Getting in the mood for a France vacation

Getting in the mood for a France vacation

The countdown has started: my next France vacation is a few weeks away.

When the wanderlust hits again, I get the urge to shake things up, to pack a small bag, to head out, to explore. An airplane would do, but if I can’t fly, I’d go for a train, or, (I live in the Pacific Northwest,) a ferry.

Ferry
The Kingston ferry leaving Edmonds

Today, I did not let the chilly, damp Seattle weather deter me from getting out and driving to the shore. A bientôt, la banlieue! So long, suburbia. No airplane, train, or ferry needed. I headed to a favorite local town of mine, Edmonds, WA. I have already dedicated several stories to that special place by the Puget Sound. I like to think of it as “European travel central.” When I am in the mood for travel, especially before a France vacation, I can get my fix there. For one, Rick Steves’ business, Rick Steves Europe, is headquartered in Edmonds.  Even if I spent several months last year trying to get hired by his company – and failed – I don’t hold a grudge. I was happy to attend another of Steves’ travel presentations today. It covered his “spring vacation,” the first half of the 4 months he spends in Europe every year. While out on the road, Steves researches his guidebooks; tests a couple of the 900 tours his company runs every year;  makes connections with local tour guides and old friends; or shoots new episodes of his popular travel TV show series, now in its 8th season, with season 9 on the way. Rick Steves is the ultimate traveler, in and outside Europe. Over the last 40 years, he has built an empire and has convinced many Americans it was safe, fun, and empowering to get a passport and visit the world. An enthusiastic and charismatic communicator, he is also a consummate salesman, and manages to plug his guidebooks, tours, travel bags, TV and radio shows effortlessly and convincingly in the 10-minute introduction he delivers before all of his free presentations. Hats off, Rick. You are the Master. Today, I joined over 250 travel enthusiasts in Edmonds, and we all crammed inside the venerable Edmonds Theater to hear about Steves’ recent travels through Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Bulgaria and Romania. I may be planning my next France vacation, but when given a chance to *visit* 6 European countries in 90 minutes, and for free, I take it. Merci, Rick!

Edmonds theater

Rick is the Bruce Springsteen of travel shows: His presentation – originally scheduled for 1.5 hours – was over 2 hours long. He never missed a beat. Neither did the audience. Steves shared some of his trip photos. He also discussed new trends in European cities (e.g. industrial-age markets catering to foodies and hipsters and offering locally-grown products and wine,) crowds in the “new age of travel,” (the result of the rise of emerging markets like India or China,) terrorism, travelers’ scams, the refugee crisis, and more. The goal was clearly to reassure his audience (his customers,) and encourage them to “keep on traveling.” His short but heartfelt rant against American media, too focused on entertainment, sensationalism, and fear-mongering drew a round of applause.

France vacation

As I traveled vicariously through Europe thanks to Steves’ photos and stories, I could not wait for the section dedicated to France. Steves took us to Normandy (Bayeux, D-Day landing beaches,) then Brittany (Mont St Michel, Dinard, St. Malo,) and finally to Paris. Sans surprise. There were no big scoops, but it was interesting to listen to Rick’s discussion of social unrest in France (and in Europe.) He even went as far as sharing a photo of his beloved rue Cler in Paris – a.k.a. “Rick Steves’ Central” – lined with riot police cars during a demonstration on nearby Champs de Mars. He encouraged his audience to keep visiting Paris, and to do as the Parisians do: Following last year’s terror attacks, they refused to be scared and keep enjoying life en terrasse, (out on café terraces,) as a sign of resistance. I could only agree. I learned several facts during the 2+ hour-long presentation: Steves manages to communicate with locals all over Europe, but still can’t pronounce some French words (“Bayeux!”) in spite of the free French language classes at his travel center. 😉 He loves escargots (this word he pronounces perfectly,) local tour guides, Uber drivers, and train travel (not necessarily in that order.)

France vacation
Les escargots de Rick a Paris (Photo Rick Steves.)

After sitting for so long in a dark room, I was happy to step outside and walk around Edmonds. Saturday is market day. However quaint and worth a visit, most markets in the Seattle area are a far cry from French and European outdoor markets. They always seem to be heavy on local crafts, not so much on fresh produce. I did find Rainier Cherries and fresh flowers to take home with me.

France vacation

Rainier cherries

The day was not over yet. Rick Steves Europe has some competition in town in the “best travel supplier ” category. I have owned  one of his wonderful carry-on size bags for years, but for smaller travel accessories, I visit a local store, the Savvy TravelerWhat better way to get in the mood for a France vacation than to look up travel gear? I also had to find a gift for a friend who is taking a sabbatical year in Europe this month. Useful or not, the Savvy Traveler has it all! First, the classics:

Supplies 1

Supplies 2
Supplies 6

Then, the “I-don’t-really-need-it-but-I-want-it” category…

France vacation
Luggage tag
Selfie Stick
Le petit Selfie Stick. Steves calls them “Narciss-sticks.” :-)

A full clothing line, complete with travel underwear and hats, but unlike Rick Steves, I would not invest in a piece of clothing I won’t wear when I return…

Rick and the Hat
Rick, traveling incognito, with “le chapeau” (Photo Rick Steves)

I found my friend’s gift, and a few things to bring along with me when I hit the not-so-friendly skies in a few weeks. Mission accomplished. Outside, the rain had stopped. It was time to leave lovely Edmonds, but first, ignoring the overcast Northwest skies, i enjoyed some salted caramel gelato, en terrasse, as it should be.

Gelato

A bientôt.

Afterword:

Merci, Rick Steves Europe

130 4th Ave N
Edmonds, WA 98020
Tel: 425-771-8303

Merci, the Savvy Traveler

112 5th avenue South,
Edmonds WA, 98020
Tel: 425-744-6076

All photos, unless otherwise noted, by French Girl in Seattle. Please do not use without permission.

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— Merci. FGIS

19 Responses to Getting in the mood for a France vacation

  1. Living all the way across the country from Edmonds, I have to watch the Rick Steves talks on line. It is great that he offers them streaming for those of us who are geographically challenged.

    • Yes, Steves is generous about sharing free information online and at his travel center, and good for him! I think when you love travel as much as he does, sharing information seems like the natural thing to do. I can relate, at a (much) more modest level: I have been running this blog – and the French Girl in Seattle Facebook community – in my free time, and for free, for over 5 years 🙂 Merci de votre visite et à bientôt.

  2. Glad to hear you’re going on another adventure! Iam planning a trip in 2017 for three months & so bery excited. Never been & it’s been my dream to explore as many parts of Europe as I can. Will try to see France, Italy, Spain this trip. Likely staying in airbnb’s as I like to see things from a locals perspective.
    Thank you for your tips & your excitment for travel.

    • Bonjour DiAnn. I wish you the most wonderful, enlightening, adventure-filled trip to Europe next year. Prepare well, be flexible, and you shall be rewarded. Airb’n’b is a good option, even if several major European (and American) cities are starting to crack down on them. There will always be bed and breakfasts, and small, centrally-located hotels that keep you downtown and and close to locals. They keep things real. Good luck trip planning. That’s almost as fun as the actual trip (Rick Steves guidebooks should help you a lot during that phase.) Bon voyage!

  3. The only thing I can think of that would be a hassle to pick up after arrival is a plug converter for recharging the phone. You can find them, but there’s no 24/7 Wal-mart or Target, so it’s more of a search.
    When I lived in NYC I would go to the Cloisters museum for a European afternoon escape.
    As for Rick Steve’s pronunciation, I have lived in France and Belgium for 20 years and still don’t say certain words quite right. My husband and kid correct me, but some sounds are hard. Husband speaks excellent English but also has an accent/mispronounces words. I think Rick Steve shows that you shouldn’t let that stop you from speaking. Just communicate; it doesn’t have to be perfect.
    And remember, there’s lots of amazing stuff to visit beyond Paris.

    • Bonjour and thank you for your visit! The comment about Rick’s pronunciation is tongue-in-cheek. I have lived in the US for 20 years and still mispronounce words as well. 😉 As I recall he stumbled on “Bayeux” several times, and many visitors do. Rouen, Caen, and Roanne also come to mind, all challenging words. As for visiting France outside Paris, as a Toulousaine, I can only agree with you. On my next trip, because my time off is now much more limited – welcome to the United States! – I will be visiting three different cities in two weeks, American style, and I will love reconnecting with la Belle France 😉 It’s a struggle to find articles in English about France outside Paris to share with my readers on Facebook, but I will keep looking for them. Bonne fin de weekend!

  4. I have been to two events where Rick Steve’s was the speaker…..he doesn’t dissappoint. I love travel guides and always find myself in the travel section of book stores.

    • Thank you for stopping by Janey! I love the travel guide section too. Talk about traveling vicariously! Rick Steves Europe in Edmonds has an excellent selection; and they let visitors use them for free if they want to plan their trip on site. That’s very generous of them.

  5. Love this information, V! I wondered how Rick feels about AirBnB? Did he happen to mention it? I’m planning a trip for next June-July and have found some great deals there.
    Thanks for sharing all your wealth of information with us!

    • Bonjour Phyllis. Rick may have mentioned AirBnB in passing, but did not actually discuss it. I am sure you can look up that topic on one of the very active boards on his website! I have used AirBnB in France, and have always been happy with the price and location. Apartments, however, varied. My biggest peeve is when landlords does not bother getting their stuff out of the way, and leave no room for guests in the closets or bathroom. Then you end up living out of your suitcase, and it can be a hassle in a smaller place.

  6. That was a very nice post, enjoyable to read. When we went to Seattle I saw the name of Edmonds and thought it a strange name for a town, but we did not drive there – our loss. Rick Steves certainly has a great tourist business, but … je vais dire cela en français – quand nous sommes allés à Venise je n’avais que son livre pour visiter la ville. Une fois de retour à Nice quelqu’un m’a demandé si je n’avais pas visité l’île arménienne dans la lagune de Venise. Je l’ignorais. J’ai regardé dans le livre de Steve sur Venise – rien la dessus. Cela m’a vraiment peiné d’avoir manqué cela car c’est une île historique que l’on peut visiter ou se trouve un monastère arménien de pères mékhitaristes. Je me suis dit, la prochaine fois je prendrai deux livres de guide touristique.

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