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France Auberges de Jeunesse




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You could stay in Paris forever — if you can afford to — and still not get enough. I ran the whole time day and night and did not see the half of it. And remember, please at least try to speak a little French and you will be surprised how pleasant Parisians will be—don’t try and you will experience the stereotypical aloofness. My advice, buy one of those language learning cd’s at your local book store before you leave home and get the basics like “Ou se trouve le WC”, the last part is pronounced VC (Where’s the restroom.)
I was in Cherbourg a few years years ago, when the U.S.A. had just started bombing Iraq. I was cursed, sworn at, shouted at in French, sworn at behind my back in English, cheated by the Ferry -- 100 Euro to make a two-hour crossing to Pourtsmouth. I was going to spend some days there hiking, and enjoying France, but the one night in a hostel was enough. I left the next day for Portsmouth and when I landed, I got down on my knees, and I kissed the soil of England. Never was I ever happier to be off the continent. Cherbourg does have an excellent baguette shop however -- best baguettes I ever tasted. Cherbourg is a good city to pass on your way to anywhere else.
Les Arcs is part of Paradiski which is one of the largest and best ski resorts in the world. Ski lifts are open winter and summer. We live in Nancroix, which is part of Les Arcs and right on the edge of the Vanoise national park and we love it. There is lots to do for outdoor people -- ski, snowboard, mountain bike (downhill and cross country), white water rafting, via ferrata, walking, paragliding.
The Centre mentioned is not worth it but Dijon is worth a couple of days. There are lots of OK hotels just out the train station for around 40 euros a night. Visit the Mustard Museum. The Visitor Centre is fairly helpful and just out of the train station -- they rent mountain bikes there.
Cassis is beautiful! Go there no matter what!
Metz is really a beautiful town - it's called the city of gardens or some such name. It's really an unexpected find only about 3 hours from Paris. A great place to wander through the parks and relax and it looks wonderful at night to. Bring lots of film.
Strasbourg...Vive la France! I had my first taste of frog's legs (grenouille) here at a Chinese restaurant just outside of the train station. Very tasty. Not to mention, it was pretty darn cool to hear Chinese people speaking French. (I know, I know, I sound like a dumb American tourist). This was my first trip to Europe, so everything was absolutely incredible to me. I toured Europe with infant eyes. Vive la France!
Don't come to Nantes, it is terrible. Absolutely nothing to do here it is sooooooo dull.
You will learn that streets are not marked as obviously in Europe as they are in the states—look up on the corners of the buildings for placards. Train is the likely way you will arrive in Nice if you are a backpacker—just listen up for strikes because the trains and then the trains and the buses went on strike the week I was there which had some people stranded when they were over due to get out of France—but I thought the protesting in the streets was cool—there was singing and music parade-style in the mornings and I sure wanted them to win! And when you are there remember to give give yourself time for daytrips to Cannes and Monaco—it’s just an air conditioned bus ride away (as long as they are not on strike that is!).
Besançon … Besancon is absolutly worth a day or two. Especially the walk up to the castle with a their various museums and the zoo -- I normally do not like zoos but this one is not only in a great location (great views) but the those lions and tigers are impressive and well-housed.
Lyon has the best food in France, period. Save money by cooking in Paris, eat out in Lyon. Night life is good Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
Sète … Sete has beautiful beaches and it's a great medium-small town that isn't trampled by tourists.
Reims is a very unique and pretty place. People are nice and patient. It's good to travel the city with the day pass which cost 2.5 euro.
Marseilles is a beautiful city with a very different character than most of France. Good luck and have fun.
Everything in Chamonix Mont-Blanc, is truely remote from any skiing. I wouldn't go back, mostly because Chamonix as a ski area is over-rated. It's lots of small ski areas spread out. Lifts are slow, crowded, and you have to take a lift up above the tree line before you can take another lift to begin skiing. Go to Tignes instead...
That cathedral in Bayeux is magnificent. Great arcitecture. By far the greatest cathedral in Europe.
Carcassonne … It looks like a Disney attraction, but this castle-town is the real thing. It really makes you feel like you're living in the middle ages. Take a walk in the evening and buy a crepe from a street vender and wander around the cobblestone walkways inside the walled old town city. There's a bus from the new town city center (not far from the train station) that takes you to the walled old town. You can also walk to it in about half an hour or so.
Annecy … If you're into taking pictures, this is a great place for it. There are canals running through the town past some great buildings (like an old prison) and up to a huge lake bordered by mountains. Get a crepe and sit in the town park to watch the boaters.
Cannes … Great. Visit the beach. Trust me. Bring plenty of suncream.
Montpellier … This is the kind of town where you want to keep a close eye on your pack when your walking around or in the hostel, and it's best to not wander off on your own if you go out at night. It's a nice place, but it does have a bit of a petty theft problem at times.


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