Best of France?

Feb 19th, 2010, 05:53 PM
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Best of France?

We have 14 days in France with our 3 kids (19, 16,13). We are really struggling with our itinerary. We want to take them to Paris and Normandy (dday beaches) but don't know where to go from there. What would you suggest as the must see of France: Provence, Loire???? HELP.
4annmarie is offline  
Feb 19th, 2010, 05:58 PM
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We did a week in the Loire and then a short drive to the Normandy for another week - the former has tons of lovely castles and other sights that your children should enjoy as well as the soul searching D Day sights - would be an easy trip from Paris and back but trying to do a lot if all 3 areas in 2 weeks I would think - Paris alone could be a week or more!
dsevig is online now  
Feb 19th, 2010, 06:03 PM
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In respect , may I say you ask the impossible because each of us may have different favorites. And each area, be it Provence
or the Loire, have their own uniqueness that makes one favor one over the other. I say read a guide book describing the different parts of France(all have many beauties)but you will be able to know what appeals to you by the terrain,
the month's climate, or go online, there is a wealth of information, But for fourteen days, is not long enough to enjoy much of France. Do Normandy and Paris and enjoy the time there, because there is alot to see.
cigalechanta is offline  
Feb 19th, 2010, 07:32 PM
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Paris could be 14 days by itself. However, we were in France last year for a month, and spent a good part of it in Paris and Normandie (You can see my trip report "Our Month in France").

We stayed in a wonderful B&B in Normandie called Ferme du Pressoir, a restored 18th century farmhouse and a large working farm. And fabulous owners. About 20 minutes from the beaches, Caen, Bayeux and not that far to a small port town called Honfleur. Your kids might really like the farm (our 13 year old sure did). There's really a lot to see and just soak in in Normandie, the beaches, the cemeteries, and just the wonderful countryside. I wouldn't rush around too much to see "all" of France. You might take cigalchanta's advice and find a guide book that will give you ideas on what to see. Have a great time.
jobo is offline  
Feb 19th, 2010, 08:43 PM
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You and your kids need to sit down with a whole bunch of guidebooks and a good map and figure this out based on your own preferences. And of course scour the Internet. Two weeks is very short. You can't see the "best of France" in two weeks; nor is our "best" necessarily your "best." Your kids are plenty old enough to take ownership of at least some of this trip. If you've never been to France before, then you should definitely plan to spend at least 5 days, and preferably a week, in Paris. That leaves you another week, which ideally would be spent in one other location. France is a nation of completely different regions, so different they are almost like different countries. A week in Provence would be totally different from a week in Normandy. A week in the Loire would be utterly unlike a week in Brittany.Maybe the Languedoc is where you should go, maybe Alsace...who knows if you don't do some basic background research?

Go to the bookstore, library, whatever, and get your family started on researching. Narrow down the choices of regions to visit and then come back for some specific advice.
StCirq is offline  
Feb 19th, 2010, 08:44 PM
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I'm struggling with same situation, 14 days and it"s our first time in France. We have made one decision, we've rented an apartment in paris for 1 week. So what to do with the rest of the time. Leaning towards flying into Nice, renting a car, take our time driving to Provence. Spend 4-5 days there, ditch the car in Avignon and take high speed train to Paris. So much to see and such little time.
ds2010 is offline  
Feb 19th, 2010, 09:00 PM
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IMO, if you're doing Normandy, head for The Loire. You can't go wrong with Chennenceau,Chambord, Amboise, etc. and it's not so far to travel.

ds2010-----after Paris, we did the TGV to Avignon for 4 days one time, the TGV to Aix-en-Provence another tome for 4 days. We were so enchanted with the region the next trip was to Antibes for 10 days. It was very easy---TGV down, pick up a car at the train station, do our touring, return the car to the train station, TGV back to Paris, fly hiome.

The easier way would be to fly to Paris, TGV south, and fly home out of Nice.

Whatever you choose, it's been one of the easiest countries we have traveled in.
TPAYT is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 05:00 AM
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I agree with the others about the guidebooks, but for me I also need to see pictures. That's what helps me decide where exactly to go. The internet if full of them (actually so is Barnes and Noble, there are "most beautiful villages of France" type books). My photos are at: The first three galleries are France.

Of course you could spend the whole two weeks in one place, many people do. But I think you could very easily enjoy at least three different areas, especially if they are geographically related. You could do 4-5 days each in Paris, the Loire and Normandy. That would be best by car. Or you could do 4-5 days Paris then train to Provence and Cote d'Azure. Best by car but doable by train.
isabel is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 05:36 AM
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I tend to agree with the Loire valley castles. Versaille and Giverny would be good day trips from Paris.

Hope you will do a trip report as there are many people traveling with families who appreciate sharing info.
TDudette is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 07:07 AM
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annmarie -We did a very similiar trip as you are planning two years ago (no kids though). Paris - a minimum of 5 days. It is a huge city full of distinct, vibrant neighbourhoods that beg to be explored. You will absolutely not regret the time you spend there. Head to the D-Day beaches - Arromanche is a (small) but beautiful base to explore the surronding villages and beaches. You must visit the American cemetery to see the dignified and beautiful place were so many young soldiers are buried. Some "must sees" in the larger surronding area are Mont St. Michel (only one day needed - you really need to check out the Rick Steves travel book for an excellent description on how to approach this place. "Arrive late and leave early" because of the insane crowds during the day...this place is really neat at night and it will only take one overnight visit to explore.) Bayeux - beautiful little town and it contains the famous tapestry...Fougeres is a lovely little walled village that no one seems to mention but is a great place to explore for the afternoon. (Eat the crepes - about as authentic as you can get.) Normandy is just a wonderful place - horrors, I liked it almost more than Provence! Loire Valley is great and your children will be wowed by the incredible castles at Chambord and Chenonceau. For us, we stayed in small, family hotels in the centre of town. It is so nice to leave your hotel and be in such close proximity to shops, restaurants, markets and sites. When you are planning your trip be aware of "market days" in the towns where you are visiting...the markets are great places to buy fresh food, linens, and just take in the ebb and flow of shopping days. Sorry Fodor, but I think Rick Steves has one of the best tour books for in-depth info and historical details that really make a trip memorable. You want go wrong whatever you choose, as mentioned, each of the regions in France is so distinct they each have their own beauty and charm. Vive la France!
phenry is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 10:57 AM
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If any of your family are intrigued by the idea of seeing prehistoric cave paintings, I would suggest going to the Dordogne. There is much to do there for the whole family, it is beautiful countryside, there are castles to explore and rivers to be canoed.

The cave paintings at Font de Gaume are open to the public with advance reservations, and there are rumors that they may not remain open indefinitely due to the damaging effects of tourism on the art. There are other caves with art in the area as well as other prehistoric sites.

My imagination was captured as a child when I read of four French schoolboys who stumbled upon the great Lascaux cave paintings (now closed to the public) while searching for their dog. I felt privileged when I finally traveled to the area and got to descend into some of the caves.

That said, every region of France that I have visited has unique and worthwhile attractions.
Nikki is offline  
Feb 20th, 2010, 06:03 PM
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With 14 days, I would spend a week in Paris, at least. Then, since you want to go to Normandy anyway, most of the rest of the time there, maybe adding the Loire or Brittany, if you want to split that time. In the last few years I spent 2 weeks in Normandy and 2 weeks in Brittany. I loved both, but especially Normandy.
And believe me, Paris deserves plenty of time!
Sue4 is offline  
Feb 21st, 2010, 07:58 AM
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Is this a first trip to France?

The absolute minimum for Paris would probably be 5 (hectic) days. After that, it depends on the season and your personal interests -- some people like beaches, others like mountains, some want to stick with monuments, cathedrals and châteaux, some want to see lovely countrysides... If you are the sort of person who wants to see all of those things, you will have to think of this trip as being the first of several and restrict yourself to just one or two other areas besides Paris, and it will still seem like a whirlwind.
kerouac is online now  
Feb 21st, 2010, 08:29 AM
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Posts: 4,049 We enjoyed our visit to Guedelon - a castle being made from plans and methods from the 13th century. It is located about 2 hours south of Paris.
bratsandbeer is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2010, 11:04 AM
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Thanks for all your very valuable comments. I think we are getting close to making a decision. I will definitely do a trip report when we return.
4annmarie is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2010, 11:14 AM
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Nice is IN Provence, the eastern part. If you want to see western Provence, then it would be better to fly into Marseille...or take the TGV from Paris to Avignon.
Underhill is offline  
Feb 25th, 2010, 12:47 PM
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TPAYT "The easier way would be to fly to Paris, TGV south, and fly home out of Nice."

We took your advice and switched our plans. Now Paris for 7 days, TGV south and spend 6 days in Provence. Fly home from Nice. Thanks for input.
ds2010 is offline  
Feb 26th, 2010, 08:18 AM
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I would suggest Brittany? Its a nice place, some really nice towns to explore along the coast moving on from Normandy.
TravelStory is offline  
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