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Itinerary Help: France in Late September

Old Jul 27th, 2017, 02:34 PM
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Itinerary Help: France in Late September

Hello fellow travelers,

Hoping to get some advice on my preliminary itinerary in France. Yes, I know I'm packing A LOT in but I'm not sure I'll get a chance to come back to France unfortunately =/

A bit about me: I'm in my mid-20's from Canada, have traveled a decent amount and do enjoy packing in lots. When traveling through SE Asia, I found 3-4 days per city to be sufficient; got bored with Tokyo when we did 5 days there. I also don't mind switching hotels every night - tried this when driving around the north island of New Zealand and along the Gold Coast in Australia and didn't find it too tiring (unless those countries are not fair analogues to France). I like to have exposure to a little bit of everything (food, culture, art, history, etc.) but definitely not a history or art buff. Don't have a huge budget (hence why this is likely all to be self-guided) but willing to splurge on a couple good meals - after all, it is France!

Ok here we go. I will be in France beginning Sept 22. My must-sees are Paris and the French Rivieria. I love food, wine, and anything European-esque (like cobblestone streets...); I also feel a bit obligated to pay homage to WWII.

Day 1: Arrive in Paris at 7:35 PM. No plans in the evening

Days 2-5: Paris major attractions + a day trip to Versailles

Day 6: Hop on a train to Caen, rent a car, drive to Bayeux, visit WWII museums and D-day beaches. Sleep in Bayeux

Day 7: Drive from Bayeux to Mont d'Michel. Spend a couple hours here. Then do the reminder of the drive down to Loire Valley. Thinking of sleeping in Tours.

Day 8: Spend a full day in Loire Valley to visit Chateau de Chambord and Chateau de Chenonceau.

Day 9: Do the 4 hour drive from Tours to Lyon. Spend a night in Lyon. [What exactly is there here? Looking online, people say it's a must see but there don't seem to be major attractions; is it more just a nice city to wander around in? I'm aware this is the 2nd largest city in France]

Day 10: Drive from Lyon to Aix-en-Provence. Sleep in Aix. [Again, I've read that it's beautiful and great to visit but didn't find any major attractions ... but I'll be passing by anyways if I'm driving down from Lyon and figured I could use this to break up the drive]

Day 11: Spend the whole day driving from Aix to Nice with stops in St. Tropex, Cannes and Antibes

Day 12: Full day in NIce

Day 13: Good bye France

I know it's super crammed but again, not sure I'll have a chance to make it back to France so it's either a "get a taste or miss completely" choice for me. Any advice, comments, corrections, etc. are much appreciated!
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 02:52 PM
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"No comment" on your itinerary - except make sure that you get a good/comfortable car because that's where you'll be spending most of your time while in France.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 03:04 PM
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BOY that's a lot of driving and not much time to do what is so important in France, relaxing at a café and watching the world go by and the people who are passing.

Hope you like your car.
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 03:05 PM
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Remember pinball machines? That little ball never stopping; bouncing from pillar to post, then disappearing down a hole? I wonder if it enjoyed hitting the bumpers, and if it remembered the brief contacts.

That was snarky, I know, Kungfu. I'm sure you will have a wonderful time, but since that is so not my travel style, I'm afraid I can't offer any helpful comments.
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 03:12 PM
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I've actively participated in travel forums since around 1997, and your itinerary is perhaps the fasted paced driving itinerary I've ever seen. Eliminate at least half your destinations, and confine those destinations into a smaller area - for example:

- Paris, Normandy, Loire

- Paris, Lyon, Provence, Cote d'Azur. Paris to Lyon to Provence is a all train trip.

If you want to only visit Chenonceaux & Chambord - stay the night in Chenonceaux & visit the castle first thing in the morning when it opens. Tours is one of my least favorite cities in France (that appears in guide books), and a tad difficult to drive in & out & find parking.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 03:14 PM
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I think that the Avignon/Arles area has about as much to offer as anyplace in southern France - base in either -Avignon will have lots of folks you age IME -hit the Pont du Gard, St-Remy asylum where VanGogh committed himself after slicing an ear off while working in Arles-the asylum is in a bucolic venue and VanGogh put lots of the area on canvass - reproductions put up in places he originally painted them- Les Baux-de-Provence-the dead city ruins high on a plateau and Arles (which has also put up copies of VanGogh paintings where he executed them -those are 4 special places.

Then drive thru some famous villages and town markets to Aix.

Anyway maybe substitute for Lyon - a nice large city but not nearly any must sight -based on several trips there.

Anyway check them out - yes a lot of driving but I've done trips just like that and driving is part of the fun especially if you get off the autoroutes sometimes. But in the country yellow-hued roads on Michelin maps can be fast too - going thru sleepy villages.

Be sure to get off the autoroute at places!
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 03:41 PM
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Have you considered camping - you can always just pop into a camping as the French call it and pitch a tent for the fraction of a cost of a hotel and always always with a tent just show up and get a spot (most camps full of RVs- but they can always fit a tent somewhere -even in August I camped throughout southern France with car - never ever a problem getting a tent site. We camped right on the Riviera near Antibes - beach 200 m away.

Consider getting a cheap tent - save money and time over driving into cities (all cities - all almost have one or more camps on their peripheries) and best of all for me to really mix with Europeans who flock to these camps - great way to meet the proverbial locals.

Camping gives you ultimate freedom to change your itinerary anytime - no pre-booked hotels to peg you in. And most camps are well-equipped with facilities -showers - stores and cafes to talk with the locals and swimming pools.
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 04:39 PM
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Thanks Stu and PalenQ for trying to be helpful. Obviously if I had the time, I'd love to spend months in France ...

Stu - Thanks for the feedback about Tours. What are your opinions about Ambroise or Blois? I've also seen those two cities pop up as forums.

PalenQ - Thanks for the alternative to Lyon! Really wasn't feeling it but was lured in by the marketing "must see" slogans. Are there any specific villages and town markets you'd recommend on the way to Aix? Are the route times on Google Maps realistic (assuming no car accidents, construction, etc.)?
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Old Jul 27th, 2017, 09:10 PM
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What does day 7 look like?

- Wake up, check out of the hotel, & get on the road at 9:00

- 2 1/4 hr drive to Le Mont St Michel 9:00 to 11:15

- Massive crowds. Look for a place to park, park, and walk to the Mont 11:15 to 11:45

- Wander the streets, take a tour of the church, grab something to eat, & see MSM 11:45 to 2:30

- walk to the car & leave MSM 2:30 to 2:45

- Drive 4 1/2 hrs to Chenenceaux 2:45 to 7:15 (chateau is closed)

- Check into Auberge du Bon Laboureur in Chenonceaux 7:15 to 7:45 pm

- Dinner at the fabulous Bon Laboureur restaurant 8:00-10:30

Day 8

- Walk to Chenonceau, visit, & grab some lunch at Chateau. 9:00 to 12:30 (we were there til 2:00 in 2014)

- Drive 1 1/4 hrs to Chambord & park 12:30 to 2:00

- Visit Chambord 2:00 to 5:00

- Drive back to Chenonceaux 5:00 to 6:30.

- Dinner

Day 9

- Check out of hotel & drive 4 1/2 hrs to Lyon 9 to 1:30

- Get lost in Lyon tryng to find a place to park & then Park 1:30 to 2:15

- Check 1nto hotel 2:15 to 2:45

- Visit Lyon in the afternoon (we were there for 5 nights this past June & were busy all the time).

Day 10.

- drive 3 hrs to Aix 9 to 12

- park car & visit Aix for half day

I certainly hope that you are not visiting Lyon or Aix on a Sunday when all the shops are closed!!! Monday morning also.

Day 11

That's probably not doable in a day starting in Aix & ending in Nice.

Where's the time to sit at a cafe, people watch, and relax??

You need to be efficient. Staying in Amboise or Blois isn't efficient if you want to visit Chenonceau & Chambord on your only day in the Lire chateau country.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 28th, 2017, 05:13 AM
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Are google times realistic? No, add 40%

Tours, I've spent a few days there and really apart from the market is a dull. I'd look at somewhere like Saumur, ancient town, near a major ancient abbey (once the largest in europe), where all the nuns were royal!

Nice for a few days.... no idea why
Lyons for th food
Arles/Avignon/Nimes are the best of the area Aix is lovely too but a bit out on the edge. St Tropez etc. I'm not really sure why anyone goes here, there are prettier towns all over France. Still they have a good marketing team who have focused on the north american market so .....
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Old Jul 28th, 2017, 05:58 AM
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Google times accurate?? They have not been accurate in the past. Maybe they are now. I have used www.viamichelin.com for the past 5-7 years or so, and on trips 3 hrs or less they are accurate to the minute. On drives where I need to be someplace around a specific time, I look up the viamichelin estimate before I depart home for our vacation in France, & write it on my itinerary. When I'm actually driving the route in France, I check for accuracy & viamichelin is quite reliable. On trips over 3 hrs I always add 10% or so to "budget" for pottie breaks, the unavoidable road "deviation" where one side of the autoroute is funneled into 1 lane on the other side and everyone is driving no faster than the slowest truck, back ups at toll booths, and stops for gas or food.

When I used viamichein to determine the time from MSM to Chenonceaux, it says 4 hrs 14 mins. If I use Google - it says that it can not determine the time, so I use a nearby village instead and Google says Beauvoir to Chenonceaux is 3 hrs 12 mins. Viamichelin says Beauvoir to Chenonceaux is 3 hrs 30 mins. The 4 hrs 14 mins vs 3 hr 30 mins accounts for viamichelin's estimate for leaving the Mont's parking lot & driving the causeway to Beauvoir - I guess.

If you want to visit Chenonceau - stay in Chenonceaux. You are on a very tight time itinerary. Don't waste any time traveling to Amboise, Blois, Tours (agree with bilboburger), and certainty not Saumur - to stay for the night - and then driving to Chenonceau the next morning - and back from Chambord. That's a wast of 2 to 4 hrs of unnecessary driving time and you'll get to Chenonceau later in the day than you might like - when the hoards of tourist buses arrive. We were the first people through the gate when they opened a few years ago, and we photographed the gardens & exterior of Chenonceau without mobs of tourist in the pictures, and we didn't stumble over them inside the chateau.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 28th, 2017, 01:49 PM
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Hey don't be disheartened by some of the posters here. I think your itinerary could work with some tweaking. Skip Lyon, Aix en Procence and choose between Loire and The Riviera.
Also, ditch the car.



Day 1: Arrive in Paris at 7:35 PM.

Days 2-6: Paris major attractions + a day trip to Versailles

Day 7: Train to Bayeux. Sleep in Bayeux.

Day 8: D-Day tour. Sleep in Bayeux

Day 9: Daytrip to Mont St. Michel. Sleep in Bayeux.

Now either go back to Paris and take a flight to Nice and spend 2-3 Nights in Nice.

Or take the train from Bayeux to Amboise, and spend a few days exploring the Chateaux of the Loire.
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Old Jul 28th, 2017, 02:00 PM
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I think your itinerary could work with some tweaking>

some tweaking? You've ditched most of the places and have reduced France to a few places.

I rode my bike when I was his age over just about his itinerary and seeing lots of areas of France was a delight - same by car - see how France morphs from northern Europe of lush farms south of Paris to dry more arid hillier terrain farther south you go.

OP wants to drive and I say Oui Oui Whey! See France from the ground not a plane -even at a quick pace - some folks love that!
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Old Jul 28th, 2017, 02:12 PM
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PalenQ,

If it's a scenery overview he wants he can do that on the TGV. No need to drive for hours to spend an evening in Lyon, a city he knows nothing about.

I think the OP's plan involves a lot of driving. By the time he arrives to his destination, the tourist attractions would have shut down.

The first part Paris+Bayeux+Mont St Michel makes sense. But I think he needs to skip Lyon and decide between the Loire and Nice.
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Old Jul 28th, 2017, 02:40 PM
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I'm not sure he doesn't want to really drive thru France - much as I have taken several drives around France when my French kid was young and loved driving in France (we're coming from U.S. so we may have a different take on driving thru something rather than taking train - driving to me was an adventure in itself- but quite unlike OP I only drove autoroutes as a last resort - see nothing much of the real landscape of France from them-no small towns and villages to stop in a sleepy local cafes- for a special cheap noon meal they may have for locals and workers -to stop at a mom-et-pop patisserie for warm fresh breads and a pain choc or 2 or 3- etc.

That kind of driving thru France is really neat and shows a different France from big cities and along autoroutes- but if he wants to cover so so much ground so so fast it will have to be on autoroutes - and yes taking trains that go nearly 200 mph -get even better views of rural France than autoroutes.

Too bad he does not have time to cover long distances on peages - autoroutes with steep tolls IME - and also time to drive on local backroads thru sleepy villages then I agree with you - better take the train and it will be faster and cheaper.

Train like you said Paris-Bayeux-Amboise- then I'd say Avignon - Aix - Nice and maybe rent a car in Bayeux or Avignon to experience the back roads of France may be an ideal compromise between motoring and railing.

I have nothing against fast-paced itineraries (though biking was the best ever experience I had with France!)

Merci au revoir!
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