First Trip to France, suggestions please

Old Dec 30th, 2007, 06:49 PM
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First Trip to France, suggestions please

My wife and I are going to France in April. Arriving in Paris on the 13th for our first trip to France and wanting to see Paris, the Loire Valley, Normany and possible Provence and some great hill towns. Any suggestions on itenerary. We will definitely want to hire a personal tour guide for a day in Paris. Any help or day-by-day itenerary suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 06:52 PM
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Before anyone can give you useful itinerary suggestions/advice, we need to know how long is the trip?
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Old Dec 30th, 2007, 06:52 PM
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how long are you staying in France?
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 06:51 AM
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So sorry about that. We will be there for 10 days. For now, we've got Paris penciled in for 4 days and then circling around from Normandy to Provence by car. Thanks
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 07:04 AM
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You need at least 5 days for Paris. I would pick only one other area to visit. I have found over the years the more you try to see the less you end up seeing.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 07:16 AM
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I'd agree eric502, pick two areas at most. Remember that your first day (assuming coming from different time zone will be partly lost to jet lag, and last day will be at least partly used up getting to airport early, returning car,etc..

You may want to look at the distances involved in driving from Paris to Normandy to Provence to Paris, not inconsequential.

I'd suggest pick one, take TGV train to area, rent car there and TGV back to Paris/CDG. I might rent at CDG if Loire valley were the second location, since it is not really that far.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 07:16 AM
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Matt I agree with only 2 cities or areas. Provence will be too much to get to and you could easily do 5 days there. My suggestion would be to do 5 days in Paris and rent a car for Normandy and the Loire valley or something like that. Will you have 10 days on the ground or 10 days including travel. You will go back so don't try to cram too much in to really enjoy it.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 08:12 AM
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"You need at least 5 days for Paris. I would pick only one other area to visit. I have found over the years the more you try to see the less you end up seeing."


ditto
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 08:20 AM
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Don't forget to learn some French. It will improve your trip, substantially.

Bon Voyage.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 08:31 AM
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Another ditto for only 1 or 2 areas outside of Paris. Either Normandy (2 nights) & Loire (3 nights), or Provence (5 nights).

If you opt for Provence, one thing I do quite often is to spend the night before our flight home in the fantastic city of Dijon (easy TGV access from Provence). There is an early morning train directly to CDG from Dijon.

Stu Dudley
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 08:39 AM
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Normandy is easy to get to from Paris and a great place to visit. I've also been to the Loire, wonderful place for castles and drinking wine. We took a train from CDG to both areas and rented a car to tour the sites.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 09:39 AM
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Have to agree with the others about Provence being a little much for your trip. Don't shortchange Paris on your first trip to France!!! It's an incredible city!!!

A suggestion that hasn't been mentioned here -- consider renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel. It's the best way to go! Especially in Paris where you'll pay a ton for an average or even below-average hotel. We just spent two weeks there and rented a wonderful little place off the Place des Victoires. There are many, many rentals out there to choose from. Some benefits -- you can grocery shop (no fun back home, but a blast in a foreign country!); you can eat some of your meals in the apartment instead of having all of your meals in restaurants (maybe not "fun" per se, but a great cost save, again, especially in Paris and with such a weak dollar!); and you can pretend to be a local (go to the market, stroll around your neighborhood, greet the neighbors!). Plus you'll have more room (good for us traveling with little kids); a lot of people argue that they don't spend a lot of time in the room, so why does it need to be big or fancy, but it's more a matter of being comfortable when you ARE in the room. In Paris you can rent apartments for less than a week, but this is not often the case outside the big cities (where the rentals usually run from Sat.-Sat.).

Re: Loire and Normandy -- we spent a week in Normandy last year, along the coast in the town of Trouville. Rented a gorgeous apartment RIGHT ON the beach! Loved it!! Lots to see and do! Normandy and the Loire are both great areas to explore, but I'd suggest Paris 5 days, Loire 2, and Normandy 3.

Are you driving or training? That can make a difference... Also, think about your priorities -- Loire has beautiful countryside, chateaux, vineyards whereas Normandy it's more about the little villages, the history, the coast...
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 10:09 AM
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For the Paris component, what are your interests? What are you looking for in the tour guide? Michael Osman gets recommended here often.

Walking tours are also a good way to see the city, Paris Walks is a good choice.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 10:25 AM
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I don't agree that you must spend five days, rather than four, in Paris. No reason for that or any other city. Spend what you want. However, I do agree that trying to see all those areas of France in just 10 days is crazy, and I'd drop Provence as most likely not to fit in. At least the others are next to each other, relatively. Or else drop the Loire and Normandy, and just do Paris and PRovence.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 11:36 AM
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I agree that you should go to Paris and only 1 other region to maximize your enjoyment of the trip. I recently spent 8 days in France and split it up in Paris and Burgundy. If you haven't considered it, I'd definitely look into Burgundy - beautiful area and a nice country contrast to the city that you will get with Paris. Only about 2 hours on the TGV from what I remember. Paris will take you right to Dijon which is where we stayed but spent a majority of our time in Beaune and the countryside between Dijon and Beaune.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 11:41 AM
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Wow, I forgot how helpful this forum is since we went to Italy a couple of years ago.

I think that your suggestions have helped me possibly eliminate Provence, although my wife was really set on see Avignon.

To answer your questions, we were planning on driving instead of training until we reached our final city, then training back to CDG on the day of our departure. When we were in Italy, we drove from Rome, through Sienna (stayed a couple of days) and then drove to Florence, then trained to Venice. REALLY enjoyed the driving on our own portion and had a couple of adventures that both of us still laugh about.

In Paris, we really wanted to hire Michael Osmon for a "concentrated day" of sightseeing, but I haven't heard back from him and just send a follow up email. When we were in Rome, we hired a lady named Meyta for a day and really got a great one day overview and were satisfied with our "initial" visit to the city.

Any other ideas, especially a place (prefer hotel under $400) to stay in Paris, and especially a neighborhood. We are thinking the Latin Quarter close the the islands.

Thanks again for the awesome advise. MATT
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 12:22 PM
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Matt,

The best advice I got for a first trip to France was from my friend Maurice, who now lives in Hawaii.

He told me that Americans are often dealt with rudely by shopkeepers who are insulted by their lack of "civility" when they enter the shop and begin to look around. It was explained that when one enters a shop, it is polite to greet the shopkeeper, the shopkeepers spouse, all the others in the shop, scratch the cat's chin and pet the dog before looking around.

Maurice said "Je Regard" is a sufficiently close phrase to "Just Looking," after you have completed your greetings.

His advice has always stood us in good stead, along with his suggestion that the wine dealers always know the best local places to eat.
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Old Dec 31st, 2007, 12:27 PM
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A friend and I stayed at the Hotel du Lys in Paris and found it comfortable and reasonable and close to the major sites. My friend came down with the flu and I rented a separate room with a queen size bed for a couple of nights and found it very comfortable.

The location was very quiet at night.

Breakfasts were not too memorable, but adequate at least for me. The most awkward part is that the breakfasts are served in the lobby area, and if it's busy there's no place to sit. An odd arrangement, to say the least. I managed to carry the breakfast tray up the very steep, circular stairs without breaking my neck or the china, and had a quiet breakfast in the room.
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Old Jan 2nd, 2008, 05:49 AM
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Wine tasting at O Chateau was a fun activity for one night...check it out at http://www.o-chateau.com/. There are couples from many countries, class is in English and wine is served with delicious bread and cheeses in the teacher's Paris loft!
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Old Jan 2nd, 2008, 06:04 AM
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Normandy is beautiful and taking a day's tour of the WW2 beaches a must. We toured with a fantastic guide--go to this site: www.ddaybattletours.com/guide...
also consider staying overnight on Mont St Michel...it is magical.
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