France: Something Different from Paris

Jan 4th, 2012, 10:29 AM
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France: Something Different from Paris

My wife and I will be spending twelve days in France in February (Already subtracted out 2 days for flying in and out of CDG). We plan to spend a week in Paris but are thinking about something different for the other 5 days. I think something less "city-like" would be good but I don't know if that means Brittany, The Loire, Nice, Provence, etc. I've tried searching the forum but most posts I've read have focused on how to pack as much into two weeks as possible and that's not exactly what I'm looking for.

We only want to go to one different place if we leave Paris since we aren't the type to go see sights back-to-back-to-back. We tend to find one attraction a day to visit and then just wander from there to our desired food destinations or go shopping. We really do prefer to just enjoy the feel of living in a different place which is why I'm curious as to whether 5 days (taking into account travel) is manageable for seeing another part of France. One thing we've discussed in the past is how fun it would be to visit a small village in France with our family one day and just get familiar with the markets and eat at little mom and pop places. Any suggestions are greatly appreciated!
miltronix is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:33 AM
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February is a challenge, but it sort of evens the playing field. Although some people will always say "Go to Provence for warmer weather" it just isn't true -- sometimes in February it is snowing in the south of France and relatively mild in the north.

Will you be driving? That makes a big difference in the possibilities.
kerouac is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:39 AM
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One other location would be a nice trip within the time you have. I would avoid "small villages" as they have little to offer tourists (think of small towns near where you live). You can visit markets and mom and pop restaurants in Paris so you don't have to leave the city to experience a "small town" feel.

You can also take day trips to small towns near Paris and not pack up and move to a new location.

Decide on your interests and how much you can tolerate cold, damp weather as you'll be outside a lot in small towns, walking around. Nice is another large city, which you said you wanted to avoid, but there are small towns nearby you can visit.

Mont-St-Michel and the D Day beaches offer lots of historic sightseeing. You can take a train out of Paris and then pick up a rental car. Drop the car in Rouen on the way back to Paris and spend some time visiting there.

For my money, in February, I would head south, rent a car, and explore the small towns north of Nice.
adrienne is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:45 AM
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I doubt a small village in rural France in February would live up to your expectations. Many are virtually closed up in the heart of winter. I think you might be better off visiting a medium-size city with decent transportation you could use to get out to the countryside for a day or two. La Rochelle comes to mind, as do Troyes and Aix-en-Provence and a host of others.

I agree we need to know whether you plan to travel by train or car.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:52 AM
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Another option would be Strasbourg or maybe the Alps region if you are into wintry weather?

Depends on train or car...maybe Dijon and Beaune in Burgundy? The vineyards wont be in 'bloom' but there are lots of interesting places to visit but best in a car.
jamikins is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:57 AM
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You could do a tour of Normandy for a few days. Even do it at the beginning of your trip by renting a car at CDG and heading toward Bayeux. The coast might be tres chilly, but it certainly has its charms.
Rouen would be worth a stop also. There is a string of abbeys out from Rouen, and the city itself has a nice museum and of course, the cathedral.
YOu could do the Loire valley--train to Tours and rent a car for a few days.
Gretchen is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 11:01 AM
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I went to Lyon one november for -5 days, no car. I found it to be about right amount of time. Took one day trip by train along Alps to Chambery.

Lyon has some good museums, many good restos, nice roman ruins, scenic vistas, UNESCO listed Old Town..

it is a big city, but I avoided most of the newer stuff
Michel_Paris is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 11:06 AM
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Thanks so much for all the great ideas. I would prefer to avoid renting a car if possible.
miltronix is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 12:16 PM
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Hi miltronix,

How nice to have a poster who isn't trying to cram a quart into a pint pot.

i would pick somewhere where is plenty to see if the weather is bad, but scope for outings if it's good.

eg Rouen, Tours, Poitiers, Lyon, Strasbourg, all fulfil those criteria, and are easily accessible from Paris.

have a great time!
annhig is online now  
Jan 4th, 2012, 12:28 PM
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Small towns and villages and not renting a car don't seem to work very well together. Many small towns won't have public transportation options (especially in February) to get you into the towns, so a bigger town would likely be better. Bayeux would likely be of the right size, or the south as described by others above.
apersuader65 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 01:23 PM
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I too am happy to hear you are wanting to take the slow road... a much better idea.

I spent time in Strasbourg last summer and really enjoyed the "feel" of the place, a good size, lots to see and do and oh so pretty. From there you can drive to many of the smaller wine towns and of course it is not far from Switzerland for a trip to ooh and ahh at the mountains. You could take the train from Paris and then rent a car for the day trips from Strasbourg.

I also like Beaune, Dijon and Lyon and all the lovely villages in between.

So many choices.... I would think Brittany would be a bit bleak at that time of year, don't second that idea.

We spent three months driving through Europe in winter years ago and can certainly vouch for the fact that so many places are closed and deserted. Pick medium size towns and then enjoy the drives through the countryside and the villags.

That is my 2 cents worth anyway!!
schnauzer is online now  
Jan 4th, 2012, 01:27 PM
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But schnauzer, the OP says he prefers not to drive.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 01:41 PM
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I really don't see 5 days in Strasbourg alone, much as one of my very best friends is from there and guided me all over Strasbourg.

It may be good as a jumping off point to visit the wine country, but then you will need a car...

Without a car, you might want to see where you can go on the TGV trains. For example, Paris to Geneva is only 3 hours - have you thought about visiting Switzerland instead? Or Paris to Avignon is even less than 3 hours...or...

Here's a TGV map to help in your planning:

Good luck with your planning!
easytraveler is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 02:23 PM
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Nice Carnival is from February 17 to March 4th in 2012 so if your trip falls during that period it could be alot of fun. Nice is a great area to explore in 5 days and you don't need a car. You can take day trips to Monaco, Eze, St Paul De Vence if you wish by either the bus or train. The bus only costs 1 euro is very easy. You can take a quick 1 1/2 hour flight or the train to Nice from Paris.
kelbo is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 03:00 PM
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The TGV map has been updated and now reflects the new Rhin-Rhone line. Click on the individual networks listed on the right side for more detail on the routes.

Of course, all this choice may not help you decide where to go!
ardithl is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 03:04 PM
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oops, didn't see the "avoid" in renting a car!!!

Then the tgv "tour" it will have to be.....

schnauzer is online now  
Jan 4th, 2012, 06:24 PM
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Yup...I vote for La Rochelle!
StCirq is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 09:29 PM
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If you went to a lovely town like Metz (about which I have made two reports) which is just 1h30 from Paris by TGV, this would allow you to explore both Luxembourg City and Nancy which are on the same Metrolor TER commuter train line. They are each only about a half hour away in different directions.

The Metz Pompidou Center has become one of the premier regional museums in France in less than two years of opening.
kerouac is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 10:30 PM
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I think you should consider Nice, the city itself is walkable with a good bus system. Even better, bus and rail link the towns along the coast (Monte Carlo, Antibes, Cannes, Marseilles, Vallauris, etc.) and it's very easy and cheap to get up to the hill towns such as St Paul de Vence and Grasse by bus.

Kerouac is right, don't choose this destination because the weather will be much warmer than the north but it might be, it's a crap shoot in Feb. The markets will be open and there are good restaurants in all price ranges. The excellent small museums (Matisse, Chagall) are perfect for your one project a day philosophy, I'm a one or two sight a day person myself, love to sit with a coffee or a glass of wine and watch the world go by.

You really can't go wrong with most of the suggestions but in Feb and not wishing to rent a car, I would choose a base like Nice with opportunities for day trips.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jan 4th, 2012, 11:54 PM
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Yeah with no car I would opt for Nice or Lyon-especially if you are foodies. Toulouse might also be a good choice-young student vibe and they have a good transport system.
jpie is offline  

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