Spoiler alert. Francophiles beware. In this post we’ll be expressing our love/hate relationship with France. Don’t judge too harshly. It gets better towards the end.  I can’t believe that it took me 27 years to finally step foot in France. I had climbed Kilimanjaro, traversed Rajasthan, and licked salt from the floors of the Uyuni ...
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Feeling the love in France

Spoiler alert. Francophiles beware. In this post we’ll be expressing our love/hate relationship with France. Don’t judge too harshly. It gets better towards the end. 

I can’t believe that it took me 27 years to finally step foot in France. I had climbed Kilimanjaro, traversed Rajasthan, and licked salt from the floors of the Uyuni flats in Bolivia before I visited the country from where the language of love was born. The very same language that I spent nine years studying and have a bachelor’s degree in.

I envisioned disembarking the plane in Paris and being greeted by the smell of freshly baked baguettes, the sight of the glittering Eiffel Tower, and matching the friendly “bonjours” from the locals. In essence, I anticipated my arrival to be from the opening scenes of Beauty and the Beast.

In reality, Chris and I were welcomed by a surprise snowfall that had us literally sliding into our gate after a two hour delay, landing us in Paris at just after midnight. After navigating the metro kiosks (that don’t take CASH or cards sans microchips), we saddled up our backpacks and began our urine-scented ride into town. After the pristine rides we experienced on the London Tube just days before, the almost derelict metro cars of Paris left us wanting.

I wish I could say that it got better from there. It didn’t. To be fair, we have to take a large portion of the blame. We arrived in mid-March and didn’t pack appropriately for the cold. The blizzard that greeted us not only dampened our spirits but also the flimsy boots and leggings that I packed for our month-long journey through Europe. Being from the Seattle area, we are accustomed to March being the month where the weather starts looking up. This is when we slowly start to trade our dark flannel and black North Face jackets for brighter colored flannel and light windbreakers.

Love hate relationship with Paris

We were also poor. We were in between contracts and had two more weeks until we could expect a BIG paycheck. We had to live frugally and that meant setting aside money for provisions (like, you know, food) instead of visits to the museums and sights that the city is known for. All in all, it wasn’t an ideal situation for visiting the city. For that, I take some blame.

BUT, (and this is where I feel like Paris has some explaining to do) what no one prepared me for was just how dirty the streets in Paris were. There was dog poop everywhere. After every outing my calves pulsated from having to continually hop over spontaneous heaps of dog doo. To make matters worse, the snowy slush had turned the city sidewalks into treacherous slip and slides with inevitable pockets of highly questionable brown snow. Le gross.

Neither of us was particularly heartbroken when it came time for us to leave (aside from having to say au revoir to my beloved pain au chocolats). We were cold, broke, and disheartened. Did we set Paris on too high a pedestal? Would we give France a second chance?

Pain au chocolats FOR LIFE.

Pain au chocolats FOR LIFE.

We weren’t sure if France would ever pop up on a radar again. It wasn’t until when we learned that two of our dear friends were getting married in the French countryside, that we knew it was time to return. That and we kind of had to be there; I was a bridesmaid and Chris was officiating the wedding.

This time around, we only had a day to get from Paris to Chef-Boutonne, a teeny tiny village in the French countryside where the wedding was to take place. As soon as we landed at CDG, we picked up our rental car and headed south. Within minutes of leaving Paris we felt like we had entered a completely new country. The muddled streets and gray sidewalks gave way to miles and miles of gorgeous countryside.

Picturesque villages and sleepy fields began to greet us around every corner. I found myself humming the theme song to Beauty and the Beast as we approached the gorgeous French villa where we would be staying. Everything about Chef-Boutonne seemed magical.

The day before the wedding we spent the afternoon exploring the nearby town of Verteuil-sur-Charente. It’s hard to believe that this isn’t a major tourist destination as it boasts a whimsical castle with a bubbling stream that runs below it. There was even an old cemetery up on a hill that had graves that dated back to the early 1400’s. That’s almost 400 years older than our nation of the United States.

The best places to visit in the French countryside

I was immediately enamored with the area. The locals were so incredibly friendly and overly patient when it came to conversing in French. I thoroughly enjoyed taking in my afternoon coffee while people watching. There wasn’t much happening in town but it seemed like everyone was out taking their dogs for a walk (mostly–get this–French bulldogs) as they ran their errands for the day. If this was what the rest of France was like, I was dangerously close to falling in love with the country.

The best places in the French countryside

My courtship with France didn’t end there. The day of the wedding was more beautiful than we could have ever imagined. The neighboring horses even came to watch the event. It was such an honor to witness two of our closest friends tie the knot and be surrounded by loved ones. We met Corey and Paul (hailing from Wales and England, respectively) while we were all living in South Korea. We’ve since met up with them in various countries around the world. Their union brought together so many lovely people from all corners of the globe and it solidified why we are so enamored with traveling. The world is small and there are some pretty kick ass people in it.

Things to do in the French countryside

Horsing around with Kate (hailing from South Africa), another friend we made in Korea.

Once the festivities concluded, Chris and I decided to spend a few extra days in the city of Poitiers. After a week spent in the countryside, we wanted to see what a bigger city had to offer. Again, the city was filled with friendly locals, amazing food, decent prices, and some of the prettiest architecture we’ve ever seen. There were multiples times when we caught ourselves saying that we could live there.

The beautiful city of Poitiers, France

 

We might have judged France a little too harshly on our first trip. While I can see why some people would find Paris to be exceptionally magical, I think I prefer the beauty and freedom of the countryside. That being said, after this last trip to France, I’m willing to give Paris a second try.

What do you think? What did we do wrong the first time around? What parts of France do we need to explore next? Let us know in the comment section below. 

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8 Comments

  1. Hmood
    September 3, 2015 at 1:22 am - Reply

    you know that franc has a great and unique things,,
    It’s a magical country especially Paris and it deserve to fall in love with.
    Hmood recently posted…Jet Ski Dubai prices 2015 | Water SportsMy Profile

  2. Same Day Agra Tour
    September 3, 2015 at 6:06 am - Reply

    Great Posts! I love relationship with France. Its lovely destinations to travelling with the tourists. There are many superb tourists spots and beautiful buildings. I have a planning to go there next week in France. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Lindsay
    September 4, 2015 at 7:44 am - Reply

    I feel EXACTLY the same way about France! I’ve been to Paris 4 times now, all for between 2-5 days, and have been underwhelmed each time. Which is surprising because I love food, cheese, art and wine! I think it is the fact that it is depicted in such a fairytale way in movies and books for us, it would of course be hard for it to live up to it’s legend. But I keep going back with the hopes that it will finally win me over, which I’m always hoping for.

    Also, once I discovered the countryside I was blown away too. The village Van Gogh died in was my favorite – I think it’s called Auver sur Oise. Couldn’t have been more gorgeous! The country is fantastic and the people were all so nice. I’d love to go back and spend some more time there. That village looks amazing!
    Lindsay recently posted…Beach Camping Point Mugu State BeachMy Profile

  4. Muhammad jamshaid
    September 7, 2015 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Great I like this article. i did not see the Paris but i know about Paris.it is very beautiful country.AND I WANT TO WISH to go to the Paris.any way thanks for nice sharing.
    Muhammad jamshaid recently posted…Good Night love Quotes For HusbandMy Profile

  5. Rana irfan
    September 10, 2015 at 4:30 am - Reply

    wow great place for traveling. i like paris london these are eye catching country.thanks a lot for good sharing.
    Rana irfan recently posted…Happy new year 2016 greetings for wifeMy Profile

  6. Cynthia
    September 11, 2015 at 4:56 am - Reply

    Paris is a city that has many faces, it took me a while to enjoy life here, but now it would be hard for me to leave the city! There are so many things to do and experience! One day you can do stand-up paddleboard, the next visit a medieval castle and maybe attend a great musical the night after that!

    Next time you visit Paris, you should take a look at Lindsey’s blog http://www.lostincheeseland.com/ she knows all the cool spots 🙂
    Cynthia recently posted…Disheveled in New Orleans: an airboat ride in the BayouMy Profile

  7. Same Day Agra Tour
    September 16, 2015 at 9:39 pm - Reply

    Wonderful Posts, I really like this blog for feeling the love in France.

  8. Larry
    September 17, 2015 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    At least it worked out for you as you got through the first few rough days … I too can’t wait to experience France!
    Larry recently posted…3 of the best beach towns in MexicoMy Profile

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