Ooh la la, it’s time for the last deep dive into an international destination this season – get ready for it, Out Travel the System is heading to France!
In this episode, host Nisreene Atassi draws on the expertise of Jackie Kai Ellis, an author, designer, and classically-trained pastry chef with a home base in Paris, and Antoine Walter, a Director, Market Management in France for Expedia, to suss out everything you need to plan out a jaunt to live la belle vie.
Listen in as they list off all of the many places you can dream about visiting, from world-class museums, houses of high fashion, and the prehistoric art of the Lascaux cave. Take in the sights that inspired Monet, Brancusi, and Rodin, and make sure to make time to stop at a cafe for a restorative coffee and pastry every so often.
They share their inside tips on how to access the best of French history and culture, outdoor adventure, and family-friendly fun. From how to get around to what days to avoid visiting museums, it’s all right here in this episode.
Fantastic tips to get the full France experience
Nisreene Atassi: It’s time for our final destination deep dive of the season. And may I just say, I am super excited for this one? I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it to you, but I have family that actually live in Paris, so France is a destination that I know quite well. I’ve always known that France is just an absolutely magical place. And while it’s such a cliche, sometimes, for people to say that they are dreaming of one day visiting Paris, it’s one that I think actually has merit. I’m Nisreene Atassi, and this is Out Travel the System. We are headed on a virtual journey to France today with two fabulous guests. First up, I’ve got Jackie Kai Ellis, a best selling author of The Measure of My Powers, a Paris trained pastry chef and a style ambassador for brands like Chanel. Amazing. She divides her time between Paris and Vancouver. Welcome to Out Travel the System, Jackie, so great to have you.
Jackie Kai Ellis: Thank you so much for having me.
Nisreene Atassi: Also here with us today is Antoine Walter. Antoine is Expedia’s director of market management in France. Bienvenue, Antoine.
Antoine Walter: Merci. Hello everybody, from Paris. I’m so happy to be there with you and to talk about my beloved country.
Nisreene Atassi: All right, Jackie, let’s start with you. I want to just quickly get into your backstory. For many people, when they envision visiting France, it’s really Paris that comes to mind. You first encountered the city when you went to pastry school and have now made it a home base for yourself. What is it that really draws you to the city and keeps you coming back?
Jackie Kai Ellis: It really was something that kind of fell into place for me. It wasn’t a plan. So originally when I decided to go to pastry school, I was thinking to myself, ” I’m doing this huge life change.” I was a designer before. I had my own design firm. So I’m going to go to the best place that I know exists for pastry, and that would be Paris. So when I went there, I didn’t even really care for Paris. I was just like, ” It’s just going to be another city. I’m just there for pastry school.” But it was really through all the little moments, in between moments, that made me fall in love with the city.
So it’s the walking to the subway at the crack of dawn when you’re just about to go to your internship, to work, and you pass by all these bustling bakeries that you can start smelling the yeast coming out of the bakeries as they’re preparing for the morning customers. And the city is just so beautiful. The architecture, the way that the light hits the buildings. And I feel like the city really spoon feeds you inspiration. So I think that’s what got me loving Paris. And also just the average acceptance of indulgence, I think, is really what I love about it. Paris is also a really hard city sometimes, but it’s what keeps me going back. It’s got all these really complex facets, I think.
Nisreene Atassi: It’s got an energy that is palpable, I think. And it’s really, really unique and really specific, which I think is why so many people love it. So Antoine, you are French, born and raised I’m guessing. But you live in Paris now. Where exactly are you from originally?
Antoine Walter: A true Parisian. I’m born in Paris. My parents, my grandparents born in Paris. So I still live in Paris. And honestly, if I stay in France, I’m not sure I will be able to live outside of Paris.
Nisreene Atassi: Do you feel like Parisians have a bit of a stigma about them? I think for Americans, when they think about traveling to France, I think they worry a little bit that when they go to Paris, people are going to be a little bit cold or stuck up or things like that. I’ve always been curious whether people throughout France have that same stigma of Parisians, or if you think that’s just a misconception that Americans have.
Antoine Walter: Well, I think Parisians are like all big cities in the world. They are busy. It’s a crowded city. We are always under pressure. Time is really important, so we try to save time. So I think we’re not different than other big cities in the world. But if you compare Parisians to other cities in France, yeah, we are a bit rude because we have less time. And we always try to maximize our time in subway, for example, because we want to stay on the terrace instead of staying in the subway, for example.
Nisreene Atassi: You’re right. I think we would say the same thing for New Yorkers probably versus someone who lives in upstate New York. So I get that. All right. Well, in every single deep dive destination episode we do, I love to sort of run a little bit of a pop quiz game to get a sense of the different kinds of cities and regions throughout the country. So what I’m going to do is name a specific type of travel, and I’d love for you to say the first city that comes to mind when you hear the travel type. So Antoine, I’m going to put you in the hot seat first, and then Jackie, we’re coming to you. So prepare your answers. All right? Are you ready, Antoine?
Antoine Walter: Yes.
Nisreene Atassi: Okay. Here we go. Beach.
Antoine Walter: First will be Brittany.
Nisreene Atassi: The next one is family friendly.
Antoine Walter: I will take Le Puy du Fou. Le Puy du Fou is a very well known theme park in France, where you can discover the history of France. It’s really authentic.
Nisreene Atassi: Outdoor adventure.
Antoine Walter: The Alps, for sure, because it’s the best place.
Nisreene Atassi: Any specific place in the Alps?
Antoine Walter: I would choose Megève, which is a famous well known station. In the winter, you can ski for sure, but also out of the season, you can also really enjoy the place by hiking, cycling, canyoning or just walking in the mountain and discover beautiful lakes.
Nisreene Atassi: Amazing. All right. Nightlife and dining. I think I already know the answer.
Antoine Walter: Paris, for sure.
Nisreene Atassi: Obviously. Heritage and culture.
Antoine Walter: Paris too.
Nisreene Atassi: All right. Jackie, you’re up. Beach.
Jackie Kai Ellis: The last time I went to a beach in France was in Nice.
Nisreene Atassi: Oh, yeah.
Jackie Kai Ellis: It’s crowded, but it’s beautiful.
Nisreene Atassi: Family friendly, Jackie.
Jackie Kai Ellis: I don’t have young kids, so I can’t speak to this. I assume that Mont- Saint- Michel would be interesting because it’s a city on a tiny little island and when the tide goes out, you actually can drive there through a little road.
Nisreene Atassi: Outdoor adventure.
Jackie Kai Ellis: I have a lot of friends that actually go just outside of Paris to Fontainebleau, because there’s tons of rock climbing and nature there.
Nisreene Atassi: Nightlife and dining.
Jackie Kai Ellis: I agree with Antoine. It has to be Paris because I’ve traveled a lot of France and there really just isn’t nightlife almost anywhere else. Really big cities might have some, but Paris is it if you want to be out and surrounded by people.
Nisreene Atassi: And then finally, heritage and culture.
Jackie Kai Ellis: I mean, I feel like all over France, you can find a lot of things. Like there are those ancient prehistoric caves with cave paintings that actually inspired one of the Dior collections.
Nisreene Atassi: Oh, wow.
Jackie Kai Ellis: It’s so, so cool. They’ve recreated inch by inch the prehistoric hand print cave paintings of like antelope and all that. It’s pretty cool.
Antoine Walter: And it’s Les Grottes de Lascaux in Dordogne. And as you said, it’s a very famous cave and you really need to visit them if you are in south of France.
Jackie Kai Ellis: Also in that area, they’re famous for walnuts and truffles and foie gras. So if you go, you don’t have to go for the caves. That’s really nice, but you really go for the food. That’s the area where you get the good stuff.
Nisreene Atassi: Nice, nice. All right. Well, I want to pick on the heritage and culture piece just a bit more. So obviously, Antoine, you mentioned Paris being a hub for museums and other cultural institutions. I’m curious. What are some of the absolute must see places on this front for visitors?
Antoine Walter: Well, I think for sure you all know Le Louvre, or Beaubourg for modern art. I think these places are almost mandatory for me when you come to Paris. But I think outside of these very important museums, there’s a lot of interesting small museums in Paris. And I want to give you two example. So first one is Le Palais Tokyo. It’s near the Eiffel Tower. It’s a very interesting place to discover 20th century art, and there’s also very interesting and modern restaurant. And the second example I want to share with you is Le Musée Rodin, in the center of Paris. It’s primarily dedicated to the work of the French sculptor, Auguste Rodin. I think you all know the Thinker, and this collection includes thousands of sculpture, drawing and old photographs. So I think there’s a lot of different tiny museum to discover. And I clearly also recommend to make a tour on Les Bateaux Mouches on the Seine. It’s a very good way to discover all the different monuments of Paris from the river. You can see Notre Dame, Le Grand Palais, La Tour Eiffel. All these monuments are visible from the river. Choose the monuments you want to go inside or just have look at them from outside.
Nisreene Atassi: There is just so much to see in Paris and its outskirts that you could literally go back dozens of times and still not see everything. So if people have got one trip, I want to make sure that we can narrow down to the absolute must see things for them. So is there anything else that Antoine didn’t mention that you want to bring up?
Jackie Kai Ellis: Yeah. I mean, I have personal favorites, and really, I don’t recommend people only see Paris as a one- time trip. It actually is a better experience if you know you’ll be there again because part of being in Paris is taking it slow and taking the time to sit at a cafe and not feel rushed and not feel like you have to see everything. But I also understand that that’s not possible for everyone.
So I do think that if you’re into sculpture, there’s a tiny museum, right beside actually a part of the Pompidou. And it’s called Atelier Brâncusi. It’s very small. You can probably see it in 30 minutes to an hour, if you wanted to. And they basically recreated his sculpture studio inside of this glass encasement. So you walk around it and he does very beautiful, natural looking sculptures, very inspiring to me. Also, I wouldn’t miss out on the Fondation Louis Vuitton, because they have some amazing installations and shows there. Do check if there’s something showing and what is showing because it changes all the time, but I’ve seen some Basquiat there, really, really cool stuff that you might not be able to see elsewhere.
Nisreene Atassi: I’m surprised neither one of you mentioned a trip to Versailles. I’m like obsessed with Versailles and Marie Antoinette, just from a historical storytelling perspective. So if I’m in Paris for at least a couple days, I always try and make a trip out there because I feel like every time I go, I can see something new. And I find it quite easy to take the bus.
Antoine Walter: Yeah, it’s funny because Jackie and I, we talk a lot about museum(s), but as you say, there’s a lot of other beautiful place to visit. And Versailles is one of them because outside of the castle, you have a beautiful garden to visit. So if I should have my top five place in Paris outside of museum, for sure, I will put the Eiffel Tower. I will put Notre Dame de Paris because I think it’s a crazy church. And all the island around Notre Dame, it’s really fantastic. Montmartre, for the Basilique, but also for the tiny streets around Montmartre, when you can see painters and small restaurants. I think this one is really also amazing. Versailles, for sure. As you say, I think it’s also very good place to go. Even if you need, I think, a full day for Versailles.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah, for sure. These are all really good options. So Antoine, for sort of someone planning their trip, we just listed off a ton of cultural attractions and museums and things like that, many of which can get quite busy, but also quite expensive. Do you have any tips or tricks that you want to give to our listeners that might help them navigate this a little bit better? So for example, are there specific days to avoid certain attractions or are there certain days where it might be cheaper to get into the museum or less crowded, or anything like that, that you can offer our listeners?
Antoine Walter: Yes, sure. You need to avoid weekends and Wednesday, because in France, some kids don’t have school Wednesday, so you have more people in the museum. And clearly Parisians, even me, we continue to go to the museum. I go to Beaubourg five time a year. So it’s always during the weekend. Second one, we have a lot of free museum in Paris. Musée Carnavalet, as an example, is a really good one. The first Sunday of each month, most of them in Paris are free. It’s crowded, but it’s also good, a option to spend time free in museum. And third advice, a lot of church(es), a lot of old fashioned monuments are free for entrance. So you can go in most of the little church(es) in Paris and have a look without paying anything.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah, those are great tips for sure. Let’s take a brief break from talking about Paris, because I want to touch on sort of the other parts of the country that people might want to consider exploring, because I’m sure there are tons of great cities. Antoine, what are some other key areas that you think travelers might want to consider visiting if they’re making a trip to France?
Antoine Walter: In term of city, I think I will recommend three main cities to visit outside of Paris. It’ll be Marseille, Lyon and Bordeaux. So Marseille is in the Provence, historical Provence, in the south of France. It’s located on Mediterranean Sea. It’s the second largest city in France, but it’s also the oldest city in France, and it’s really cosmopolitan. It’s a great place to buy savon de Marseille, the famous savon de Marseille. Also to eat a delicious bouillabaisse. I think you all know the seafood soup from the south of France. And also to have a cultural visit. There’s a new museum called the Mucem, and it’s the first museum devoted to the Mediterranean cultures, so it’s a real interesting museum for me. The second city I pick would be Lyon, in the center east of France. It’s a former capital of the Gauls at the time of Roman empire. And it’s clearly recognized for the gastronomy. A typical restaurant in Lyon called les bouchons Lyonnais , but it’s also a city known for historical and architectural landmarks. Specifically during the second week of December, there’s a light festival called La Fête des Lumières and all the cities with light all night long and it’s a crazy moment to visit the city.
And the third one would be Bordeaux for sure, because it’s a world capital of wine. It has more than 350 monuments in bottle. And it’s also a city that has been voted European destination of the year in several online poles. It’s a beautiful city to visit.
Nisreene Atassi: Okay. Jackie, have you ventured much outside of Paris and do you have any favorite memories of other regions that you’ve traveled to?
Jackie Kai Ellis: Yeah, I have traveled a bit. I personally love the Beaune region in Burgundy. France is a lot about wine. And so if you’re a wine lover and you’re curious about wine, they have a wonderful museum in the center of the city just for wine and it’s very interactive as well. But there are so many wine tours all over France and all the different regions. You can really do you that whole east kind of portion of France up and down, and you get to really taste how the wine changes as you get lower down into the middle east of France. And also it’s wonderful for flea markets, if you’re at all interested in flea markets that are selling vintage textiles, old copper, old books with beautiful ink drawings. And it’s amazing for that because in Paris, those flea markets tend to be a little bit overpriced, but once you get outside of the city, you can get some really great deals.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah. That’s really nice. Very accessible for sure. Well, obviously we are not going to talk about the country of France without talking about the food. So everyone go ahead, grab a snack and we will pick up this conversation right after this.
Nisreene Atassi: This is Out Travel the System, and I’m your host Nisreene Atassi. We’re on a mission to inspire and inform about the world of travel. Think about us like the perfect travel companion. As we begin thinking about where to explore next in our next season, we want to hear from you. What are the questions that are top of mind for you? What are the destinations you’re most curious about? What kind of travel are you most drawn to, for yourself or with friends or even with family? Message us anytime on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. We are @expedia. And don’t forget to like and subscribe to Out Travel the System on the podcast player of your choice.
All right. We are back with author, designer and pastry chef Jackie Kai Ellis, as well as Expedia’s Antoine Walter diving into the most delicious aspects of visiting France. When we did our Spain episode, we talked about things that you have to eat there, like paella or jamón ibérico. In your mind, what are the things that you absolutely have to eat while in France? Antoine, why don’t you go ahead and start?
Antoine Walter: Huge question. I think I can spend hours on this one, honestly.
Nisreene Atassi: Let’s say your top three.
Antoine Walter: Okay. First one, I will take the confit canard . It is a dish of duck. The duck meat is marinated in salt, garlic, and thyme for around 36 hours, something like that, and then slow cooked in its own fat at low temperature. And most of the time, you have potatoes cooked in the duck fat. So clearly, it’s one of my favorite dishes in France. I want to pick a healthy one, otherwise it won’t be very balanced. So I will take the ratatouille.
Nisreene Atassi: Oh, of course. Yeah.
Antoine Walter: From Provence. So this dish includes vegetable(s) shallow fried, layered in a casserole dish before being baked in a oven. And the third one, it will be a large one for sure. It’s cheese, but I cannot pick only one cheese because every region of France has its own particular cheese. So if I need to pick a few, I will pick the Cantal. It’s a pressed cheese, you can eat alone, but you can also cook it in the truffade . So it just Cantal with potatoes in the oven. I think that’s one of the great one. The second one is Le Brie de Meaux, a soft cheese, but also with an appelation controlee , as we say it in French. And the last one will be goat cheese. I can’t give you a name because I think there’s hundred(s) of different goat cheese in French because many local producer markets their cheese and does their own local village or regional name. So I can’t give you only one name.
Nisreene Atassi: I’ve mentioned this on previous episodes, but when I’m going to international destinations, sometimes I bring a cooler bag with me so that I can bring food back. And that is one thing that I absolutely do every time I go to France, is I pack a cooler bag with ice packs and I bring cheese back with me, even though technically half of it is illegal because it’s unpasteurized, but I’m hoping that TSA isn’t listening or the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, isn’t listening to this show. The cheese is absolutely phenomenal. But you know what I think is interesting that maybe some people don’t realize is that in America, cheese is often an appetizer, but in France it is served after the main course. Is it a big taboo to eat cheese as an appetizer, then?
Antoine Walter: No, but you can have a full dinner only with wine and cheese. So this one is a good option.
Nisreene Atassi: I’ve done that. That’s lovely.
Antoine Walter: Wine and cheese, yes. But if you have a full dinner, traditional French dinner, yes, cheese will be always after the main dishes, but you can have a salad with your cheese after the main dishes too. It’s allowed.
Nisreene Atassi: Okay. All right, Jackie, you’re obviously a pastry chef. So I feel like food is a big part of your world view to a certain extent. So I’d love to hear what are some of your top recommendations for things that people absolutely need to eat when they’re in France.
Jackie Kai Ellis: I will second and highly underline the cheese because I think I read something like there are over 500 varieties of cheese, just in France. And so many of them are local. For example, when you go to certain farmer’s markets in the countryside and you ask for Comté or Gruyère or something, they’ll say, ” Do you want summer or winter?” Because the milk tastes different, and so then the cheese tastes different.
Nisreene Atassi: Wow.
Jackie Kai Ellis: So that’s definitely one thing that I would do. I do think that pastries in France are so known for a reason. There are obviously other countries that are doing it at a very high level and differently, but French pastry has such a history. So you’re not only eating the food itself, but you’re eating something that maybe the recipe was created 600 years ago and it’s been evolved. Like, for example, the baba au rhum . That’s a recipe that’s been around since, I think, I don’t even remember, like 1700s or something, and it came through royalty and all this stuff. So I think that eating pastries, especially at places that do have a MOF designation, not to say that it has to, you might as well indulge when you’re in France.
Nisreene Atassi: 100%. Like a croissant every day.
Jackie Kai Ellis: Yeah.
Nisreene Atassi: Bites of a baguette every day.
Jackie Kai Ellis: Yeah. Why not? You will get a good croissant lots of places, but…
Nisreene Atassi: It’s just different.
Jackie Kai Ellis: Yeah.
Nisreene Atassi: It’s hard to describe. There’s just something about eating a croissant in France that feels different. And I think probably again goes with the magic and energy in the air, but it just makes the pastry taste better. That’s the only thing I can possibly think of, because I’m sure there are people like yourself who’ve studied and things like that, and they bring back that knowledge and expertise to wherever they’re at. But there’s just absolutely something about eating a quintessential French pastry in France in the morning, as you’re walking to the subway. It just hits different and it’s special. And that’s what makes that country so amazing, I think.
What about food related activities? Because I’m a big fan of those and we talk about them actually a lot on this show, not just because I’m a big fan, but most of my guests that I have on the show agree that doing a food related activity is an absolutely amazing way to immerse yourself in the culture of the destination that you’re in. So whether it’s a cooking class where you actually get to go to the market with your instructor or something like that, and pick out the fresh produce, or just a class where you’re learning about the wine or the cheese or something like that. You inevitably get to pick up some history and culture about the region. It’s always infused in the food or the beverage that you are consuming. So I’m curious, Antoine, do you have any recommendations for food or wine related activities that you think can really help somebody kill two birds with one stone?
Antoine Walter: Well, I think my best recommendation would be to spend one week with my mom.
Nisreene Atassi: One can dream. One can dream.
Antoine Walter: No, more seriously. I think there’s a lot of different wine tasting in Paris and in France, but I think the best option to discover the wine is to visit a castle or a wine farm. And not only in Bordeaux, as Jackie said, in Bourgogne or Vallee de la Loire , there’s a lot of small castle(s) when you can take the time to discover and talk about the wine with the producer, which is not always easy in big castle in Bordeaux. So on the wine part, my recommendation would be take the time and visit small castle(s) in this destination. Don’t try to have a marathon, to visit the 10 castles in the day. Pick a few one, and spend time with them. And on the food part, I would recommend to just go in the street and find the market. Perhaps learn a few word in French and ask the people to explain you, ” How do you cook this vegetable?” for example. And if you ask them with a smile, I’m sure you will have great answers. It will help you to understand how we cook vegetables, for example.
Nisreene Atassi: Okay. Jackie, what about you? Any food related activities or wine related activities that you would recommend? I think it’s quite overwhelming for people, especially in the wine aspect. You’re coming to France, there’s wine, there’s champagne, there’s so much going on. Any particular activities that you would recommend to people coming in?
Jackie Kai Ellis: I think Champagne is a digestible and accessible region to explore if you’re not familiar with wine, because it’s such a specific thing. And also a lot of those maisons , those champagne houses, are very set up for tourism as well. There are some really big ones that have trains that go underground and you can see all their caves. And then you have tiny little producers that are biodynamic and family run that you can just walk right onto their property. And they’ll just open a bottle and take a few glasses from the kitchen and put it on a barrel for you. So it’s cool. In those regions, they’re so proud of what they produce that you can go to local wine shops that are very specific, and they can also give you a really good map as to where to go. So you can kind of get a scan of, ” okay, what are all the producers here and which ones are worth visiting?” when you go to a boutique wine shop in that area.
Nisreene Atassi: Well, let’s get back into the nitty gritty of traveling in Paris and in France and things like that. I would like to talk about really tangible tips for everybody that are just really basic things that I think can really help to let a travel really maximize their experience. So one of those things is getting around. A lot of people may not know the best way to sort of travel. Do they need to rent a car? So let’s start off with France as a whole, for the region. Antoine, what’s the best way that people can travel throughout France?
Antoine Walter: I think the best option is to land in Paris, spend a few time in Paris. After it, take the train because we have very good high speed train to Bordeaux, Lyon, Marseille, or other secondary cities. Spend a few days in this city discovering the architecture and the monuments. And after, rent a car to discover the countryside, to discover the mountain. Take the time to enjoy tiny village, find hidden restaurants you will find nowhere on the map.
Nisreene Atassi: I like the idea of doing a little bit of both, because I will say, I think if you’re in the Côte D’Azur area, so like Nice, Ubers and Lyfts and things like that actually take quite a while. I find that it’s much easier to have a rental car in some of those smaller villages, but obviously to drive to Nice from Paris would take a while. So you could take a local flight and then get there and rent a car or take a train or something like that. So having that sort of combo, I think is a good tip. Jackie, you’re a Paris insider. What’s the best way to get around Paris?
Jackie Kai Ellis: I have to say the Metro is pretty effective. Parisians are constantly complaining about the Metro, but you can pretty much get anywhere in and around 30 minutes in Paris. There are lots of options above ground because the only thing about taking a Metro is that you’re underground, and so you don’t get to see the stuff that you want to see above ground. What’s great about Paris is that they have all these transportation share methods. So you can get bikes, electric bikes that you can just sort of like tap in. And what’s great is that they are electric, so you can leisurely bike. But Paris is really small. From the longest end of the city to the other end is actually only 10 kilometers. You can bike a lot of the city in one day, if you want to. There’s also a little bit more dangerous some people think, but I love them, is the trottinettes. They’re the little scooters that you stand. And those are so mobile. You can pretty much get anywhere. So I really love those.
Nisreene Atassi: I’ve done all of the above, where I’ve taken the Metro everywhere. And then there were a handful of times where I was only there for one night and I basically just rode a bicycle around with my friends, and we went to restaurants and bars and just rode all throughout the city, and you can see all the little stops. And it can be a little nerve wracking because it is quite busy, but I think you’ll find that people cycle a lot in Paris. So you can just sort of follow the path and take their leads.
But I find that the public transportation is just really accessible. I mean, the Metro is very easy to use, the bus system as well. And luckily nowadays, we all have phones and you’ve got Google Maps and Google Maps will tell you exact where the Metro is or where the bus is. So it takes a lot of the pain points out of, I think, using public transportation. And so just getting a Metro pass that you can just sort of use over and over again and that kind of stuff I think will just make it super easy. I think when I was younger, I also did one of the hop on, hop off bus tours, which I know are really touristy, but if you have a limited amount of time, they will take you all over the city and you will see everything. So don’t worry about trying not to seem too touristy or trying to do like what the locals do, I think, in terms of getting around. Just explore your options, do what’s right for you and your schedule and whoever you’re with.
Jackie Kai Ellis: Yeah. I love those hop on, hop off bus tours, because I used to travel tons and tons. It’s a great way to orient yourself in a city, and then after that you can go back to what you’re interested in seeing too.
Nisreene Atassi: Yeah, for sure. All right. Well, let’s talk about the best time of year to go, for France specifically, as well as in Europe. There are definitely times when it’s really crowded, when a lot of people are on vacation and things like that. So people have good strong POVs on the best time to travel. So why don’t we start with you, Jackie? What have you found to be the best time of year to visit France?
Jackie Kai Ellis: I personally love fall and spring. The temperature’s nice, and it’s not too hot. Once you get into July and August, sometimes you can get into heat waves. The flowers and leaves are just coming out in spring, and fall is really romantic and it gets a little bit drizzly. So I like those times, there’s a sort of energy to it. As most people know, Paris does shut down in August. It makes finding an electrician really hard, but a lot of the tourist places are still open. It’s just that you may not get into some of the restaurants that you originally wanted to get into. The nice thing about traveling to Paris August is that there’s no one around and so the streets are really empty. And so you can literally ride your bike in the middle of a huge grand boulevard and just feel like you’re the only person in Paris. But if you want everything available to you, August is not the time to go.
Nisreene Atassi: Antoine. What about you?
Antoine Walter: This one. I think Paris, and not only Paris, but all big city, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, they are clearly empty between the 15th of July and the 15 of August. I would say this period is clearly the best period to visit big cities. To go in a beach destination or ski mountains, clearly you need to check French holidays. And I would say go in Brittany or in Nice in September or beginning of October. It’s great. There nobody on the beach, the sun is still there. It’s a good option.
Nisreene Atassi: Okay. Those are good tips. All right. So sort of the last tip that I want to really dive into, is actually about where to stay. Because, let’s just say for Paris specifically, do you have recommendations, either specific hotels or specific areas, that you think might just make a trip more accessible or easier for a traveler?
Antoine Walter: We have a lot of fairs or big sport event in Paris. And honestly you need to go out of this period because Paris will be really with a high level of occupancy and price can double or more. So really have a look to these big fairs in Paris. And after my recommendation, when I have friends who come to Paris, even if the center of Paris is really magical, hospitality is much more expensive in the center of Paris. And as we just say previously, it’s quite easy to take the Metro or a trottinette, so my recommendation would be to stay in Paris, but avoid the center of Paris if you want a cheap hotel, and book a hotel in the 17th district or in the 13th district, as an example. You will be at 20 minutes of the center of Paris, you will find good hotel, but the price will be much more interesting than when you stay in the center.
Nisreene Atassi: How far in advance do you think people should be booking their hotels?
Antoine Walter: The more in advance it is, the better it is. So I would say six months is a minimum for me when you plan a trip in Paris. But the other option is to try to have the last minute booking, but it’s a bit risky. So I would recommend to anticipate as much as possible.
Nisreene Atassi: My guests today have been the author of The Measure of My Powers and pastry chef Jackie Kai Ellis, as well as Expedia’s Antoine Walter. Thank you both for spending time on the show with us today.
Jackie Kai Ellis: Thank you so much.
Antoine Walter: Thanks a lot.
Nisreene Atassi: I’m Nisreene Atassi, and this is Out Travel the System, brought to you by Expedia. Join us next time for our final episode of the season with these two jokers who are getting serious about soccer, or football, I guess, depending on what part of the world you’re in right now.
Rob McElhenney: Hi, I’m Rob McElhenney.
Ryan Reynalds: And I’m Ryan Reynolds.
Rob McElhenney: Please join us as we talk about our favorite town in North Wales…
Ryan Reynalds: Wrexham. Wrexham, North Wales.
Rob McElhenney: On the next episode of…
Ryan Reynalds: Out Travel the System.
Nisreene Atassi: Until then, happy travels.