Sanity check, 2 days in South of France

May 18th, 2019, 01:52 PM
  #1  
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Sanity check, 2 days in South of France

Hello again Fodorites,

We're at the end stages of planning our trip to London and France. Seeing several US women's World Cup games, and then going to Chamonix for 3 days towards the end of June. My teen will be chomping at the bit by then and she is most interested in seeing castles. So with 4 days after Chamonix, we are thinking of trying to see
Cité de Carcassonne. We will have a car and I see 6 hours drive time the first day. Two full days of sightseeing and the last day probably TGV Toulouse to Paris in time to check into a hotel and Metro to Parc des Princes for the late evening game?

So as I said, is that too crazy? If not where would you recommend to stay, what else to see?
jlub is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 02:24 PM
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Crazy, crazy, crazy. Carcassonne is a 2 1/2 hr visit at most. And it is not 6 hrs away. You are probably using Google to estimate times. It is not accurate. Use www.viamichelin.com instead. It is 6 1/2 hrs without any stops for pottie breaks, back ups at toll booths, food, gas, and the unavoidable road "deviations". Budget 7 1/4 to 7 3/4 hours. An all day drive.

There are dozens & dozens of castles in Beaujolais and Burgundy. Chateau Cormatin is less than 3 hrs from Chamonix.
Accueil | Château de Cormatin
Dijon & Beaune are much more interesting places to stay than Carcassonne. Lyon is nearby also - so both Dion & Lyon will get you back to Paris in less than 2 hrs. Toulouse is much longer back to Paris.

Stu Dudley

Last edited by StuDudley; May 18th, 2019 at 02:34 PM.
StuDudley is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 02:32 PM
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Well, many people who are familiar with Carcassonne and Viollet-le-Duc would argue strenuously that you're not going to see anything authentic or really even a "castle." I've been many times and do enjoy it, for what it is, but I sure wouldn't put pedal to the metal for 6 hours to get there. It's not even remotely on the route between Chamonix and Paris. I trust you have examined a map - aren't there other ch teaux that are actually on that route you could stop at instead of making a huge detour? Your teen could research that.

Just go to Paris and enjoy a ch teau in the city or nearby like Ch teau de Vincennes or Pierrefonds or Vaux-le-Vicomte, or..................

Yes, it's utterly crazy. Like saying well, we're going to be in New York, so let's swing by Disneyland. Just nuts.
StCirq is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 02:37 PM
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I guess when some of the the most respected commenters on Fodors say you're crazy, then you are crazy . In fact, the original plan (about to be put into action) is to travel to Dijon area, probably stay in home in Beaune. Having said that Carcassonne pictures that I see on Google look quite amazing.
jlub is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 02:52 PM
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Yep - go back to Paris. Versailles is much more of a "wow" than Carcassonne, IMO. We have visited Versailles many times (Carcassonne also). Last year, we spent an half day just visiting the gardens & fountains on a weekend when the fountains were flowing. We returned a week later to visit the chateau itself - and that took a half day. Reserve online for the "Grand Apartments" tour for the first guided departure in the AM, to avoid the massive lines to get in the Chateau.

Also just outside of Paris you could visit Fontainebleau and nearby Vaux-le-Vicomte. After a 4 week stay in the South of France a few years ago, we took the TGV from Avignon to Marne la Valle - Chesy train station/Disneyland, stayed for 2 nights in the city of Fontainebleau, and visited about 5 chateaux in the region by car. Then we returned the car at the station & took the short trip to Paris on the train. You could drive 5 1/2 hrs from Chamonix to Fontainbleau, visit, & do the same thing we did.

Stu Dudley
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May 18th, 2019, 03:06 PM
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>> Having said that Carcassonne pictures that I see on Google look quite amazing. <<

About 3 years ago we stayed in a gite for 2 weeks near Carcassonne in the nearby town of Trebes. We drove past Carcassonne on the autoroute about a dozen times. We visited the walls, interior, and the castle once (this was not our first trip), and another day met friends for lunch there. We also ate dinner at a great restaurant inside Carcassonne, and another day had dinner at a fabulous Michelin 2 star restaurant just outside the walls.

Carcassonne is a fort with a castle inside the fort. The audio-guided castle visit is a 1 hr experience. I give the castle about a C- and the fort a A-/B+.

My wife & I are chateau freaks. But, IMO, Carcassonne looks better from the outside than it does from the inside. Especially at night when the towers are lit up.

Stu Dudley
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May 18th, 2019, 03:14 PM
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<<Carcassonne pictures that I see on Google look quite amazing.>>

A lot of things in France look, and are, quite amazing. I would urge you to read about the history of Carcassonne and see why it may not be quite so amazing, as it stands now, as it appears. Though I must say the recent artists' additions to the southern walls are pretty impressive. They were just beginning it when we were there for the last Tour de France, but it's a very arresting, if not disturbing, creation: La Cité de Carcassonne habillée de jaune pour l?été - Le Parisien

STILL, you do not need to do this on THIS trip to France. There are a million other things to see in this area, so just come back and don't stress yourself out going WAY out of your way for a glimpse at what is a recreation of history.
StCirq is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 03:22 PM
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Thirteen Chateaux you can visit in Burgundy
Route des Ducs de Bourgogne -Site officiel

And for your second day, you can visit 17 chateaux in Beaujolais.
La Route des Châteaux

Save your ticket from the first chateau you visit to get a discount on the second chateau, and the third, and the fourth....... We spent 2 weeks in Beaujolais and 2 weeks in Burgundy about 10 years ago, and visited at least 20 of these chateaux. Tanley & Cormatin were our favorites.

Stu Dudley
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May 18th, 2019, 03:24 PM
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Montreux, Switzerland is 2 hours away from Chamonix by rail. Montreux has Chateau Chillon along Lake Geneva. It's my favorite castle in Europe.
Edward2005 is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 03:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Edward2005 View Post
Montreux, Switzerland is 2 hours away from Chamonix by rail. Montreux has Chateau Chillon along Lake Geneva. It's my favorite castle in Europe.
We will probably be driving, but Chateau Chillon looks beautiful and seems like a great trip, and not far out of the way from Chamonix to Dijon.
jlub is offline  
May 19th, 2019, 08:10 AM
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I took a driving trip with my sister and friends last June covering a large part of France-Normandy, the Loire a bit of Provence and then ending in the west and the only place they didn't love was Carcassonne. They were first time visitors to France, so it was striking to me how much they didn't like that stop.... I have been many times but not recently up until this past year and I must admit that it just seemed like an over crowded tourist trap. Like Stu I think Carcassonne looks better from the outside than it does from the inside.
jpie is offline  
May 19th, 2019, 10:14 AM
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Yup, it's a grand view from the autoroute.

To be fair, though, the town itself (not the Cité) is pretty darned nice. We spent 3 nights there for the last Tour de France and thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of nice cafés and restaurants, interesting artisans, squares with good live music at night. Once away from the madness of the Cité the town has a lot of charm.

But that's of no consequence to the OP, so I'll stop there.
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May 19th, 2019, 10:48 AM
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My two cents:
Carcassonne looked like a nice castle: great walls. But beyond that, meh.
Beynac, however: now THAT'S a castle
and Castlenaud, 5 miles south, is almost as good
tomboy is offline  
May 19th, 2019, 02:02 PM
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Many of the French chateaux were not built purely for defence; hence, not "castles", although the moats and towers may have had some military significance. However, in Caen, William the Conqueror's castle fortress in the centre of the city is worth an hour or two during a tour to Normandy.
Southam is offline  
May 19th, 2019, 02:08 PM
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Both Beynac and Castelnaud are chateaux, built purely for defense, one by the British, the other by the French - the reason they are on opposite sides of the river Dordogne.
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May 19th, 2019, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by StCirq View Post
Both Beynac and Castelnaud are chateaux, built purely for defense, one by the British, the other by the French - the reason they are on opposite sides of the river Dordogne.
Fascinating, as we've been told, the Dordogne will have to be visited. Not on this trip though........
jlub is offline  
May 19th, 2019, 03:24 PM
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What's the difference between a chateau and a castle?

Beynac was used as a castle in some movie.
tomboy is offline  
May 20th, 2019, 03:05 AM
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There are probably 5X as many words for a stately edifice in French as in English (manoir, maison de maître, domaine, gentilhommerie, chateau, palais, etc.), but chateau generally has its origins as a fortification (which both Beynac and Castelnaud do) and a castle has its origins in a place of pleasure for rich folks (or at least a hunting lodge). "Chateau" is used, however, to describe many places that are actually castles (not built for fortification), like Josephine Baker's Chateau des Milandes, which is a castle, not a fortress.

A whole lot of chateaux in the Dordogne have appeared in movies, including Beynac (also Hautefort in "Ever After"); whether they are referred to in English as "castles" is a matter of appealing to vocabulary that viewers are familiar with, or artistic license.
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May 20th, 2019, 04:54 AM
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"The French have a word for it."

My favorite is the word for a man who is blind in one eye,
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