Toulouse & Paris Day Trips

Dec 26th, 2014, 06:25 PM
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Toulouse & Paris Day Trips

I thought I had it figured out. A lot of writing for a short question.

After OD'ing on day trips on our last trip, this time they'd be kept to a minimum.

Since our plane arrives in Barcelona (using AA air miles and this was the best flight closest to where we wanted to go for minimum air miles), and we were there once before (2003) I planned on 2 days with no day trips.

Toulouse. Haven't been before so planned 4 days, two of which are day trips to Albi and Carcassonne.

Montpellier. Were there a couple of years ago on a superficial day trip for part of the afternoon. We were taken enough by this city to want to come back and spend a couple of days here. No day trips.

Paris. Was able to get an excellent return flight from CDG to MIA. We've been to Paris 4-5 times but Paris is always good for a couple of days. Right?

We were in Bruges for a couple of days in 2006 and very briefly thought of an overnight, day trip (we'd keep our Paris hotel and just take with a small backpack) to Bruges until we realized it doesn't make sense to spend over 3 hours each way on a train for parts of two days and one night.

I came across a few words. Loire Valley & Chateaux.

We could take a train (we don't rent a car in Europe) from Paris to Tours, spend a couple of hours wondering around, take a train to Chateau Chenonceau, spend a few hours at the chateau and be back in Paris a little after 7PM for dinner.

Does that sound rushed? Is it worth it?
We could turn this into an overnight day trip to slow it down and add another destination or two.

But then, that would be adding a day trip. So, if I wanted to drop one from Toulouse, which gets cut? Albi or Carcassonne. Or neither?

Just thinking out loud hoping somebody will come up with an idea to tip the scales.

Thanks for listening (or reading).
Myer is offline  
Dec 26th, 2014, 07:23 PM
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"Does that sound rushed? Is it worth it?"

Sorry, I must be tired, but I've completely lost track of your plans and your questions. What part of your plan, exactly, are you asking about? If you mean the Chateau Chenonceau, I spent about 2.5 hours there, which felt about right to me. But if you only just learned about the Loire and its chateau, I don't know whether a day trip would suit your needs or not, or what else you've missed in your research into possible destinations. You might want to consult a few guidebooks at your local library, or order the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet (which offer reasonably comprehensive coverage), or any of the guidebooks that offer inspirational photographs (e.g., the National Geographic or Eyewitness or Insight Guides).

Hope that helps!
kja is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 07:31 AM
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I didn't just learn about the Loire and its chateau.

I just realized how short the train ride is from Paris to Tours. That makes it a possible day trip or overnight "day trip" from Paris.

It's good to see that at least one person (kja) spent about 2 1/2 hours at Chateau Chenonceau and felt it was about right.

If I decide to eliminate one day trip from Toulouse, which of Albi or Carcassonne would you select and why.
Myer is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 07:42 AM
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until we realized it doesn't make sense to spend over 3 hours each way on a train for parts of two days and one night.

Doesn't seem that bad to see an entirely different city, if you want to do that. You've been to Bruges--why not go to Amsterdam? I think the time is about the same.

But just to put a finer point on it--how long do you think it will take you to get to Tours, etc.
Day trips or overnights DO require a transfer time.

And I too have lost your train of thought for what you are trying to do.
Gretchen is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 08:25 AM
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Tours is our "least favorite" large city in France, that we've visited (twice). I would never give up any time in Paris to visit Tours. We spent about 4 hours this year at Chennonceau (fourth visit - first with digital camera), but there are many chateaux around Paris that can be visited, which "consume" less time getting to/from - Chantilly, Fountainbleu, Versailles - just to name a few.

There are many threads on Fodors about day trips from Paris. On one of our recent visited to Paris for 3 weeks, I had a long list of day-trips planned. Once we got to Paris, I realized that I had no desire to leave Paris - so we didn't go on any day-trips. We'll be in Paris next year for 2 weeks, and I plan to take a day trip to Arras (50 mins away) - but "we'll see!!". We were there a few years ago on a very rainy day.

Carcassonne and Albi are good day-trips from Toulouse. Just don't get to Albi around noon when most everything closes for a 2 1/2 hr lunch. Don't go on Sunday of Monday either.

While in Montpellier, see if you can find a tour to Grotte des Demoiselles. Rated *** by Michelin (their top ranting). We've visited it twice.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 27th, 2014, 09:55 AM
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Tours and Chenonceau would be a nice grouping IME - I've visited Tours many times and have a much better impression of it than Stu does (and this is always a subjective thing) - as large cities go I think Tours is above average - it has a neat old cathedral, another ancient historic church and a very very inviting Latin Quarter type of restaurant/cafe ghetto in its old town.

Now I would not say to just go there and spend the day there but if you can do Cehnonceau too then a few hours in Tours would be convenient - otherwise I'd say skip it. Tours has two stations - the in-town Tours station, a deadend station and the mainline St-Pierre-des-Corps station a few kms south of town where many more trains go than to Tours old in-town station - take any train to St-Pierre-des-Corps and there will be a navette - shuttle train that meets the TGVs to take you the few miles into Tours - there are several daily TGVs that go right to Tours but it is not necessary to get on those - get whatever is cheapest from: or - the latter selling the same tickets as the first but from most accounts much easier to get to work for foreigners - anyways get discounted tickets and save a lot over full fare, which is always available on a walk up basis IME.

For lots about French trains check out these fine sites: - great info on discounted tickets; and

Chenonceaux is a short regional train ride from Tours/St-Pierre-des-Corps and you can buy that ticket once in France - no discounts and no seat reservation requirements I believe.

Yeh Tours like most French regional towns IME is not all that old-world looking but is a real French town as opposed to cosmopolitan Paris where in the center foreign tourists seems to outnumber th French at times.

Check schedules carefully for trains to Chenonceaux as there are only several a day I believe with gaps in service. (Chenonceaux is the village that Chenonceau the castle (no "x") is in.

anyway I liked Tours more than most French regional towns - like Orleans where I have lived off and on - downright boring but everytime I went to Tours I thought - why couldn't the mother of my French son live in a neat place like this rather than in dull Orleans - but again this is all subjective and Tours may or may not excite you and I can see why others have not been.
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 09:56 AM
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We've also been to Amsterdam twice.

Stu, Good idea about not going to Albi just before noon. I guess we'll leave Toulouse about 1PM.

We've been to Versailles but I'll take a look at the others.

The idea isn't to visit Tours but Chenonceau. It's just on the way.

Gretchen, It takes an hour to get from Paris to Tours and a half hour from Tours to Chenonceau. We would get to Chenonceau by 2:30 and the train back to Paris doesn't leave Chenonceau until 5:30.

Between trains going, we could either walk around Tours for a couple of hours or see if there's a convenient town we could go to for about an hour. I'll look into that.

Good ideas so far. Thanks.
Myer is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 10:15 AM
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Our posts crossed paths.

Thanks for the info. It's good to see Tours has at least one fan.

I wouldn't go there as a destination but it's on the way to Chenonceau with a couple of hours between trains.

We could leave Paris at 12:16 and then sit around the train station for :45 and take the train to Chenonceau. Or we could leave Paris at 10:46 and walk around Tours for a little under two hours.
Myer is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 10:35 AM
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Compared to Paris (and the other 30 or so similarly-sized cities in France that we've visited) - Tours will leave you cold, IMO. Most of it was bombed heavily in WWII and not rebuilt with much "care". The cathedral is nice. The one town "square" has 4-5 nice cross-timbered buildings on one side of the square. The long street that is on the north side of the square has lots & lots of outside cafes - but the architecture is not that interesting. We were there 3 months ago.

I would just hang out at the train station and spend as much time as you can in Paris & Chenonceau if you decide to visit the Loire.

Here is athe Shutterfly book my wife put together about our recent trip to the Ile de Re & Loire. The Loire is in the second half of the book. Shutterfly has a page limit - and we hit the limit before she could include a "full" section about Chambord and the gardens at Villandry. Tours only took 1 page.
Click "View Photo Book", and then "Full screen" on the next page.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 27th, 2014, 10:49 AM
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Another possibility that could include more than one chateau is train to Tours then book a van tour from there. This is just an example, not a recommendation:

Carcassonne is primairily about the fortress--lots of Cathar history but the re-build is for the most part fantasy, still impressive in its way. I did a day trip to Albi for the Lautrec museum and the rather imposing cathedral, easily done in a day from Toulouse.

Stu is right about closings but restaurants are all open for lunch, Mondays some will be closed. I would plan to arrive sooner.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 11:52 AM
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"If I decide to eliminate one day trip from Toulouse, which of Albi or Carcassonne would you select and why"

I didn't go to Carcassonne, but must say that I adored Albi -- awesome cathedral, wonderful collection of work by Toulouse Lautrec. If you can get a table for lunch at Le Clos Sainte Cecile, by all means, go for it!
kja is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 01:30 PM
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I also adored Albi - a really neat old town with famous worship shrines. Carcassonne is exceptional - a perfgect medieval fortress citadel with pristine conditions in the ramparts that en circle it and all inside - why? Twas rebuilt from rubble in the 1800s so this lessens its inherent value to many but to me it is the only chance about in Europe to see a medieval citadel in pristine condition.

Hard to chose but I think most would revel more in Carcassonne. Flip the coin!
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 01:42 PM
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Myer - ideal - rather than twidling thumbs in a train station walk around Tours which granted is not super wooper duper but as a typical French regional town always interesting - more than a train station - be sure to go to the Tours intown station as St-Pierre-des-Corps the mainline station is out of town with nothing but housing around it - oh a few stores but really nothing there to walk around in.

If you want to hook up with a mini-bus tour some leave right from the Tours train station and in a half- or whole day take you to a couple of the best castles, including Chenonceu -

ACCO-DISPO is one such firm I am familiar with and has been around a long time:
PalenQ is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 02:05 PM
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It appears my post didn't get posted.

kathinjoetown posted a much better link to minivan tours than the one I saw from the Tours visitors center. Thanks.

Palenq, Thanks also. I'll check the link you sent. What I don't want is a full day of four Chateaux.
Myer is offline  
Dec 27th, 2014, 04:35 PM
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There are loads of day trips you can do from Paris and if you'd like you can have a look at this thread to see a list of some of the most popular day trips you can do from Paris (check reply #3 for my list):
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 06:13 AM
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This is a semi-related question for you.

You've mentioned a few times about having so much to do in Paris.

Wherever I go I'm always on the move seeing things and taking photos.

I've never really learned to slow down and relax (not that it really bothers me but we're getting older and my wife would probably appreciate a slower pace - thus an attempt to reduce the number of day trips and running around).

Unlike my wife, I rarely tire and can get up early and go all day. I'm pretty much the same whether on a European vacation or a national park hiking trip where I'm always hiking and/or looking for wildlife to photograph.

Maybe I'm concerned that if I plan a trip that's more relaxed (read that to mean expecting to do less each day) I (we) won't have enough to do.

Possibly, because I don't drink coffee, I'm not used to just sitting around (relaxing - whatever that means) drinking coffee and watching people go by. I just don't know.

So my question to you (or anybody) is, since you appear to have been to Paris many times, what would any 3 or 4 consecutive days look like?

Over the years we've been to Paris 4-5 times. We're planning on being there in early September (2015) for a couple of days before flying home.
Myer is offline  
Dec 28th, 2014, 08:56 AM
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It just so happens that we'll be in Paris for 15 nights starting Oct 3 2015. I can't recall how many weeks we've spent in Paris so far - perhaps 15. We're "into" architecture, so we spend a lot of time wandering around in architecturally rich neighborhoods. We're staying in an apartment in the 7th on the corner of R St Dominique & Ave Bourdonnais.

We've taken several walks from Paris Walks.
I think we've "done" most of them, so I don't have any planned for this year.

I use "Walking Paris" by Gilles Desmons to guide us on walks through various neighborhoods in Paris. I also use the Thirza Vallois series "Around and about in Paris". We've gone on most of the arrondissement walks. Last year we did the Canal St Martin when we were in Paris for a half-day before our flight home.

We take the bus everywhere - rarely do we take the metro. On almost every visit to Paris, I'll "map out" a zig-zag or circular bus route through Paris, taking several different buses. If we spot something "new & interesting" we'll get off the bus & explore on foot. Metro Map # 2 details the bus routes

Here are the buses near our apt, followed by which bus to take to various sites. "N" means the bus runs at night (till about midnight)
Bus Routes
28N 42N 63N 69N 72N 80N 82 87N 92N RER-C Batabus

Bon Marche 87N
Ile St Louis 87N, 63 N
Jacquemart Andre 28, 80N
Louvre 69, 72N
Luxembourg 82
St Germain de Pres 63N, 69, 87N
Pl Madeleine 42N
Opera 42N
Arch de Triomphe 92N
Marais 69, 87N
Montmartre 80, or 80 to 30, 54
Castel Beranger area RER C
Belleville 63 (Odeon or St Michel) 28, 82 (Montparnasse), 69 (St Paul) to 96 OR 69 to 26
Train Bleu 87N, 63N,

Next year our "theme" will be "the passages of Paris". I've consulted various sources, and put together the following "outings" for one day each. We normally don't have a "sit down" lunch, but I also included several famous Brasseries near the passages we plan to visit. The Brasseries are in the book "The Brasseries of Paris" by Francois Thomazeau. Also included in the outings plan are the buses we take to get there & back. I also consulted two books titled "Paris Art Nouveau"
and "Parisian Architecture of the Belle Epoque"

On my Paris map, I've "marked" all the buildings in these books that my wife wants to visit - so #44 in outing 2 is referencing one of these buildings.

Each of these outings are probably half-day events. They are close to each other, so you could probably do two a day with lunch in between. For these passage outings, if there is a "walk" in either the Desmons book or the Vallois book - I'll integrate them into the passage walk to "see" the neighborhood.

So - in answer to your question, I would do:
- Passages 1 & 2 on one day with Vallois/Desmons walk
- Belleville walk on another day
- Passages 3 & 4 on the third day with Vallois/Desmons walk
- St Germain en Laye on the fourth day.

1. 10 Arr
87 to r de Sevres, 39 to Chateau d'Eau
Passages Reilhac, Brady, Prado, Lemoine, Ste Foy, Caire, Ponceau
Lunch at Gallopin 01 42 36 45 38 40 R Notre-Dame des Victoires
39 @ R Richelieu & R Feydeau to Sevres-Babylone (Bon Marche), 87 to Apt
Could take 39/80 or 39/28 back

2. 2nd/9th
42 to Opera
Societe Generale - interior 29 Blvd Haussman Check out before or after
#44 120 r Lafayette 9th
Pl Boieldieu Opera Comique Probably not able to get inside
Passages Panoramas, Jouffroy, Verdeau, Princes
Lunch at Bouillon Chartier 01 47 70 86 29 7 R du Faubourg-Montmartre
14 r Bergere BNP Paribas house.
39/87 or 42 back

3. 69 get off at east side of Louvre - R de Louvre
Veroro Doudat
Passages Vivienne, Colbert,
Bibliotheque National de France 58 R de Richlieu 10-7 Cl M,
Passage Choiseul
Grande Cafe 4 blvd des Capucines 9Th 01 43 12 19 00 42
Back 42

4. Grande Cerf, Bourg-l'Abbe (adjacent to Grande Cerf)

Other "outings" include:
- St Germain en Laye Walking Paris pg 188
- Walks in Belleville see below
- Bibliotheque Ste-Geneviere 10 Pl de Pantheon 10-10 82 bus
- Jardin des Plantes 82, or 92 to 89
- Art Nouveau museum at Maxims. see article. Reservations required 01 42 65 30 47 for reservations Cl M,Tu 2:00 English tour 1 hr tour Sunday. 42 bus

This was something I obtained on the Fodors forum

Walks in Belleville

Here's a walk for the lower 20th arrondissement. Start with a visit to the art deco Eglise Saint-Jean Bosco on rue Alexandre Dumas. Head down rue Planchat and go left onto rue des Vignoles and note the old timey cobbled lanes off it (on your right). Across from them note the cool looking modern loft style buildings and then realize this is a recent social housing project designed by a famous architect. Some good restaurants here such as Café de l'Amitié, 20ème Art, La Petite Fabrique, O-Di-Vin-Resto, A la Vierge de la Réunion. Les Mondes Bohèmes has a beautiful terrace and ambiance but the food is just average. Go there for the terrace. I really like the couple that owns this place though. They'll explain the background of the resto and the neighborhood if you ask. Next door check out the little lane with the anarchist headquarters and the flamenco dance studio.

Head to Place de la Réunion and continue down rue Vitruve to rue Saint-Blaise. Along the way see the salamander on the wall at the corner of rue Courat (look at the oddball "artists" home across the street) then at 50 rue Vitruve lived the French singer Barbara. On rue Saint-Blaise itself is the old village of Charonne with 18th century buildings and a village feeling. Lots of cafés and restos here, such as Café Noir. See the old church (if renovation is complete yet) and the art nouveau boulangerie across from it. Go down rue de Bagnolet and there's a great bistro/wine bar (Le Papillon) at the corner of rue des Balkans. Across is the Jardin Debrousse, the remains of the châteaux grounds of the Duchess of Orléans. One building remains, the Pavillon de l'Ermitage. You can go in and see the rococo murals on the walls.

Walk over the to Place Edith Piaf and see the ugly statue in homage to her. The bar here (Bar Edith Piaf) looks like it hasn't had a decor update since the 1950's and the walls are covered in old black and white photos (no idea if she ever sang here). The regulars seem to be just as old as she would be, and just as rough around the edges. Go around the corner to see La Campagne à Paris (rue Jules-Siegfried, rue Irénée-Blanc, rue Paul-Strauss) and the beautiful homes and small gardens. Hard to believe these were built for workers as part of a social housing project.


Great old timey café nearby at Place Octave Chanute. Judging by the photos on the walls there must have been a lot of old time French celebrities that came here.

Here's a second walk:

Adjacent to Buttes-Chaumont I highly recommend visiting the residential neighborhood known as La Mouzaïa. You can read about it and see photos here:

Leaving that neighborhood take rue de la Villette to rue de Belleville. Some interesting little side streets as you approach rue de Belleville. Take a left on rue de Belleville and there is a great boulangerie and some other food stores. You'll notice them. Go down rue de Belleville towards Paris and take a left on rue Piat and shortly you'll arrive at the Maison de l'Air with a great view of the Paris skyline at the top of the Parc de Bellville. Explore the park if you'd like. Great little bar/café with a nice terrace and views across the street that you'll notice (I've forgotten the name).

From here head down rue des Envierges and take a right on rue des Cascades (charming old timey streets) to rue de Ménilmontant. At rue de Ménilmontant take a left going uphill and on your left is a slice of residential 19th century Paris in the Cité de l'Ermitage so take a peek in here. If you want you can go around the corner and see another such place in the Cité Leroy. Next, go down rue du Retrait and take a right on rue Laurence Savart, another quaint old timey street. Then take a right on rue Boyer and you'll pass by La Bellevilloise. Stop here for a drink or just take a peek inside:

This brings you back to rue de Ménilmontant and you can head down the hill to Paris. As you go downhill you'll notice the church on your right and there is a nice plaza in front of the church with some cafés and such to get a drink or bite to eat.

To learn more about the 20th arrondissement you can go to its official website:

As you approach métro Ménilmontant you can take a left on rue Victor Latalle and there are some hip bistros and cafés on this street and the beginning portion of rue des Panoyaux. La Boulangerie is a nice place to eat and a couple good bars/cafés that I go to sometimes are La Cale Sèche (nice terrace out back), Le Saint-Sauveur and Lou Pascalou (nice front terrace). From here you might enjoy a walk down rue Oberkampf back to central Paris and then take it from there.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 30th, 2014, 06:58 AM
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Interesting. I'm always curious how other people plan trips.

We've been to Paris four or five times over the years. The first was in 1969 when the company I worked for sent me (and my wife) to Lyon for a conference. We went to Paris, Switzerland and back to Paris where my wife flew home and I trained down to Lyon for a week. Then I spent a couple more days in Paris and flew home.

The last time we were in Paris was in 2012 at the end of a Province trip. We did and saw a few things in Paris that we hadn't done before. When planning I called them 3rd level sights but they turned out to be very interesting.

Now I guess, I'll be looking at 4th level sights that will probably be as interesting as any of the others.

That's why Paris is always good for a few days.

By the way, we also don't have a real lunch. Breakfast at the start (croissanterie or equivalent), dinner at the end and anything from a snack in the park or quick salad does for lunch.

A short story. On our last trip we were walking around the area of la Sorbonne. As we approached Luxembourg Gardens we bought a snack and went into the park.

We heard a marching band playing in the band shell so we sat down to listen. There were a couple of kids sitting in front of us wearing the same colors as the band. We started to talk to them and they told us they were part of the choir that wasn't performing that day.

The whole group were touring Europe for a month. They were selected from various high schools in the Tallahassee area.
Myer is offline  
Dec 30th, 2014, 07:28 AM
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One of our best trips to Paris was just before Christmas. We went there with no itinerary/agenda at all. Here is something I posted on Fodors. Page through the threads to find pictures of Paris in winter.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 30th, 2014, 07:40 AM
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Nice pictures!!! Thanks for posting.

It didn't look very wintery until suddenly it did.

Posting your photos appeared to have been as much of an adventure as the trip.

You can see photos of trips for the past dozen years or so at:
Myer is offline  

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