|Subject: RE: Travel planning question - France|
Some quick comments about speaking French in France. My French speaking level was being able to fluently say Hello, Goodbye, Thankyou and I speak very little French! :) You will have more communications difficulty in non-city areas than in Paris say, but that is not to say you will have problems. Learn the basics as you mention and bring a guide book. All the French people I met were truly wonderful. I was the designated speaker in our group of 4 and that frightened me but the French could not have been more helpful or welcoming as soon as I was polite and friendly. Some of the biggest laughs were had as I tried to converse in French with the French B&B owner who tried to converse in English. Laughter is the universal language it seems. And when in doubt, bring a small notepad and pen. I successfully requested allergy medicine for one of our group who had an allergic reaction to a cat in the B&B by drawing the cat le chat, pointing at it then me then making a big sneeze!
Your style of travel - to rent a car and explore - is well suited to areas of France. From experience we did similar in the Loire area and in the Luberon. I don't know that the areas we visited fit into your preferred interests of food, museums, history, machinery etc Then again, maybe those areas are rich in these things and we have yet to discover them!
Bonne journee! :) Megan Brisbane, Australia