When I found out that I would be spending the semester in Paris, I knew I wanted to travel, but not just around Europe. In order to really immerse myself in French culture, I knew it would be necessary to visit other parts of France and not just stay in Paris the whole time. Here’s what I did during my day trips in France to Amiens, Angers, and Reims!
- North of Paris, 1 hour by train
Amiens was the site of my first day trip, back in October. I went with other Educo people and a guide, as it was one of the day trips set up by the program. After a quick train ride, we walked around the town and to their Notre Dame cathedral (seems like every French city has one). The fact that all the details were done by hand is pretty incredible; we also took a short tour of the inside. We walked around some more and grabbed lunch. We then went to a nature center, where we got into a boat/raft and went on a short cruise on the river. Getting to see nature was such a nice break from the crowded Paris streets. After, we walked around the town some more, going into chocolate shops and watching street performers. We stopped by an indoor market before heading out, where we tried the Amiens-version of a macaron (similar to a petit four without icing!). Amiens was a really cute, small town, like the kind of homey French city I know my mom would love to visit. I later found out that it’s also Macron’s hometown and where La République en Marche started up!
- Southwest of Paris, 2 hours by train
Because there were still spots left for the Angers trip, I was able to go on two free day trips with my program! I had a bit of an issue getting to my train on time, as I originally left my ticket at home and then couldn’t find the train at the station, but it all worked out and I made it. The we got there, our guide brought us to see the cathedral, and then we dropped off Sam’s bag at the restaurant (apparently it wasn’t clear that this trip only lasted a day and not the entire weekend). We walked all around the Chateau d’Angers, which was interesting because it’s much more like a fortress than the typical castles we think of and that I saw during my time in Amboise. Attached to the Chateau was a tiny museum that displayed a tapestry. It was much more colourful and complete than the Bayeux tapestry we had seen in Normandy, but still, just a tapestry, so not the most exciting part of my day. Lunch was a free three-course meal, so pretty great. We spent our last bit of time walking around the city more, including a stop at what used to be a hospital but is now a small museum. Still not totally sure what all that was about. Angers was the farthest south that I had been in France at this point, and the gothic architecture was new to see as well.
- Northeast of Paris, 2 hours by bus
This trip was a bit different because it wasn’t planned for me through my program. The morning after I got back from my Greece and Italy trip, I got to the RER dark and early and headed to the Eurolines bus stop. I then took my 7 euro bus to Reims, where I met up with Ian. We wandered around the city and saw the Notre Dame cathedral (the real one that the famous story is based on!), the city center, and the local Sciences Po campus… All the essentials, really. We stopped by Ian’s building and ate French toast (so French!!), and then headed to our champagne tour at Tattinger. We went underground and saw the champagne caves, learned about what makes champagne so special, and even got to try some at the end. Ian cooked lunch at his place for us, complete with discount eclairs from Franprix, and then we stopped by Fossier, which sells the original pink rose biscuits that you dip in champagne. And of course we also had to go to a macaron store so I could try a champagne macaron from the city of champagne. We walked around a park and reflected on the semester some before I left to go back to Paris, fully prepared for a good night’s sleep after all the traveling I had been doing.
While Paris has its excitement, history, and attractions, there’s nothing like the charm of a small French town! From my experience, I have found that people in other French cities are much more chill and less judgemental, but that being said, I’m happy I’m spending the majority of the semester in a place that has so, so much more to see and do. These day trips were quick and easy, and a great opportunity to see new places without even going too far.
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