A few things I learned that will make your beery trip to France even better:
1. If you haven’t already, learn to drive a stick. I rented the cheapest car I could- $100/week for a great little VW Up! (exclamation point is part of the car’s name.) The least expensive automatic was $500/week.
2. Don’t forget, in your rush to rent your car and fire up the GPS, to get Euros at the airport. Like me. The first road from the airport is a toll road, and it doesn’t take American cards.
3. There are wild boar warning signs on some highways- neat!
4. Listening to the radio on long stretches is a great way to work on your French. And implant the Carrefour jingle in your head forever.
5. It’s really fun to say “enchanté” when you meet people. I love that. No matter how much French I learn I still blush a little because it feels like I’m saying “enchanted to meet you.” Just try to say it without smiling. Impossible.
6. Bring beer presents from the US for people in the bars and breweries you’ll visit. They weigh a lot, but the room and weight will be displaced by the beer you bring back anyway.
7. Don’t shake hands. The French kiss- twice. (The Swiss three times.) It’s great!
8. Offer to ferry beer from one brewer to the next. It was fairly common for brewers I met to not have tasted the beers from their own country. Daniel Thiriez started my trip off with this idea and it quickly caught on.
9. Budget for serious tolls. My first two hours on an “A” road was €15; another stretch was almost €30. If you have time, take the “E” roads- they’re quite beautiful, if indirect, and free!