- The eating out lingo is a little different in France. In France, a Menu is a preset meal that is usually three courses-- an entree is our equivalent to an appetizer, a plat is the main meal and a dessert is a dessert. And a couple little tasty treats in-between called amuse-bouche, which is really fun to say. If you don't want all of that, you can order A La Carte, which would feel like a menu to Americans. We loved the food in France so we pretty much stuffed ourselves at every meal, but normally I would say that one of us could have ordered a Menu and the other A La Carte and we could have shared the entree and dessert. But who wants to do that? This is a nice article that could help you navigate a French menu. Ryan also downloaded an app called Bon Appetit that worked sans internet and helped to translate. It has a little cat as the artwork, and we liked it because it could work offline so we didn't have to use data for it. There are other menu readers out there that are better so research before you go.
- Another tip on eating-- sharing a main course (or Plat) is generally frowned upon.
- Start out by trying to talk in French! Most people know enough English to help you out, but I think it goes a long way if you at least try.
- Go ahead and pay the extra money to get an international plan on your phone for internet-- our first trip to Italy we thought we would have enough wifi to get by and there were several occasions that we wished we had it for directions. On our next trip we only got it on my phone-- but, as we learned this trip when I broke my phone, it's helpful to have it on all parties traveling.
- It's not a bad idea to throw an extra change of clothes in your carry on for the international flights just incase you luggage gets lost...believe me.
- Rick Steeves has an app that has audio tours, which was great for the big sights.
- Very few places stay open late. So plan accordingly if you need anything from the pharmacy. A lot of food places are closed Monday.
What To Wear
We started in the south of France in the Rivera and worked our way up to Paris. Even on a normal basis at home I stress out on what to wear, but then thinking about being in France surrounded by all the stylish French people added even more stress to my already crazy. And about 5 days into the trip I finally came to the conclusion unless you are a tall, skinny with perfect eyebrows and know how to purse your lips just right-- you're going to look like a tourist. If you wear a camera- tourist. If you wear a backpack- tourist. So my best advice for packing is to pack light, make sure that your separate pieces will all look good together and don't wear running shoes. That's about it.
So, if you are taking a summer trip like ours where weather can be variable (we started in the mid 90's in the south and in the 60's and sometimes rainy in Paris) this is what I would suggest for ladies (sorry dudes):
- Pack the least amount of clothes possible. It's a pain to carry it through subways and airports.
- 2 Pairs of walking shoes to rotate to keep you from getting blisters. Make sure you do some serious walking in them before you travel so that you can make sure they're comfy and have decent support. But maybe not running shoes. I didn't really ever see anyone in running shoes.
- Flip flops or waterproof shoes for the beachy area. The beaches are more rocky than sandy, Ryan had his Chacos and when we were walking in the water I wished I had mind too. But Flip flops got the job done-- I was just worried that I was going to bust one.
- Beach towels if you are going to be in a water area. I bought these just before we left and was impressed with how light and small they were, yet worked great. On the beach note- very few ladies wear one piece suits. No body image issues in France, just go for the two piece.
- Longer skirts/shorts for the trains...the fabric on the seats is not comfy.
- Ziplock bags. I put all of our toiletries and shoes in the 2 gallon ziplock backs, and then threw a couple in which made it handy for if we needed to keep wet jackets or shoes separate from the dry clothes.
- One versatile skirt-- perhaps in white or black.
- One pair of fitted black pants. They really do wear black a lot.
- 3 shirts that look good with a skirt and pants.
- 1 cardigan or sweater that will go with all of the above.
- 2 comfy but nice looking dresses that can be worn for day and nights.
- A rain jacket or trench coat-- make sure it's water PROOF not just resistant. We had some issues with that. This will take up a lot of space in your bag though, so you could always just pop into a shop and buy an umbrella if it does rain and just leave it for the next guy when you leave.
- A couple bandaids for blisters.
- Purse-- In the past I've had a larger purse, which was also nice because I could stuff a jacket or cardigan in it. This trip I carried a small leather cross body purse and it was nice not to have to carry around a ton of weight, and I ended up just wrapping my jacket around my waist or in a knot around my purse strap. You really could go either way, just make sure it has zippers. And for Paris it was great to have something that had two pockets because the Metro tickets are very small and good for only one use (unless you get a week pass) and it's easy to get the old and the valid ones mixed up.
- Bathing suit and cover up.
- Headphones for Audio Tours.
- Copies of passports and hide it in luggage in case your passport gets stolen.
All of the areas we went before Paris with maybe the exception of Lyon were relatively laid back on what people wore, I didn't feel like I stuck out that badly as a traveler until we got to Paris. These are a couple of things that I brought that I did not regret even though it was more weight to carry:
- A pair of dressy, but still comfy, shoes. I brought a pair of wedges. I actually wore them every day in Paris except when we day tripped out to Versalles. Paris feels so beautiful and I wanted to feel like I looked nice too.
- A photo shoot outfit. Ryan and I like to treat one day of each trip like a photo shoot so we dress nice and do our hair, and don't get annoyed when one or the other asks us to stop for photos. I always like to look for an iconic dress that I love. I couldn't find one for France but I have one from Italy that I'll keep forever because I have fond memories of it.
- A hat for the south of France. It was nice for the beach. But you might just buy one there because it was kind of a pain to keep track of and not smoosh.
International Travel Tips for the Photographer: So after our third international trip I have finally decided what I will forever bring for all trips in the future.
- 50 mm 1.4 lens
- Our lightest camera body
- Several Memory Cards
That's it. On our trip last year we actually did a shoot for a magazine so we brought our 35mm, 85mm and 50mm. And I was glad I had them for the shoot, but had to carry around a giant backpack for the whole trip and didn't feel like I really changed lenses all that much. For this trip we brought the 85mm 1.4 & 35mm 1.4, but they were super heavy. So from now on if it's just a trip for pleasure and not work, it's just going to be the 50mm for us. It's a nice enough portrait lens and a focal length that I don't have to scoot back a million miles to get a wide out shot. Plus it makes me stand by my theory that the best camera equipment is what you have with you. It makes you work a little harder, but also makes you more thoughtful and creative on your shots.
On our Italy trip we also brought the iPad for back up and left it in the room and took our memory cards with us, which is probably still not a bad idea even though we chose not to bring it this time. I still stand by my Italy photographer tips if you want to view them-- Apple electronics and cords obviously will have to be the updated versions. Only 4 years ago and it's changed so much!
A couple more tips:
- Don't bring a strap that has the camera brand on it.
- Bring a bag that zips up and doesn't just fold over-- the fold over bags make it easy to reach in and grab something.
- Change memory cards often. Kind of like a shooting a wedding-- don't put all your eggs in one basket in case your card corrupts or case gets stolen.
- In Paris especially, don't forget to keep the lens cap on when you're walking around. There's a lot of gravel roads and dust that gets kicked up.
Alright. That's all I've got kids. Now we will get back to normal business on the blog!