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10 year anniversary trip to France - need input on Itinerary and recs TIA!

**Edit: Italics and BOLD. *We are planning to travel the first week of May 2020. We have a healthy budget but definitely do not want to spend too much either...$100-200 perhaps? ** I want to thank you for the recs that came pouring in. I am adding the tidbits in bold/italics.***

Hi,

My husband and I are celebrating our 10 year anniversary by flying to Paris and we wanted to explore France as well. Here is our plan. We wanted to ask more seasoned travelers a few questions. One, is our itinerary too ambitious? Two, what are your recommendations at each locations? What are your must sees? Hotels/Restaurants/Cafes/Desserts/Off the cuff places to go? Also Paris City Pass - yes or no? Metro Pass in Paris? This trip is us two; no kids.

Day 1: We will arrive in Paris at 10am - stay at the Hotel La Comtesse (view of Eiffel Tower) Recs for restaurants/desserts/cafes/other hotels? We are definitely doing touristy things but wanted suggestions for off the cuff things to do like the Promenade Plante (We are from NYC and this is supposed to be the High Line of Paris)
Day 1 & 2 (after adjusting to time change: Paris Sight seeing day for 1.5 to 2 days - our bucket list is Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle, the Catacombs, Musee Rodin gardens, Riviere Seine boat tour (go at 930pm), & Rue Honore & Cambon.

Day 3-4: Spending Day 3 and leaving after spending the night in Amboise to drive to MSM **
AM Train to Tours ***(straight to Amboise per rec from blogger)
* to visit Loire Valley - we were thinking of staying at Château De Pray & getting a rental car to go to other chateaux in the area. Recs for must see and restaurants? We were thinking of going to Chateaux d'Amboise & Chenonceau & Clos Luce - get bike rental
consider Villandry?

Day 4-5: Mount Saint Michel (Rental car after late breakfast in Loire Valley)
sight seeing and staying the night - recs for hotels/restaurants/must see areas
Guided walk on mud flats? Cancale - oysters

Day 6-7: Normandy - recs for hotels/restaurants/must see areas? Bayeux and Honfleur
Day 7: Return to Paris at night suggestion to stop in Giverny on the way back

Day 8: Day trip via Train to Versailles

Day 9: Paris all day - shopping for last minute souvenirs
Day 10: Flight back home 10 AM

Posted by
16748 posts

It will be many, many years before Notre Dame is rebuilt, so that stop is a non-starter. Even so, I don't think Day 2 is possible. With the possible exception of the Musee Rodin, all the sites require pre-purchased tickets and/or involve long lines. Trying to fit all of them into a single day would be stressful at best--even if theoretically possible--and mean no sit-down lunch.

What are your interests in Normandy? There are invasion sites (best to take a one-day van-tour to see and understand those, but that's difficult if you're starting at MSM and need to be back in Paris the next night), historic towns, picturesque villages, art museums, scenery, cider...

I doubt that it's practical to combine Versailles and Giverny on a single day.

Most people recommend not trying to see Mont-St.-Michel during day-tripping hours, because it is terribly overcrowded then. I'm afraid your planned routing is going to get you there at a time best avoided.

I think you're trying to cover too many different areas in the time you have.

Posted by
1097 posts

You might list your exact dates and your budget in Euros for hotels and many posters can help you. On tripadvisor.com there are specific forums for MSM, Normandy and specific towns in Normandy where one can stay closer to the D Day beaches or out in the country in a B&B, etc. Your schedule seems very ambitious and you might think about trimming it a bit, especially doing Versailles and Giverny in the same day and your list of sights in day 2 in Paris. Wherever you plan to stay -- Paris, Tours, Bayeux, Honfleur, or Caen in Normandy -- go on those specific forums for tips about restaurants, hotels, and sight you don't want to miss. You won't see it all in one trip so plan to return. We go every year and have yet to even see all that Paris has to offer. We didn't do Versailles until the 6th or 8th trip. Caution -- you'll never be the same after Paris :-) Good luck.

Posted by
1069 posts

In little more than 8 days, you have Paris, Loire Valley, Normandy, and Versailles, an impossible itinerary. Your day 2 alone would require 2 to 3 full days. Perhaps this is your first trip to France and, wanting to see as much as possible, you have simply listed points of interest without realizing the time each one consumes.

With such a short vacation, continue by train to Tours/St Pierre des Corps the morning of your CDG arrival. I would stay in Tours near Place Plumereau and rent a car the following morning. There are hotel options in Tours or nearby if you have a car. Some like Amboise but I find it too touristy. Spend 2 - 3 nights in the Loire Valley and drive to Normandy. Spend 2 - 3 nights in Normandy, leave the rental car in Bayeux, and take the train to Paris for your final 3 -4 nights.

You do not have time for Versailles.

The absolute basics of Paris take 3 to 4 days to see. I personally would not waste half a day for the catacombs, there are other places far more interesting: take a tour of Opéra Garnier (yes I know some like to call it Palais Garnier), get tickets for the Eiffel Tower (available about 60 days in advance), go to Montmartre for lunch, look for the Statue of Liberty in Jardin du Luxembourg, or go to Maxim´s Art Nouveau exhibit. There are evening concerts in the Latin Quarter, wonderful creperies along rue du Montparnsse or rue d´Odessa, or take a cooking class at le Foodist,

Avoid checklist tourism, trying to go to as many locations as possible, seeing very little of each, just to be able to say you were there.

Paris has a lot more to offer than the little time you are allowing for it.

Posted by
11704 posts

What is the date? It makes a difference both on crowds and open hours of sights.

In Paris, there is limited time and you want to see a lot.

You can do the Seine boat tour after other things are closed, which is probably better anyway because the city will be lit up. They're usually running until at least ten, later in summer. I'd probably visit les Rues either before things open in the morning or after they close. I don't see you having time to casually stroll and stop into shops plus see the sights on your list. Strolling is good for your first day, maybe that's the best time?

In high season especially, each place will have a line. I've been able to get through Rodin gardens easily. Catacombs is something I've skipped in eight visits to Paris because the line is awful and I'm not big on making reservations (locking myself into a specific activity beforehand). Sainte Chapelle is great, just to make the day flow more smoothly, I booked a concert in the evening (no line) around sunset so the sun was still coming through the stained glass windows. Notre Dame is out for the near future, too bad because the line there always moved fast (so it's easy to include in any itinerary). Eiffel Tower is another I've been at/near/under but never climbed or rode to the top. To me it's not worth the effort, security, reservations, etc. Le Louvre is amazing. When I went I had a Paris museum pass and arrived 40 minutes before opening. I had no trouble getting in quickly or seeing the Mona Lisa without a crowd. Now, I hear, they are requiring reserving a time even with a pass. If so, I'd reserve the opening time and get there at least 30 minutes early. Don't bring any bags and you won't have to wait for security or check anything before going in.

Posted by
11704 posts

It's easy to train to Tours. I don't think it's a good base. Tours is a city and has a lot of traffic, which can make it hard getting in and out for sightseeing. I'd probably continue by train to Amboise and stay there. I stayed at Amboise and was happy with the choice. If you want to see Amboise and Chenonceaux, it's a great base. You could add Clos Luce. It's close enough to see all three in one day, especially if you have a car. I rode a bicycle and saw the three in one day from Amboise. Under the west wall of the Royal Chateau d'Amboise on Place Michel Debre there's a group of cafes. I found a couple I liked. There is also a group of cafes around Rue Nationale I didn't try.

If you don't want to add more chateaux, I'd suggest making this night three and four but plan only one full day there. Taking a later train from Paris (to get you there in time to check in and have dinner) will give you more time to see things in Paris. If you really want to have two days, you can add something either east or west. If you add west, you could spend the night closer to MSM and shorten your travel time. I came from Brittany and traded my car for a bicycle in Chinon, rode first to Villandry to see the gardens, then on to Amboise (through all the traffic in Tours). I had Azay-le-Rideau on my list but it was surrounded by scaffolding in 2017, so I skipped it. Before Chinon, I stopped at Fontevraud Abbey. I thought the Abbey, Chinon and Clos Luce added variety to a parade of former hunting lodges turned into elegant palaces.

Posted by
11704 posts

Continuing to Normandy. MSM can be quite crowded. If possible, plan your visit either early in the day or late in the afternoon - with an eye toward open hours for the Abbey at the top. The island itself doesn't close. I arrived around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. By the time I took the bus from the parking lot to the island and walked up the ramparts, I had less than two hours to see the Abbey. That was plenty. I'd guess you will want between 1 and 1 1/2 hours in the Abbey. I would have enjoyed a guided walk in the mud flats at low tide but didn't take advantage of it (and didn't check the price). I had also planned on an omelette there but when I saw the price (35 to 50 euro for one omelette), I chose to drive to Cancale (about 30 minutes to an hour depending on where you're going) for their famous (and not outrageously priced) oysters.

I'm not much of a WWII buff, but I was interested in the Bayeux Tapestry. I think you would enjoy Honfleur. I skipped it because I was planning more port towns in Brittany that I thought would be as nice and less touristed. I also went up to Etretat and Fecamp to see the cliffs, look at photos on Google and see if they appeal to you? Dropping the car in Rouen and taking a train back to Paris makes the most sense. If you can catch an early train, stopping in Vernon and seeing Giverny on the way makes sense. Then you can continue on to Paris afterwards.

Versailles is a whole day by itself. I went the first week of October and it wasn't crowded. I think that may be more due to rain in the forecast than any other factor. It barely sprinkled and we had a great day - but it's not a place to spend an hour or two, there's too much to see in even a half day unless you know you are only interested in some of it.

Posted by
417 posts

Your plans do sound ambitious......my husband and I LOVE Paris and France and will be going back for our 4th trip there next spring....and have yet to see it all. There is just so much to see so do not kill yourselves trying to do too much and ruin the joy of discovery. You can always go back! We have yet to see the catacombs but have noticed when we are there that the lines to it ARE LONNNNNGGGG......do not know that I would want to waste precious time standing in lines when I could be walking or discovering something new and wonderful in this great city. If you do that much on your first day in Paris plan it well so that you are not standing in wasteful lines.....maybe going late afternoon when crowds are gone. Read up on the schedule for Louvre lines they are asking you to sign-up for now. See if you can plan a concert one night in Saint Chapelle and you can check 3 things off your list at once......a rest, great music and see this beautiful chapel. The Rodin gardens do not take long......the Seine boat tour at about 9:30 at night allows you to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling. The Loire Valley is gorgeous.......DO NOT MISS CHENONCEAU AND VILLANDRY. They were our favorites.......the gardens at Villandry are a memory I will never forget. We stayed at Manior Les Minimes in Amboise and loved it......great location and hotel. We stayed on MSM and made a memory we will never forget......so worth it to us. We stayed at the Hotel Churchill in Bayeux for 3 nights, took an Overlord American beaches day tour and loved it. Drove our rental car back out to the beaches and American cemetery where we wanted to spend more time than the tour allowed......was surprised we loved the Bayeux tapestry so....its a charming town. Versailles was a tourist trap.......TONS of people so avoid that if you can by seeing the gardens first and the house in late afternoon....it is so worth it but plan your timing well. Giverny is so beautiful and the gardens will make you think you are standing in one of Monet’s paintings......have a great trip....hope this helps!
PS......do take time to walk the streets of Paris and just discover its charm.....it has so much to offer and you could miss that trying to do too much!! Go to David Lebovitz’s blog on Paris and visit the TEN THINGS YOU MUST EAT BEFORE YOU LEAVE PARIS!

Posted by
5622 posts

JWhen is this trip?
Days 6-7 Stay in Bayeux at Hotel Lion d’Or. visit D-Day beaches and the Bayeux Tapestry.
Day 8- Can’t imagine combining these two and wonder how you plan to get to each of them. Versailles is very large, crowds, Giverny, small, crowds. Personally, I much preferred Giverny to Versailles.
So in nine days you plan to visit Paris, the Loire Valley, Mont St-Michel , Versailles and Giverny? Too much rushing around and not giving any place enough time to not only see but experience it. Sounds exhausting and way overbooked. I would choose Paris with one day trip, Mt St-Michel and Normandy. Eliminate Loire Valley and either Versailles or Giverny ( my preference to visit.) You have shortchanged Paris. If this were my trip I would stay in Paris a minimum of five nights and add one more location such as Normandy.
Day 1 you will be jet lagged in the afternoon and evening. Go on a Seine river boat cruise, fresh air will help to keep you awake. Walk around and explore a little bit. That is enough for Day 1.

Posted by
6 posts

We are reconsidering all the stops but I think we are excited and just eager to travel. We might skip Versailles and just go go Giverny...

We are traveling the end of April/beginning of May. Hotel budget is 150-250? Is that reasonable?

Posted by
1069 posts

I was in Giverny this May and the garden was in full bloom. It was fabulous and May is probably the best time to visit.

In Paris there are wonderful hotels at the 200€+ range. In Tours and Normandy, there are noteworthy properties at 125€ and up. I use the Michelin Red Guide of France for hotel and restaurant recommendations.

Posted by
26 posts

My friends loved Le Comptesse hotel...great views of the city. We are going in October for our 12th anniversary and I am working on our itinerary (staying at a sofitel). The catacombs are something my husband and I both want to see, so we are getting a guided tour. Dying to see L'opera Garnier, I am sad that I will have just missed La Traviata (I have dreams of seeing an opera in a historic opera house--next time); we will be doing a food tour, seeing the Louvre, the Eiffel tower (my tickets go on sale Sat. AM). Beyond that we will likely wander the city and look at neighborhoods, eat great food, and soak it all in.

We are staying in Bayeux and opted for the Hotel D'Argouges...within your price range and adorable (they have parking should you need it).

We are also going to spend one night in Honfleur at Maisons de Lea. There is a 2-star Michelin restaurant I want to eat at!

Have fun planning the trip!