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Trip Report Paris, Normandy & the Loire Valley with our Granddaughter

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My wife (B for BeBe), granddaughter (A for Alex) and I spent a wonderful 17 days in France at the end of June/first of July. It was sort of a triple purpose trip. We wanted to celebrate our milestone year wedding anniversary and a milestone birthday for my wife. But mostly we wanted to give our granddaughter the experience of travelling to and in a country with a rich history, a different culture, a different language and some of the most famous and unique sites in the world.

This trip was mainly designed to have her experience as much as possible at a reasonable pace. We had done a very similar trip in 2004 with our older granddaughter. We had a great time on that trip and hoped this one would be just as fun – and it was. Our trip philosophy is to research in great detail everything we would like to do but stay flexible once we are there. I’m sure we could have done several things much cheaper than we did but we feel time is the most valuable thing on these trips and if something cost a little more but saved us some time (or hassle), we did it.

Research/Planning/Reservations:

First, you have to understand that I really enjoy the planning/researching phase and I like to keep a not-too-detailed journal for each trip to help recall the funny/weird/interesting things that happen each day. Several times during our trip, after some crazy thing happened, A would say “that’s something for the journal”.

Anyway, from my notes, I see I started planning for this trip in March of 2010 (first contact with an apartment rental company) but because I was using Delta frequent flyer miles for the airline tickets, I couldn’t actually make any reservations until the flights were locked in. What a hassle! 331 days before our trip I started checking the Delta web site for flights. It took over a month to finally reserve non-stop flights each way. Because of the way Delta puts a premium on weekend and/or direct flights, I ended up having to add two days to our vacation and buy a few thousand miles to make it work.

Once the flights were set, the next priority was reserving an apartment in Paris for the first week. I had been doing extensive apartment hunting so I knew which one I wanted and was able to reserve Pauillac through Paris Perfect. Thanks to Delta, we were arriving on a Thursday morning and I was worried about being able to get an apartment starting in mid-week but it worked out “perfectly”. I know Paris Perfect is expensive but for a variety of reasons, we chose this apartment and we were extremely happy with it. More about it later. Even though it was 10 months before our trip, one of the apartments we were looking at was already reserved for a portion of the week we wanted – you really have to start this process early if you want your first choice.

We decided on the rest of our itinerary and made hotel reservations in Etretat, Sully and Amboise by the middle of November. In February, I made a car rental reservation with Avis (pick up at train station in Rouen and drop off at St Pierre des Corps train station in Tours). After a lot of thought about where to spend our last night before flying out of CDG, we finally decided on the Sheraton inside the airport (more about this later too but we were very happy with our choice) and made the reservation in March.

As soon as they were available online, I bought and printed PREM Intercities (non-reserved seat) train tickets from St Lazare to Rouen. Also, as soon as they were available online, I bought and printed TGV 2nd class reserved seat train tickets from St Pierre des Corps to CDG. Thanks to you Fodor’s folks for showing me all the tricks to be able to print the tickets in the US. Sadly for me, all the reservations were now done and it was still a LONG time until our trip. Oh well, more research (and more Google Earth), you can never do too much of that, right?

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