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Traveling with friends--a few logistical questions (France)


Dec 31st, 2011, 01:09 PM
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Traveling with friends--a few logistical questions (France)

I'm a frequent traveler, particularly to France. Now several (7 of us) of my old friends (I mean OLD, as in, we were schoolmates) would like to France this summer. Summer is a time I've never gone, due to the increased costs and crowds, but two friends are teachers, so...

They want to go to the Riviera, which I've not done, so that's great. Our tentative plans are:
A week in Nice area with cars, driving around that area, Monaco, etc.

Arriving in Paris two days prior to taking possession of the house. We have 4 days after leaving the house before flying home to the States.

No one is really interested in Paris (except me, I love it). They really want to see Mont St. Michel which, logistically, is a pain, but here's how it's looking:

Day 1
Arrive CDG
Fly to Venice on Easyjet (really cheap)
Day 1 balance in Venice
Day 2 Venice
Day 3
fly Easyjet to Nice, pick up car
Day 4 - 9
Nice and area
Day 9
Fly to CDG, train to Pontorson, bus to Mt. St. Michel
Day and overnight on the Mont
Day 10
Train back to Paris.
Days 11, 12
2 nights in Paris (one full day)
Day 13
Fly home

The reason for Venice is the really cheap flight CDG to Marco Polo, then Marco Polo to Nice ($75).

My real problem is putting Mont St. Michel into the mix, but it's important to several.

Is there a better way to do this trip?

MelJ is offline  
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Dec 31st, 2011, 01:27 PM
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Are you aware that the Riviera can be jam-packed in the summer?
Michael is offline  
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Dec 31st, 2011, 01:30 PM
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With 7 I might check out the Renault Eurodrive or Pugeot leases and just road trip I have done this in a couple of weeks not bad.Route I did was Paris Geneva alps Stresa Milan
Garda Venice Florence Rome back up med coast to Portofino
SanRemo Nice MSM Paris. viamichelin.com good road trip guide.
I save time and money doing this particularly with a group.

www.eurocheapo.com www.slowtrav.com couple of good sites.

Happy Planning.
qwovadis is offline  
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Dec 31st, 2011, 01:32 PM
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"just road trip..."

Picking up a car in Italy and dropping it off in France will cost you hundreds of extra dollars.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 01:48 PM
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So - you have 11 1/2 days on the ground in Europe You will spend the majority of the time for 5 of those days "in transit" (checking out of hotel, getting to train station and/or airport, retrieving bags at airports (4), transit to city/site, checking in to hotel).

You don't like crowds - but you are spending 2 full days getting to/from & visiting the most crowded site in France at the most crowded time of the year. I have friends (older too) who wanted to visit Mont St Michel. They drove to the parking lot, took a look at the number of cars & large tour buses in the lot, got out of their car & took pictures from afar, back in the car, & headed elsewhere. We were there in very early June a few years ago at 8am. By 10:30 am when all the postcard stands & trinket stands were pulled out on the streets & it was shoulder-to-shoulder people, we wanted to "high-tail" it out of there as fast as possible.

Your itinerary involves too much trasit time and not enough time "being there". And I would certainly not want to visit MSM in peak season and spend the majority of the time for 2 days getting there & back.

Getting to Venice & back from the airport is no easy task.

I would skip Venice & MSM & spend the time in Provence seeking out small villages & lavender fields if you don't want to visit Paris.

Do you have my 27 age Cote d'Azur & Provence itinerary. We've wpent 16 weeks exploring the Cote d'Azur & 18 weeks in Provence. I've sent the itinerary to over 3,000 people on Fodors & AOL. E-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Dec 31st, 2011, 01:58 PM
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I agree with Stu... drop the Venice and MSM parts of the trip.
This would be enough of a headache on your own or as a couple... with a group of 7 it could easily turn into a horror story with the logistics involved!

The other big problem is the car on the Riviera. I won't say anything about how crowded it is and what a hassle parking will be (have done it twice in the summer myself so it's I know it's do-able but a pain).. but for 7 you'll need either 2 cars or a large van.

And unless you get a really large one (which may require a special license) you are not going to have room for both passengers and luggage. So I think you're going to need to plan for 2 cars. You'll need to ensure you have at least 2 people in the group who are competent and willing to do the driving.
ParisAmsterdam is online now  
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Dec 31st, 2011, 02:03 PM
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And willing to drive in impatient traffic on twisty, exposed roads.

You can go an awful lot of places in the south of France by local trains and buses.

If my friends didn't want to go to Paris, I would get different friends.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 02:28 PM
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I think you should definitely drop Venice, also, it doesn't fit into this trip, takes up time and money. I'd also drop MOnt St Michel. This trip just doesn't even sound very appealing with it taking up 2 days out of the few you have for that expedition. Also, you will only have a few hours there, anyway, with that schedule, I imagine, at night. Because the train takes about 4-5 hours one way. Then the bus schedule can be erratic, but I don't see any reason for that, it is only about 10 km from Pontorson, you can easily take a taxi if the bus schedule doesn't work. But the train from Paris takes about 4 hours and that is central Paris so you'd have to get there from the airport. And from CDG, you'd take the train to Rennes and then transfer, that also will end up being at least 5 hours or more. YOu'd have to transfer from central Paris, also, there just may be more options than from CDG. So doing that the same day as you are flying to CDG from NIce will depend on the schedules for those trains, if it is possible, you'd arrive very late afternoon probably. Then the train back the next day will also take up 4-5 hours.

I wouldn't go there.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 02:50 PM
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With 7 I might check out the Renault Eurodrive or Pugeot leases

These options are not available for less than 17 days and for the minimum amount of days will cost far more than a rental (I am assuming a basic rental from kemwel or Autoeurope).
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Dec 31st, 2011, 02:51 PM
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For about 4 times in the last 20 years, 5 college couples (10 people - graduated in '69) got together every 5 year to celebrate our wedding anniversaries together - we all got married in the same year.

1. Although 3 couples are from the same area of the US, we all made seperate travel plans to get to Europe.

2. Each couple rented a car. This enabled us to avoid many many problems.

3. We had breakfast & dinner together - but often (not always) went our seperate ways sightseeing during the day.

4. Only 1 person (usually me) set the itinerary. We did not do a "group" consensus. My wife & I had the most European travel experience. We didn't want to be talked into an itinerary like yours (too much time "in transit").

Stu Dudley
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Dec 31st, 2011, 03:04 PM
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I would see if they could be persuaded to keep this to Provence, Paris, and maybe two days near MSM.

Land CDG, immediate train to Avignon. 6 nights in Provence. Train from there to Fougeres, pick up a car and spend two nights in Fougeres with one day trip to MSM.

Balance (5 nights) in Paris.

If Paris really isn't their cup of tea, extend Provence. From St Remy it's roughly 2.5 hours driving time to the Riviera if that is what they really want to do. If they truly only want two nights in Paris, you can have 9 nights in the Midi and split that: 5 Provence, 4 Nice area.

Just an idea.

Agree on having more than one car. That way the group can split up.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 05:07 PM
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I love Stu's rules, especially having several cars and splitting up some days.

We travelled to London as part of a group of 9 back in 2006 and our only problem was that one of the guys didn't understand that on this holiday we had a limited amount of time to see the sites. His idea was to have a leisurely breakfast and then head out the door at about 11am. And despite lots of opportunity in the lead up to this trip he offered no opinions about what he would like to see (despite numerous requests from the rest of us) and then grumbled about the itinerary most days.

So, my advice would be to make sure everyone has the same idea about what kind of holiday this is going to be.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 06:49 PM
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If MSM is a must - that is fine. But everyone should understand what it will be like. We were there in early Oct - so less crowded - and arrived early in the day - there were only a couple of buses.

The walk from the parking lot in through the gate and up to the Abbey is long and steep (we were in our late 40s and in good shape - used to lots of daily walking). The cobbled walkway is not very wide and all sort of objects (from cafe tables to souvenir stands) impinge on it so you sometimes have to follow one another. It was quite crowded (not Macy's at Christmas - but by the time we can back down it was sometimes hard to keep sight of all 4 of us).

After the long climb up to the Abbey you can take a rest and look out over the ocean (or mud) but then the Abbey itself is a lot of stairs up and down to see much of anything. Then you have a long walk back down in worse crowds.

I can;t imagine how busy this will be in summer - esp since you will be getting there at the busiest part of the day. This is not to discourage you - but I would definitely look at some photos to see how crowded the street is and and how steep the climb. If everyone still wants to do it great - they have no reason to complain later.

And IMHO, while I;m glad we went -- I;m also glad it was that time of year. And there are about 50 other things I would want to see in France first. It's sort of like the Blue Grotto - if you're nearby you feel you have to see it, you do and you're happy you did - but wouldn;t go back.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 07:08 PM
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Sorry -- but the entire trip sounds like it could be a disaster in the making.

Venice, the Riviera, and MSM will all be slammed w/ tourists. Aren't there some other places that interest your group?
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Dec 31st, 2011, 07:54 PM
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Traveling as a group could be dicey unless someone does a “Stu” and sets the itinerary.
When people want to come with us, I let them know that we have specific plans. Then tell them the plans. I don’t want to dither about with people who think they are on vacation That usually culls the faint hearted from the pack.
Everyone should have their own car or groups with cars if not that, train schedules and enough language skills to get them out of any wrong turns.

Good luck, you're very sweet to do this. I've never thought about taking more than 2 others with us That's worked out because everyone has let me be Queen Bee Travel. I’ve also gone with others and went happily along with their itinerary.

It's like a dog pack, someone has to lead.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 08:50 PM
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I appreciate ALL the thoughts above--good and bad. To clarify, I am completely aware this is a nightmare in the making, hence my coming here (I might just cut and paste your answers and send them to the group!).

As I said, I would NEVER choose to travel to the Riviera in the summer OR MSM, but this is the only time they can go and they've already said they won't go without me which puts me at a distinct disadvantage, no? These are literally people I grew up with and we've traveled to California together, NYC, etc. and no problems. We get along fine, it's just that they have unrealistic expectations about this trip.

One of them has a daughter and son-in-law in Toulouse (visiting his parents) and he's explained the difficulties in this plan, but they aren't really listening.

My choice? Absolutely skip MSM. Absolutely. And I will continue to try to talk them out of that.

The Venice part isn't that bad. Connections are good and flights are short. The worst part is that damned bus from the airport to Venice. I recall it as never-ending. Much better when we took the train there and, bang, there's Venice!

I'm going to work on getting them to Fly Nice to CDG at the end of the week (actually in St. Jeannette) and spend the remainder of the time (4 days) in Paris.

We already planned to get more than one rental car in the Riviera so that those who want to go where they wish.

Wish me luck. Oh, and keep sending me your thoughts.
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Dec 31st, 2011, 11:24 PM
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In Venice, you can take a water bus or water taxi from the airport (stops are less than .2 mile from the airport entrance) to your hotel. With that size of group, the water taxi might not be too expensive.

In another attempt to help your group see reason, take the tentative itinerary you set forth above, and include ALL of the travel times, even bus schedules, just for the purpose of demonstrating how long the group will be travelling, rather than being at a destination.

Also, if they won't go without you, can you throw your weight around a bit, and insist that Mont St. Michel be dropped? (Or some members of the group can go there if they like, but you will not?)
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Jan 1st, 2012, 12:23 AM
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Have to agree with Stu MSM would be crossed off my list. We too went there while staying in Normandy for a few weeks. can;t remember if it was Spring or Fall trip but as we drove up we saw how very crowded the parking lot was . The view from the mainland is the best part anyway. We took pictures and left. We had been to Mount St Michael in the UK anyway and it too is very touristy, kind of ruins the feel!

I would have a hard time skipping Venice though. I know you have done the Paris -Venice trip with no problems, so you know the routine.

No ideas about Province that is one area of aFrance I chose to leave out.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 12:41 AM
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Lexma90 has the right idea! When you get to CDG send them on their way to MSM, then you can jump on the RER and head to Paris for an extra day.
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Jan 1st, 2012, 04:12 AM
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Do you have to go everywhere together? What about 4 days in Paris and those who want to leave to go to MSM can do so......gets you off the hook for that part of the trip and gives you time in Paris.
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