15 days in France in Sep: Paris and...?

Jul 20th, 2016, 09:20 PM
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15 days in France in Sep: Paris and...?

My husband and I are planning a last minute trip to France this September. Fly off Friday evening 16th Sep and fly back on Sunday 2nd Oct. 15 full days, excluding to and fro flights.

We shall fly into Paris on 17th Sep morning.

PARIS: 17th - 23rd Sep (including couple of day trips)

Can increase one more day in Paris for one more day trip if something compelling strikes us.

We do wish to end up in south of France for second half of our trip. We could either directly make way to Provence or take a suggested stopover in Lyon (or any other place along Paris to Provence?).

My questions:

1. Day trip ideas from Paris: Versailles / Giverny / Mont St Michel / what? Some people have said Normandy can be a (long) day trip.

2. Stopover for 1/2 nights from Paris while on our way to Provence? Suggestions?

3. Second half of itinerary. We do wish to go to south of France and I have read about Nice, Marseilles, etc. but when I saw some documentaries and YouTube guides, I felt a bit of disappointment as they seemed rather large cities. We would surely like to visit them and might stay for 1/2 nights there. But we are hoping for a smaller town with more intimate charm. Walking around a small town, going to local bakery for breakfast, visiting local farmers' markets, enjoying countryside scenery, etc comes to mind. Could anybody suggest?

4. We would like to do a part of the trip by car. Of course for a route which is not served well by train. The idea for renting the car is not to go from point A to B, but explore and enjoy unplanned stops in little towns or villages without train connections which we would otherwise miss. Any suggestions?
rtwin80days is offline  
Jul 20th, 2016, 11:52 PM
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Just a few thoughts. Since you are flying in/out of Paris I would head directly south from CDG via TGV upon arrival and end up in Paris as your last stop. If you have never been to Paris before I would allow at least 5 nights not including day trips. If you want to do Normandy its really too far for a day trip as its over 220 kilometers from Paris and you need a full day just for the American Normandy sites. Three nights in someplace like Bayeux would allow you to do Mt St Michel and some of the Normandy sites. There is a lot to do in the south of France and just Provence would easily fill up a week of your time. Add the Cote d'azur and you have even more territory to explore so you will have to pick and choose your priorities. Nice is actually not a bad place to base yourself in the Cote and you can train or drive around the coast. Plenty of other smaller towns in the area like Antibes or Villefranche could also do for a base. Consider someplace like St Remy for a base in Provence. Train or even plane back from the south of France to Paris.
mjs is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 12:48 AM
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Did you already book your flights for round trip Paris? If not, make your second half Provence then perhaps Antibes and fly home out of Nice. Search this site for the lovely stududley and get his Provence itinerary. He will email it to you and it will give you SO many ideas for wonderful little villages and towns that you will have a hard time deciding where to stay. We have used both St. Remy and Avignon as a base for exploring Provence. Hike the area around Pont du Gard, visit the many different market towns, drive to Gordes, Roussillon, Les Baux, etc. there is so much to see and do that a week will not be enough by far but you can return again and again!

For transportation - train from Paris to Lyon (unless you get a better suggestion of another city to visit) and then again from Lyon to maybe Avignon. Google "man in seat 61" for general information about booking trains in Europe and then, when you are sure of date, etc. you can use captaintrain.com to book your trains. You might want to do that soon so that you can get a better price on TGV tickets. Depending on where you want to visit in Provence, rent your car in Avignon and drive to your base town. I believe you can then return your car to Avignon and train again to Antibes. We have stayed in both Nice and Antibes in order to fly out of Nice airport and much preferred Antibes. But if you want to visit some of the other towns outside Nice (we haven't been to Eze but hear it is beautiful), staying in Nice is great too.

For the first part of your trip, I personally would not go to Normandy for a day trip but I know many people do. Normandy and the D-Day beaches has been one of our most memorable visits. You could shorten your time in Paris and stay for 2 nights as suggested in Bayeux but you still end up going in and out of Paris. We recently spent 5 nights and 6 nights in Paris and still have not seen all that we want to see, but we are slow travelers. There are lots of day trips possible if you decide you don't like the big city feel. The nice thing is you can decide what you want to do when you actually get there.

I know you will get many more suggestions with more detailed itinerary suggestions. Again, the hardest thing will be to decide what you DON'T want to do on this trip!
AtlTravelr is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 03:20 AM
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Lyon is the second-largest city in France. If you've nixed Nice and Marseilles because they're large cities, I can't see you going to Lyon (all three of those cities are wonderful, though).

There are literally hundreds and hundreds of lovely small towns and villages in "the south of France," which is an enormous area. Suggest you invest in a Michelin Green Guide and study it and plan a route based on that. The usual suspects like St-Rémy, Ile-sur-la-Sorgue, Vaison-la-Romaine, etc., might be fine for you if you've never been, but if you truly want to get to unserved places, you're going to have to dig hard and do lots of research. ANd unless you want to spend time in LYon, which it doesn't seem as though you would, forget driving to the south of France - take the train to Avignon and start from there. And get your train tickets now - they've been on sale for a month now and are only getting more and more expensive.

I agree that Normandy deserves at least 3 days and that Bayeux makes a great base. But yes, to get from there to the south of France it's much easier to go back to Paris rather than attempt one of those grueling train trips or drives west to east across France.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 21st, 2016, 03:44 AM
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If you are crossing the Atlantic, fly through Paris to a southern city (Toulouse/Nice/Marseille) on a multi-city ticket, work your way back to Paris and fly home from there. You will save time and the price should be comparable to a simple round-trip when you allow for the cost of retracing your steps south.
Southam is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 05:25 AM
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We haven't booked flights yet. We thought flying into Paris is a good idea. While coming back, we could fly out of Nice as it would give us extra time and time is at a premium for us. Husband's annual leave is not much

Considering this, it would be better to fly off from Nice, no? We shall consider flying back from Paris instead, if I can't find a flight from Nice that leaves in afternoon or preferably evening on Sunday and the TGV Nice-Paris is not too time consuming. In which case, we could take an evening direct flight from Paris to NYC and max out our time.

Lots of good responses - I'm going through them carefully and reading up more. I hope I know lot more in next decade or so. As of now, I'm a novice.
rtwin80days is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 05:44 AM
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Nice is a large city, but the tourist area is rather compact--Promenade des Anglais, Old Town, Place Massena, Old Port. I could probably walk from the Negresco to Notre Dame in less than 30 minutes.

You could use Nice as a base to explore Eze, Antibes, Menton, Monte Carlo, Cannes, St. Paul-de- Vence as day trips by bus or train.

I will be in Nice the second week of October for 10 days.

Have you looked at the green Michelin Guide for Provence and Côte d'Azur?

Pepper_von_snoot is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 08:34 AM
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The TGV Nice-Paris IS time consuming, that's a long distance and it takes many hours. I don't see the point, why not fly if you are going home, anyway. I don't understand your logic of only wanting a flight home in the afternoon or evening, which you probably won't find. I don't remember seeing why you are flying to, but if you fly home from Nice, it will have to have a connection, probably in Paris, and flights from Paris to US may fly later afternoon at the latest. So you'll need the first flight probably no later than noon. I don't see how the train would solve that.

Normandy is not too far for a day trip, I did it and enjoyed it very much. It is completely do-able. 220 km isn't that far. I just took a train early in the morning to Bayeux, probably got there around 10-10:30. visited the museum with the tapestry, had lunch and then had an afternoon booked tour of the WWII sites which lasted about 5 hours. Train back around 6 pm. Perfectly do-able.
Christina is online now  
Jul 21st, 2016, 08:35 AM
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oh, I see you think Mont St Michel is okay but Normandy too far?? maybe check a map, Mont St Michel is really far away and you can technically do it in a day but that would be from dawn to maybe late at night.
Christina is online now  
Jul 21st, 2016, 08:40 AM
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IT would be better to start in Paris and end in Nice because of the season.

We stayed in Villefranche-sur Mer as a base rather than Nice and loved it--small seaside town with lots of food, good train connections. etc. But Nice and Villefranche are not really Provence-they're really Cote Azul or the French Riviera.

St. Cirq names some of the nicer smaller places to stay in Provence proper, and I'll add Arles--if you're into art, there are quite a few places that Van Gogh painted, a Roman amphitheatre and great Roman museum, nifty market, etc. It's somewhat bigger, although much smaller than Nice.

Agree with the idea of renting car in Paris and driving to and from Normandy to see Mt. Saint-Michel, the beaches, Bayeux etc. you could train but you really need a car. Too long for a day trip IMO.

Sounds like a great trip, wherever you decide to go.

Bon Voyage
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Jul 21st, 2016, 09:44 AM
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Considering this, it would be better to fly off from Nice, no? We shall consider flying back from Paris instead, if I can't find a flight from Nice that leaves in afternoon or preferably evening on Sunday and the TGV Nice-Paris is not too time consuming. In which case, we could take an evening direct flight from Paris to NYC and max out our time. >>

It would be absolute folly to think you could take the 5-hour TGV from Nice to Paris, or even a flight, and make an afternoon or evening flight, even if you could find one, which I doubt you could. Flights from CDG to the USA rarely depart later than 2 pm, and if one single thing goes wrong with your train or flight from Nice you're looking at paying out of pocket for a new, one-way (read expensive) flight home. Don't do that.

Either go back to Paris the night before or fly home from Nice.
StCirq is online now  
Jul 21st, 2016, 09:46 AM
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The Michelin guides are great, but very detailed so they cover just about every village. You might want to use something like the The Rough Guide to Provence & the Côte d’Azur which will hit the high spots.

For day trips there are 2 books you can look at. "Daytrips France" by Steinbicker which focuses mostly on trips from Paris, with directions for either train or car. Another is "An Hour from Paris" by Simms which focuses mostly on travel by train.

I would suggest saving most of Brittany and Normandy for a trip when you have 4+ days to spend there. Giverny could be a nice day trip. Mont St Michel is best done as an overnite, arriving in the late afternoon as tour buses are leaving so that you don't fight the crowds to walk around, and it lets you see it lit up at night.
miket123 is offline  
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