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10 Day Northern Road Trip

Two of us have two weeks in France at the end of May. Last four nights are in Paris in an apparently dumpy old hotel Rick barely recommends but it's under the Eiffel tower and walkable to everything. Perfect. We fly into CDG from SEA through RYK at about 1pm, and pick up a Ford Fiesta for 10 days. I'm excited about this, as I've just seen Jeremy Clarkson driving one through a shopping mall on Top Gear, although Budget does say "or similar". Please God, not a Fiat Panda. I was thinking of bringing a duffel bag with tent and sleeping bags, though not for every night. I'd like to visit WWI and II sights, she wants Cathedrals. Been playing with viaMichelin, and am thinking two hours to Reims for the first night, then next day heading for Verdun and possibly Bastogne. VM has us going through Luxembourg into Belgium...would this be the Seattle equivalent of going to Canada...or Idaho? From there out to Normandy, seems like a long driving day, or...? Then Mont St. Michel, and headed back toward Paris...would we have time for the Loire and Chartres, or is this overly ambitious already? Anyone done similar? Experiences and recommendations appreciated!

Posted by
1294 posts

A while back I did a five-day road trip in Normandy. I didn't go for WWI or WWII sites; was more interested in longer-ago history and architecture, so I can't speak to specific locales for war history.

I guess heading into Luxembourg and Belgium makes sense if you want to see some WWI sites there. I live in Seattle, but I can't say whether driving from France to Luxembourg to Belgium is similar to driving from Washington to Oregon or Idaho or BC.

Three great cathedrals in northern France are in Reims, Amiens, and Rouen. You should also definitely spend some time in Bayeux, which was the first town liberated after the D-Day invasion, and so it suffered little damage and has much of its older architecture. The Bayeux tapestry is also a must-see.

And be sure to stop in Honfleur.

I think at that time of year, and with ten days to cover a not vast area, you could play it by ear as you go, which is what I did. No advance reservations. Just pick a general direction and destination for each day.

Sounds like a great trip. Have fun!

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks for the reply. I guess by the Idaho-Canada thing I was referring to border crossings...is there a line like at the I-5 Peace Arch, or is an open border like we have with lesser-threats ID and OR?

Posted by
10 posts

Both...camping spots are cheap, but when I did it in the U.K. found it was great way to meet people.

Posted by
12090 posts

Hi,

There is another cathedral (smaller) between Amiens and Paris, almost halfway, in Beauvais. Beauvais also has a WW 2 related site. If you're going east of Paris in search of WW1 sites and ending up in Verdun, one hour east of Paris is Chateau-Thierry where the big monument to the US 3rd Inf Div. is located and also the Anglo-French WW 1 military cemetery. I've done both of these side/day trips from Paris by train. Also east of Paris is Meaux, which is the place of the large WW1 museum on La Grande Guerre.

Posted by
13930 posts

Like Susan, I was struck by the statement under the Eiffel tower and walkable to everything I don't know what your everything is, but for me, the Eiffel tower is comparatively remote location. Google maps says Eiffel tower to Orsay Museum is 2.5 km, Eiffel to Notre Dame, a mere 4.4 km.

Will a Ford Fiesta have enough space for your luggage? Most people recommend not leaving items visible in a parked car.

Driving when you are jetlagged and/or sleep-deprived is the equivalent of driving when you are drunk. Please take a train to your first destination and get a night's sleep before driving on unfamiliar highways.

Posted by
1453 posts

With 10 days, a car, tent and early in the season you have the ideal opportunity to arrange everything on the spot. You can make a wish list and make a selection what is doable once on the move. How ambitious your plan is depends about your energy and how efficient you can put your itinerary together.

If you want to avoid Paris you can drive from Bastogne to Normandy via Sedan / Charleville-Mézières along Reims and visit the Cathedral of Amiens. Btw Laon closer to Reims has a nice gothic cathedral too, worth considering a stop. If having time/energy you can include Rouen too.

Posted by
7124 posts

With 10 nights I'd do something like this.
Reims (2 nights)
Amiens (1 night)
Rouen (1 night)
Bayeux (2 nights)
Mont St Michel (1 night)
Loire Valley (3 nights)
Return to Paris via Chartres

Posted by
1705 posts

I'm a big walker too, so your hotel location near the Eiffel Tower doesn't put me off. But the dumpy old hotel thing...is this hotel so inexpensive that it's worth it? Dumpy can be a bummer. You might be able to do modest but comfortable for the same price and be much happier. If you want to share your dates and your budget, you might be surprised at your other lodging options.

And FYI, we rented a Fiat Panda once...in Greece. We talk about it still!:)

Posted by
10 posts

Excellent suggestions all-around, thanks. I'm looking into changing the car pickup to Reims, not so much that I'm scared of driving whilst tired, but because the train can get us there in 45 minutes instead of 2 hours. 4 Kilometers sounds like a pretty good walk in Paris to me, but there's a bike-sharing service much like the one in Seattle (except that people actually use it in a city with far fewer hills) if we want, and we've got a Metro stop right across the street from the Hotel Prince...which some have called dumpy, but we're on a budget and Mr. Steves thinks enough of it to put it in his book...I know he's been a proponent of legal ganja here in WA, but he seems pretty level-headed to us...found his recommendations for Scotland to be spot-on....and while walking the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, who did we run into filming a segment for his TV Show? No, it wasn't Anthony Bourdain. :)

Posted by
12090 posts

Hi,

Is this so called dumpy hotel a two star? If so, then normally it's not a dumpy one unless it is located in a very seedy area. Even that's relative. The hotel I stay at located at Gare du Nord is a two star. After the renovation (new shower where the entire bathroom floor is wet), the price for a single jumped by 10 Euro.