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

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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?

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