How best to spend 12 nights in France

Sep 25th, 2010, 01:09 PM
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How best to spend 12 nights in France

We have never been to France (ok, I was there briefly as a kid, but not since). We have 12 nights total . We are of a middle age and therefore want to avoid a madcap pace- both passionate about history, but also just want to experience french countryside, beauty, culture - we are zeroing in on Brittany, Normandy, Paris, the Louire Valley. How would you divide the time and are there towns that make for the best base of operations for side trips in those areas?
lauramsgarden is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 01:23 PM
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Well, I can easily spend a month or more just in Paris. But we did love the Loire , Brittany and Normandy also the WWI battlefields. If it's chateaux , then I'd head for Loire . WIne country, then pick a place between Beaune and Dijon. You can tour vineyards, even stay in a few, and enjoy both towns easily even without a car.Lyon is good for at least 4 days.

Even staying in Paris , with all it has to offer, you could do day trips to Versailles, Normandy, Provins, Giverney, various chateaux.

In Normandy , we did have a car, driving in France is easy. You can get to the coast and battlefields. the beautiful towns, Mont St Michel and if at the right time of year many festivals.

Brittany is also an easy trip with lovely towns and prehistoric sites.
avalon is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 01:35 PM
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I would stay in Paris for a full week and choose one other destination.
StCirq is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 01:45 PM
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I wouldn't miss Versailles, which can be done as a day trip while staying in Paris.

I don't know Normandy, but if you intend to rent a car and drive southerly to the Loire Valley, the town of Amboise is a lovely base where you can also visit DaVinci's home which is facinating. We very much enjoyed stopping in Chartres for the cathedral and visited the chateaux that start with the letter 'C' - Chambord, Chenonceau, Chaumont. Also liked the town of Blois and visiting Fontainebleau on our last day and night in France before returning the rental car directly to CDG airport.
LeslieC is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 04:52 PM
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Hi Leslie, I'm curious, were you able to stay at Fontainbebleau and go directly to the airport form there, or does one need to stay at an airport hotel to make a morning flight (11 am)? thanks -
lauramsgarden is offline  
Sep 25th, 2010, 07:31 PM
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I would spend at least 5 nights in Paris. Next, I would base myself in Bayeux for 2-3 nights to see the tapestry and do the Normandy battlefields. I also recommend the Caen Peace Museum. Then, you could wrap up with some time in the Loire - Amboise is a good choice.
Magster2005 is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 01:33 AM
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Hi L.

One week in Paris before you go to France.

When are you going?

ira is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 02:30 AM
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I can only tell you what my wife and I did on my France expedition a couple of years ago. I'd been to Paris several times previously, so only spent three nights there. I took the RER train from central Paris back to CDG and rented a car. Got a good deal on We drove to Rouen and spent 1 night, probably should have spent two. Then drove to Bayeux and spent three nights. Bayeux is a great little town and I loved the WWII museum, the cathedral and the tapestry. We toured the Normandy beaches and went to the museum in Caan. We then drove to Mt. St. Michael and did the town. Incredibly beautiful, but four hours is plenty IMHO. We then drove to Blois to tour the Lorie Chateaus. Think we spent two night and hit 3 chateaus, Blois, Chambord and Chenonceaux. From Blois drove to Carcassone to spend one night. Ended up spending 3 nights in Arles. Lots to see and do within a very small area. Drove back to CDG to return the car, spend a night and flew home the next day. Have a good time on your trip.
agedude is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 03:35 AM
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We have done a number of trips to France with that time line, choosing an area to travel to, and then returning to Paris for the end of the trip.
For Normandy, we rented a car at CDG and left from there. Toured Normandy and returned via Chartres to Orly. We had a lovely 6 days.
I have NO problem skipping Versailles but if you wanted to see it, do it on the end of your Normandy trip. I would prefer Chartres.
Orly is an easy car return and a reasonable cab ride into Paris.
We visited Rouen (short drive for a jet lagged day), then Honfleur for a night on the coast, and then Bayeux for 3 nights, leaving from there to tour the beaches. It was a leisurely trip, time to eat mussels on the quay at Arromanches, see the cider and Armagnac tasting rooms, enjoy the cheeses of Normandy.
Gretchen is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 03:53 AM
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thanks so much everyone. Agedude, I am intrigued by the fact that you went the Carcassonne on that trip. I've wanted to go there, but it seemed so far off our itinerary. How long was the train ride, and can it work as a one day jaunt, or should we leave it for another trip?

Gretchen, I love your description of the leisurely trip - we are unfortunately locked into cdc as we already got the tickets with frequent flyer miles. How difficult was the driving around normandy?
lauramsgarden is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 05:03 AM
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I don't understand what you mean by "locked into cdc " I assume you mean CDG. There is nothing in my post that suggests anything but leaving from CDG. I mention Orly as a RETURN of the car because it is smaller,and on the side of Paris better to access Chartre (for example), and a relatively cheap cab ride. The taxi stand is directly across from the building where you return your car.
Driving in France is very pleasurable. Get the Michelin map of the area you are visiting so you can see ALL the little towns you might just pass through and enjoy.
Just to be clear, I find it easier to begin the trip by renting a car and touring, then coming back to Paris for the return to CDG (by cab). For me it consolidates the trip, and makes the car rental easier to access, rather than trying to do in a Paris venue.
Gretchen is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 06:56 AM
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One of my trips a few years back was landing in Paris, spending a night, then renting a car and driving to Fontainbleau, Loire (east to west), Chartres, Giverny, Chantilly, and back to Paris. About ten days. I was leaving Paris out on this trip, but you could add days there.

Still ranks as one of my fav road trips. Lots of castles, small villages, good food, history,etc..
Michel_Paris is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 09:07 PM
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If I remember correctly, Carcassone was about a five hour drive from Blois. I rented a car and drove during the entire trip. I bought a GPS with U.S. and European maps before I left and took it with me. I thought it was well worth the journey and really enjoyed it. It has a great little church and is kind of magical to walk around at night. It was about 3 hours to Arles on the outward journey. I didn't mind the drive, the Autoroutes are fast and efficient and the tolls aren't that bad. Can't tell you anything about the trains.
agedude is offline  
Sep 26th, 2010, 11:02 PM
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Laura - I think if you check michelin or google maps you will find that the drive from Chateau de Fontainebleu is about 1.5 hours or less and so it is conceivable that you could leave early in the morning, say 6:30 or so for an 11:00 am departure. But do check with the car rental agency on the exact location of the car rental return as CDG is very large and at the time we did this, the signage to rental car return was very difficult and we did lose alot of time.

I will say that we picked up our rental car at Gare d' Austerlitz - train station in the south east area of Paris but this was still a bit urban for our driving departure and traffic was daunting. If I had it to do over again, I'd probably train to Versailles, see the palace, and then pick up the rental care there for countryside touring.
LeslieC is offline  

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