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Questions about our 2 week itinerary in France

Questions about our 2 week itinerary in France

Feb 22nd, 2018, 05:20 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2018
Posts: 3
Questions about our 2 week itinerary in France

Hello all,
We'll be spending 15 nights in France in August and I was wondering if you can give me your opinion on our preliminary itinerary. For context, it's going to be my wife, my 2 children (7 and 4) and myself. We all speak french and my wife and I have already been to Paris once (4 days, 10 years ago), which we loved. We like culture, history, cute little towns, nature, walking. We're not so big on food and wine, although we do appreciate it (particularly the children and I are picky eaters ). The kids are used to travelling, although of course they get tired more easily than us.
So here's what we have in mind:
- Day 1, arrive at Paris (Orly) at noon from US (7 hour flight). Rent a car and drive to Amboise. Stay there for 3 nights visiting the Loire valley (2 full days).
- Day 4, drive to Dinan. Stay 3 nights, maybe go to St Malo for a day trip?
- Day 7, drive to Mont St Michel and stay there 1 night to see it without the crowds.
- Day 8, drive to Bayeux. Stay 3 nights, visit D Day beaches, Honfleur, maybe Étretat?
- Day 11, leave for Paris, maybe stop at Giverny, return the car.
- Day 16, take flight back late in the afternoon.
My questions:
- Does this itinerary make sense in general? Too rushed?
- Would it make more sense to make Mont St Michel a day trip from Dinan or Bayeux and extend by 1 day Brittany or Normandy?
- Will the car be a drag on any of these locations (parking, traffic, ...)?
- I guess we could cut 1 day from Paris and add it somewhere else. Would you recommend that?
- Would it be better to pick the car at Amboise and/or return the car at Bayeux?
Thanks in advance.
ericmin12 is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2018, 05:53 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
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Originally Posted by ericmin12 View Post
Would it be better to pick the car at Amboise ...?
Absolutely!!! Although many people are not aware of it, there is mounting evidence that driving with jet lag is just as dangerous -- to yourself and others -- as driving drunk, and nothing you can do will prevent the microsleeps (which you might not even notice) that are the apparent culprit – not caffeine, not effort, not sleeping on the plane. Seriously -- NOT a good idea, no matter your other constraints and no matter your prior experience! And please be patient with me if you think I’m being overly adamant, but I know too many people who have died or been seriously injured in accidents to which jet lag was a contributing factor, and I know too many people who will spend the rest of their lives dealing with the knowledge that they were responsible for accidents that resulted in multiple deaths, including those of children, all because they were too confident in their ability to drive safely with jet lag. The issue has become a bit of a cause célèbre for me….

You have several day trip options from Dinan. Personally, I thought reconstructed St. Malo a bit too much like a stage set, but many people find it charming.

I’m glad I spent a night on Mont St. Michel. Truth in advertising: I went as a solo traveler, which makes one-night stays a bit easier than traveling with a family.

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Feb 22nd, 2018, 06:38 PM
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With little ones and the glorious sandy beaches of Brittany, how about adding some major beach time at St,Malo/Dinard instead of three days in Dinan?
Envierges is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 04:15 AM
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I agree about picking the car up in Amboise, but you're likely to hit a roadblock trying to return it in Bayeux. Unless things have changed recently, there is only one (tiny) rental outfit in Bayeux, and if it's not the one you're picking up from, you won't be able to drop the car there. Drop the car in Caen instead, at the train station.

I also agree with taking advantage of more beach time in Brittany, especially in August and especially with children the ages of yours.

It's August, prime vacation time for the French and other Europeans. It wouldn't be surprising to encounter some traffic and parking problems.
StCirq is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 07:00 AM
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I agree you can't be returning cars anywhere you want in small towns. Only Hertz is in Bayeux and near Giverny I presume means Vernon which is a small town also. But it does have a Hertz and Avis near it, and Europcar just across the river. So you'd have to check if you can do that, probably can. But if you mean to drive from Giverny to Paris and return it there, well, that's up to you, you can certainly do that, it's just the traffic issue depending where you plan to return it. Caen is much bigger than bayeux, you could return a car there. They have many car rental companies. In fact, if you take the train from Bayeux to either Vernon (going through Rouen) or Paris, you have to go through Caen, anyway (and sometimes transfer). So that might be a good idea as a place to return the car. In fact, you might want to visit some sites in Caen rather than Vernon and you could do that before leaving for Paris by train.
Christina is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 11:39 AM
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I was definitely concerned about jet lag, so we're looking now about picking the car at Amboise as you've suggested (or Tours maybe). One issue we'll have is that we're arriving on a Saturday, so we might not arrive on time before the car rental closes and it seems that they're closed on Sundays. Or we could wait until Monday for the car and do Sunday without it.
The other issue is that getting from Orly to Amboise on public transportation doesn't seem as straightforward as I would have hoped for. Considering our time of our arrival it seems that the best would be to go to Montparnasse to take the TGV to Amboise via Tours. Do any of you have any experience doing Paris to Amboise on train/bus?
I'm still thinking it'd be best to return the car in Paris instead of Caen but we'll see that later. And thanks for the suggestions regarding adding some beach time, we'll look into that.
ericmin12 is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 12:20 PM
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Jet-lag yes but it's a straight shot on autoroute for about an hour and change to Amboise but you know yourselves whether driver can sleep on planes will or not. But I guess jeet-lag is more than that. But, Instead of taking train to Amboise just stay on train few more minutes to St-Pierre-des-Corps station (Tours mainline station) where there are several car rentals that should allow returns elsewhere. And drive short distance back to Amboise (or stay in Amboise first night sans car and see that chateau (and in summer neat sound-and-light show in gardens!) and next day have driver or all take train to St-Pierre-des-Corps to pick up car and head for Chenonceau or wherever and end up back in Amboise.

From Orly you could take OrlyVal people mover to RER and with one change be at Montparnasse station for 1-hr TGV trains to St-Pierre-des-Corps - or from Orly take RER C (shutle bus from terminals) to Austerlitz station for regional TER trains to Amboise and St-Pierre-des-Corps (taking about 2 hours). Book tickets in advance at www.oui.sncf - www.seat61.com has great advice about doing that - general train and Loire info BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 12:41 PM
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It is NOT "an hour and change " from Orly to Amboise. It's 2.5 hours without any stops, and that's after you get through immigration, pick up bags, and so forth.

OP, don't even think about buses. Buses suck in France until you really get out into the wilds like the Pyrenées, where people don't have any choices. Take the train into Paris and get a train to Amboise from there, or a train to Tours.

What time are you arriving in Orly on Saturday that you are worried that car rental outfits would be closed in Amboise or Tours? They are almost always open until 18:00. And if arriving later than that or on Sunday, I have often found that for an extra fee of 20-25 euros the car rental company will send someone especially to open for you.
StCirq is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 01:29 PM
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We always use AutoEurope (a consolidator) for car rental in Europe. Last year we picked up in Rouen and dropped the car at the Hertz office in Bayeux. AutoEurope is based in Maine and their agents are quite knowledgeable as far as advising options for pick up and drop off. Since Hertz is the only car rental in Bayeux, they were able to direct us to the Hertz office in Rouen. They've helped us with after hours service as well.
Judy is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 02:07 PM
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St Cirq - I have driven that many times and as old age sets in the mind goes... but it is 109 miles and I perhaps was thinking of days before speed limits were enforced. Still all on autoroute at 75 miles per hour... OK two hours but straight and easy driving - and that's driving time - with kids yes a few stops at rest areas. Best to take train after all-night flight.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 04:12 PM
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According to viamichelin.com - which I find to be almost 100% accurate for trips of 3 hrs or less, it is:

- 2 hrs 14 mins from the Orly airport to Amboise
- 1 hr 41 mins of that is on motorways - which I assume to be "A" roads.
- 218K/135 miles

According to Google, the Amboise train station is a bit north of the river. Amboise itself is south of the river, the Europcar office is waaaay south of Amboise. So you'll have to take a taxi from the train station to the Europcar office. This is the case with picking up a car in Blois also - which is what we did in 2014 (we actually returned one there). I would be a little concerned about taxi availability late on a Saturday evening or on a Sunday.

There doesn't seem to be a Hertz office near Amboise.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Feb 23rd, 2018, 06:17 PM
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Originally Posted by ericmin12 View Post
I was definitely concerned about jet lag, so we're looking now about picking the car at Amboise as you've suggested (or Tours maybe). One issue we'll have is that we're arriving on a Saturday, so we might not arrive on time before the car rental closes and it seems that they're closed on Sundays. Or we could wait until Monday for the car and do Sunday without it..
Good choice! I'm sure you'll find a workable solution and have a wonderful time.
kja is offline  
Feb 24th, 2018, 01:02 AM
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MIchelin times are for sure close to accurate, but they don't take into account pit stops, August traffic and backups, déviations, or other irregularities that can easily affect someone unfamiliar with the roads. I always add at least 20% to their calculations, and that's before including the time to find the car, figure out how to back it up, and learn to navigate within a town once I get there.
StCirq is offline  
Feb 24th, 2018, 05:16 AM
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And of course be aware of Priority on the Right - especially in towns where minor roads may have right of way over much busier ones and have no yield signs as most but not all do.. Not seen a whole lot but French friends in Orleans tell me it is still found.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 24th, 2018, 09:51 AM
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Given arriving on a Saturday I would be tempted to "reverse the trip" and go in from Orly to Paris and spend the 4-5 nights first there, Sat, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday etc. then go to Brittany from there and do the Loire last and then just drop the car at Orly as you leave especially if you are leaving in the afternoon. You could take a train to either St. Malo or Caen. I don't know the exact dates in August you are going but be aware driving in and out on certain days can be really bad-huge back ups at the toll booths. The "Bison Fute" already has the calendar posted for expected "black traffic days" going which directions (in/out of Paris from which regions), so maybe that will impact your planning. Here is the link:

jpie is offline  
Feb 24th, 2018, 10:45 AM
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It sounds like you may need to go to Tours at first--I can't speak to that. But however you work it out, I would still do the touring part first and end in Paris. It is just so much simpler to end your trip near the airport where you're flying home.

Otherwise, you should come back to Paris a day ahead and stay the night before in Paris. That's an extra hotel move and more work with young children. I'd avoid that if possible.
5alive is offline  
Feb 24th, 2018, 01:30 PM
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When I did a Google search on Europcar at Amboise for Sat, it indicated that the office was open till 6PM that day.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Feb 24th, 2018, 03:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
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Two years ago my daughter (who'd been a year-long exchange student in France) and I spent 5 weeks there with her 3 children, ages 5 - 12. Our first week was near Amboise, and I agree with those who advise taking a train from Paris to Tours when you first arrive, and getting your car in Tours. Admittedly it was easier for us from CDG, since the train station was right in the airport. (On all of our travels by train, I booked tickets when they first went on sale so they were very inexpensive.) We picked up our car from Sixt in Tours, just around the corner from the train station. We did have to pay about $25 because our train arrived shortly after closing time, but they were very accommodating. In fact, we got an Alfa Romeo and loved it! Its GPS got us easily out of Tours and the drive is a short, easy, rural one to Amboise, so I wasn't as concerned about dealing with jet lag as I would have been driving from Paris. Also, the car's dash showed the current speed limit wherever you drove, which eased my paranoia after reading forum posts about people inadvertently speeding and getting a ticket after they got back home.

I also concur with turning the car back in at Caen. If you do so at the Caen train station, be sure to get specific directions; we had to call because the office wasn't right at the station but about a block over, as I recall.

For us, doing the Loire Valley first was a great low-key intro to France for our kids. We booked homes or apartments where we could and that worked wonderfully well, since we also had picky eaters and could cook what they would eat, with just the occasional meal out for French cuisine. It also gave the kids more space and a feel of being home. They loved daVinci's home and gardens with all the hands-on exhibits and room to run and play, as I'm sure most kids do. Ours also loved Monet's gardens at Giverny; we did it as a day trip from Paris.
maryado is offline  
Feb 25th, 2018, 05:26 AM
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In Amboise smack dab opposite the imposing chaeau that hangs over the Loire - on an island facing the chateau is a large municipal swimming pool - great for kids after day of sightseeing.
PalenQ is offline  
Feb 25th, 2018, 08:04 PM
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We found the idea of reversing the trip tempting, specially because our return flight leaves at 7pm so we wouldn't need to spend the night before in Paris... but I just double checked and realized that we arrive on Friday and not on a Saturday as I initially thought, so it should be easier to rent the car either Friday afternoon or Saturday morning at Tours or Amboise. Anyway, thanks for all the recommendations.
As to the itinerary itself, do any of you think that we're rushing it with only 3 nights in Normandy? Should we add another night and maybe cut 1 from Paris?
ericmin12 is offline  
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