France is such a beautiful country which has surprised me in many positive ways:
Friendly people everywhere
Since our arrival I never came across one single person that was rude, unfriendly or impolite; but rather we experienced the exact opposite. Every place we went, people were in a great mood, greeting us, smiling at us, nodding, starting conversations, beginning to talk to us in our mother language German, or even apologizing that they don’t know any German. If people walked by our picnic spots, they all were wishing us “Bon appétit” or would say “Bonjour”. It’s such a happy country with amazing inhabitants.
And also the myth that French people don’t like to talk in any other language than French is so wrong. We came across lots of people who tried their best explaining with hands and feet, or others that smashed us away with their incredibly good English; always with a big smile on their face.
I fell in love with their friendly and light way of living and how they treat others. Being so used to all that grumpiness, sadness and very straight faces back home, this has been really refreshing!
Stunning scenery and landscape
Ahhh this is a huge one.
France is a pretty big country (I mean in terms of Europe 😉 ) and the countryside may change from kilometre from kilometre. Sometimes we drove through a beautiful forest and some really green areas, and no 10 minutes later we found ourselves in the middle of mountains with barely any vegetation at all – what an experience.
Personally I found my favorite landscape in the area of Provence, which officitally starts in Valence. However in my opinion the real pretty landscape begins between the cities Valence and Orange, coming from the north, all the way to the south.
Provence is known for its lavender fields that turn the whole area in a magical and beautiful purple glow.
Yet the lavender fields hide even more down in the south. We weren’t able to see any fields till around the city Carpentrass. But be patient – they will come, and if they do there are loads of them; so get excited.
But pleeeeease notice: Lavender time is between July 1 and July 15th. This is the time the fields will blossom in their deepest purple color, and reveal sceneries that are known from pictures or postcards.
A lot of blogs online talk about the harvesting time being around the end of August. However this is not true.
A little naïve (and I guess not thinking, uuups) we made our way to France the beginning of August thinking there definitely would still blossom fields everywhere. As we finally saw the first field, it was already gone. The second, third…. and probably 100th came – all without any flowers.
We talked to a lovely lavender shop owner that let us in that usually they harvest the beginning of Ausugst. Yet there are years in which it is just so hot that they have to harvest earlier as otherwise the fragile flowers would all die.
Aren’t we some lucky guys that this year was such a year and they harvested early? Lucky us we still found two fields haha!!
In general the landscape often looks very much alike the one in the area Toscana in Italy. Olive trees, wine wreaths and the beautiful old stone houses with their special roofing are definitely some of the features. Yet there is something very special that can’t really be put in words. You just need to experience it yourself 😉
Also there are tons and tons of hiking opportunities everywhere. They are always marked by signs, revealing the lengths and duration. You could spend months and years walking around this whole area.
Because they are so many of them and the countryside changes so fast, there are all kinds of different levels; so everyone gets the opportunity to hike. If you don’t like hiking, get some good excuses ready haha, just joking.
Facts about France
Just as Italy and Austria for example, France also charges “Maut” for the usage of some of the highways.
Usually it can be said that the highways around big cities are free to use, and sometimes even just as big and new streets, that are completely free of charge, run right besides the highway.
Oftentimes we used the highway around cities, got off as soon as they charged money, and rather used some of the other roads. Not only did we save money that way (it can get sooo expensive), but also saw much more of the beautiful countryside.
France has also made it super easy to find ones way through basically the whole country. Each street and exit got a letter and number, that are noted down on all maps – and even google maps knows them. Such a comfort – love that system – Germany should introduce that J
One thing that is slightly different compared to the highways and streets in Germany, is the speed. In France the smaller streets allow a speed of 70 up to 90 km/h. If the road got bigger it sometimes might be up to 110 km/h.
Highways will always only be 130 km/h.
They are also really friendly in terms of warning you with a sign when they will flash cars for driving too fast. Signs are a great reminder to slow down. Little tip: really pay attention to those. I think we got flashed 4 times even though we got warned by the sign, hahaha!
In general they made it really easy to drive. With lots of roundabouts that significantly reduce the waiting time, all the numbered streets, and well established roads it was super comfortable to drive all those thousands of kilometers.
Much easier to find sleeping spots when road tripping
Last year we travelled through Italy by car. To be honest, France has made it the easiest from all. Every few kilometres there are free parking lots one can easily spend the night. Even big parking lots with dumping stations for RVs are often completely free of charge for all. In general a lot of cities charge nothing for their millions of parking lots they offer. A beautiful forest parking lot, the one right besides a church, at the shore of a beach or just a little outside huge cities are just a few examples. Literally no one ever cared about us stopping, even picnicking and then sleeping in our car. So so easy to find super cute and free parking spots to safely spend the night – no matter if you travel by car, caravan, RV or even with a tent.