Recs for a few days in France

Nov 28th, 2019, 10:35 AM
  #1  
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Recs for a few days in France

Hi all,

My wife and I are taking a rare trip alone (we have 2 small toddlers) to France in late Feb/early March 2020 for 10 days. We will spend 3 - 4 days in Paris for a meeting but then will have 6 - 7 days free. I realize we can go virtually anywhere by train/TGV. We are especially fans of smaller towns with great food and simple beauty but would of course consider any big town sights too. What would be your recommendations be for a week or so outside of Paris? Thank you in advance for your help and suggestions (and for those in the US — happy thanksgiving!!)
lonelyplanet is offline  
Nov 28th, 2019, 11:01 AM
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How about Dijon. Or Strasbourg. Neither of those are small but their historic centers feel small. And there are day trips to smaller towns that you can do. From Dijon there Beaune. From Strasbourg there's Colmar. Or consider Lyon and do a day trip to Perouges.
isabel is offline  
Nov 28th, 2019, 11:16 AM
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Honestly, there are probably well more than a few thousand places in France that would fit this description, even if you limited it to places relatively easily accessible by train. Rather than have us, and you, throw darts at a map, it would be helpful to narrow your scope down considerably.

What kind of simple beauty? Half-timbered houses? Stunning seascapes? Rolling hills? Snow-covered mountains? Lakes and rivers? Lauze roofs? Romanesque chapels? Stone houses? Chalets? Pine forests?

Great food means what to you? Baeckeoffe and choucroute royale and tartes aux mirabeilles? Foie gras and confit de canard? Pl teaux de fruits de mer? Poulet au cidre? Jambon de Bayonne? Tapenade and fougasse? Daube de boeuf? Wild boar? Milk-fed pré-salé lamb? Truffles? Pastries?

There are many people here with vast knowledge of beautiful places in France and succulent things to eat in all of them. Help us out with some details of what you are looking for.
StCirq is offline  
Nov 28th, 2019, 11:54 AM
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I would choose larger towns. Small French towns can be dreary in the middle of winter. Maybe take the TGV to Marseille and then train along the Côte d'Azur to Nice and Menton. Given that that area is known for its Mediterranean/semi tropical gardens, it probably would have more comfortable temperatures than Marseille or Dijon, unless a mistral is blowing. If you are skiers, maybe a week of skiing in the French Alps would be a better choice.
Michael is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 08:39 AM
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Another city that comes to mind is Bordeaux. It is nice with kids because it mostly flat and they have a great tram system to get you anywhere in town. They have a lovely central pedestrian only city center area that has a nice carrousel that kids that age would love I think. In general it is just a really easy city and potentially more like to have sun that time of year than other areas.. You could even rent a car for a day and go to the beach if the weather is nice. Here are some photos to give you a sense of it:


jpie is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 08:54 AM
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I live 2.5 hours from Bordeaux and would never go there in February or March. I love Bordeaux, but at that time of year, hell, no.
StCirq is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by StCirq View Post
I live 2.5 hours from Bordeaux and would never go there in February or March. I love Bordeaux, but at that time of year, hell, no.

Where WOULD you go?

starrs is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 12:44 PM
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Originally Posted by starrs View Post
Where WOULD you go?
Stay home by the fire?
Michael is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
Stay home by the fire?
Not very helpful to vistors who want to plan a winter trip they are looking forward to.

Perhaps they will stumble on a travel forum for France that provides suggestions.

"My wife and I are taking a rare trip alone (we have 2 small toddlers) to France in late Feb/early March 2020 for 10 days. We will spend 3 - 4 days in Paris for a meeting but then will have 6 - 7 days free."

I love Paris in winter so I just bundle up and see the things I enoy in warmer months. Personally, I would take the TGV to Avignon and enjoy the walled city and then rent a car and drive around Provence. Yes, even in winter. Normandy is at the top of my list so I would go there. Years ago I found a stone cottage in a lavendar field that rents for as much for a month as is charged in the summer when the lavender is blooming. Yes, the mistral may be blowing, but it's Provence! Or perhaps a couple of nights in the Lorire valley, visiting castles.. I like winter vacations and know things will be very different from summer vacations. That appeals to me. I'm returning to one of my favorite (domestic) locations just to see it in winter. But I haven't been outside of Paris in winter, so my suggestions are just dreams. One day...
Even in winter.

Last edited by starrs; Dec 1st, 2019 at 01:16 PM.
starrs is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 01:14 PM
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Here's an old thread from TA I found via a google search. The poster asked for winter ideas for the Loire Valley and received some helpful replies -
https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopi...re_Valley.html
starrs is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 01:47 PM
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Okay, I'll share my secret place. I've not been there...yet, but plan to after I retire. I found it about 20 years ago online and at that time it was 700 euros a week in July when the surrounding lavender is in bloom and 700 euros a month in winter. Now it's an airbnb and the rate for March is a little over $100 USD a night with a 4 night minimum. It may be cold at that time of year, especially if the mistral is blowing but it may be much warmer and nicer. I checked reviews from winter visits just now and the stone cottage was nice and warm, even in winter. You may have to drive to Apt to find an open restaurant, but when I've gone to Provence and Tuscany I like to go out for a big meal in the middle of the day and to shop and sight-see and then come back and have dinner "at home". It may or may not be anything you would be interested in but it could be a lovely option, especially since the two of you don't have a lot of alone time.
https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/7605070...out=2020-03-15
There's plenty to see and do within a 1.5 hour drive, which for me is perfect for exploring during the day.
starrs is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 04:19 PM
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I did provide suggestions that took into account potential weather conditions.
Michael is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 04:41 PM
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Yes, you did. jpie did also.
starrs is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 06:01 PM
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I took a trip to Provence and a bit of the Languedoc in January for a week+ once. I had to use-or-lose vacation by the end of January, so that's when I went. Just chose specific sights I wanted to see and did the whole thing by train. Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, and Carcassonne. I lucked out with mostly sunny but cold weather. Except it snowed in Carcassonne, which was atmospheric but brrrr.

This isn't a specific recommendation, just saying it's not the end of the world to go somewhere other than Paris in France in winter. My trip was fast-paced, and although I noticed the quietness most places, I wasn't really affected by it. So I would just think about what things (indoor, hopefully) you have always wanted to see in France and then go where those are.

Have a great trip and please come back and share your experience.
Leely2 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 06:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Leely2 View Post
So I would just think about what things (indoor, hopefully) you have always wanted to see in France and then go where those are.
I agree.
starrs is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 08:30 AM
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We spent a month in Bordeaux from around 20th of Feb. to 20th of March and actually the weather was pretty nice-partly cloudy to sunny and in the 50s and 60s most days. I think it does get a bit better weather than more inland-although any given year who knows.

My initial reaction to the OP's question was actually to say just wait and see when you get there. Yes you might spend a bit more on train tickets by waiting but you also will have a lot more flex and choice about where to go. I do agree that the Languedoc is sort of the first place that came to mind. You can get to Avignon TGV station in just under 3 hours and pick up a car from there. We happen to love Uzes but there are plenty of other lovely cities and villages in that area and if you want to explore the coast even going as far as Narbonne is only a 2 hour drive.
jpie is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 08:49 AM
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I’m in agreement with Michael. At that time of year take the TGV south to Marseille and the Cote d’Azur: good chance of some decent weather and plenty to see. Some days in Marseille and surrounds then train to Nice for some time, fly back to Paris.

PS Driving around small villages in Provence ( or anywhere in inland France) at the time of year you are going would not be a good experience as many sites/ hotels/ restaurants are closed for the winter.

Last edited by jtpj777; Dec 2nd, 2019 at 08:53 AM.
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Dec 2nd, 2019, 10:01 AM
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Where would I go?

We go to Essaouira. Morocco.

We were in Bordeaux 2 weeks ago and it was bitter cold, pouring-down rain, fiercely windy, and totally miserable. It's been, and is going to be, a very unpleasant winter/early spring here in France.
StCirq is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 08:25 PM
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In general I have not found the country side in Europe to be particularly inviting during the winter. Spent a few weeks in Majorca once in between terms which was reasonably pleasant but otherwise tend to visit large cities in the winter. If you wish to stick to France I too would head to the Cote.
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Dec 3rd, 2019, 06:17 AM
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Go to the Pyrenées if you must be in France in the winter. Get an apartment in some place like Amélie-les-Bains and sign up for daily spa treatments. Take the Bus à Un Euro all over and explore. Towns in the Pyrenées are geared to winter travelers. Restaurants and cafés are open, the markets are full of winter produce, and the local towns and villages are celebrating their peak season. You can take the bus (for one euro) to beautiful places like Collioure for a daytrip if you like, or even into Spain.

If you don't go someplace like the Mediterranean coast, which will probably be warmer than most other places, as Michael suggests, then go somewhere that is set up for and geared to please winter visitors -like the Pyrenées. We spent a lovely, if frozen, week there in December a couple of years ago. Spa towns are absolutely fabulous in the winter in France.
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