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Help with Europe trip in May - Maybe France?

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Jan 1st, 2012, 01:53 PM
  #1
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Help with Europe trip in May - Maybe France?

Hi all, I am trying to plan a family trip from May 6th-15th since DD graduates from college on May 4th & DS will be coming in from Chicage for the graduation. I plan on using AA FF miles, so far the destinations I see available are Paris & London. Definitely do not want to do UK sthough we can use that as the base airport to get to other places in Europe. We like scenic areas & also lively places, not too much into museums & history though we do admire architecture (the Pantheon & the Trevi fountain were a couple of the highlights of our Rome trip). The kids are inclined towards Spain whereas DH & myself are more inclined towards France- Paris and one more place, not sure what everyone would enjoy - maybe Nice?
The weather is also a bit of a concern, especially for the South coast of France, I'm sure we would enjoy it more if it were warmer but the dates are not too flexible. Would love to get suggestions about which country to choose & then which cities within that.so we all can get something we like. 3 nights & 4 days in Paris would be enough for us so that leaves another 5 full days. Not sure how easy it is to get to Barcelona if we want to combine them, Does that sound crazy?
Just in the initial stages of planning but have to buy the mileage tickets ASAP before they sell out so just need to come up with a tentative plan of destinations right now. I have always relied on Fodors to help me shape my travels & am hoping for the same this time! Thanks in advance.
PS . DD and DS are 21 and 25 respectively, want to make the most of this family time while we still have it!
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Jan 1st, 2012, 02:18 PM
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Sorry you don't want to come to UK
Loads of nice cities (Nice comes nowhere on my favorites) though you might like Avignon, Carcassone, Barcelona (my favorite) to get you south (and warmer) and see a range of cities.

Once you have read up about these three I suggest you drop at least one to make best use of your time. Internal flights within Europe are very easy or use SNCF to take the train. around.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 03:04 PM
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Sometime it is nice to combines city visit with exploring the countryside. You could combine Paris with the Dordogne region or Paris and Provence. For both the Dordogne and Provence you would need a car to really get anywhere. I love Barcelona and have also fallen in love with Madrid. Barcelona is a great town for food, architecture and you get the beach! Check out Vueling airlines for good fares for Paris-Barcelona.

When you check your ff miles on AA look for multi destination so you can fly into one city and out of another. Usually it is the same amount of miles needed.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 04:16 PM
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Sorry bilboburglar, didn't mean to offend, we were in London this summer & though we never really went into the countryside which I want to do someday, just wanted to go somewhere different this time. Thanks for the suggestions, Barcelone is on top of the list right now, except for the little problem mentioned below. did look into briefly into the other two, can you tell me what makes them appealing to you?
macdogmom, thanks for the advice, I did check with AA & can get a flight into Barcelona except that we will have a 9 hour layover in London, so will be wasting a day. The flight to Nice is very convenient, only 2.3 hours after we land at Heathrow, but we would prefer Barcelona i think. Not sure which other cities AA/British Airways fly into from London.
Any thoughts on Marseille?
Would prefer not to rent a car, DH loses his patience easily!!
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Jan 1st, 2012, 04:26 PM
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I flew BA into Seville once from London, that could be a good idea for you as you want warm weather. In fact, you probably wouldn't want to go there much after that in the summer, too hot. That would be a great trip, Seville and Paris.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 04:44 PM
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If your dates from the 6th to the 15th are inclusive of your arrival and departure dates make sure that you consider that your first day is partially lost to jet lag and getting from the airport to your hotel and checking in. Your last day is mostly lost to checking out and getting to the airport a few hours ahead of time for check-in. Also keep in mind that when you travel from one place to another you lose anywhere from a half day to full day of vacation time. Even if your dates include arrival and departure days you still have 8 full days.

All that said how about a few days/nights in Paris and then rent a car and spend a few days exploring another region in France? The weather should be fine anywhere in France in May, obviously warmer in the south. You could take a TGV from Paris to Avignon (about 3 hours by train), pick up a rental car outside the train station and spend a few days exploring Provence before taking the TGV back to Paris to catch your flight home. Of course you don't say what city you will be flying out of (I assumed Paris) so that makes it a bit more difficult to make suggestions.

Your question is very broad and near impossible to answer so in addition to the good advice you'll get here I would suggest you ask all involved in your trip to make a list of what they want to do and discuss it amongst yourselves. Once you've got the list narrowed down it's time for everyone to get guidebooks and do some research. When you've got a good handle on what you want to do you can come back and post more questions here. The more you know about what your itinerary will be the easier it will be for everyone here to give you answers and the answers you get will be much better when you have focused and specific questions. Best of luck with the planning and on your trip no matter what you decide.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 05:47 PM
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The time you actually have is quite limited - esp if you fly through London - which will take another day off a limited trip. If your only direct flights are London or Paris - then do Paris - which has plenty to do for your whole trip (esp since your "kids" will probably enjoy the nightlife there) with either a day trip or a 2 night jaunt into the countryside. If they like architecture consider renting a car and spending a couple of days looking at the chateaux there.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 05:59 PM
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Thanks nytraveler, we seem to like to make our travels hectic! We leave Sunday evening & get into Paris Monday by 1pm. There are no nonstop flights to Paris on the way in, have a nonstop on the return. That's why I figured we could fly into a different city instead of Paris since we will have a connection regardless where we go.
In any case, which areas of the countryside do you suggest? I think it would be for at least 2 nights, I have heard there are lovely castles that have been converted into hotels, any idea where those would be? We are on a somewhat limited budget per room since we will need 2 rooms but maybe we can splurge for one night.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 07:40 PM
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FrenchMystiqueTours, sorry, I seem to have missed the last part of your paragraph. In my family I am the one who does all the research, (which I thoroughly enjoy) the kids just give me some vague ideas of where they would like to go - egpain & expect me to plan a vacation they will enjoy, as does DH. That way they can all blame me if something does not go right!
Somehow I am not quite getting a feel of what we would like to see in France, besides Paris that is. I have been researching online but maybe a Guidebook is what I need. I have always valued first hand advice from Fodorites & can usually figure out an itinerary that works from different suggestions i get. So keep them coming, I am doing all the research I can as well.
You are right, if I discount the day we leave, that leaves 8 full days. Don't usually lose much time to jetlag but if we take that flight to Barcelona, then we lose that day in travel which I would rather not.
And I will have more questions once my itinerary is established, lots more!!! Thanks.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 07:40 PM
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And HAPPY NEW YEAR everybody!
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 12:45 AM
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If you're considering the French countryside, and like castles, then the Loire Valley would be a good idea. While it's doable with public transportation (based on what I've read here on Fodor's), visiting the Loire Valley would be easier with a rental car. Is your DH impatient only when he's driving, or impatient with rental cars generally? With 4 adults, seems like the 3 others of you could share driving, if that's what's problematic for him.

In terms of your kids and DH liking you to do the planning - I totally understand! That's what my family prefers, too, though my kids are 13 and 16yo, so not able to travel independently yet. I am enabling their behavior, though, as I really do like to research and plan trips. (And luckily, we enjoy pretty similar things.) It's so fulfilling when I find something special or out-of-the-way, and we all love it!

Have your kids said why they're interested in Spain? Nightlife? If so, I'm not sure that the Loire Valley would be their first choice. Here's another idea, if they'd prefer to spend their time in the cities. Stay in Paris for the whole time, and you and DH could do day trips into more rural areas, kids could stay in the city, and you all meet for dinner. Or you could all do more rural day trips, and then the "kids" could head off to do what they prefer after your group dinner.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 03:02 AM
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Hi EC congrats on your trip welcome to Fodors.My wife and I
just locked in our AAdvantage flights into PAR we will be going in late April 20000 miles per leg. If you have enough
points you can stay in Paris on them otherwise hotelscombined.com good prices on some nice 4 stars in the
Les Halles area from 100 euros we will be in the Novotel there. From there we are flying easyjet.com CDG to VCE(Venice)
39 euro each way spending time there venice-tourism.com is awesome you could train on down to Rome and fly back easyjet.com or ryanair.com to PAR.If you prefer you could fly Barcelona similarly we just prefer Italy little prettier.Do
be aware there are commercial agents touts trolls here that advise with for profit motives so cut out the middlemen and DIY to save. I always do.

eurocheapo.com ricksteves.com good sites for you and have fun!
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 03:12 AM
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I have not quite followed the flow of this thread but if Barcelona is still in the picture (and I think it is a great city for young adults) you can take a night train there from Paris - which I think might be fun for your kids. And there are some hotels there with quad rooms - I can find the names if you need them. If you stay 3 nights or more you could get an apartment. But the combination of the Gaudi sights and the beach scene make for a fun city. I like Nice and that coast too - lots of easy day trips but I think Barcelona would have more appeal for young adults.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 04:17 AM
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Some good suggestions above. I think you're going to have to figure out what it is the kids and husband like best. If the kids want to be out partying every night then Paris/"insert your city" might work well. If they would like a mix of city life and scenic countryside then I would suggest either: 1)Paris and then spending a few days exploring another region in France with a car 2) Spend all your time in Paris and make day trips by train to places within an hour or so from Paris.

Since you mentioned the idea of staying in châteaux then option 1 seems more suited to your interests. For châteaux accommodations try these websites:

http://www.relaischateaux.com/
http://www.symbolesdefrance.com/
http://www.chateauxdemeures.fr/
http://www.chateauxhotels.com/
http://www.au-chateau.com/
http://www.bienvenueauchateau.com/
http://www.tablethotels.com/

There are châteaux in every region of France that offer accommodation. The Loire has loads of them but you mentioned you are interested in scenic areas and the Loire isn't really the most scenic region in France. The Dordogne, Provence and Burgundy have more natural scenic beauty than the Loire IMO. If you do stay in a château understand that they are usually not in central places so there will be no night life to walk to in the evenings for the young ones. I think the three regions I just mentioned (Burgundy, Dordogne, Provence) fit the criteria of what you are looking for in terms of scenery. In Burgundy you could stay in Beaune which is a lovely town that has enough restos, cafés for night time activity. In Dordogne you could stay in Sarlat, a lovely medieval village. You don't go to Dordogne for cities and nightlife, however. In Provence you could choose a lively city like Avignon, Arles, Nimes or Aix-en-Provence or you could choose from among a number of scenic smaller villages or mid-sized towns.

Since the rest of the family refuses to help and is leaving everything in your hands I say do what you want to do and tell them tough luck if they don't like it. But I'm sure they will enjoy any of the options mentioned above.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 05:10 AM
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Fly into Paris. There's no reason to add London to the mix just to leave it for other destinations. You're using miles, after all.
As FrenchMystique points out, you have a nice length of time, but not a LOT.
Paris, hands down. IF you really want to do some other part of France, you could fly into CDG and train to Provence for 3 days. Rent a car. Train back to Paris and spend the rest of your visit there.
If you wanted to do Normandy, rent a car at CDG and head to Bayeux and enjoy the Norman countryside for 3 days.
You could spend all your time in Paris and do day trips to Versailles or Reims or Giverny.
I am often interested in people who say they aren't interested in history or museums. I always wonder what happened to turn them off to those activities. We took our 3 teenagers to Europe for 3 weeks after a graduation and found that once 'introduced" to the concept of European cathedrals, museums, etc., they were leading the way to the next site.
You might consider hiring Michael Osman for a day to introduce all of you to the sites/sights of Paris, and perhaps even pique some interest. He is a treasure of a guide, a wonderful teacher (via anecdotes, not "spouting" facts), and very very personable. You would truly maximize your time and trip investment.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 05:19 AM
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I will add we took these same kids and their spouses/fiancee to Paris for a week. We had Michael for two days--one for "sites" and one for the Louvre and Orsay. SO, one couple had Versailles on their list of "to do" (we told everyone to go as they wanted, if not with the group). Came to be the final two days and they found "there just wasn't time to do it"--there was just too much more to do, see, enjoy.
As for museums, the Louvre is of course, a chateau, at its heart. I am not a great fan of all of its art, but to see at least some is a treat. The Orsay is just such a gorgeous space all on its own as a former train station, and its treasure of Impressionist art is unrivalled.
Day trips to the Loire are certainly possible also.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 05:31 AM
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I love the idea of Paris/Nice. We were in Nice and Cap Ferrat a couple of years ago in May and it was exciting bliss. So much fun to people watch. The weather was perfect.

We did a day trip to Cannes and 2 half day trips to Monte Carlo and also went to Eze. We stayed in a great place in Nice, overlooking the beach, I will pull it up and post back. We also stayed in a pretty good place in Cap Ferrat but I found it a little limited when it came to getting around.

No matter what you plan it will be great.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 06:50 AM
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Given the ages of the group and the variety of Barcelona that would be my recommendation.

Avignon is a small walled city with a Popes palace, some great restaurants etc but you are in the countryside with a few steps from the city walls. The train also goes easily to Nimes and Arles in case you want to see the odd roman bit and some fine art. Because all 3 cities are small and very provincial you get the benefit of the real france without the burden of large mildly international dull cities.

Carcassone has its walls and a very pretty canal and is worth a day or 2 at best but can be reached from Barcelona or Avignon.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 09:32 AM
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Thanks all for the great suggestions. Barcelona would have been my first choice too but since there is no flight until the evening from London, I do not want to lose the day. The train journey is about 12 hours & we would still have to fly back, that does not seem a practical option. The kids do not have any specific reason for going to Spain except that they have heard it is amazing from everyone their age who has been there so I would say the nightlife probably has something to do with it!

So back to France. 2 options here: Take the connecting flight from London to Nice, spend 2-3 nights here with a day trip to a surrounding town or stay in Paris, & maybe do a 1-2 night trip to a scenic area, stay in a castle etc.
Bougainvillea, I am so glad to hear that the weather was nice in May, just don't want to be bundling up there, do enough of that in Boston! Can you tell me what you enjoyed in Nice. Also, I would love to know where you stayed.
Trying to get a feel if the kids would enjoy the south of France. Would Marseille or Port Grimaud be a better place to stay?
For Option 1, can someone suggest a very French castle that they might have stayed at that was relatively convenient to get to from Paris? We could do the car rental, just that DH gets stressed easily even if someone else is driving! I can try & plan for other things so the trip goes smoothly but cannot control how things go on the road! (Though I could not prevent the cab driver in Italy dropping us off at the wrong apt, cellphones not working to call the cab co back & finally arriving at the apt to find it not cleaned!) Oh well, let me not think about that or else I may change my mind about this trip!
FrenchMystiqueTours, I will look into the towns you mentioned & the websites. Do you happen to know of any specific castle hotels in these towns?
Lexma90, I do agree that we enable their behavior. Sometimes when I get exasperated & tell the kids to do their own research, they just laugh & tell me that they know I would have done it anyway so they don't need to. In fact, I have friends asking me to plan their vacations so I guess not everyone enjoys it as much as we do. Sure does take a lot of time. And I really appreciate everyone else here putting in the time to offer their suggestions.
I am curious as to why none of the towns in the Alps region have come up or maybe they have & I have not realized it. I would think the scenery here would be the most dramatic. Are these more difficult to access or maybe May is not a good time to visit?
Thanks again, have until the 4th to buy my tickets! Return is nonstop from Paris, just have to decide where we want to fly into.
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Jan 2nd, 2012, 09:50 AM
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As mentioned above, TGV train can get you to South of France fast. You mentinned the Alps. I landed at CDG and took train to Lyons. It is a good city that can be enjoyed in 2-3 days..UNESCO listed Old Town, roman ruins, highly rated gastronomic scene. From there I took a local train to Chambery that skirted Alps.

While not a castle, but a stagecoach stopping house from 1700's, Au Bon Laboureur is a really nice place to stay near one of the top castles in the Loire, Chenonceau.

The loire's appeal is its @loseness
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