Hello, we’re one week into the honeymoon season of The Earful Tower and my wife and I are currently in the small coastal village of Courcelles-sur-Mer in Normandy.
We’ve driven 400 kilometres on the scooter and we’ve seen a lot, staying in Chantilly, Pacy-sur-Eure, Bernay, and Saint Hymer before arriving on these northern beaches.
Here’s what we’ve learned so far about the French countryside and the French people living there (compared to Paris and the Parisians we’ve lived among for the past few years).
Press play below to hear the 30-minute podcast episode and scroll down for the list. Subscribe to the podcast on Apple here and Google here.
1. People are friendly
In fact, they’re very friendly. They’ve been going out of their way to be helpful too. Anyone who says that French people are all rude have clearly never travelled in the French countryside. We’ve literally had someone running after us in the street to correct their travel directions.
2. Waiters are slow, but they care
Parisian waiters are excellent and attentive. They get you in and out before you even know what’s happened. But it’s not so in the countryside, where they take their time and help you pick what they consider to be the best food for you.
3. People aren’t obsessed with how they look
People in Paris wouldn’t be seen dead in their sports clothes outside the gym. They’re slim, chic, and always on trend. But it’s not like that in the countryside. People don’t tend to put on airs, they’re simply themselves – and it’s sometimes quite refreshing. I fit in quite well, actually.
4. There are many hidden gems
It’s amazing how many villages that are just a name on the map turn out to be outstandingly beautiful spots. Case in point: Bernay in Normandy. If you’re a Patreon supporter, go and watch our live walk through Bernay – it’s like a fairytale setting.
5. There’s actually a lot of info in English
In Paris, you’d be lucky to find a tourist sign that’s translated in English, at least one with any interesting information. But not so in many countryside spots. Even small villages (like Bernay, for example) sometimes have translations for us English-speaking tourists about the history of buildings and so on.
6. There’s a list of the most beautiful villages
Here’s a pic of all the most beautiful French villages and here’s the link to find them. Good to bookmark this page if you’re travelling too 🙂 We checked out La Roche Guyon and it was fantastic (did a live Patreon walk there too!).
7. Things can be very pricey
Nine euros for ice cream in Chantilly, 20 euros for a cocktail in Deauville… it’s not just Paris that’s expensive in France. Beware: Touristy traps come with the price tag. But don’t worry, everything else is pretty cheap.
8. People have more time for you
There’s simply a slower pace in the French countryside. We’ve ended up in conversations in bakeries and pharmacies with the other customers – something that rarely happens in Paris – if ever. And it’s been happening a lot.
9. People are proud of their villages
It’s very easy to see that French villagers love their villages. There are colourful flower displays on every corner, often no graffiti at all, and everything is exceptionally clean. People are proud of their homes – and it’s not always the same vibe in the French capital.
10. People don’t switch to English (even if they can)
In Paris, you may have tried to speak French with a waiter only to hear them respond in English. It can be frustrating at best. But in the countryside, people are very encouraging and patient, and happy to help you along with your French – even if it’s not perfect.
That’s it for now – we’ve got a lot more road to travel. Send in your tips, as usual, and sign up on Patreon for US$10 a month to REALLY follow this trip and watch the live videos.
Here’s a look at some of our trip so far:
5 thoughts on “Ten things I’ve learned about the French countryside (and the people there)”
i love this! your list will come in handy too…..
Professional meal delivery riders can fit 3 people carrying 20 pizzas on that machine – let’s see you do that – watch out for wild dogs if riding in Romania – i was there when the pack bought down 2 cyclists in Galati – last night I had a dream about rescuing those riders and using my tiny pen knife ot cut the back legs off the dogs [not the cyclists who were in a bad way and should have been youthenised], and strolled to the restaurant chef to cook a ‘fry up’ of the legs; then he complained and the police were called [all in a dream; well, I’m almost sure that it was a dream – when i woke I wasn’t holding a knife or a dog’s leg]; i told the police that it had all been an honest mistake, and for good relations I slaughtered the rest of the dogs in the street and brought back the cacasses to the cafe where a great feast was being prepared – much soothing the legal/political simmering flows of emotion, which I assume Romanians have for wild dogs – but, i don;t care for them, himself. So, always carry a big knife – filleting knife or machette – CROCODILE DUNDEE knife – those Romania respect that sort of thing – even, by not thinking to kill those dogs i received a lot of respect from the Romanians – especially from the police at the FRIENDSHIP BRIDGE at RUSE in Bulgaria – a very complicated process when you have no transport – for me, 2 taxis to cross the bridge with a man who has a special licence – visa, maybe[what did I know about crossing borders when everyone says “it’s so easy”; then over the bridge, a nice policeman saw my distress and complaint against how difficult it had been to enter Romania, that he personally drove me to the nearest town, Georgio, in a police van, into another taxi, a Dacia, held together with chewing gum and string, taking me to the bus terminal; then riding on a bus beside a man holding a non-working TV, who said that his brother was going to help him repair it in Bucharest. I did achieve Bucharest – it was a great moment in history – I still never regain my perspective that travel broadens the mind – no, it shortens the mind into split seconds of turmoil and upheaval … but I may continue to perform this act, without a net – even the internet. I believe in the travel philosophy of “… just by standing still … things happen around me.”
Now, around Dijon, in the forest on a beautiful road, is were I accidentally found the nuclear recycling facility – it’s an imposing sight. And in the forest is a plaque dedicated to The Resistance fighters who did things there – unless you were lost, I’m almost certain that no one would ever find this site – beside a tree management shed, where I found a man who explained its significance, in French. I performed my best act of being a machine-gun firing into the air, and he responded positively – a mutual ‘meeting of the minds’. Then i had to find my way out of the forest. Then there was a folk in the road, and I probably took the wrong road… again.
Now, around the town of Tours or Townes, I took the wrong road and after a few kilometres saw a nice church to photograph. I parked the car and walked along this town road; a black cat cross my path; I knew things were possibly going to turn bad; I walked to the intersection when i saw a man driving a forklift who had a Champagne birthmark on his face – I walk a bit further over the road and found that it was the ROUTE DE CHAMPAGNE – probably the most famous wine road in the world – and I’d been driving just one street away – street markers with the written history of each winery and the district – it was a wonderful road, so, I switched my attention to this famous road, the scenery, the rivers … I never looked back. unfortunately, as a designated driver, somehow I managed not to drink any Champagne, Moselle or Burgundy in those region – absolutely mindless. But, did find a BRISBANE SHOP in Sarrebourg, Moselle area. [Sarrebourg is a commune in the Moselle department in Grand Est in north-eastern France. It lies in on the upper course of the river Saar. In 1895 a Mithraeum was discovered at Sarrebourg at the mouth of the pass leading from the Vosges Mountains. Wikipedia] I took a phot of the tall, glamourous Manager – i was breathing the air of Amore – that’s always a danger.
Metz is a lovely town in the north; Toulouse is a bit strange and colourful; Bordeaux – where they invented the guillotine – i believed it – some parts are still fairly sinister looking – low density housing in long,endless avenues of 2 storey apartments – there was the hint of madness in the air – there are wine tours and an occasional circus comes to town. Dole, is an unusual fortified town with a castle and kayak river; Orleans is a nice town too, or and Bergerac [visited just because it had the name of the detective TV show played by john Nettles]; Arles – more wild dogs and fighting bulls – where Van Gogh lost an ear – the blood, the guts and the gore [or gall]. But, always stamp your train ticket as the train inspectors are ruthless, and there seem to be many of them – but, always performing their duties with a smile [well, I think it’s a smile].