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Paris & Normandy but we don't speak French at all?


Feb 12th, 2006, 08:02 AM
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Paris & Normandy but we don't speak French at all?

We are thinking of going to Paris & Normandy - preference would be Paris for 4 days and the Normandy / Mont St. Michel / Rouen area for 3 days.

Neither one of us speak French. I have traveled in England and Spain extensively and I lived in Spain for 6 months, so I have a sense of adventure, but I am nervous at the prospect of not knowing the language at all.

How difficult is it to navigate the country without knowing the language? I would try to learn some before we went.

Is it difficult to drive a car without knowing the language (ie road signs)? We would most likely take a train to Rouen and then rent a car for a few days in the Normandy region, then take a train back to Paris and fly out.

zialot is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 08:07 AM
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It isn't difficult. I advise you to learn a few phrases such as bonjour, merci, au revoir, etc. as the French are very attuned to "manners". When you enter a shop you speak and when you leave you speak. You need to take a dictionary and a food glossary (distinct from the dictionary).
You will not be able to take a train from CDG to Rouen. Hence I would suggest you rent a car at CDG and drive to Rouen for your first night (something we did). You can do your touring and then perhaps return the car to Caen and train to Paris for the remainder of your trip. YO wil somewhat "consolidate" your trip this way. HOwever a total of 7 days is not a lot for this. I hope you may not be including the day you leave, etc.

Gretchen is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 08:19 AM
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Road signs will not be a problem as they use the universal symbols and if you learn a few key terms like "sortie" you willhave no problems. Plus, I am assuming if you spent 6 months in Spain you must speak some Spanish. There are lots of work
ds that are cognates. Youy'll do fine. we've travelled way off the beaten path in a number of countries where we did not know the language. Buy a small dictionary as well as a phrase book.
julies is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 10:34 AM
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For me the key thing is the menu reader. Foods are the hardest things to sort out.

French and Spanish are close enough in the written form (although pronounced completely differently) that you will understand a lot (my brother did with 2 years of junior high Spanish) without any French lessons.

And road signs are mostly pictorial.

We have driven through at lesat 16 countries - and believe me - although I have some college (25+ years old) French and Spanish - and my beau has a little (again college) German - we have never had a problem anywhere.
nytraveler is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 11:04 AM
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Hi Z,

My Lady Wife tends to speak Spanish in France.

Sometimes she gets along better in her poor Spanish than I do with my poor French.

>Is it difficult to drive a car without knowing the language ...<

Not once you have learned how to put it in reverse.

As noted road and street signs are international symbols.

You might find these links useful: http://www1.securiteroutiere.gouv.fr...ux/default.asp and http://www.code-route.com/panneau_lignes.htm

You can translate the pages at http://www.freetranslation.com/

ira is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 12:44 PM
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You should have no trouble with your plans. We flew into CGD, stayed in Paris 2 days, took the train to Rouen where we rented a car for our trip through Normandy. Upon our return, we took a little southerly loop back, returned the car in Versailles and took the train back to Paris. Could have left it in Chartres but the rental agency was closed during our scheduled time. Another overnight in Paris, shuttle to CDG for our trip back home the next day. It was easy and even though we had train expense, it is cheaper than the drop-off charge at CDG for car rentals. AND, I will NEVER drive in Paris again. Did so 4 years ago and thought I'd never get out of the city. Signage is not good in Paris, and Parisian drivers have a death wish. I love the French people, they have always been great to us but I will always avoid Paris driving. The rest of the country has been easy to navigate. Never got lost. Our French skills are weak but we do try to be polite and use our high school french as often as we can. The menu translater is a mandatory accessory. No sweetbreads for this traveler. I need to know what piece of the cow I am considering for dinner! Now with the Euro, no conversion problems. BTW, Rouen is a great city, if you are at all interested, the Iron Museum in Rouen is an overlooked gem. Road signs are easy, you will not have a problem. The area is very used to tourists and English is spoken and written everywhere. We had a wonderful trip through this region, you will too.
yy4me is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 01:39 PM
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Your fears are understandable but unfounded. Learn the road symbols. French roads are among the best signed we have ever experienced. Study the maps and mark them with the routes you wish to follow. You are very wise to rent and return your vehicle outside Paris, using public transportation to get out of and back into Paris. You will find no problem you cannot overcome using good common sense and some patience. When you see a price in Euros, simply add another 25% and you will get the amount in dollars. True, the euro is $1.21 just now -- but with our method you will allow a margin for error.
USNR is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 01:56 PM
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The book "Eating and Drinking in Paris" explains about restaurants and has a menu translator. Inexpensive too.

For driving directions and route planning, www.mappy.com is very useful.

You can bring up the other thread by clicking on your name.
RonZ is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 01:57 PM
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We didn't speak a word of French when we went to Paris, the Loire, Normandy, etc.. I do speak Spanish and German, and it made me nervous to think about traveling in a country where I knew nothing of the language. However, it worked out fine. In general, though, knowing cognates helped.

I'd bring Marling Menu Master if I were you. I don't eat organ meats, and I would have ordered veal kidneys if I hadn't checked with the menu master.

The only times we had problems were when we didn't understand the French for "toll road" and for "rental car return" at the airport. Now THAT (the rental car return) was a problem, as we drove around CDG for at least an hour, in the rain.

As for cognates in this case--"Voiture du location"--if I remember the French rightly (and it's entirely possible that I don't!--doesn't seem to have any kind of relationship to "rental car return."
Pegontheroad is offline  
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Feb 12th, 2006, 02:23 PM
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Patricia Wells has a downloadable food glossary on her site that is light years better than Marling. I find the latter almost useless.
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Feb 12th, 2006, 02:23 PM
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They don't expect Americans to speak French.

Just speak real loudly and wave some Euros around. They will get the message.

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