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Too much to see, too little time! Please help trim our itinerary in France!

Too much to see, too little time! Please help trim our itinerary in France!

Old May 11th, 2012, 06:50 AM
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Join Date: May 2012
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Too much to see, too little time! Please help trim our itinerary in France!

The end of May, my husband and I will be in Monte Carlo for the Grand Prix and then in Fayence for three nights after which, we'll pick up a car in Cannes on June 1 and begin a journey which will end in Paris on June 16.

This is husband's first trip to France and my first trip outside Paris and the Loire, so we are equal parts excited and confused by our options and in need of wise counsel!

The part of our itinerary that is in question is from June 1, when we depart Cannes, to June 9, when we arrive Bayeux.....

It has been suggested that we see the Luberon villages (Bonnieux, perhaps?) which appears to be 2.5 hours driving time from Cannes.

From there, we're considering a drive to Arles, via Avignon, (1.5 hours driving) and then on to Carcassone (2.25 hours).

Next stop would be Sarlat (3 hours driving from Carcassone) and from Sarlat, to St. Emilion (2 hours). Finally, from St. Emilion to Mont St. Michel (6 hours!).

Following Mont St. Michel, we'd head to Bayeux (1.75 hours) for two nights before dropping the car in Caen and training to Paris for our final 5 nights.

It's obvious that we're attempting to pack too much into the 8 days we have available between Cannes and Bayeux as we hate the idea of packing/unpacking nightly! But, what to eliminate?? This is where we could really use guidance!

We're inclined to stick to countryside/village travel since we'll be in Paris for quite a nice stretch at the end. (That's why we're thinking St. Emilion vs. Bordeaux, for example...)

To save time, we'd considered dropping the car in Bordeaux and taking a train to Caen, where we'd pick up another car for the purpose of touring Normandy and perhaps, Mont St. Michel, but it appears the train trip would be equal in length to the 6 hour drive from Bordeaux to Mont St. Michel!

Could/should we cut Bonnieux/Luberon? Carcassone? Sarlat/Dordogne? St. Emilion/Bordeaux? Is there any suggestion for a stop along the way north to Mont St. Michel that would be a nice break in the 6 hour drive from the south?


2babb is offline  
Old May 11th, 2012, 07:00 AM
Join Date: Jul 2006
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Welcome to Fodors, Carcassone is not to everyones tastes other things you might want to include instead. Similarly I might drop Bonnieux/Luberon and St Emilion is a good visit but then so is Bergerac and Cahors. I'd add The Millau Bridge, Cahors, Le Mans (the town rather than the racing track, or not as the cse may be). This brings you up to Brittany/Normandy so you could visit some of the Duchesses fortresses, or Dinan or Fougeres both of which are pretty impressive

Probably not included but so you research it you could go to la Rochelle but maybe another time
bilboburgler is online now  
Old May 11th, 2012, 07:47 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 15,186
You made the typical first-timer's mistake of choosing your itinerary without consulting a map. Then you plotted things out, and realized that you'll spend most of your too-short vacation sitting in a car or taking a long train ride instead of visiting sites in France.

You have only 8 nights to work with. Start over.

Pick two areas only - preferably two that are close together to minimize driving or train rides. Four nights/3 1/2 days in two of the three areas you're interested in is barely enough to scratch the surface.

Here is what I would do instead:

Visit Provence for 4 nights. Then drive to the Dordogne, visiting Carcassonne for 2-3 hrs along the way. Spend 4 nights in Sarlat/Dordogne. Then drive to 1 1/2 hrs to Collonges la Rouge, visit, drive 15 mins to Brive la Gaillard, dump the car, and take the train to Paris.


Visit Provence for 4 nights. Dump the car at the Avignon TGV station and take the 9:14 TGV to Rennes that arrives at 2:46. No train changes. Rent a car and drive to Mt St Michel for a visit, then off to Bayeux for 4 nights. Drive to Caen, visit the museum, return the car, and take the train to Paris.

Four nights/3 1/2 days in each location is still too little time. We've vacationed for 18 weeks in Provence and 3 weeks in Normandy - and there are things in both regions we've not visited yet.

Also - why Fayance without a car??? Fayance is a somewhat remote village and to explore the many things to see around Fayance - you'll need a car. Perhaps you're visiting friends who will have a car.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Old May 11th, 2012, 07:54 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I agree. Start over completely. What you're contemplating at the moment is a big mess. For example,there is absolutely no point whatsoever to do a drive-through of Sarlat. Either give it 3-4 days at minimum or drop it. St-Emilion is an easy miss, too, IMO - it's just an overpriced wine town (does have a fabulous monolithic church though).

Divide those 8 days between Provence and the Dordogne, then ditch the car and take the train back to Paris.
StCirq is offline  
Old May 11th, 2012, 07:58 AM
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Listen to Stu and StCirq..they know what they are talking about.

The Dordogne is a beautiful area...you don't want to shortchange it.
michele_d is offline  
Old May 11th, 2012, 08:21 AM
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>>We've vacationed for 18 weeks in Provence and 3 weeks in Normandy - and there are things in both regions we've not visited yet.<<

Forgot to mention - we've also spent 10 weeks vacationing in the Dordogne. We usually spend 2 months exploring France each year - over 3 years total. Our 2 favorite regions are Provence & the Dordogne. Following these, the Cote d'Azur (when we were younger), and Brittany are our favorites.

I have several itineraries that I've sent to over 4,000 people on Fodors & aol. For the areas you are interested in, I have:
Cote d/Azur & Provence
Brittany & Normandy

If you would like any or all of these, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Old May 11th, 2012, 12:12 PM
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Thanks to all for your responses..... and yes, you're quite right. I have made the mistake of behaving like a kid in a candy store and now realize that I'm in trouble!

To answer Stu's question about the car: We do not need a car in Fayence because our transportation there is provided for,as it is in Monte Carlo. We are 'on our own' with a car beginning June 1 and must arrive in Paris on June 11.

The reason I've planned Normandy for the 9th and 10th is to honor my husband's request - and the memory of his parents - who both served in France during WWII (met in a hospital in Riems!)

So, I like the idea, as suggested, of splitting the time that remains between Provence and the Dordogne. Given that, where should we situate ourselves? Is Sarlat the best choice for the Dordogne? What about Provence....where should we stay for ease of day-tripping?

As for a train...Must we go into Paris in order to reach Caen? If so, won't that take as long/longer than simply driving from Sarlat? I love the idea of taking the train and ditching the car, but only if it will save time.

Thanks again for helping!
2babb is offline  
Old May 11th, 2012, 12:26 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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Caen is a smaller city and isn't going to have direct train lines on the TGV network. Train lines tend to operate in a spoke in France for efficiency (with Paris being the hub), although there are exceptions, of course, such as lines E-W across the bottom, etc. The problem is local lines versus high-speed lines, really, as you can get to Caen without going through Paris, but not on a TGV the entire way from Bordeaux. The TGV routes are fairly limited in the country. So doing that wouldn't save you a lot of time over going through Paris.

YOu can go through Tours instead of Paris and it may be a little shorter in time (about 45-60 min) but the TGV only goes to Tours and it is farther from Caen than Paris. There isn't any way to take a TGV line from Bordeaux to Caen, if that's what you are looking for as there aren't any up in that part of the country and there wouldn't be any direct line to a place (Caen) like that no matter what, it's not large enough.
Christina is offline  
Old May 11th, 2012, 12:43 PM
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Thanks for the info, Christina.
2babb is offline  
Old May 11th, 2012, 01:24 PM
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Christina, what about Stu's suggestion of Aix to Rennes by train, makes sense to me?

Agree with others, focus on Provence or then Côte the head to Rennes for 3-4 days in Normandy.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
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