Where to Go in France in October?

Apr 1st, 2012, 11:08 AM
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Where to Go in France in October?

My wife and I are going to France in October. We will have five days outside of Paris. We have both been to Paris several times but this will be our first time to venture out into the countryside. My dream has long been to visit the Dordogne region but it's six hours by train to get to Sarlat which is too long for us for this trip since we will only be in France for a week total. I would like to go somewhere that is no more than 3-4 hours by train from Paris.

Here is a little background about what we are looking for. We love exceptional food, chateau, small picturesque villages, history, beautiful architecture, and lush, green scenery with plenty of trees. We do not drink at all so we have no interest in visiting wineries. I want to visit Alsace and my wife is leaning toward Burgundy. My wife says she does not want to eat sausage and sauerkraut for five days. I have tried to explain that is only part of what is great about Alsatian cuisine but maybe some info from some of you who have more experience will help.

From what I've described, what region of France do any of you most recommend for us to consider? Thanks in advance for your help!
Blaise22 is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 11:24 AM
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>>Dordogne region but it's six hours by train to get to Sarlat<<

Brive la Gaillard is only 4 hrs away from Paris by train. Pick up a car in Brive, visit Colonges la Rouge just outside of Brive, and also visit Turenne. Then it is a 1 1/4 hr drive through the beautiful Perigord countryside to Sarlat.

I never eat pork or sauerkraut and I've had some fabulous meals in Alsace. We've spent about 3 years in most areas in France, and we've had our best restaurant meals in Burgundy. But we enjoy the Dordogne region more than Alsace or Burgundy.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 1st, 2012, 12:36 PM
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So you will be in Paris for two days at some point, and 5 somewhere else.
I suggest you take the TGV from the airport to Provence. Return to Paris for your short time.
Gretchen is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 12:39 PM
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And I know Burgundy is more than wine, but if it isn't really an interest, maybe somewhere else is better. Provence would be great.
Gretchen is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 01:26 PM
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Once you factor in the driving time as well as the train time, it's true it's about 6 hours to get to Sarlat, no matter how you skin the cat (and there are multiple ways).

I'd hop on the TVG and head to Avignon and explore Provence. You can get there in just under 3 hours these days.
StCirq is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 01:26 PM
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What Stu said: train to Brive and then a car. You'll need a car anyway for touring the Dordogne. But, given what you're looking for, the Dordogne is perfect.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 02:07 PM
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I say PROVENCE...."short" TGV ride. to Avignon..rent a car....explore a few places or take TGV on to Aix-en-Provence...see the town...explore the area....easy to do!
Nottingham is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 03:18 PM
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Certainly Provence! It's beautiful in the fall.
Underhill is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 03:50 PM
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A vote for Alsace, and no, you don't have to eat sauerkraut!
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Apr 1st, 2012, 04:29 PM
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October weather is very iffy anywhere north of the Loire.

I don't know where you live but for us Canadians, the sun and warmth of the southern latitudes (which include the Dordogne, BTW) are catnip.

Since you can be in Lyon in 1h 59 min from your Paris departure, you're well within your limits of tolerance for travel times.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 05:32 PM
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The train to Brive is 4 hrs, and it about 20 mins from Brive to Collonges. So you start your Dordogne "exploration" in 4 hrs 20 mins (plus car pick-up time, which you'll have for any destination).

I love Provence in early summer when the lavender & sunflowers are in bloom. By October the lavender has been harvested, the sunflowers have dried up, and much of the greenery (except for the vineyards) are a little dry also. I prefer the Dordogne in Sept/Oct when the walnuts are dropping & fall is in the air. Not as dry as Provence - unless it has been an abnormally hot summer.

I would be real careful about any place north of Lyon in October. Note that Dijon (Burgundy) is north of Montreal Canada, and Alsace is about on the North Dakota/Canada border. This may or may not be important to you - depending on how much you value better weather.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 1st, 2012, 07:00 PM
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But Stu, he's headed for Sarlat, which isn't 20 minutes from Brive. And Collonge isn't in the Dordogne - it's the Corrèze. I've been doing this for 20 years, every which way imaginable: train to Libourne, train to Bordeaux, train to Périgueux. It's ALWAYS 6 hours from the time I leave Paris to the time I arrive at my house. Like clockwork.

That's NOT to say I think he shouldn't do it. It's just the realistic timeframe.
StCirq is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 07:16 PM
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Canada should not be a benchmark for cooless, except in the cultural sense.

We had 27 C here in Ontario, Canada last week. How many places in France can claim that?

We had 27 C last October, when I was freezing my butt in Copenhagen and -- to a lesser degree -- Burgundy.
tedgale is offline  
Apr 1st, 2012, 09:29 PM
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Thanks to all that have responded! My wife will not budge on Alsace, which is what I had determined was our best bet. She just can't get excited about the food and she says it looks too much like Germany and she vastly prefers French architecture.

I am okay with Burgundy but I had been thinking Provence or the Dordogne could be even more enjoyable for us, and my wife is open to both of them as well. The things about Burgundy that get me excited are the food, the chateau, and small towns like Chateneauf, Noyers, and Cluny. We went to Rome two years ago and used a Terrior Guide by David Downie to decide where to eat. I have never eaten better in my life. Anyway, he wrote another Terrior Guide for the Burgundy Region that we have been reading, which drew us to that region. However, from reading Peter Mayle, I discovered Gault Millau, which gives great restaurant recommendations for the whole of France. I have also read about the Pudlo Guides, which look solid from the reviews I've seen. Are these my best resources if I choose to go to Provence or the Dordogne?

The Dordogne looks much prettier to me in pictures than Burgundy or Provence. But getting there looks tough. Our flight arrives at 9am. From CDG the only train to Brive I see on raileurope.com after that gets in at 6pm, leaving from Gare Austerlitz. So I'm thinking it could be 8pm or even later by the time we to Sarlat, if rental car agencies are even still open. The other option is take the train all the way to Sarlat, which gets in at 9pm. That's twelve hours after landing, which is pretty brutal. Maybe I am missing something?

If we decide on Provence, then the big question is where to stay? I am drawn to the Luberon from pictures I've seen as well as the books of Peter Mayle. But logistically it may make more sense to stay in Avignon and take day trips to places like Uzes, Aix, and the Luberon. We want to stay at the same hotel or B&B all five nights to make things more relaxing.

This forum is awesome! Thanks again.
Blaise22 is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 06:05 AM
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Yes, you are missing something. You need to get off the Rail Europe site and get on www.voyages-sncf.com. Check out trains directly from the airport (type in Roissy for point of origination) to Libourne (TGV [fast train] - look for PREM fares, deeply discounted but nonexchangeable, nonrefundable). There will be lots of them. Rent your car in Libourne and drive to Sarlat - about 2.5 hours. Or check out trains to Brive, but I'm not sure if there are any from the airport.
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 06:15 AM
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Re: Provence. We spent a week in the town of St. Remy. It was a good base for daytripping, being a smaller town than Avignon. And it's an easy half-hour from the Avignon TGV station, where we picked up our rental car. I'm not such a big fan of Avignon, especially as a base. But if you won't have a car (not recommended), then Avignon has the best public tranport links.

But I still prefer the Dordogne for you. The train trip to Brive is affected by work on the tracks around Brive. Others on this site might know when that work is due to be completed. An alternative is Libourne, but that's a longer drive to Sarlat.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 06:58 AM
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>>Burgundy that get me excited are the food, the chateau, and small towns like Chateneauf, Noyers, and Cluny<<

There are not nearly as many "cute little villages" in Burgundy as there are in the Dordogne & Provence. And there are not as many chateaux in Provence as there are in Burgundy & the Dordogne. The Dordogne, IMO, has the greatest variety of stuff to do & see.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 2nd, 2012, 07:31 AM
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Agree with StCirq that you only check the RailEurope site after you've checked the official rail site. RailEurope usually has higher prices and usually doesn't show all the trains. The English language version of voyages-sncf.com is www.tgv-europe.com. The sooner you buy tickets (up to 3 months in advance) the cheaper they are. If you get redirected to the RailEurope website enter another county, such as Antarctica, as your ticket collection country until this stops happening.

Whether you choose Alsace, Burgundy, Provence or the Dordogne one thing that is true all over France is that charming villages can be found in any region. I could set out an itinerary for you to circle the countryside within 100km of Paris for a week and you still wouldn't see all the charming villages, nor would you see everything there is to see. There are literally thousands of cute villages in France that have never seen a single (foreign) tourist. I ride through them all the time on my bike (near Paris). But since Burgundy was mentioned you can have a look at my trip report (which has lots of photos) about spending a weekend in Burgundy exploring the area near Semur-en-Auxois. If you like just wandering around using a Michelin map and mixing in visits to well known sites and off the beaten path places then maybe you'll get some ideas for that region. http://tinyurl.com/6wtm6u5
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 10:25 AM
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You could have a fantastic holiday in any of the three regions. Depends entirely on your priorities. I'll attempt to summarize the choices:

Weather: It will be sunnier, warmer -- perhaps appreciably warmer -- and drier in Dordogne and Provence than in Burgundy

Chateaux and great estates: Provence doesn't have them; the others do, in spades.

Magnificent churches: Burgundy wins hands down.

Food: Good everywhere. Burgundy has the richest cuisine, which is rooted in butter and cream. It's a great place for "classic" French cooking, if that is what you like (I do, many do not)

Ease of driving: Only Provence has seriously hilly topography.

Industrial sprawl, congested roads, urban cruddiness: The closer you get to Marseille and the other big cities of the Rhone corridor, the more exposed you are to these phenomena, which are largely absent from the other two regions.

Charming accommodation: A toss up.

Picturesque towns and villages: A toss-up.

Prices: maybe a bit higher in Provence -- certainly higher on average in the Luberon (restaurants, B&Bs) relative to the other regions, IME
tedgale is offline  
Apr 2nd, 2012, 12:26 PM
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StCirq/FrenchMystiqueTours, thanks for the info on the trains. I have been on the SNCF website several times previously and I always got redirected to Rail Europe when I input the USA as my country. So I had assumed they were the same thing. This helps out a lot.

There is a train that leaves Roissy for Libourne at 10:16am (we get in at 9am). The next one after that does not leave for four more hours. Do you think an hour and fifteen minutes is enough time to catch this train? The first train to Brive does not leave until 1:45pm, which is too long to wait, IMO.

I loved the pictures of Semur-en-Auxois, especially at night. Wow. If we ultimately do decide to stick with Burgundy, like several of you said, I'm sure we will have a great vacation. And the Burgundy countryside looks beautiful too, especially the more hilly parts. We had planned on making Beaune our base based on it being centrally located and easy to get to via train. However, it looks rather flat around there, at least from the pictures I've seen. So maybe a different base there would be better. I'm not sure.

From a food perspective, I think I would prefer Provence to the food anywhere else in France because I like olive oil more than butter or cream. But the negative for me on Provence is from the pictures I've seen, the landscapes are reminiscent of SoCal, which is where I currently live. I'm from the South and I spend a lot of time missing lush, green scenery with brilliant colors in the fall. So I would like to vacation somewhere with really green scenery. And I love chateaux, which as several of you have said, Provence does not have.

So I think we are down to deciding between the Dordogne and Burgundy (or Alsace if I could get my wife to budge..haha). Buildings and towns aside, Alsace looks most beautiful of the three to me in pictures. In the end, I want to make the Dordogne work, if I can figure it out logistically.
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