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Suggestions for 3 days in small French town before 2 weeks in Paris

Suggestions for 3 days in small French town before 2 weeks in Paris

Old Dec 6th, 2021, 08:30 AM
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Suggestions for 3 days in small French town before 2 weeks in Paris

Hello, I have read multiple threads on here and other sites. It is just leading to more confusion.😳I will be traveling in June to Paris for two weeks. Myself, my husband, our daughter who will celebrate her 17th birthday while in Paris. We would like to spend three nights in a small town before heading to Paris, to give ourselves a little more of a soft landing from the US. We would be arriving on a Sunday morning and checking into our Paris apartment on Wednesday. We don’t have flights booked yet so the arrival airport is flexible. I will try to summarize what we’re looking for, hopefully someone can suggest something. Thank you for your time.
1. Walkable small town, shops, cafes, markets-I know that a lot of things what might not be open on Monday and that is OK. We would like to not rent a car if possible but that is an option if needed.
2. Within four hours from Paris by train.
3. Hotel is ok, small apartment preferred. We are spending a lot on a huge apartment in Paris so I would like to keep this budget low. $400 or less per night
4. A Farm stay with cooking classes would be great. My daughter and I are both into cooking and my husband is into eating.
5. I am overwhelmed planning 2vweeks in Paris so something that is easy to plan to start the trip would be preferred.
6. Places we have considered are Honfleur, Reims, L’Isle sur la Sorgue, Versailles
I know they are all different and offer different things but they are all within four hours of Paris and seem to be pretty walkable, right?
7. Some of the Paris activities I have already planned are attending a tennis match-we will be there during the French Open, a ballet at Versailles-we will have to plan another day to tour the palace because the ballet is at night, Moulin Rouge, the flea market… A day trip to the Champagne region unless we spend our first three days there,
8. Most of our favorite trips have been wandering around a new city on foot discovering shops, restaurants, antique stores.

9. My husband would love if there were a pub/bar with TVs to watch sports if he grows weary of following us in and out of local markets and shops
10. Touring cathedrals, historical sites, museums will definitely be part of our itinerary but not something we care to do all day every day.
Any suggestions of quaint towns/villages that you have been to and could recommend would be appreciated -thank you!!!
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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 10:22 AM
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I think your wishlist is probably too high and ambitious for a 3 day stay in a small town. Small towns don't usually have cathedrals and a lot don't have museums, either. Of course Reims is not ra small town, nor Versailles, And you can't have farms stays IN towns, or in big cities like that. I"m not a big fan of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue but I suppose it would be ok if you are. It's not as easy to get to as some other towns. Honfleur is not on a train line. Your budget is very high, though, so I might forget the whole apartment idea, that seems pretty complicated for a couple days. Also, some places you can't check in on Sunday, anyway.

Some places I have enjoyed spending a few days which are on the train line within 4 hours and not as huge cities as Reims.

Bourges
Moulins
Compiegne
I liked Dijon but it is a bigger city, you could do Beaune nearby, a lot of people like it. I don't but you might.
Nancy (also not a town, but not as big as Reims) It is probably size of Versailles.

None of those are really small, though, but less than 100K population. But you aren't even going to have public transportation in real small towns.
Moulins is only about 20K though.

I speak French though so my experience in small towns may differ from yours. I needed it to navigate taxis, even hotel staff, in some smaller places in France. I know I did in Moulins and in a smaller town near Isle-sur-la-Sorgue where I have stayed several times and liked a lot. But it doesn't even have hardly any restaurants. Maybe you are fluent in French, I just wondered about the husband wanting to watch TV in a sports bar. But maybe just watching the play is enough for him. I never noticed any sports bars in small towns, but I wasn't looking very hard. There are some in the larger cities like Reims, though. I don't think there is in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue but there is in Cavaillon.
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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 10:57 AM
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I would choose Troyes.



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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 11:54 AM
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I like Troyes and I'd also look at Epernay, south of Reims (so easy to visit a cathedral) and a fair few champagne houses to visit with nice walkable shopping area. Lots of lovely walks along the river/canal and into the wood/hill to the north.
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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 12:05 PM
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You want a soft landing, within a reasonable train journey to Paris, with a list of desires that is more like a city than a small French town. Let me make a non-French suggestion: London.

What??? London?

London is an easy high speed train trip to Paris. No language barrier. Plenty of places to stay, plenty to do, museums, theater, etc., etc. Think about it.
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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 01:52 PM
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A couple of suggestions. Have you visited France or Paris before? Are you comfortable navigating in large cities, and/or using public transportation?

What time of day will you arrive at wherever (perhaps Charles de Gaulle), and from where? Because if you've just arrived off a transatlantic flight, you'll be likely to be jetlagged and excited. Do you really want to go straight from the airport onto another piece of transportation (probably train) to travel up to another four hours? If you're flying into CDG, there are some trains that leave from there, but most leave from a major train station within Paris (depending on where you're travelling to). So then you're getting off the plane, getting luggage, taking something (RER or cab) to the Paris train station, to catch a train to your small town. And leave time in case the plane arrives late, terms of booking tickets on whatever train you will be taking. The answer to all that may be "yes," but do think through whether that's what you want to do. if you're stressed about planning two weeks in Paris, getting to the small town upon arrival in France may also be stressful.

Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is lovely but likely longer than four hours door to door. And the reason IMHO to be in that part of France is to drive to other beautiful small towns, and you're not planning to drive. I agree with Christina's comments about getting around in a small town, speaking French, etc. I only know a little French, but it does come in handy. So if knowing / not knowing French would be stressful to your group, that's another reason to consider not going to a small town.

AJPeabody's suggestion is not bad, though if you're considering that, I would suggest changing your plane bookings to fly open jaws, into London and out of Paris. Spend your first three nights in London, then take the high-speed train to Paris.


Another comment, based on what you already have planned for Paris. It sounds like you have planned a number of things that must be booked in advance and then are fixed in place. Which is fine, especially if it's something that your group REALLY wants to do. But it takes away spontaneity and the ability to change activities if the weather is particularly good or bad on a given day. Also, you may simply find that once you're in Paris, you would much rather do X than Y. Leave yourselves time to wake up in the morning, consult a casual list of possibilities and say, "let's do this today!"

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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 02:33 PM
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Since you are already planning to visit Versailles at night, why not actually stay there and see the town and the area? We stayed in the Hotel Le Versailles (a high-end splurge for us but well within your budget), very close to the palace:

https://hotel-le-versailles.fr/en/

You actually can commute into Paris from Versailles, it's very close. I'm proposing Versailles as your soft landing, assuming you can move your ballet to the start of your trip. There are cafés in Versailles where you might be able to watch soccer - we were there when France won the World Cup, and although we had watched the match with friends in a hotel in the outskirts of Paris, we drove home and saw people partying in the streets leading up to our hotel, spilling out of cafés where they had clearly seen the game. I don't know if watching the match there was just for the World Cup, which I am sure you will agree is exceptional circumstances. Versailles is a small town but has a lot of features of a bigger town because it is so close to Paris. There is a market every Tues, Fri and Sun from 7am - 2pm.

An area you might want to see that is close by is Giverny (Monet's house and a pretty township) and you could possibly stay in nearby Vernon if you didn't do a day trip from Versailles. If you catch a bus or bus/train combo it will take you about 2 - 2.5 hrs from Versailles. Or you could get a car for that day and it will take you about 45 minutes (use Rome2Rio for options). June is a good month to visit there, the garden is alive.

Another option is, like bilboburglar suggests, Epernay / Reims, which is not all that far from Paris by train. There is a lot of history in Reims (where French kings were crowned for 1000 years, also WWII concluding treaties signed there). My in-laws spent quite a few days in Reims and didn't even get to the champagne caves.

I could also think of other options like Lille but that is getting a little far afield and you do want to use your time wisely, my vote is for Versailles.

Lavandula
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Old Dec 6th, 2021, 03:00 PM
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Oh, and very important - the Palace of Versailles is closed Mondays, but you can walk the gardens, go on the lake in a paddle boat and visit the restaurant in the gardens. So you might plan your visit to the Palace for the Tuesday. Maybe you want to see the town on the Monday - I think there is a cathedral that you could visit. If your flight arrives nice and early you could see the market on the Sunday, give yourselves the whole Tuesday for the Palace precinct.

Lavandula

Last edited by lavandula; Dec 6th, 2021 at 03:04 PM.
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Old Dec 7th, 2021, 03:36 AM
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There are many, many options. But if you're doing this to ease your way into France, I'm not sure it's a brilliant idea. I agree that travelling to a small town on arrival in Europe isn't necessarily the easiest thing to do, whereas taking a taxi to your Paris apartment is easy.

However, one option which springs to mind is to fly into Basel and take the train to Colmar. Then train to Paris after your visit. Most people in Switzerland speak English and Colmar is small, on the train line and has many other places to visit nearby (especially if you like wine and walking). Strasbourg is only a short train ride away.
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Old Dec 7th, 2021, 04:56 AM
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I've re-read your post a couple of times because sometimes I forget the parameters of the original question, and I hope I'm doing right by you with my answer.
First, I always think of my own energy:"I'm jet-lagged. I've just made it through customs, I have my bags, and I just want to plop." Ideally, you do not want to be renting a car, and you do not want to be endlessly switching trains or traveling over 2 hours. You don't want to waste your first three days in mind-numbing transportation.
Therefore, you need to be able to access the rail station at CDG and get a straight shot to your next destination.

Versailles is doable,but it's not the ideal time stretch, and you seem to have booked the ballet there. However, Versailles takes a lot of time between the building and the gardens, so breaking it up would make sense.
The Champagne area before Reims is the best alternative. Yes, you may have to switch one train, but you are there or in the region in around an hour.

NEVERTHELESS...
.. it's hard to get around the fact that you're not creating a "soft landing" for yourself. I agree with everyone who says, "You know...Just getting a taxi into Paris is so easy!" If it were me, I'd just find a hotel in an area of Paris I had planned to explore but is not close to my apartment. People at the front desk can always "ease you in." So if you were to tell us where your apartment is, we could suggest a hotel in an alternative cute Paris neighborhood.

I hope this is helpful.
AZ
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Old Dec 7th, 2021, 05:53 AM
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We stayed in Senlis for a couple of days.which is a taxi ride from the Paris airport.
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Old Dec 7th, 2021, 06:02 AM
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Others will need to weigh in about the actual logistics, but how about Vernon, France? Looking at the map, it looks like a very reasonable distance from the airport. Monet's Giverny would be a nice first visit.

Last edited by TDudette; Dec 7th, 2021 at 06:07 AM.
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Old Dec 7th, 2021, 07:16 AM
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It appears from the original post that although the Paris apartment is booked, the airline tickets are not. So any of the suggestions made so far are possible without having to change tickets. I would add possible touchdowns any place that has a TGV or other high speed train stop that would lead to Paris.
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Old Dec 7th, 2021, 09:53 AM
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Originally Posted by Saraho View Post
We stayed in Senlis for a couple of days.which is a taxi ride from the Paris airport.
This was my thought, too, a quick taxi ride from CDG with the added benefit of another interesting place nearby, the town & chateau at Chantilly.
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Old Dec 7th, 2021, 11:46 AM
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Honfleur is a great choice, Reims is ok....
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Old Dec 8th, 2021, 07:21 AM
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To the suggestions above:
Transport to Vernon is not that easy (around three transfers), but the travel time is good. Under two hours. It's been 10 years or more since we went, though, and I remember that exploring the town and area with a car was not simple. Things probably have changed, and here's hoping someone with more recent experience would chime in.

Actually, the first town that came to my mind when I read the question was Rouen. I always found it to be amazing that no one talks about it that much here. The architecture there is SO different from so much of France, you have the Jeanne d'Arc history, you have the cathedral Monet painted over and over again, and one could drop by Giverny on the way back. Plus the first thing my husband remembered was "That town had great bars." But it's over 2.5 hours by Metro/train with about three transfers. That's just not ideal on the first day.

I did check transport to Senlis (less than 2 hours but two trains), as I did to Versailles, Honfleur (four plus hours plus around three transfers) and so on.

Again, good luck. At least you have months to work this out.
AZ

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Old Dec 8th, 2021, 08:02 AM
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Would a private driver be an option from CDG to Vernon? Same re Rouen or other town for a soft landing?
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Old Dec 8th, 2021, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by AlessandraZoe View Post
. . . I did check transport to Senlis (less than 2 hours but two trains) . . .
Two trains from where? Senlis is 17 miles from CDG Airport, less than 1/2 an hour by taxi. And why it's an attractive choice among other reasons.



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Old Dec 12th, 2021, 09:03 AM
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Provins is an interesting place. It is just a commuter ride from Paris but it still takes more than an hour.

My first trip there was not a great success.

Provins unseen (by kerouac2) | Any Port in a Storm (proboards.com)

But I persisted and returned another time. Provins is lovely in decent weather.

Provins 2016 (by kerouac2) | Any Port in a Storm (proboards.com)

And that caused me to plan my next trip for the Provins medieval festival which was fantastic.

Les Médiévales de Provins 2017 | Any Port in a Storm (proboards.com)



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Old Dec 12th, 2021, 04:35 PM
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Provins looks lovely, Kerouac. Great photos!
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