I have a week budgeted for Paris and surrounding areas in late April to early May. I've been to Paris 3x before but have only ventured out to Versailles and Giverny so this time I'm ready to explore. On my list to see are Chartres, Normandy, Mont St Michel and Loire Valley. I've been looking at RS France and all of them are doable as daytrips from Paris. My question is it better to base ourselves out of Paris and do these daytrips or is there a better place to base ourselves that is more central to those areas? We're willing to rent a car and drive vs taking trains if we do base ourselves out if Paris. Staying a few days in Paris is nonnegotiable since my travel buddy has never been there. Appreciate your thoughts and comments on this.
I haven't been to any of the places you are interested in, but have followed the many previous threads about them.
Mont Saint-Michel is about four hours - one way - from Paris. Not only that, but by all accounts it's mobbed during the day, and much more rewarding early or late in the day, before or after the hoards. So, a day trip from Paris to here is a bad idea.
Normandy is a bit closer, but is a large region with lots to see. If you just want to do a few D-Day sights, it's possible by taking a train from Paris to Bayeux, then joining a pre-arranged tour there. Otherwise, you'll want more than a day.
For the Loire Valley, again it depends on your goals. In a day from Paris, you can see one or two chateaux, particularly on a package (several companies do bus tours from Paris, which would be the easiest way, unless you only want to see one chateau). If you want more than this (say, to see some of the towns and not just the chateaux), you'll again need more time.
However, Chartres is perfect for a daytrip, and my brother emphasized how much he liked the town as well as the cathedral.
To strike a balance I would try for a minimum of 4 nights in Paris, and 4 nights outside.
Day 1 - Train to Bayeux - 2nts
(Pick up rental)
Day 2 - Day for Normandy beaches
Day 3 - Drive via MSM to Loire Valley - 2nts
Day 4 - Day for Loire chateaux
Day 5 - Drive via Chartres to Paris - 4nts
Day 6-8 - Paris
I agree with Harold. Chartres is really your only realistic enjoyable daytrip, out of these destinations. The others I'd recommend as at least overnights. You could drive to Bayeux, spend a day there and at beaches, drive on to Chartres to visit the cathedral, then on to, say, Blois or Amboise for another day visiting two or three chateaux. Total, say, three nights and four days on the road. Doesn't leave much time in Paris for your friend.
A week is a very tight timeframe for all you want to see. I'd never try it, but I'm retired and can spend more time. But, as you know, these places will be there next time you're in France. Maybe pick Normandy OR the Loire for a couple of nights away from Paris, and save the rest for the next trip.
2 OR 3 NIGHTS IN BAYEUX AS A BASE TO EXPLORE MOUNT ST MICHEL AND D-DAY BEACHES SOUNDS LIKE THE WAY TO GO
Dick is correct in his assessment that you will definitely have to choose either Normandy or the Loire if you want to keep your time to just 7 days.
Yes it's looking like I will have to remove Loire Valley from the list. I like the idea of sleeping in Bayeux and driving to Normandy and MSM from there. It's looking like we will be coming from Amsterdam to France so will have to figure out connections from Amsterdam to Bayeux. From there we will go to Paris for a few nights so we can catch the Eurostar back to London. Thanks for the great suggestions!
Thalys from Amsterdam to Lille.
Pick up your car in Lille.
Drop your car in Caen.
Train to Paris.
Total distance from Lille to Caen is about 400km.
As a general rule, I prefer to save money and sleep outside the expensive cities when I'm not actually touring a city.
As for your question, it's up to you; these are easily doable as daytrips:
1. Chartres (by train), see the cathedral and old center.
2. Normandy - Rouen by train is easiest but Caen and Bayeux have less frequent no change trains. I'd probably want to stay at least one night if you are interested in a D-day tour.
These seem a little too far for me:
3. Mont St. Michel - unless you take a dedicated tour bus from Paris - but I don't think that's the best experience. Better to rent a car and do a loop that includes Bayeaux, Honfleur, Etretat and/or Brittany (St. Malo, Cancalle, Dinan).
4. Loire Valley - getting a train to Tours is easy enough but then you still have to get to some castles to make the trip worthwhile. I'd train to Tours, get a car and plan to stay a couple of days (probably Amboise but depends on which chateaux you'd like to visit).
Congratulations on seeing more of France. Your day trips are wonderful, but with the exception of Chartres, your "day" will be extremely long. And, you are going in different directions. The D-Day beaches and Mont St. Michel are in the northwest and the Loire Valley is south of Paris. I would cut Mont St. Michel. Take the train to Bayeux and spend the night in this charming little city. Up the next day to take the 8 hour D-Day tour and train back to Paris that evening on the train. Same thing with the Loire Valley. I believe the Loire Valley warrants two full days. Or you could drive the entire route instead of taking the train.