How to travel in France and not drink?

How to travel in France and not drink?

An excellent question. Before I really quit drinking, I found myself traveling through Spain with 10 days under my belt, only to be undone when I crossed the border into France. Within hours, I found myself ordering wine at a cafe in Biarritz. I couldn’t wrap my head around not drinking in France! So I did. Spoiler alert: It was exactly the same as drinking at home. Except when I’m in France, there’s the bonus possibilities of losing my passport and being hungover during a spectacular vacation.

A Second Chance

Picnic with a view of the Eiffel TowerFor his 40th birthday, the husband chose a trip to Paris. This time I had nearly two years sober. I was confident not even the siren’s call of gallons of cheap Beaujolais would steer me wrong.

3 Alcohol-Free Paris Foodie Experiences

Paris, being wonderfully French and all, actually has more things going for it than a place to drink cheap wine.  It’s true!  There’s art, architecture, fashion, romance, and best of all, tons of food. During this lovely autumn week in Paris, I found plenty of gourmet and foodie experiences to look forward to that don’t involve alcohol. Here’s a list of some of the things I found:


Hot chocolate and dessert from Angelina (Image from

Hot Chocolate at Angelina

After walking around Paris, you’ll need a little pick-me-up.  I did anyways, and just as I was beginning to sag after hours of walking, the husband dragged me into Angelina, a legendary teahouse and dessert shop. Order the thick hot chocolate (and a dessert!) and instantly feel revived.  Maybe from all the sugar!

Angelina Salon de Thé, Pâtissier, Restaurant

226, rue de Rivoli, Paris 1st, France


Tea at the Grand Mosque


The Grand Mosque (Wikicommons)

Paris, like all great cities, is deeply layered with cultural influences from all over the world.  A visit to the serene Grand Mosque is perfect place to sip mint tea, nibble almond cookies, and ponder our connected world. They also serve (reportedly excellent) full meals.  Combine a visit with the Le Jardin des Plantes which is right across the street.

Grand Mosquee of Paris

2bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite, 75005 Paris, France

Rue Cler & picnic in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower

display of cheese french food market

All the cheese!

Rue Cler is a fabulous market street only a few blocks from the extensive lawns of the Champ de Mars. For a perfect afternoon, pick up supplies and then stroll over to the Champ de Mars for some people watching and a picnic.  What’s more French then leisurely slathering brie on a baguette while bathing in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower?

Rue Cler, 75007 Paris, France

Need more proof you can combine travel with not drinking in France?

I’m not the only one who went to Paris and didn’t drink. Check out these links:

Kate, from The Sober School, is Sober in France

Author Robert J. Hughes’ article On Not Drinking In France

Planning a sober trip to Europe and want more inspiration?

Check out this article on exploring Amsterdam.

Sober travel: How not to fall apart without your routine & support system

Sober travel: How not to fall apart without your routine & support system


1000 meters of street food, Muslim Street, Xi’an, China

In the three years since I quit drinking, I’ve traveled to dozens of places without relying on alcohol. No margaritas to celebrate a tropical arrival.  And no desperate glasses of wine to numb my travel frustrations. In fact, I’m getting pretty good at sober travel and, for the most part, I rarely struggle while abroad.  That is until I escorted my mother to China on a two-week bucket list trip for her 70th birthday.

One night, towards the end of our trip, I staggered to my hotel room in Beijing; the stress and exhaustion taking me completely off-guard.  Thoughts I hadn’t had in years bubbled up.

“What if I went down to the bar for a drink?”

“I wonder if could have just one glass of wine.”

For a few minutes, I stewed on the unfairness of not being able to smoke or drink. Then I pulled the covers over my head, bunkering down until the self-pity storm passed. (That’s the trick to staying sober, I’ve found—keeping the faith that the storm will always pass.)

Traveling in Asia for two weeks with a parent is about as advanced sober travel can get—negotiating 15-hour flights, engrained family dynamics, unfamiliar customs, and oh my goodness, the crowds. It was also a pivotal experience—a first trip to the Far East for both of us, and one that both my mom and I will look back on fondly for the rest of our lives.

But I was humbled by how easily, with this specific combination of stressors, I found myself debating if I should drink.



Aberdeen Fishing Village, Hong Kong

I’m grateful that I had the practice of less intense sober travel, so I was able to fall back on habits that had kept me on track up to this point.

After returning from China, I published an article with the online travel publication Matador Network—Sober travel: How not to fall apart without your routine & support system.

If you’ve recently quit drinking, I hope you’ll check out the Matador article for ideas on how to stay on track when you’re abroad.

Want more sober travel info? Check out this article on how to stay sober while visiting your in-laws!