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France Itinerary Suggestions for a Family

France Itinerary Suggestions for a Family

Jan 1st, 2017, 08:38 AM
  #1  
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France Itinerary Suggestions for a Family

Hi All,

I know this type of topic has been beaten to death over the years on here but I would still like to tap into the expertise and suggestions of the experienced travellers here on Fodor's forum.

We are planning a trip to France this July or August and we will have probably just over 3 weeks there. It will be my wife and I and our two young children, aged 9 and 6. We like classical cities, history and architecture but we also like the outdoors such as national parks and beaches etc.

We are from Australia so it may be many years before we get a chance to do a similar trip so we want to get a good cross section of the country. Based on experience from this forum we are thinking of picking just a few places to base ourselves for slightly longer periods and using them as a base to do day trips as required. We will hire a car as required to perform day trips and increase our mobility and we don't speak French. Our rough plan at the moment is;

Fly into Paris and spend 7 days there. This may include 1 day at Disneyland Paris (just to keep the kids happy!) and a day trip/overnighter to see the D-Day beaches and Mont Saint-Michel (which I know is a long way from Paris).

Take the TGV train to Nice, perhaps overnight so we don't lose a full day. Spend 5 days there and do day trips to Monte Carlo and perhaps St Tropez.

Drive or train to Aix en Provence. Again 5 days with day trips up into the Verdon Gorges and perhaps down to Cassis.

Drive/train to Lake Annecy and spend another 5 days up there exploring the Alps region and surrounding areas. Back to Paris for either one day or a night before flying out.

I'm after any general comments/suggestions about the feasibility and positives/negatives of the current plan?

Specific questions;
Is the trip out to Mont Saint-Michel (or Normandy beaches) biting off too much?

Where would be the best area to stay in Paris for the family to allow easy walking to as many attractions as possible?

I'm not sold on Aix en Provence. Would there be a better place to stay in the south of France that would be more desirable than Aix? Alternatively, should we reduce the time here (or Nice) and add a couple of days to fit in Normandy more comfortably. Although I would be concerned that we would feel like we are always transiting if we did that.

I look forward to the replies and advice.
Thanks in advance
Murph77 is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 09:20 AM
  #2  
 
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I think the trip to the D-Day beaches/Mont St-Michel might be taking too large a chunk out of your time near Paris: you really need two days, including quite a lot of driving time. Boring for the kids?

Aix would not be my first choice for a base in Provence, but it really depends on what you want to see in the area. If you can get a copy of the Michelin Green Guide to Provence, that would be a really good planning resource. The Guide includes recommended itineraries and a wealth of sightseeing information. Possible places to base: Uzès, for western Provence, which would put you near Avignon and the Pont du Gard; St-Remy, for easy access to the don't-miss Les Baux (not just the village: see the ruins of the citadel); or even one of the Lubéron villages.

I recommend skipping St-Tropez unless you just want some beach time. Getting there takes time, as there's just one road down to the town, and it's often quite crowded. Visiting the region around Nice will be much more rewarding, in my opinion: the mountain town of Tourettes-sur-Loup, Antibes, Vence, St-Paul-de-Vence, Villefranche-sur-Mer, and so on.
Underhill is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 09:23 AM
  #3  
mms
 
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Our kids were the same ages as yours when we first took them to France

IMO, definitely do Normandy and MSM. Staying in Bayeux is nice, and we enjoy the town. The Churchill Hotel there is one that we really like, and they do day trips over to MSM, so that might work for you.

We have never done Disney there, and even when our kids were young, they didn't even think about it once we were in Paris as we were too busy doing other things. Of course it just depends on how much your kids like Disney, but unless they are nuts about it, you might find that Paris itself is interesting enough.

In Paris itself, we prefer the 14th. That is where we stayed the first time, then on other trips stayed in various other arrondisments, but then came back to the 14th as we are sold on it. As long as you are near a metro station, you are fine.
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Jan 1st, 2017, 09:24 AM
  #4  
 
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I would never do a daytrip to le MSM with children that age or anyone, though I know plenty of people do it). It's a horribly long day (15+ hours). Take at least a couple of days and visit the D-Day beaches.

I think most new visitors to Paris enjoy staying in the 5ème or 6ème arrondissements, near the river.

Arles or Avignon, IMO, would be a better base for visiting Provence - easier access to Les Alpilles, St-Rémy, Les Baux, the Camargue...And why wouldn't you go from Paris to the Avignon area first, instead of Nice?

There are plenty of daytrips you can take from Nice, but Monte Carlo would not be one I'd choose. I probably wouldn't bother with St-Tropez, either. Check out Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, other less high-profile places.

I could be wrong, but I don't think there is an overnight TVG to Nice, and even if there is one, I wouldn't recommend it. It's only a 5-hour train ride, so the hours wouldn't be great for kids who need to sleep.

Do you have to go back to Paris at the end of the trip? Have you looked into open-jaw flights? Backtracking is always expensive and time-consuming.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 1st, 2017, 09:25 AM
  #5  
 
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Hi, just to start with the issues, you are holidaying in the busy period, but I guess you know that.
Of all the places worth going to at this time "Monte Carlo and perhaps St Tropez." do not fit into your objectives and will be packed, really, unless you like to learn how little you earn and how beastly crowds can be don't go there.

If it were me, I'd look to book a couple of gites ( eg look at https://en.gites-de-france.com/ ) and slam down in two places after paris. Book now because they are going fast.

Brittany is good somewhere like Dinan, Saumur, a village near Colmar (not Colmar itself), Epernay, Le Mans, Chartres or perhaps somewhere in the Tarn valley, even south of Toulouse in the foothills. Perferably with a pool or access to a river. Or as you suggest up in the Alps, Pontarlier is nicish and the towns around have fantastic alpine meadows to walk through.

If you go to the smaller places then English may be an issue, but most of the time it will not be, because the place is used to selling in English.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 09:29 AM
  #6  
mms
 
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Just to clarify, the day trip to MSM that I mentioned was from Bayeux, which is a super easy day trip.

Our kids were not bored at all in Normandy. The Peace Museum in Caen is excellent, and even captured both kids attention without scaring them.
mms is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 09:44 AM
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If you have not booked any flights yet, probably the best thing to do is to:

- Fly into Nice & spend 6 nights in Nice - visiting the coastal cities by bus or train (not St Tropez). On day 4 rent a car and explore the villages, canyons, and mountains in the Nice Hinterland (Alps) by car.

- Drive to St Tropez & spend 2-3 nights there (reserve NOW). For many reasons - it not a good day-trip from Nice in July or August.

- Aix is not really centrally located enough to visit the sites in Provence that most people want to visit. If you want to stay in a large city, stay in Avignon - but you'll be driving through some pretty bad urban sprawl going & coming from your day trips. If you want to stay in a smaller town - consider Sr Remy or Uzes (St Remy is more centrally located)- which have plenty of restaurants (pizza & higher end) & shops to keep you busy. Or of you like "countryside" consider the Luberon near Gordes, Bonnieux, Roussillon, etc.

- I would drive up to Lake Annecy - it's only about 3 1/2 hrs away. Explore the Alps, Mt Blanc, etc.

- Return the car and take the train back to Paris and spend your remaining time there.

I would not do a day-trip to the WWII stuff and MSM. Either:
- Do an overnight from Paris (tour, on your own)
- Take the train from Annecy to Rennes. It departs at 7:53 & arrives at 14:44 with a train change in Lyon (don't change trains in Paris). Rent a car & spend 3-4 nights in MSM, Dinan, and then the WWII stuff. Return the car in Rennes or Caen & train back to Paris.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 09:45 AM
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I think my kids were something like 8 and 11 when we visited the Mémorial for the first time in Caen. We spent 4 hours in there, plus lunch, and no one made a peep.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 1st, 2017, 12:21 PM
  #9  
mjs
 
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I am nowhere as experienced with France as some of the other posters here but have been around 30 times so I will try to add just a few thoughts. First the trip from Australia to Europe appears to be quite grueling. I once looked at flying SYD to PAR and there were no nonstops and the shortest one stop time was around 25 hours. If you do not live near a major airport in Australia like Sydney or Perth or Melbourne you will have to add that time to your journey. Flying on the Nice and open jaw is ordinarily a good idea as it probably only adds around a 2 hour layover and an hour flying to your trip but you will have to decide how much traveling your family can take. You travel as fast as the slowest of your party. Secondly you may wish to consider renting apartments/house outside of Paris or an apartment hotel in Paris. Generally this gives you more room and having a kitchen will cut down your eating costs and allow you perhaps to eat off the markets or street vendors. This also helps if your children are picky eaters. A washer and dryer in the building or in your residence is quite helpful. I know this sort of travel is common in North American and Australia/New Zealand but a little less common elsewhere. Third, I would skip St Tropez as you have better beaches in Australia and think you are better off exploring elsewhere around Nice than Monaco. Fourth I would recommend Normandy and MSM as a 2 night trip from Paris while renting a car somewhere like Bayeux. Fifth, I too think St Remy, perhaps with a small house with pool would be a good base for Provence.
mjs is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 02:49 PM
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If you can choose early July it will be an enormous difference.
France is packed from July 14th.
Then it is jam packed from August 1st to August 15th. Then it reverts to packed. This for everywhere except Paris
Paris is empty from 14th of July and deserted from August 1.
Ending your trip there will allow you to have much larger choice of hotels.
Disney is to be avoided during week ends.
WoinParis is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 08:29 PM
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If I may suggest two apartment choices we have experience with:

In Paris, www.parisvacationapartments.com offers several two bedroom apartments. We stayed in one of their three bedroom places several years ago, and three friends have rented recently from them; we're renting one of the two bedroom apartments in May. The places on the gardens of the Palais Royal are an excellent location, especially with a family.

In Nice we and some friends had a great experience with Nice Pebbles. We rented the Esprit apartment - again, a great location, very close to the tram as well as the bus to St Paul de Vence. It is up a few floors but there is a small elevator. Here is the link to that specific two bedroom apartment, in case you're interested: https://www.nicepebbles.com/nice-fra...t/rentals/278/

Prices of both places are reasonable for a family; most of the Paris apartments have a washer and dryer too, which is a great help.

Have a wonderful time!
Iwan2go is offline  
Jan 1st, 2017, 11:08 PM
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If you're travelling in the Summer, you will need air-conditioning.

Residential apartments which are rented short-term do not have a/c, or at best might have one portable unit in one bedroom.
It takes approximately 3 hours to do one small load of laundry using apartment-sized appliances, and you aren't permitted to use them or an air-conditioner during certain hours.

The vast majority of short-term rentals in Paris are illegal. There is a probability that if you stay less than 1 week, the owner/manager will cancel your reservation at the last minute if he finds someone who wants to stay longer.

Some legal apart'hotels do have air-conditioning, but not many offer it. You can check Adagio and Citadines - many locations in Paris, all convenient to transportation and everything else you'll need.

Hotels always have air-conditioning and mini-fridges.
There are neighborhood "laveries" everywhere, inexpensive and very efficient, which sell soap, etc.

You might check the 11th and 12th arrondissements, closer to Bastille and the Gare de Lyon, for good apart'hotel or hotel options.
fuzzbucket is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 04:03 AM
  #13  
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Thanks so much for all the advice everyone, I am humbled by the number of responses in less than a day!

I get the message to avoid St Tropez, but I still think we will day trip to Monte Carlo just to 'tick the box'.

Also, the more I think about it the more I think we would be disappointed if we didn't do a couple of days involving MSM and Normandy. .

Provence is probably the area we know least about. What are the benefits of staying in a place like St Remy over say, Aix? What are the main things to do in the area for a family like mine? Should I reduce some time from here or Paris to fit in Normandy?

Thanks again.
Murph77 is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 04:23 AM
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If you really want to do MSM and Normandy, stay several nights in Bayeux or Caen, then go to MSM and D-day beaches from there, as above posters suggested. You can split it like Paris 5 days - Bayeux 2 days.
FuryFluffy is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 04:28 AM
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Sounds like you need to get your hands on the Michelin Green Guide and maybe some other guidebooks to Provence, which is a huge area and has an infinite number of things a family like yours would enjoy.

If it were my trip, and it's not, I'd take time off the Côte d'Azur to add a few days to Normandy, but I'm not a big fan of the Riviera, and many people are. I never, ever run out of things to do in Paris.

I would not rent an apartment in Paris. As noted, the vast majority of them are illegal, and if you don't speak any French you will benefit from having a front desk at an apart-hotel or hotel to guide you through things that, in an apartment, can be mystifying.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 05:28 AM
  #16  
 
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Monte Carlo tick the box.... up to you but it does distort the holiday. What is the attraction, the fast cars (there are better places), the yachts (well there are some), the casinos (oh come on)? I just don't see it.
bilboburgler is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 07:10 AM
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I don't see it, either. I've passed through it twice just because it was on the way to somewhere else I was going and thought it was a huge waste of time both times.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 07:41 AM
  #18  
 
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Hello.
You have 3 weeks and each region is worth at least 2 weeks.
You have 4 regions :
Normandy
Alps
Riviera
Provence.
You spend one week in Paris - good choice.
I would limit mysel to 2 regions. Normandy (4-5 days)
+ ?

Don't forget that Europe has an incredible density. Human historical cultural. Lots to see everywhere.
WoinParis is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 07:42 AM
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I'm not a fan of Monte Carlo either (visited it twice - including the casino). I advise people to take the bus to Menton - which passes through Monte Carlo. If MC seems interesting - get off the bus then or after visiting Menton.

Murph - do you have my 33 page itinerary for the Cote d'Azur & Provence. We've spent 40 weeks vacationing in these regions. The itinerary describes our favorite cities, villages, beaches, farmer's markets, restaurants, and scenic drives. I also have one for Annecy and Normandy & Brittany. I've sent my various itineraries to over 6,000 people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail. Identify yourself in the e-mail or specify which itineraries you would like. I get 3-5 requests every day and some people just as for the "itinerary" - and I don't know which one they want of the 8 or so that I have.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2017, 09:14 AM
  #20  
mjs
 
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The more I think about this the more I cut out the Alps, do it on another trip possibly combined with Italy or Switzerland or Germany and concentrate on the Cote, Provence, Normandy and Paris. Three weeks is not a lot of time even just for the above areas.
mjs is offline  

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