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Is this itinerary for France in December too crowded?

Is this itinerary for France in December too crowded?

Aug 14th, 2005, 01:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 48
Is this itinerary for France in December too crowded?

Before I book everything - is this too ambitious? We are a family of 4 (2 older teenagers) and I know this is a crowded itinerary but the flight from Australia is so long and expensive that I'm not viewing it as a "restful" holiday. My husband has been 3 times to Europe, but the kids and I have never been. I'm concerned here with the middle part of the trip (7 days) which falls between London and Paris (for 5 days). I think we would be fine with the driving times etc. but one concern is the weather (17 -23 Dec.) If the roads are icy one day, we have no leeway. I know we're spending little time in great places eg. Rouen, but we really just want to get a "flavour" on this trip and hope that we will all made later trips where we can smell the roses. I originally cut Mt St Michel out of the trip because of all the driving - but I really would like to see it. We like to get up and go fairly early in the mornings, but the early onset of dark is another consideration.

Before I book accomadation etc. I'd appreciate your feedback
Day 1 Early ferry from Dover to Calais (staying with friends in Dover night before), pick up hire car, drive around WW1 sites and stay night at Albert.
Day 2 Drive via Villers-Brettoneux to Amiens (lunch & brief visit to cathedral) via back roads through Gerberoy, Lyon-la-Foret to Rouen.
Day 3 Via Route des Abbayes to Harfleur and Honfleur, Trouville and Deauville to Mont St Michel. Stay night there.
Day 4 Morning tour of the Mont, visit St Malo and Dinan - stay in which one????
Day 5 to Amboise via Bagnoles de l’Orne, Domfront, St Ceneri le Gerei.
Days 6 and 7 inthe Loire based at Amboise. Late afternoon train to Paris.

We are interested in the little villages of France and getting a feel for the countryside, rather than the cities. We are particularly interested in visiting the battlefields of the Somme.

Any comment gratefully received.
judybroad is offline  
Aug 14th, 2005, 07:09 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,873
I won't comment on the specific itinerary because there are fodorites w/ a lot more expertise re those parts of France.

My comments will at least top your thread so others might see it.

My concern is the whole general plan. This is late December, the days are short, the weather could be awful, you are moving accomodations every day, and driving some long distances. Parts seem more like a forced march than a holiday.

janis is offline  
Aug 14th, 2005, 07:52 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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I think you are assuming good weather conditions and no hold ups on the highway - plus not allowing for more than a few minute drive through of some of these towns.

I don;t know most of thee specific roads but just one experience - we drove from Mt St Michel to Bayeaux in mid October and had significant hold-ups three times:

Once a massive hay wagon was taking up almost the entire road and we were stuck behind it for 20 minutes at walking speed (we were afraid to pass because several of the bales of hay were loose and looked ready to fall off onto any passing car - and a couple did eventully fall off)

A second time they were doing work on an intersection - and we spent almost 15 minutes in stop and go getting past it

Third we needed to get gas - and it took like 20 minutes to find a station - there was only one open in the area since it was after 6pm

In total it took at least an hour longer than we thought.

Have you put these specific routes into mappy.com or viamichelin.com to see their time estimates?

nytraveler is offline  
Aug 14th, 2005, 07:24 PM
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Posts: 48
Thanks janis and nytraveler - I was afraid I was too ambitious. I've cut out the Loire valley which effectively gives us 2 more days for the rest.
Do this sound better?

Day 1 Early ferry from Dover to Calais (staying with friends in Dover night before), pick up hire car, drive to one WW1 sight and stay night in Arras.
Day 2 Drive via a couple of WW1 sights to Amiens
Day 3 Drive via back roads through Gerberoy, Beauvoir-en-Lyons, Ry, Lyon-la-Foret to Les Andeleys.
Day 4 To Rouen, then via Route des Abbayes to Honfleur.
Day 5 To Mont St Michel. Stay night there.
Day 6 Morning tour of the Mont, visit St Malo and surrounding places. Stay in St Malo
Day 7 Drive to Rennes via Dinan, return hire car in Rennes, catch TGV to Paris.

I know we're still staying in a different place each night, but the rest of our trip is eg 5 nights London, 5 nights Paris, 3 night Venice etc.so we can probably manage a week on the road.

Thanks for your help.

judybroad is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 04:15 AM
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Posts: 48
Does anyone have any feedback? I really want to make a few reservations soon.

Many thanks
judybroad is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 04:42 AM
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Posts: 74,113
Hi JA,

It looks as if you are planning about 2-3 hr drives, with sightseeing.

Very good.

My rule-of-thumb is no more than 4 hr of driving per day.

Have a lovely visit.

ira is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 05:01 AM
Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 51
Hi Judy-
We just did a similar car tour of Normandy with our two kids- honestly, I think your revised itinerary is pretty doable. It seems to me that you have a clear understanding of what kind of trip you can expect. We did fine- had fun- saw a lot of places we'd like to see again, and some we feel we saw enough. (For example- I'd love to spend more time in Rouen doing the little antique shops- but with kids in tow- this was simply not THAT trip.)
After my feverish planning, I did spend some energy working on my own attitude and expectations and and preparing to be very flexible. We did have some road delays and detours, and our itinerary didn't always pan out, but mostly it went very well.
The only thing I would say is that we were in that car a lot- make sure everybody has what they need to entertain themselves- and don't be too worried if the kids seem to "check out" every now and then- our 16-year-old absorbed a surprising amount of local flavour even through his iPod headphones.
Your kids will love Mont-St-Michel- that will be a highlight for them. Check and see if the light show on the cathedral at Rouen will be running during your stay- that was a big hit for us as well.
You're going to have fun. Pack light.
sbparadis is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 02:12 PM
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Thanks to you both. It's been a long process refining and whittling things down, but thanks to all the good advice from this board I think we're nearly there now. I decided to come up with a plan B for each day too - ie. if the roads are icy or unexpected delays etc. there are things I can cut out without altering the day's accomodation.

I think your trip must be very soon, Ira. Have a wonderful time and I'll look forward to reading about it.

judybroad is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 02:52 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Your revised itinerary sounds excellent. Just be sure to get a weather forecast each morning before setting out so you can be prepared to eliminate something if necessary to keep on track.
Underhill is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 04:08 PM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 52
I just cmae back from a month at the WW1 and WW11 sights. A couple of things to check out would be opening and closing times of everthing and double check I know some places close for a long holiday at that time of the year. It may not matter to you but the Canadian Vimy Memorial is covered up at present. Mont St Michel will be a highlight Please check the times!
MomKJC is offline  
Aug 15th, 2005, 08:56 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 795
On your way from Honfleur (terrific spot BTW) to Mont ST Michel, go via the town of Coutances. It has a marvellous town square dominated by what I think is the best Cathedral in France. (Click on my screen name for the post in which I rated about 30 cathedrals). When going from Amiens to Les Andelys, you could stop at Beauvais to see the Cathedral with the highest vaults ever attempted. The roof has fallen in several times over the centuries, and is now held in place by modern trusses and cables. Still very awe-inspiring.
adeben is offline  
Aug 16th, 2005, 02:45 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 1,227
Let me congratulate you on your choice of villages - Gerberoy, Lyon-la-Foret, St Ceneri le Gerei - what picturesque places - you've obviuosly done some extensive reading. With luck and time you could add Montreuil on the way to Albert, and Lavardin en route between St Ceneri and Amboise. The latter particularly should appeal to anyone who rates the other villages you've named.
Some specific comments:
1. Honfleur is a good overnight choice.
2. Definitely Dinan, not St Malo, for an overnight. In fact, Dinan needs 2 nights - especially given that you're travelling extensively on the days either side.
I too must do my travelling from Australia - as you say, it's a long and expensive exercise, so I understand the pressures to cram a lot in. However, I have discovered that strategic lingering can increase the enjoyment. You might be interested to know I have planned a detailed itinerary from Dover to Nice, entirely based on villages such as those you mention. It now awaits the day when I can afford to do it!
twoflower is offline  
Aug 16th, 2005, 04:27 AM
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Have you checked the hours of sunrise & sunset at that time of year ?
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Aug 16th, 2005, 02:04 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 48
Thanks everyone,
I have checked sunrise and sunset and we'll have 6-7 hours of daylight. Thanks for the suggestions - I will check out those villages and cathedrals. When you get to make your trip twoflower, I'll look forward to hearing all about it.

judybroad is offline  

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