Friday, May 27, 2011

Travel Tips for France (and possibly other European countries)

A couple things to note when traveling in France:
  1. Besides Paris and at least through most of Provence, cities and towns (obviously) are small and therefore it is greatly encouraged to walk rather than drive because
  2. Besides the main streets, the rest of the streets are small, narrow, sometimes winding and often confusing and filled with pedestrians
  3. Public transportation is great and the most affordable way to get around France and usually very reliable (on time) and can be taken to most tourist places, but
  4. If taking buses, you are forewarned that it can be a bit much as roads are small, narrow, sometimes winding and often confusing as well as filled with lots of round-abouts rather than stops and very sharp turns -making it easy to get nauseous and
  5. Secondly if you do decide to drive, people in France drive incredibly fast including buses and tailgating happens a lot (There was even a few times I felt the bus was close to getting into an accident but didn't thankfully.)
  6. If taking the metro, like most metros, it can be quite an experience and quite a bit hard to figure out how to get around with it but it can be done. Just be wary of people around you - we encountered an angry person on the phone shouting on one train as well as barely managing to get into one train without leaving others behind. I almost forgot also that you have to open the doors manually (heh - I thought they were automatic but not the case for some).
  7. The offices of tourism are also handy places to find maps of towns as well as to find out what is happening in town and directions.
  8. Lastly, maps are useful for figuring out the layout of towns and cities but not great for actually finding places as not all streets will be listed and things are not to scale
  9. The best way to find your way in town is to just go exploring and figure things out as you get lost by landmarks
  10. Signs may not always lead you in the right direction either, we have found out these last couple of days. There have been a few times when we got lost because we were following arrows on signs.
  11. Google maps is handy but unless you have internet access 24/7. You cannot rely on it very well.

So hopefully these things will help you out in your next trip to France. Another good advice that isn't very well advice but is very useful and from my favorite author is: Don't Panic! If you get lost, just take a breath figure out where exactly you are on a map or in relation to your starting point and if in doubt ask a local or back track your steps. Panicking solves nothing and gets you even more lost and thus losing more time.

Now if only America could get public transportation right. I mean if Europe can do it with its winding tight roads, then shouldn't the logic follow that we can do it with wide roads. Well, the downfall is the nausea caused by it. I usually don't get motion/car sickness but with all the traveling and winding and twisting and bumping plus the shift in eating habits, the bus rides have been making me sick. Oddly it is only on the trip back I feel it; on the way there, I am usually fine. I am debating whether I want to risk getting nauseous again to go to the beach in Cassis but that path is such a winding road and not just because it goes through some hills to get to the coast but because the bus has to make some figure eights to change directions.

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