11 Things I’d never seen or done until I moved to France: Part 2

Written by Diane on. Posted in on life in France

things I'd never seen or done until I moved to France

As someone who lived in NYC all through college and for several years after, I thought I’d seen it all. From the Naked Cowboy to protests to all kinds of crazy, nothing fazed me. But moving to suburban France introduced me to things I’d never seen with my own eyes. Some strange, some just different and some completely and mind-blowingly awesome. Cheers to new experiences! (and check out Part 1 here)


Things I’d never seen or done until I moved to France: Part 2


1. Baguette vending machines

Baguettes are a French culture staple, so of course you can grab a fresh one from a vending machine (and milk too)! This comes in handy after hours once the bakery has closed for the evening or when all you want is a baguette and you don’t have time to wait in line. Since first spotting a baguette machine a few years ago, I’ve noticed they’ve become even more popular and now I see them quite often. I wrote a whole post about it here.

dagny hedgehog france

2. Gotten up close and personal with a hedgehog

One of these spiky guys crossed the sidewalk in front of Dagny and me on a nighttime walk and I did a double take. They don’t exist in suburban New Jersey! Calm and slow moving, they’re nothing to be frightened by and mind their own business. They’re actually kind of cute, and since that first run-in at night, we’ve seen a whole bunch of them including the little guy pictured above.

3. Experienced a winter without snow

Every single winter of my entire life before moving to the Maine-et-Loire region of France, I’d seen snow. Maybe we didn’t have multiple blizzards, but New Jersey and New York have what I consider “real” winters. Snow is my happy place and winter is and always will be my favorite season. Here in my neck of the woods in France, it rarely snows, and if we get one centimeter every few years, it’s considered normal. Now I know how you Floridians feel. I think an Alps Christmas is in order one of these years!

processionary caterpillars in france

4. Seen processionary caterpillars

These caterpillars are NOT your friends. I had no idea what these things even were until a French woman alerted me to their dangers after posting a picture on Instagram and warning me to keep Dagny away. They can cause a severe skin reaction due to toxins in their hairs and can cause a dog to lose its tongue or worse. Steer clear. You can read more here — I did a whole post on processionary caterpillars to warn others who aren’t familiar with these pests.

french pastries damien vetault angers

5. Tasted some of the most refined, beautiful, inventive desserts in the world

The French do pastries like no one else in the world. Millefeuilles, religieuses, eclairs, YUM! I interviewed a local pastry chef here in case you’re into that sort of thing.

6. Some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen with my own eyes

France is full of diverse landscapes that will take your breath away. Case in point? Corsica, where it looks like this.

7. People parking backward on the sidewalk

The French make New Yorkers look good when it comes to driving. That’s all I’ll say there. Just keep in mind people have interesting ways of parking in France.

8. Horse meat in the supermarket

And whole rabbits. Like this. No thanks!

French foods I won’t eat >>


9. Learned how to tackle canal locks

Many countries have locks, but I’d never actually gone through one with a boat myself until our recent canal cruise in Alsace. They look scarier than they are and you can read more here.

10. Confidently spoken in French

I studied French a little bit before moving to France but no amount of prep can adequately prepare you for full-blown life in the French language. It’s one thing to feel confident speaking in front of your peers in French class but another thing entirely to confidently stand up for someone else in your second language, haggle a price, navigate the details of a medical issue, etc. I didn’t gain this confidence until I used the language daily, and with time, I’ve become more at ease in French than I was.

Frustrations of living in another language >>

hot air balloon loire valley

11. Gone up in a hot air balloon

You can go for a hot air balloon ride in many places all over the world, but it just so happens that my first flight was for Tom’s birthday last month in Chinon, France… and WOW! It was so incredibly calm — not scary — and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I wrote a whole post complete with a video about the experience here.


Want more? Read Part 1 here.

What about you?

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Comments (10)

  • Taste of France


    Re parking, people just refuse to pay to go in a parking lot. They will find some little spot on a street where it isn’t clearly marked as metered parking or no parking, and then leave their car.
    Taste of France recently posted…LastoursMy Profile


    • Diane


      I’ve seen people get ticketed for it, but it seems like the parking police aren’t super strict — otherwise the fear of an 80-euro fine might deter the crazy parking.


  • fiona


    I saw baguette vending machines for the first time this year as was quite surprised that the French would deign to buy their bread this way, but desperate times…. and all that I suppose. Parking seems cheaper in France than the UK and I sort of admire the way they abandon their cars anywhere, they just don’t care. That said, I would be mightily pissed off if I was blocked in.


    • Diane


      I think the machines can come in handy when all you want is a baguette and there are 20 people in line that want desserts too. In the effort of saving time, they can be great in a pinch — even better when the baguette is still warm!
      People really do park kind of crazy and it seems like if they park too close and whack your car door w/theirs (just not paying attention when getting out), they don’t care. My car was dented when I was sitting in the passenger seat! The guy barely said sorry.


  • Jess


    I LOVE this post. If I had a baguette vending machine at my disposal, I’d be in so much trouble! I also want to note that I looked at the caterpillars and thought, ‘Oh, those are so adorable’, until I read your note about them. GAH! That’s actually terrifying.

    I will have to find a picture to share, but I remember seeing a convenience store vending machine in Paris. It was the size of a typical storefront, but it was a vending machine that sold milk by the gallon, diapers, hygiene products, and snacks. It was a lot of fun to use!
    Jess recently posted…The Croissants in Our LivesMy Profile


    • Diane


      Thank you! Yes, luckily I don’t have one in walking distance!
      I thought the caterpillars were kind of cute too but wow was I wrong. A bunch of people found out the hard way, as evidenced by the comments on my post. ;-( I tell everyone I know about them. Yuck.

      I’d love to see that convenience store vending machine. Sounds, well, convenient!


  • joannerambling


    I would never have thought of getting a baguette from a vending machine we live and learn and those deserts look so yummy
    joannerambling recently posted…Just another MondayMy Profile


    • Diane


      Yes, the desserts were DELICIOUS!


  • MaryZ


    Oh my gosh! Those desserts look so beautiful and delicious! I’ve never seen a baguette machine before! How funny, but practical! 🙂 And, that caterpillar! Yikes! I saw a photo of a dog once who tangled with a porcupine and had quills stuck all over its face. 🙁 I don’t know if it’s the same with hedgehogs, but they sure are cute!


    • Diane


      Yes, Damien Vetault is a real artist! He even has a pumpkin “tarte” to confuse the French. I think I’m the only one who bought it.
      Yup, the quills from a hedgehog are similar to a porcupine’s and they DO get stuck in a dog’s face if he gets too close. Dagny keeps her distance but I’ve seen dogs with quills. It doesn’t hurt them but best to stay back!


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