The Interviews: Living in France, Eating Meat Pie, and Flying for $25.
Hey guys! Todays post is extra awesome — I just sat down with Paige, who lived in France while studying abroad. While living in Europe, she also took trips to Dublin, Venice, Athens, London, Amsterdam, and other great destinations. Paige kept a small notebook with a list of everything she saw and did if Europe – which I think is a great idea. With my upcoming trip quickly approaching, I wanted to pick her brain on her favorite places in Europe, and hear what advice she had to give for solo travelers. Paige was insanely nice, told me so many great stories, and showed me so many great pictures – I don’t think I’ll be sleeping again until my trip. Too much excitement!
Although Paige was terrified when she first arrived in France (alone!), it ended up being a place where she fell in love and realized her passion for art, and it’s become one of her favorite places in Europe. Paige lived in Caen, which is about two hours outside of Paris in the southern region of Normandy. (Her pictures of the beaches in Normandy are gorgeous – she highly recommends visiting them and taking in the history.) Here are her other recommendations for what to see (and not see) in Paris, Dublin, London, and Amsterdam:
First off, what would you recommend as transportation between countries? RyanAir. The Eurail Pass can be so overpriced – I think I got flights for as low as $25. I also took Megabus overnight to Amsterdam once – it was cheap, but cramped and too short of a ride to fall asleep. We arrived at 6 AM and took a nap in the station. When you get into your city, the metro is always the way to go.
What do you think is over-rated as far as tourist destinations in Paris go? The Eiffel Tower. Go see it, but don’t go up. Also, the Louvre is just like the Met, and it’ll take up an entire day if you’re going to see everything. It was a mad house every time that I went.
The best part of any city is just walking and getting lost in it, instead of going to tourist attractions.
What would you recommend for museums and artistic sights in Paris instead of the Louvre? Definitely Musée d’Orsay – it has a lot of Impressionist work. Musée Rodin is another must-see. The Sacre Coeur has great views – and spend a lot of time wandering Montmartre. Sainte-Chapelle is amazing too – it has a gorgeous ceiling. Also see Versailles! The grounds are amazing. I went in March when it wasn’t even that nice out and the grounds where still beautiful. It’s totally worth the day trip.
Also, totally see the Paris catacombs, the Paris Opera, and Les Invalides – where Napoleon is buried. I also love visiting secondhand bookshops – they’re adorable and I’ve found some great books alone the way.
Where do you wish you could go spend more time? The whole Left Bank of Paris – That side of the Seine is still full of restaurants and cafes where Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and other artists and writers used to hang out.
What are your recommendations for learning French? Use Duolingo – it’s a great app. Also listen to “Learn French Daily,” on Spotify. I listen to it when I’m driving, and it’s great because you can play things back and practice pronunciation.
What restaurants do you recommend in France? Le Grand Colbert! It’s the best restaurant I’ve been to. La Coupole is great too – it’s in Montparnasse. You have to go to Le Select – it’s one of Hemingway’s old haunts. Cafe de Flore is highly overrated. Basically any Bistro or Brasserie on a corner will be good, though.
What do you recommend to someone spending time in Amsterdam? Amsterdam is a great walking city. Amsterdam also has a great Zoo.
Any Dutch restaurant recommendations? You have to eat falafel when you’re there! SupperClub is an awesome restaurant, too. You basically eat a 5 course meal while sitting on a comfy bed.
What about London? You have to eat at The Breakfast Club. It’s breakfast food, obviously, and its so good. The Underground system is also really straight forward, so it’s easy to get around. We spent a lot of time wandering Regency Park.
What is the best part of Dublin? The people! The people are amazing. They are all so friendly and helpful. I stayed in the Four Courts Hostel and everyone was so welcoming and such a good resource. The hostel offered free walking tours, which were a great way to get a head start on understanding Dublin. The guide was young and enthusiastic, too.
Don’t do the Guinness factory – take a day trip to Glendalough instead. It’s not too far away and it’s where most of Braveheart was filmed.
Temple-Bar is really expensive, so try to avoid it. Go to restaurants right outside of that area. Except for Pie Man Cafe! Make sure you get meat pie. It’s so good.
What do you recommend to anyone traveling alone, or to travelers in general?
Attempt to speak the language of the country that you are in – the locals will appreciate your effort. Also, don’t be afraid of asking locals for help. They get it, and they are happy to answer questions. Try to start in an English speaking country so you can be less overwhelmed, though.
Try to get pocket maps and metro maps that are small, easy to carry, and easy to read.
Remember: there is always a cheaper way to travel than a taxi!
Make as many friends as possible – especially in your hostel. These people are your best resource for help while you’re traveling, and could be a great connection on a trip at a later date.
What do you consider packing essentials for any traveler?
Don’t forget adaptors!
Sensible shoes are a must.
Cotton dresses are a must – they are easy and take up less space in a suitcase.
Get a cross body bag with a good latch or zipper. I was pick-pocketed twice because I didn’t have one!
Copy your passport just in case!
Don’t carry a lot of cash.
Bring a backup iPod touch or something that you can text on – in case your phone is stolen.
Don’t schedule down to the last minute. Something WILL go wrong. Things will go missing, you will miss flights, and you will get lost. Don’t get overwhelmed – it’s a part of the traveling experience.
Want to share your travel advice as well? Shoot me an email or comment below and lets set up an interview!