16 nights in France

Old Nov 25th, 2016, 08:44 PM
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16 nights in France

I'm working on a France itinerary and hoping for some help.

Background: My husband and I and our son (who will be four at the time) are going to France next spring. We've travelled a fair amount together, including a three-week trip to Italy in 2014. We normally use trains a lot, but I'm thinking we'll rent a car this time, because it seems like trains aren't an option for most of what we'd like to do and I think a full-day tour sounds like an awful idea with a four-year old. We'd like to be in Paris nights 13-16 because we're meeting up with people who will be there. (And normally, I'd follow the general wisdom I've read here and head straight for Normandy when we arrive in Paris, but I think it would be better for the little one if we rest for a few days before having to sit for another few hours.)

What we've liked on previous trips: I like pretty landscapes and cool architecture, particularly when they're together. My husband likes castles and megalithic monuments. Our son likes cats and pigeons and fountains. We all like good food, and none of us love art museums.

Nights 1-2: Paris - sleep off jet lag in a hotel near Luxembourg Gardens
Train to Caen then rent a car
Nights 3-4: Vacation rental in Port en Bessin? Day trip to Omaha Beach.
Night 5: Mercure Mont Saint Michel?
Wake up early the next morning to see Mont St Michel and then drive to Vannes
Nights 6-8: Vannes or Rennes? - day trip to Carnac
Drop off rental car, fly from Nantes or Rennes to Toulouse, train to Carcassonne
Nights 9-11: Carcassonne
Train to Paris
Nights 12-16: Paris

My main questions are:
1. Am I making a mistake to consider a vacation rental in Port en Bessin instead of Bayeux?
2. I normally don't like to spend just one night somewhere, but it seems like it's worth it to stay near Mont St Michel so that we can be there early in the morning. Agree/disagree?
3. Would you recommend Vannes or Rennes as a base to see Carnac? Vannes is obviously much closer, but so much of this area looks lovely!
4. Should we skip Carcassonne? I tried to substitute Sarlat or Rocamadour instead, but I think they're actually harder to get to from Brittany, even though they're geographically closer.

Thank you!
margotheangel is offline  
Old Nov 26th, 2016, 12:17 AM
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<i>Should we skip Carcassonne? </i>

Carcassonne and Mont St Michel are similar in that it takes only a few hours to explore them. You wouldn´t need to but you could stay longer than a couple of hours at either location but you are spending a lot of time and money to travel across France just to see a mid 19th recreation of a medieval fortress.

You are bypassing a huge number of wonderful locations in Brittany and Normandy. Consult a good guide book; i.e. Fodors, Michelin Green Guides, DKEyewitness, and find things that interest you in this region. Consider strongly emotional visits, for example the Omaha Beach D Day Monument, and unique, little know sites such as the Village of Poul Fetan in Brittany.

My strong recommendation would be to spend your time here, in Normandy and Brittany.
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 01:18 AM
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Sarastro gave wise advises above. You don't need to drive across France to see Carcassonne, especially if you have a child on board. You can pair Mont St Michel with St-Malo nearby, it's a nice walled-city which, interestingly enough, was a corsairs town in the past. Other than that and what Sarastro suggested, you may drive to Locmariaquer (another neolithic site), or Camaret, or Huelgoat and its surrounding forest etc.

Normandy and Brittany can easily make your 16 days trip, minus Paris nights.
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 01:51 AM
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I would definitely skip Carcassone this trip. It is way out of the way and there are lots of interesting things to see in the area you will be in.
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 02:36 AM
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I would never cross half of France to see Carcassonne. Neither would I bother with Sarlat or especially Rocamadour. Stay put in Brittany and Normandy. There's more than enough to keep you occupied there for months.
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 03:20 AM
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Ditch the 3 nights in Carcassonne and explore more of Normandy and Brittany.

I would recommend Honfleur, Bayeux, and Rouen. All easily reached from Caen. So no need to change hotels.

Giverny is a worthy stop if you like gardens.
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 05:34 AM
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Another who would not transfer across France for yet another castle town. Britanny has more than enough castles (Duchess Ann built a lot) many just south of St Malo such as Dinan, Fougeres etc.

I like port-en-bassin but partially because I like little ports, still the fish will be fresh.
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 05:36 AM
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Take a look at online photos of the chateau of Pierrefonds. This chateau near Paris might satisfy the Carcassonne itch, since both were creatively restored by Viollet-le-Duc. If you've watched Merlin, you've seen Carcassonne.

Pierrefonds is best reached by car.
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 06:25 AM
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I'll pile on the NO to Carcassonne also. We stayed just outside of Carcassonne for 2 weeks last year and it's a 2 1/2 hr visit at most. As others have stated - there is plenty of stuff to see in Brittany & Normandy.

Do you have my Brittany & Normandy itinerary??? I've sent my various itineraries to over 6,000 people on Fodors - about 3 to 5 people request one or more of them every day. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Old Nov 26th, 2016, 03:59 PM
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I think I enjoyed Carcassonne more than most here and would recommended staying in/around Carcassonne for at least one evening on some other occasion. I must agree with the others that the trip is not worth the effort from where you will be located. With that said, I remember fondly a wonderful dinner with my daughter where the setting clearly contributed to her imagination of meeting up with a Musketeer or two as we walked back to the hotel.
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Old Nov 27th, 2016, 02:08 AM
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Oh, I'm a big fan of Carcassonne (and Viollet-le-Duc). I just can't see going all that way to see it. Fougères, which is much closer to where the OP will be traveling, is one of the largest fortified castles in France, and I don't believe it fell into Villet's hands, so is original. There's also a very nice castle in nearby Vitré.
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Old Nov 27th, 2016, 06:06 AM
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After your presumed intercontinental flight you might commute from Charles de Gaulle airport to the St-Lazare train station and on by rail to Caen immediately. Yes you will be tired but the train may lull you to sleep and you are not driving. This could save at least part of a day for tourism. As you know Caen is a place for car rentals and it has a wider assortment of hotels and restaurants than the smaller places. Its own attractions incllude a "peace" museum that gets good reviews (and runs tours to the Normandy beaches), memorials to the devastation caused by the D-Day aftermath, and the castle-fort of William the Conqueror.
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Old Jan 6th, 2017, 07:53 PM
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Thanks for all of your input. Since I've finally managed to convince myself to skip Carcassonne, I thought I'd give an update on my itinerary to see if anyone has comments before I book hotels. I added Angers to our plan because my husband said he'd like to try a variety of regional foods and I hoped that going into the Loire Valley might give us some more options.

Arrive Paris (Fri)
Paris two nights (Fri-Sun)
Rent car @ Gare St Lazare
Drive to Port-en-Bessin
Port-en-Bessin two nights (Sun-Tue)
Day trip: Tour D-Day beaches
Drive to Roz-sur-Couesnon
Roz-sur-Couesnon three nights (Tue-Fri)
Day trips: Mont St Michel, Fougeres and/or Dinan
Drive to Vannes
Vannes three nights (Fri-Mon)
Day trip: Carnac
Drive to Angers
Angers two nights (Mon-Wed)
Return rental car, train to Paris
Paris four nights (Wed-Sun)
Fly home

Paris (1): http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/cita...uot.en-gb.html
Port-en-Bessin: https://www.vrbo.com/1083979a
Roz-sur-Couesnon: http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/cham...aie.en-gb.html
Vannes: https://www.vrbo.com/1442980a
Angers: https://www.vrbo.com/1225796a
Paris (2): http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/pier...fel.en-gb.html

Thanks for all of your help!
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Old Jan 7th, 2017, 12:07 AM
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The itinerary itself looks fine to me, but I don't understand adding Angers because of regional foods. The Loire Valley area isn't exactly known for its culinary offerings, and you already will have been there anyway. Angers has plenty to offer, especially the tapestries in the château and Jean-Lurcat's modern interpretation of them in his museum, but to go there for food seems just weird.
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Old Jan 8th, 2017, 11:35 AM
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I'm not sure when we'd be in the Loire Valley other than Angers. The train from Vannes to Paris is pretty quick, so we could just skip Angers altogether and spend more time in Paris of it isn't worth it for us to go there.
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Old Jan 11th, 2017, 01:16 AM
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About the base to visit Carnac : probably you will enjoy staying not too far, in Vannes or Auray area (Morbihan) to see megaliths in Carnac or around. You could visit Rennes for a couple hours, on your way from MSM to the gulf of Morbihan.

About staying in MSM : if you wish to spend 1 night in MSM (it's enough), I would advise to stay on the Mont itself to feel the atmosphere (it also depends on the period you are coming), and not on the mainland in the Mercure hotel.
If you do not wish to spend more money for accommodation and restaurant just for the "prestige", and for a service which is not "extraordinary", you may also consider close towns, between MSM and St Malo.
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