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How Would You Split Your Time, Paris/Amsterdam or Paris/Provence

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Oct 25th, 2012, 07:14 PM
  #1
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How Would You Split Your Time, Paris/Amsterdam or Paris/Provence

So we're headed to Paris, early May, first time, can't wait!!

We're still deciding whether to stay in Paris for our full 12 non-travel days, or divvy it up into Paris/Amsterdam or Paris/Provence. I've been reading other threads on this topic, and am pondering,...

IF we do decide to do either Paris/Amsterdam or Paris/Provence rather than stay in Paris whole time (with possible day trips), how would you divide the time? Right now am thinking seven/five or eight/four (with the larger number in Paris, of course). Does that sound about right, able to enjoy both places and come home not exhausted?
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Oct 25th, 2012, 08:36 PM
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Yes, that sounds perfect. If you want to experience two very different countries and cultures, go with Amsterdam as the second. If you want to experience two very different aspects of France, go with Provence.
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Oct 25th, 2012, 09:51 PM
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Whether you get exhausted or not depends on how you packed the days. Are two destination trips automatically more exhausting than one destination trips? Not if you overpacked activities for one destination trip while you only scheduled what is within your limitations for the two destination trip.

In case of Paris/Provence combo, if you are flying CDG in CDG out, if you do Paris first, you end up with a common issue like discussed in this thread http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...t-from-cdg.cfm.

Same for Paris/Amsterdam combo. One way to eliminate having to stay in the arriving city twice is to either do multi-city: in CDG out AMS or in AMS out CDG or in case you have to book or booked (which seems to be the case) a round-trip ticket, upon landing in CDG, travel straight to Amsterdam first.
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Oct 25th, 2012, 09:58 PM
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Flip a coin. Either itinerary is fantastic. Of course Paris/Amsterdam would be train travel only. Provence would require a car, IMO.

Stu Dudley
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Oct 26th, 2012, 12:32 AM
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Thanks for the feedback. We don't have anything booked yet, so it doesn't have to be a round trip ticket, it can be a multi-destination (which I think is what people mean when they say "open jaw" here?).

Greg, that's an interesting perspective, on how two destinations does not necessarily have to be any more exhausting than one, it's more about how much you try to pack in. I don't like to pack in a lot, at all - my favorite part of travel is just wandering streets and soaking in ambience. There will always be a few major sites I want to take in when it' my first time somewhere, especially somewhere like Paris, but I don't tend to overdo in that regard. So maybe doing two destinations could work out ok.

As to which place we choose, probably I'd pick Provence, but the 3 people I'm traveling with, will choose either to stay in Paris whole time, or choose Amsterdam. So I'll likely be out-voted, but that's ok, it's all good!
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Oct 26th, 2012, 04:07 AM
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Provence might still be a bit chilly in early May, which would not matter so much in Amsterdam. I think Amsterdam is different enough in atmosphere to make it an interesting contrast to Paris.
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Oct 26th, 2012, 05:18 AM
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Thx. So assuming Paris/Amsterdam for the moment, any opinions on time breakdown of 7/5, 8/4, or other? Also, does anyone have a favorite cd program to recommend, for learning a language during a work commute? I know not a word of French and look forward to beginning to learn a little.

And, tho I guess I'll see if this needs a new thread, if we want to get an apt. in Paris in a charming neighborhood with winding streets to wander, rather than right next to huge tourist sites, yet be preferably a walk or short bus ride to them, where would you recommend, would this be 5th or 6th?

Thanks!
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Oct 26th, 2012, 05:33 AM
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I may be a bit of a contrarian because one of the best trips to Europe we have ever taken was a Paris/Provence trip with 12 days on the ground. We spent 5 days in Paris in an apartment and 5 days in Provence. We then returned to Paris for 2 nights.

We took the TGV to Avignon and had a car for our time in Provence. We stayed in one base, near Les Baux and took day trips from there.

If you choose Paris and Provence, I would plan on 7 days in Paris and 5 in Provence. If you choose Paris/Amsterdam, I would make it 8 and 4.
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Oct 26th, 2012, 09:21 PM
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I'm heading to France next may/June and have started using coffee break French (recommended from another thread); a free podcast seperated into 15-20 minute lessons. They teach how to pronounce words and break words apart to help as well. I really like it thus far!
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Oct 27th, 2012, 04:34 AM
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I would absolutely combine Paris and Provence for many reasons. Provence's hill towns are a visual treat and wandering them is nirvana IMO. The landscape in the Luberon and the Alpilles with olive groves & vineyards is stunning and would provide a very nice contrast to a big city. Add to that the opportunity to view Roman ruins and Provence is a winner. Plus, I just love the Provencal/Mediterannean food. You would need to rent a car, but that's no big deal or big expense either. I may be drummed out of Fodors for the next observation, but here it goes anyway. I went to Amsterdam for the first time in July and just wasn't overwhelmed. I did enjoy the architecture and the canals, but as far as big cities, it didn't have enough to sustain me, especially when compared to Paris. I really think the Paris/Provence combination would provide a very nice contrast of city and country. And, even though it will be early May, you'll likely have better weather in Provence than in Amsterdam. When I do my Paris/Provence trips I immediately catch the TGV train from CDG airport upon landing & head to Avignon where I rent my car. If you book your train 90 days out to get the Prems fares (I think it's 90 days), the cost of getting to Provence is quite inexpensive. Since it is your first trip to Paris and it seems you want to spend the bulk of you time there, I would recommend a 7/5 split. You'll still leave thinking you didn't have enough time in either place but that will only encourage you to return again.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 07:08 AM
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Thanks for this feedback. I think if we did decide Provence, I'd like to do it at end of trip. Would you all recommend train back to Paris, rather than driving the rental car back?

Meredith, I'll be listening in car, does that program provide pauses to give you time to repeat/practice?

Thanks!
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Oct 27th, 2012, 12:12 PM
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Laura, I do hope you and your group decide on Provence. Many people love Amsterdam. It just didn't speak to me. On the other hand, Paris just sings to me. Different strokes for different folks. I would absolutely suggest you take the TGV train back to Paris. The drive time is significantly longer & not very interesting on the autoroute. Leave the "driving" to someone else, sit back & watch the countryside fly by.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 12:44 PM
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Take the TGV back to Paris from Provence. Stay at the Terminus Hotel across from the train station, and dine at the Train Bleu your last night in France. The Train Bleu is a feast for the eyes (I consider it to be a "must see"), and the food is quite good also. Taxi to CDG in the am. We've done this 3-4 times and will do so again this July.

Stu Dudley
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Oct 27th, 2012, 01:19 PM
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On learning French, I would first suggest seeing what your local library has, and trying a few different programs to see what your learning style is.

I prefer to use a couple of different ones - one that just teaches or reviews travel-related phrases, as well as one that's more in-depth. I know a bit of French, and like to know the correct grammar of whatever language I'm learning, but I've really benefited from the Pimsleur programs, which are oral only. With the grammar/words I already know, the focus on speed and pronunciation is great. If you're a more oral learner, Pimsleur might be good. Along with a program of travel phrases. Oh, and Pimsleur's lessons are all 30 minutes long, which is good or bad, depending on your commuting time. And does include lots of repetition and time for repeating words and phrases.

Another good resources I've found is quizlet.com. It's basically on-line flashcards, with all sorts of options. You can use flashcards that others have already added, or make your own. Obviously, not for in the car, but a good supplement.

If you do visit Provence, I'd suggest the TGV (train) down and back, and rental car only while in Provence. Assuming you can't get a direct flight for your return home (or arrival) from/to Marseille. And personally, I'd rather begin my trip in the further-away location and work back to my departure location. That is, fly into Paris, train to Provence, spend time there, then train to Paris for the end of the trip. Last night in Paris, then fly home. If you do it the other way, with Paris first, then you need to spend that last night in Paris anyway, in case there are transportation problems back to Paris, so you'll have a one-night hotel stay at the end of the trip.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 01:30 PM
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Taking Provence in its widest sense, you could go to the French Riviera instead of inland Provence. No need for a car then. I love Nice, which has curvy Belle Epoque architecture, and a unique culture (as well as cuisine) that's a mixture of French and Italian. More laid back than France in general. Or you could stay in a smaller town or village along the coast.

If you did as I suggest, you could fly into Nice or Marseilles, take the train back to Paris, and fly out of there. Open jaws is a multi-city ticket on airline websites.

If you go south first, you take advantage of the better weather there and the better weather later in Paris.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 01:33 PM
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If you decide on Paris/Amsterdam, I'd do 8/4 rather than 7/5. (Answering your your question a few posts up.) There's just so much more to do in Paris and it's more relaxing to do it at a slower pace. Something about Amsterdam seems so hassle-free to me that a few days there is sufficient for both sightseeing and relaxing. Of course if you want to do day trips from Amsterdam, you might choose 7/5.

Have fun!
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Oct 27th, 2012, 02:41 PM
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Thanks again, everyone. A lot to think about. We're going to be seeing the couple we'll be traveling with, for a couple hours next weekend on our way home from our niece's wedding, so we'll have a chance to discuss with all four of us, in person.

I still lean toward Provence, and am still guessing they'll lean to either staying in Paris the whole time, or Amsterdam. But I'll share all of what you've said, and we'll see!

One thing with Provence, if we did western part, each couple would probably need a rental car, because I don't think we have similar enough paces nor do we get up at similar times in morning, to want to be all tied to one car. For me, that's fine, it's a way for us all to enjoy our travels and still want to be good friends upon return! Don't know yet, tho', if anyone else will share that point of view.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 04:26 PM
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Yes, there are pauses in coffee break French. The instructor pronounces the word, then there is a pause for you to pronounce, then it is pronounced again for you to repeat a second time.
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Oct 27th, 2012, 04:55 PM
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I'd vote for Paris and Provence, which would give you two very different perspectives on France, which has such a diversity of topography and lifestyle. One option would be to land in Paris and take a TGV train from Charles DeGaulle to Avignon. There are a number of trains daily that take just over three hours. I know that sounds like a lot of travel but if you have an early morning arrival it would get you to Provence in time for a normal check-in. If budget allows, spring for first-class and take a nap.

Then, after staying a few nights (five?) you could take the TGV back to Paris and stay for a week, not having to worry about how to get back for your return flight.

You can buy tickets directly at www.voyages-sncf.com, which is in French but easy to navigate. The best price tickets are released 90 days in advance, and they can be very affordable. Just don't say you are from the USA or you will be redirected to Rail Europe, which may not have full schedules and costs more. You also can sign up to get alerts with special offers.
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