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10 Days in France in September - Unrealistic Itinerary?

10 Days in France in September - Unrealistic Itinerary?

Mar 18th, 2014, 10:28 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 7
10 Days in France in September - Unrealistic Itinerary?

Hi, all! Starting to plan my first trip to France in September. I plan on spending a few days in Paris, one in Versailles, then a day or two in Orleans/Loire Valley, and would like to spend some time in Strasbourg, Marseilles, Provence and/or Nice.

I have a few questions:
1) Is the below itinerary unrealistic at all?
2) What's the best way to make it from northern France to southern France without too much difficulty?
3) How should I end the trip?

I'd also like some help as to whether to take the train or drive between certain cities.

Day 1: Paris
Visit the Louvre, walk along the Seine, see Ile de la Cite (Notre Dame, Ste. Chapelle), Eiffel Tower.
I was planning to arrive in Paris early in the day and set out on all the touristy stuff I need to see - I'm a major art history buff so the museums are the highlight for me.

Day 2: Paris
Place de la Concorde, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Ile St. Louis, Musee d'Orsay, Sacre-Coeur

Maybe dinner/nightlife in Montmartre, if there's time.

Day 3: Versailles
Day trip to Versailles
Take a full day to relax and enjoy Versailles, and then drive or take the train to Orleans.

Day 4: Orleans/Loire Valley
Chateau de Chanbord, Chateau de Blois

Day 5-9: ???

And that's where I'm lost. I can't figure out which southern cities to visit, and how to get there. I have a classic case of "I WANT TO SEE EVERYTHING!" I have about five full days left, if I subtract a day for travel back to NY. Any help from veteran travelers would be great - this is my first time planning my own vacation.
ohmywanderlust is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 11:02 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
IMHO you are really giving Paris short shrift - and haven't allowed time to get from one place to another.

I understand the desire to see everything - but the more places you rush past/through the less you actually get to appreciate and understand. IMHO - a first visit to Paris for someone serious about art museums requires at least 4 full days (5 nights) - and I would them pick 1 (ONE) more area to see part of.
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 11:04 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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No, not realistic at all. Sorry. Where to begin?

If Day 1 is the day you land, forget pretty much all that, especially being inside museums. You need to be outdoors, moving and absorbing Vitamin D to get back on schedule.

With only 3 days in Paris, and one of them a jetlagged blur, I'd skip Versailles. There's no such thing as "relaxing and enjoying" that place. Inside is a madhouse, and outdoors involves covering a LOT of territory.

It will take you half a day to get to the Loire Valley and get settled, more if you plan to get to Orléans on the train. And without a car you'll need way more time than the rest of that day to get to Blois and Chambord (which is completely under renovation, btw, so probably ought to be dropped). You need a good 2-3 days in the Loire to make it even worth traveling there. That leaves you with about 4 days for everything else, and it's going to be utterly impossible. You have to account for the time it takes to get between places.

A 10-day trip to France for a first-timer is ideally divided into two places: Paris 5 days, 4 days somewhere else, then back to Paris. OR, head to your farthest destination first and spend the last few days in Paris. Even if you fly open-jaw, two places is really all you'll have time to absorb.
StCirq is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 11:17 AM
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Thanks you both! I knew I was being unrealistic, but so many people were telling me I could absolutely pack all that in! It just seemed crazy to me.

StCirq - I will definitely add a few more days to Paris, and I can drop Versailles. That can be saved for another time, I suppose. I was told it would be an ideal place to relax, so I'm glad you told me it's not. I'm traveling in September to avoid the majority of crowds, after all.

Maybe I'll skip the Loire Valley for this trip (thank you, didn't know they were under renovation!) and spend 3-4 days in Aix-en-Provence, since that's high up on my list. Then I can head back to Paris and fly back out to NY.

nytraveler - As much as I'd like to see Paris, since I live in NYC I'd like to spend more time seeing other more scenic parts of France - so really stopping in to see my must-sees this time work for me, since my next visit there will probably center around Paris, Strasbourg, Amiens.

Hmmm I have a lot to think about. A French friend of mine suggested using the TGV - is driving a better bet?
ohmywanderlust is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 11:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 45,861
Oh good lord, no, don't drive from Paris to Aix! It's a 7-hour trek on multi-lane highways with megatrucks and the sun in your face the whole way. Plus probably far more costly (in fuel and tolls) than the TGV. The TGV takes about 3 hours and if you secure a PREM fare starting 3 months out from your date of travel, you can probably get there for 40 euros or so.

And don't head back to Paris. Buy open-jaw (multi-city) flight tickets - into Paris and out of Marseilles, or vice versa. This is not the same as two one-way tickets, and shouldn't cost much if anything more than a RT.
StCirq is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 11:37 AM
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Okay, great, thank you StCirq! (Can you tell I'm a total amateur? haha) I prefer to take the train anyway. Flying out of Marseilles seems like a better bet.
ohmywanderlust is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 11:52 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 2,672
You will be so sorry if you short-change Paris. We are from a big city, too, and have returned many times to Paris. Aix is fine but not the scenic countryside. I would suggest renting a car in Avignon and driving in Provence. And I would split your 10 days 5 and 5. Versailles (also under renovation) can be seen as a day trip from Paris.
mamcalice is offline  
Mar 18th, 2014, 11:55 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 3,125
I will add that when we were in Paris we did one of the organized day trips to the Loire, and it was quite nice. I think it was Cityrama or Parisvision or one of those companies. They picked us up in a small van at our hotel. There were maybe 6 people on the tour. And then we went to Chambord, Chenonceau and Cheverny. Its more doable in a single day if you don't have to deal with the trains and the transfers yourself. So if you have an extra day in Paris (I know, I know...you already have lots to do in Paris!), i think this day trip is very worthwhile.
china_cat is offline  

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