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Exploring France by car

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Dec 29th, 2012, 09:15 AM
  #1
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Exploring France by car

We are planning a trip to France in late July. We will fly into Paris. We will stay a couple of nights there, rent a car and start the drive south. We are looking at a route through Tours, Poitiers, Perigord, the Dordogne area, Sarlat, Carhor, Colliur, Beziers, and then on to Yviore. And that point we will join a group of friends. I have googled the travel time from Paris to Beziers. I think it's around 8 hours. How many days do we allow? At first we thought we would take a day's drive and then stop each night at a different place. But also we would spend three nights in Sarlat to explore the Dordoghne area. Now I wonder if we should stay 5 nights or so in Sarlat and take day trips from there. Questions '" Are either of these plausible plans?" "How many days to do this well?" "We do not speak French, will the driving be difficult?" "What would you recommend in terms of what to see and do on this drive?" "We need to rent the car in Paris and drop it off in or near Yviore, is that possible." Any advice or information would be appreciated. I know July is probably not the best month to travel there, but that is when it has to happen. I know 2 days in Paris is not enough. We hope to tag on an extra day or two at the end of the trip with our group. Thank you for your time and attention.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 09:40 AM
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Car pick up and drop off: you know all the major rental companies or wholesalers have web sites that can tell you what is possible? Are you looking for more info than what the web sites can give you? After Yvoire, are you flying home from Geneve? If you are traveling with credit cards without CHIP and PIN usable at French unattended gas stations, you need to make sure you minimize itineraries requiring refueling during off hours. This is just an annoyance, but can foul up your plan if you are not aware of. If you end up in this situation, wait for a friendly local who is willing to take your cash and use his/her card to pay for the gas.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 10:06 AM
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You need to learn what French road signs mean before you drive in that country. As for most road signs, there aren't a lot of words on them, mostly symbols (but some have words), but you need to understand what they mean to drive safely. And you need to be very good with maps or maybe GPS.

I do speak French and had trouble once driving around Aix in that even with a map, I couldn't figure out how to get from one side of the city to another and I had to stop and ask for directions. Another time, I got on a highway with few exits and needed to ask some questions of the guys in the official roadside information place, and another time I had a tire problem and had to stop in a small town garage to talk to a mechanic about it. None of those people spoke English, of course, so it would be more difficult if you don't speak French in such situations. Which is why you really need to understand road signs and know how to read and follow maps well to minimize problems. And understand how French gas stations work (meaning the CC issue) and never wait until dark or let your gas run low to fill up, or assume you can do that on a Sunday and have no gas.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 10:15 AM
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the road signs will list the nearest big city in the direction of a smaller place that is your destination
that may not be listed. have a map. The round abouts
are helful with signs directing to which turn off,
The autoroutes are for when you are in a hurry, the D's are scenic.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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Andrews Federal Credit Union has a true chip and pin card. I used it successfully in several locations in France. It has no annual fee nor does it charge ANY foreign transaction fee.

We used it for tolls, unmanned gas pumps, stores, railroad tickets from machines, parking machines in unattended lots. The only time it did not work was with 2 different locations of InterMarche supermarkets in The Luberon. It had to be their system. IF there was someone there [clerk] we usually had to sign. BUT when there was no one there, it worked as true chip and pin.}

http://www.andrewsfcu.org/credit_car...k_rewards.html

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...for-france.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/fodo...-with-chip.cfm
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Dec 29th, 2012, 10:20 AM
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<> The Périgord IS the Dordogne, and Sarlat is one of its market hubs.

I would take the train from Paris to Tours and pick up the car there. And I wouldn't stay a couple of days in Paris at the outset, only to return back for another couple at the end. My philosophy is to fly into Paris and go immediately to my destination (in this case I assume Tours), then clump my Paris days together at the end.

You should plan for 5 days at least in the Dordogne - there is just so much to see. And another week at a minimum to get to your other destinations in the south. And I assume you have a good map of France, because Yvoire is totally in the opposite direction from all your southwest destinations and is going to take a LOT of time to drive to, if that's your plan. Perhaps you should consider dumping the car somewhere in the south and catching a flight to Geneva for that leg of the journey. Or perhaps, if Yvoire is an essential component of this voyage, you should go back to the drawing board and plan a trip based around northeast France instead. It seems rather illogical to go traipsing all over the southwest, when you need to end up at the opposite end of the country - unless you have several weeks to do this.

Driving in France isn't inherently difficult at all, but I agree you need to know how to read French road signs, and that you won't be following numbered routes but will have to know in advance the main towns/cities along your routes, as those are the directional signs you'll be looking for.

And to aid in your research, it will be helpful to have the correct spelling of the places you plan to visit: Cahors, Collioure, Yvoire, for example.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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A small car is best for parking and driving through the beautiful small villages.
Diesel is less expensive.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 10:47 AM
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Easy to drive in France without speaking French. The meaning of road signs (most of which are symbols) is really easy to intuit.

And yes, you do need a good set of maps - since GPS can often not be much help if you run into a detour or road-blocking accident. As for reading a map - I assume anyone over the age of about 10 knows how to do so - it's not brain surgery. But do download very detailed street maps of any towns you will visit - since that will provide info on one-way streets which make getting into or through any town easier.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 11:03 AM
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The viamichelin.com web site gives excellent information on routes, sightseeing, and a host of other stuff.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 11:04 AM
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nytraveler, What makes you think anyone over the age of about 10 these days knows how to read a map?
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Dec 29th, 2012, 12:15 PM
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>> What makes you think anyone over the age of about 10 these days knows how to read a map?<<

My 63 YO wife can't read a map at all. In fact, she is dangerous when trying to use one. She stopped (at my insistence) trying to read maps about 20 years ago. We spend 2 months every year driving around in Europe. She is a high school valedictorian, graduated from college in 3 years in the honors program with a double major - but she can't read a map. No sense of direction either. She drives and I navigate.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 29th, 2012, 03:58 PM
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I imagine her double major wasn't math-related or geography. Having a double major isn't relevant IMO, depending what it was.

So what would your wife do if you dropped dead? I don't think it is really wise for anyone to be so dependent on someone else so that they literally cannot read a map or get around without someone else in the car. I don't know why one would insist someone stop trying to learn a skill so they aren't so dependent on their husband.

I don't really understand what age has to do with reading a map. It is simply a spatial concept and recognizing forms and directions and is related to math, I imagine, in the sense of logic. I have a friend who is only about 30 and he designs maps and majored in geography. There are actually companies out there with young people in them designing maps (a much bigger market for that nowadays, actually, with the internet and all the maps on it).
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Dec 29th, 2012, 04:19 PM
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Be aware of speeding in France. It can be expensive. There are also a lot of toll roads with unmanned stations, so have plenty of change if you don't have a credit or debit card with the pin and chip.

If you find you don't have the correct change, there should be a small (blue) building off to the side where you can get change from a machine.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 04:40 PM
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>>I imagine her double major wasn't math-related or geography.<<

Good guess - French & Psychology. Her first job was an Accounts Payable clerk.


>>So what would your wife do if you dropped dead?<<

Call a cab.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 29th, 2012, 05:02 PM
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I absolutely suck at math and science and am a fabulous navigator. No correlation there that I can see, except I'm perfectly capable of understanding scale, which seems to be a lot of people's downfall when trying to understand maps.
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Dec 29th, 2012, 06:56 PM
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Stu...
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Dec 30th, 2012, 09:36 AM
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<> The Périgord IS the Dordogne>

a bit pedantic are we? Why do the Michelin Green Guides have both a Perigord and Dordogne if it is all one region?

Perhaps technically but not in the mind of most tourists and guidebook writers?

For example Frommer's seems to think they are separate ideas for the tourists as most sources do!

Frommer's The Dordogne and Perigord
www.frommers.com › Destinations › Europe › FrancePlan your The Dordogne and Perigord vacation with the Frommer's comprehensive The Dordogne and Perigord travel guide. The travel guide includes ...
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Dec 30th, 2012, 09:47 AM
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The Périgord is a FORMER province of France that roughly corresponds to the CURRENT département of the Dordogne. It's not rocket science, though it's perhaps made more confusing because the Dordogne département is normally divided into four areas: Périgord Noir, Périgord Vert, Périgord Blanc, and Périgord Pourpre. Probably too confusing for you, Pal.

Tourists and guidebook writers are often uninformed.

And you're wrong about the Michelin guides.
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Dec 30th, 2012, 11:36 AM
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Thank you all for your candid and informative replies. Please hang in there with me. I'm a late bloomer in terms of travel. Other than a five day layover in Amsterdam on the way to Africa, I've never been to Europe. We didn't want to do a tour, although I'm sure that would be easier. We tend to always travel on our own. We are great road trippers and have driven to many U.S. destinations and even places some would not consider a destination. I am so thankful that seasoned travelers like you are willing to take some time to advise us, allowing us to avoid lost time and mistakes in general. Your answers have already been a great help.
We are now looking at either driving or taking the train(leaving the car, and yes we will have to check with the car rental agencies) from Sarlat to Geneva, France. I've done some research and I think we may have to drive to Brive for the train. We would not continue south. If we do drive from Sarlat to Geneva, do you have recommendations.
And yes Greg, I will go to the car rental websites. Quite frankly, right now I am overwhelmed with research itself. I love reading, discovering, and planning for a new area because I learn so much doing that. But it is a slow process. The responses are doing a great job of directing me. And most important these are personal experiences that can tell us what we shouldn't miss and why, with the luxury of learning through your mistakes or successes!
And just for the record, it is truly a condition, and some of us, regardless of intellect are simply directionally challenged. But as with all challenges you learn to compensate. So.........thank you all for some great tips and advice. I started with a somewhat blank slate and you are a welcome support!
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Dec 30th, 2012, 11:45 AM
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If we do drive from Sarlat to Geneva, do you have recommendations.

what type of recommendations? Now that there's a autoroute cutting across the Auvergne, the drive can be done in a day.

For tourist information, get the Michelin Green Guide for France, for I suspect that local guides will have too much information for the time that you will have. The general guide will give you the highlights of what there is to see between Sarlat and Geneva.
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