France Family Vacation

Aug 9th, 2010, 01:39 PM
  #1  
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France Family Vacation

My husband and I, along with our two adult children (26 and 21) will be taking our first trip to France for just under two weeks beginning the last week of September. For our first week we will be staying in a Marriott Timeshare outside of Paris near Disney.

I need help trying to choose what to do for the second part of our trip. We will have a car and plan to visit another area of France. The question is which way to go. We are considering going west to Normandy, WWII sites, Bayeaux, Mont. St. Michel. The other option is to go east towards Strasbourg and Belgium. After spending a week in Paris I think we will be more inclined to see smaller towns.

I would so appreciate any suggestions from you more seasoned travelers

Thank You!
mazz is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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Having four people and one week to please everybody I would head out east; the Normandy Region; beaches, food, history, smaller towns. On your way there stop at 1-2 chateau in the Loire Valley. Last week of September crowds should be dwindling down so don't get too prescriptive with hotels every night; leave a couple of days on God's Good Humor!!
Viajero2 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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I would head WEST...THAT IS.
Viajero2 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 02:05 PM
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I'd go east. I am not even that thrilled with visiting old war sites and I'm a lot older than your kids. It's a beach, I realize a lot of people are really into WWII landing sites, but a lot of people might not be. I read they changed parking at Mont St Michel and you have to walk about 3 km now or something.
Christina is online now  
Aug 9th, 2010, 02:07 PM
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If you turn right at the exit from the Marriott, you will shortly find yourself in the village of Bally-les-Romanvilliers. The parking area is at the second exit from the roundabout. There is a bakery there, on the far side of the Casino Market, that makes the best baguettes we have ever tasted. We quickly found that one baguette rarely made it to the car, let alone back to the kitchen at the Marriott. It is necessary to buy at least two,one is likely to be eaten at once.

Also, ask the concierge at the Marriott to make reservations for dinner for you at the Vielle Aburge.(Please forgive the misspellings.) The food is wonderful, particularly the truffle ravioli, if available. It is about a 10 minute drive from the Marriott.

You have a difficult choice between going Northeast or Northwest, as either way could be a very nice trip. My personal choice would be to go towards Normandy as many of the places where you might want to go are within an hour of Paris, e.g. Giverny, or Rouen. Further on, Bayeux, Honfleur,and the Normandy beaches are only an hour further on, and Mont. St. Michel perhaps 45 minutes more. I think you would be able to find may places to see and lovely quiet villages with less driving in Normandy than you would in the Northeast. On the other hand, you will not have the opportunity to visit the champagne country in this direction. As I said, a difficult choice, but one you will have much fun in make.
Jeff801 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2010, 04:11 PM
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Thanks for your ideas. The thought of doing less driving and more sightseeing is appealing.

Jeff - It sounds like you have stayed at the Marriott. How did you like it? How did you travel into Paris?
mazz is offline  
Aug 10th, 2010, 12:58 PM
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Normandy is soooo much more than landing sites....which by the way, wasn't even referred to on my original post. I am along the lines of Jeff801 post with the references to smaller villages within very close distance, great beaches, and spectacular historical sights as well.
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Aug 10th, 2010, 02:36 PM
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What are the kids -- men or women (at 26 and 21, they're not "boys" or "girls") or one each? I'm thinking viajero is on to something on two levels -- a week in Normandy could be nice, but if you have about eight nights (or more), you could go to the Loire Valley for 5 and Normandy for 3 (and include MSM in that part). Lots to see and do in the Loire Valley and it's not far from Paris. Towns in Normandy are much smaller.
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Aug 11th, 2010, 10:33 AM
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BigRuss - daughter 26, son 21.
We actually have only 5 full days after we leave Paris. I guess we could go to Normandy for 2 days then head to MSM and from there see some of the Loire Valley on our way back.
Any particular area in Loire that you think would be the "don't miss sights"?
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Aug 11th, 2010, 12:53 PM
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Mazz,

When we stayed at the Marriott, before the last phase with its possibly different floor plans, we found the bedrooms a little smaller than other Marriott vacation club properties, but still more than comfortable. The bathrooms were very nice, but, in distinction from other Marriott properties, had no jacuzzi in the master bath. We spent the week touring and have no experience with property's services. (Except the bakery; we picked up fresh croissants most mornings.) The staff was most helpful with dinner reservations.

I had purchased a book "One Hour from Paris" on Amazon and used that as a guide to our touring. On a Sunday, we fell in with the local Harley-Davidson club at the fortress of Provin. That led to more recommendations despite my riding knowledge being outdated by 35 years. We also were delighted by the several Paris Walks we took, particularly the Montmartre morning tour.

To get into Paris, we drove to the RER in Marne-le-Valle and took that to the city. For a group of 4, I think we would have driven to city and parked near a Metro station. If you choose to use the RER, do not depend on the shuttle bus. They run relatively infrequently and we made a point of going to the stop to pick up any temporary neighbors every time we returned from Paris. (Incidentally, I've driven in New York, Boston, and Miami. Paris driving is no more difficult than any of those cities. And this is from someone whose knuckles have never recovered the color they lost in London.)

The Marriott is well maintained and the units are very well kept. We had a heating problem and the thermostat that caused it was fixed within 20 minutes of our report. We also knew we were going to arrive early, and requested an early check in. The response to our request was an agreement to try. When we arrived at 10:00 a.m. the unit was ready. Let me know if you have any questions.
Jeff801 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2010, 01:17 PM
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hi mazz,

though I've never stayed at this Marriott, or done this exaact trip, having been to France with our "kids" starting 10 or so years ago when they were 10 & 13, and the last time being last month, I may be able to help a bit.

1. while you are staying at the Marriott, try to spend a day at Parc Asterix, just south of disney. it's a lot of fun and very french, so you might call it "educational". [that was our excuse]. our [english] kids have done both disney and Parc Asterix, and Asterix wins hands down every time we discuss it.

2. I'm not sure about Normandy, [we always seem to drive through it, rather than hang about in it] but we've been back to the Loire area 3 times now, and enjoy it a lot. you could pick a base and stay for the rest of your hoilday, and not run out of things to do. on our earlier trips [when the kids were quite a lot younger] we went to Villandry, Chenonceau, Amboise, Saumur, and Fontevraud [to name but a few] and last month we went to Villandry [again] Saumur [to watch the world cup final at the outside cafes] Doue la Fontaine [for the zoo] Chinon, and, and,,,

in short, there is loads to do for all ages. if you are going on spec and having problems finding somewhere to stay, the tourist ofices generally have a list of current vacancies, and will phone ahead for you to book accommodation.

have a great trip!
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Aug 11th, 2010, 08:28 PM
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Annhig- thanks for the suggestions for Loire! More research to do

Jeff- thanks for the info from the Marriott. I am still trying to figure out the best way into Paris. I was told that we could park free at the Val D'Europe outlet center one stop closer to Paris than the Marne-le-Valle stop. If we drove into Paris I really have no idea what parking would be like. We can purchase a one week Navigo Semanine Pass for 37,60 euros each(plus 5 euros for the card) for the week beginning Monday. It would cover the train into Paris and all metro and bus needs once in the city. So if parking is expensive we would have to weigh the difference. Did you have to pay to park at Marne-le-Valle?
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Aug 12th, 2010, 01:54 AM
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You can park at the Val d'Europe mall with no problem. You could even drive to the mall at Noisy-le-Grand and park there if you wanted to -- it is right on the edge of the A4 autoroute. Parking is free at both places.

As for driving elsewhere, any direction is good, as far as I am concerned. Frankly I enjoy the northern coast and its chalk cliffs and even all of the Belgian seaside resorts with their terrible architecture.

In terms of old battlefields, I think the old WW1 sites around Verdun are the most impressive in France. The meadows and forests are still full of bomb craters.
kerouac is online now  
Aug 12th, 2010, 04:27 AM
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I would still go west. The landing sites are more than beaches. You don't have to see every one of them, but seeing Omaha, Arromanches, and the cemetery would give some idea of the absolute "FOLLY" of this landing--you can see FORever on that sea, and how anyone survived and the heroism of doing is is awesome. Pointe Hoc is another.
Bayeux is a charming town, and the tapestry is also just incredible.
The little towns and the architecture of Normandy--AND the cheese!!-is wonderful. Driving is easy.
Honfleur is so lovely for the coast. The seafood is delicious.
Look at the Michelin Green Guide to Normandy.
Leaving Paris you could go to Giverny, then Rouen. Nice museum there with an Impressionist wing that we loved.
Abbaye Road out of Rouen for a string of medieval abbeys.
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Aug 12th, 2010, 09:46 AM
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Kerouac- Thanks for the info on parking. I did read somewhere that parking at Val d'Europe mall is only good until 10PM. Do you have any info on that? We will definitely want to stay in the city late at least one night.
Also I heard street parking is free on Sunday in Paris. So Sunday may be our late night if we drive in because our train pass begins on Monday. Do you know if street parking is even feasible? Or would it just be a misery trying to find a spot?

Gretchen- I think the consensus is west! Sounds wonderful. I am interested in the Abbaye Road. Where does the road go? I can't seem to find any info on it.
mazz is offline  
Aug 12th, 2010, 10:03 AM
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There is no barrier or anything at Val d'Europe -- it is a completely open parking lot that you can go in or out 24 hours a day.

The parking lot at Noisy-le-Grand might have barriers at certain hours, but since there is also a big cineplex and lots of restaurants there, it would be open until at least 1 am.

Street parking in Paris is free from 7pm to 9am, all day Sunday (and most of the minor streets on Saturday), and on most of the streets for the entire month of August (full details are printed on the parking ticket machines in each street).
kerouac is online now  
Aug 12th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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kerouac- we are arriving at CDG on Saturday morning. Would it be realistic to drive into the city and find a parking spot. Also which area do you think would be the best place to explore our first day since we will buy our train pass and museum pass for later in the week? Maybe a river cruise to get a lay of the land??
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Aug 12th, 2010, 01:45 PM
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Loire is easy if you have car.

Stay in Amboise and just tool around from there. Amboise is a great small town with nice large castle (chateau) that has the burial place of Leonardo da Vinci and the town has the Clos Luce, the last residence of Leonardo.

Nearby are Chambord, Cheverny (if the offspring have read Tintin, it's Marlinspike Hall), Chenonceau and various other chateaux, the town Chinon and the Abbeye de Fontevreaud (I probably butchered that spelling) -- the burial place of Richard the Lionhearted and Eleanor of Acquitaine and various other attractions including cave dwellings, wineries, various museums, etc.

And your kids should consider a Fat Tire bike tour in Paris -- you could do it too (they say it's an easy ride) and its founder is an American from Texas.

As for Normandy -- Arromanches and Omaha are fine and the American cemetery is very interesting and moving.

As for the "FOLLY" of the landing, the most uncanny aspect of it is that the terrible casualty rate was relatively low -- check out Utah Beach and you'll be shocked that the Americans who attacked there had the lowest casualty rate of any of the five Normandy beach forces because the attackers came from the water to a beach underneath a fortified cliff! (Then again, this highlights the ability of the airborne units that attacked behind enemy lines, perhaps especially the Rangers who captured Pointe du Hoc). And vets often return to visit -- we met one who turned 18 after Normandy but served with the Third Army in Central Europe.
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Aug 13th, 2010, 01:56 AM
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Late September will have variable weather in the North.

I'd think of getting better weather and seeing something different -

1) not renting a car in Paris - use public transport

2) after seeing Paris, taking a tgv to Avignon (2.5hrs)

3)Rent a car from the station

4)explore Languedoc / Provence for 1 week


Peter
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Aug 13th, 2010, 10:01 AM
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BigRuss- thanks for your ideas. Any suggestions on where would be a good central place to stay for visiting all the WWII sights?

mpprh- I think we have decided on Normandy and Loire. We are from Southern California and really never travel based on weather. We have such great weather all the time. We will bring warm jackets and rain gear so we should be fine. Rain would actually be a novelty for us.
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