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Melissa5 Oct 25th, 2014 04:52 PM

Frustrated! 1st trip to PARIS & France in JULY: Need Cheery HELP!
Hello, fans of <b>Paris & France</b>. I'm getting frustrated and would appreciate supportive, inspiring advice. I haven't booked anything yet for our 1st trip to Paris & the French countryside. <b>JULY 2014</b> is now the date for our 2-week trip, for my husband and I.

<b>7 nights: Paris & Versailles
8 nights: 1 or 2 "bases" in the French countryside</b>

We were originally aiming for June in Paris & the French countryside (possibly <b>Provence</b>). But since the happy announcement of a grandchild, who is due in June, we've moved the date of our trip to JULY. Traveling with my husband, just the 2 of us. We will rent a car if needed, or take trains.

My <b>Rick Steves guidebook</b> for France is FRUSTRATING me, as it seems unusually Plodding. Not as helpful as his Italy guidebook was. I've also got a <b>Fodors guidebook</b> to France. But it's now October, and I want to start booking this trip!

<b>JULY WEATHER AND CROWDS???</b> Please suggest the spots in France where YOU feel the weather is good in July, and the crowds are not so overwhelming as to make you wish you were elsewhere?

<b>Wish List:</b>
--Scenic countryside (including natural features, NOT only farms)
--Charming small town or village
--Eating & drinking adventures...especially if we can eat well without dressing fancy!
--Cultural & historical adventures
--Friendly locals who might be patient with me practicing my beginner's French!

Please feel free to give me your Subjective advice. I always find it inspiring to hear what YOU love when you travel! It won't help if you tell me to do a lot more research. That's all I've been doing, and I'm not making progress. My Rick Steves guidebook is actually boring me.

<b>PARIS:</b> Will probably post a separate question on PARIS accommodations. I'm a light sleeper, and appreciate a quiet room, which in a noisy city is often overlooking a quiet garden. Ideally I'd like a central location, and if it's owner-run, that's often fun, if the owners chat with the guests. Sometimes a hotel is necessary in a city...although I don't like big impersonal hotels. Budget: Somewhere between moderate and splurge for Paris, but we don't need the most expensive hotel in Paris. I don't like renting a place, since I appreciate owners or staff who can answer our questions each day.

THANK YOU, Fodorites!

nytraveler Oct 25th, 2014 05:03 PM

As a first step I would get several more guidebooks and check them out.

I frankly despise Steeeves - since his choices are often peculiar - as well as the whole tone condescending. In terms of hard info I find the MIchelin green guide as the most useful since it has a LOT of detail and also tells you how long you can expect to spend seeing a sight fairly thoroughly. For something more pictorial have a look at the Eyewitness guides.

I have found locals prefer speaking English if they are comfortable in it - so end up speaking French only with people with little or no English. Some are patient and some are not - depending on the circumstances.

July will be crowded most places but I think the typical summer tourist spots would be more crowded - comparatively - than areas with activities at more or all times of year - and would have a look at Alsace (Strasbourg, Colmar and the wine road has a bunch of charming small towns) or Burgundy.

nytraveler Oct 25th, 2014 05:03 PM

Sorry - we prefer to go to the south in May or June - when it's less mobbed.

StuDudley Oct 25th, 2014 09:31 PM

In July, if you don't like crowds in Provence - stay away from St Remy and the Luberon. Spend time a tad north. We like Bedoin - which has a wonderful Monday morning farmer's market. Close to the Sault lavender fields too. Day trips into the Baronnies - where you won't encounter throngs of tourists - just lots of pretty lavender fields & beautiful countryside.

Toss out the Rick Steves book.

Have you thoroughly digested the Provence itinerary I wrote, and (I think) sent to you?

Stu Dudley

KTtravel Oct 25th, 2014 09:50 PM

Can you go in May? We loved Sarlat and the Dordogne area, also Provence.

eigasuki Oct 25th, 2014 10:16 PM

Relax. almost anywhere you go will be great.Paris will be crowded around the big-ticket items (Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tower etc) but elsewhere will be manageable. Many options for reasonable accommodation but in July you might want to opt for air-conditioning. My last trip I stayed at Hotel Voltaire right on Quai Voltaire and it was incredibly noisy in the daytime and evening but double glazing kept the noise right down. At night after the traffic eased, I had the window open and slept OK. Worth it for the view and the convenience.

You're spoiled for choice for your other location and it really comes down to what you like to see and do. I've done Provence, Dordogne and Alsace in July, loved them all and wasn't at all bothered by crowds. Normandy would also suit your requirements. MY vote for the things on your list would be Dordogne. Get a place with a pool.

I think "crowded" is over-rated as a dis-incentive. Any place where bus loads descend can get jammed but you can get there early or after they leave in the late afternoon. There are always heaps of places just off the main drag just as- or more- charming.

Feel free to browse my blog for my France trips in 2011, 2012 and 2014 for ideas. My 2005 trip was in winter but was my first time to Paris and my first big European adventure so lots of rookie mistakes.

You will have an amazing time.

Dukey1 Oct 26th, 2014 05:32 AM

July? In Paris? IMO air conditioning is not "an option" it is a necessity unless you absolutely cannot afford it.

DebitNM Oct 26th, 2014 05:44 AM

I would spend a week in south France in a gite. They usually book Saturday to Saturday, so plan accordingly. You will need a car. I highly recommend-

Their gites are fully equipped from A to Z. You can cook a full meal if you want or just make breakfast.

The village of St. Saturnin les Apts is small and a perfect location for day trips to all of the popular sites in the area, natural wonders and great markets.

bilboburgler Oct 26th, 2014 06:11 AM

I'd recommend the Rough Guide to France

July is starting to get busy and since I don't like the heat I'd look further north and towards to the coast as well

One of the mouth of the Loire and the whole area up to Le Mans, Ile de Re and the whole coast down to Bordeaux and environs (though do not stay in Bordeaux itself), St Malo area through to Pampol, the bay between Cherbourg and le Havre.

Gite and good old

flpab Oct 26th, 2014 07:00 AM

Can you do May instead. We love France in May.
You can download these to your kindle. I have always liked these books.
Alsace (Strasbourg) check that out also as NYtraveler mentioned.
I have it on Strasburg but they have locations everywhere.

annhig Oct 26th, 2014 08:14 AM

So long as you are travelling at the beginning/middle of July you should miss the worst of the crowds as they tend to start when the school holidays start at the end of the month.

I think that I would be inclined to cut my time in Paris a bit shorter [say, 5-6 nights] and then have a little longer for touring around, which there being only 2 of you, you could probably do without booking ahead, but if that's too adventurous, I would look at 1 out of the following pairs of places:

Normandy and Brittany

North and South Brittany

Loire, East and West

Western Loire and the Vendee

if you want to avoid crowds, forget about the south and the Dordogne.

The Val de loire tourist office has some great ideas with routes to follow and themed trips:

I suspect that the Vendee, Brittany and Normandy have the same.

if you're interested in history, you might like to see if you can work this place into your itinerary:

not only a brilliant french theme park but it has the most wonderful "son et lumiere" shows on weekend evenings in the summer, featuring over 1000 players and animals. A must if you decide to go to the South of Brittany, the western Loire or the Vendee.

Christina Oct 26th, 2014 10:51 AM

I find Rick Steves does some countries better than others, and France isn't one he does well.

I have been to France a lot in July in Paris are, Bordeaux, Provence, and Alsace, and IMO, any area is fine in terms of weather in France in July. I haven't been to Brittany, though. I don't know what weather you would consider impossible to stand, though. France isn't tropical and there isn't any particularly bad rainy season at that time, so what else is there. Of course it's summer, but it's no worse than where I live in the US. And I book hotels with AC in July and August in France, so doesn't bother me, as sleeping is the main time I need it to be cool. Provence heat isn't humid, anyway, so I don't mind at all being out in the daytime when it is hot, just dress accoredingly. That's my opinion, anyway.

And I feel the same way about crowds. There isn't any place I've been in France in July where I wish I were not there due to crowds. The only case where that might pertain would be one particular tourist attraction, not an entire city or country. And even in Provence where some oft-mentioned tourist places can be mobbed, there are plenty of other places you can go if you feel it's not to your taste, just drive on. In fact, even there, I can't think of any place that was that bad for me.

I'm sure the Riviera is a place with too many crowds in summer, but I don't go there and am not into beaches.

urbanchic Oct 26th, 2014 11:00 AM

just got back from Paris and stayed at Hotel Therese--very quiet and Room 55 looks out on a SMALL city garden.

Very helpful staff and it's right near the Opera and Louvre--good location

Leely2 Oct 26th, 2014 12:19 PM

Oops, I answered your other thread, got it confused with this one.

I was in Paris this July. I used to avoid July like the plague, but work responsibilities mean that it is now easiest for me to travel in the dog days of summer. I've discovered it's really not that bad. I agree with eigasuki and Christina on this one.

Anyway, my personal dream-of-visiting places in France include the Midi Pyrenees and the Auvergne (volcanoes! Hiking!). The next time I'm in France in the summer, I think I will definitely tour the Auvergne. I have been to Provence and the Dordogne--excellent choices as well. You really can't go wrong as long as you find someplace with AC.

StuDudley Oct 26th, 2014 12:50 PM

>>as long as you find someplace with AC.<<

We've stayed in Gites for 91 weeks during June, first 2-3 weeks in July, last week in Aug, and Sept. None of them had AC, and we're hot fans of high heat (we live in the northern San Francisco Peninsula).

Stu Dudley

DebitNM Oct 26th, 2014 12:53 PM

The gites I recommended have A/C.

Leely2 Oct 26th, 2014 12:57 PM

That's interesting, Stu. I live in San Francisco itself and want AC in Paris in July.

jamikins Oct 26th, 2014 01:04 PM

We loved the week we spent inAlsace the first week of June this year.

Great food, fabulous wine and lovely villages. But we love many areas of the countryside. You can't go wrong!

You can see our pics here

We also love Burgundy

And the Loire Valley


Happy planning!

Melissa5 Oct 26th, 2014 03:51 PM

nytravaler, thanks for the great tips and thoughts. I used to be a Rick Steves fan, but I'm tired of his style. I think I'll try the Michelein green guide which you recommend...I need a new planning tool.

StuDudley, those lavender fields sound so nice. You know, I never did send you my email to get your Provence itineraries! I took a break from the forums while I was reading/researching. I'll hunt up your info. I LOVE hearing details about other travelers preferences, because it fills in the gaps that the guidebooks leave. It brings things to life. I enjoy hearing opposing opinions too, because they flesh out the pros and cons for a clearer picture. I'll look at Bedoin as you have me curious. Love farmer's markets by the way!

KTtravel and flpab, cannot go in May. But thanks for your replies.

eigasuki, I can picture us at a place with a pool in the Dordogne! I'll dive into your report, thanks very much. Always fun to read rookie mistakes and your favorites.

Dukey1, will DEFINITELY look for a place with A/C in Paris! I live in San Diego, and our weather tends to be fairly mild year-round, compared to other regions of the globe.

bilboburgler: Thanks for the reply and your thoughts, and I've used Rough Guide for other countries, so I might pick up a Rough Guide for France, and maybe the Michelin green guide, as suggested by nytraveler.

annhig, thanks for the fun itinerary ideas. Sounds like I should avoid the end of July because of the school holidays. I'll aim for middle of July.

Christina, I appreciate your opinion on the comfort of July weather & crowds. Hearing other people's preferences really does help. On this forum, there are some who don't mind the July weather anywhere in France, and others who prefer to go north where it's cooler...hearing all this helps a lot. I live in San Diego, and it's seldom too humid here.

urbanchic: Will check out the garden view room at Hotel Therese. (-; Was it a great trip?

jamikins, ooh thanks, I'll look at your photos!

MERCI, fodorites! This helps SO MUCH more than my Rick Steves Guidebook! I'll be back with more questions after I check out your reports, your photos, etc. Will look at other guidebooks.

Melissa5 Oct 26th, 2014 03:58 PM


StuDudley Oct 26th, 2014 05:10 PM

Leely - I was referring to Gites in the countryside - not apts or hotel rooms in Paris. We avoid extended stays in Paris from June through mid Sept because of the crowds mainly, but also the temps. We've been there a few times when it was hot - and we didn't enjoy ourselves at all. The apt we usually rent for multiple weeks in Paris has AC, but we've never turned it on. When we were in Paris this very-early July (Hotel) - it was chilly.

When we lived in The City (SF) and now down here in San Mateo - none of our friends or neighbors even had AC. I remember when Macys didn't have AC - just fans blowing with windows open when it was hot.


Melissa5. E-mail me at [email protected] to get the itinerary. It will answer most of your questions about Provence and other tips on avoiding crowds and not arriving into cities when all the shops are closed for lunch or Sun/Mon closings.

Stu Dudley

annhig Oct 27th, 2014 03:05 AM

we rented a gite [not a Gite de France one] in central France one July when it was stinking hot - 28C at 10pm on one occasion. There were many things wrong with it, but although it didn't have A/C [it didn't even have a TV that worked] it was very cool at night.

I would want A/C in Paris in July [and elsewhere if I were staying in a hotel] but I don't think I'd be so bothered if i were renting a gite.

mariajohanna Oct 27th, 2014 04:11 AM

You are talking about July 2014, but we are already in October 2014. So do you mean July 2015 ?
And about the summer (school) holidays ; they start in the beginning of July ( 4th July 2015 ) and never at the end of July.
Have fun planning your trip.

Gretchen Oct 27th, 2014 04:38 AM

Yeah, it's time to get the timeline right for both threads--such as they are. It always was July--whassup. No wonder she's frustrated!! LOL

Jeff801 Oct 27th, 2014 04:46 AM

Wherever you choose to go after Paris, consider flying to your next destination if the TGV is scheduled for more than 3 hours. There are many low cost flights available, and they are frequently less costly than the train. (This was a surprise to us when we moved here.) For example, to get to the Dordogne from Paris requires a train to Bordeaux, in a little over three hours, and then a 90 minute drive. In the alternative, Twin Jet takes an hour and 15 minutes to fly to either Bergerac or Limoges, there is a good low cost car rental available at both of those airports (Buggs rent a car) and you will be in the center of the area which you wish to visit.

Incidentally, for transportation to and from the Paris Airports, we have been very happy with They are reliable, courteous, and, unless one is very lucky with traffic, no more than or less costly than a taxi.

DebitNM Oct 27th, 2014 04:56 AM

Just read your old thread.

Fly into Paris and then home from Marseilles. Or vice versa, into Marseilles and home from Paris.

Put all your Paris days together, you waste time if you return to Paris to fly home. Splitting days in Paris at the start and end really is inefficient use of time. Take the train between Paris and Avignon to get you to the 2 different areas.

isabel Oct 27th, 2014 06:17 AM

I would probably shorten the Paris time by 1-2 days and then you could do two other areas as well. For example the Dordogne and Provence <i>OR</i> Provence and Alsace. I have done numerous trips to Paris and other parts of France in July and really do not see crowds to be a deterrent. I did all three of those areas a couple of Julys ago (I had more time than you) and would do it again in a heartbeat. The benefit of Provence in July is that that is when the lavender is in bloom which in my mind offsets a little bit of crowds. But really, it was not a problem. The Dordogne was especially 'un-crowded'.

HappyTrvlr Oct 27th, 2014 03:01 PM

It is confusing to keep posting different threads, just continue adding on to this one.
Congratulations on your new grandchild. Since you have to change the dates for your trip, is there a reason why you chose July? It will be more crowded and hotter than early fall. We usually travel to Europe in May, June or September, October. You will find that most restaurants do not use a/c, leave their doors open.
Have fun planning your trip. I don't use Rick Steves' books for planning but rather for his excellent walking tours in cities and his detailed tours of museums, historic sites. Fodor's guides are much better for planning but I don't take them along on the trip. I take Michelin and Rick Steves along. I bought the App for the Michelin Red Guide(dining) so I don't have to lug that heavy book along with me anymore.
You can take the Air France flight directly to Paris from LAX, an easy way to travel.
Happy planning!

Ian Oct 27th, 2014 04:53 PM

If this is your 1st trip France, keep it simple. 15 nights. Your last night will probably have to be in Paris for a flight. Add another night cause Paris deserves it. Now you are down to 13. Take the 1st 3 & make them Paris at the front end. Yes, I would split because Paris is worth it . . . ;) Now you have 10. Do 4 – 5 in a chateau in the Loire. Do the remainder elsewhere. Dordogne. Provence. You choose.

And a side benefit. A lot of Paris shops have amazing sales near the end of July . . .


DebitNM Oct 27th, 2014 11:57 PM

I do not understand (unless air flights were a major issue) why a person would not take advantage of flying into one city and out of a second city to avoid backtracking?

Checking out of a Paris hotel, travel somewhere to the south of France(takes time and logistics of transfer, check out, check in etc)and then repeating the process simply wastes almost an entire day each way.

Returning to Paris to fly home will only get the traveler a bit of time in Paris on that return day and unless they stay another full day, they're off to the aiort next morning.

Not to mention you have added an additional trip - train most likely- and cost.

And again, if OP is interested in staying at a gite - they typically rent Saturday to Saturday, so factor that in BEFORE you make your final plans for transportation, hotels elsewhere etc.

kja Oct 28th, 2014 12:00 AM

In addition to the Michelin Green Guide, check out the Rough Guide.

Christina Oct 28th, 2014 09:45 AM

Personally, I think there are advantages to being in Provence in July. This heat people keep talking about has never bothered me one iota in Provence. Provence just feels like summer to me, you get the cicadas, the sunflowers and lavender in bloom, it's just lovely. And I like being able to pack very lightly with summer clothes, sandals, and that it stays light late. Wouldn't be the same experience in October. But it depends what you like, of course.

It's nothing remotely like San Francisco though (Stu saying they don't have AC in SF, not comparable at all).

StuDudley Oct 28th, 2014 10:03 AM

Christina. Re-read my posts. In no way did I say that summer weather in Provence is anything like what we have in San Francisco. Just the opposite - our summer fog/cool temps are famous. Provence weather is more like LA & San Diego - where the OP lives. I was just trying to point out that AC is not a necessity in the SF Peninsula nor in Gites in France that have meter thick exterior walls and shutters that close to keep the sun out. Others seemed to imply that AC is a must everywhere in July throughout France. None of 46 different gites we've rented had AC. Even our apt in Nice this summer was cooled by large ceiling fans.

Stu Dudley

Patty Oct 28th, 2014 10:26 AM

<i>I do not understand (unless air flights were a major issue) why a person would not take advantage of flying into one city and out of a second city to avoid backtracking?

From the OP's other thread -

<i>I should mention I HATE flying, and love trains. We rent cars only when necessary. I prefer nonstop flights, since airports and flights are nerve-wrecking for me. So...will probably fly LAX to and from Paris, nonstop. We could also fly out of San Diego, but it wouldn't be nonstop.</i>

I don't like splitting either. Other options would be to head directly from CDG to the other destination on arrival or take a train back to CDG on the day of flight departure. Both involve some element of risk which we've been happy to accept in lieu of splitting. There's a non-daily 7:10pm departure out of CDG on Air France to LAX. The OP could also purchase the train segment as part of her air itinerary if it makes her more comfortable.

DebitNM Oct 28th, 2014 10:51 AM

I missed that, Patty. But no matter what means of getting from city 1 to city 2 - the best is a one way route, flying into one city and out of the second city.

isabel Oct 28th, 2014 11:48 AM

If you want to do RT in and out of CDG you could do Paris at the front end and then the evening before your flight home take the train to arrive at CDG (not Paris center) and stay at an airport hotel. My daughter did Avignon to CDG the night before her flight and the train didn't leave Avignon till around 6pm so we had most of that day (i.e. no wasted day). I then did the same a few weeks later from Strasbourg. In both cases our flight was too early to safely get to the airport from the other city that morning so staying at the airport hotel gave us the 'almost' whole day for sightseeing but still got us where we needed to be.

DebitNM Oct 28th, 2014 11:51 AM

That works well too, isabel. We've done that too.

Melissa5 Nov 1st, 2014 05:36 PM

<b>JULY 2015....LOL yes, our trip is JULY 2015! (Not 2014)</b>

Flying: HATE flying, too nerve-wracking. So will only fly to and from France. Love trains...and don't mind renting a car when necessary...husband is a good driver.


<b>7 NIGHTS:</b> Paris & Versailles

<b>6 nights:</b> Provence or Dordogne or other scenic countryside destination in France.

<b>2 nights: Paris</b>

Fly home from Paris to LAX or San Diego

THANK YOU FOR BEING MY FODORITE CHEERLEADERS FOR FRANCE! =D> I'm a creature of habit when it comes to trip-planning, and I really got thrown off the horse when I realized that my Rick Steves guidebook, which I normally rely on for trips to Europe, just wasn't helping! I'm really relying on your positive ideas, tips, and enthusiasm to get me back on the horse. It's time to book my trip, and yet I'm still stumbling over the question of PARIS and WHERE ELSE in France for my itinerary! But you've all given me many excellent resources to help me make an informed itinerary decision as soon as possible.

I LOVE when other travelers give me a peek at their vision of France. For example...right now I'm happily dreaming about the blooming lavender and sunflowers in Provence in July! Thanks for that! >:D<

StuDudley Nov 1st, 2014 05:54 PM

Did you ever e-mail me for my Provence & Dordogne itineraries???

Stu Dudley

Melissa5 Nov 26th, 2014 02:14 PM

StuDudley, I didn't email you yet. We are considering limiting our July visit to only Paris and Versailles due to the fact that it's time to book, and we're still unable to choose between Brittany, Normandy, Provence or dordogne or Alsace for mid July 2015. I may email you today anyway. I've been looking at Paris hotels. Fodorites tell me to do more research, but that doesn't seem to narrow down my choices.

I think our most pressing need is to add a place in the countryside of France which will allow my feet to escape from the Paris city streets. Because I wear orthotics and have foot issues, city walking on hard pavement is hardest on my feet. Whereas. I can walk in the countryside for several hours, I have to rest frequently in the city and take taxis and buses or metro to save my feet from the pounding of city streets.

If we spend the entire trip in Paris, I will be spending part of my time sitting in a garden writing in my journal while my husband explores Paris on his own. He has more walking ability than I do. Or we can see some shows, when my feet are sore.

The Celtic culture in Brittany sounds appealing. I love the Swiss alps and wonder if the French alps are good in mid July. But as we are running out of time, I'm looking at Paris hotels, and my hubs is looking at airlines. We don't need a car for Paris but if we rent a car for the countryside we don't want to head into major traffic jams so maybe Provence is out for mid July.

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