The purpose of the trip was to show Paris to Shirley and to visit a
number of places in France where I haven't been yet. Overall not that
much has changed in France in the past few years. The weather turned
out to be a surprise, as it was often not good and I was
expecting better weather in July/August. Roads and motorways are better
in Germany than France. Paris has a huge concentration of things
to see and interesting architecture. The best part of the trip was the
food: excellent and delicious pastries and cakes, bread, ham and cheese
France is not a cheap place to travel, but if you are careful you can
travel comfortably without spending too much. Accomodation tends to be
expensive, especially if you travel with wife and two small children,
as most hotels don't let you stay in just one room. Etap hotels are
excellent value at just 40-48 Euro/night and you are allowed to stay
with up to two children below 12 years old. Otherwise standard hotels
cost from 60 Euro upwards for a double, more than that in Paris.
Food in standard French restaurants is pricey as well and it is easy to
spend 20-30 Euro per person for a "full" meal. It is possible however
to spend much less (around 8-9 Euro/person) in other places. Icecream
is surprisingly expensive and of low quality.
Petrol cost on average 1.45 Euro/litre (1.38 - 1.56 Euro) in
July-August 2008). Motorway tolls cost about 10 cents/km, i.e. 10 Euro
for each 100 km.
While France is well known for having an excellent cuisine, meals in
restaurants are pricey, so we tended to avoid standard French
restaurants and often ate in less expensive places. We have for
instance eaten several times in Asian restaurants where the food
(except for one place in St Gilles Croix de Vie) is better than the
food of Asian restaurants in Germany.
An interesting place where to eat is the Flunch restaurant chain. These
are inexpensive restaurants in the Carrefour shopping malls, which
offer a wide choice of food at very reasonable prices (main courses for
4-7 Euro). Be careful with the main courses because many of them are
cooked in the morning and just warmed up for you. Some main courses
instead are cooked on the spot.
We ate many times in McDonalds restaurants as well, because due to the
travelling we found ourseves often eating at odd times and didn't have
so much time available. Also, McDonalds restaurants in France offer
free WLAN access and have a children playground.
Cakes and pastries are excellent in France and are definitely something
not to miss. Hams, cheeses and even the bread come in a huge variety of
types and are delicious as well.
Hotels in France are not cheap if you travel with two small children,
as you need a larger room and not all hotels allow you to stay in a
room with two children.
In Strasbourg we stayed in a three star hotel (75 Euro/night without
breakfast), in Paris in the hotel Etap (48 Euro/night without
breakfast). The Etap hotel in Paris turned out to be surprisingly good
value. The room was clean and quiet at night.
We found out that there are Etap hotels all over France, easily
bookable short term by phone or through the Internet, even on the same
day. Perfect hotels if you don't want to spend too much and have two
small kids. Breakfast (it's a buffet) is an additional 5 Euro/person.
Les Sables d'Olonne on the Atlantic coast turned out to be a fully
booked disaster when we arrived on a late afternoon. Accomodation was
50% more expensive than elsewhere. We found a place to stay in nearby
Bretignolles by using te directory of the navigation system.
/ Exchange rate (JulyAugust 2008)
1 Euro = 1.56 - 1.49 US $
the Universal Currency
I withdrew cash with an ATM card from ATMs.
phones and prepaid cards
Due to new EU-wide regulations the cost of roaming has substantially
decreased over the past year. Making international calls (to another
European country) and receiving calls when roaming is now not too
expensive. At the same time it seems that prepaid cards in France cost
a minimum of 30 Euro and you still have to buy airtime.
I was told in several shops that there are no prepaid cards which allow
you to connect to the Internet with the mobile phone as a modem
(apparently you need a post-paid contract).
This was a big problem, as only the first (middle-class) hotel where we
stayed had Internet access in the room. In the Etap hotels Internet
access through the computer in the lobby was ridicolously expensive
compared to rates in an Internet cafe. WLAN was available in most Etap
hotels through Orange but the quality of the connection was variable.
Otherwise it was very difficult to find Internet cafes in France
because there were very few of them. McDonalds restaurants in France
offered free WLAN Internet access with variable quality (sometimes the
connection was interrupted for a while). Obviously you had to buy
something and could not use their WLAN hotspot too long, otherwise the
staff would push you out.
The weather was mixed, with sunny days alternating with rainy days. We
had to cancel the planned trip to Normandie and Bretagne because of the
unstable weather. While we were in France the temperature in Normandie
was around max 20-21°C most of the time (while it was over 30°C
on the mediterranean coast). Overall it was quite cool, only a few days
were really hot, while most days had pretty cool temperatures. On the
Atlantic coast there was a strong cold wind most of the time and very
None required for France.
VISA / Entry
None required for visitors of developed countries (EU, USA, Canada
No issues here. You are supposed to watch out for your belongings in
Paris, but luckily nothing happened to us.
We travelled across France by car. France has a good
motorway network, which however is mostly not free. Tolls are around 10
Euro for 100km. The positive side is that toll motorways have very
little traffic, allowing you to quickly get from A to B. There were no
traffic jams except for the day we drove from Paris to Tours, which
coincided with the start of the holiday season in France. Les Sables
d'Olonne was hopelessly overcrowded with cars.
We tried initially to drive by car in Paris and immediately gave up.
Lots of traffic, lots of traffic lights, no free parkings - very tiring
to get around by car in Paris.
However the metro is a problem if you have a baby in a stroller, as
there are almost no escalators and elevators in the metro stations in
Paris, which means that you have to carry the heavy stroller up and
down the stairs.