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10 day trip to France, May 2008 - where do we go?

10 day trip to France, May 2008 - where do we go?

Dec 11th, 2007, 07:51 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2007
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10 day trip to France, May 2008 - where do we go?

I am planning a trip to France for May 2008 w/ my boyfriend; I will have 10 full days, 4 of which I plan on spending in Paris (& environs, i.e. Versailles). I will be making a 2 day trip to London as well, where I am staying with family.

That being said, I am entertaining the idea of going somewhere else within France for the remaining 3-4 days. Like most people who travel to France, I love wine and consider myself a 'foodie' of sorts. I was thinking maybe Bordeaux (specifically St. Emilion), but it seems as though you either need to rent a car or pay a lot of money to have someone chaffeur you around to the various vineyards. I am open to suggestions; however, I would like to avoid renting a car if at all possible. I would like to stay in a traditional chateau, rather than a hotel. If anyone has any suggestions on how to go about this w/out a car, or would like to recommend another destination that isn't too difficult/far to get to from Paris, please feel free! Thanks in advance for your help!
jennielynn718 is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 03:47 AM
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jennielynn718 - You are obviously a young energetic couple so my suggestion would be, ESPECIALLY as you said you would like to stay in a Chateau instead of an hotel, to request a brochure from The Wayfarers, 174 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, RI 02840. www.thewayfarers.com

This company offers a weeklong stroll through various parts of France (and other countries).
We did the LOIRE: River of Kings tour which is the one I reccommend for you as the accommodation is in Chateau's or the grounds of a chateau, the food is first class gourmet stuff, and you see wonderful countryside and villages. You are taken to all the major Chateaux along the Loire valley with a guided tour in each.
We started off from Paris and returned to Paris.

No carrying of luggage - all taken care of. They are amazing!
tod is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 05:40 AM
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Hi J,

Am I correct?

You have 10 days.

2 days in London. 1 day will be lost going to/from London.

You have 7 days.

1 day you want to go to Versailles.

You have 6 days in Paris and you want to go somewhere else?

I suggest that you visit Paris and London this trip and save France for another time.

ira is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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hi tod,

i went to the website which looks VERY nice; however, i don't have 10 full days to go to loire (i wish i did!)...i didn't notice any short excursions on the site either. thanks for the recommend, i will definitely keep it in mind for a future trip!

i would consider going to loire - as i mentioned i am very interested in bordeaux...any have information on those two places? places to stay, how to get around easily, what vineyards are worth going to?
jennielynn718 is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 06:20 AM
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Hi Ira -

Yup, 10 full days.

I thought 3 full days in Paris proper would be good (usually the amount of time I've spent in other cities), 1 day to go to Versailles.

Yes, two days in London. I figured we'd wake up early to get there (and also to go back to Paris), so I was hoping not to lose a full day...

So I have these 3-4 days leftover. I hear what you're saying, but I am the kind of person who likes to keep moving and feel that I will want to make it to one more place. I am willing to do something conveniently located to Paris so it's not too much of a trek. What do you think of Bordeaux (not proper, but Medoc Region or St. Emilion) or Loire Valley (people seem to really like this place), or Reims?

I also don't want to rent a car, don't know if that seems unrealistic??
jennielynn718 is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 07:10 AM
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Bordeaux seems like a long way to go for 3-4 days....its a long train ride if I remember correctly...6 hours maybe...so thats 2 of your 3-4 days on the train...

What about Dijon or Beaune in Burgundy?
jamikins is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 07:11 AM
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I'm kinda with Ira on this one - 10 days is probably not long enough to do Paris, short trip to London AND a 3rd location. Paris can easily absorb 6-7 days without scratching the surface. But if you MUST go elsewhere, I would encourage the Loire, particularly the areas around Amboise and Blois.

But then I would also recommend a car which is easy to pick up in Paris or in the Loire area (take train to Loire from Paris). You'll want to visit the chateaux and there are numerous excellent local restaurants with exquisite food and great Loire Valley wines. But you'll need a car for sure!

I have a trip report on this site in which I describe numerous meals and chateaux in some detail. : - ) The chateaux of Chambord and Chenonceau are a must see. If you decide on the Loire, consider staying at the Domaine des Hauts de Loire in Onzain. Incredible!
drbb is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 07:32 AM
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Having been to Burgundy and St. Emilion and given the three days you say you have, I would definitely suggest Beaune in Burgundy. We taxied to Orly airport from our hotel in Paris, picked up a rental car and drove to Beaune. This was our base for exploring the vineyards, wine tasting, etc. The drive to Beaune is easy and much shorter than trying to get to the Bordeaux region. Besides, Burgundy was more scenic that Bordeaux and driving around to the various villages and vineyards was very easy. If you don't want to drive to Beaune you can catch the train to Dijon, rent your car there and return it to Dijon and train back to Paris. Either way Burgundy is a better choice, save Bordeaux for a future trip.
rlbplf is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 07:34 AM
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The Loire Valley would seem the natural choice for you...but NOT if you don't want to rent a car. That would tend to complicate things unnecessarily, IMO.

Why no car?
mr_go is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 07:46 AM
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Hi All -

Your suggestions sound really good...I think I was a little nervous to rent a car because it seemed like such a procedure, but since you are all recommending we do so, I guess we'll just give it a go!

DRBB - How do I access that trip report you are speaking of, referencing the Loire region? I would love to check it out.

RLBPLF - Great suggestions, thanks! Any recommendations on where to stay in that region, or any particular vineyards we MUST see?

Also, in regards to renting a vehicle, does anyone know what an average daily rate would be for a compact (automatic); I have absolutely no reference point.

Thanks for all your help!
jennielynn718 is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 08:26 AM
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>>I thought 3 full days in Paris proper would be good (usually the amount of time I've spent in other cities), <<

Paris is not like "other cities".

London is perhaps the only other city I've visited that can consume as much time with neat things to do & see - and you're only spending 1 1/2 days there. Which other cities have you visited?

Three days in Paris won't even scratch the surface, and 1 1/2 in London is a wast of time, IMO.

If your London trip is "necessary" because of family, I would just plan on 6 days in Paris & 4 in London. If you can skip London, I would head to Burgundy instead of Bordeaux. We've spent well over 2 years total vacationing in France. Nothing I've read in any guide book, trip report, etc has convinced me to visit the Bordeaux region - except the City of Bordeaux (2 visits), and St Emilion (2 visits). I'm a foodie & a wine enthusiast also. I think you would enjoy Burgundy much more than Bordeaux. I much prefer Dijon to the city of Bordeaux, and I found Beaune to be much more interesting than St Emilion. In addition, Auxerre is a fascinating city to visit. All these cities are connected by train. Dijon is 1 h 40 mins from Paris by TGV, and more importantly, 1 hr 45 mins from the CDG airport - so you don't have to return to Paris the night before a flight home - you can leave Dijon at 6:32 am & get to CDG at 8:20am on weekdays - a little later on weekends.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 08:34 AM
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Regarding the Loire.

You have a VERY short trip planned. If you will be visiting Versaille while in Paris - why would you go to the Loire????

The countryside is less scenic than other popular regions in France, IMO. Do you really need to see that many Chateaux at the expense of other things???? BTW - I love chateaux - probably have visited more than 100 of them - 40 just last year. But like I stated in my prior post, we've spent over 2 years in France - you have only 10 days - see some different stuff.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 10:08 AM
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jennielynn -

I agree that you do have a short 10 days, but if you really want to (i) visit Paris, (ii) visit London and (iii) visit somewhere else in France, then just do it, knowing your time in each place will be shorter.

A great rule of thumb to use is that each time you change lodging/destinations, you lose 1/2 day. When you travel from Paris to London, you need to factor in packing your bags, getting to the train station, going through security, checking in, the actual ride, then getting to your lodging and checking in at the London end. That's easily 1/2 day.

Do some additional research. Many Fodorites (including me) use Auto Europe for car rentals (it's a consolidater, but great rates and service). Go to their website and put in your possible dates to get possible rental rates.

Use the French rail site (SNCF.com) to determine travel times by train, both on the Eurostar between Paris and London, and if you decide to take the train to the Burgundy region.

I would say to definitely rent a car. We always do, though we take a train when it's easier. In my opinion, I'd much rather be in a car, where I control how fast and where it goes, rather than having to catch a train at a specific time. That being said, the train between Paris and Burgundy (Dijon) is a straight shot and makes sense to take. You can pick up and drop off your rental car right at the Dijon train station.

I'm not enough of a wine connoisseur to know about specific "must-see" vineyards in Burgundy. Visiting vineyards in France is not like visiting them in California, where you can just drive from vineyard to vineyard, drinking free wine. I don't think you'll be able to visit the top producers in Burgundy without special arrangements, through someone involved in the wine industry. There are, however, many companies that offer tours (by bus or van) of several vineyards in Burgundy; you may want to do that. If you're interested in wine, another option is to visit a cave, which (someone correct me if my memory is wrong) is a store selling one producer's wine, and where you can taste before you buy. We visited several caves in Burgundy, and my husband (who's way into wine) really enjoyed talking to the people at the caves. Generally speaking, it's considered more appropriate to buy if you're going to taste.

Another option for vineyards (which we did on a recent, wonderful visit to the Barolo area of Italy) is to find a list (I found one online) of producers in the area you're interested in, then decide which you'd like to visit (smaller producers are the most interesting, and you're more likely to be able to arrange something). Then ask your hotel (in Beaune or wherever) if they can schedule a visit to that vineyard.

Beaune is a pretty little city to stay in if you visit Burgundy. I also agree that with your limited time, Bordeaux is a bit too far. And several foodie restaurants (and Michelin rated, if you're into that) in Beaune, though I don't remember their names off-hand.


Lexma90 is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 11:33 AM
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We stayed at Le Cep in Beaune (http://www.hotel-cep-beaune.com/) and loved the hotel. Great location, private parking for guests. You can drive up in front of the hotel, remove your bags and someone will park your car for you. In the morning you just walk to the back of the hotel to the parking area and off you go! The hotel can help with vineyards to visit and you will meet other guests who have visited vineyards who can offer suggestions. We didn't make any reservations and had no problem with any of the vineyards we chose to visit. Here is a website that may be helpful to you in deciding where to visit: www.thewinedoctor.com and perhaps this one as well: www.burgundy-tourism.com. Just google Burgundy and have fun planning your trip.
rlbplf is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 11:37 AM
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Forgot to add that if you want to purhase some wine to take home, I suggest taking a spare suitcase with bubble wrap. This way you can check the suitcase since you are no longer allowed to take bottles onboard the airplane. We returned this summer from St. Emilion and Chianti with two suitcases packed in this manner. Everything arrived in fine shape. Shipping is another choice but it is somewhat expensive, the extra suitcase works well.
rlbplf is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 11:48 AM
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My trip report covers Paris, Loire and Burgundy (Beaune) and is in three parts. If you type "drbb" in the search box, the reports will show up in the left side navigation list.

If Burgundy becomes your destination, I also would recommend Beaune and the Hotel Le Cep. Do some web research before you go on what wineries offer visits and tastings. There aren't many that are open to drop-in visitors. There is a fantastic open air market in Beaune on Saturdays.

Unlike a previous poster, I adored the Loire countryside. The chateaux were an added bonus. In May, the countryside should be stunning with blooming flowers and trees.

Driving in the Loire or in Burgundy is easy. Roads are well-maintained and well-marked.
drbb is offline  
Dec 12th, 2007, 02:55 PM
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I think you're going to regret allocating only 3-4 days to Paris, and I don't think the Bordeaux region is the best choice for a first-timer to France, but if that's what you want to do, do it.

Bordeaux is only a 3-hour train ride from Paris, not 6. There are many TGVs a day (and you can get great PREM deals booking online 90 days or less from your travel day). If you're actually going to go to Bordeaux by train, though, I'd spend at least a night there. It's an engaging city - not a favorite of most Americans, perhaps, but I happen to love the place. I have a file on Bordeaux if you'd like it.

And your only options are not renting a car or hiring an expensive driver. Both the wonderful Tourist Office in Bordeaux and the Maison du Vin have frequent small bus tours of vineyards. In fact, doing it on your own would require huge amounts of advance planning and a lot of no thank you we don't let tourists run around our wine chateaux responses.

St-Emilion bores me. I know that's practically sacrilege, but apart from the wonderful monolithic church there it's just a hive of overpriced wine shops, macaron stores, and restaurants. That said, one of my most favorite French restaurants is there. But I suppose if you go all the way to Bordeaux you might as well visit St-Emilion.

Other wine regions to consider are Alsace, Provence, Champagne, Entre Deux Mers, and, as has been mentioned, Bourgogne. Each is unique and has plenty of offerings other than wine, unlike the wine area around Bordeaux, which though pleasant doesn't exude the types of regional charm you can find elsewhere...IMO.
StCirq is offline  
Dec 13th, 2007, 01:06 AM
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Hi J,

OK, you think that 3 days in Paris will be sufficient. You still have much to learn.

>What do you think of Bordeaux [region]...
I also don't want to rent a car, don't know if that seems unrealistic?? <

I would rent a car. However, If you stay in St. Emilion, you could visit Bordeaux (0:40 hr), Arcachon (2:30 hr).

It won't be easy visiting the Chateaux without a car, but it is doable. Margaux is about 2 hr.

You might find my trip report helpful: http://fodors.com/forums/threadselec...2&tid=34676645

Photos at http://tinyurl.com/sjch4

Enjoy your visit.

ira is offline  
Dec 13th, 2007, 01:06 PM
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In 2005 I had to DRAG my DH to Paris. Listening to "I hate cities" the whole way there. We spent 3 days there. This coming May we are going back for 4 more nights--at his suggestion. If I had the money, we would keep going back.

As Stu said, Paris isn't like other cities.

Also in Beaune, the Hotel Griffin is friendly and English-speaking.

It's true the countryside in the Loire is not as scenic, but there seems to be a lot to do.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Dec 13th, 2007, 03:00 PM
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Hi Jennielynn,

I agree - spend more time in Paris.

Maybe do a short trip to the Loire
- which you can do without a car. This is not a popular option here, but IS totally do-able if you do a bit of planning. Many wonderful things are accessible by train and bus from Paris and other French cities.

You could base out of Amboise for a night or two or head down to Angers for a few nights (my DH and I are staying in Angers for 3 days sans car this may!) and just day trip by train.

You could also head over to Rennes for 3-4 nights - bus/train over to Mont St. Michelle, Dinan, Fougeres. Or you could base out of St. Malo. I've done both - transport was fine.

Or....you could just park in Paris and do some day trips by train. I enjoyed Provins, Versilles, Fountainbleu. You could also day trip to Rouen, Troyes, Chartres, Giverney, Senlis, Reims, Nancy....you name it. There is plenty to do in Paris and surrounds as I have been frequently (and correctly) reminded by helpful Fodor folks!

Have fun!
MollyBrown is offline  

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