France Travel Itinerary, Food, and Accommodations

France is a wonderful country to visit full of history, culture, and good food! Get ideas for what to do, what to eat, and where to stay.

Nate, Valerie, and Brayden in front of the Eiffel Tower

Many years ago, my husband and I decided we wanted to take our kids on a trip with just the one child and us at some point while they were teenagers.

With that, we wanted to allow them to choose where they wanted to go (within reason). Our oldest, Brayden, has a great interest in Europe. We originally assumed that would probably be out of the budget, but as we spoke with a coworker of Nate’s, he shared that he travels to Europe often and that it is quite affordable!

As we started watching flights, we realized that with some patience and waiting, we could actually get flights cheaper than the cost of us to fly to Florida from where we live.

If traveling to Europe is something that is of interest to you, you can absolutely do it affordably if you are diligent in watching for flight deals. Flexibility always helps with budget, but when we traveled to France, we wanted to go over Brayden’s spring break. He had to miss a couple of days of school in the end in order for us to get a good price on flights, but overall, we were able to travel in our desired time frame.

If you are traveling to France, here are some tips, fun ideas of things to do, and things to try!

Traveling Around Europe

It should be stated that it is relatively easy and inexpensive to travel around Europe. It does not take much time to travel among countries, either. We had first booked our trip for March of 2020. For obvious reasons, we ended up canceling that. Our first trip was going to encompass England, France, and Italy.

There were still a lot of restrictions on travel when we did go on our trip, so we decided to stick to one country just to keep it all simpler. You still had to test to get into every country at the time, so staying in one country seemed best.

While you can easily go from country to country, there is absolutely enough in each country to spend all of your time there.

Language in France

As we traveled around France, we interacted with people who spoke little to no English all the way to people who spoke fluent English. None of us spoke French at the time and we were able to get around just fine. They do not cater to English speakers. There were plenty of museums with signs only in French. We had to Google a lot of things when we were at restaurants and looking at menus.

Our greatest trouble was in the airport. We had a really hard time finding someone who worked there and spoke English and could help us, but we managed in the end.

Considering we knew only a handful of words in French, you can expect to do just fine in France even if you do not speak French.

Something that would be good for you to learn is “push” and “pull” so you know what to do when you get to a door.

Where To Visit in France

Oh this is a big one. France is one of the larger countries in Europe and has a lot of variety in the types of locations you can visit. It is full of history, culture, and architecture.

You have the big city of Paris, you have the French Alps by Chambery. You have the French Riviera along the Mediterranean coastline. You have the beauty and history of Normandy, with well-known cities like Cean and Bayeux. You have countless World War II history locations, including Reims where treaties were first signed to end the war. There are castles and cathedrals everywhere. You have Nimes, a Roman town full of Roman architecture.

You can get to most locations quickly and easily by train. You can definitely stay in Paris and then take the train to various other locations for day trips. You can also spend a few days in Paris, then spend a couple of days in other regions you are interested in seeing.

One thing to check as you decide where to visit is the ease of getting to desired locations by train. Check train schedules as you are deciding your plans.

We traveled from March 30-April 8. Here is our itinerary:

  • March 30: Fly from Salt Lake City to Charles-de-Gaulle airport
  • March 31: Paris. We visited the Louvre Museum and Notre Dame Paris Cathedral. We also walked around that area of Paris and saw different points of interest. We also walked along the Seine River. The time change is hard to adjust to. Nate and I literally fell asleep on a bench in the Louvre (it was the middle of the night our time). See a Day 1 Reel I put on Insta here.
  • April 1: Day trip to Reims. We went to the Museum of the Surrender where the unconditional surrender of the German forces was signed (May 7, 1945). We also explored the town. The Cathedral there is beautiful (Notre-Dame Reims). You can definitely get Reims done in about 4 hours. We also had some time in Paris and visited Sacre Coeur. This is a beautiful cathedral that is not a gothic-style cathedral. It is also the highest point of the city, so a good spot to see a lot of the city. It is a fun spot at sunset.
  • April 2: Day trip to Versailles. I recommend getting the ticket that allows you to go to the estate of Versailles (including the palace, Trianon, and the gardens). MAKE SURE you have a ticket for the train to Versailles. At the time, the metro ticket we used did not double as a ticket on the metro to Versailles and we had to pay a lot of money as essentially a fine once we got to Versailles. That evening, we took a train from Paris to Bayeux.
  • April 3: Normandy Tour. We did the Omaha + Utah Beach Fully Day Tour. We were picked up in Bayeux and driven to the beaches.
  • April 4: Mont Saint-Michel tour (this was probably my personal favorite day). We were picked up in Bayeux and driven by van to Mont Saint-Michel through the beautiful countryside. We also visited the Bayeux tapestry museum. This museum is about William the Conquerer, who is my great-some-odd-grandfather. There is a statue of my great-some-odd grandmother, Poppa de Bayeux in the town of Bayeux, also. We then took the train back to Paris.
  • April 5: Day trip to Bordeaux. We just explored the town for the day. It is a pretty city and really different from the other French cities we had been to thus far.
  • April 6: Explore Paris. We visited many locations including the Pantheon, Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, Luxembourg Palace, and the Paris Temple.
  • April 7. Explore Paris. We visited many locations including the Arc de Triomphe, Dome des Invalides (a giant hospital Napoleon built–his tomb is also there), and the Eiffel Tower. You will want to get your Eiffel Tower tickets as soon as you know you are going. We were able to go to the very top. We attended at sunset, which was amazing. We were there in daylight and watched the sun set while there. I loved going on our last day so we could see where we had been around the city.
  • April 8: Fly home.

See a reel from our whole trip here.

Notre Dame Reims

Something we did not know before we went there is that there is a “Notre Dame” in every city. They are all amazing and beautiful and worth a stop.

There is a lot of World War II significance in the country. If you have someone in your party who is interested in that part of history, you will be able to find many significant locations. Walking around Paris is interesting because you can see the places where buildings were destroyed and had to be rebuilt. There is also a vast significant difference between Cean and Bayeux. Cean was flattened during the war and has been rebuilt while Bayeaux was relatively unharmed and still has historic charm to it.

If you are traveling with children, consider a visit to Disneyland Paris!

Transportation in France

We traveled by train, metro, bus, tram, or by foot. Our guided tours were by van. It is important to know that it is much cheaper to purchase train tickets ahead of time. If you buy your ticket that day, it will be much more expensive. With that said, you will have to pay extra to change your train ticket time.

We bought transit passes for traveling around Paris. While in Bordeaux, we bought a tram pass for the day.

If you are looking to take daytrips from Paris or to go stay outside of Paris, you will want to book a train ticket. Head to sncf.com to do that.

We did a lot of walking. Unless you plan to use a taxi to get from place to place, plan on getting a lot of steps in each day.

Traveling on a train in France

Where To Stay in France

Choosing where to stay can be a very difficult decision because there are so many options. We tried to stay at places that offered breakfast where possible. We also stayed in two different major areas of Paris so we were closer to different things.

I will say the most important thing in Paris is staying close to a metro station. That way you can quickly and easily get where you need to go. Metro line 1 is the one that hits the main cool spots in Paris, so I would try to stay near a stop for Line 1.

Here are the places we stayed:

  • Hotel Louvre Bons Enfants: This is where we stayed close to the Louvre in Paris. This was a great location and the room was nice. The staff was very friendly and accommodating. They also had a nice breakfast. We would definitely stay there again.
  • Hotel Le Bayeux: This is where we stayed in Bayeux. The room was very small, but it was a nice place with a very friendly staff. We would be fine to stay there again.
  • Hotel Du Lys. This is the second hotel we stayed in Paris. The breakfast here was fine. While our stay here has brought us many inside jokes and funny memories, we definitely would not stay here again. The staff was not very friendly. The bathroom in our room was not completely closed off from the rest of the room (though room there would vary widely). We wished we had just stayed at our first Paris hotel again. We did enjoy the world’s smallest elevator there. In the end, it was inexpensive and we didn’t spend more time there than sleeping and getting ready, so it was fine.

What and What to Eat

There is so much delicious food to eat in France!

As I mentioned, we chose hotels where breakfast was included. This simplified mornings.

We then typically stopped in bakeries, or patisseries, for lunch. These bakeries tend to have basic meat and cheese sandwiches on baguettes. They were really good and affordable.

We then chose somewhere for dinner close to our location. There is no shortage of restaurants and it gets really hard to choose where to go!

Going to a restaurant takes a large chunk of time. The French are in no hurry when they eat. You will not be in and out quickly, which was another reason we chose bakeries for lunch. They do not expect that anyone but you will occupy that table all evening long.

Restaurants are not open all day. They serve lunch, take a break, then serve dinner. We tend to eat dinner early, and we often got odd looks when we wanted to eat dinner at 5 PM rather than drink wine. Most places do not open for dinner until 6-8 PM. Lunch is typically 12:00-2:30 PM.

While the food is good in France, the desserts are even better. Make sure you them out! There are delicious desserts in the patisseries, but one well-known location for dessert is Angelina. They do have one of these at Versaille, so don’t feel like you have to hunt one down elsewhere if you plan to visit Versaille.

Cannele in Bordeaux

If you visit Bordeaux, be sure to get the Cannele. My favorite dessert was the Le Rohan at Pierre Mathieu Patissier Bordelais in Bordeaux.

Pistachio is a very common ingredient in desserts in France. Make sure you try one.

I got Creme Brulee as often as possible and it never disappointed me. Mille-Feuille is another delicious option. And of course, macarons are a must.

We ate a lot of different main dishes. I got an omelet randomly at a restaurant (I don’t usually order omelets) and it was the best omelet I have ever had. I got French Onion Soup as often as possible (another favorite of mine).

I had a Croque Monsieur on our Normandy Tour day. I absolutely loved it! I had delicious fish and chips in Bayeux.

Nate had a lot of burgers and fries. He is a big burger guy.

You must eat croissants and baguettes while there. We noticed a lot of locals carry around baguettes with them. Brayden started to carry one around for a snack.

You really can’t go wrong. Not everything we ate was a home run, but we ate a lot of good food.

Yummy food to try in France

Conclusion

There is so much to do and see in France! We saw a lot in our time there, but there is even more we weren’t able to see. An area of the country I would love to visit that we didn’t get to is the French Alps part of the country. Is there anywhere you have visited in France that you think people should consider? Please share in the comments!

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