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Ummm excitement! (alt. title: France travel tips?)

Guys! My husband won a competition* and is getting sent to the finals in Bordeaux, France at the end of November! We JUST found out. I’m coming along, and we decided to spend a whole week over there. He has 3 days of scheduled activities that I can’t/don’t want to participate in, and he wants to spend most of the rest of the week in Bordeaux, which sounds good to me.

Since I have to fly separately, and can’t stay with him, I’m going to fly into Paris and dick around somewhere in France for a few days while he does thing, and then go meet him in Bordeaux. I want to spend that time in some smaller towns in between Paris and Bordeaux.


I’m thinking: first Orleans (apparently about an hour train ride from Paris). Then I am thinking to head to La Rochelle, and then finally Bordeaux. I would rather go down to Bayonne but that’s a much, much longer journey and I am trying hard not to waste too much time doing that (like, an 8.5 hour journey vs. <4 to La Rochelle).

Unfortunately, most wineries will be closed at that point for harvest, so the typical wine tour stuff may be out of the question.


Things I want info/ideas about:

  1. Any tips for traveling solo as a woman in Europe (bonus points for France, specifically)? I am not doing hostels and probably going to stay mostly out of nightlife for this reason (which is fine with me).
  2. Anyone who knows the area want to comment on my itinerary?
  3. Anyone been to Bordeaux? What did you like about it? How long should we stay there?
  4. I haven’t actually used trains in Europe since 2006. I remember you could just kind of show up and get on the train. I plan on buying all tickets ahead of time online, but has anything else changed (so I take into account when I schedule)?
  5. I know a bit of French but want to freshen up. Good news: I have a long commute everyday where I can listen and practice. Anyone got some advice for audio French-learnin’? Cheap would be AWESOME....
  6. I want to buy a fairly decent gift for my friend who will be keeping my two dogs. I am thinking a nice bottle of wine - can/should I take that back on the plane with me? Any other ideas?

*I think it might doxx us if I give more details about this, haha. Sorry folks!

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