Small but lively French city?

Apr 29th, 2015, 01:00 PM
  #21  
 
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dwdvagamundo is offline  
Apr 29th, 2015, 01:02 PM
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I think of Dijon as a small city.

I might choose Angers, at least it's over in the same direction as the Loire and Rennes. It's a small city by my terms, it's smaller than Rennes, around 150K. In fact, it's smaller than Strasbourg and Reims, about like Dijon.

DK if it's lively, I'm not a good judge of that or what it means. I've been there and liked it and did things without a car, if that's what lively means.
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Apr 29th, 2015, 01:20 PM
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Kerouac : you were the one to mention southern cities, saying you preferred the northern ones. Are you the only one allowed to state your preferences?
It is the reverse for me, I prefer the South. This is why I won't recommend a place north of the Loire
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Apr 29th, 2015, 01:24 PM
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>>So, have you come up with a small city to recommend north of the Loire?<<

Who is "you"???

Stu Dudley
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Apr 29th, 2015, 01:27 PM
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Stu : I suppose it's me.
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Apr 29th, 2015, 01:58 PM
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Apr 29th, 2015, 02:27 PM
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I appreciate all the suggestions so far.

Working from a wikipedia list of French cities by population, I've come up with Nantes, Rennes, Angers, Dijon, Le Mans, Caen, Rouen, and Nancy, all above 100,000.

To me 100,000 is huge and I skipped down the list to the under-100k names, but we've been to some of these "smaller" places and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't hold our interest for too long. Of course if I find a few good restaurants, patisseries, and gardens my opinion would change.

Any love for Le Mans? Caen?
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Apr 29th, 2015, 02:35 PM
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Since Caen was totally pulverized during WW2, the only thing worthy of seeing (unless you love the architecture of 1950) is the Mémorial museum, but since you don't have a car it would be inconvenient because it is quite far from the center of town.
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Apr 29th, 2015, 02:37 PM
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However, in terms of 1950 architecture, Le Havre has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site due to its amazing postwar design.
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Apr 29th, 2015, 02:45 PM
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"To me 100,000 is huge and I skipped down the list to the under-100k names, but we've been to some of these "smaller" places and I'm pretty sure they wouldn't hold our interest for too long."

Defining terms is always helpful and you did use the word "city". Maybe "town" would have worked better. But then you mention "hold our interest" so where does that leave us, for those willing to try again?
MmePerdu is offline  
Apr 29th, 2015, 02:48 PM
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Caen got leveled during WWII and I've never read anything that would make me want to visit it - although we've stayed for 3 weeks in Gites that were within a day-trip from Caen. We've visited the Peace Museum, however.

The "old" section of Le Mans is very nice - but small. The "less old" area with all the shopping streets is rather "ordinary", IMO.

Of the cities you mentioned above, Dijon, Rouen, and Rennes are our favorites. If I had to pick only one - it would be Dijon. We've visited Angers several times for touring the Chateau, tapestry, and also dinner. It's OK - but we prefer the other three I mentioned. We've only visited Nancy once, as a day-trip from Alsace in about '02 - and liked it quite a bit. We're returning this coming Sept for 2 weeks, staying just outside of Nancy.

If you consider Dijon/Beaune to be north of the Loire, I would go there. Dijon doesn't seem like a large city to me. One of the things that I like about Dijon is all the civic activities they seem to have "going on" most weekends. It's a short train ride to Beaune from Dijon - which could turn into an all-day trip if you have lunch, wander around, and do some wine things.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 29th, 2015, 02:54 PM
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When I first visited Le Havre years ago I was appalled at how cheap it had appeared to be rebuilt - but kerouac has a much more recent view of it that seems supported by these images:

https://www.google.com/search?q=le+h...w=1455&bih=977

Caen I have been to recently and it also has been built in a nice modern style - I rather liked it.
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Apr 29th, 2015, 02:56 PM
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Continuing, travel style and interests are the slippery elements when we're asked to recommend places. I could stay indefinitely in a place of 1000 souls if there's a cafe or 2, groceries, paths to walk, a comfortable chair & light to read and a bus or train to go exploring on occasion. I don't seem to need much but if you do then knowing it and saying just what it is you do need is good. And maybe "huge" is what you really need, despite sentiments to the contrary. If you stay in a small place with a local bus to a city, you get both.
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Apr 29th, 2015, 10:12 PM
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a few days' worth of things to do that don't require a car

I think this is the killer in the original post. It makes me want to suggest Metz again because it is on the MétroLor commuter line with both Luxembourg and Nancy only 30 minutes away by cheap train ride. That way you would get 3 cities for the price of one -- without a car.
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Apr 29th, 2015, 10:35 PM
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MmePerdu,

"I could stay indefinitely in a place of 1000 souls if there's a cafe or 2, groceries, paths to walk, a comfortable chair & light to read and a bus or train to go exploring on occasion."

I absolutely love your description of your travel style! I also travel like this and generally don't know what to tell people about what I've "done" on my trips. Thanks for putting it so well. I'm tempted to use it (with attribution of course) as my Travel Quote . . .

s
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Apr 30th, 2015, 02:07 AM
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We enjoyed Bourges (about 70,000) a lot. Very walkable, good trains to Paris, some historic sites, and a spectacular cathedral. In fact, it reminded me a lot of an English cathedral city like Winchester. There is a university and lots of provincial government.
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Apr 30th, 2015, 04:29 AM
  #37  
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Even while I sleep, Fodorites are at work!

Thanks, everybody. I knew some of you would be knowledgeable and have opinions about this. As I said, we usually don't spend much time in cities in France.

I was casting a wide net so we'd have a lot of choices.

The only thing the town or city must have is a major car rental place, and we can find those in lots of towns.

Now that we have a range of suggestions, we’ll be able to narrow it down. But don’t let me stop you if you have another good idea or two.
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Apr 30th, 2015, 04:53 AM
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We are travelling by train and staying in Amiens and Lille.
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Apr 30th, 2015, 07:05 AM
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why Northern France - TGV trains would take you in an hour or two to the Lyon area and Provence and guaranteeably better weather than in a northern France often rainy or cool and damp even in summer?

Why northern France - I much prefer to sit at outdoor cafes in nice weather and walk the human comedy go by - hard to do in northern France IME or dependably do so.
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Apr 30th, 2015, 07:21 AM
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"...generally don't know what to tell people about what I've "done" on my trips."

Swandav2000, that sounds very familiar. Good to hear you're out there.
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