Provincial France - Doing France on a budget
Over the past 7 years we have travelled extensively all around France, have stayed in gites, hotels, cabins, visited some beautiful villages and eaten in some quaint places. Here we have highlighted some regions that we think are highlights.
TIPS on how to make your trip more enjoyable
Outside Paris the most efficient and relaxing way to travel is Train RER or TGV
TIP Booking 2 months out is the cheapest
Booking on English web sites is more expensive as a rule, so if you french is good enough try direct on the French SNCF site ( you can use the google translation tool). It is a cumbersome site and the English does not always work but it is usually more economical. Email ticket to your iphone and they will scan the QR code. Saves lots of papers to carry.
There are also sites where you can buy tickets secondhand, legally they are bought in one persons name, not transferrable but apparently there are sites selling them. Within France should be ok as generally they do not check a name just scan the bar code.
How to buy cheap tickets
Last time we did the sums, it is cheaper to lease-buy if you're using the car for over 3 weeks. If you arrive in Paris, and then taking a car to Regional France, sometimes it's more economical to pick up the car at the first regional centre. Remember the train is quicker and tolls are expensive these days, plus it's very stressful if you have been on a long flight or just want to get to the next destination in the countryside. Insurance makes the cost of picking up a car in Italy much more expensive.
Beware the working hours and Mondays
This can apply in Paris but more so now days in the rural areas where business basically stops during 12noon up until 2-3pm. This can mean the supermarket, boulongerie chemist, doctors. They all close for the big midday meal. Tradition.
However, it can be a real pain when you arrive after a morning's drive to find everything closed including the tourist information office. The hours are very flexible and we have still not deciphered them. No-one knows, it seems to depend on the mood of the person who is supposed to be manning it that day. If the viliage has a Sunday market is near the coast, they might open all over the weekend. Mondays are days off. So sometimes the village is closed.
Gites Gites are like fully furnished flats that are rented out for one week, Saturday to Saturday. They are sprinkled throughout the countryside and offer excellent way of having a base, usually with internet, and washing facilities. Remember this means you will need to supply your own bits and pieces, like washing detergent, toilet paper etc. Linen and towels are usually in the price. Many are very well appointed and are genuinely a home away from home. Many have pools exclusively for clients prices and info
TIP Many sites have specials. Also less known villages which are only 10 minutes away from a major centre are often far more economical. The more north you stay the more economical it is for everything, which takes nothing away from your adventures in France because most areas have so much to offer and so much to see.