Some friends and I are planning a trip to France in the spring. In all, it will be four of us – three coming from the US and one temporarily living in Paris. I’ve been wanting to see France since I was a pre-teen, so this will be a dream-come-true for me. I finally decided earlier this year to stop saying that one day I will go to France. It was time to make it happen. I’ve read a lot of motivational books, and one common theme is to start taking steps as though the thing you want is actually happening. So I did just that. I mentioned my plan to a friend that I sometimes travel with, and she was immediately on board and even knew our other friend was planning to go visit her daughter (the one temporarily living in Paris) next year.
I opened a dedicated savings account for France before I’d even researched the cost of a flight, and just started putting a little something aside from each paycheck. Now things are starting to fall into place. We’ve picked our travel dates, looked at flights, and discussed lodging options. One of the important things we needed to talk about was our ‘must-sees’ while there so we could work out an overall plan. Luckily we’re all fairly laid-back people with just one or two required stops. I even said if no one was interested in mine, I’d have no problem hanging out by myself for part of the trip, but it sounds like we were all interested in each other’s choices.
Since we’re planning to be there about 10 days, one of my friends suggested we take a couple of days and visit another city. This seemed like such a great idea that I was immediately glad we were traveling together and could build off each other’s experiences. But now to narrow down which will be the second city. That will require some research into ease of travel, things to do, expected cost, and who knows what else. Right now, we’re seriously considering Lyon or Nice.
Another great idea is that we each only take a carry-on with a minimum of clothes. I was especially fond of this suggestion once we had determined to stay in another location. Now we won’t have to worry about lugging around our bags on the train. We’ll just have to wash and reuse a few things, and as the Parisian-living friend volunteered – scarves are hugely popular over there. So I’m thinking I’ll take some basics and change up my look with accessories. Light scarves shouldn’t take up too much room in my bag, nor be too heavy.
We’ll also be lucky in that the girl that lives there speaks French, so we can rely on her quite a bit to do the talking for us. However, I’d like to learn some basic French before the trip so I can experience the Paris scene a little more personally. So that brings me to the next item – French lessons. I took a couple of years of French in high school, but that was 20 years ago, so without having used it since then, I’ve forgotten quite a bit. I researched taking some classes, but most are quite expensive, and I’m trying to save for the trip itself. Then it occurred to me yesterday that you can find just about anything on YouTube these days.
I spent about 30 minutes yesterday taking some beginner lessons. I have a French coworker and am thinking about asking her if she would mind having a couple of short conversations with me in French before the trip. She knows I like to travel, and when I got back from my Montreal trip earlier this summer, she asked me where my next trip would be. When I told her Paris, she volunteered to help with suggestions right away. She said there are things I need to be aware of so I don’t go to the wrong places and end up hating Paris. I’ve often heard people either love Paris or hate it, there’s no in-between. My coworker said it’s the ones who don’t know the right places to go that give the city a bad reputation. Her main point that she immediately said I should take note of is under no circumstances eat at the restaurants right by the museums. The food is horrible, really expensive and in no way representative of true French cooking. Note taken.
Another matter on my mind is not being one of those ‘annoying American tourists’. That’s partly why I want to make sure I know at least a few basic phrases before I go. I also read up on clothing and styles, because I know that’s another thing that really bothers people in many countries around the world – the lack of respect Americans show with some of their clothing choices. Plus, since we’re packing light, I’m going to need some quality, basic choices. So I spent some time researching good traveling pants and have found a pair I’d like to go try on.
As you can see by the varied topics above – things to do, places to go, where to stay, French language lessons, French cultural tips, etc., I’m beginning to feel a bit exhausted by planning my vacation. I didn’t even cover our plans to increase our walking stamina before the trip (we live in Houston, a city with very little walking when compared with most of the world). But I think as long as I do a little here and there, by the time the trip really does get here, I’ll be relaxed and confident that I’ll be able to enjoy myself while marking off one of my longest-running ‘bucket list’ items.
I am so excited and grateful that everything is coming together so nicely! Let me know in the comments section if you have any great international travel tips in general, or something related to France in particular. Merci!