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Help with lodgings to access most of France

Help with lodgings to access most of France

Jan 20th, 2011, 08:54 AM
  #1  
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Help with lodgings to access most of France

I will be traveling for the first time to Europe for 2 weeks in July of this year. We (myself, adult daughter and boyfriend) will land in Paris, and be in France for a week before we meet back there with the rest of our party to head to London for the other week. I am a total travel newbie and panicking of course. We will spend most of the week in France but might like to get to northern Italy or Switzerland of possible, suggestions on that? Mainly we think it makes sense to have a home base for the week, not in Paris but maybe more in the center of France, where we could rent a house/apartment for a week and roam out from there. It would have to be accessible to trains as we do not plan on renting a car at this point, although we all like to bike. Can anyone make any suggestions on the best area to start looking to rent, and a reliable source of rental properties? And any other ideas at all for our trip would be awesome too!
Thanks!
Cindy
cbaird is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 09:10 AM
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Welcome to Fodors cbaird. There is a basic problem w/ your idea of a base in central France to see Paris, parts of France -- and possibly Switzerland and Italy. Unfortunately that really won't work.

A week is not a very long time and even by train you can't really do day trips across a whole country. And definitely not to Switzerland or Italy. Which part(s) of France most interest you? You could do either 4 or so days in Paris and 2 or 3 days in another region -- or spend the full week in Paris. From Paris you can do day trips to places like Chartres or Giverney.
janisj is online now  
Jan 20th, 2011, 09:17 AM
  #3  
 
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It's hard to know where to start, I've never rented a house like that so can't really help on best sources. But I have been all over France a lot and suspect you don't realize how big France is. YOu can see on a map what a large country it is, compared to some others in Europe or elsewhere. In any case, my point is you cannot really stay in the center of France and do day trips to Italy and Switzerland. The center of France is actually not well-served with transportation options, and is mountainous (I'm thinking of the Auvergne area, although that is a little south of center, which might be Bourges). Anyway, I think Burgundy could be a good choice for you, somewhere near Dijon, for example. You could do day trips by train to lots of places from there and it's a nice area in itself (probably including Switzerland, although I'm not sure it is on a direct train line from Lausanne--Strasbourg probably is).

There are tons of other places you could base but not with the idea of going to Switzerland easily.

If you really don't plan to rent a car, then you must stay in a city if you want to do any kind of traveling, of course. Dijon itself would be good for that. You dont' get houses to rent that easily in cities, however, but if there are only three of you, an apt would work. There are plcaes in the gites French program (vacation rentals for a week at a time) that would work for you all, but most are not in cities.

YOu could stay in Nice a week and do day trips to Italy.
Christina is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 09:22 AM
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Hi Cindy,

I completely second janisj's opinion. France is way too large of a country for your plan. Also the most convenient train routes to other countries depart from Paris. It is unfortunately even true for many routes between two provincial French towns or cities. While Paris is geographically not the center of France, it is the most central location when considering train or air travel.

Véronique
FrenchMystiqueTours2 is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 09:30 AM
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OK, I know you DIDN'T KNOW that France is, geographically, the biggest country in Western Europe. It has a GREAT train system IF IF IF the place you want to go has a station; if not, then France suddenly has a lousy train system.

I love using public transport in France but my suggestion would be

narrow down your base to an area in the center of things/places you want to see and I have to say that "place" whether you like it or not might just BE Paris. Why?

Because there's a lot to see and do IN Paris which has great public transport services

There are numerous sights and towns within a couple hours' train ride of Paris that are easy to get to and from in a day.

If you insist on staying elsewhere, fine, but either make sure it is some sort of rail hub or consider renting a car which will give you greater flexibility and help you maximize your short stay. And yes, a lot of them DO drive much more courteously than they do in other countries.
Dukey1 is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 09:49 AM
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Ditto everyone else.

We've spent several years worth of time vacationing in France. We'll be in some new areas this coming June/July what we've never visited before - even after years elsewhere (34 weeks in Provence/Cote d'Azur for example) - so you can't possibly access all of France from one location.

My recommendation:
- Stay in Paris if you don't want to rent a car
- If you can rent a car, visit Provence and/or Cote d'Azur, or the Dordogne.

One thing I learned on our first trip to Europe in '77 is that you can't pack as much stuff into one day as you can in the US, because:
- Shops are closed on Sundays in all cities (there are a few exceptions for heavily tourist-oriented cities like St Tropez & St Paul de Vence). Shops are also usually closed on Monday morning. When shops are closed, most cities are a little forlorn & not as interesting to us (except Paris) because shop owners often pull aluminum shutters or bars over their pretty storefronts.
- most shops & many sites close for a 2+ hour lunch.
- Most museums close 1 day a week.

Stu Dudley
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Jan 20th, 2011, 09:52 AM
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Hi there newbie!! Welcome!! You are going to LOVE France!! THe other posters are right. Your plan to see other countries given your time frame is a litte hectic, and the fact you are not renting a car. Trains are great, but even so, you will spend a great deal of time trying to get the schedules sorted out. If you go to www.vbro.com you can see great rentals in the Paris area. You won't be disappointed with Paris, as it is a great walking city and the subways and bus services are amazing. I think 2-3 days in Paris would be great. The thing is, it's hard to advise others sometimes, as everyone has different travel styles and budgets.

I agree, Burgandy would be a great choice. The town of Beaune would be a great spot as it is a walled town that has great shopping, wine tours and you can certainly bike around there no worries!!
Good luck and let us know how you make out!!
ctoner is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 09:56 AM
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With one week, you should stay in Paris and maybe do a daytrip to Versailles or Giverny or Fontainebleau or Chantilly and Senlis or Auvers-sur-Oise,or any number of other places. A week is barely adequate to get to know Paris, let alone other parts of France - and the idea of zooming off to Italy or Switzerland is utterly infeasible.
Suggest you look at a map of France to get an idea of how big it is and where things are located and distances between them. I think you're probably panicking because you haven't done your research and have no idea what's possible and what's not. You've got plenty of time between now and July to familiarize yourself with it all.

I would rent an apartment in Paris, BTW.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 10:05 AM
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And also realize - a week does not equal 7 days. Well it does, but not in real travel time. 7 days minus day one to recover from jetlag/get semi acclimated - you might see something of interest on your arrival day, but it won't be much nor for long. Then the day you leave Paris for the UK will be pretty much eaten up w/ packing, checking out, travel, checking in. So 7 days really nets you about 5.5 days free to see/do much.
janisj is online now  
Jan 20th, 2011, 11:00 AM
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Don't over-think this.

Stay in Paris.

You like biking? Take a Fat Tire bike tour of the city - that's where the company started.

You can do day-trips to Versailles and Normandy if you so choose.

You cannot stay somewhere in the geographic center of France and hope to pop out to Nice for the beach one day and Northern Italy the next and Switzerland the day after that, etc. France is not the size of Rhode Island, its land area (in Europe) is over 210K square miles -- almost midway between the land areas of California and Texas.
BigRuss is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 11:07 AM
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I would get an apartment in Paris for 7-10. You can go by train down for a taste of Switzerland with a 5 hr. ride to Lausanne (on Lac Leman) and spend a few days there around Geneva, Vevey, Montreux, Lausanne.

As others have already clarified, the idea of a cottage in the middle of the country and day tripping out to Paris, Italy, and Switzerland is not a feasible one.
suze is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 11:48 AM
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Ok, wow, thank you all so much for the eye opening replies. You are right, I am panicking. I just got the OK today from my work to be able to take the time off and now there is so much to do! Having never traveled outside the US before, I have no concept of how far everything is there. The reason I didn't want to rent a car is just being very nervous about driving in a country where the road rules are strange to me, but maybe we will need to wind up doing that. I would be perfectly fine with staying in France for the whole time, so I guess what I need to do is think of the things we really want to do/see and how we can geographically work that out. It does sound like Paris would be a better hub to do that out of. I really, really would like to see the Southern/Nice area of France. Would the best way to do that be to stay in Paris and take a high speed train there maybe for a few nights?

Sorry to sound like such a newbie, I envy all you seasoned travelers!
cbaird is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 12:03 PM
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Don't apologise for being a newbie, we all started somewhere.

I think your plan to stay in Paris for a few nights and then head to the South of France is a much better idea. Yes you can take a train to the South of France, I haven't actually done that, but others posters will be able to tell you exactly how to do that. Start doing some research and read some trip reports here on Fodor's - they have a little yellow book beside them which is how you know that they are trip reports, rather than questions. If you scroll own the list of posts to the left of where we are typing you will see a trip report called "The T/R, 3.5 months of adventures of a lifetime of memories". Start with this one and make sure you have a map of France handy so you can get an idea of the areas that are covered.

Don't panic, just relax and start reading, I hope you have a great time. Also, don't be afraid to post different questions here as your planning takes shape.
cathies is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 12:43 PM
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You can take the 3 hr TGV from either Paris or the CDG airport to Aix en Provence or Avignon and start there, or take it all the way to Nice ( 5 3/4 hrs). You can easily get by without a car in Nice. But to visit Provence in July with all the lavender blooming - you will need a car to access my favorite areas in Provence. I have a 27 page itinerary for the Cote d'Azur (Riviera) & Provence that I've e-mailed to over 2,000 people on Fodors. It describes my favorite villages, scenic drives, markets, and has a section on Provence fabric. E-Mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach it to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Jan 20th, 2011, 12:45 PM
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Yes, you can take the TVG (high-speed train) from Paris to the south (Avignon, Nice, Marseilles), but since it's your first time in Europe you'll probably just barely be getting used to Paris when, bam, it's time to head south. But yes, it's possible. You'll lose one of your 7 days, though, in effect, as it will take you half a day to get there and half a day to get back. Six days for sightseeing is fairly meager. Myself, I'd stay put.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 12:51 PM
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Don't rent a car! Seriously. You can do what you want to do by train (bus, taxi, etc.). I'm no expert on the south of France and will count on others to help you iron that parta out. BUT I can say for a 1st timer who is nervous anyways, avoiding car rental will really make things less stressful.
suze is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 12:52 PM
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To reduce transit days, either:
- Land at CDG and immediatlyy take the TGV from CDG to southeast France. After visiting Provence/Cote take the TGV back to Paris, then fly home from CDG.
- Visit Paris first, then TGV to Provence/Cote d'Azur, and fly home from Nice or Marseille.
- Land in Nice or Marseille, visit, TGV to Paris, fly home from CDG.

Stu Dudley
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Jan 20th, 2011, 12:55 PM
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Stu, OP is going to London for a week after France.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 01:54 PM
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It is hard to believe that you want to spend a week in "France", return to Paris (having seen the airport) and go to London.
Paris for a week isn't really even a "hub" to do other things out of =="maybe" a day trip, but just relax and enjoy seeing the beauty of this city. You haven't travelled before (and as has been said, ALL of us have been there) and will be a bit slower getting around, picking up the ways to do things, etc.
Stay in Paris, plan your days, and maybe take a side trip for a day to Versailles or Giverney.
I would urge you to do some ground work on what to do and come back. I don't mean to be "ugly" but your first post was SO far off the mark, you NEED to do some work.
I would NOT get an apartment. You will enjoy having a hotel desk to make reservations for you, advise you on "stuff", etc. There are too many variables in renting an apartment. I know it sounds idyllic to "live like a Parisian" but you have just come to the idea of visiting Paris!! You will LOVE it.
Gretchen is offline  
Jan 20th, 2011, 02:15 PM
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I'd stick with Paris and possible day trips. You're getting kid-in-candy-shop disease. Eat the #1 candy bar, resist the urge to sample or you'll get sick (metaphorically).

And when you get to your London questions, start a new thread -- you'll get plenty of advice there too.
BigRuss is offline  

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