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Need help with minutiae of Normandy & Provence, trains & cars in June 2008

Need help with minutiae of Normandy & Provence, trains & cars in June 2008

Old Mar 9th, 2008, 06:05 PM
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Need help with minutiae of Normandy & Provence, trains & cars in June 2008

So close to being done planning this trip...! We just have a few last questions for the France experts.

I've read in other posts that taking a train to Caen is ideal for Normandy. We are staying 2 days in Honfleur and 2 days in Avranches. However, in order to save money, which would be best:

1. Renting a car in Paris and driving to Honfleur (220 euros for car rental) + gas + annoyance of driving more

2. Take train to Caen ($200 for 4 people) and then pick up car (160 euros for car rental)

3. Take train to Le Havre, then bus or taxi to Honfleur. No rental car for Honfleur. Save 2 days worth of car rental price. But, then where would we pick up a rental car to get to Avranches/D-Day beaches/Mont St Michel?

The other question we have is, which city in Provence should we take the train to/pick up the rental car from? Aix? Arles? We are staying in Bonnieux, and are flying from Lyon to London on our last day.

What are the best car rental companies in Europe? I've read about Auto Europe but feel hesitant about renting from them based on negative posts here. I also checked their prices for our Normandy dates, and they were about twice as much as the Budget rates (quoted above).

Thanks in advance for any advice! This trip has been so frustrating to plan, but I know it will be worth it

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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 06:17 PM
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I would take the train to Caen and stay in Bayeux. Caen was bombed beyond recognition in WWII and is totally rebuilt and fairly ugly, BUT the Mémorial Museum is a must-see. Avranches is just a ho-hum town. Honfleur is darling but out of the way for visiting the D-Day beaches. Bayeux is darling.

I don't know what negative stuff you've read about AutoEurope on here; seems like 90% of it is really positive, but I've done more than 100 rentals with them and have not a single complaint and a half-dozen stories of how amazing their customer service was.

In Provence you should take the TGV to Avignon.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 06:27 PM
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I would probably rent a car and drive to Honfleur. It's an easy drive from Paris to Honfleur. It sounds like you will need the car anyway to get to Avranches (is this where you are staying?) Bayeux would be a better base for the D-Day beaches. We did this same route a year ago and saw some of the Normandy countryside and villages on the way to Bayeux. Bayeux is a nice town with several things of interest - especially the Tapestry.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 06:42 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions, but our reservations/where we are staying are set in stone. The fact that AutoEurope was 2X the price of Budget for the same dates makes me think that renting through Budget or an actual car rental agency would be better. I'd like to know if there are any other suggested agencies like Budget. Thanks.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 06:48 PM
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I find it really, really hard to believe that AutoEuropewas 2X another outfit. And even if they were, they promise, and always come through on, matching a better price. I think you should check that out, because among other reasons AutoEurope has amazing customer service and almost always upgrades you to the next best car.
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 07:07 PM
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In comparing car rental prices, you want to look carefully at what insurance is/isn't included. If you plan to use the damage coverage offered by some credit cards (we do), check up on details. I've used Hertz several times in France with good results; look around their website to find the vacation special rates.

Personally, I'd probably drive. The autoroutes are pretty fast (though the tolls add up). You can shift from autoroute to side roads for a change of pace. While gas prices are high, the typical rental car gets pretty good mileage compared to US cars (especially the diesels, which are pretty common rentals).
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 07:21 PM
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I must have entered the dates wrong when pricing AutoEurope. I just dobule-checked it, and they were only about $60 more than Budget. What we really need to know is if we can get away with renting a car while in Honfleur. If not, should we drive from Paris and save on train costs?
Thanks.

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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 08:31 PM
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brit--I would think when you consider the cost of 4 persons taking the train vs the car rental, the car rental would be cheaper. We drove from Paris to Bayeux after an overnight transatlantic flight and had no problems, it should take just under three hours

you might check prices at www.kemwel.com, they have been coming in cheaper for me than autoeurope or try www.autoeurope.fr, if you are comfortable using the French website, you might find better prices for your rental.

Deborah
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Old Mar 9th, 2008, 10:52 PM
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DeborahAnn - I'm glad you posted that, because we are considering driving from Paris to Bayeux after a transtlantic flight. But, I was worried we'd be too tired to drive that distance.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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If you stay in Honfleur for 2 days without a car, after about 3 hours you're going to wish you had a car so you could get out and explore the countryside a bit. Honfleur is quite small and will be very crowded mid-day in season.

Bad reports about AutoEurope? The only one I recall proved to be false, and a retractioin/apology was posted by th OP. Like St Cirq, we've rented dozens of cars from them. We've had problems with the actual rental agency charging us for gas when we returned the car full, and other things like that. AutoEurope always resolved things in our favor - often out of their own pocked, when it was entirely the actual rental company's fault. Do a little more/better research before you post another statement about "negative posts" about AutoEurope.

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 09:33 AM
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Car is a big plus for the Normandie area. Part of the experience IS the countryside and what you come across during the drive--the markets or farms or shops, etc. and the lovely scenery. Honfleur is wonderful, but you won't regret having that car the second day to venture out and see some of the neighboring sights.

You sound like you will be starting out fresh from Paris, but in case you're arriving on an overnight flight...For what it's worth, my husband is good for 2-3 hours worth of driving after an overnight flight before he starts to get really hungry, and once he's eaten, it's pretty much down hill from there; he gets really sleepy and driving becomes really unenjoyable at that point until he's slept.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 09:56 AM
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>>my husband is good for 2-3 hours worth of driving after an overnight flight before he starts to get really hungry, and once he's eaten, it's pretty much down hill from there; he gets really sleepy and driving becomes really unenjoyable at that point until he's slept.<,

Same with me !!! I our case we solved this problem many years ago - my wife does all the driving...

Stu Dudley

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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:05 AM
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Deauville, 20 minutes from Honfleur, has car rentals.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:07 AM
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The thing that initially confused me when looking up rates at Autoeurope is that they quote you two rates, the basic and the inclusive. The inclusive rate was 2X the cost of Budget.

The posts that I read that made me not want to use Autoeurope were titled "car rental in France" and "US citizen renting through USA vs. French website." That was enough good research for me.

We will be starting out fresh from Paris... I will check with my father-in-law and see if he is up for the extra driving. From what I've read from other posts, it sounds like there are credit card companies that will give you more coverage if you use that cc card to pay for the rental? I will ask him to check with his cc company and see what his coverage would be. Do US car insurance companies generally not cover driving in foreign countries? I know a co-worker who recently got in a car wreck in New Zealand, and her insurance did not cover it.

What about the Provence leg of our trip? Where should we take the train to?
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:11 AM
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I considered Deauville, but RailEurope does not go there.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:15 AM
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The train goes between Gare St-Lazare and Deauville several times a day.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:27 AM
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I'm using the RailEurope site, and it does not list Deauville as a station. Is there another site that I should be using?
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:32 AM
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travelgirl, I am sure you know your driving limits. Ron and I always plan that our first drive will be less than 4 hours.

This May we are flying overnight to Madrid and will drive to Burgos from the airport, 2 1/2 hours. We also both like to drive so it works perfectly for us.

There are a number of places enroute to Bayeux on the autoroute to pull off for refreshments, toilets etc.

Deborah
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:34 AM
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britomart: If you had followed the Car Rental in France thread to its conclusion you would have noted that the original poster ended up apologizing for having made negative comments about AutoEurope. The other post you cited was simply pointing out that Europe-based Auto Europe websites sometimes have lower prices than the US-based one.

You should check which of your credit cards, if any, cover the CDW. If you're covered, obviously no need to purchase full coverage. It's not that cc's offer "more" coverage; they either cover you or they don't. And no, US auto insurance does not cover you in Europe.

As I mentioned previously, you should take the train to Avignon, by far the easiest rental car pickup place.
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Old Mar 10th, 2008, 10:43 AM
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The SNCF site lists the times the train goes from Paris to Deauville.
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