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Drive or take the train from Provence to Loire Valley

Drive or take the train from Provence to Loire Valley

Sep 14th, 2013, 05:29 PM
  #1  
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Drive or take the train from Provence to Loire Valley

Hi. My husband and I are planning a two week trip to France next May. I had initially thought that we would fly into Paris and back home to Toronto from Nice. However, then I realized that will put us in Nice during the Grand Prix and film festival... so hotels will be more expensive. I am now looking at flying into Nice in early May, staying there for about three days (taking local transit), taking the train to Provence- Avignon area for about four days. From there we would like to go to the Loire Valley for one night (Amboise?) and then onto Paris for four days.

My question is: Which is more time-efficient- returning the rental car and taking the TGV from Avignon to Paris then from Paris to the Loire (where we would then have to rent a car again just for the two days!) Or driving from Avignon directly to the Loire and turning the car in at the end of the stay there and taking the train to Paris.

Sorry if this is confusing.... I know some people will say to forget about the Loire..... but I really want to see a couple of chateux and it could be many, many years before we are able to return to France!
chasebella is offline  
Sep 14th, 2013, 07:01 PM
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Take the train from Avignon to Tours (NOT Paris!) and rent another car. It will cost you, as anything less than a 3-day rental is not cost-effective, but maybe it won't be so bad. Anyway, it won't be as awful as making that drive.
StCirq is offline  
Sep 15th, 2013, 06:51 AM
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There are many many chateaux around Paris - Versailles is just one example. I would forget the Loire, & do day trips to the Chateaux around Paris.

Train travel from the Avignon TGV station to the Loire is not that great. There is only 1 schedule with no train changes. It leaves at 1:21 and arrives at St Pierre des Corps (station for Tours) at 5:30. You would probably have to leave wherever you are staying in Provence around noon or a bit earlier, return the car (doesn't take much time), take the train, re-rent a car, navigate the somewhat difficult drive out of St Pierre to a hotel, check in, then off to visit a chateau. By the time you get to your first chateau - it would be 7-7:30 - and the chateau would probably be closed by then. There are other train schedules, but they take an hour longer than the no-train-change one. You would have to stay in the Loire for 2 nights & you would probably be able to only visit 3 chateaux.

Then, next morning it is an hour by train to Paris - but with finding your way to the station, returning the car, taking the train, taxi to your Paris hotel - you will probably waste 3-4 hours.

So - you have "lost" almost 1 1/2 days of your too short vacation taking transportation from Provence to Loire to Paris. And you will only be able to visit about 3 chateaux.

Compare that to a 2 hr 40 min train trip from Provence to Paris (many departures) and trips consuming a half day or less to a chateau around Paris. I think I have read trip reports from others where you can visit several chateaux around Paris on 1 trip. Versailles is a huge chateau, and it took us door-to-door about 3/4 of a day - and we go slow. Also factor in the additional hassle of 1-2 additional train trips (and lugging the bags), an additional hotel, and additional car hire.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Sep 15th, 2013, 08:05 AM
  #4  
 
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Take the train from Avignon to Tours (NOT Paris!) and rent another car.>

Do not take the train to Tours if you are renting cars - get off at St-Pierre-des-Corps - the real mainline station in Tours - many trains do not even serve Tours' dead-end in-the-town-center station but you use shuttle trains to get there. Anyway St-Pierre-des-Corps has all the major car rentals and as it is on the outside of a Tours often IME snarled in traffic it is a quick shot from there to Amboise, a favored Loire Valley base for many.

Since there are nearly no direct trains Avignon to St-Pierre-des-Corps you'll have to go thru Paris - no problem as at Gare d Lyon all you have to do is walk across the Pont Charles DeGaulle - a pedestrian pathway that you can take luggage carts on to Austerlitz station which has frequent trains to Avignon - for lots of great info on French trains check out these IMO superb sites - www.seat61.com; www.ricksteves.com and http://www.budgeteuropetravel.com/id8.html. Advance purchase from www.voyages-sncf.com can slash ticket prices if you can book in stone months in advanced to get those limited in number discounted tickets - full fare is always available but at a much higher rate.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 15th, 2013, 08:45 AM
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>>Since there are nearly no direct trains Avignon to St-Pierre-des-Corps you'll have to go thru Paris - no problem as at Gare d Lyon all you have to do is walk across the Pont Charles DeGaulle - a pedestrian pathway that you can take luggage carts on to Austerlitz station which has frequent trains to Avignon<<

Good point (except PalenQ meant "frequent trains to St Pierre des Corps" instead of Avignon). However, I would not want to take a long trip to Paris, disembark at the Gare de Lyon, and then walk across a bridge to another train station. We were at the Gare de Lyon in July - and it is quit hectic - not a fun place to be. All the more reason to just stay in Paris and visit several of the many chateaux from Paris.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 16th, 2013, 06:41 AM
  #6  
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Thanks everyone for the helpful replies. I guess we will forget about the Loire this trip. It seems a bit of a time and logistic nightmare!
chasebella is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 07:00 AM
  #7  
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Now that I say that... I guess the other option would be to change our trip dates to miss all the craziness in nice. So we could fly into paris at the end of April (arrive around 8am). Then immediately take a train to St. Pierre des corps, rent a car and stay in amboise for one night. We would have a half day that first day and then a full day the following, and could take a late afternoon train back to paris and book into a hotel there for four nights. Then into provence and nice from there. Thoughts? I know that will be a tiring first day but I don't care if we just see one chateau and then relax at the hotel. Thanks again for the replies.
chasebella is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 07:34 AM
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There are escorted day tours to the Loire from Paris which might be less hectic but probably more expensive. I would check those at least for a comparison point.

Stu has a good point given timing and logistics. In addition to Versailles, Fontainebleu is impressive and interesting and an easy trip from Paris.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 07:50 AM
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REPEAT........

If I could only visit 1 chateau in France, it would be Versailles. Or maybe Vaux le Vicomte or Fontainbleu. All are easy day-trips from Paris. You could visit Fontainbleu and Vaux le Vicomte on the same day. We've been to almost every chateaux on the Loire (several 2-3 times) and all are lovely, but not as spectacular as Versailles IMO.

There is a 10:16 TGV from CDG to St Pierre. That is a little "too soon" after your arrival time for my comfort zone. If you miss it, you will have to go into central Paris, get to the train station, and then take a train to St Pierre. This is something I would not want to do on arrival day. If you catch the 10:16 you will arrive in the Loire at noon - if you miss the 10:16, it could be around 3PM before you get to the Loire. Then you must rent a car, check into a hotel for a 1-nighter, & either rest up or try to hit 1 chateau. Next day you will have to do the reverse back to Paris. SOME ADVICE from a well seasoned traveler - DON'T DO THIS for your arrival & next day in France.

Spend most of your time too-short time "being there" instead of "getting there".

Re-arrange your travel dates and fly into Nice (we're going via Frankfurt on United next May). Visit the Cote d'Azur, Provence, and then take the TGV from the Avignon TGV station to the Gare de Lyon in central Paris. If you arrive around lunch time, have lunch at the remarkable Train Bleu at the Gare.
http://www.le-train-bleu.com/uk/index.php

Much less "wasted" travel time and connection complications.

Do you have my 27 page Cote d'Azur & Provence itinerary? I've sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach it to the reply e-mail. Do so soon - we leave for our fall trip to Europe in a few days.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 16th, 2013, 08:29 AM
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Make sure you are not in Nice for the Cannes Film Festival or the Monaco Gran Prix. Higher hotel prices are only one negative aspect. Every place in the city will be packed, restauarants included.
HappyTrvlr is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 09:10 AM
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Good point (except PalenQ meant "frequent trains to St Pierre des Corps" instead of Avignon)>

well I really meant train from Austerlitz to Amboise and of course those trains all go on to St-Pierre-des-Corps.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 11:53 AM
  #12  
 
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There are many many chateaux around Paris - Versailles is just one example. I would forget the Loire, & do day trips to the Chateaux around Paris>

Cannot disagree with Stu more on this point - Versailles is a palace not a chateau, which is a much smaller pleasure house not a house built for a king to rule from - big difference in feeling. And though there are other castles around Paris that are easy to get to - like Compeigne and Chantilly IMO they just do not compare to the pleasure domes of the Loire Valley and staying in a town like Amboise is to savor a smaller French town - one less night in Paris I would gladly substitute with a chance to stay in such a town and Chenonceau- the castle nearest Amboise (besides Amboise's own great chataeu) is just an incredible sight to behold.



IMO go for it - try to spend two nights in Amboise so you can leisurely day trip to Chenonceau or other castles - there are frequent mini-bus tours from Amboise that take you to 2-3 castles in half-day or day trips - just providing transporation to the castles - rather inexpensively priced IMO.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 01:07 PM
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http://www.accodispo-tours.com/engli...xcursions.html

ACCO-DISPO has been around for years doing mini-bus excursions to various Loire chateaus - and even if you do not stay in the Loire you can easily day trip from Paris to Tours, from whose train station the tours leave on half- and full-day excursions.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 01:15 PM
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I think 2 nights in Amboise is a fine idea. ANd it's not such a hardship to grab that once-a-day train from Avignon to Tours (St-Pierre-des-Corps). So, you get there at 5:30, have a short train ride (or drive, if you're renting) to Amboise, settle in, have a nice dinner, walk around...and next morning go off to see the châteaux (which to me bear zero resemblance to Versailles or much of anything around Paris except maybe Chantilly). You can visit 2-23 châteaux that day, get back in time to see the one in Amboise itself, plus the Clos Lucé, then the next day do a bit more touring around before heading back to Tours for the short train ride back to Paris.

Or, you can do a tour, as mentioned.
StCirq is offline  
Sep 16th, 2013, 01:29 PM
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I spent 2 nights in Amboise with my sister a few years ago.We took the TGV from Paris to St Pierre de Corps, picked up a rental car and drove to the chateau in Villandry. Then back to Amboise for a stay at the fantastic Manoir les Minimes. The next morning, we took a hot air ballon ride over the valley--incredible. Then back to Amboise, drove to Chenenceau. Wonderful trip, though short. I've been to Versailles and it's overcrowded and over the top, I though. I much preferred the more manageable crowds in the Loire. It's definitely worth a stopover.
bsconway is offline  
Sep 17th, 2013, 09:07 AM
  #16  
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Thanks for all the replies!
chasebella is offline  
Sep 17th, 2013, 09:08 AM
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I would never go through all that trouble just to see a chateau. These are just big old stone houses for rich people, you know. And there are plenty of them all over France (and other places in Europe, actually). But you can see enough of them while staying in Paris, anyway, as noted -- like Chantilly, for one.
Christina is offline  
Sep 17th, 2013, 01:26 PM
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A chateau is a chateau is a chateau is a chateau - my favorite being Chateau d'Eaux - one in every little town.
PalenQ is offline  
Sep 18th, 2013, 12:59 PM
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Agree with St-Cirq about taking the once a day direct TGV train to St-Pierre-des-Corps - takes only 4.5 hours, including the change at St-Pierre-des-Corps (6 minutes between trains however) - oddly it also goes via Paris (Massy-TGV) but with no changing involved.

Earlier departures from Avignon would take all told at least an hour longer and involve the 800-meter foot transfer from Gare de Lyon to Austerlitz just across the river.
PalenQ is offline  
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