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Would really appreciate input on France -

Would really appreciate input on France -

Old May 18th, 2024, 06:31 AM
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Would really appreciate input on France -

Some of these questions are going to be so stupid, but I haven't been to France in a couple of decades. I posted before, but I'm hoping being a bit more specific will help, because I really need to book flights, etc. I'm doing a photo workshop in Normandy (Cabourg is the base) in mid-September for 6 nights. I arrive two nights before and have a hotel booked. My quandary is how to spend 4-5 nights in France after that. (Plus one in Paris before my flight.) I've never seen this part of France, and I also know that a car is the best way to see it. But I'm not comfortable driving alone - I prefer a navigator. Are there any places in this area that are reasonably accessible by train - I can walk a bit to accommodations or get a ride, but would like to be close to town. Where is the closest train station from Cabourg?

Alternatively I could take the included transportation back to Paris, and stay there - plenty of neighborhoods I've never explored - or I could take the train from Paris, then, to any number of other places. My first trip to France in the 1990s, was a Rick Steves village France trip, and to me it was phenomenal. So I have been to many villages in central, eastern and southern France. I'd love to know from you - what towns/cities are easy by train (in Normandy, Brittany or elsewhere)? I could list the places I've been, but it's a long list. My goals are to wander and soak in all that is French, and make photographs. I'll likely do more picnics as I don't love eating in restaurants alone.

IN earlier times, you could just make plans on the fly - once I flew into Paris with no other plans but my first and last days in the city. Then I went to the train station, and decided there where to go! I'm guessing that's not the way to go these days? Has anyone done this sort of thing recently? Part of my personality is not wanting to be boxed in, in case something better comes along. It's possible I'd hit it off with some of my group and they'd want to join and get a car, etc... But I can't know that for sure.

My husband has family in Italy, and I am not sure how many more trips to France are in my future. We aren't swimming in cash and I'm about 3 years out from retirement, so who knows.

One more thing - I can't seem to find a train schedule. Is there a place to find where the trains go and when? I don't want to type in a destination, I just want to know when and where they go! That would help me a lot in my planning. I'm sure I am just not googling the right thing.

Please ask me anything, and thank you for any insight. Like I said, it's been awhile!

ETA: I'm not particularly interested in the northeast. I do like the Burgundy region, Dordogne, Provence, Lot...But I'd like to keep it within a 3-4 hour train trip.

Last edited by Rocket79; May 18th, 2024 at 06:39 AM.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 07:40 AM
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See attached Normandy & Brittany itinerary

Stu Dudley
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Old May 18th, 2024, 07:56 AM
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To give you a VERY general idea of transport, you can do some searches on rome2rio.com. You're still going to have some idea of possible destinations, but you'll get an idea of journey times and logistics. Someone here will be much more familiar with the French rail (and bus) routes and websites and may know another way to research.

For Burgundy, perhaps Dijon? I think Provence and Dordogne would be farther than you want to travel, but that's your choice.

Have you been to the Loire Valley?

FWIW, we always travel with lodging reservations made in advance, even if only secured a few days prior. I don't like spending time after arriving looking for lodging when I could be sightseeing. That's just me. But at the same time I don't like being too rigid with the itinerary, so we don't always buy train tickets in advance and miss out on some fare discounts.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 08:05 AM
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For other towns and villages, consider Alsace




https://flic.kr/s/aHsjpbkZnu
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Old May 18th, 2024, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by Rocket79
... Normandy .... Are there any places in this area that are reasonably accessible by train?
Rouen is easily worth a few days. A good guidebook will tell you what towns have rail or bus connections, and you can use rome2rio to explore options.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 09:01 AM
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https://www.sncf-connect.com
seat61.com
I tend to plan off rome2rio just because it offers alternative modes of transport

google offers these stations
  • Dives—Cabourg.
  • Dives-sur-Mer—Port-Guillaume.
  • Houlgate.
  • Villers-sur-Mer.
  • Blonville-sur-Mer—Benerville.

I suggest you use rome2rio to the exact address and google maps to find details out

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Old May 18th, 2024, 09:06 AM
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If you only have 4-5 nights available - just stay in Normandy, with perhaps a jaunt into Brittany. We've spent 3 weeks total just in the small region of Normandy where you are visiting. Rent a car, visit Honfleur, the Pays d'Auge, then Rouen where you can return the car, visit, & take a train to Paris. Or wander towards St Malo, where you can return the car & catch a train back to Paris. Don't wast any of your "too few" days, to go "elsewhere" far away.

Stu

Last edited by StuDudley; May 18th, 2024 at 09:29 AM.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 10:03 AM
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It would be a shame to be in this area and not visit Bayeux, if only to view the Bayeux Tapistry. The cathedral here rivals Notre Dame. The whole area is charming, a foodie kind of destination, as is Rouen by the way. Honfleur also is lovely and the WWII museum in Caen is extremely interesting and worthwhile. I don't know anything about public transport in the area as we had a car, but we did a tour for the Normandy beaches although my husband and I seemed to know almost as much about D-Day as the guide. Very moving experience though and I would recommend.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 10:20 AM
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https://nomad.normandie.fr/welcome-n...-network-nomad
Has the train and bus networks and timetables for Normandy.

https://www.korrigo.bzh/ is for public transport in Brittany.

I guess it depends somewhat on where, if anywhere your course takes you as well.
Mid September you should be able to book a day or two ahead for most places using Booking.com, or even on the day.



I wouldn't go haring all over France just for a few days.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 11:48 AM
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From Paris you could train to Monet's Giverny (you are a photographer, yes?).

See if this link helps for train info:

https://www.sncf-connect.com/en-en/train/france

Since you don't have an exact spot in mind, scroll to the bottom of the post and regions are listed. If the link doesn't work, type 'french train schedules' to google.

Looking forward to hearing about your trip...and seeing some shots!

ETA, Stu mentioned Honfleur above... have heard it's lovely.

Last edited by TDudette; May 18th, 2024 at 11:51 AM.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 11:56 AM
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Thank you all! I will check out those links. Since many of you drive, how stressful would it be for one person to do it? I love to drive, and a road trip through Normandy and/or Brittany would be great. "Rent a car, visit Honfleur, the Pays d'Auge, then Rouen where you can return the car, visit, & take a train to Paris. Or wander towards St Malo, where you can return the car & catch a train back to Paris." If only I had a co-pilot, as this sounds great.
FWIW, I wasn't planning to go all over the place. Ideally I'd find a base, and explore from there, if not driving.
Honfleur, Deauville and the WWII beaches are included in our workshop.

Rouen is on my radar, as is Dinan and Dol. I just don't know how to get there! Argh. Maybe I need to look into the car thing. Any recs for car rentals in this area? Again, it would need to be darn near Cabourg, as I have no idea how to get anyplace else.

Again, thank you all. I may have more questions, and feel free to add on!

Last edited by Rocket79; May 18th, 2024 at 12:09 PM. Reason: adding question
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Old May 18th, 2024, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Rocket79
Since many of you drive, how stressful would it be for one person to do it?
I'm a solo traveler and in general, don't find driving stressful. I currently use my phone with downloaded maps for GPS and that works very well for me. I'll admit that driving into a city can be a bit disorienting, particularly if I'm looking for a specific place or if I'm tired, but otherwise I have no trouble.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by kja
I'm a solo traveler and in general, don't find driving stressful. I currently use my phone with downloaded maps for GPS and that works very well for me. I'll admit that driving into a city can be a bit disorienting, particularly if I'm looking for a specific place or if I'm tired, but otherwise I have no trouble.
Thanks, KJA. I'm seriously re-considering this suddenly. I am tech phobic, but it would be fabulous to just drive along the coast, stopping as I please. Dudette - I should be more interested in Giverny than I am. I'm sure it's wonderful. I really just want to meander in old towns, capturing people going about their days, market days are always great... Also - Stu, we are generally very slow travelers. We spent 3 weeks in Italy and barely left Abruzzo. I could push it to 6 extra nights, if needed.

Last edited by Rocket79; May 18th, 2024 at 12:38 PM. Reason: grammar
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Old May 18th, 2024, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley
See attached Normandy & Brittany itinerary

Stu Dudley
Thank you, Stu - I saw and have already printed this out!
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Old May 18th, 2024, 12:28 PM
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Any recs for car rentals in this area?

Do it through AutoEurope or Kemwel as the broker.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 12:37 PM
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I think AutoEurope is who we used in Italy and it was very good. Thank you~!
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Old May 18th, 2024, 12:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Rocket79
.........IN earlier times, you could just make plans on the fly - once I flew into Paris with no other plans but my first and last days in the city. Then I went to the train station, and decided there where to go! I'm guessing that's not the way to go these days? Has anyone done this sort of thing recently? Part of my personality is not wanting to be boxed in, in case something better comes along. It's possible I'd hit it off with some of my group and they'd want to join and get a car, etc... But I can't know that for sure.........
That sounds like something that I would say to myself. So perhaps we think alike.

If you haven't been to Europe "in a couple of decades", that may be pre-internet. If so, believe me, it's WAY easier now. In the late .70s, I used to go to our German plant on business 2x/year After my initial visit, I'd drive from the airport to the plant, and at night/on weekend, in the vicinity. But always planned.

Post-2002, we made 6 trips to Europe, all self-toured, NEVER ONCE made a reservation ahead except for departure airports. 3 week trips, so that's probably 90+ nights. Given that some of those stays turned out to be 3-4 night stays, that's probably 70+ ad hoc bookings.

It's crazy easy to learn how an internet booking site (lsuch as: vrbo.com, tripadvisor.com, airbnb.com,authenticnormandy.com, or probably 100 others found by simply googling "B&B normandy france" and viewing the results) works. Just find something that rings your chimes, click up to the brink of booking (but not quite), and view away.

It's also crazy easy to let a local office of tourism help you. Each town has an "office de turisme", most with staff who are accomplished at finding lodging for visitors Here's Cabourg's website sublink for accomodations: https://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/pla...where-to-stay/ , not that that's necesarily where you'll want to book near. But as an example, it's a small town, yet has >800 differrent places you could book.

Really, the internet has made it SO easy to book lodging, compared to 25 years ago. If THIS octogenarian can do it, you can. Have no fear. AND, they drive on the right side of the road.

We have a friend-couple who are cautious by nature, who went to Normandy 5 years ago with a group lfrom our town ed by a tour leader. They missed SO much. No bakeries, no patissieries, no this, no that, no ad hoc, everything per plan. Saw Normandy, experienced nothing. Sad.

I could expand, but maybe you're not convinced. But, if you see light on my path, ask, and I'll say more.

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Old May 18th, 2024, 01:46 PM
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Actually we were in Italy in 2018. We'd planned to go back in 2020, but - lockdown. I've not been to France in two decades, and I will be solo as my husband isn't coming.

So, in my never-ending overthinking, would I be nuts to just head back to Paris - as I said, I love the city and there are more than enough things to photograph there. Then one day take a train to Rouen - it's only and hour and a half! I could meander there all day, then just head back to Paris. I know it seems backwards, but in a lot of ways it would be easier. I'm just not sure how to get to any train station from Cabourg. And let's face it, for this short period of time, car rental can be a hassle. I'd spend a lot of time trying to figure out where to drop it off, and just taking care of those details. I will do more digging though.
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Old May 18th, 2024, 02:28 PM
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As tomboy wrote above, the internet has changed things immeasurably. Maybe my 2016 trip to Paris and Bordeaux can give you some ideas:

April in Paris...with a Side of Bordeaux

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Old May 19th, 2024, 09:46 AM
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I am not fond of driving, and usually travel with friends, one who prefers to do the driving. But in 2022 I did a solo trip to Italy and rented a car for the week in Tuscany. I got comfortable very quickly traveling around. I paid a modest daily rate on my ATT plan and used google maps, plugging in directions as I went along. I found it very easy, although I did not drive into large cities, returning the car prior to taking the train to Bologna Florence, and then Rome. I would highly recommend renting a car. Also, there are many restaurants where sitting solo at bar seating or at communal tables can be enjoyable and a way to meet people. Check out restaurants and look at photos and comments and enjoy some local food in restaurants.
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