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14 Day Honeymoon in France travel ideas

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I am a newbie to this forum so let me extend my greetings to you all. My fiance and I are in the beginning of planning our honeymoon trip to France. We are both in our 40s, huge foodies, and lovers of wine. We have both visited Paris independently of each other, and vowed to return to experience a more "local" character of the city. We plan on visiting in either the spring or the fall to avoid the high, hot season.

While, 14 days could easily be spent in Paris itself, we would like to try to see more. Namely the wine regions of the Loire Valley, Burgundy, and Bordeaux. We plan on doing a separate trip to visit the south of France while catching the Grand Prix of Monaco. I am a huge motor racing fan, so any side tips of racing history would help as well.

I am open to suggestions regarding driving a rental car. We have absolutely no hang ups about driving in Europe, but also appreciate the time savings of train travel.

So, what sort of itinerary would you suggest.

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    The most interesting/prettiest winegrowing regions in France, IMO, are Alsace, Burgundy/Beaujolais, and the Cote du Rhone region in Provence. Except for the chateaux in the Loire - the Loire countryside is not very scenic. We spend 2 months in France most years, and nothing has pursuaed me to visit the Bordeaux region - except for 4 trips to the city of Bordeaux and 2 to St Emilion.

    You did not mention Alsace as one of your options - so that leave Burgundy. Dijon in Burgundy is my second favorite large city in France, and Beaune is in my "top 3" smaller cities in France. There are many interesting Chateaux in Burgundy, and perhaps the best dining we've encountred in France has been in Burgundy.

    Take the TGV from Paris to Dijon & start your trip there. I have written many posts on visiting Burgundy. I did a "search" for some of them, so review some of these past posts to get some more info.

    http://www.fodors.com/search/results_community_advanced.html?search=burgundy&include_text=1&category_id=787&subcategory_id=1052&datefrom=11%2F20%2F2007&dateto=11%2F19%2F2010&author=stududley

    Stu Dudley

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    Thank you for the reply Stu. I did not mention Alsace because I am not familiar with it. If I were to add it to my itinerary, what more can you suggest about it?

    Please feel free to suggest anything. We are very open.

    Thanks!

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    I would suggest the Bordeaux and Dordogne (southwest France) areas, in addition to Paris. I've been to Burgundy, stayed in Beaune, and while I liked it, the region just didn't "click" with me. Partly, and this is obviously a personal food preference, I don't like the heavier Burgundian cuisine. That's probably also why we haven't yet been to the Alsace (despite having relatives from the area, long ago).

    DH and I are big foodies, too, and there is a cornucopia of great restaurants in the Dordogne. If you like foie gras, it's the place to be! It's close to Bordeaux, for the wine focus, so you could combine visits in the two areas.

    For more information on restaurants and food, check out the chowhound website (in addition to Fodor's).

    I second what StuDudley said about the Loire Valley. We've been there several times, and while the chateaux are interesting, the area is not high on my list of beautiful places in France.

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    Just wanting to follow along with the planning of the Cottrells honeymoon.

    (You already know my suggestions for Paris. I am almost ready to post the dining portion.)

    gruezi

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    IMHO you are being a bit over-ambitious. if you are intending to spend even a few days in Paris, you will not have enough time to go to three wine regions - though you might manage two.

    A very nice trip could be made of flying into Paris, going straight to Alsace, from there to Burgundy, and then back to Paris.

    However unlike Stu i do like the Loire, and would myself think about a three centre trip, with bases in the western loire [say Saumur or angers] the eastern loire [Blois] and then Paris.

    there is more than enough to keep you busy with either of these trips, but not, I think, both.

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    I love the Loire and Chenoneau, in particular but also enjoyed Amboise. You could do both in a day, really.

    You will find sometimes so many differeing opinions, so that can also be a little overwhelming. I agree with annhig and you may be a bit overambitious. One mig mistake is trying to get too much in and "missing: your vacation by running yourself to death.

    Versailles is spectacular and also a good day trip.

    Enjoy, but remember to truly enjoy Paris you have to relax and sit in the cafes and sip your wine, cafe creme, etc...

    We end every day with a glass of champagne. Reims is a great day trip to see a champagne house and visit the cathedral where most French kings were crowned.

    Paris is beautiful and I find that most that didn't enjoy it spent too much time waiting in line (make sure to get a Paris museum pass to skip most lines for museums/monuments) or try to cram everything in. Don't do it...you'll want a reason to go back!

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    Like Annhig mentioned - a very efficient itinerary would be Alsace & Burgundy. From Paris, you can take the TGV to either Strasbourg or Colmar (another of my favorite small cities), rent a car, visit Alsace, drive 2 1/2 hrs to Burgundy, visit, then take the TGV back to Paris or straight to CDG airport. TGV between Paris & Strasbourg or Dijon is less than 2 hrs.

    Here is somethng I wrote about Alsace several years ago:

    Alsace is one of the most beautiful places in France. In fact, the “Wine Spectator” ran a large expose on Alsace about 8 years ago and called it the most beautiful wine growing region in the world. I would probably include the Mosel in this category, but Alsace has gobbled up more of my film per square mile than almost anywhere else in France (we spend 2 months every year in France). It’s kinda like Vermont with vineyards – dozens of picture postcard villages with church steeples sticking up above the houses, surrounded by vineyards, and backdropped by the Vosges mountains. There is also the very pretty town of Colmar, which I would have to rank in the top 5% of all the medium sized towns I’ve visited in France (perhaps #1 even), Strasbourg is one of my favorite large towns in France. We spent a week in a lovely Gite near Riquewihr last year and we’ve visited Alsace on 3 other occasions for a duration of 3-5 days on each visit. If I have any complaint about Alsace, it’s that there is not as much variety to the sites, villages, and countryside as I’ve seen in other areas of France. The villages in Alsace are almost too pretty to be real, but there are a lot of similarities to them. The Vosges are nice, but nothing like the Alps, Pyrenees, or the Cevannes. I would go there in early September, so that the geraniums that are everywhere will be in full bloom. One time we were there the last week of August, and we had no problems with crowds (I hate crowds).

    We’re lucky enough to dine in France at least 30 times per year. We found the restaurants in Alsace to be excellent, in most cases. It’s very easy to avoid the pork & kraut, if that’s not your style. If you look at the red Michelin guide, there are more starred restaurants in Alsace than anywhere else in France (except Paris).

    If you are starting your trip in Paris, I would recommend that you take the train from Paris Est to Nancy and visit this lovely city. It’s the center of “Beaux Arts”, and the city architecture & the Place Stanislas are spectacular – especially the golden gates around the square. Take the walking tour outlined in the Green Michelin guide for Alsace. Also visit the Musee des Beaux-Arts, if you’re interested in this style. We actually visited Nancy as a day trip by train from Colmar. We had lunch at the Excelsior Flo, which is truly a sight to behold (see the picture in the Green Michelin guide). There are about 6 direct trains from Paris to Nancy daily, and the trip is about 3 hrs or less. There are about 9 direct trains from Nancy to Strasbourg daily and I suspect that most go on to Colmar too (trip is less than 1 ½ hrs). You could stay overnight in Nancy, or even just make it a ½ day stopover, if you can find a way to stow your luggage.

    If you stop or stay in Nancy and then go on to Strasbourg and stay there, you perhaps might be getting “a little too much big city”. It would be more efficient that you start your “Alsace central” visit in Strasbourg, but it might be best to stay somewhere in a small village in the countryside and visit Strasbourg as day trips. There are several trains departing from both Colmar & Ribeauville to Strasbourg. If you decide not to start in Strasbourg, I would take the train to Colmar and pick up a rental car there. Colmar is an easy town to get in & out of (Strasbourg is a little more difficult).

    If you overnight in Strasbourg, we’ve stayed at the Gutenberg twice, and loved it. It’s small, centrally located, and not that expensive. It’s difficult to park nearby, however, since it’s on the fringe of the “pedestrian only” section. Take the walking tours described in the Michelin guide. I previously said I’m not a pork fan, but we dined at Chez Yvonne twice and enjoyed it. It’s a very popular brasserie serving traditional Alsace food in a rustic décor – reserve ahead. We’ve also dined at Maison Kammerzell, which is more upscale and located in one of the most beautiful buildings in Strasbourg. It was a Michelin 1 star, and the food was OK (we’ve had much better meals at other restaurants), but the main draw at this place is the décor.

    The charm of Alsace is the countryside & cute villages. We’ve stayed in Oberni, Kayserberg twice, and in a Gite near Riquewihr. I would recommend that you stay in the Kayserberg/Riquewihr/Ribbeauville area & take day trips from there. These villages are very close together & the area around the villages is stunning. The Route du Vin is a good road to use to visit all the villages, but it gets a lot of heavy truck traffic & there’s a little too much not-so-scenic commerce on it. There is a prettier and less traveled road that goes from village to village just west of the Route du Vin. It’s actually a very well marked bike route that is much more scenic than the Route du Vin. It probably doesn’t traverse the entire length of the Route du Vin, though. There are a lot of signposts along this route that indicate the direction to the next town, distances, etc. The best way to find this route is to go to Riquewihr & walk or drive around the perimeter of town until you find one of these signposts – it’s actually quite easy to find this route.

    Villages not to miss are Oberni, Ribeauville, Riquewihr, Kayserberg, and Eguisheim. There are ramparts around Bergheim and its fun to walk on the top of them & circle the village, looking down into everyone’s back yard. There is a very nice lookout in the town of Zellenberg. Go up into the village & try to find it. There is a viewing table there that’s a little hard to locate, but worth the effort. There is also a very scenic lookout in a cemetery just outside of Sigolsheim – it’s marked on the Michelin map. Hike up to the old Chateau above Kayserberg in the early AM or late PM to get some wonderful views. Visit Haut Koenigsbourg. We really enjoyed the Ecomusee d’Alsace, although I’m usually not a fan of this “Williamsburg” type of stuff. It’s a collection of old houses that gives an insight into housing in the different periods & rural areas of Alsace. There are a lot of storks nesting on the roofs of the buildings in this Ecomusee. The Beauville linens factory & 2nds store is just west of Ribeauville on the road to Ste Marie aux Mines, but expect no bargains.

    As I said earlier, Colmar is a gem. Follow the walking route indicated in the Michelin green guide & take plenty of film with you. My wife purchased some wonderful lace in this town. We enjoyed the Musee d’Unterlinden. Spend a ½ day at least in Colmar. It’s easy to drive in & out & parking is no hassle. Stores may be closed on Sunday and Monday.

    Here’s a pretty drive through some villages, and then into the Vosges. Head south of Colmar going through the villages of Eguisheim (spend several hours in this village – one of our favorites), Husseren, Hattstat, Gueberschwihr, Rouffach, Westhalten, Bergholtz, and then Guebwiller (visit). Then drive to Murbach to see a nice church in a pretty setting. Take the D430 west through Lautenbach and further until it hits the D27. Take the D27 north over the Col du Platzerwasel toward Munster. Continue on to Munster (D27 changes to D10). Stop & wander around in Munster (of cheese fame). Continue on the D10 to Turckheim (visit).

    A farther away trip:
    Visit Wissembourg and take the walking tour described in the Michelin Green guide. Then follow drive #3 described in the VOSGES DU NORD section of the Michelin guide. This will take you to Chateau de Fleckenstein, Lembach, Hunspach, & Seebach. In these latter two villages, the houses are half-timbered & painted white – it’s quite a contrast from other villages in Alsace. If you want to see how France attempted to defend itself from the Germans and Russsians after WWI, visit a section of the Maginot line at Four-a-Chaux just outside of Lembach. We enjoyed the tour of underground fortifications, hospitals, barracks, etc.

    An excellent way to get back to the CDG airport in Paris for your return home is to stay in Dijon the night before. You can take the early TGV to CDG, which leaves Dijon at 7:47 & gets you into the airport at 9:35 (Sunday schedules might be a little different). We drove from Alsace to Dijon (an easy all-freeway drive), and dropped our car off at the train station and walked across the street and checked into the Hotel Jura. Dijon is a beautiful city. We were there on a Saturday AM and we immediately went to the outdoor market next to the “Les Halles” permanent indoor market. Lots of foodstuff, brocante, etc. The “Les Halles” market is one of the largest I’ve seen. Dijon is a very lively town – especially on a Saturday. Take the walking tour described in the Green Michelin Guide (you’ll have to buy or borrow the green guide for Burgundy Jura). We dined at Pre aux Clercs which was a 1 star and also got raves from Patricia Wells. It was good, but about twice the price as places in Alsace. This year it lost its star.

    Restaurants.
    Maximilien at the base of Zellenberg was our favorite. The ambience was very relaxed (we had to talk in a whisper) and the setting was lovely. This is a Michelin 1 star restaurant and the food was supurb. Auberge du Schoenbourg in Riquewihr was also excellent. It is a Michlein 1 star. We did not like Table du Gourmet, also in Riquewihr (also a 1 star). I had a very sloppy presentation of overcooked Sandre on a bed of scalloped potatoes (very unimaginative). My wife’s dish also did not please her. We dined at Auberge de Norbert in Bergheim, which was excellent. In Colmar, we dined at the Maison des Tetes, which is one of the most photographed buildings in the City. Our dinner was only so-so and the service was painfully slow (we usually spend at least 2 ½ hrs at dinner).

    Stu Dudley

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    Wow, thank you all for your replies!

    Denisea, I totally agree with you and ending each day with a glass of champagne. We will happily toast you! I also never see everything in a city so I have a reason to come back. Of course as I get older, I keep finding more and more places I want to visit.

    I do like the idea of going straight to Alsace, and making our way back to Paris.

    A side trip to Riems, or Dijon might be interesting to me because of the auto racing history there. They were both hosts to the French Grand Prix.

    Looks like I have a lot more reading to do!

    And planning another 2 or 3 trips to do France justice.

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