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Suggestions on best way to get around France?

Suggestions on best way to get around France?

Jan 23rd, 1999, 08:16 AM
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Suggestions on best way to get around France?

I'm planning a trip to France. We want to go to the Normandy beahces, Mont. St. Michel, and tour some chateaux in the Loire Valley. Does anyone have suggestions as to the best way to get around? I don't mind renting a car - there will be two of us. But does anyone know if there are train or bus routes that would take this path? Also, does anyone have any idea how long it takes to drive these routes? If we rent a car, does anyone have experience doing this in France, and which agency to use? Could we take the train up to Caen, for instance, and rent a car from there? Must we drop it off in the same spot?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
Jan 23rd, 1999, 11:02 AM
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We rented a car from Hertz( it's much cheaper if you do this in the USA before you leave) for a week. We picked it up in Paris( don't do that because it is too confusing because of traffic and figuring out how to get out of town!).Then we drove to Chartres, through Normandy, to the beaches( we stayed at Bayeux) and on to Mont Saint Michel.We spent the night there which was lovely- no crowds at all after 5:30 and before 9:00. Then we turned the car in at Chartres and caught the train for Paris.The best thing to do is take a train to a nearby small town , pick up your car there and return it to another small town close to your next destination.Don't try to drive in big cities.
Jan 23rd, 1999, 11:37 AM
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As Sally suggests, a conbination of both works best. We've done this often in France. The rail/drive pass is a very good value. The car rental agencies at the train stations are so convenient! And the roads are well marked and maintained.
Jan 23rd, 1999, 12:17 PM
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I agree with the other folks about a train/drive combo. Check out raileurope.com -they have packages for about $48/day for the smallest size cars. The advantage is that you seem to be able to drop off most anywhere. It is also worth calling the major agencies and asking the prices both for a Paris/Paris return and a return somewhere else. You also might consider a "dual" drive/train, one to the Normandy area then come back to Paris and go down to Tours pick up a car and then return it back to Tours. This may be cheaper than the drop off arrangement-but you will have to research it bit to find out. Also for those of you nervous about dring in Paris-lots of our friends arrange to pick up and drop off cars at either Orly or CDG airports since you can then get easily to from Paris from either airport.

Be sur when you research you options, you count in the cost of gas (between $4-$5 last summer) and tolls (around $30 to Mont St Michel one way for example. But the TGV is kind of pricey as well, so you may find the Eurail pass/drive package a good way to go. Also, you didn't mention how long you will have-that may impact whether you want to drive the whole route take a train part of the way.

Have a great time
Jan 23rd, 1999, 01:04 PM
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There are trains to all those locations, but if there are two of you, it is just as cheap to rent a car (get a small one; gas is about $4 a gallon). Rent the care BEFORE you go; most car agencies let you drop off wherever, but better to find out the rules well in advance. We've rented cars from U.S. companies with locations overseas; we've rented from local companies. The cheapest one varies, so check with a good travel agency, and also on the web (France: travel: transportation: car rental). The Normandy beaches are very close together so it's a matter 15-30mins to drive between them. Mont St Michel is an hour or so from the beaches (you can do the d-day beaches and Mont St Michel in the same day, as long as you start early and plan to stay at one end or the other overnight). The Loire Valley is a bit more spread out, and each castle can take 2-3 hours to visit (it can be done in less, but then they all tend to blur together).
Driving in France is pretty easy; the country roads can be a little trying when there's a piece of farm equipment ahead of you, but relax and enjoy the scenery (if you are not familiar with rotaries/roundabouts/driving circles...GET FAMILIAR!).
Jan 23rd, 1999, 09:37 PM
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Thanks for all the tips! Is it easy enough to do the Normandy beaches and Mont ST Michel all in one day (assuming you start out from the Normandy area)? I don't want to do too much at once, but it looks like it won't be hard. How long have you all spent on the beaches? The trip to Normandy is something my husband really wants to do, so I'm unsure how long to allocate to it. Has anyone been to the memorial in Caen? How long would you recommend spending there? How long does one need to see Mont St Michel? And do you recommend staying overnight in Mont St Michel, or outside it somewhere? Finally, how long a drive is it from Mont St Michel to Tours? Thanks a million!
Jan 25th, 1999, 07:40 PM
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There are tours that leave Paris and hit all the places you are interested in going to see. Check out http://www.touringscope.com/index.html
Jan 26th, 1999, 11:00 AM
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I've never been to the memorial at Caen, but have been to a couple of museums in and around Bayeux. The beaches, including the American Cemetery, take about four hours (sidebar: bring a plastic film cannister and scoop up a little sand from one of the beaches, and maybe a little shell) at least, and any museum is going to take at least an hour (closer to two) to visit. The itinerary we used was: arrived Mont St Michel in the evening, next morning spent from 8-11 on the island; drove to Omaha Beach in time for lunch, visited the beaches and museums and then drove to Versailles to stay over night (we returned the car in Versailles, and took the RER into Paris the next morning). For accommodations, you can stay on the island itself, but there are a couple of motel-type places right at the end of the causeway that are inexpensive and have a great view of the Mont (lit up at night or in the morning mists). I've been to the Normandy Beaches several times; I always get a lump in my throat. I've never been there in the early morning, though, but I have been there in the rain. Don't know if I could handle both.

Mont St Michel was very cool in the morning hours; misty... great shadows and colours over the water (too early for the caravan of tour busses, too). Important thing: the tides come in and cover the causeway so make sure you are on/off the island in time with the tides (tide schedules are available pretty much everywhere).
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