Useful sites - Cellphone notes - Camera notes
General travel planning
There are several useful general sites I've linked to here. If you do your homework it's easy to travel independently in France. And when we added up our costs, we found that not only had we done what we wanted to every step of the way, we'd done it more cheaply than we would have on a package tour.
Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door series - his France book was invaluable to me and the other Americans we encountered!
About.com's France for Visitors and Europe for Visitors
Frommers', Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, etc - check the print versions out from the library if possible. Many of the web sites used to be more interesting before they became soulless databases of dribbles of information.
Onebag: the absolute best advice on packing.
Michelin Guides: you can print out triptix from here... but it's probably a good idea to get a good hard-copy DRIVING map of France before you go. The AAA one is better than nothing but not really helpful if you get off the main roads!
Useful website: www.normandy-tourism.org
If you want to use a cell phone in France or elsewhere outside the US, you need an unlocked GSM phone, which you can buy on Ebay. Then you get a little SIM card to stick in for the country you're going to. When you return to the States, you can use the phone at home by buying a T-Mobile SIM. I got a nice little Sony-Eriksson phone on Ebay and bought the card through telestial.com, which also has a good explanation of this whole arrangement. Buying the phone and resupplying it with a sim card each time you travel saves money over renting one. Being able to phone home - and give my family at home a number to reach me in case of emergency - was great, as was being able to make phone calls without going through a language/phone card hassle.
I used my Minolta digital camera with rechargable batteries and several flash memory cards. My routine was to transfer the files from the card to my laptop each night, and after a couple of nights transfer all pics to a backup cd. Returning home, I organized the pictures using IMatch, occasionally editing them with Photoshop or PS Elements.
I used the laptop to keep a journal, to record our expenses (we kept a kitty to which we contributed equal amounts every few days), and even, at the Berlin hotel, to connect to the internet through an access point.
I also found the laptop made a great tool for reading in bed; I downloaded a couple of ebooks and read them at night, enlarged to 150%, without worrying about reading lamps, or disturbing my roommate. However, carrying travel info on the laptop was less satisfactory; we were glad we'd printed out maps and directions before we left.
I always like to add more links - please let me know if you think I'm missing one.