Beaux rêves of a white
Guest: Rachel Kealy
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I have travelled to France many times, and thought I had all my bases covered when it came to safety. I learned a number of new tips though from my belle amie Rachel Kealy.
Given that so many people travel at Christmas, hearing some tips for travel safety at this time seemed to make sense! Below are the top 10 tips I heard from Rachel:
1. Everyone assumes and hopes their vacance en France will pass by with nothing but glorious memories, but from personal experience, I know this doesn’t always happen. I had need of a doctor once when I was in Paris and had no idea of where to go! Rachel recommends planning ahead and making a note of some key places you might need if an emergency occurred during your holiday.
* Police station
2. Sometimes in an emergency things can get lost in translation and it can be hard to make yourself understood, so downloading a recommended translation app is a good idea if you’re not fluent!
3. Book travel from the airport/train station when arriving in France to your accommodation. If you’re not a frequent visitor it may be difficult to work out who the genuine taxi drivers are! Even if you know your way around, travelling on the Metro with loads of luggage is telling the world you are a tourist and that you may have some goodies in your bags for the taking! It is also difficult to protect yourself from potentially dangerous situations when carrying luggage. Beware of offers to find you a car or assist you in a taxi queue by caring for your luggage. This has happened to me every time I’ve arrived at Gare du Nord. The queue is safe to wait in, but it is never recommended to leave your luggage with anyone.
4. If travelling alone, always ask for 2 hotel keys to send the message to hotel staff that you are potentially not alone. This avoids you seeming like a soft target for any dangerous activity. Also become aware of where the exits are in your hotel when you arrive in case of emergency.
5. When going out and about in a strange or new place, take the hotel business card or write the address down of your Airbnb for ease of communication for taxis when returning at the end of your excursion.
6. Check the security level of your accommodation when booking, especially for an Airbnb. Is there a security code and secure doors. Who else has keys to your Airbnb? On arrival check that your accommodation doesn’t have a window left open or a back door unlocked, as it is important not to assume it has been left in a perfectly secure state.
7. Pack door stops, or door wedges to use on the inside of the door to your accommodation. If someone else has keys to your room or Airbnb, a door wedge will help keep you secure.
8. Research any current French travel restrictions, such as permitted items to bring into the country.
9. Look up what the local tourist crime rate is, such as pickpocket incidents. Be aware of scammers and pickpockets in Paris. Individuals on street corners or near big tourist attractions such as le Tour Eiffel may ask you to stop and complete a survey, to distract you whilst their “colleagues” do their handiwork. Or I have previously been approached by an old gypsy woman who bent down next to me as I walked along the Seine. She pretended to pick up a ring and asked if it was mine. I had been told of this scam where they ask you about a ring and while you have your hands outstretched to check if you have lost a ring, the frisk apparently occurs. So I tightly held my bag and loudly said “No!” Nothing eventuated during these incidents with me, and they didn’t detract from my day. Awareness and knowledge that it could occur is the key.
10. Prepare your Paris or French meanderings before setting out for the day so there’s less need to check maps in public. If a check in is required, pop into a café or a shop to do it away from prying eyes!
Travelling home pour Noël 2020
Travel in France is not COVID-restricted currently. There will be a curfew in place for New Year’s Eve but Noël is a time when family can still gather this year.
Ma belle amie Sarah Zwick chatted with me about some very French traditions de Noël.
1. If a child writes to Santa, they must get a response! This is LAW in France!
2. French Christmas food – nouriture de Noël. In France Christmas Eve dinner is a main event. The way Sarah describes it, the meal is an absolute feast!
* smoked salmon (le saumon fumé)
* oysters (les huîtres)
* foie gras
* poultry – goose (l’oie), duck (le canard), guinea fowl (le chapon)
* cray fish/lobster (l’écrevisse/la langoustine)
* seafood (fruits de mer)
* green beans (les haricots verts)
* handpicked wild mushrooms (aux champignons)
The famous French Christmas dessert Bûche de Noël is essential on every French Christmas table. It is also popular around the world.
In some regions of France there is a tradition to serve 13 desserts! Each representing a different one of the 12 apostles and Jesus.
The “nativity” is a tradition around the world, in France known as la crèche, the little figurines can be bought in Provence where they are painstakingly hand made. It is a French tradition to leave la crèche on display for 40 days from Christmas until February 2. It always sits near the Christmas tree, (le Sapin Noël).
Sarah is sending us her grandmother’s recipe for their family’s Bûche de Noël, the best in France!
A newer end-of-year tradition which started in 1920 is Miss France. The French public are divided as to whether this beauty pageant reflects the views of current day France with it’s old fashioned rules and out dated values. Still it is something that almost every French citizen will have watched at least once but probably many more times during their life!
Joyeux Noël to all the FrancoFilers around the world.
Sarah’s recette de grandmere for Bûche de Noël is coming soon!