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France with Northumberland 3 weeks June/July 2022

France with Northumberland 3 weeks June/July 2022

Old Oct 15th, 2021, 10:08 AM
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France with Northumberland 3 weeks June/July 2022

Hello Fodorites, You have always been a wealth of information and I'm hoping to take advantage of your knowledge once again. We have been invited to spend a few days on the Northumberland coast next year at the beginning of July. We're in the very early stages of planning an itinerary with no flights booked but are thinking of flying to Paris, visiting the Dordogne (which has long been on my bucket list), Versailles (my husband and not been there and would like to see it if it can be worked into our itinerary) Mont Saint Michel, Normandy beaches and Canadian WW1 and WW2 historical sights continuing on to Bruges, Amsterdam and then overnight ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle. Before retiring my husband's business travel took him to Europe frequently and he enjoyed using the overnight ferries when travelling from the UK to Europe. Our location in Northumberland is fairly close to Edinburgh so we would fly home from there. We'd like to visit Oradour Sur Glane (perhaps this would be a stop on our way to or from Sarlat)? I'm having a hard time coming up with a working plan and determining the number of days to spend in each location. Perhaps we're trying to cover too much ground and need to omit some areas of interest. I'm thinking we would train from Paris to somewhere convenient to pick up a rental car and we'd return it in Amsterdam.
Looking forward to hearing your suggestions. Many thanks.
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Old Oct 15th, 2021, 04:34 PM
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topping
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Old Oct 15th, 2021, 05:47 PM
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Hi Kiddo, sounds like it will be a nice trip. Here's something to think about - if you stick pins in a map, the Dordogne is an outlier. Most of your other destinations are north or west of Paris, so you could go a couple of ways. The first couple of days in Paris, to recover, orient yourselves and then visit Versailles from there.

1. You could fly to the Dordogne. Disclaimer: I've never done it. But I understand you can fly to Brussels from Bergerac Airport, and see Oradour-sur-Glane while you are nearby. So perhaps you could fly from there to Brussels, and then train to Bruges and Ypres (Ieper) for WWI war history. From Zeebrugge (near Bruges) there are ferries to the UK (Hull), or you could continue on to Amsterdam.

2. You could miss the Dordogne and head for Rennes, and get a rental car there, and drive up the coast, catching all the WWII sites (beaches) and then driving to Lille, where you drop off the car. From Lille there are WWI tours that take you right into Belgium and northern France, including Ieper, ending in Lille. From there you can catch a train to Bruges (Brugge) and see that city. You could continue on to Amsterdam.

I have no idea about timings. I think both itineraries would be costly in terms of time, but I think you would need to settle on something and even then pare back on some of the journey.

What do you think?

Lavandula
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Old Oct 15th, 2021, 07:35 PM
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Sorry, let me disambiguate. The edit function has closed on that post now, hence I am re-posting:

"You could fly to the Dordogne. Disclaimer: I've never done it. But I understand you can fly to Brussels from Bergerac Airport, so you could initially fly from Paris to Bergerac, and see Oradour-sur-Glane while you are nearby in the Dordogne, and afterwards you could then fly from Bergerac to Brussels, and then train to Bruges and Ypres (Ieper) for WWI war history. From Zeebrugge (near Bruges) there are ferries to the UK (Hull), or you could continue on to Amsterdam."

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Old Oct 15th, 2021, 10:55 PM
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Back again, because the passenger ferry no longer runs from Zeebrugge to Hull - alternative ports to the UK are Calais and Rotterdam.

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Old Oct 16th, 2021, 01:04 AM
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I think that there is too much in the itinerary, but if the Dordogne is a must, taking the train from Paris (how many days besides the Versailles visit?) to Brive-la-Gaillarde would be as efficient as flying to get to Sarlat. How many days in Sarlat? One would be to see Lascaux IV near Montignac, and see Saint Amand-de Coly and Saint Geniès:



Another to see the highlights along the Dordogne itself, such as Domme and La Roque-Gageac



And then drive up to the Mont Saint Michel, stopping in Oradour-sur-Glane on the way, then visit the Normandy beaches, and eventually drop off the car in Lille to continue to Belgium and the Netherlands.


I've done this trip in reverse starting in Ghent, picked up a car in Calais and spent two weeks getting to the Dordogne and spent another three weeks in the Dordogne.

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Old Oct 16th, 2021, 02:47 AM
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Hiring a car in Paris and returning it in Amsterdam is likely to be expensive – if it’s allowed.

As a foot passenger, there’s no advantage in taking the overnight ferry to Newcastle. There are flights from Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam to Newcastle.
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Old Oct 16th, 2021, 02:46 PM
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Thank you so much Lavandula, Michael and Sofarsogood. I agree Dordogne is definitely the outlier - I'm thinking that if I need to drop some destinations to streamline things, I would drop Versailles. I have been there, but my husband has not. Taking the train from Paris to Bergerac may work - pick up the rental car there and see Oradour Sur Glane while in Sarlat or possibly if we drive from Sarlat to Mont Saint Michel. Dropping the car in Lille seems like a good option and continuing by train. We wouldn't want a car in Amsterdam anyway. As far as the ferry goes, there is one from Amsterdam to Newcastle operated by DFDS Seaways. My husband likes the idea of the overnight ferries - it combines travel and accommodation and doesn't waste daytime hours lol.
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Old Oct 16th, 2021, 03:32 PM
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Just a quick comment that I loved Newcastle and Northumberland! Newcastle itself was a wonder of Victorian industrialism and the surrounding area has many stately homes and gardens to visit.
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Old Oct 17th, 2021, 12:37 AM
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Oradour-sur-Glane represents quite a detour if going from Bergerac to Sarlat, and represents a long day as a day trip from Sarlat. The most direct route is to take D704 from Sarlat to Limoges, arriving in Limoges from the south-east and drive along the river to get to the west of Limoges. The most direct route geographically speaking takes about 2.5 hours, but using the autoroute A20 cuts down the time to a little over 2 hours, according to Michelin.

Last edited by Michael; Oct 17th, 2021 at 12:45 AM.
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Old Oct 17th, 2021, 06:58 AM
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Thanks very much Michael. That's good to know! I'm also concerned about an overnight stay on Mont Saint Michel. If we have a rental car, is the overnight parking lot safe?
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Old Oct 17th, 2021, 09:31 AM
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Let me recommend you think about doing a (major variation on a) trip we did some years ago, but in reverse. In our trip, we visited friends in Edinburgh, then took a train south to Plymouth in Devon then an overnight ferry to Roscoff in Brittany. We got a car there and toured Brittany (including a very unsatisfactory day visit to Mont Saint-Michel) before dropping the car and taking the train across France to Strasbourg.

In your case, what if you flew into Amsterdam, took the train to Bruges and then into France? There's service from Brussels (where you'd have to change trains in pretty much every scenario) to Lyon, which would help you avoid having to change stations in Paris (annoying and slows one down.) You'd then drive west to the Dordogne. I've just shown Sarlat on the map below, but you could wander around as you desire.

Anyway, then you'd head north to picturesque Dinan in northern Brittany, from which a day trip to Mont Saint-Michel and/or the Normandy beaches is doable. (Note when we went to Mont Saint-Michel from Dinan in August a few years ago, the mob scene at the Mont - thousands and thousands of cars and buses, the queue of marching tourists at least a mile long - kept us from visiting the mont itself; instead we picnicked on a nearby field and enjoyed things enormously.)

After a couple of days in Dinan or nearby, you'd drive to Roscoff, drop the car, and take the very nice ferry across to Plymouth in the south of England (these ferries are currently running) - Cross Channel Ferries to France & Spain - Brittany Ferries (brittany-ferries.co.uk) At Plymouth you could get another car and drive up to Northumberland, or take the (direct) train to Edinburgh, get a car there and drive back down to your Northumberland digs. Here's a map showing this possible route - https://goo.gl/maps/ag9RMzBncq9DL9RK8 . Note I've included Pont-Aven in Brittany, just because we loved it so much. Google Dinan and Pont-Aven.

By picking up and dropping off the cars within the same countries you'd likely avoid any high drop charges (which might not be that terrible anyway.)

Just a thought for you to consider.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Oct 17th, 2021 at 09:34 AM.
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Old Oct 17th, 2021, 02:15 PM
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We have parked for the day at Mont-Saint-Michel. The cars are left in a car park with a visitor's centre, just a series of open car lots, not a parking station. It did not feel unsafe, it is countryside and there are lots of people there. I don't think you would have problems leaving your car there overnight but at the same time I would not leave luggage or valuables in the car unattended, that would be courting a break-in. The car park is some way off - you have to catch a free shuttle bus to the island. Make sure you are comfortable toting your luggage in this way before you leave home!

I just thought of another possibility - accommodation on the mainland close to the island. I think they have parking next to the hotel, so you wouldn't have to leave your car in the parking lot.

Lavandula
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Old Oct 17th, 2021, 04:55 PM
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It appears that this parking area no longer exists:

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Old Oct 17th, 2021, 10:29 PM
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Ha, ha, no, that's not there any more, it's a modern landscaped area with a modern visitor's information centre (toilets but no food).

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Old Oct 25th, 2021, 04:26 PM
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thanks Michel for the lovely photos and to everyone who replied. We'll have to do some more thinking and research and come up with a plan.
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Old Nov 6th, 2021, 11:48 AM
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Thanks everyone for all your suggestions. It's very much appreciated.
After considering what was important to my husband and me, I've come up with the following itinerary:
1 arrive in Paris after overnight flight from Toronto; immediately train to Bordeaux, Bergerac or Brive-la-Gaillarde for overnight and pick up rental car on day 2. What are the pros/cons of these 3?
2 pick up rental car and drive to Sarlat
3 stay in Sarlat (5 or 6 nights)
4 drive to Oradour sur Glane, then carry on to Fontevraud for overnight stay
5 drive to MSM and overnight here
6 drive to Bayeux - stay 2 nights?
7 drive to Lille stopping at the Vimy Memorial and returning rental car in Lille before training to Bruges. Possibly stay overnight in Lille otherwise a very long day.
8 train to Bruges and stay 1 night
9 train to Amsterdam and stay 2 nights - my preference would be 3 nights but husband who has been before on business thinks 2 nights would be enough
10 overnight ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle via DFDS ferries which appear to be operating at least it lets me select 2022 dates
11 train from Newcastle to base in Northumberland 3 or 4 nights
12 train to Edinburgh - stay overnight (we've both been to Edinburgh before) return flight to Toronto
While this itinerary has several one-night stops which isn't ideal it was what I could come up with allowing to be away about 3 weeks which is about my limit! Could possibly add a day or 2 to some destinations if necessary.
Would love to hear suggestions.
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Old Nov 6th, 2021, 04:23 PM
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Hi Kiddo, nice that you came back. I find there are too many one-night stands. I am focussing from 7 on and I agree that a night in Lille might be unavoidable, but why not make the best of it - Lille is a nice city - and stay a bit longer. I would be inclined to cut Bruges from the schedule, much as it is a tourist drawcard. I would either give that day to Lille or to Amsterdam. You will want more time in Lille to drop off the car also, as it stands it is really only a service journey (i.e. you are there doing business and not seeing the city).. If you really must break up the journey between Lille and Amsterdam you will be travelling via Brussels (that is the rail hub, not Bruges), so just put your bags in a locker and see the Grand' Place, grab lunch and continue on. But give Bruges its dues. You won't have enough time to do it justice. I feel a bit like that about Brussels too, but the position of the train stations make it possible to do a grab and run there. Come back and do Belgium on a separate trip, you won't regret it.

I might just add (or someone else will say it) that if you travel to Bruges it is possible to avoid Brussels altogether by travelling to Ghent and then onto Antwerp, but that will eat into your time too.

Lavandula

Last edited by lavandula; Nov 6th, 2021 at 04:53 PM. Reason: Adding last paragraph
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Old Nov 7th, 2021, 01:12 PM
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Thanks very much Lavandula. I really appreciate your input!
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