I'm looking into backpacking across France, spending 3 weeks there, in April, May or June 2010. I just want an idea of what places to go, what to check out, if there are special events/festivals going on etc. The cities I want to go to for sure are Paris, Nice and Bordeaux, but I want to add a couple others to that list. I'd like to emphasize that I'm going to practice my French so I don't necessarily want to stay where there are English speakers all the time. I want to stay in hostels. Can anyone give me tips in terms of itinerary, what order to visit the cities in etc?
Also, should I be taking a train from city to city?
Any tips at all are great, I'm totally naive.
Sorry that this is so general!
Sorry to dissapoing Erin, but you may find this forum is more dedicated to lighweight wilderness backpacking, as opposed to the european type backpacking across the country. You may have some people with some expeience with it here, but possbily a bit by accident.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I concur--this forum is for American style backpacking, called wilderness trekking by Europeans. I have traveled a lot in France, but my last trip was 8 years ago so I can't give you current info.
I strongly recommend you read a guidebook--my preference has been either Rough Guide or Lonely Planet, depending on which has the most recent edition. You can get plenty of advice over on the Lonely Planet Forum, but you need to ask specific questions, not general ones. Otherwise they'll give you the same advice I just did--read a guidebook first.
The French railroad system is a great way to get around. However, with only three weeks, I suggest limiting your stay to only 2-3 areas. Obviously one of those will be Paris and vicinity, where you can spend well over a week.
Watch out for 3- and 4-day holiday weekends occurring April through June that, at least in the US, we don't even think about--Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, V-E Day--accommodations will be full so you'll need to reserve in advance. Most schools and universities have several weeks off around Easter, adding to the crowds.
I several times had the experience of going into a hostel dorm room, introducing myself in French and discovering that everyone in the room was American, British or Australian! The one place I went where there were only French people present was a hostel in Corsica (most of the guests were from Paris and vicinity). It's amazing how much your French improves when you have to speak it all the time, even for only a week! Unfortunately, in most places, unless your French is good enough for you to pass as a native, as soon as you open your mouth most people switch to English. If you can possibly arrange a homestay, that's the best way to improve your French.
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Hey man its easy, you jump on a train them camp some where. You can stay in the shit holes or just urban camp. Gets cold at night up north but down south it was nice. Even better is getting a bike and riding town to town, camp in the country. You know get a map and compass and learn what meters are haha. Thats really "backpacking europe" Did it over a month and ended up in Spain! Clubs there are nuts!
I can be of some help ., but you will have to do your homework before: find some guidebooks and do a bit of reading, make some plans about what you're interested in (art? history? city life? countryside? seaside? mountains?...)3 weeks is rather short, and you can't see it all, but if you manage well, you can still visit and experience a lot. Visit other travel related sites, or blogs, like Lonely Planet (meet you there!)