Trip report-my first trip to France!

Old May 18th, 2007, 04:06 PM
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Trip report-my first trip to France!

Thank you to everyone who helped to prepare me for such an exciting trip. I stressed so much planning this trip but it was all worth the effort. Please excuse any amateurish mistakes I make while writing this.

Things I learned while in France:
1. The French people are NOT rude or arrogant. The ones we interacted with were considerate, nice, understanding and helpful. Don't listen to anyone's personal opinion about other people. You have to experience the country and people yourself and then form your opinion.
2. Driving in the countryside is easy. Driving in Paris is not! At least it isn't for someone like me who has lived 23 years in a small town and is no longer used to big cities.
3. For fashionistas...many, many people not at work wear jeans. This includes men and women over 40 years of age. Many, many women wear ballet flats and many wear sneakers...including white ones! Parisian women don't wear as much makeup as we do here in the States in my opinion. Nor do they focus on having long, acrylic nails. Short nails are very common. And French people don't smell funky. As you can see I had plenty of time to observe people while on the metro. Some people may not find this information important but I know that many threads have been written about what to wear in France. My humble opinion...jeans are anything is fine...and comfortable shoes a must! I thought my shoes were well broken in (Joseph Seibels for anyone who wants to know) but alas, they weren't. My feet suffered a great deal but I still managed to enjoy myself. And although I thought I had packed light...I ended up not wearing half of the shirts I brought and only using 2 pairs of jeans for the entire 10 days. As I have read here time and again...pack half of what you think you will need in clothing and twice as much money as you think you will need.
4. The French people that I saw are not as overweight as Americans. Sad but true. The only people that I saw that were overweight were tourists.
5. Dogs are thought of very highly in France. And they are so very well behaved! I can only wish that my beagle was as obedient as the dogs I saw while there. There is some poop on the sidewalks and streets but I also saw people picking up after their dogs. And so many adorable dogs! I am a dog lover and I could have adopted them all!

I will try to condense some of my thoughts as I write this report.

I spent last night really stressing while doing the final preparations for the trip. Bird went to the neighbors house, house was cleaned, answering machine message changed, laundry done, international cell phone set, lawn mowed, luggage packed. So many details! We packed the car with the luggage, ourselves and the dog and off to Miami to spend the night with family prior to the flight. Spent some time with the family chatting and then to bed. As usual I couldn't sleep before a big trip.

Up at 6:30 a.m. Time to get ready. I called my son in Orlando who will be leaving for Paris later in the day to meet us. Hopefully he has all his paperwork in order and doesn't miss his flight! Packed the car again and we're off to the airport. It was hard saying goodbye to my dog, Chloe. As I mentioned before I love dogs!
Arrived at the airport 3 hours early as is recommended and breezed through security. Off with the belt, shoes and put the quart size baggie with liquids for checking in container. I really wonder... how thorough is this security ? We arrived at our gate and waited and waited and waited. Maybe we just should have come 2 hours early? Called our son and his is on his way to OIA.
Unbelievably we saw a small dog with his owner that was going onboard. I didn't think this was allowed! Things sure have changed.
normal1983 is offline  
Old May 18th, 2007, 05:12 PM
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Sorry this part got cut off the report.

We boarded the plane and were off to our first stop...Detroit. This is where I started to panic about our luggage..did it make it with us? After a short layover we boarded Air France, although I was a bit worried. I had read a thread about how bad Air France was but I was pleasantly surprised. The flight attendants were very nice and professional and well put together (unlike the attendants on Northwest). A large group of middle school students were on board and I wondered if they would behave themselves but for the most part they were fine. The food was not very good at all and space was at a minimum so sleeping was very difficult. So after awhile I abandoned the idea of sleep and tried to settle into watching a movie. Before long we began our descent into CDG!


We've finally arrived! We're in Paris! I'm so excited and so very tired!. After leaving the plane and boarding a bus to take us to the terminal we pick up our luggage. Thankfully it all made safely with us.
Now to try to find our son. My international cell phone isn't functioning right but after a few tries I realize that I am the one not functioning right. My befuddled brain is sleep deprived and not thinking straight so it takes me a bit to finally figure it out. By this time we've managed to haul our luggage from way down terminal 2 in search of the CDVAL. It's time to search the recesses of my brain for my high school french to ask for help. I chose a young girl working a counter to practice on and voila! she understands me but I have a bit of trouble understanding her directions. She was so sweet to switch to english for me to give me directions that I could understand. And so off we go to the CDVAL (a tram that takes you between terminals and saves a great deal of time and pain from unbroken in shoes!).
We arrive at terminal 1 where my son is supposed to be. I did say supposed to be didn't I? Well since he arrived before we did he decided to search for us! After calling him on the cell phone when we didn't see him we find out that he is now in terminal 2! So now we wait for him to return to terminal 1 to meet us. Sigh....30 minutes of running around.
After finally getting the family together we go to Europcar to rent our car. In terminal 1 the car rental counters are on the same floor as flight arrivals. They were very nice and gave us a brand new Passat station wagon. A bit larger than was expected but it was diesel and manual as requested (this would haunt us later). We found our car in the parking garage and spent the next 10 minutes trying to figure out how to start it and remove the parking brake! I know this sounds lame but the key is unlike anything we've seen in the States and nothing on the dash is the same either. The instruction book is in French! But 4 brains are better than 1 and my daughter was able to figure it out.
We left the parking garage and it was time to pull out the Michelin maps that I had downloaded and printed. Here is the link:
This was an invaluable tool for us. Not always perfectly reliable but for the most part we were able to find our way by using the maps and directions. We left CDG easily and started our road trip to Giverny. Sadly shortly after leaving CDG we saw a very bad accident with serious injuries. A car had flipped and trapped its occupants. But this was the only accident we saw in 3 days of traveling.
We found Giverny after getting a little lost just before reaching the town. We were so absolutely exhausted that I'm not sure we truly appreciated the beauty of what we were seeing. We only walked the gardens and didn't bother to see the museum or the house. There was a small take away stand for sandwiches, icecream and such where I ordered (in french!) a sandwich, coffee, and water from a very nice lady. This was our first experience with the price of food in France and we were truly amazed! The plain ham and cheese sandwich was 7.50 euros! $9.45! It was good but it was only a forshadowing of what was to come.
My feet were really beginning to burn now. Back in the car again, got lost again, our son helped us find our way out. After finding our way to the highway we made a quick pitstop at a rest area for a bathroom break.
Our next stop: Honfleur, a quaint harbor town.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 05:13 PM
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I will try to make this a bit more readable when I post again. Sorry if its hard on the eyes.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 05:19 PM
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welcome back and I agree with your fashion observations. Ballet flats have been popular for years and so have jeans. On to Honfleur another favorite of mine.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 06:01 PM
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Great start normal. I love reading reports from first tivisitors. Thank you.
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Old May 18th, 2007, 06:18 PM
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I'm enjoying your report - anxious to hear more!
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Old May 18th, 2007, 06:25 PM
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Enjoying your report, normal. I got back a week ago from Normandy, and am in the process of finishing my trip report. We were probably in Honfleur about the same time. I'll see when you continue with your report. I certainly agree with you about the French people - I found them extremely nice and so helpful. And I certainly am with you on the dogs! All so beautiful and well-behaved. I love seeing them in the restaurants. I could never take my 2 into a restaurant!
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Old May 18th, 2007, 06:34 PM
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Thanks for this. I love the exuberance of first-time visitors. It makes this old jaded veteran remember how vibrant everything seemed at first sight.
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