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twk Apr 25th, 2019 12:01 PM

July 2020 trip to Normandy and Cotes du Rhone
Out of the blue, some friends asked me to go with them to Normandy and a wine region in France summer after next. The idea is to spend a week at a rental property in Normandy somewhere close to the coast (time enough for a detailed look at the D-Day sights, while fitting in the Bayeux and the Tapestry, Mont St. Michel, Honfleur, and perhaps a Pays d'Auge daytrip), then to relocate for another rental stay (five days to a week) in a wine region. After a little research, we've settled on the Cotes du Rhone region (probably staying in Vaison-la-Romaine). I'm looking for some feedback and any helpful suggestions.

If we do a house rental in July (and that's our preference, rather than hotels), it seems likely that we'll need to do a week long rental in order to get the best options, so it seems that we would fly on Friday, July 3, arriving on Saturday, July 4, and come back two weekends later. I don't think we can leave earlier than that Friday, so we're going to need to get from CDG to our rental property on arrival day (Saturday being the typical start of the rental period for most place). That, and trying to see Normandy in as close as possible to the conditions on D-Day, leads me to think that we should do Normandy first. We will get a rental car (I'm the designated driver--that's why they asked me to go along :) ), and I will require an automatic. However tempting it is to rent at CDG for wider selection, I can't imagine making that drive on arrival day, and at least Hertz seems to indicate that I can get an automatic in Caen, so my thinking is, upon arrival, take a taxi to Gare St. Lazare then take the train to Caen. We'll probably be staying either in Bayeux, Port-en-Bessin, or somewhere in that vicinity, so I think I can manage the drive from Caen to their without endangering myself or others.

I had thought about doing five or six days in Normany, then a couple in Paris before moving on to Provence, but I've been to Paris 3 times, and my friends would prefer to skip it, so that seems to be the plan. Next question is, how do we get from Normandy to Provence?. Because it's too far to drive in a day, I'm leaning toward simply dropping the car in Caen, then taking the train (via Paris) to Avignon and picking up another rental car. That doesn't seem to hurt the rental rates (avoids one way drop off charges since both rentals would be dropping where the car is picked up). I toyed with the idea of stopping in the Loire and making the trip by car in 2 days, but that includes a one night stand (which we will try to avoid except for the night prior to departure).

I've seen a bit of Provence (spent 3 nights in St-Remy-de-Provence in 2011), so the area is not totally unfamiliar, but there was a whole lot that I didn't see and want to on this trip, such as the palace of the popes in Avingon, and the Roman theater in Orange. My friends are interested in seeing vienyards and such, so if you've got experience with that in this region, let me know. My thinking is we would want to see the vineyards late in the afternoon, and see other things in the morning or early afternoon.

So, let me know what you think. Is there a better way to handle arrival day? A better way to get from Normandy to Provence? Would you reverse the two, and if so, why? Any under the radar sights in Normandy or around the Cotes du Rhone part of Provence that you would recommend? What's the best way for a wine fan to do a trip to the Cotes du Rhone (keeping in mind I'll be a designated drive as I don't really drink)?

PalenQ Apr 25th, 2019 01:05 PM

dropping the car in Caen, then taking the train (via Paris) to Avignon and picking up another rental car>

Book the Paris-Avignon trains as early as possible - up to 90 days in advance I think but could be longer - for serious discounted fares. Trains from Caen come into Paris at Saint-Lazare station - simply take RER from there to Gare de Lyon where Avignon trains depart from. has oodles of tips on booking your own discounted tickets - general train info BETS-European Rail Experts and

I would consider just taking the autoroute from Normandy to Avignon - won't be much longer than the train, especially since you have to change stations in Paris.

geetika Apr 25th, 2019 02:47 PM

Yes, in summer most vacation rentals are weekly, Sat to Sat. I’ll let others tell you the best way to get from Normandie to Provence, but hurry to book tickets if you’re taking the train. Fares are cheapest 90 days out and now you’re close to the 60 day mark.

Apart from the DDay beaches don’t miss both the tapestry as well as the cathedral at Bayeux, the latter older and bigger than Notre Dame de Paris.

Vaison la Romaine is a lovely little town, in the Dentelles de Montmirail loop, which takes you through several small villages, of which we liked Seguret the most. We spent 12 days at Sarrians not too far away from there last June.

You’re right in wine country, with Gigondas, Vacqueras and Beaumes de Venise boasting some excellent vintages. We found the local cooperative in these towns a great place to taste and buy wines from different vineyards.

We didn’t have time to visit Orange either, though we spent several hours at the Popes Palace in Avignon. You’ll be there in peak lavender season, so a visit to the Valensole plateau is a must IMO. The Luberon villages are a great draw, personally I liked Roussillon, for the magnificent ochre cliffs and colors.

I’d also suggest a trip to Châteauneuf du Pape, probably the most famous wine growing town of the Rhône region. We did a visit at Château de Beaucastel, you can email them to set up the tour, again asap as they book up pretty fast in summer. The ruins of the old château at the upper part of town is interesting.

Further to the west is Uzès and Pont du Gard, though we didn’t make it as far afield. There was a thread on Provence earlier this month with a lot of useful information, you may want to take a look.

Michael Apr 25th, 2019 02:55 PM

Vaison-la-Romaine is quite a bit south of the official Côte du Rhône which would be north of Valence. For us Airbnb worked in the French provinces for less than a week rental; but it might apply only to larger towns (we used Airbnb in Menton and previously in Arles).

KarenWoo Apr 25th, 2019 03:21 PM

I just returned from Provence where we visited our daughter and grandchildren for 2 weeks. Right now I have limited mobility due to severe arthritis so I wasn't able to do much. (Hip replacement surgery in 2 weeks will hopefully solve my mobility problems :-) However, we did spend one day doing a scenic drive through part of the Cotes du Rhone, and we loved what little we saw and hope to return for a lengthier visit when I am physically able.

The countryside is gorgeous with tons of vineyards, winding roads, foothills and Mont Ventoux. First we stopped in Bedoin, which is a very pretty city and filled with cyclists. You are probably aware the Tour de France goes through Mont Ventoux. We had a delicious lunch at Lily and Paul in Bedoin. Sat outside in a lovely courtyard with wisteria and shade trees and pebbles on the ground. Then we drove through lovely foothills to Le Barroux to visit its castle. I couldn't walk through the castle so I sat in the car, but my daughter and grandchildren spent an hour in the castle and really enjoyed it. It's been restored but is barebones, no furniture inside. My little grandchildren enjoyed running through the castle. From there we drove through tons of vineyards to Gigondas, another very pretty town. I was able to walk a bit and bought some pottery in a pottery shop. Tons of wine bars. A gorgeous location.

I am by no means an expert on the Cotes du Rhone, but you can't go wrong visiting Bedoin, Barroux or Gigondas.

Michael Apr 25th, 2019 03:31 PM

I stand corrected:

tomboy Apr 25th, 2019 05:05 PM

We have recommended this B*B to others; exceptional breakfast, warm hosts. it's 8 miles to Vaison, about the same to Bedoin, etc.; maybe 30 minutes to Gigondas on the other side of the mountain (The Restaurant | L'Oustalet Gigondas | Restaurant et chambres d'hôtes à Gigondas food anywhere, ever) .Serious wine country.

twk Apr 26th, 2019 10:49 AM

Thanks for the suggestions.

For those that missed it, this trip is not for this upcoming July, but the one after that. We will stay on top of the train bookings.

I do think we will stick with rentals, but I am very interested in food recommendations. I'm not a foodie, but my friends are (at least, relative to me), so suggestions on worth a detour restaurants are welcome, as we should have time. Keep them coming!

On the wine tasting, I've heard about the cooperatives Gigondas and Vaison la Romaine, but I take it that there are many of these? From what I've read, it sounds like we might spend more time perusing the cooperatives than at the actual vineyards, as the small vineyards don't seem quite as geared toward visitors as I understand that many US vineyards are, so I do really appreciate the recommendations on specific vineyards that are welcoming to visitors.

tomboy Apr 26th, 2019 11:25 AM

It appears my B&B recommendation post didn't post: Mas-de-Longuefeuille - Chambres d'hotes à Malaucene dans le vaucluse à proximité de vaison la romaine

StCirq Apr 26th, 2019 11:37 AM

Interesting, tomboy. I stayed there a few years ago and loved it. I never mention Malaucène because at the end of the day it's one of those ho-hum towns that not many tourists are craving, but I love the place; it comes across as very genuine and unprepossessing amid all those fancy wine towns.

geetika Apr 26th, 2019 12:30 PM

>> On the wine tasting, I've heard about the cooperatives Gigondas and Vaison la Romaine, but I take it that there are many of these? From what I've read, it sounds like we might spend more time perusing the cooperatives than at the actual vineyards, as the small vineyards don't seem quite as geared toward visitors as I understand that many US vineyards are, so I do really appreciate the recommendations on specific vineyards that are welcoming to visitors.<<

There’s only one cooperative in each of the wine towns, though quite a few wine bars. Some of these towns are very small. Gigondas is a little place, but set in a lovely location, up on the slopes of the mountain overlooking the vineyards stretching down below.

We visited just the one winery in Châteauneuf du Pape, but you could contact the local tourist office for suggestions. Rue des Vignerons is also an extremely good site for information on wineries and visits.

ahbonvraiment Apr 27th, 2019 02:40 AM

We never go to coop we go to the vineyard. That we know for years or select via guide Hachette or Michelin.

Yes st view malaucene is nice. It is also the name of the main character of Daniel Penac romans. Spelled malaussene.

tomboy Apr 27th, 2019 07:28 AM

That may work if you know the vineyard(s) you want to go to, but if you don't, what better place to ask what vineyards are nearby, what vineyards accommodate visitors, etc than at a co-op? As stated above, Gigondas has a nice one. When we dined at L'Oustalet in Gigondas, we just asked the waiter the name of the wine we were enjoying, whose vineyard turned out to be about 2/3 mile from the B&B we were staying at. Likewise in Malaucene, the B&B host/owner at Mas de Longuefeille was very knowledgeable about wines and vineyards in the area, and guided us accordingly.

balso May 3rd, 2019 01:10 PM

If you want to avoid crossing Paris by metro between the train from Caen and the train to Avignon, you could be fly from Caen to Marseille and rent there. 1.5 hour drive to Vaison. I say "could be able", because it is too early to see 2020 flight schedules.

PalenQ May 3rd, 2019 01:55 PM

Flying makes sense in this case if flights are between Caen or Cherbourg.

StuDudley May 3rd, 2019 02:33 PM

There is a TGV that departs from the Rennes in Brittany station at 13:29, and arrives at the Avignon TGV station at 18:46. No train change - but that's for this year. 18:46 a little late for most house rentals (we've rented 78 gites/apts in France outside of Paris). But you might arrange something with the proprietor.

The Gigondas coop is nothing really interesting - unless you just want to taste or purchase wine. There is no "explaining" by anyone at the coop - you just point to one of the wines you want to taste, and the server pours some for you to try. Quite boring - the tasting room is very small.

Do you have any of my France itineraries???? I've sent my various itineraries to over 6,000 people on Fodors, I have a 35 page one for Provence & Cote d'Azur and a 20 pager for Normandy & Brittany. We'll be in Normandy near Rouen for 2 weeks in early June this year, followed by 2 weeks near Dinan in Brittany. So if you want the Normandy updates from our upcoming trip, e-mail me sometime after September when I make my additions. E-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach them to the reply e-mail. The gite where we stayed in the Pays d'Auge is in the itinerary. I don't reveal our gites in Provence - we plan to return & don't need any more competition. BTW, we secure our gites about 1 year n advance - a little longer for Provence.

Stu Dudley

StuDudley May 3rd, 2019 02:51 PM

Here is a another idea of how to get from Normandy to Avignon:

- Drive 2 hrs from Bayeux (or wherever you are staying) to Rennes & stay the night in one of our "top 5" large cities in France (outside of Paris). Stay near the train station & return the car at the station. Hopefully construction near the station will be finished by then.

- Take the 7:45 TGV that arrives at the Avignon TGV station at 12:30. No train changes.

FWIW, I feel much more "comfortable" with riding first class on the TGV, than I do with flying short distances with all the associated airport hassles/problems/baggage limitations.

Stu Dudley

twk May 6th, 2019 12:10 PM

Thanks for the further suggestions, Stu. I do believe that I have your updated Provence itinerary (got one in 2011, as well).

I still think I'm leaning to rail, but I suppose flying to Marseilles would be an option. Having read an article talking about the clogged roads in France on Saturdays in July and August has caused me to pretty much rule out driving.

As to getting across Paris on that day, I did some dummy reservation checks and it seemed that there was a possibility of taking a train to a stations outside of Paris (one was Versailles Chantiers, and I forget the other) that would avoid the cross town station change.

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