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Ideas for France vacation?

Old Jun 11th, 2005, 04:32 AM
  #21  
 
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I'll come down on the side of those who recommend splitting your time between Paris and one of the regions. Paris is wonderful, of course, but there's much more to France, and with the time you have, you can sample it.

MY recommendation would be for either Alsace or Burgundy. Strasbourg is a great city, and the centre is compact enought for walking. The countryside around, particularly the Route du Vin, is marvellous, with picturesque villages, ruined castles (and one restored one, Haut Koenigsbourg) and many scenic vistas and walking trails up in the Vosges mountains. To take advantage of it, you will need to rent a car in Strasbourg, but the driving is not difficult at all. Don't believe what people say about heavy German style cuisine in Alsace. Of course there are a few traditional dishes such as Choucroute Garni which might fit that description, but there's much more than that. You will find some of the best restaurants in France, if not the world, in Alsace.

Burgundy in the autumn would be equally attractive. Base yourself in Dijon or Beaune and tour around the countryside, visiting the great vignobles.

Wherever you go, do get out of Paris for part of your trip. Take the train and rent a car at your destination. Day trips from Paris are not a substitute for a stay in one of the regions.
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 04:44 AM
  #22  
ira
 
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>Who has the nerve to tell someone that their allotment of time for a particular destination is not appopriate?>

Me, for one.

You might also note that I only made a suggestion.

Many new posters do not know enough to ask the right questions. Answering only the questions they ask is often less of a service than offering alternatives.

It is up to the OP to decide what is best for her.



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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 05:07 AM
  #23  
 
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You can easily spend the entire week in Paris without running out of things to do, and that's what I recommend.

A common mistake of travellers is to allow too little time to see too many things. Another common mistake is to allocate time out of proportion with the destinations considered. Cities like London and Paris can easily justify a week or more; but many small towns and specialized destinations can barely justify a day, and often cannot justify the time required to reach them (unless one is already going there for some other reason).

For example, if someone is coming to Paris for less than a week, I don't recommend that they visit Versailles, which takes a full day in most cases and just doesn't justify the time unless one has a week or more to burn in Paris. People who come to Paris for 48 hours and blow half of that visiting Versailles are wasting time and money (unless they are true fanatics of Versailles or something).
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 06:03 AM
  #24  
jay
 
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Again I agree with Ira. Paris is a 7 day stay at a minimum. Why not that and two day trips to maybe Giverny and maybe Fontianbleu ( I include a trip to Versailles as a thing to do in Paris it is so close). If I were going to take a side trip (loire is great also) I may go to the Alsace. That timne of year along the wine road is beautiful. You could stay in Strasbourg and do a couple of daytrips from there. Renting a car and driving is no problem. I would however take Iras advice and stay put. Remember YOU WILL GO BACK.
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 06:44 AM
  #25  
 
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If you do want to get out of Paris, either Burgundy or the Loire would be better than Provence or the Dordogne for a short stay because you'd spend less time traveling.

If you're going to start your trip in Paris, you might want to train to either Dijon (Burgundy) or Tours (Loire) and rent a car there. Driving out of Paris is no fun and will take up a lot of time.

We just got back from a trip to the Loire (you can see our photos at:
http://www.rozault.com/France2005 )
That area certainly meets all your criteria of providing day hikes, wine tasting, castles, and old churches.

But if you do stay in Paris, Versailles and Chartres are wonderful day trips, and you could even make a day trip to the Loire. If you want to see another chateau besides Versailles, Vaux le Vicomte is also a day trip from Paris and is supposed to be wonderful. (We haven't been there yet, but it is #1 on our list for our next trip.)

Unless you really have a strong desire to be out in the countryside, I think in your place I would book a hotel or perhaps even an apartment in Paris and plan day trips by train to castles, cathedrals, etc. This has the advantage of giving you flexibility to adjust your schedule in accordance with the weather, rather than locking you in, for example, to 3 days in the country where it could rain every day.

If you haven't spent much time in Europe, you may not realize how easy and convenient the trains are -- generally a much better option than driving unless you are going to lots of little towns.

A wonderful book for someone interested in history is "The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France" by Ina Caro. The chapters at the end have some great ideas for day trips out of Paris.
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 08:07 AM
  #26  
 
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I wanted to add that Strasbourg is really beautiful. We stayed there for a day and something and it was too short. Next month I'm planning on going back to Alsace but this time it'll be in Colmar. The region has the German influence and that makes it unique.
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 04:53 PM
  #27  
 
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If the first destination is only a couple of hours away from Paris, and you carefully pick the rental location, then it is much easier to just drive out of the city as opposed to taking a train and then renting a car.
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Old Jun 11th, 2005, 06:31 PM
  #28  
 
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Cris2,
We visited Paris 2 years ago for 3 days, and also the Loire. We stayed in Saumur. We enjoyed Paris, but we loved Saumur. We have even considered revisiting France, but skipping Paris, and going back to Saumur and exploring more of France. We rented a car in Paris and drove out to the Loire. The driving was fine. I'd say read up on the different regions and find what suits you and go from there.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 01:05 AM
  #29  
 
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I'm not much in favor of daytrips from Paris. As wonderful as they may be, the usual destinations are immensely crowded in-season. Quite a bit of time can be spent in transit, not to mention waiting in lines and peering around other people to see what you went to see. Better to divide time between Paris and one other region. Or visit France more than once!
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 01:21 AM
  #30  
 
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take some time to learn the driving rules and signage in France. it is not "just like driving in the US". not to say that you should worry about it just to say that all drivers should be prepared if they are not familiar with driving in Europe.

it is true that driving on the motorway is very easy and not unlike the US. however, overall, you will encounter a lot of new things so it helps to be prepared.

also, many people rightfully avoid driving in the most major European cities but fail to realise that most smaller cities (and even some villages) can be almost or equally as stressful.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 02:16 AM
  #31  
 
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and something useful to know, don't stay on the left lane on the motorway unless you're overtaking. stay on the right or you can have a fine if you're caught. left lane is the high speed lane for overtaking that's all! people driving slowly on the left lane drive me crazy! >
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 03:28 AM
  #32  
 
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Leaving for Paris in 6 hours, and 8 days on the 3rd trip is probably still not enough...
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 03:36 AM
  #33  
 
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"people driving slowly on the left lane drive me crazy!"
Just like on I75 in Georgia!

For some people, 8 days in Paris would be a nightmare. Cris2, your original plan sounds good. It will take longer to get your bearings in Paris than in a small town, so three full days (leaving by car early on the 4th) sounds very doable, particularly if you know what you want to see and do before you go. I would allow a "free" afternoon on your last day to go back to the place that enchanted you most, though...
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 03:47 AM
  #34  
 
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I will just add an observation about the "bigness" of Paris. I really don't find it to "feel" like a big city, mainly perhaps because it is very "low"--no skyscrapers. The central part of Paris is quite compact. It is a walking city and very accessible, with a little planning. Staying in NYC (where I have lived also) for a week would now be daunting to me. Staying in Paris is easy (for me). Just something to think about when approaching a visit to a new city. And I love the outlying parts of France also, needless to say.
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 07:16 AM
  #35  
 
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To RonZ--re: Obernai--we just walked all over the town, including the walk one can take on the perimeter of the wall around the town. B/c it was before the actual tourist season, it was quite quiet there, a definite plus for tranquility, but missing all the flowers that would have been blooming in the incredible number of flower boxes adorning virtually every bldg in town!! I cannot imagine how lovely that must be!! We ate lunch at a large place right on the town square, don't remember the name, and I must say it was our least yummy Alsatian meal. I would definitely investigate restaurant recommendations for your trip. Sorry I cannot give you any more info....I think you will want to do some excursions or tours, as Obernai alone does not probably fill up 3 days....Have a great trip!!

For you *and* for cris2--here is a website we found useful:

http://www.visit-alsace.com/villages/
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 07:18 AM
  #36  
 
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Regarding driving out of Paris:

On our first trip a couple of years ago we took the TGV directly to Avignon from the airport and rented a car there for a week in Provence. That was a piece of cake -- the train was a nice, relaxing ride, and we had no trouble getting the car or driving in Provence. We then returned via Burgundy and dropped the car in Paris, where we spent a week with day trips to Versailles and Chartres by train. (Incidentally, this was in October, and neither place was all that crowded -- not like what you'd probably see in the summer).

On our most recent trip to the Loire, we rented the car at the Paris airport and drove to Amboise. It took us about 2 hours just to get out of Paris on the ring road (we left the airport about 9 am, and traffic was crawling). The adventure of that trip was almost missing one turnoff and cutting over at the last minute, at which point we were stopped by a gendarme for an illegal lane change. Fortunately he was very nice once he realized we were clueless tourists (and he even spoke pretty good English). But if you're not fluent in French, the road signs can be confusing, and unfamiliar roads are nerve-wracking in heavy traffic.

This was our second driving trip in France, and we've also driven several time in Italy. So we weren't European driving novices, but I do think it is a lot less stressful to rent a car in a smaller place, and get used to the driving in that type of environment with less traffic.

But the nice thing about all your choices is that you can't really go wrong. You will have a wonderful trip no matter what you decide, and then you can always go back to do the other things!
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Old Jun 12th, 2005, 08:59 AM
  #37  
 
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Thank you socialworker! We are looking foreward to our visit to that region.

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