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What To Expect When You're Travelling Through France By Tegan Wylie


Are you thinking of Traveling through France but not sure what to expect?
Well I can tell you first hand that traveling through France and living in France have been two vastly different experiences in a fat body.
Luckily, I’ve done a whole lot of both and after living in the South West of France for close to five years now, I’ve spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with country on all levels.
My clearly none french demeanour means I’m often mistaken for a tourist, which to be honest sometimes I prefer. It allows me to experience this country from two distinct and entirely different perspectives.
As someone who lives in France, there’s no doubt in my mind that culturally people suffer from a kind of collective body dysmorphia. However, this is something you really experience once you live here and is probably another rant for another time.
Even though many of us might have this carefully crafted idea of what a “french woman” looks like in our mind, the truth is France has diverse female bodies, so it’s not so shocking to see Plus Sized women around, as some might have you believe.
As a traveller in France, I may have experienced the occasional sideways look but this is something that I try work beyond. Like many countries France has it’s fair share of older, slightly judgemental mentality but I think it’s safe to chalk those experiences up to closed minded people as opposed to a representation of common behaviour. Thus far, when traveling as a fat women in France, my experiences have been pleasant.



Planning Your Trip
Even though I know it’s not uncommon to see Plus Sized people in France, I also think the country still has a long way to go in terms of inclusivity. As a North American I’ve always been dissapointed by this (again another rant for another time) and feel that because of this lack, traveling here requires a bit of pre-planning.
Considering language barriers, transportation to and around the country as well as a bit of restaurant/food planning could really go a long way to make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable.
When it comes to language, a few of the bigger cities in France are relatively easy to get by in with a few key french phrases.
In Paris many people will default to English if they hear you trying in French. Down in the South West where I live, if you’re in a city like Toulouse, people will default to english quickly if they can. This is because Toulouse is generally a younger city with a lot of British Expats so practicing English is enjoyed and therefore more common.
However, France is so rich in versatility from region to region that I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t encourage you to give it a proper explore. Some of the best of what France has to offer is in the small villages that dot the country and if you really want to hit the lesser known places (which in my opinion are really the best) having a bit more than the basics in French under your belt can go a long way.

Big Cities vs Small Towns
In France there is always a bit a of rivalry between Parisians and the Provincials (which is basically everyone else!) As someone who lives provincially and has visited Paris  on at least 5 different occasions, I think it’s safe to say 4 intensive travel days is all you need to explore the highlights of the city of Lights.

After that I would encourage everyone to hit the road, and soak up what France really has to offer!

One excellent way to discover some of the lesser known but equally beautiful parts of France is to visit Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. These villages are recognized as the most beautiful in the country and because of their designation they are used to receiving english speaking visitors in the summers.
In general though, most places require a bit of conversational french to get by. Keep in mind this advice is coming from someone who only speaks at a basic A1 level and has managed to get around for 4 years with it. The important component here is to just try your best. Most people are friendly and appriciate your efforts. If they know your language they will try to make the experience easier.
Also a fun little tip, when you travel in and around the southern regions of France, many French people are semi-fluent in Spanish because they are so close to the boarder.
Another important factor to keep in mind is that many of the smaller villages can require lots of walking. Two of my favourites that are accessible from Toulouse are Cordes-sur-Ciel  (literally translating to “Rope to the Sky”) and the cliff carved village of Rocamadour.
Both of these require a decent amount of walking up hill but have alternative options if that’s not your thing. For example, Rocamadour is built on 4 different levels of cliff but offers lifts between most levels. Cord-Sur-Ciel requires walking but it’s also possible to drive to the top to get those beautiful views.  
Most of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France have information on their websites about mobility options within the city so the information is available for your pre-planning.

In either case wear comfortable shoes. I feel like I may not need to explain this to most Europeans in the house but  for any of my fellow North Americans out there, cobble stone, though beautiful is not the most amazing for walking. Yet it’s everywhere here so be mindful of your shoe choices. Thin tennis shoes or flip flops probably won’t cut it.

Shopping In France
Shopping in France was a new experience for me unlike any I had in my previous travels. Technically there are standard EU sizes but in my experience they slightly fluctuate from country to country. For example, if you are a size 14 USA/16 UK in France you would be about a size 46 French EU sizing but might be a 48 in Italian EU sizing.
And if that big leap in numbers isn’t enough to frustrate you, I’ve found it hard to find size 46 and above in most stores making it even more difficult to shop in France.
Personally, I feel that this is one of the biggest problems in the country. There is sadly, next to no representation here for Fat Women and what we can find is often offered by none french brands.  Meaning for most Europeans out there, these are probably things you could find in your own country.
If you’re travelling from outside of Europe, most plus size clothing is available online and not in store (I know, it’s infuriating. Again I could and probably will write a whole post just about this at some point). For those of you that are from outside the EU, I’ve had luck with online brands like ASOS and Mango Violeta and for a day of city shopping I’ve found sizes 46 and above at C&A, Kiabi and Primark. Mind you none of these brands are actually french :: Insert eye roll here::
But instead of looking for actual clothes, I would encourage you to shop for shoes and accessories instead. Most shoe stores in France offer beautiful, good quality, footwear. Shoes are actually one thing I think I’ll never buy anywhere ever again. Many brands offer things like beautiful design and cushiony support.
In terms of accessories, the South West has a blossoming culture of  artisan makers. In my opinion these are some of the best places to find beautiful locally made pieces. The artisans are so friendly and ready to share their passion. Some of my favourites include the mainly female collective Creative Pink and From Toulouse with Love 
Dining in France
Eating in France can be tricky for several reasons. As France is the land of cheese, wine and bread, if you have any allergies or intolerance (lactose, wheat etc) it can be really tricky to find anything that will meet your requirements.

Another issue is that many restaurants tend to be small venues with small limited seating. If you are like me and aren’t so comfortable in small spaces many of the charming little restaurants can feel claustrophobic and this is even more so amplified when you factor in COVID.


Luckily, there are some alternatives to both situations. Bigger cities like Paris and Toulouse tend to have more options in terms of food alternatives. My main city love Toulouse has a surprising amount of alternative options when it comes to food. As someone who is both lactose and gluten intolerant I really love vegan places like Sovaga. Also just down the road Chez Leonie is a great place for a almond milk chai latte ( I swear when I found these I was almost bowing at Leonie’s feet).
If you don’t have to worry about those things but aren’t so keen on eating in tight spaces there’s a great alternative for that as well!
Did you know that the french invented the picnic? And with that in mind it is one of the great french pastimes in the summer. In fact french gardens and parks usually see a decent lunch time crowd as long as the weather is nice. Picking up some local market eats or even some yum restaurant take out and finding a grassy spot to dine is very common and a lovely experience!
In Paris I really enjoy the Jardin de Tuileries for this because there are grassy spots as well as seats and in Toulouse there are heaps of gorgeous gardens to pick from (Yes I love gardens and ever wrote a whole post about them here)
Lunching in some open green space is really common everywhere in France whether you’re in a big city or a small village so it’s a great way to have the best of both worlds.

Activities in France

This really depends on what your interests are, but if you’re into any kind of actives that require specific gear this point is for you!

I remember the moment where I was convinced by my husband to body surf down some white rapids in the Alps. How he convinced me, I have no idea but I remember the fear well. I also remember pretty distinctly just barely fitting into the largest sized wet suit the activity company owned. This was a hard experience for me. Everyone was changing in front of each other easily slipping in and out of their wet suits and I was struggling to get mine past my calves.
With this in mind  there’s two things to consider about doing activities in France. First of all the activity crew was really cool. You could tell there was a slight of concern but overall they were staying positive and helpful around how I was fitting into my suit. So in that sense I didn’t feel judged.
On the other hand as a size 14 I was wearing the largest wet suit they owned. If outdoor activities are your thing, I would encourage you to plan out what you’re wanting to do in advance and bring your own gear if you can. It’s sad that these companies (in my experience) don’t have more size diversity but I would also encourage you not to let that get in the way of having the fun you want on your French Holiday!
In many ways the wide open spaces of France have a lot of fun leisure activities to offer so if that is your jam, this is a great country for adventure.
So is it Worth the Trip?
Though France doesn’t rate very high in the size inclusivity department, as I start to learn more french I do see that there is a budding community of people here who want representation. That’s always a good sign to me and means that even though the country is a few steps behind, there is a more inclusive future in sight.
What’s important to focus on is the fact that this land is staggeringly beautiful and rich in traditions that change drastically from coast to coast. I am continually amazed by how much diversity is offered in one small country and for that alone I think France is a must see destination.

Though I have had personal ups and downs here, I have realized that the moment I shifted my perspective out of being fearful and into being confident everything felt like it changed.

The streets where I once felt “too big” are now the same streets I strut confidently. It took some time to find the balance between being respectful of french customs and asserting myself in all my fullness but now that I’ve found that, I travel and live without worry.
Most importantly though, I think it’s important for you to know that fat women exist in France. We are here, living, travelling and thriving! And thanks to great resources like Fat Girls Travel Too we now have ways to connect with each other.
I hope this helps shed some light on travelling through France and I equally hope you feel inspired to discover this beautiful country.

Author Bio

Tegan Aileen Wylie is a Canadian style and travel influencer living in France. She is a vocal advocate for body positivity, on a mission to empower curvy women of all ages to travel the world whilst feeling and looking their best. 
Tegan founded The Travel Curve in 2016 after finding a disappointing lack of travel + travel fashion advice for full-figured women. She is an in-demand stylist for full-figured women, a brand ambassador for fashion designer Diane Kroe and has collaborated with  Travel Fashion Girl on various projects. She was recently featured by Matador as one of the top 10 female travellers who don’t let their curves get in the way of adventure.