Paris
Paris
14°
14°
Wed
11°
Thu
15°
Fri
16°
Sat
18°
Sun
13°
Mon
    • :
    • :
  • Mel
    Mel
    12°
    15°
    Wed
    17°
    Thu
    11°
    Fri
    10°
    Sat
    13°
    Sun
    12°
    Mon
    • :
    • :
  • Syd
    Syd
    17°
    19°
    Wed
    16°
    Thu
    15°
    Fri
    13°
    Sat
    12°
    Sun
    13°
    Mon
    • :
    • :
  • Culture

    French Postcards: Inside The Road Trip You Will Never Forget

    02 October 2016

    When Camille Bergman attended SFSC18, the last thing she thought she’d soon be doing was having a Frenchy moment of her own on the roads of the South of France. Here, we talk to last year’s winner of our long-standing Road Trip To France competition about what winning the competition meant to her, how it felt to drive her own Renault on the roads of France, the memories she made and where she found her joie de vivre.

     

    As the lucky winner of our SFSC18 Road Trip to France, who did you take?

    I was announced as the winner Valentine’s Day, so it seemed only fitting to take my boyfriend, Anderson, along for the adventure. We had only been together for about 7 months so it was a great test for our relationship (and yes we are still together). He also came with me to SFSC and loved the French festivities on the day – I knew he would be a great travel partner.


    Why did winning the voyage mean so much to you? 

    Winning this competition meant so much to me – it was a real privilege to explore places that we had never been before, cruise around in a Renault Captur, practice our French, stay in luxury accommodation and experience all that France has to offer. Too often we rush from city to city via plane and neglect the roads less traveled.

    What were you most excited about?

    My boyfriend and I had never been to St Tropez or Lyon before and there are always so many things to do and see in Paris so I did a lot of research before we left. I wanted to make sure that we included as many experiences as possible. Among many things, I was excited to see Lyon and its Traboules. Traboules are hidden pathways through buildings used by silk merchants hundreds of years ago to transport goods.

    The exquisite Cours des Loges hotel where we stayed was in the middle of the old town and had Traboules winding through the surrounding streets. We had to follow a map to find where they were and hope that when we turned a door handle it would open – leading through to tunnels that led to surrounding streets. Not all of the Traboules were open to the public and most had blocked off tunnels within that led down deeper into the earth. It really was like stepping back through time.  I was also very excited for all the photo opportunities along the way.

    Have you been to France before, if so, what was different about this trip?
    I had been to France before when I was in early high school with my family and then again with some friends when I was in my early 20s. The real difference with the SFSC trip was our 5 star accommodation (Cours des Lodges in Lyon and Villa Marie in St Tropez) – I have never stayed in such luxury hotels before.  Cours des Lodges had the most incredible sauna, pool and spa area I had ever seen – complete with a Romanesque statue of a nude man and mood lighting. Villa Marie also had the most lust-worthy décor – it was the perfect mix of French provincial meets tropical vacation. Both hotels also had lovely staff that were so friendly and accommodating – we were even told the history of the Cours de Lodges and how it was originally 4 separate building combined into one and how it had once been a Monastery among other things.

    And the road trip?
    The road trip part of the trip was something new – I have only ever flown in and out of French cities and never experienced driving in a foreign country. I was the designated navigator and my boyfriend drove the Renault Captur from Paris to Lyon, then to St Tropez before heading back to Paris via Lyon. While driving on the opposite side of the road was a challenge we enjoyed the freedom of being able to stop past small towns and explore the roads less traveled. One of our favorite detours was to Ponte du Gard – an ancient Roman aqueduct. We marveled at its artistic design and toured the museum to learn the inner workings of this UNESCO world heritage site.

    What parts of the trip were the most memorable? 

    We both loved exploring the French countryside, and trying both new and some more familiar foods (I had way too many Nutella crepes). A real highlight was also getting the train from Paris to Versailles. The palace was truly a sight to behold – encrusted in gold finishing’s, ornate detailing and priceless artwork you could easily spend days wandering the halls and gardens.

     

    Any tips for travellers visiting Versailles?

    A great tip for anyone going to Versailles is that for an extra 10 euro you can have a small group guided tour which you organize on arrival. This takes you behind the scenes into areas not open to the masses with a guide who can point out minute details and the history of each room. One of the stories we were told is how one of King Louis’ wanted to impress a guest. Before the guest arrived he had an in bloom orange tree from his indoor greenhouse planted in the grounds in the middle of winter. When he took his guest on a tour past this orange tree he was shocked to see a blossoming orange tree amongst the snow and impressed at the god-like powers of the king.
    The main reason to opt for a guided tour is so you will not need to wait in line to enter the grounds/palace of Versailles – the line was 3 hours long when we arrived. I also recommend paying extra to visit the gardens which stretch for kilometers with a series of fountains, water displays and artwork.

     

    Part of the prize is French lessons with Alliance Française – how did you do?

    The French lessons were the cherry on top of such a fantastic prize. Mariama was such a passionate, patient and fun teacher and the five classes with her were the highlights of my week. It was such a thrilling experience to order a coffee at an authentic Parisian café. I felt very French indeed in my Lacoste sneakers and cotton midi dress understanding snippets of conversation around me. I did a little bit of French in high school so it was great to work on that and I hope to go back to practicing and learning French in the future – I think the learning and appreciation of other languages in Australia is sadly neglected.

    What songs were on your road trip playlist? 

    On our road trip, we really got into the French theme and had the SFSC Spotify playlist downloaded to enjoy. Highlights for me were L.E.J, Barbara Carlotti, and Ricky Hollywood. I really like how L.E.J have both originals and also create covers of modern English songs – mixing them up with some French lyrics and the iconic sounds of Juliette’s Cello. We also played some classic 80-90’s songs and a selection of Drake and The Weeknd.

     

    What advice do you have for our 2019 winner?

    Organize international data roaming before you leave Australia – this will make navigating and finding impromptu village site seeing much easier. I would also recommend breaking up the drive between destinations with memorable stop-offs. France has numerous UNESCO heritage listed sites and historical landmarks along with castles – each with numerous historical stories to tell.
    I would also recommend taking a journal. I took a (very French) navy notebook and would collect tickets and write notes of our trip as we went. It was great to have the downtime after a busy day of site seeing and will be so cute to look back on in the years to come.

     

    Has your view on French culture changed or been strengthened in any way or was it exactly how you pictured it to be?
    I have always thought of the French as stylish, sophisticated and chic. Their accents, timeless wardrobes effortless décor and modern attitudes are the reason I have an embarrassingly large collection of French-themed coffee table books. Traveling through France has certainly engrained my perception of the French embodying all of the above and I look forward to one day visiting again.

    Find out how you can enter this year’s Road Trip To France competition!