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Loire/Burgundy Central Location

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Hello Knowledgeable France Travelers,

We are visiting France this July for the first time since short 3 day visits to Paris as part of student trips to Europe in the 1960's. Primary areas we are visiting are Paris (5 nights), Normandy (4 nights), St. Malo/Le Mont St. Michel (3 nights), and 2 nights each in the Loire (Limeray) and Burgundy (Avallon). We will have a rental car except while in Paris.

2 questions:

1. I am concerned we are short changing ourselves in the Loire/Burgundy areas, and seek your advice for a single central location for those 4 nights from which we can travel into both areas on a daily basis.

2. Each of those areas deserve a separate week, we wish we had the time. But with 4 days, what recommendations do you have for cities and towns, castles, wineries, sightseeing, restaurants, etc. in those areas.

Merci to all for your responses.

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    The pacing of this itinerary seems a bit odd.

    You´re spending basically 7 nights in Normandy then rushing very quickly through the Loire Valley and Burgundy.

    I´d be very tempted to omit the 3 hour drive to Burgundy, spend at least one - two days longer in the Loire, and return to Paris from there. These locations are too far apart to select just one town from which to see them both.

    -or-

    Change Normandy to 6 nights and add one night in the Loire and one in Burgundy. I´m not sure about the need for 3 nights at St Malo and MSM.

    _____


    As for your time in the Loire Valley, I might suggest the following châteaux east of Tours:

    Chambord - much of the design was done by Leonardo
    Cheverny - one of the few fully furnished châteaux
    Chenonceau - everyone loves the charm of this château
    Blois - the most overlook location in the area

    Architecturally and historically, these are the most significant within the area near Limeray. If you have time you might venture west of Tours to visit:

    Azay-le-Rideau
    Villandry - for the gardens.

    If you have a lot of extra time, you might (include but you could just as well exclude):

    Château Chaumond - interesting contrasts with Chenonceau
    Château Amboise - best viewed from across the Loire River
    le Clos Lucé - the most over hyped location in the Loire Valley

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    I agree, it's a strange itinerary. I can't imagine anyone with so short an overall timeframe spending 3 days in St-Malo/leMont-St-Michel, especially after 4 nights in Normandy.

    You can't find an acceptable "base" for visiting the Loire and Burgundy. You just need to rethink the whole trip or add a week or two.

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    I agree with St Cirq & Sarastro

    You really have:
    7 nights 6 3/4 days in Normandy
    2 nights 1 3/4 days in the Loire
    2 nights 1 1/2 days in Burgundy - and Burgundy is pretty "spread out" - so you'll be doing a lot of driving while there.

    We've spent many weeks in the Loire, 6 in Normandy & Brittany, and 4 weeks in Burgundy/Beaujolais. We've also spent well over two years total, vacationing in France. You can't pack as much into a day in France as you can in the US (if that's where you are from) because:
    - Many sites & shops close for a 2 hr lunch (not the major chateau in the Loire nor the WWII museums, however)
    - Shops in all but the super-touristy villages are closed on Sunday, and many on Monday morning also.
    - Many museums are closed 1 day a week - usually Monday or Tuesday (not the WWII museums).

    This is just a personal preference, but I think you have allotted too much time to Normandy & MSM/St Malo, compared to the other destinations. We have visited the WWII sites 3 times, the last with my FIL who was part of the invasion in 1944. We saw practically everything that could be seen at the WWII sites & museums (incl the Caen Memorial) - and it took us 1 1/2 days. Unless you like crowded shoulder-to-shoulder walking, it is best to visit MSM VERY early in the morning (8am to 10:30am) or VERY late in the evening.

    I would recommend pretty much the same thing St Cirq & Sarastro suggested - cut Normandy/MSM back by at least 2 nights and add those nights to the Loire & Burgundy. Even so, IMO that is WAY too little time in Burgundy, & if you are big chateaux fans - too little time in the Loire also.

    See less & enjoy more. Keep the wasted travel time to a minimum.

    Stu Dudley

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    Thanks to all three of you for your very complete and thoughtful replies. We are not quite as nuts as you may think; there is a good rason for the extra 2 days in Normandy/Eastern Brittany. We are also from California where driving is second nature and distances not a worry. But I am thinking we might want to leave Burgundy for our next trip and spend more time in the Loire Valley.

    Let me explain the "Normandy" week and the 7 nights alloted. We land on a Wednesday morning at CDG, will pick up the car and drive to Giverny to see the Museum and Gardens, then on to Lisieux for the night. Why Lisieux?, you would properly ask - because the 6th Stage of Le Tour de France ends there the next day. We have become fans of the Tour from the HD coverage on TV the past couple of years, and we want to experience the ambience and spectacle of the Tour and see the elite bike racers in person. After getting over Jet Lag in the a.m., enjoying a nice lunch, visiting the finsih line Fetival and watching the Tour to by in mid-late afternoon, we drive to Bayeux for 3 nights.

    We decided to give ourselves plenty of time to experience the area the next few days, including the Bayeux Cathedral, the Tapestry, the old city not bombed in the War, the D-Day Beaches and Museums, a day trip to Honfleur and back along the coast, the fresh seafood, cheese, Calvados, nice meals, etc. Also, my wife's ancestors are from Normandy, i.e. - the time of the Conquest, so we wanted more time than normal in the area.

    Leaving Bayeux, we intend to drive along the coast to Cherbourg -for lunch under an umbrella :) - and if the weather is good, actually relax at the beach, before staying that night at a hotel on Le Mont St. Michel. I have read about the crowds, etc. but wanting to see the Abbey, we were able to book a room on the island. So we will have the relative peacefulness of the evening and will see the Abbey early the next morning, before the busses descend.

    Leaving St. Michel, we travel to St. Malo for 2 nights at a hotel in the old part of the city within the walls - these are the extra 2 days that you wouldn't understand from my original post. We are taking the ferry the next day from St. Malo to Guernsey, to see the island that we have read about and was occupied during the war. So we need the 2 nights surrounding the ferry trip, as the ferry leaves St. Malo in the early a.m. and arrives back fairly late that evening. We will also have time the afternoon before the ferry trip to have oysters at Cancalle, explore the old city and Citadelle at St. Malo, go to Dinan and have a nice dinner.

    Hence the 7 nights in Normandy/Eastern Brittany. We leave St. Malo for the Loire, via Le Mans. As noted, we may well omit Burgundy and add a couple of days in the Loire.

    We also appreciate the detailed suggestions from Sarastro and StuDudley; they will very much assist our time in the Loire.

    I appreciate any further comments you may have.

    Thanks, Chuck

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    We are not quite as nuts as you may think;

    After an all night, transatlantic flight making a 9 hour time zone change, you are going to pickup a car and drive 2 hours to Giverny, stop, then later that same day you are going to continue for 2 more hours to reach Lisieux.

    It doesn´t matter where you are from or how much driving you are accustomed to, attempting that much time behind the wheel under those conditions is absolutely dangerous and shaves the margins of highway safety so closely it renders them virtually non existent. You are not only putting yourselves at risk but those around you on the highway.

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    Have traveled by car through all of the areas you're looking at. there is no central point from which you can see the Loire and Burgundy. You will have to pick one or the other. It's not just a function of distance, it's also a function of the fact that you will be using side roads at least in part, sometimes going through small towns - and there is no way you can drive at high speeds.

    Most of the chateaux of the Loire are located in small towns - with approach roads that are 2 narrow lanes with dirt shoulders - and you can do perhaps 30 mph - esp if you don;t know exactly where you're going.

    We actually did a trip with 6 nights (5 days) in the Loire - centered at a private chateau near Chinon (Chateau des Reaux), followed by 3 nights in a hotel near Avallon (Moulin des Ruats) - to see Vezelay and Dijon before moving on to Strasbourg. If you are planning on staying at the Moulin it is simple but charming, in a lovely vacation and with excellent food.

    But - there is no place in the middle from which visiting those two areas makes any sense - you would be spending almost all of your time just driving.

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    <<the old city not bombed in the War>>

    It's not a city. It's a pretty tiny place. I think you may be expecting too much.

    I agree with Sarastro about the driving. Dangerous.

    I would forget about Burgundy.

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    About 80% of the places you plan to visit in Normandy + St Malo were bombed to smithereens in WWII. Don't expect a lot of "medieval charm". Like St Cirq inferred - Bayeux is not one of the "top 300" small/cute villages in France, IMO. The tapestry is fantastic (we've visited it 3 times in the past 50 years), and the WWII museum is interesting, but the village is not that interesting - compared to other villages in France.

    Tours in the Loire suffered heavy damage in WWII also - and the restoration was done a little too haphazardly, IMO.

    Stu Dudley

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