On September 1998 I went to France
with my wife. We don't like arranged travels and we
prefer to travel on our own, because we think is the only way you can get in touch with
the real country and its people. This way of travelling is harder and more expensive than
others, but also more pleasant, relaxing and, that's the best, gives you a different point
of view on the culture and way of life.
After my experience here you have my advice if you
plan to travel on your own to France. You have to understand that
this is MY PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW and that it is not my intention to
criticize the people or culture of France. You also must take into
account that these observations are from year 1998. Things might have
changed (either in the right or in the wrong way) since then.
(Click on the
icons to find hotels in that city or area)
If you are thinking of enjoying the marvellous french Riviera, change your mind.
The well known "cote d'azur" is little more than about 80 Kms of overcrowded
cost, and Saint Tropez , Saint
Raphael , and Cannes
are just another touristic resort.
Anyway, if you persist in the idea of visiting the area by car, avoid doing it
on a weekend in Summer (as I stupidly did !). You will spent the whole day in a
never-ending car bottleneck.
In our first lunch in France we found out that lunch-time in this
country is rather different that in Spain. Restaurants in general close at 1:30 PM and
after that time you can only eat some sandwich or crepe in the stands by the street....so
you have to get used to have lunch earlier...:-)
Fortunately, at the end we reached Monaco . Monaco is worth to stay one
or two days (But no more). In that time you can visit almost everything in this
"little" exponent of how it must be "good life".
A "must" in Monaco is the Oceanographic Museum. Everything
there, from the Aquarium and museum to the building itself (built right on the cliffs), is
outstanding. You can spent the whole morning there and then have a lunch on the restaurant
on the terrace...
If you want to have dinner at a good restaurant at a resonable price (as
"resonable" as prices can be in Monaco, of course) you can try the
"Maison du caviar", near Beausolei. Don't get confused by the name of
the restaurant, they have many dishes apart from caviar.
Hotels in Monaco
are extremely expensive. A good alternative is to stay at hotel
Olympia, wich is in Beausolei (France), but only a few streets away from Monaco
and at a short walk from the Casino of Montecarlo. It is a small and recomendable hotel at
Unless you have a Rolls or a Ferrari don't drive near the Casino....otherwise
you will feel very, very "little thing"...
From Monaco we went to Grenoble. This city maybe is not woth the travel itself but it
can be a good choice to spent a day in your way to Paris. Don't forget to
spend an afternoon visiting the surrondings, there are plenty of secondary roads leading
to the ski resorts in the near Alps, that give you an excellent an pleasant view of the
In Grenoble, don't waste your time going to the cathedral, it's just
another building (and not one of the best, by the way..). Instead you can take the
telepheric to "la bastille" from where, if you are lucky with the
weather, you will enjoy a great panoramic of the city with the Alps at the background.
If you visit the city on the first tuesday of the month, don't run to the
shelters when you hear the raid-alarm at 12:00...it is just sounding as a
conmemoration for the workers...the city is not being attacked...:-)
A good hotel to stay there (always within my reduced budget) is the
Hotel D'Angleterre. They also offer you an interesting discount in the public parking
nearby and in the tickets for the telepheric to "la bastille".
Another day of driving and we got to Paris. This is for sure one of the most beautiful
cities in the world...and it is not a topic...it is true...At least once in your life you
must visit Paris .
One of the problems of Paris is the dense, and somehow chaotic traffic. The best thing
you can do if you go by car is to search a parking near the hotel and leave
it inside as long as posible.
In Paris, get ready to pay for everything. Don't expect to do
anything apart from walking down the Boulevards and visiting churches without
paying....even using the toilettes in the bar will cost you 2 francs.
The best way to move accross the city is of course the underground. You can buy
a special ticket for visitors called "Paris Visite" that can be used
for a certain number of days (1 to 5). Just remember that the day you buy it counts as a
full day...I mean that if you buy a 2 day ticket at 23:00 it will be usable only for 25
hours....so you had better get it early in the morning...
Just a comment regarding the bars. While in Spain one of the cheapest thinks you can
drink is a mineral water, it seems that in Paris water is for tycoons. Be ready to
pay 20 to 30 francs for a 1/4 L. bottle.....Coffe is about half that price...
I recomend you spend one day visiting Versalles....not the city of
course, but the palace and the gardens.....you will understand then why the
revolution took place...
I you get to Versalles and find all the stores closed that is because it's
Monday....curiously, almost all the activity of the city is related to the visitors of the
palace....and it can't be visited on Mondays...
Well, you haven't planned very well your visit and won't be able to watch the marvels
the palace hides inside,..sic....but be happy !!, you can still visit for
free all the surroundings and walk the gardens down to the lake almost alone...something
you can't certainly do the rest of the week....Believe it or not, I HAVE taken some
pictures of Versalles WITHOUT any person!!...very little tourists can say that...:-)
Another thing about Versalles...don't forget to take with you some
pieces of bread....otherwise you won't have the chance to feed the big fishes (carps I
think) which are used to take the food from the hands of the visitors, as if they were
If you are going to go up to the tower Eiffel you should know that you can do it
for free, (by the stairs, of course...:-)...but you can also take the lift (a
"little" more expensive, by the way)....If you are planning to go the
"third" (highest) floor and when you get to the tower you see a banner
announcing that the "third floor is closed", don't worry....it simply means that
it's closed at "that moment".... they will posibly open it half an hour later or
before....Just stay on the queue and buy your ticket for the "top
floor". The view from top of the tower is worth both, the wait and the price...
I am not going to recomend you to visit anything in special. There are great
travel-guides of Paris and in fact EVERYTHING is worth being visited....(even the really
nice church we had near the hotel, that was not even mentioned in any guide, and that
could be considered as a cathedral in many other cities). Don't plan to stay less
than 5 days in Paris...in that time you will only have time to have a first look
at the most outstanding places....
In spite of the fact that I loved Paris very much, I have to admit that I get fed up of
big cities very soon, and we decided to have a few days rest before going back home. So we
went to the central part of France, where many health resorts of thermal waters are
famous, in the region of Auvergne.
To be more exact we spent two days in the small village of Mont Dore. The charm and
beauty of the landscapes, together with the peace and silence of the villages make of this
area one of the most remarkable places to rest.
A recomendable hotel in Mont Dore is Hotel Le Panorama....As its name indicates it has a
nice view on the village and down the valley...it is extremely quiet and you can
spend some of your time at the swimming pool, playing ping-pong or billiard, or
just sitting at the hall smoking a cigar while watching the rain through the large
windows. Although I liked very much the location and facilities of this hotel, I
can't say the same about the rooms and the staff....they both need to be
If you get worn-out of all this I recomend you take your car and visit
some of the pretty medieval villages of the surroundings, and enjoy their regional
cheeses and sausages.
No far away there is also a small but curious farm of kangaroos and castors...You can
take pictures, touch and feed the animals...something different from the usual zoos..isn't
it?. It's cheap and you, your companion and the children can have a nice
experience with these "wild" animals.
Also, in the hotel itself, there is the restaurant L'Oree du Bois where you can
taste some of the marvellous local dishes before going back home.