Below Natalie, Ingrid, and Clémence share some of their favorite places to visit outside of mainland France where you can still speak French! If you love traveling and sharing travel tips, don’t forget our Travel Club for members and corresponding Travel Club facebook group!
Natalie- French Guiana
When I first started taking French classes years ago, I never would have thought to visit French Guiana. But now I tell people if they have the chance to visit, il le faut absolument! Cayenne (yes, like the spice), the capital of this collectivité territoriale unique, is a good starting place for your trip to this piece of France in South America. In non-Covid times the city offers a beautiful fruit market near la Place des Palmistes filled with exotic fruits like maracuja and litchis. From there don’t forget to visit the Iles de Salut by boat. The îles include St Joseph, Royale, and du Diable and the main attraction is the old bagnes (penal colonies/labor camps). These islands were places of exile for mainland France’s criminals mainly in the 1800s and the île du diable, with its rocky shore, was the location for France’s political prisoners like Alfred Dreyfus. Today the islands are places to explore the ruins of the prisons and take in the breath-taking scenes of enormous palm trees next to restless waves. If you ever read Island of the Blue Dolphins, the shores of these islands were like the pages of the book come to life. You might even see an agouti (French Guiana’s version of a squirrel) or friendly monkey as you meander.
Another great trip is the Marais de Kaw. Life is slower, simpler but the scenery is incredible. On a river tour, you’ll see rainbows, rich green grasses, and cows hanging out in the river. You’ll be served in a rather rudimentary café and enjoy a nap on a hammock after a ti-punch apéro.
Other notable cities to visit include Sinnamary, Cacao, and Kourou (home to the Guiana Space Center). It’s time to put French Guiana on your radar!
Ingrid- Montréal and Québec City
Like many of my fellow Bostonian francophiles, our neighbors to the north in Montréal and Québec City hold special spots in my travel bug heart!
When my brother and I were learning French as part of Milton’s immersion program, our parents took us on a trip to Montréal and had us do all of the communicating en français. We had such a blast running through the Underground City and around Vieux-Montréal. When I had the chance to head back to Montréal for the Salon du Livre in 2018, I still enjoyed both of those locations while also appreciating places that might have gone over my head when I was in grade school like the Musée d’Art Contemporain and the McCord Museum. With history visible in every aspect of the city, Montreal reminds me a bit of Boston with how walkable and stunning it is (especially in neighborhoods like Square Saint-Louis and Rue Denis!). To get a birds’ eye view, take a ride on La Grande Roue de Montréal, built in the Old Port for the festivities of the 375th anniversary of the city and the tallest Ferris wheel in Canada. From its peak, you can spy the Jardin Botanique and the Parc Jean Drapeau with its biosphere.
Québec City is the only walled city in North America and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With sections of the wall open for foot traffic, you can literally stroll along a piece of history as you explore the city! Split into the Haute-Village (Upper Town) and the Basse-Ville (Lower Town), there is so much to see if you’re willing to brave some very steep streets and steps. Haute-Village contains historic sites like the Château Frontenac and La Citadelle de Québec. The Château is at once a prominent landmark and a fancy hotel! In the summer months, they put on gorgeous firework displays - my recommendation is to take the Québec-Levis Ferry to the other bank of the St. Lawrence River to see the feux d’artifices light up the castle in beautiful colors!
Clémence - French Polynesia
French Polynesia is the French equivalent of Hawaii, and to describe it in one word: paradise! Right after I graduated college, I spent a month exploring the islands. First, I discovered Papeete, the busy capital of Tahiti, with its incredible market full of colors and flavors, interesting museums, traditional dancing shows and, of course, white sand beaches! Papeete is vibrant, noisy, never asleep, cultural and a perfect place for foodies. The second part of my trip brought me to Morea, which is a short distance by boat from Papeete. In Morea I discovered peace through the ultimate pleasure of scuba diving in the clearest sea full of wonderful fishes, turtles, and dolphins.This experience along with the most incredible fruit garden, made for a little piece of heaven.
The last part of my trip was Huahine. If you're looking for something authentic, this is the way to go. This fishers’ island is a gem of scenic beauty and is known for its perles! There is no better perle than the one collected in Huahine. Huahine is one of the best preserved islands in French Polynesia; it’s still wild and breathtaking.
**If you are interested in knowing what food you can eat in Tahiti, join us for our Virtual Culinary tour through the francophone world on March 13th!