I decided to take advantage of the biannual class trip to France to brush up on my French speaking skills and also to get to journey abroad under the premise of education. I spent a little over a week in Paris and then went on a road trip off to Bretagne (or Brittany).
There is really nothing bad to say about Paris (other than the high prices). I’m an architecture nut, so the buildings, particularly Napoleon’s tomb, were amazing. I visited several museums, including the Louvre. I was only able to see a small portion of the Louvre, and I was shocked to see people standing on the furniture and snapping flash photos of the art. The Eiffel Tower was tiring to climb, but it has a post office and it was fun to send a postcard to my friends from there.
If you have to visit just two places in Paris and the surrounding areas, I would wholeheartedly suggest Versailles and Montmontre. The gardens at Versailles are amazing. I am by no means an outdoorsy person, but I could have spent all day there. The orange juice sold in the gardens, though a small glass costs three euros, is delicious. The interior of the palace is beautiful as well, though only a small portion is open for the public eye and the bathroom lines are gargantuan. Montmontre is sort of like San Francisco. It is hilly and the artisan district. The views were extraordinary.
The public transportation in Paris is excellent also. On occasion, there were beggars on the metro, but no strange incidents. It goes practically everywhere and it was a lot of fun to take. I’d advice not to talk loudly, as this is considered rude in France, and not to push. However, when you are getting off the train, you have to push some people a little bit. We almost lost a member of our group because he refused to push people to get off of the train. There are a lot of pickpockets on the train, so keep your valuables wrapped closely in your arms, and if you’re with a group, stand in a tight bunch.
Bretagne is a totally different world from Paris, since it’s primarily countryside. Bretagne’s landscape is beautiful. At one point, I could see the ocean and sea from three sides. They also have a yummy dessert made up of a waffle, whipped cream, and Nutella. Bretagne also has marketplaces with cheap clothing and sunglasses, though motorcyclists have the right of way there, so be careful.
The weather on the beaches in Bretagne is not warm, but since the ocean water is the same temperature as the air, you don’t feel cold. I would suggest bringing a hoodie with you if you intend to take a dip. As a warning, keep your modesty at the door on the beaches. One horrifying experience I had on the beach was turning around and seeing my host mom — topless! It was very embarrassing for me, but since the French aren’t raised prudish, I assume she was not embarrassed at all that I saw her topless.
I’d highly suggest bringing at least one hundred euros in cash and a traveler’s debit card with about two hundred dollars if you don’t intend to blow your budget shopping. I’d also suggest bringing a very small purse or bag to keep valuables in. I brought an electronic English-French dictionary, but non-English speakers need not worry about language barriers.
Overall, I think that any type of person could have fun in France, and I’d recommend everyone visit both Paris and Bretagne at least once.
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