when american and english people start to love the "bleu", they become less and less american or english, and more and more french ;)


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2009, 02:14:44 PM »
I like cheese, all kinds of cheese.  French cheeses are some of my very favorite cheeses, especially the bleu/blue varieties.

Welcome to the GroupDIY leper colony! when something falls off, we just replace it with a tube!
occupation: General Electron Mayhem

Alesis X2 information repository:


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2009, 02:16:11 PM »
Well, I'd lived in Paris for the last 4-5 years but now live back in California.  I'm in France now (Brest) making a record.  I would say if you're visiting for any less than 3 weeks, just stay in Paris - there's enough to keep you busy and you'll have a better chance of hooking up with folks if you hang around a bit, as opposed to constantly moving.  You can most likely find a small furnished apartment to rent by the week, that will be more comfortable and cheaper than a hotel.  Most of them have DSL, but you should ask.  Look on craigslist and  Also get some sort of an unlimited-ride Metro pass.  Eat any and all stinky cheese, skip beer and cocktails and stick with wine - it's cheaper, better and goes better with the food.

Be careful about busking - you're supposed to have a license to do it, but there's lots of down-and-out accordion players on the RER without licenses.  There's also lots of folks hanging out picnicking along the Seine and the Canal St. Martin playing music (mostly badly though).  But with a bottle of wine and a guitar, I'm sure you can make some friends!

Speaking French helps, and I would feel irresponsible if I didn't tell to to be careful.  Paris is a big dense city like Manhattan.

Have a great trip!
« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 02:18:22 PM by juniorhifikit »


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2009, 02:22:12 PM »
Keith, that was a beautiful post! You're right, france can be separated in two different (and often antagonist) parts, Paris and the rest wich is commonly called "la province".

Trying to speak is indeed a must, and people are grateful for it. Even faking the effort is good enough ("je suis désolé, je parle trés mal français"). People (and I) can get annoyed when asked something directly in english like it was a universal language, but are often very pleased to help when they can, show and exercize their foreign language skills...

If I were to take a trip here, I would do (going out of paris with a car (and money and time...)):
Paris >>>bretagne (stay 2 days).
Follow the ocean down south>>> Bordeaux (1-3 days)
>>> nice trip through agen and the country (1 day, 300 km) to
>>>>Toulouse (my hometown, nice midsize city, 1-3 days)
(optionnal fun, go eat some fois gras around Lombez / samatan, capitals of the fois gras)
, then
>>>>carcassonne for an afternoon,
(wait, you should take a cassoulet in castelnaudary if you can still eat)
on the way to
>>>>montpelliers (quick lunch)
>>>>follow the mediterrannée to Marseille, very beautiful and dirty city (but that's part of the beauty)
>>>>Lyon for food (maybe the most gastronomic city)
>>>>take the car back to paris.

Total 8-15 days

If you don't care about the country or don't want to rent a car, the train is a good idea, check (and possibly buy a month before) for train tickets.

If you stay in Paris, there is a very good and active jazz scene going on, I know near to nothing about the disco/dance stuff. The jam sessions of the rue des lombards require a high level, be warned that sometimes people there can bite...
Two, three weeks in paris is good, you don't have the time to get bored.

August is indeed the annual closure month everywhere (of course all tourist things are running), and it makes it quite different from the rest of the year, more relaxed, I even like being in paris at that time...

Radiance> just out of curiosity, where are you in ardeche?
« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 02:28:51 PM by doubleroger »
Please explain.


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2009, 03:12:36 PM »
Burzet,  near Aubenas & Montelimar
"Knowing that you are dreaming, however, does not automatically guarantee full rationality.
Then again, being awake doesn't ensure good thinking, either." -  Lynne Levitan


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2009, 03:12:52 PM »
Carcassonne is a wonderful (middle-ages) town, set in amongst some of the most gorgeous rolling countryside. -I love it. -As I recall, it was a 'holdout' secular city during the 'religious revolution'... -Am I remembering that correctly?

That western side of the middle of France (Bordeaux etc.) is perhaps where my heart lies. -It's so restful and peaceful. -I took my wife down there on her first trip; initially following the Loire, and staying for several days with longtime family friends in a tiny little village midway between Niort and Poitiers. -On my first visit to France ever, my family stayed with the same friends; they ran a farm and were retiring that year (1974). It was adjacent to some prehistoric burial mounds which had been investigated for a few years prviously (late 1960s, I think). A month after they retired, the new owners discovered an ancient 'tumulus' (burial ground) on the site of their farm. It is now a museum, housing artifacts dating back thousands of years BC.

For other stunning wonders, -if one had the time- some traveling would be necessary.

Another longtime family friend with whom I stayed on my very first visit owned land in the Gorges du Tarn. -A few years previously, an enormous underground cavern had been discovered, and subsequently opened to the public. I remember those visits as if each one was an entirely magical experience. -I was getting 'inside tours' into some of the most breathtaking ancient sites!

Le Mont Saint-Michel. [Where I had my first 'gauffre' (waffle)... -forget what you've had in the US; Waffles should be light, fluffy and lightly dusted with pure powdered sugar.] Again, a preserved antique bastion city,built on the only land around which isn't smooth and flat.

-A solitary rocky outcrop, with an elderly city clinging clustering and clinging to its edges. Topped by a breathtaking monastery. -In the right light; undeniably one of the breathtaking marvels of the world.

Provence... -Lavender. -As far as the eye can see at the right time of year. Wonderful food, and a place to forget about the world. Close your eyes, feel the sunshine on your face, hear the wind-whispering waves of Lavender, and breathe in the intoxicating aroma...

The Pyreneean region near the Spanish border... rugged but fabulous. The particular variety of plant life here is unique, and fascinating in its own right.

The Cote d'Azur... Cannes, Nice, (a short hop to Monaco and Monte-Carlo!) -Where the unimaginably rich go to perfect their tans.

Alsace: Historic part of the country, and perhaps the only place where I'd occasionally suggest trying the beer. -Not because the wines are any less enjoyable, but because if you really like beer, this is probably the finest in the country. The border with Germany has been tugged-at, bent and redrawn several times, particularly during the great world wars. As a result, parts of this region have been French, then German, then French again... lots of 20th century history.

The trouble is, the more places I think of, the more I worry about places I'm NOT mentioning. -I suppose it's no secret by now that I'm an enormous Francophile, and I attribute that entirely to the marvellous welcomes which I always received when I was younger. From the Normandy farmhouses (and their unique ciders), from the Breton villages, to the baking Mediterranean sunshine, it's a richly involving country.

Studying the language -like so many other European tongues- brings its own rewards and enlightenment, helping to understand how words evolve, and their subtleties... In English. -When I try to speak French, I also find myself trying to THINK in French... As George Orwell observed, language directs thought, and language structure partially governs thought structure.

If you can, visit. I sincerely hope that you have the most wonderful time. -If you manage to have a small PART of the rich experience which I've had, you'll be an immensely richer person for the experience.

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind"
Quote from: PRR
Ah, but that was 1999; we don't party like that any more.


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2009, 03:48:54 PM »
hi everyone,

SSl Tech give some good place and it's diificult to choice, try the patisserie like he say, hummmmmmm very good

First time if you come with plain you will be on the side of Paris, in train too but you could stop where you want.

So Paris for music go to Chatellet les Halles , big place for the tendances ( Music , etc...) the place of the diversity,

for eat french if you rely want restaurant "untouristic" it's bester outside of paris far a way from paris, but you could eat a very "crepes au poulets" ou "crepe au sucre" to Montmartre ( PARIS ), it's not a big french speciality but it's good to try.  

Try to visit the Champs elysée ( Paris ) "the bester beautiful  street in world " they say

After you could go on the coasts for the sea and sun .

In the south the sea it's good temperature on the west coast   very less.
the south very touristic and the west less, like building on the side of th beach and in the west you have some forest to acces on the beach

Don't stay in paris if you can.

there is so more beutifal place and twoon in france, depending what you like
« Last Edit: June 15, 2009, 03:52:31 PM by stereokillah »
if your neighbour is hunger .. don't give him fish, teach him how fishing ...


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2009, 03:56:22 PM »
"Le lac du verdon" one hyper big lake with blue water with the temperature of of the momment, on th side you could do cannioning , there is mountain forest water, no stress .
if your neighbour is hunger .. don't give him fish, teach him how fishing ...


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #15 on: June 16, 2009, 12:18:42 AM »
Keith, your posts make me hungry... ;)

French wine is definitely some kind of holy grail (as is their food) for the tongue.
Even when I prefer italian food and wines nowadays I would never eat or drink anything besides local food when heading to France.
The dry and somehow 'light' taste of some red wines of france are unrivalled to me.

Lot's of the hints in Keiths posts, especially about food can be taken as universal advice for continental europe - we love bread, cheese and sausages in all types of local variants (and I sometimes can not understand how americans even dare to name their products the same ;) ;D)

Harry, enjoy your first trip to france and try to breathe, eat and drink as much country culture as you can, I am sure you will still be surprised how much there is to see no matter how well you are prepared ...
Try to be open-minded and you will not be disappointed.
It is a great country.

Kind regards,
"In the past we suffered from crimes, today we suffer from laws."

Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #16 on: June 16, 2009, 09:59:05 AM »
wow! thank you all for taking so much time and care with your replies! i really appreciate all the effort!

Keith - that is quite an amazing reply - if i didn't feel inspired already i sure am now.

as for the food.... i'm a bread and cheese man - and give me a 'real' tomato and i'll make you anything .... i think i'm really gonna enjoy the food.... yes indeed.

I'm heading to paris for a week to catch up with a buddy - then i'm heading out - i'm a summer person and love the beach and outdoors so - thank you all for reminding me to get around.

will be there all of July, then off to Greece in August (my folks are from there) then back to France and head to either Spain, Italy and head to Uk before coming home....

Keith - i'm definitely visiting the monastery - i'm absolutely blown away!

Doubleroger - your travel list looks great - so yes time to get an international licensce -

As for my French - i'm working on it.... will try my best....!!!

I realize that i can't see or do everything at once.... i'm gonna try and figure out a way to head out every year... hopefully live their for a while if i like it.

Keep the suggestions coming - i feel like i'm there already!



Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2009, 11:21:01 AM »
Tomatoes in the US are usually a pretty dismal affair, -as I'm sure you probably appreciate (I'm assuming that you're in the US, but that may be incorrect!) -Basically, the varieties which are grown and sold "By weight" often grow large because of high water content. -So the growers are essentially rewarded to produce fruit which are large and heavy rather than flavourful. -Also, those which "look nice" tend to get picked in a supermarket produce aisle...

REAL tomatoes grown at home of course frequently don't look as 'photogenic', they're often a little smaller, but they usually taste simply divine... as you probably know! -I grew up in a terraced house in a low-rent part of a large city, so for a long time I assumed that I "didn't like" tomatoes... -Little did I know that what I was encountering wasn't "real".

Most supermarket tomatoes here in the US are so full of water that putting one on a sandwich is like adding four teaspoonsful of water... -It makes the sandwich soggy, and contributes almost NOTHING to the flavour... Oh, man... you've got me started on a rant!!!

Even in the larger French cities, it's wise to seek out the 'marché' (market) wherever possible. -Either way, it's a country (like Italy, Germany, Spain etc.) where there's still a sizeable portion of the populace who actually CARE about taste, quality and beauty, over convenience or profitability.

Truly fresh French bread with some chilled butter, topped with any one of several dozen cheeses, and a few slices of slightly 'tart' tomato, on a plate alongside some fresh greens tossed a light, sharp dressing... Eaten with the sun on your face. -It's one of life's most humbling pleasures.

There's a little bakery about 40 miles north of here which is run by an expatriate Parisian. His father was a baker and so is he. -It's the closest thing to true French bread, though it's a struggle to maintain a high standard. -his pastries are pretty good also, and any time I'm anywhere near the area, I ALWAYS stop by and make the 'pilgrimage'... -TRUE french food can humble ANYONE... it really CAN be that good!

"A waist is a terrible thing to mind"
Quote from: PRR
Ah, but that was 1999; we don't party like that any more.


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2009, 12:07:11 PM »

Yes - and on that culinary note, though I love France for many reasons, my small recommendation would be to do your very best to get hold of some of this :

It's incredible, and one of the first things I do in any trip having stepped straight off the ferry from the UK is head to the nearest marché or supermarché, grab a lump of that, a baguette and a bottle or two of red, and that starts the holiday nicely for me ;D


Re: Things to do in France?
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2009, 04:02:52 PM »
a baguette and a bottle or two of red, and that starts the holiday nicely for me ;D

What are we gonna do with ALL that bread ????

If your neighbour is hunger : don't give him fish , teach him how to fish ...
if you don't like it don't buy it ;-)  [Wolker Texas Ranger] ( ;-) )


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