Initially, France was to be a three day trip crossing the country via Paris to Germany, but due to an out of the blue Facebook group message whilst in Barcelona, we found ourselves on the Euroline bus to Avignon to see an old friend, Claire, who took us around the famous sites of this windy city, showed us the Pont du Gard, drove us to the artistic town of Uzès, introduced us to the delicious tartine and showered us with a cheese feast every night.
Hiring a minute Peugeot (of course), we set off into Provence, we were too late in the year to witness the famous lavender fields so we settled for some wine tasting in Frances’ first totally organic Village, Correns (even the hairdressers is Organic here, but I’m not sure how they fulfil their pledge in the Tabac) then learned how to make Macaroons at a French pastry class in Aix-en-Provence. After enjoying Frances’ amazing secondhand markets we made our way back to Avignon, said our fond farewell to Claire and took the train to Paris. In Paris we got our first taster for having to watch our budget carefully, staying in a Parisians tiny apartment, we learnt how tough life in this city can be (and we were lucky, our apartment actually had a separate bathroom, in some the kitchen sink doubles up as a shower). I guess here in Paris, we were on the usual itinerary, a walk around Montmartre, to the Eiffel Tower, down the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, a visit to the Louvre, eating Baguette, tutting at the price of a coffee whilst wafting cigarette smoke out of our faces. Somehow we couldn’t avoid a night at the Moulin Rouge for titties galore, ooh la la, n’es pas! Then for the pièce de résistance, a delightful two night stay in the cutest of apartments in Frances little Venice, Colmar, where we were chauffeured in a BMW courtesy of our first car pooling experience at one third of the price of a train ticket.
Click the interactive map to see the places we visited during our 13 days in France.
1) meeting up with our good friend Claire the Eco warrior architect we met in new Mexico whilst building Earthships and being shown the local sights, the real French way.
2) Making macaroons. We had the privilege to learn the extraordinary skills of making the french mini burger pastry, they sell at 3€ a pop – Ka-ching!
3) Visiting the rather interesting little organic village of Correns, and exploring the stunning surrounding areas.
4) Finally going to the Louvre, it’s been on Anna’s bucket list for years.
5) Spending a couple of days in Colmar, a cute little village packed with medieval gingerbread houses that look like they are taken straight out of Brothers Grim.
1) Sticking to budget whilst trying to have a good time.
2) Realising we can’t speak french as well as we thought we could.
3) Feeling the cold for the first time in a long time as we get close to the German border.
4) Parking Permaculture – it’s almost non-existent in France.
“firt quote add here”
Anna - The Ecoquest
“Second quote that we can add here”
Olof - The Ecoquest
Ecoquest Learnings and Overview
We spent some time researching Permaculture in France and apart from one farm called Permaculture Eden which we had heard very mixed reviews about, we struggled to find anything else. In typical French fashion we did discover that they don’t really do Permaculture, instead a man named Pierre Rabhi created a concept which translates into “an Oasis in any place”, which sounds a lot like Permaculture to us. We failed to track down Pierre Rabhi, but we should definitely learn more about his work if we decide to either return to Europe or settle in a more arid climate.
So with little in the way of Permaculture, we allowed our time in France to be a cultural and historical learning experience, the cuisine was also a major part of it.
Spending time with Claire was formidable. She took us to many historical places in and around Avignon and for the first time on our trip we got seriously aquatinted with our camera’s at the Pont Du Gard.
We learnt about how important cheese is to the locals and sampled so many different kinds that we lost count, we learnt how to make Tartine and how important it is to sip a glass of pastis before a meal.
We discovered how terribly windy Avignon is, it’s actually quite uncomfortable as the winds blow at incredible speed, but the wind here, referred to as the ‘mistral’ is said to bring many benefits to Avignon and Provence, blowing away pollution and dust and creating a clean and clear air, so note to self to learn about the local winds when finding our desired plot, clean and clear air is vital but we’d like to be able to pass on what can sometimes be wind speeds of upto 31mph!!
Our favourite learning experience had to be making real French macaroons, we now know the tricks of the trade and if anything we are keen to learn more about French Pastry.
Paris was a big eye opener, staying on the edge of the city in an airbnb apartment we saw not only how grimy the “worlds most romantic” city really is but also the sacrifice people make on their living standards in order to be in this city, in addition the amount of homeless people sleeping on the streets, was shocking. But on this visit, unlike many previous we found that speaking or even attempting to speak a little French goes a long way in the capital and the response from locals is generally warmer.
At the Louvre, apart from discovering that seeing the Mona Lisa is a massive anticlimax, we lost the afternoon to the lower, quieter levels of the museum, in the Egyptian quarters, we were sprung into later watching some documentaries, detaling various different theories associated to the existence of the Pyramids and thus we discover there are Pyramids in Bosnia, as such a visit to Visoko goes onto our bucket list. Oh and surprisingly the Moulin Rouge was no where near as tacky as we thought it would be, even with lots of naked boobs in our faces, it strangely verged on classy!!
Managing the Budget
Given we spent the majority of our time in some of France’s most expensive places (Provence and Paris) and that we managed to take a professional French Pastry class and spend a night at the Moulin Rouge we didn’t do too bad with our budget. We overspent again (and this really does have to stop) by an average of £12.20 a day, so basically if we had just cut out the coffees and drank tap water, or had we not taken 1st class seats on the train from Avignon to Paris, we would have been fine.
Food was once again the most expensive part of our time in France and this is something we were really conscious about, whilst in Colmar we self catered 100% of the time, similar whilst staying with Claire as we would eat in on an evening. Whilst in Paris we would picnic, self cater or dine in restaurants on the outskirts of town. Nevertheless food set us back on average £15 per person per day. Accommodation worked out at about £28 a day, pretty good for France, but this was helped by the fact that we got to stay with Claire rent free for 4 nights. Car rental for exploring Provence and the train tickets to Paris were the greatest travel expenses, crossing the country to Colmar and exiting into Germany was kept low by taking a car share (we haven’t plucked up the courage to hitch hike just yet). Activity costs were high due to the French Pastry class (75€ pp) and tickets to the Moulin rouge (£85pp). Other costs were made up of travel insurance, phone bills, memberships to volunteering websites, hair cuts and buying some second hand clothes for the cold weather that lay ahead.
Click the interactive map to see a detailed cost breakdown for our road travel.
NB when detailing the budget, this is the cost for two people.
Apart from the car hire in Provence all of other travel was done by public/shared transport. We took the Eurolines bus from Barcelona to Avignon, the train from Avignon to Paris and then took a car share from Paris to Colmar and over the border to Germany. We didn’t take one single taxi and walked everywhere in the towns and cities, that makes our travelling pretty eco-conscious. For accommodation we slept in spare rooms, rented genuine airbnb apartments for the most part and when we were self catering we always purchased bio products. Given we spent a couple of days in Frances first Organic village we became Eco with very little effort. On the actives front we had a big fail on the Eco Barometer, but when purchasing clothes we took advantage of Frances amazing car boot sales and bought second hand.
Could France be for us?
If we were fluent in French perhaps, but with Spain just next door France really doesn’t offer much competition. We have to say we were blown away with the beauty of Provence but the price tag of living there is just way too much. Without much of an explanation it’s highly unlikely that we settle in France for reasons that we can’t really articulate.
Top Tips for Frace
Coming soon top tips and advice for travelling around France the Eco way!