First Trip to France

Old Jun 2nd, 2004, 05:17 PM
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I agree with StCirq:

Get a rail pass and see the country by train. All that driving and the maps and the planning and the insurance are WORK. Park your bags in Paris and take day trips to the provinces. The train service in France is efficient and comfortable. You don't have to move out of a hotel and get settled every day or three. You can get almost anywhere in the northern half of the country and be back in Paris by late evening.

After you've seen enough of the north, move your base of operations to the south and carry on as before.

By riding instead of driving, you maximize the return on your outlay. Instead of spending all day driving somewhere, you save most of the travel time and arrive refreshed hours earlier.

Bon voyage!
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Old Jun 2nd, 2004, 08:36 PM
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To each their own, but with time schedules to follow and having to be in a certain place at a certain time, I find train travel to much like going to work. To save a too-long drive I'll occasionally take the train, but I find the freedom of driving much more enjoyable.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2004, 08:06 AM
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Here's the link to the second article on Burgundy, along with the one on Villages Fleuris for good measure.

http://www.bonjourparis.com/pages/ol...articleId=1477
http://www.bonjourparis.com/pages/ol...articleId=1392
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Old Jun 3rd, 2004, 08:17 AM
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I do agree with RonZ, especially when train travel is on a TGV--you really can't enjoy the scenery along the way because of the train's speed. One of the big joys of travel is meandering through areas you haven't seen before and getting a feel for the life there. Also, not all those charming little villages and inns are reachable by train.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2004, 08:42 AM
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Lots of various replies to this question.. Car vs. train is a personal thing....We almost always have a car and enjoy the freedom, the small villages, and getting to know the feeling of the country. 3 gigs has some good ideas. Train to Avignon (from Paris downtown station). Rent car in Avignon for getting around Provence (or wherever, coast etc) then make your way back up to Paris at the end by car, passing through wherever you want,...(Annecy alps, burgundy, dordogne, or what you missed going down etc), and turn in the car whichever airport you are flying out of. We turned a car in at Orly once,it's south of Paris(and it was VERY simple)....Charles De Gaulle is Northeast,..but you could drive around to it! What a wonderful trip, and you will see a lot in "2 plus" weeks. AND if, at the end of your trip, you are leaving on a weekend you can get a wonderful,low rate at some airport hotels....Marriott especially......and a good place to "organize" going home luggage and a comfortable nights rest. (No matter what milder accommocations you might have had on the rest of the trip)
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Old Jun 4th, 2004, 10:13 AM
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We just returned from our 10 day trip. Several days in Paris, took the TGV to Avignon, stayed inside the walled city, picked up a rental car from the TGV Gare (train station) on the way out of town, wandered around Provence, made our way down to the French Riveria, stayed mostly in Cannes (because the beach was sandy there) and flew out of Nice. Loved EVERY part of it! Walking in Paris. TGV through the countryside (glad we didn't make that long drive from Paris), "getting lost" in Provence meant seeing towns I didn't expect to see, and loved soaking up the sun on the beach. Loved the Hotel Windsor (3 star/economical) in Nice.
Enjoy the trip!
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Old Jun 14th, 2004, 08:32 PM
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If you are getting a car for 17 days or more, you can lease it and there is no VAT and insurance is included. We use Peugeot and yes, we get an automatic. They have 24 hour service and it is excellent.

We prefer the freedom of being able to go where we want when we want. The only time we don't lease a car is if we are visiting mainly cities on a particular trip. Cars and cities don't go well together because of parking costs. They're really unnecessary in town anyway.

If time was a major factor, I would take the train, but if you are more concerned with flexibility, rent or lease a car.
(@))
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 05:55 AM
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It's my opinion that when leaving Paris, that if the first destination is less than about a two hour drive, that it is easier to just drive out of the city rather than take a train. It is also useful to plan how many hours of driving between hotels one is willing to endure, then use mappy [which we prefer] to work out routes.
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 12:03 PM
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To train or to car - that is the question. Frankly, its no debate at all as far as I'm concerned. You will DEFINATELY want a car to explore the hill towns of Provence. The only question is where do u pick up your car? My thought would be to experience the high speed train(TGV) from Paris to Dijon. Rent a car in Dijon and take a leisurely drive (3 days?) through Burgandy to Provence. As someone said previously, divide your time up something like this: 5 days Paris, 3 days Burgundy, 7 days or more in Provence. Then drive the Riviera to Nice for a couple of days and fly home from Nice (no sense going all the way back to Paris). Whatever you decide will be fantastic! Have fun!
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 04:37 PM
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Very helpful info, alfiesquestion. I appreciate your (and everybody's) responses.

I had been thinking along the lines of five nights/four days in Paris, but maybe you're right. If we went to Versailles, would that pretty much take up one of those days?
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Old Jun 15th, 2004, 08:37 PM
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alfiesquestion's suggested itinerary is similar to one we took one year (except we started with time in Italy): we spent 5-6 days in Provence, 2 days in Burgundy, then a couple of days in Paris (we'd been there before).

We drove from Provence to Burgundy - I remember it seeming like a long drive, but that was probably partly due to a horrific rainstorm that we swam our car through on the way there.

I'm not a big wine buff, my husband is, but I felt there isn't a huge variety to do or see in Burgundy. I also felt the cuisine wasn't as varied as it is in Paris, Provence or the Dordogne. Our two days was just right for us.

From Burgundy (Dijon) we took the high-speed train at Paris. We probably could have driven, but we were dropping the car anyway (no need for it in Paris), so it seemed to make sense to get rid of it and enjoy the train ride - which we did.

I would love to recommend the Dordogne instead of Provence. We visited the Dordogne two years ago, and I enjoyed it more than Provence. The history is interesting, with lots of castles and prehistoric sites, and the food is great (especially if you like fois gras). The only downside is that it's harder to fit the Dordogne, geographically, into a trip to Provence and Paris. (We tried to fit the Dordogne in our Provence trip, and ended up deciding to visit the Dordogne in a separate trip.)
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 08:01 AM
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Lexma90, I have heard others tout the Dordogne. Since our trip sounds as if it might be a bit longer than yours, I wonder whether it could be added. If we spent five or six days in Paris, two in Burgundy, and five in Provence, that might leave us with five or six days. Do you know whether that might be enough to add the Dordogne, or would we perhaps be overextending ourselves?

A question that will really show my ignorance: if we flew into Paris, could we fly out of the Dordogne area instead of Nice (as suggested by alfiesquestion). If not, then that would mean another day of driving time.
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 08:10 AM
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Ms sue - We spent 15 nights in France, flying into Nice, driving through Provence and the Dordogne for 9 of these nights, and spending the last 4 in Paris including a day in Versailles. If you want to know what this pace feels like and what you will do, do a search for my trip report Southern France to Paris, London.

There might be a Ryanair or similar budget airline flight to Paris out of a place near the Dordogne, but it is quite easy to train to Paris from the Dordogne - either Perigeux, or my own preference, Limoges (just north of the Dordogne.)
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 08:12 AM
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Well, ms. sue, as one of the most committed Dordogne-ophiles on the planet, I wouldn't hesitate to steer you in that direction. It's a long drive (6-7 hours to the heart of the Dordogne (Sarlat area) from Provence, but do-able in a day.

As for flying out of the Dordogne, there are airports in Périgueux and Bergerac (as well as Toulouse and Bordeaux, but those are much farther away). You could also drive to Bordeaux (3 hours) and take the TGV back to Paris, or you could leave the car in Périgueux and take the regular train back to Paris. Apart from flying, no matter how you arrange the train travel, it takes the better part of a day to get back to Paris.

Five-six days in the Dordogne is certainly adequate to cover most of the things a first-timer would want to see - castles, caves and other prehistsoric sights, markets, abbeys, bastide towns, etc.

If you do decide to head into the Dordogne I'd be more than happy to make further recommendations.
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 10:27 AM
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StCirq is the expert on the Dordogne - her information and observations were what first led us to consider the area. She just gave you great info on timing and routes. When we went to that area, we took the TGV from Paris to Bordeaux, and on our return, drove back to Bordeaux (tedious drive from the heart of the Dordogne), then took the TGV back up to Paris. We just didn't have the time, as you pointed out, on our Italy/France trip for that 6-7 hour trip from Provence to the Dordogne.

Anyway, I'll second or third that it looks like you have time to visit Paris, Burgundy, Provence and the Dordogne, you lucky person. (And I love Provence, too, just loved the Dordogne more. Partly because there were fewer Americans.)

I won't go on and on (though I could), but you may find the Dordogne the best part of your trip! There are a few good Dordogne threads going right now, to help you with ideas for that area.
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Old Jun 16th, 2004, 04:01 PM
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"If we went to Versailles, would that pretty much take up one of those days?"

Not necessarily. You can easily see the royal apartments and the gardens in half a day if you don't stop and contemplate every portrait and rose blossom. There's enough in Versailles for a very long day, but you can get the feel of the place in a morning. Get there early on the RER to Versailles Rive Gauche, and you can be back at l'Opera for a late, leisurely lunch.
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Old Jun 17th, 2004, 05:56 AM
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One way to get to the Dordogne area from Paris is to take the TGV to Angouleme, and then drive south from there. Brantome is a good first night stop.



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