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advice on France portion of multi country trip

advice on France portion of multi country trip

Old Feb 26th, 2024, 08:11 AM
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advice on France portion of multi country trip

I'm taking my parents to Europe for the first time. We'll be flying into Frankfurt from the US and leaving out of Barcelona. We need to put together a "middle" part of the trip in France.

My needs are as follows:

1. Need a good base city with a direct flight to Barcelona. Easy access from Frankfurt.
2. Within striking distance of Loire Valley (would like to tour Chambord, and Chenonceau chateaux)
3. Need recommendation for smaller charming village with a good amount of half timbered buildings. Attractive main square...maybe a fountain or two. Think picturesque, charming, river views, maybe even medieval France.

Tours and Orleans looked great but neither one flies direct to Barcelona with lengthy train ride from Frankfurt. Nantes is my front runner at the moment but at least 3 hours from Chateau Chenonceau. Would prefer train but can rent a car for more flexibility. Our open jaw flights are booked already so switching/changing countries around isn't on the table. Thanks for any help.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 09:08 AM
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yet more multi country holidays, is it a "thing" now

try Rome2rio and
skyscanner to track down some ideas
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 09:21 AM
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You'll get more useful suggestions if you tell us how many nights you have in France.

No Paris?
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 09:23 AM
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I've been to Paris previously and would prefer to avoid the hustle and bustle w/ my parents. We'll have 4-5 days in France.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 10:24 AM
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If you go from Frankfurt to the Loire to Barcelona in 4-5 days - you'll se very little of France and a lot of bus terminals & airports. Tours is one of my least favorite cities in France. Although we spend 2 months in France most years, Orleans has never appealed to me. Nantes is not one of my favorites either (it & Tours suffered to much bombing in WWII)

I would forgo the chateaux in the Loire, and minimize you travel time by visiting Alsace. It is less than a 2 hr train trip from Frankfurt, and you can fry from Strasbourg to Barcelona. More half-timbered houses than you could believe. If you want to stay in a smaller village, try Obernai or Kayserberg.

My wife's Shutterfly book about Alsace
https://www.shutterfly.com/share-pro...HARPRDWEBMPREM

Click on the book, and on the next page click on "Full screen"

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 11:14 AM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley
If you go from Frankfurt to the Loire to Barcelona in 4-5 days - you'll se very little of France and a lot of bus terminals & airports. Tours is one of my least favorite cities in France. Although we spend 2 months in France most years, Orleans has never appealed to me. Nantes is not one of my favorites either (it & Tours suffered to much bombing in WWII)

I would forgo the chateaux in the Loire, and minimize you travel time by visiting Alsace. It is less than a 2 hr train trip from Frankfurt, and you can fry from Strasbourg to Barcelona. More half-timbered houses than you could believe. If you want to stay in a smaller village, try Obernai or Kayserberg.

My wife's Shutterfly book about Alsace
https://www.shutterfly.com/share-pro...HARPRDWEBMPREM

Click on the book, and on the next page click on "Full screen"

Stu Dudley
Thanks Stu. I know that time will be limited and this type of travel definitely isn't for everyone. I've been to Strasbourg and Colmar previously and know what you mean about the half timbered buildings there. I didn't mention it in my original post but the purpose of the French portion was to visit somewhere I haven't been before. I've also always wanted to visit (and especially photograph) a few of the chateaux in the Loire Valley region. Everytime I see one of them in an article, ad, magazine, etc. I want to GO there even if it's just for a little while. I planned a trip years ago but my brother in law wasn't able to go so it was scrapped. France deserves its own trip for sure but we're splitting 3 ways this time amongst my parents as far as "where we want to go" .

Last edited by tailsock; Feb 26th, 2024 at 11:18 AM.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 11:33 AM
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How old are your parents? Is it just the three of you? You may have mentioned it, but have they been to Europe before? Have you traveled with them to Europe before? Edit: I see this is their first trip.

You sound like you have done a fair bit of traveling and if you're parents haven't, I'd, personally, defer to their preferences, even if it might be revisiting an area you've already seen. I recognize the desire to see the chateaux, but keep in mind what also makes "sense," too. Especially given that you've already purchased tickets.

One thing to keep in mind, you can only move as fast as the slowest person. Depending on their age and fitness level, things might have to adjust accordingly. This is speaking from someone who has traveled with parents. I've had to make concessions over the years because of their need to slow things down.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 11:38 AM
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I am going to acknowledge right off that though I have been to Paris several times, the Loire Valley, Provence, etc, this recommendation is not from personal experience and I have not checked travel logistics.

Consider Lyon and Perouges. They make a great pairing.
The recommendation of Lyon is from a friend who loves France and visits Lyon often. She says Lyon is one of the prettiest towns, smaller than Paris, easy to visit and is absolutely beautiful, with a gorgeous cathedral, great food, gardens, etc.
Only 30 minutes from Lyon is Perouges, one of the most charming villages. This recommendation of Perouges is from my daughter who has traveled for years, all over Europe, and stayed there. It has the half-timbered buildings you seek and lovely old hotels. She said you could do it as a day trip from Lyon, but she loved actually staying there, said it was charming, romantic and urged me to go.
https://inbetweenpictures.com/blog/p...trip-from-lyon


My personal opinion is, unless your parents have the Loire Valley as their life-long dream, skip it. Sure, the chateaus are lovely and interesting in a way, but they take a lot of time and just don’t have the feel of life you find in villages and places where people actually live. If you were visiting Paris, I would say take them to Versailles, especially if they are interested in the history of the time or have seen the British program about Marie Antoinette.
Another personal opinion, but if it was my first time in France, I would want to see Paris. Admitting I have not been there recently, but I always found many lovely places to walk without much hustle and bustle, plus all the wonderful museums are there. You can easily avoid heavy tourist areas.

Besides Lyon and Perouges, if you do wish to avoid Paris, but still get a feeling for France, you could go to Avignon and see a bit of Provence, than take the train to Barcelona. Aix would be a truly wonderful town for a couple of days. It is one of my personal favorite places. Your parents would feel they just stepped into an impressionist painting.

Hope your trip is wonderful.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 11:55 AM
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Just read your post about you wanting to photograph the chateaus. I strongly suggest you re-consider for this trip. I know it is giving up your personal desires, but it is your parents first time to Europe. Pick what they will most enjoy in this very short time and see things through their eyes. I have been to Italy many times, but when I took students and shared with them things I already knew and saw them seeing things for the first time, was really magical. Sharing places with my Parents and my in-laws that they had dreamed about is a precious memory.

Another thought. If Paris is absolutely not for you, the town of Versailles in charming, with a gorgeous market, nice restaurants, nice hotels, etc. You could stay there one night and day and your parents could visit Versailles, walk in the gardens, etc. while you take a tour to photograph some of the chateau. Most of the tours give you plenty of time at the stops.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Travel_Nerd
How old are your parents? Is it just the three of you? You may have mentioned it, but have they been to Europe before? Have you traveled with them to Europe before? Edit: I see this is their first trip.

You sound like you have done a fair bit of traveling and if you're parents haven't, I'd, personally, defer to their preferences, even if it might be revisiting an area you've already seen. I recognize the desire to see the chateaux, but keep in mind what also makes "sense," too. Especially given that you've already purchased tickets.

One thing to keep in mind, you can only move as fast as the slowest person. Depending on their age and fitness level, things might have to adjust accordingly. This is speaking from someone who has traveled with parents. I've had to make concessions over the years because of their need to slow things down.
Early 70s and yes, they've never been to Europe before. They get out and walk often but they are beginning to slow down, especially my dad. My mom is a little worried about her foot acting but I assured her we'll be taking breaks and try not to keep things too busy. I am a travel photographer who regularly bounces from place to place capturing images of OTHER people relaxing and enjoying their trip. lol This is not the trip we're gonna be on and I realize that I'll have to slow things down quite a bit to make it enjoyable for them.

Originally Posted by Sassafrass
I am going to acknowledge right off that though I have been to Paris several times, the Loire Valley, Provence, etc, this recommendation is not from personal experience and I have not checked travel logistics.

Consider Lyon and Perouges. They make a great pairing.
The recommendation of Lyon is from a friend who loves France and visits Lyon often. She says Lyon is one of the prettiest towns, smaller than Paris, easy to visit and is absolutely beautiful, with a gorgeous cathedral, great food, gardens, etc.
Only 30 minutes from Lyon is Perouges, one of the most charming villages. This recommendation of Perouges is from my daughter who has traveled for years, all over Europe, and stayed there. It has the half-timbered buildings you seek and lovely old hotels. She said you could do it as a day trip from Lyon, but she loved actually staying there, said it was charming, romantic and urged me to go.
https://inbetweenpictures.com/blog/p...trip-from-lyon


My personal opinion is, unless your parents have the Loire Valley as their life-long dream, skip it. Sure, the chateaus are lovely and interesting in a way, but they take a lot of time and just don’t have the feel of life you find in villages and places where people actually live. If you were visiting Paris, I would say take them to Versailles, especially if they are interested in the history of the time or have seen the British program about Marie Antoinette.
Another personal opinion, but if it was my first time in France, I would want to see Paris. Admitting I have not been there recently, but I always found many lovely places to walk without much hustle and bustle, plus all the wonderful museums are there. You can easily avoid heavy tourist areas.

Besides Lyon and Perouges, if you do wish to avoid Paris, but still get a feeling for France, you could go to Avignon and see a bit of Provence, than take the train to Barcelona. Aix would be a truly wonderful town for a couple of days. It is one of my personal favorite places. Your parents would feel they just stepped into an impressionist painting.

Hope your trip is wonderful.
Lyon was one of the places I had penciled in because of everything you mentioned. (It's one of the few cities you can fly direct to Barcelona as well.) I shifted focus when I started thinking about the Loire Valley though.....maybe I will have to abandon the Loire Valley and save that for my wife and no, neither one of my parents knows much about France other than Paris and of course Normandy (my dad is a Marine) WOW Perouges looks AMAZING... this is DEFINITELY what I had in mind. Lyon-Perouges would make a nice 1-2 punch. I also like the idea of taking the train to Barcelona instead of flying into El-Prat.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 12:16 PM
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OP, you might be surprised how slow they will be. You're roughly about my age probably, give a few years. My Mom has always had fitness issues and falls down - a lot. So, if you need to account for any stability concerns, plan for it. Walking sticks/canes if necessary. Mom did better on our last trip un 2019 (final one, probably) because she had a walking stick. My Dad, five years ago I would not have questioned it, but he can barely go up/down stairs anymore. As you know, Europe is ALL stairs.

Keep this in mind for train travel. Impress upon them to pack light - you just may be the one handling your luggage everywhere you go, including trains and airports.

Just some things to think about...
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 12:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Travel_Nerd
OP, you might be surprised how slow they will be. You're roughly about my age probably, give a few years. My Mom has always had fitness issues and falls down - a lot. So, if you need to account for any stability concerns, plan for it. Walking sticks/canes if necessary. Mom did better on our last trip un 2019 (final one, probably) because she had a walking stick. My Dad, five years ago I would not have questioned it, but he can barely go up/down stairs anymore. As you know, Europe is ALL stairs.

Keep this in mind for train travel. Impress upon them to pack light - you just may be the one handling your luggage everywhere you go, including trains and airports.

Just some things to think about...
Thanks. We've taken some international trips within the last few years. They should be OK but yes, I'll need to do my research to make sure mobility isn't a big problem. Probably more cabs, buses, and Ubers in the cities instead of subway for example.

Last edited by tailsock; Feb 26th, 2024 at 01:25 PM.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 01:45 PM
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Your parents have never been to Europe. After the trip, will they want to say "We skipped Paris and went to X"? Ouch. Also, Paris can be seen with poor walkers because there are always buses and the Metro and cabs. Museums, landmarks that everyone has on their bucket list, food, markets, shopping. Lyon would be nice but requires walking. Rethink. Go to Paris.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 02:39 PM
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The Loire valley castles are indeed beautiful but to tour them requires a lot of steps. Are your parents up for that? Paris in the other hand is mostly pretty flat
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 03:53 PM
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Originally Posted by AJPeabody
Your parents have never been to Europe. After the trip, will they want to say "We skipped Paris and went to X"? Ouch. Also, Paris can be seen with poor walkers because there are always buses and the Metro and cabs. Museums, landmarks that everyone has on their bucket list, food, markets, shopping. Lyon would be nice but requires walking. Rethink. Go to Paris.
Originally Posted by mjs
The Loire valley castles are indeed beautiful but to tour them requires a lot of steps. Are your parents up for that? Paris in the other hand is mostly pretty flat
Sorry I should've clarified. When I said I was taking my parents to Europe for the first time what I meant was it would be the first time we've gone together. My Dad has never been but my mom has been to several countries as part of a whirlwind tour from hell that also included part of Africa in the 80s. She said it was an exhausting blur having to constantly change locations and wake up at 5am most mornings. She did "see" some of Paris but by that point she didn't find the trip very enjoyable. Barcelona is a pretty big place so I wanted to take them somewhere a little smaller with a slower pace. I'm glad you mentioned the steps in the chateaux as I didn't budget for that. I think they'd manage just fine if we kept the pace slow and took breaks.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 05:33 PM
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My 2 cents: if the trip if for you, and as a sidelight, for them, I can undertstand you, a photographer, wanting to take photographs of chateaux

If a trip to please THEM, I'd skip Loire. We went to four chateaux, since we were there. After the first, the second was quite similar, and by the fourth, I couldn't differentiate one from the other.

I'd think a 70-year old ex-Marine would enjoy Normandy battlefields. Not knowing momdad's interests, though, I don't know if they'd appreciate the wonders of southern France: the caves, with prehistoric paintings; the Roman ruins; the medieval appearance of some villages; the food/wine.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 05:50 PM
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Your desires are contradictory. You can't get a nonstop flight to Barcelona from any village, only a city that is a flight hub. There are nonstop flights to BCN from Basel, Switzerland which is a few hr direct train from Frankfurt. I dont personally find the Loire and chateaux that interesting.
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 08:13 PM
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Have you asked your parents whether they would like to go to Paris? Will they be sorry if they miss it?
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 08:59 PM
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I guess several places in ile de france would score on your 3 criteria, provided that you have a car.
For example Fontainebleau, not too far from Paris, 2 to 3 hours to the châteaux (plus 2 nearby : Fontainebleau and Vaux le vicomte), several cute villages like Barbizon or Moret.
Versailles of course. Old villages in the area: la Roche guyon, Vetheuil or, south, Dampierre and Chevreuse.
North of Paris: Chantilly, Senlis
East: Provins (the only medieval city I can think of in Île de France)
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Old Feb 26th, 2024, 11:35 PM
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I am going to back up Stu Dudley and recommend Strasbourg, or Nancy. Nancy is close enough to Strasbourg that you could do your direct flight to Barcelona from there, plus it is a gorgeous city full of Art Nouveau and gilded wrought ironwork. It is also not a difficult drive from the Frankfurt area - I could imagine an itinerary taking in Heidelberg, Baden-Baden and Nancy. But if you want half-timbered in France, Strasbourg and the Alsatian surrounds would have to be it.

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