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Paris/Lyon/Toulouse and a jump to Rome? Your thoughts appreciated :)

Paris/Lyon/Toulouse and a jump to Rome? Your thoughts appreciated :)

May 26th, 2014, 11:58 PM
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Join Date: May 2014
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Paris/Lyon/Toulouse and a jump to Rome? Your thoughts appreciated :)

Hello! First, I've poured over many of the various threads in the France section and have found so much useful information - thank you to so many of you who graciously offer your advice.

I'm planning a roughly 2-week trip and will primarily be focusing on France with a jaunt down to Rome. A friend will be living in Toulouse for a year so I'd love to visit France while she's there and there are a few friends in Rome that I would like to see, particularly one who is only living there for one more year. I've been to Italy for about 2.5 months total, but France is uncharted territory for me.

I'd love some feedback on my initial itinerary as well as a few questions below. At this point, I'm assuming I'll be taking trains. (If my friend in Toulouse plus 2 mutual friends come up from Rome to join us, we would take a car. But if they do come, they won't be able to join us for the whole trip, just a part.)

Priorities for the trip: I love history, art, Gothic architecture, music, ballet, and Catholic sites of pilgrimage. I know one could spend a lifetime in Paris/France and never be satisfied but I'm trying to balance a little of it all - a little art museum time here, some wine tasting there, a ballet/music concert of some kind if possible, great food (on a relatively moderate budget - cheaper fare with maybe a splurge once or twice), a boat ride on the Seine, eating macarons and drinking coffee, strolling the markets, etc.

5 Overnights in Paris
Daytrip to Lisieux (anyone know if bus or train is better?)
DT to Normandy (both my grandfathers were at D-Day, what a great opportunity to visit)
DT to Chartres (noticed on another thread the recommendation for a tour with Malcom Miller)

1 Overnight heading south, I'd like to make a relatively quick stop in Nevers and Paray-le-Monial. I figure 1 overnight could cover both - thoughts?

Travel to Lyon with 2 Overnights in Lyon
DT to Ars is the primary means for staying in Lyon. Other recommendations in the area? Or is one night sufficient and better to move on?

Travel to Toulouse and 3 Overnights in Toulouse
DT to Lourdes

Travel to Florence with 2 ON

Travel to Roma with 3 ON

Now, a few questions/thoughts:
- do you have recommendations for vineyard tours in Lyon? Or Toulouse? Or somewhere else along the general path above?

- I could nix the Toulouse part of the trip. Pros: I'd have a free place to stay with my friend and I would like to visit Lourdes. Cons: would it be better to stay longer in Paris or explore another area (Avignon, etc) and not go so far west, especially if I would like to make that jaunt down to Rome? Any thoughts on the merits of Toulouse?

- I'm not sold on stopping in Florence - I've spent a week there and it's really only an excuse to head to 2 particular places I didn't get to the 1st time around. If I don't take the train, I won't stop in Florence and thus I'd likely spend the extra time in Paris and its environs.

- Would it be cheaper/better to fly from France to Rome or to take the train? If flying, out of Nice? Or other place of departure?

If any of that needs clarification please let me know. Thank you in advance!
ducinaltum is offline  
May 27th, 2014, 08:11 AM
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Hey D,

I would save Italy for another trip.

Add two nights to Paris.

Have you checked travel times? You might want to do an overnight for the D-Day beaches.

ira is online now  
May 27th, 2014, 08:46 AM
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Without knowing what time of year you are traveling, it is hard to give advice. Also, only you know how much it means to you to hook up with your friends in Europe vs. spending time in Europe cultural sightseeing.

If you go to Rome, maybe you could see the 2 things you want to see in Florence as a daytrip from Rome.
sandralist is offline  
May 27th, 2014, 08:53 AM
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I agree with IRA - you're trying to do too much. I've visited all the places on your list - several times. Just the train from Toulouse to Lourdes & back will consume at least 5 hours out of your day (door to door). Train trip is 2 hrs each way and the Toulouse train station is a bit of a walk from the center of Toulouse. The train station in Lourdes is quite a ways away from the Grotte/Basilique too.

You only have 4 days in Paris with 3 long day-trips planned. I'm not much of a religious person, so I won't pass judgement on Lisieux - but there are only two trains before 9am that will get you there early enough to visit stuff. That trip is going to consume at least 4 plus hours. I would skip Chartres - you'll see plenty of churches in Paris & Toulouse.

Compared to Paris, Lyon, Toulouse, and Florence - Nevers and Paray might be a disappointment and it will take some doing to get there from Lyon. There is only 1 train in the morning to Nevers and the trip is 3 1/2 hrs plus time to get to/from the stations. If you try to visit Nevers & Paray in the same day, the train from Nevers to Paray leaves around 2:25 & gets in at 3:50. The trains to Toulouse will take in excess of 7 hrs and involve two train changes. I would just go from Paris to Lyon to Toulouse. The train from Lyon to Toulouse takes 4 hrs.

There are no reasonable trains from Toulouse to Florence - I would try to find some flights.

Here is what I would do so that you are not spending all of your limited time on trains.

- Paris 6 nights with day-trips to the WWII stuff & Lisieux. That will give you 3 full days in Paris

- Dijon 2 nights with a wine tour to some Burgundy Vineyards

- Lyon for 2-3 nights. (get a map of the Traboules)

- Toulouse for 3 nights with a day trip to Lourdes.

Fly home from Toulouse.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
May 27th, 2014, 08:59 AM
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It's too packed. Three day trips in a 5-day stay in Paris? And one of them all the way to Normandy and back? Not good.

I'd ditch the Rome part of the trip. And the trip to Lourdes, which is not only a major-league haul from Toulouse, but a super-tacky venue of the worst sort. There are plenty of Catholic venues in France that aren't.
StCirq is online now  
May 27th, 2014, 09:01 AM
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Lisieux and D-Day beaches and Chartres are best by train - any long-distance trek in France is better by train than bus - buses tend to only serve local areas where trains do not run.

You are doing so much train travel - not a criticism - in France and Italy you may want to investigate the France-Italy Railpass, valid on trains in both countries - many of your French trains are regional trains that you can just hop on without a supplement or reservation - on TGVs you do need a reservation but I see only one or two potentially of those.

For lots of great info on France and Italy train travel check out these IMO superb sources: www.budgeteuropetravel.com; www.ricksteves.com and www.seat61.com.

and yes Toulouse to Florence is a long train ride - all day but if you want to break your journey in the French Riviera - say Nice for a day or two that would break it up - otherwise look at flying as Stu above mentions.
PalenQ is online now  
May 27th, 2014, 10:51 AM
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Wow, thank you all for such prompt and thorough responses.

ira, I have thought about an overnight, thanks for the point. Perhaps the first day I'm there so as not to stay overnight in Paris, leave Paris for D-Day sites, just to come back to Paris. There seems to be somewhat equal preference for Caen vs. Bayeux from what I've read.

Q1: Does anyone have additional food for thought on that overnight with regard to one over the other?

And sandra, you bring up a great point - I failed to mention that in the first post. Because of the schedules of the friends in Rome, it's likely going to be an October or November trip.

Q2: With the clarification of time of year, does anyone have any recommendations about good ballet/music venues to check out or websites with a good round-up of info?

For me, as sandra brought up, the value of this trip is getting to spend time with friends I can't see regularly, while having the bonus of being in France. The emphasis on 'being' rather than 'seeing'. I'm sure I'll be able to come back to France one day to dive into a more things! I don't care to see the Mona Lisa and if I don't get to walk up the Eiffel Tower, I won't be bummed at all.

If one friend in particular cannot come up to France because of his schedule, that is the reason why I would jump down to Rome to visit him especially, and then several others who live there. Otherwise, it'll be all France, all the way which would be very nice for the sake of remaining longer in Paris which everyone agrees is a good thing!

Also to explain, the brief stops in places near Lyon are to visit the tombs of St. Bernadette (Nevers), St. Margaret Mary & St. Claude Columbiere (Paray-le-Monial), and St. John Vianney (Ars). Not the typical tourist route, but places of high value for me and my friends. If anything, Nevers would get cut, but the other two places are must-see.

Stu, I greatly appreciate your input on the train access to these roughly Lyon-area places. That might be the stretch where we rent a car. Living in the U.S., I'm no stranger to long road-trips and in fact enjoy them greatly and driving through France would not be what I consider a long road trip in comparison. And frankly, much much more enjoyable than, say, driving through Kansas or Iowa!

Q3: Stu (and others), do you have any specific vineyards in the Burgundy region (or even Rhone) that you would highly recommend? One probably can't go wrong with any of them, but I'd love your seasoned input.

At this point, I'm more inclined to cut Toulouse because that's kind of the outlier in terms of geography and level of importance. It was mostly thrown in there for free lodging and desire to visit Lourdes, which can be done another time.

Chartres may get cut as well, though I have an unusually large appetite for churches

Thank you again!
ducinaltum is offline  
May 27th, 2014, 01:09 PM
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There seems to be somewhat equal preference for Caen vs. Bayeux from what I've read.>

Not if you read many posts here - it is nearly unanimous that Bayeux is a much more romantic town than Caen - Caen was virtually wiped off the map in WW2 - Bayeux is the rare town in this area that was spared war damage - plus Caen is a big modern city - Bayeux a smaller, but not tiny, city with a famous cathedral and Queen Matildha's Tapestries in a local museum that the Queen of William the Conqueror put together to document the 1066 invasion of England and subsequent Norman defeat of Saxon King Harold - all told in images on these very very elaborate and huge tapestries.

Plus Bayeux is marginally closer to the d-Day sites and has a raft of mini-bus tours picking up at hotels to do half- and full-day tours of the highlights of the D-Day beaches.

Bayeux to me and many others hands down over Caen.
PalenQ is online now  
May 27th, 2014, 01:55 PM
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Caen's a nice enough place, but it got bombed to smithereens in WWII and lost a great deal of its historic charm. Bayeux did not. And yes, I think 95% of Fodorites would choose Bayeux over Caen. The Mémorial museum in Caen is incredible, though.
StCirq is online now  
May 27th, 2014, 02:15 PM
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Thanks for the heads up - I was reading about it elsewhere and it seemed split, though I did know that Bayeux was spared.

StCirq, good to know about the museum in Caen though - I'm a big, big fan of a truly good museum to add to the mix when seeing/learning about a place so that's a great thing to consider.
ducinaltum is offline  
May 27th, 2014, 02:46 PM
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If you can fit it into your plans, absolutely do so - though I've never been able to get out of there in under 4 hours. It's a truly compelling place. There are a number of good museums in Normandy, another one being the fairly small one in Arromanches.
StCirq is online now  
May 27th, 2014, 03:10 PM
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It took us 3 hours to get through the museum in Caen. Then we had lunch at the cafeteria there. I don't see how you can possibly visit much of the WWII stuff on a day-trip from Paris. I suggest that you land at CDG, rent a car, and drive to Bayeux & stay there for 2 nights. Return the car at the end of day 2, and in the morning of day 3 take the 8:39 train to Paris (2 hr trip).

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
May 27th, 2014, 03:24 PM
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If you are going in October or later, a day trip to Lourdes may not be doable. It is quite high up in the mountains. They probably keep the roads clear as much as possible, but if you are only in Toulouse for a short visit, the weather might not cooperate for a day trip to Lourdes.
sandralist is offline  
May 27th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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Stu, you're spot on. 2 nights in Bayeux at the start of the trip sounds like the ideal plan.

sandra, wonderful insight. I think that further confirms that Lourdes shouldn't be part of this trip.
ducinaltum is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 08:50 AM
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Living in the U.S., I'm no stranger to long road-trips and in fact enjoy them greatly and driving through France would not be what I consider a long road trip in comparison. And frankly, much much more enjoyable than, say, driving through Kansas or Iowa!>>

but much more difficult too! [though i've never been or Kansas or Iowa, I'd be surprised if it was anything like driving in France or Italy].

Chiming in as i just found this thread, dulci, having "met" you elsewhere on the forum.

Dulci - i think that Toulouse would fit into your plan [a shame to miss seeing your friend] but I would lose Lourdes, and Lyon, if you are still determined to go to Rome. [i would also drop Florence, and fly from Paris or Toulouse to Rome]. Paris +Normandy, Toulouse and Rome would make a reasonable trip; add in somewhere else and you are in danger of spreading yourself too thin. i would keep Toulouse in if only for the weather, which in October/nov is likely to be better in the South of France than it will be in Normandy.
annhig is online now  
May 30th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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Annhig lovely to hear from you here too!

You're right! It's an apples to oranges comparison to a large degree; I do love driving and France is faaaar more interesting than Iowa and Kansas (claw-your-eyes out boring/flat - lovely people though!).

Your suggestions are wonderful. M, the friend in Toulouse will be able to meet up with me in the north because her schedule is flexible. If I include Toulouse it would mean additional time with her since then she can go to work and we can hang out afterward. Plus, it's Toulouse! Merit in its own right.

It's a hard thing - there are so many things I want to visit this first time around - the classic traveler's dilemma. At this point, Lourdes is definitely out. Rome only needs to happen if J can't make it up at the last minute.

An update as of yesterday is that based on J's schedule (the one in Rome who in particular I will move my schedule around to see), the trip will actually now be in early February. Not an ideal time to visit France, but my climate is akin to northern Europe (the land of my people!) so the loss in sunny weather is more than made up with the ability to spend time with these friends who are dear to me and who will soon be spread out across the globe.

Yes, flying from Paris or Toulouse to Rome does sound like the best plan if Rome is part of the trip. I could even extend the trip a little (I have good vacation time for the US, considering my age/years of work experience) to make it happen. Grazie!

I'm looking forward to nailing down
ducinaltum is offline  
May 30th, 2014, 09:39 AM
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Whoops...got cut off.

Looking forward to nailing down some more particulars once we talk to JG, the other friend in Rome!
ducinaltum is offline  

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