France Trip Advise
My wife and I have been traveling to various regions of France for the past several years and have found the French to be very friendly and helpful (including in Paris), despite the American stereotype of the French as being rude. I attribute this partly to our efforts to speak French as much as possible. If you don’t already speak the language, I would recommend a crash course before your trip – and don’t be afraid to try whatever level you can speak – most French will be very patient with you, including all of the people waiting in line behind you in the shop while you struggle to make yourself understood.
If you are staying more than a month and would consider traveling by car between locations (then renting a cycle locally), I highly recommend the Peugeot buy-back car lease program. You get at brand new car and it’s cheaper than renting (all insurance is included, too). Kemwel is an agent in the US. If you go this route, lease a 207 diesel 1.6. Diesel fuel in France is significantly cheaper than gasoline ($6 vs $8 per US gallon now) and you will get much better mileage. Trains are not cheap in France.
Our favorite areas outside Paris are Dordogne and Provence, but the Alsace area around Colmar has several small villages with multicolored medieval houses that make for great photos. See my Flickr site for a sampling of sights in a dozen different areas of France.
BTW, there are many cyclists on the roads in France and they get a lot of respect from drivers, unlike here in the US, and traffic on the country roads is very light.
Enjoy your trip.