For a travel writer, I sure like to stay put. That doesn’t mean I don’t like to travel, but I don’t like to move for movement’s sake. Now maybe I’m a special case because I’ve lived my whole life in places people want to visit, but I think it’s always better to take a closer look at the place you are.
When I travel, I like to spend the longest time possible in one spot before my ants-in-pants husband starts looking at the maps. He likes to see a lot. I like to see a lot, too, and I think it takes a few days — at least — for the newness of a place to wear off. That’s when you start digging deeper, after you’ve seen all the ‘must see’ places, spent your last shiny Euro at all of the markets and cute boutiques, and used up enough rolls of film. The time to try an out-of-the-way restaurant, to explore the neighborhoods where tourists don’t usually go, to catch a piece of local culture. I used to feel guilty going to the movies on my vacations, but I think every country’s cinema has its own funny quirks, from what’s served at the snack counter, to the seating arrangements and even the types of pre-film ads.
In any case, I always get on my cranky hat whenever I have people asking me about ‘Day Trips Out of Paris’. Okay, I’ll recommend Disneyland Paris and maybe Versailles (never been myself), but I never really see the need to leave Paris. I lived there for years and still find new things to see when I return, so why waste it on the train heading out? Even worse are those who want to spend a week in France, and they have a travel list that looks something like this:
– Loire Valley
This would scare the pants off most French people, who like to live life for the joy of it, not the speed. Paris may bustle like any large city, but at the heart of any French experience should be the experience of long lunches, of taking time to meet people in your neighborhood (or your hotel), of spending whole afternoons on a café terrace with nothing in particular to do (if you’re an ants-in-the-pants type, take a good Paris book with you). It will be hard to really experience this with a tight travel itinerary of French monuments, vineyards and chateaux.
If you’ve already been to Paris, go ahead and start exploring the other towns and regions of France. But try to give a week to each one. France should be enjoyed over a lifetime of trips. And if you’ve got only one shot, why spend it racing from hotel to hotel? I’ve been to Normandy and Brittany, Mont St Michel and most of the chateaux of the Loire. I’ve been to Champagne growers in Reims, Strasbourg, Dijon, and the Savoie region of the French Alps. But I really only know two parts of France: Paris and the French Riviera. Since moving down here to Antibes I’ve continued writing about Paris, but soon my new Provence-Côte d’Azur topic will be up and this topic may get a few updates here and there.
I think perhaps the reason people desire to get out of Paris is because they want to know what else France has in store for them. There’s so much info on Paris, so many resources and tour guides. The links I have here only touch the surface! But the French Riviera…a big reputation, but what do people really know? Stay tuned! And in the mean time, you can find plenty of useful information tucked into this site, and if you send me an e-mail I’ll put you on the Secrets of Paris list, a monthly e-mailed newsletter with the latest goings on in Paris.
This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’ve republished them in autumn 2019 to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris” Broken and dead links have been updated or deactivated, but otherwise the article remains unchanged.