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2 Week Trip to France - Please Help Me Stu Dudley

2 Week Trip to France - Please Help Me Stu Dudley

Feb 14th, 2012, 05:07 AM
  #1  
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2 Week Trip to France - Please Help Me Stu Dudley

Hi Stu,

I have been trying to create a trip itinerary for my 2 week trip to France this summer. I fly in to Paris in the middle of July and will be renting a car for two weeks. Just to give you some more background, I rarely stay in any city (regardless of how big and great) for more than 2 nights. I was recently able to visit a large portion of Spain and Portugal in a two week period and during that trip, Rhonda and Toledo were my favourite cities by far. I stumbled upon your response to a blog from a while back where you ordered your favourite cities / towns in France as follows:

Cities with a population greater than 85,000

1. Paris
2. Dijon*
3. Toulouse**
4. Rennes*
5. Strasbourg*
6. Avignon* or **
7. Aix-en-Provence**
8. Rouen*
9. Montpellier**
10. Lyon*
11. Nice**
12. Nancy*
13. Bescancon**
14. Bordeaux**
15. Nantes*
16. Marseille**
17. Perpignan**
18. Tours*

Cities with a population greater than 10,000 but less than 85,000
1. Sarlat***
2. Colmar**
3. Beaune*
4. Auxerre*
5. Chambery*
6. Vannes*
7. Annecy* or **
8. Troyes
9. Albi***
10. La Rochelle*
11. Figeac***
12. Perigueux**
13. Arles**
14. Bourges
15. Dinan
16. St Malo
17. Quimper

During my research, it had seemed that Annecy seemed as one of the most exciting towns to see yet you have it so far down on your list. You also stated that "when ordering these cities, we did not consider the “setting” of a city, like the beach at Nice or the lake at Annecy." To me the setting of the city is important. For example, you can't beat a cute mountain town such as Innsbruck.

Anyway, I was hoping you could help give some ideas of a trip Itinerary considering I can probably cover a lot more ground than your average traveller. Some other cities that caught my eye close to the France border was Murten and Gruyeres Switzerland. Last but not least, the only place I have already been to in France is Nice and the surrounding area, Monaco, etc. and I would rather see other places I have not been to yet.

Please help me Stu!
happleby is offline  
Feb 14th, 2012, 05:20 AM
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Certainly add Reims and Angers to that list of big cities and Bayeux to the smaller gems and Chartres as well - the city along with the stunning cathedral.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 14th, 2012, 05:22 AM
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and Provins to the smaller city gems to boot and Antibes as well and certainly Nice to the larger cities.
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Feb 14th, 2012, 05:45 AM
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RJD
 
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We have a two week trip planned for late August-September. A week in Paris and most of a week in Beaujolais, one of the more beautiful places in France. Slow travel but more pleasant if you don't want to be on the go for a substantial percent of the trip.
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Feb 14th, 2012, 11:55 AM
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OK - here is an idea!!!

- Land at CDG and take the TGV to Bordeaux & stay 1 night. Don't stay at a hotel near the train station - not the best part of Bordeaux.

- Mid-day, pick up a car at the train station & drive to Perigueux & stay 1 night

- Drive to Sarlat and stay 2 nights (lots & lots of stuff to do/see in the Dordogne). Many "cute little villages" also. Do you have my Dordogne itinerary??

- Drive to Figeac & stay 1 night

- Drive to Toulouse & stay 1 night

- Head over to Provence, but stop in Carcassonne for a 2 hr visit on the way, and stay in Aix-en-Provence for 1 night.

- Drive to Arles and stay for 3 nights (lots to see in Provence also). Visit Avignon. Do you have my Provence itinerary??

- Drive to the Avignon TGV station, dump the car, and take the TGV to Lyon & stay 1 night & 1 good day. Stay in the "old section" of Lyon - not near the Part Dieu train station where the TGV arrives. Stay just north of the Perrache station (train/taxi between Part Dieu & Perrache area)

- Take the train to Beaune & stay 1 night.

- take the train to Dijon & stay 1 night

- take the very early TGV from Dijon to CDG airport in time for your flight home.

Personally, I would not follow this itinerary myself. I would spend 6-7 nights in the Dordogne/Sarlat region and then 6-7 more in Provence, and then hit Dijon on the way back to CDG.

Annecy - the interesting/old section of Annecy is quite small. We've visited it about 3 times prior to '09. In 09 we rented a gite close to Annecy for 2 weeks & visited Annecy many times for dinner, sightseeing, market, etc. The setting is lovely, and the canals are interesting - but the town will be VERY touristy/crowded - especially in July (we we were there in mid-June). At nights, the streets a chock full of elbow-to-elbow people walking around (pushing strollers), and about 30 ice cream stands and an equal number of outdoor inexpensive cafes in the streets. This "scene" was interesting for us when we were in our early 30s on our first trip to Annecy - but not that exciting to "old foggies" in our 60s. We like Vannes a lot more than Annecy. If you add the lake and surrounding Alps to the equation - then I would rate Annecy a lot higher.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 14th, 2012, 12:04 PM
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"Old foggies" Stu? Does this refer to your San Francisco base, or the state of your thinking

Did you know the derivation of "old fogey " is French?

Greetings from another old foggie in the Bay Area. Apolgies to all for getting off topic.
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Feb 14th, 2012, 12:18 PM
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Drive to the Avignon TGV station, dump the car, and take the TGV to Lyon & stay 1 night & 1 good day>

Well I would consider taking a regional train right from the cneter of Avignon - from the old non-TGV station to Lyon - not that far and you can just show up and buy the ticket - TGV tickets can vary widely and can be hard to get.

But I do like Stu's itinerary though for some it would be too fast - pas moi!
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Feb 14th, 2012, 12:53 PM
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Well it takes 45 minutes longer all told to go from the old Avignon-Centre train station to Lyon Part-Dieu so the TGV route is quicker (though you have to get out the few miles to the out of town Avignon-TGV station - but if you can get a cheap fare from say www.igtgv.com or www.voyagtes-sncf.com then go for it but if not the older and slower route could be cheaper and about as quick all told with one less change (from taxi or bus to TGV train).
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Feb 14th, 2012, 02:31 PM
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First off, thank you Stu for your quick response. I might try and kidnap you to take you with me on my trip.

I have a couple of comments from your itinerary. First off, I always travel with a car (unless I am in Venice) because I like the flexibility to go wherever I want at whatever time I want. Is there a reason you suggested all of the train rides? I will most likely be renting a car for the entire trip and don't plan on taking any trains unless I absolutely have to (except for perhaps when I am touring Paris for 2 nights).

Second, I am extremely interested in seeing the French Alps and perhaps even cross the border to stay in Murten and Gruyeres (Switzerland). Is there any reason you didn't recommend any places in the French Alps? Perhaps I can drive from Paris to Sarlat (and skip Bordeaux and Perigueux) so I can have some time in the Alps?

Third, any reason you skipped Montpellier even though I am in the area?

Finally, if you were in my position and had only seen Nice in all of France, would you consider going North of Paris instead of South?

I will definitely get your Dordogne and Provence itineraries. Thanks again for your insight!
happleby is offline  
Feb 14th, 2012, 02:34 PM
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>>Well I would consider taking a regional train right from the cneter of Avignon<<

If happlby is staying in Arles, the Avignon TGV station is actually closer than the in-town station. Also, with this tight of a schedule, I would purchase the TGV tickets well in advance - and get discount PREMs.

CaliNurse - so that's how you spell "fogeys"!!! Not "foggies" like summers here.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 14th, 2012, 03:45 PM
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- Land at CDG and take the TGV to Bordeaux & stay 1 night. Don't stay at a hotel near the train station - not the best part of Bordeaux.

The streetcar's terminal when going toward the center of town is in the large square in the center. It's easy to get there and back to the train station.

The car rental agencies are now on the other side of the tracks from the main train station. There is a pedestrian tunnel to gt there.
Michael is online now  
Feb 15th, 2012, 10:49 AM
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Stu - though they were staying in Avignon so my mistake.
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Feb 15th, 2012, 11:55 AM
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Don't drive from Paris to Sarlat - hugely boring trip.
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Feb 15th, 2012, 12:53 PM
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Happleby

To give a brief answer to almost all of your questions - you don't have nearly enough time to do everything you want to do.

The trains are really a no-brainer, IMO. We rent cars for almost everywhere we want to travel - except when we need to travel a long distance in a short amount of time. I hope you really don't plan to arrive at CDG, pick up a car, navigate out of CDG (difficult), and then drive around Paris (during rush hour) and then continue on a 6 hr drive to Bordeaux or a 6 1/4 hr drive to Sarlat - in a jet-lagged state. That would not be something I would ever do - even in my youth.

Same with the leg from Avignon back to Paris. It is a 2 1/4 drive from Arles to Lyon (train is 1 hr w/ hourly departures) and then you must drive into Lyon - which is a challenge. And what are you going to do with a car in Lyon??? Then you must get out of Lyon, and head to Beaune - 1 3/4 hr drive. It is a 3 1/2 hr drive to CDG from Dijon but an easy 1 3/4 hr TGV trip directly to the airport (only 1 departure/day - otherwise take the TGV to Paris) - not the car return area. The only place you might need a car in the Lyon/Beaune/Dijon area is Beaune - to see some vineyards - but I bet you won't have time to do that.

You will pass by (or close to) hundreds of small cute villages more interesting than Murten & Gruyeres - no need to add more time to your trip just to see them, IMO. We've visited both of these villages twice - as recently as '09 for Murten. I would not place either in my top 20 village list. You can get through the Alps somewhat fast on the autoroute - but that's not the way to enjoy the Alps. Travel on the "Grande Route des Alpes" to see them at their best - but you'll need a LOT of time to do that. We've spent 4 weeks in the Alps within the last 3 years.

North vs South - there is no comparison. Last year we spent 1 week in Picardy (north), 2 weeks in Normandy (northwest), and 1 week in the Pas de Calais (way north). This area took a lot of hits in WWI & WWII. Not to many "cute little villages" and not many interesting large cities except for Rouen in Normandy. We visited Lille last year, and I would not put it in my top 15 large cities in France.

Montpellier - ya gotta drop something - you just don't have the time.

I hope this answers some of your questions.

Stu Dudley.
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Feb 15th, 2012, 06:02 PM
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Stu, you are amazing! You should get an award or something for man of the year or something!

Ok, all your points are well taken. I actually just sent you an e-mail but I have another question. I just saw a "drive in the French Alps" Youtube video and I am freaking out about how good it looks. Does the Grande Route des Aples only cover the French Alps or both the French and Swiss Alps? I know you mentioned that you need LOTS of time to take that drive, but what would you estimate is the absolute minimum time you would need to drive on the Grande Route, even to get just a little taste?

I understand that in the a perfect world, I would take different trips to Provence and the Alps, but I only have 2 weeks of vacation each year, and I have a huge list of places I want to see. I will have to live to 450 years old to be able to see everything. That's why I keep on trying to fit everything into one trip.
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Feb 15th, 2012, 07:45 PM
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Happleby, are you on coke or meth, or what? Get real. I don't even think you got the fact that Stu's original proposed itinerary for you was a complete joke. Stu is trying, gently, to tell you that you can't see all you want to see in 2 weeks. You can't, and some of your ideas like driving the whole way are just madness IF you DO want to see all this stuff.

I don't know why you think that you have to fit so much into a single trip. Assuming you have two weeks a year for vacation, the pathetic allotment of most Americans, go spend those two weeks in ONE PLACE each year and slow down and get to know something about a place. Zooming around the way you propose in Europe is a special kind of stupid from the points of view of money, culture, and time.
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Feb 16th, 2012, 05:03 AM
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Happleby, are you on coke or meth, or what>

glad to see Fodorgarchs are in their usual polite ways - IMO no call for such denigration and you owe Happleby an apology
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Feb 16th, 2012, 06:56 AM
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>>Does the Grande Route des Aples only cover the French Alps or both the French and Swiss Alps?<<

Just France. It goes from Menton on the Cote d'Azur, to somewhere on Lake Geneva (Evian perhaps).

>>I know you mentioned that you need LOTS of time to take that drive, but what would you estimate is the absolute minimum time you would need to drive on the Grande Route, even to get just a little taste?<<

We drove almost the entire route about 5 years ago and it took us 5 nights. Like I stated above, we returned in '09 for 2 weeks and then in '10 for 2 weeks and enjoyed the Alps a lot more then, when we could take chair/gondola lifts up to the top of mountains for fabulous views.

If you want to visit the Alps, skip Bordeaux, Perigueux, the Dordogne, Figeac, Toulouse, and Carcassonne. Just visit Provence, Alps, Beaune, and Dijon. Even that is too much for us - but you seem to want to play the energizer bunny, so perhaps it's possible for you.

Less is more!!!

Stu Dudley
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Feb 16th, 2012, 07:13 AM
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We did the road from Chamonix to Vence in two days, stopping overnight in Briançon, but I recommend a minimum of two stops along the way.
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Feb 16th, 2012, 07:40 AM
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On our trip, we started the day in Provence. First night we stayed in Embrun, then Briancon, then Bonneval, then Chamonix, then Annecy. We stopped 3 nights between Chamonix and Provence/Cote d'Azur and Michael recommends stopping for 2 nights between the two. His pace would definitely work if you want to be more "on the Go" than we were.

One goes to the Alps for the mountain experience - not for "cute little villages" and interesting cities. Embrun is OK, so is Barcelonnette. Both St Veran and Briancon are quite interesting. Annecy would be the only other city that you might want to explore. Chambery is one of our favorites - but it is a little out of the way.

Stu Dudley
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