Want to "do" France in a month

Nov 13th, 2005, 10:35 AM
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Want to "do" France in a month

My current trip dilemma. My sons (12 and 17) and I will spend the month of June in France. We want to see as much of the country as possible in that time. I'm not sure where to start with my planning.

At first, I had thought of basing ourselves in an apt in Paris as a central location from which we could take trains to all parts. But I'm beginning to think that is a big waste of money. Since I can't afford a hotel every night for 30 nights though, I will have to do some weekly apt rentals.

And getting around - I really don't want to rent a car. It might be the cheapest way for the 3 of us to travel, but I am afraid driving and finding my way might be a bit too stressful. Maybe not if I have some insight into the prospect.

Anybody want to jump in with ideas and suggestions? Both the boys have done Paris at least once, and we will have already hit the D-Day beaches and Loire Valley with the student trip I am leading from which we will be staying behind for the month.

Thanks for any words of wisdom anyone can offer.
crepes_a_go_go is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 10:37 AM
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Your best resource is the Michelin Green Guide to France, which shows all the major sights and suggests itineraries. With an entire month you will be able to see a number of regions--what luxury!
Underhill is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 10:43 AM
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I'd spend a week in Provence, near the border with languedoc; a week in Beaune, near the Alps, a week in Rennes, and a week in Pau.

I'd skip Paris and the north since you've already been there.
sheila is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 11:20 AM
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I strongly advise you to rent a car for at least part of the trip. Driving in France is wonderful: great roads and easy to follow signage. Even though the boys can't help drive, they can help with map reading and navigation. You can easily get to out of the way places and will save $ if you do an apt rental in a small town not easily accessible by rail, but central to an area you want to explore.

I took my 14 year old nephew on a one week driving tour around Brittany. Took TGV Paris to Vitre (which he loved), train to Rennes to pick up rental car, then a more or less circular tour from SW to NE Brittany around the coast before returning to Paris with a little detour to Chartres.

Can give more details on Brittany later if you wish, but I do want to encourage you not to be afraid to drive.
cylueth is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 11:21 AM
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I'd plan a week in each of three or four different regions - four if you choose to skip Paris. Lodging is considerably less expensive in the provinces, and hotels, or bed and breakfasts may be more economical than you think. If you rented apartments, or gites, instead, would you cook and eat at home on many days? That would reduce costs considerably.

You should reconsider driving. Certainly there are interesting towns you could visit by public transportation. But without a car you risk missing much of the flavor of the regions you''ll be visiting, your choices of lodging will be limited (few bed and breakfasts in larger provinicial towns, for example, no gites, which are only in the countryside, and I suspect few apartment rentals, too. I also wonder whether your sons will be restless without the short changes - little daytrips - that a car makes possible. If I were you, I would pick my spots and go by train, but rent a car locally for at least a portion of each week's stay. Driving in the provences is not all that difficult. Nothing like driving in Paris.
Dave_in_Paris is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 11:28 AM
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Driving the coast from Honfleur down to Biarritz but stopping for overnights was one of our favorite trips.
Coming back through the Pyrenees and basque country. I can't think of an area that we didn't find beautiful.
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 02:01 PM
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Well as far as a car is concerned (and I'm sure you know this already) my advice would be don't go for it. If you check out www.voyages-sncf.com you can get an idea of what train costs are like. What about renting a place for a week in four different places? Than you would be able to move easily in a radius around each one. Hmm. So maybe a week in Paris (train to Versailles, Remes etc) and one in Lyon, one in the South of France and one in Bordeaux? And perhaps if you end up in a place that you want to explore further, you can rent a car there, just for the week. Anyway hope this was of some help!
gypsyaucoeur is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 02:09 PM
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Since I can't afford a hotel every night for 30 nights though. At what price range? The province tend to be cheaper than Paris.
Michael is online now  
Nov 13th, 2005, 02:16 PM
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Driving isn't really all that bad, and it gives you considerably more flexibility than relying on public transport.

As for hotels everynight, have you thought of B&Bs? Or renting a gite in several areas outside Paris?
Underhill is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 02:27 PM
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Perhaps you could be more disclosive. While you say you can't afford 30 hotel nights, if that means 30 nights at 300€ per, pensions/gites/chambres de hote could cut that by more than 1/2.
While you say you're afraid to drive, you don't say why (if you've never driven in your life, I can understand why).
My wife and I drove for 3-1/2 weeks last fall, with great ease and joy. We're 65
tomboy is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 02:34 PM
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Hi tomboy, last Aug into September, we drove 1500 miles and we are in early seventies.
cigalechanta is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 02:45 PM
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If you were to drive, perhaps your 17 yr. old could navigate....makes it much easier to have that second person reading signs, etc.
Judy is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 02:58 PM
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I would pick 4 or 5 nights in Paris (always worth a repeat visit!), either at the beginning or at the end of the trip. Since you have already done the LV and parts of Normandy, then three week-long bases:
1. Dordogne
2. Provence
3. Brittany or the Alps (the Alps will have lots of summer activities for your sons, assuming they like the outdoors; Brittany has some great coastal resort towns where they can hit the beach and perhaps strike up a fleeting but memorable flirtation with vacationing French girls).

Do a three-week car rental with RenaultUSA or similar, for good rates. Driving in France is surprisingly easy. If you're worried about European drivers, stay in the slow lane.
Raisinette is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 03:04 PM
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i rented an apartment for a week in cannes and i can absolutely recommend this instead of hotels, you can save big time by eating one of two meals at home, and you feel you are really living amongst the locals
rallen is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 03:13 PM
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I didn't say I COULDN'T drive - said I'd prefer not to. I live in the deep south - I drive EVERYWHERE, so I like being able to take trains when in Europe. I like the convenience (relative term of course) of going to the station, getting on the train and leaving the getting us there part to someone else for a change.

As far as affording 30 nights of hotels, you've got a lowly school teacher here trying to do this as inexpensively as possible so that we can afford to do it at all. Renting apartments for a week at a time should be less expensive than a hotel every night and will allow for some meals in not to mention living less like a tourist.

What would be a good base for us in Provence area? We definitely want to do the Cote d'Azur.
crepes_a_go_go is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 04:31 PM
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Check out gite rentals in the Côte d'Azur area--you should be able to get something at a decent price that would enable you to spend a week or so exploring there.

Friends of ours who live near Grasse occasionally rent out their "petit maison" that's usually a guesthouse for friends. It has one queen-sized bed and two bunk beds, adequate cooking facilities, and a shower room with separate toilet area. If this interests you, e-mail me at

[email protected]

and I'll put you in touch with the owners--a very nice couple of whom the husband speaks fluent English. There are an 18-year-old son and a 16-year-old daughter still living at home with maman et papa, and all the family are marvelous people.
Underhill is offline  
Nov 13th, 2005, 07:32 PM
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Can't do much more than repeat myself. Unless you and your boys are happy with exceptionally low-key activity, without a car you'll need to stay in large towns or cities. Gites (countryside rental places) will be inaccessible or very difficult to reach by public transportation. Bed and breakfasts are rare in French cities. (Coco has one in Dijon, and you might want to consider that "most French" of French cities, in Burgundy). The limit on lodging possibilities is likely to considerably raise the cost of your trip, not mention limiting your experience of France. If you take little excursions by public transportation from your base towns, you'll spend quite a bit of time learning timetables and waiting at bus stops and on train station platforms, and no amount of planning will spare you from some surprises. I'd do some driving (and I love the train and don't like to drive). However, if you do stand by your all-public-transport plan, I think you'd be well-served by the Let's Go guidebook for France, since it's written with public transport access in mind.
Dave_in_Paris is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 01:09 AM
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Worktowander is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 02:45 AM
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Hi Dave and thank you, just to precise myhomeindijon is not a real B&B but a self catering accommodation.
A B&B is "une chambre d'hôte" (in someone's house). Mine is "un meublé de tourisme" a totally independant flat (for 2 only). Dijon has 2 chambres d'hôte that can be found on www.cotedor-tourisme.com (as well as meublés and hotels).

crepes à gogo try this :
http://www.gites-de-france.fr/fr/index.htm (official gîtes)
happy travels!
cocofromdijon is offline  
Nov 14th, 2005, 04:36 AM
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If you want to get the most (for you and your sons) out of a month in France, have you considered spending part of your time (maybe 2 weeks out of the 4) taking French lessons for part of the day/week in the place where you're based. (I'm assuming that you and your boys don't already speak French well.) As others have suggested, you might want to pick 2-3 regions and use those as bases for exploring. The variation I'm proposing is that you spend a week in two locations where go to a language school (or hire a tutor if you're all at about the same level) for the mornings. (The tutor would be more flexible, so you could concentrate your lessons on e.g. Mon-Thurs, and then explore further afield on Fri-Sun.) There are some great language programs for kids. And if you hire a tutor, it doesn't have to be "sit in front of this blackboard and repeat after me". Your tutor could take you on a walking tour in the city, or in a museum, or in a market, and teach you the vocabulary as you walk around. Ideally, you would take French classes (together if possible) before you come to France. French studies are a great way to learn more about the culture in a place you visit, meet like-minded students to sightsee with - and come home with a sense of accomplishment (and something your 17 year old could put on his college applications or a cv).

Places where this might work well would include Biarritz, Montpellier, Paris, Nice (and Strasbourg (maybe Grenoble and Lyon, too). There are probably other places I haven't mentioned, as well. (I've studied in Grenoble and Strasbourg, and I live in Paris.)

As for train versus car, you could consider a combination of the two. Use the train to travel long distances (e.g. Paris to Provence), and then, in some towns, pick up a rental car at the train station (very easy to do), so that you can putter around in the villages and back roads. My friends (who live in Paris) recommendation this combination for weekends away.

There are more charming places to stay, but one reliable "apart'hotel" option for the larger French towns is Citadines (www.citadines.com). They have accommodation (studios, 1 and 2 BR suites) with convertible sofas and kitchenettes. I used them in Grenoble and Strasbourg.
Kate_W is offline  

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