The first thing to take here is the mode of operation of restaurants and cafes. Regardless of how hungry you are, they work according to their schedule. This schedule looks something like this: from 12:00 - 14:00 and 19:00 - 21:00. It is hardly possible to find a decent institution that feeds at another time. Some restaurants generally manage to work only in the evening 2 hours and that's it. Half of them are open and the rest of the time, but they serve only coffee and wine.
As for the quality of food, do not entertain illusions that in France each snack bar is the Michelin restaurant. Choosing restaurants on the "where the most visitors" basis, we faced the most common European cuisine; and meat in general was stringy and rubber-like. However, they serve well: at the entrance there are waiters who kindly suggest to take a table, the owner helps to serve customers, while not pretending that he is a big wig. Three waiters are able to serve 40 tables without a notebook. By the way, the service is included in the total bill and this is even sometimes written in the check itself that tax and service are already included in the bill. That is, basically, it is not necessary to leave tips. However, as we used to leave them everywhere, we left them in France as well, despite all local rules.
Wines are a separate matter. It is difficult to choose among all the abundance and all are so delicious. We tried the same wine in different restaurants. The price can differ several times, and the quality of the restaurant, at the same time, does not differ.
If ordinary passers-by rarely know English, in restaurants, in turn, almost all the staff speaks well or, at least, is able to talk to you.
So, the trip to France began with the cancellation of the Vienna-Frankfurt flight about the same time as Natalie said she wanted a snack. Well, we often have desires fulfilled in a perverted form and this time we were settled for the night in the center of Vienna to wait for the morning flight. For me, for some reason, Vienna was on par with Prague. However, after several hours of the promenade we fell in love with Vienna. It would seem the same old city, the same weather, but something highlighted Vienna for us. Whether it's restaurants, or people on the streets, it's hard to say.
There are many castles and attractions, for example, the place where Mozart was exercising his talent. However, it is worthwhile to visit that place and you will understand what I mean;)
The city where I lived and studied twenty years ago. The last few years I dreamed of visiting these regions and seeing them again. Finally, we managed to make the dream a reality. The city met us with exactly the same weather that I remember - warm and raining. The first thing that strikes your eye while flying up is the number of football fields. In each district of the city there are at least 2 full-size fields and a dozen smaller ones. After that, there are no questions about how France has become one of the leaders in the football championships. In my childhood, I also played football here, played for the team of the Pradettes district. We almost every month went to the city competitions, pit our strength against other teams and earned medals. Real medals! For children this was a tremendous incentive to play sports.
Toulouse is one of the oldest cities in France, it stands on the Garonne River, also many canals cross the city. For example, the South Channel was built as the shortest route to the Mediterranean. Even Leonardo da Vinci was involved to design it. Around the middle of our trip, I realized why Toulouse is called a cultural center in the south of France. It is really clean, nice, and quiet city. Most of the population are scientists and people of mental labor. There are such centers as Meteo France, Airbus, etc. By the way, Airbus has become the largest employer in the region.
A couple of days later we took the car and started traveling along Cote d'-Azur. By the way, car rental there does not differ from renting in the US, about which I wrote earlier. Unless the cars themselves are not American. I did not use to lean my knees and accelerate from zero to sixty for half an hour.
Another feature that is very unpleasant to me in France is parking. Hotels in the city are located in narrow streets, where it is difficult to find a place to stay, register at the hotel and find out how to get into their parking. In pair, the problem was solved easier - one goes to the hotel, and the second drives a circle, while the details of the parking are revealed. It would seem that nothing is terrible, but for me it looks wild.
The wealth of the history of France is manifested in its architectural heritage. Among all those I singled out castles. When you are inside and imagine how people lived many centuries ago, how they defended themselves against attacks, many thoughts arise about the purposes and the meaning of life. The first castle we visited was Montsegur - a castle at an altitude of about 1200 m above sea level. According to legends, it was used by Qatari tribes since 1230, which at that time were under persecution due to religious conflicts with the Roman Catholic Church. Since the Qatari church of those times was very warlike, they defended themselves in the fortress, saved their strength, and longed for a struggle with the Holy Inquisition. Getting there by foot on steep slopes, we continually imagined how they raised food and water every day to the fortress. However, even the most unassailable fortress has one minus - it can be taken under siege. So, the soldiers were defending the fortress for about a year, but anyway were defeated and burned. This fortress also had the name Montsegur II, as in 1206 it was restored. When and by whom the first fortress was built - it is not known for certain, all the legends revolve around the temple of the Spirit or the temple of the Sun.
Next we headed to Carcassonne. It is a fortified city, the gates of which are still open and every visitor can walk along the streets of the fortress, walk along several rows of walls and dine at a cafe. The history of the citadel began about 2500 years ago from small settlements of the Gauls. All subsequent centuries, the fortress was outfitted, fought, restored, and so until the XIX century.
We visited both fortresses in one day. That time was enough to go around the both and see everything. Near Carcassonne there are many hotels, you can stop right there and the next day to continue the journey.
This city I knew only from the "Taxi" movie, so the road there was intriguing. On arrival, we were greatly disappointed. Firstly, the road from the hotel in the city center to the embankment in the port is a rather dirty street with the smell of urine. Secondly, incredibly narrow streets with a lot of people on the sidewalks and carriageways. In the evening, the embankment is filled with crowds of tourists, all good restaurants are full, but you can always find a place to have a bite, however, not with the dishes you expected to come to France.
But we still found places that are pleasant to visit. Only twenty minutes from the port there are small islands with wonderful views of Marseille and the adjacent beaches. Another surprise is the castle of If. The castle, about which A. Dumas wrote in the novel "The Count of Monte Cristo". After the publication of the novel, crowds of tourists rushed into the castle, being confident of the authenticity of history. In the future, even a table was hung on the cameras with the names "Edmond Dantes" and "Abbot Faria" and a tunnel was made between the cameras, corresponding to the details of the novel. In the 16th century, If was built as a fort, for the defense of Marseilles. Later, it was converted as an isolator for prisoners. This period was discussed in the novel by Dumas.
In addition to the castle, take a nice walk and even arrange a picnic on two adjacent islands. Ferries go about once an hour, so as you get tired, you can go back to Marseilles.
All the cities on the Cote d'Azur seemed identical to me - the sea, the beach, the embankment, and the city, and the mountains beyond the city, the beginning of the Pyrenees. We visited Toulon, Narbonne, Cannes, and Nice. Only there you can find restaurants that are more tourist-friendly and work full-time.
So, here is Toulon
Cannes interested us more by the islands in 10-20 minutes from the city, this is the nature, in which they practically do not allow civilization. The ideal place for a picnic or just a few hours' walk. The city itself is fussy, cramped, but pleasant when you are in no hurry.