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France Overview?

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Jul 19th, 2011, 04:38 AM
  #1
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France Overview?

Please excuse my ignorance at this stage as I know very little. I'm now living in the UK and so will have some opportunities to travel to France that I might not have taken otherwise. Most of the questions here seem to be quite region specific. Perhaps it's a bit lazy of me, but can someone give me a quick overview the various regions (Normandy, Brittany, Dordogne, Loire Valley, Burgandy, etc.)? It's a big country. Where should we focus next (been to Paris)?

What is each region known for? What is most suitable area for a family of 4 (kids 12 & 9)? We like good food, seeing important historical sites, and walking/hiking. Very minimal French language skills. We are wine novices but would like to explore. With kids though, that won't be the focus. Rental car is assumed necessary (and that's okay). What time of year should be avoided?

What's a reasonable 4-day trip? 7-day?

Since I clearly need a guide book, any recommendations there?

Thanks.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 04:54 AM
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I'll take a shot at some of the regions - especially since we visited them when our two kids were of similar ages:

Normandy - northwest, close to UK, WWII sights that were of great interest to us all - from my husband who is a WWII buff to my son who enjoyed being outside, climbing in and out of old fortifications (or trenches? not sure the right terminology). The D-Day museum at Caen was WONDERFUL and we all enjoyed the Bayeaux tapestry too. Great family friendly food. This would be a great short break trip.

Brittany - mid/south west - we used this as our break from history though I know there are lots of historic parts. Great rock formations, ocean, outdoor activities

Loire Valley - close to Paris - home of many Chateaus - beautiful palaces, not really "castles" in the UK sense. We toured many as a family.

Dordogne - one of our favorites. We stayed here for a week. Lots of European families. Great outdoor things - caves, canoeing in the river, hiking combined with castle ruins (what we like best), prehistoric drawings and food markets. I'd do this for a full week at least and though summer is more crowded, it would also be nice to take advantage of the nicer weather in order to do the outdoor activities.

And you didn't mention the Alsace Lorainne - LOVED this area. So pretty and different from the rest with the Alsacian influence. Cute little towns - though we did this with my daughter when she was studying there so maybe not as kid friendly?

And so much of France we haven't seen - but going to Burgundy in a month and SO excited!
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Jul 19th, 2011, 05:03 AM
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Everyone has their preferences, but you can get a general overview of the regions from just about ANY reputable guidebook, including the one on this site:
http://www.fodors.com/guidebooks/9781400004737/

I don't know of a region in France that DOESN'T provide good food, historical sites, and opportunities for walking or hiking.

In addition to looking at a guidebook, I would suggest browsing some trip reports on this forum (just search for different region names) and see what appeals to you the most. Then you can come back with more specific questions.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 05:04 AM
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virtualtourist.com great insider info tips form locals

great cheap beginners trip

easyjet.com to Paris

hotel-collegedefrance.com

train cheaper better less hassle than car

www.bueane.com Arles lecalendal.com

nice beginner mix for you..
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Jul 19th, 2011, 05:05 AM
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You can get a quick overview of many of France's regions right on this board.

http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/

Then go to a large book store and browse the guide book section and choose a couple that you like. There's no one guide book that meets every need.

With kids and wanting historical sights the first thing that comes to mind is Normandy with the D Day beaches.

Any time of year is good except the dead of winter or July and August when everyone is taking their holidays but you have to work around the school holidays so you may not have much choice.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 05:24 AM
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Why a rental car?

If you live within 100 miles of London, roughly 40% of the surface area of France, including all the areas you've mentioned (apart from the Dordogne, unless you drive aggressively) are within a relatively effortless day's drive. From a slightly wider area, the Dordogne is within a "leave in the afternoon, drive to Portsmouth, get a cabin overnight then pootle down" drive.

Most of us wouldn't dream of putting up with the hassle involved in packing, security and all the rest, unless visiting Paris/Lille or places south of Lyons.

There's usually a whole pile of conniptions from the untravelled on this forum when this is mentioned about "wrong-handed cars". They don't know what they're talking about.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 07:57 AM
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<>

There's also always a whole pile of useless Brits toppled over on the sides of their silly campervans on the roundabouts of the Dordogne because they're so clueless about how to drive "on the wrong side of the road" and apparently can't follow road signage.

To answer the original question, any good guidebook will give an overview of the regions. I'd offer one, but I do have a day job.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 08:23 AM
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ira
 
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>Since I clearly need a guide book, any recommendations there?<

I believe that Fodors publishes guidebooks.

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Jul 19th, 2011, 09:06 AM
  #9
 
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The Cadogan guide to France will be readily available in the UK.
That and Fodors (online and in print) and a week of reading should
give you a good overview so you can plan your trips based on your
every desire and need.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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For sights/sites, the Michelin Green Guide is very good, although not as good as the older editions. A used bookstore might be in order; browse and compare.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 11:33 AM
  #11
 
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If you google you can find beautiful videos of every part of France.

Here's one on what to expect on the road;



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MjoK...eature=related











Here one on what to expect on the road.


.














Here's one about what to expect on the road
cigalechanta is online now  
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Jul 19th, 2011, 02:28 PM
  #12
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Thanks for the specifics, AtlTravr. That will help with the research.

FlannerUK -- appreciate the suggestion, but coming from the US and now driving in the UK I don't think I want to confuse myself further with a right-hand, right-side driving experience. Just north of 100 miles of London too -- perhaps that's my excuse.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 11:31 PM
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I personally didn't like the Cadogan series...just not set up the way my brain works.

My favorites are DK guides, then Michelin Green Guide. I am very impressed by an older Fodors guide I picked up on Germany and will have to "re-visit" them next time I need a new guidebook.

You might want to check into Ryanair-the no frills airline.
http://www.ryanair.com/en/cheap-flig...auvais-france/

Especially for a family, Ryanair makes it affordable to take trips, though for their best deals you need to make reservations well in advance. Using Ryanair for France without needing to rent a car: Bergerac, Carcassonne (impressive walled town/castle for kids), Montpellier, Boredeaux, and of course Paris. A good starter trip imo would be to La Rochelle...not too big, wonderful activities for kids and adults alike, citizens are used to a lot of English-speaking visitors, great food. (but don't go in the dead of winter (Dec-Feb) if you want to enjoy it at its fullest.) Brest is one of the closest flights, but would require the rental of a car to see/do anything of interest.

Glad you are planning on taking advantage of your new location, a great "springboard" to wonderful places! Don't stop at France, we love Pisa for a relaxing warmer-climate get away in the off months.
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Jul 19th, 2011, 11:32 PM
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OOPs - that should read Bordeaux!
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Jul 19th, 2011, 11:39 PM
  #15
 
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flanneruk wrote: There's usually a whole pile of conniptions from the untravelled on this forum when this is mentioned about "wrong-handed cars". They don't know what they're talking about.

StCirq wrote: There's also always a whole pile of useless Brits toppled over on the sides of their silly campervans on the roundabouts of the Dordogne because they're so clueless about how to drive "on the wrong side of the road" and apparently can't follow road signage.

I blame Napoleon!
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