Despite not having a big love for France the way most people do, I have still managed to visit the country around 60 times and of course I still recommend it. Working on the Cross Channel ferries for five months, of course helped this but on many other occasions I visited France. There are some great companies out there promoting tourism in the region such as France Voyage.
I had been to France in 1989, 1992 and 1993 on family holidays. I then visited again in 2007 on a backpacking trip before my stint on the ferries in 2009. After that I’ve had a few more scattered visits, cumulatively backpacking Paris on five occasions. Before I get into my top five memories here is a list of all the places in France that I have been:
St. Jean de Monts
La Roche Sur Yon
(…and many more!)
Touring France with Dad
1.St. Gilles Croiz De Ville – First trip with Family, 1989
In 1989 I went with Mum, Dad, Marko and Cathy on a trip to France. My Mum and Dad drove the whole way. We got the St. Columba boat from Dun Laoighaire in the Republic of Ireland to Holyhead in Wales. It was my first time in Wales and France.
We got the Sealink Boat Earl Godwin from Weymouth to Cherbourg before driving to the west coast and the resort of St. Gilles.
2.Marseille, Summer 2007
I made it to the south coast of France in 2007 on a backpacking journey to Marseille. I liked my time down there by the beach, harbour and visiting the stadium where Glentoran FC once played.
3.Paris Return, 2011
After backpacking the world, I had a stopover in Paris on route to Michael’s Wedding in 2011. It was my first European city to visit since London in 2009, was 26 months away from Europe by then. I enjoyed my return with some textbook sightseeing (Louvre, Eiffel Tower).
4.Nice with the GAWA, 2016
Arrival in Nice in 2016 was nothing short of a childhood dream. The irony I find myself in now staggers me. My first ever Northern Ireland home win was in February 1991 v. Poland. My first ever Northern Ireland away match was in March 2005 in Poland. And to complete my childhood dream and an away day hat-trick my first ever Northern Ireland tournament match was also against Poland.
But it was held in France in the coastal city of Nice. With my Dad and brother Marko we got a train from Milan direct to Nice. The party was electric. We had made it to a tournament for the first time since 1986 and I was there. I fully expected a Northern Ireland win. In the end a second half Poland goal meant a 1-0 defeat.
5.The Kings of Lyon, 2016
Just a few days after that defeat in Nice, and following a spot of backpacking in Monaco, we arrived in Lyon for the second group match. Northern Ireland would play Ukraine here in an all or nothing match. We organised a great bed and breakfast and settled into the city for four days!
So those are my best memories from my time in France. I’ll return again someday. If you are thinking of heading to France, the France Voyage itinerary tool is a great feature to help plan your trip with whatever region you choose to explore – and this is a country with loads to see and do.