Driving in England wasn’t much fun as you rarely can see anything from the car.
The French countryside driving was easy and beautiful most of the time. Staying away from toll roads rarely added much time but made the trip more interesting.
Weather: The weather in France was generally much nicer but then we got that heat wave where temperatures reached 43 degrees.
Can’t depend on the weather any more.
Food: The food options in London were good but outside of London even Cornish Pasties lose their appeal after a while and just how many fries do you want? Hardly ever got frites with any main course in France! Cooked more in England as the restaurant options, once we left big city behind, were either really expensive or not convenient. Meals in France were always good unless we ate too close to a tourist attraction. Strasbourg comes to mind here.
Beverages: Loved being able to have cider in pubs in England. This was rarely an option in France although wine was always a reasonable price for a glass of house wine. Beer was good, according to the beer drinker, everywhere.
Public Transportation: Used the Moovit app in London and Paris. Never really had any problems except when a train went out of service in France when we were going to Versailles. Sometimes we had to get help when many trains came to the same station and we missed a sign or didn’t follow the arrows properly. Going to Charles de Gaulle airport, the transfer from the metro to the train is in the same station as the transfer to the Orly airport and uses the same line indicator- Line B. Luckily we didn’t get on the wrong train and some nice older French lady saw our confusion and escorted us right to the correct platform.
Things That Have Changed:
Bob and I started traveling right after we got married and have only returned to very few places – Paris is one of those places. What’s changed from 35 years ago is that you can no longer take for granted that you will be able to go and visit the tourist attractions when you arrive without preplanning. Now, if you are only going to be somewhere for a couple of days, you need to buy your tickets in advance on-line in order to give yourself the most flexibility of entry time plus other options like guided tours. This happened to us at the Alhambra in Spain nearly 10 years ago. We just assumed we would be able to buy tickets a few days ahead of time but online tickets were all sold out by then and we were too far away to risk trying to buy ‘day of’ tickets at the gate and not being able to get them. So we returned 5 years later and still had trouble but did get in. My advice – once you know your exact dates buy your tickets. Did that last year to see the Lipizzaner horse show in Vienna and finally got tickets!
The same thing applies now to accommodation. When VRBO first started and then AirB&B, you could still get a booking at your destination of choice with very little notice. Now that it’s an excepted kind of accommodation, more and more people use it and book the most reasonably priced places early. So the availability might still be there but it will likely be at a more expensive price. Book early if you’re planning a visit to a popular destination and have a budget limit. Look at Home Exchange, Love Home Swap and others for other options without any money changing hands.
Other Observations about England and France:
The first time I saw this sign – Cats Eyes Removed it gave me a terrible vision in my head until I realized it was talking about the yellow reflectors down the centre line on the road!
I noticed a lot more horses in the fields which made me happy as I love horses and have since I was Horse Crazy as a preteen. Then Bob said “It’s probably because they eat horse meat over here.” Not as big a thing as it used to be but you can still buy it in France although I never saw it in any of the grocery stores or markets we were in. Then I wasn’t looking for it either. Still have trouble wrapping my head around it.
The quality of the busking in Paris was spectacular. These guys are playing in one of the tunnels between stations.
Sometimes there would be someone with a beautiful voice and a microphone singing on the train. All of them put that guy in the Seabus tunnel to shame!
France has a lovely system of awarding a flower designation of one to four flowers 🌸 to any municipality that applies, free of charge. The municipality can then put the number of flowers awarded on the sign with their name at the beginning of the municipal boundaries. The municipality must make itself pretty with municipal flower beds, hanging baskets, as well as private gardens. We saw some towns with roses planted right by the curbs and growing up lamp posts and spilling out of pots everywhere. They get inspected once a year and technically could lose their designated number of flowers- kind of like Michelin stars. Don’t know if it’s actually policed though. It was started when France wanted to attract the tourists. Not sure they still want to, although once you leave Paris, tourism in the countryside is much less.
If you think you want to go hiking in Dartmoor, England, it isn’t like hiking here. There are animal paths and open land. You need to come with real hiking gear, hiking boots for mud, a topographical map and the ability to use one, and a compass, etc. Or you can get a guide. This all should be part of your plan. You can’t just go for a walk on the moors as the weather changes, there are very few landmarks as it is all just open moors, and you could easily be lost in the fog which can come up suddenly. Luckily for us, I just wanted to see the wild horses!
One last thing – It no longer seems to matter where you go, there’s tagging and graffiti.
We are back home now recovering from jet lag and planning where to go next year. One thing I do know. So little time, so many places. Do not put off your travel plans. Go now while you still can!