Find Yourself in France
Full of a myriad of personalities, France maintains its identity through it's food, style, and ability to appreciate the importance of relaxing.
Things to Know
Currency: the Euro
+33 Country code
112 gets you to emergency services, ALSO is the same emergency number for the rest of the continental EU.
A country whose navy and colonial power dominated much of the world, the British have since dwindled in their world domination but their culture is certainly impressive. Each city has a different personality, and they are proud of their history and monuments.
Transit Around Country:
buses (national express & megabus)
planes (many major airports)
PLACES TO SEE WHILE YOU ARE THERE:
France is full of character whether you are exploring any city or town, check out a few of the places I have explored and see if you are a match for some of these interesting cities and sites.
Paris- The capital of the France, Paris is also the capital of culture with a thousand restaurants, tourist attractions, monuments and museums.
Lyon- 2nd largest city in France, Lyon is full of character and beautiful sights. Lyon is also an incredible hub to the south of France and Switzerland with a major airport and train station that has destinations everywhere.
Liverpool- The city full of maritime history and Beatle mania, Liverpool is interesting to say the least.
Oxford- Home to the famous Oxford University, this Uni town is full of pubs (because no proper school is without good bars to go to), history, and amazing architecture.
York- Rooted in Viking and Roman history, York is an small exciting city to explore.
Stonehenge- A monument left from ancient cultures, Stonehenge is an impressive historical site to visit.
Stratford-Upon-Avon- Shakespeare's home, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a beautiful place to explore with monuments to its most famous resident and gorgeous scenery to get lost in.
Coventry- A city destroyed by WWII, Coventry bears scars of its bombings, history of the famed Lady Godiva, and its industrial nature.
If you are American you assume that since we speak English, we will understand everything in the UK, this is a total lie. Over my time I have spent in the UK I have heard many things that didn't make sense to me so I will share them with you and translate it:
Cheeky-Sort of a smart ass, or someone who is being fresh. You can say something cheeky or you can be cheeky.
Chuffed- Pleased or happy. I literally thought this meant that someone puked, but apparently chuffed is a good thing.
Dodgy- Sketchy or unsafe.
Gutted- Upset or disappointed, not that you had your organs ripped out of you.
Lovely- Nice. Not confusing but I heard this all the time to the point that I can't stop using it.
Pissed- This means drunk and not mad apparently. I kept thinking my friends were mad, when they were just drunk, which is probably why they were my friends.
Proper- The right way to do it or the best way. I still use this and I know it's annoying.
Row- Fight, like we had a row, not that everyone is a recreational rower or is on a crew team.
SORRY!- The British say this ALL the time, but in my experience they don't really mean it, they were just trained to say it whenever they do something.
Treacle- A term of endearment like sweetheart, not something that sounds like it came from an Octopus.
Trousers- What they call pants. Also don't use pants there because it means underwear.
Tube- The subway.
Queue- This means line, like waiting in line. Also the British LOVE waiting in line, I saw a line with markers (like at banks, the airport or disney) FOR AN ESCALATOR at a mall, it was beyond me.
Uni- Short for university, not really confusing but everyone says Uni instead of college.
Wellies- Rain boots.
You all right? - Everytime you will go into a store people will say this. It is not that you look terrible and they think you need a doctor, but more that it is the British way of saying, "how are you?". They don't want to really know so they give you a yes or no question. To be fair, the American way of yelling, "how are you?" at the front of a store isn't really any better.
DRINKING & DINING:
The UK has so many different types of cuisine it is hard to truly say that something is quintessentially British, however I will say that these were my favorite things to have while staying there:
Tea- I have yet to have a good cup of coffee there, but the way the British serve tea is unparalleled. Their afternoon teas are a bit expensive for sandwiches full of vegetables and some pastries, so if you do it do it once, but regular tea is rather enjoyable. Ironically, they don't really do iced tea, try to order one at a Starbucks and be prepared for strange looks and, "so you want a tea... that is cold?"
Gin- There are so many types and flavors you will lose yourself in the variety, also always get it with tonic. There are different types of tonics, and they rarely pour it straight from the tap so indulge in the choices.
Scones with Clotted/Cornish Cream- When you have this you will understand. My mother is still trying to find Clotted/Cornish Cream here in NJ because she misses it so much.
Victoria Sponge Cake- Fluffy and amazing.
Jaffa Cakes- These are literally chocolate cookies with an orange jam on the inside but it was my favorite thing to have with coffee (that I would make myself with coffee imported from Amazon since I disliked the ones served there- beware of Costa Coffee, it is everywhere, expensive, and always pretending to be better than Starbucks).
Chicken Pot Pies- My experience with pot pies was limited to the movie Chicken Run, but OMG they are perfect. Imagine the most wonderful chicken stew wrapped and kept warm in a fluffy pastry blanket and that is a Chicken pot pie. Try it, you're welcome.
Scotch Egg- This one isn't for everyone but it is a boiled egg wrapped in sausage and baked. If you get a good one, the center of the egg will be nice and gooey. It is really a hearty dish, and something that keeps you going if you have a long day.
THINGS TO BUY:
If you are wondering what you should buy on your trip to the France, wonder no longer. My favorite things to pick up there are the following:
Cheese- You have to buy some during your stay. The amount of choice alone is mind boggling and can be difficult to make a decision, but if you go to a market, they let you sample, so get a few different types. I always love buying a few from a market, picking up a bottle of wine and a baguette and having a nice picnic. **Note, the mean TSA/agriculture people in the US won't let you bring cheese back because they hate your happiness, so consume while you are there (also a 7 hour flight with warm cheese won't win you any friends on that plane).
Clothes- Now through my time in France I have noticed two things: their styles of clothes are adorable and if you do not go after big brand names they are not expensive (if it is not cotton). Favorite stores to pick up stylish things (for women) are Naf Naf (got an amazing leather jacket for 100 euros in addition to beautiful lace tops for 20 euros), and Jennyfer.
Shoes- Loubitons are almost 25% less in France than they are in the US. You can pick up a pair of basic pumps for 395, after you factor in that vat tax they can deduct at the airport (which is about 20 percent) and you get around 70 euros back from that. WIN WIN. If that isn't what your after, my favorite shoe store is San Marino. A store that has amazing leather shoes at great prices, make sure you stop by and take a look.
Wine- I shouldn't even have to explain this. In the grocery stores you can find great bottles for 6-14 euro. At the airport, you will be paying around 20 euro for the same things.
THE UK WAY:
The UK is a great country to explore as it is:
a. all in English and easy to navigate as you don't need to learn a new language.
b. has a great transit system that efficiently takes you around the country (that they let you bring alcohol on the trains, which you can purchase at practically any grocery store or small train shop- I liked the premixed gins, mom liked the wine glasses with the peel off tops).
c. large enough that you can certainly spend a few months exploring, but small enough that you can quickly choose a path to take.
OVERALL, I loved exploring the UK and despite living there a year, I still have sights to see as I haven't even touched Northern Ireland, Scotland, or Wales. I would go back in a heartbeat (and plan to do so), and will continue to explore the country and see what secrets there are left to learn and discover.