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13 nights in May - Loire/Lyon/Paris?

My wife and I are traveling to France for 2 weeks - our first time. We are in our late 20s and enjoy nature, photography, strolling, unique experiences, castles, libraries, animals, wine, cheese, and definitely chocolate. We don't like beaches, nightlife, etc. We've been to Spain, Italy, and across Argentina - all amazing experiences.

The only thing I've booked are flights in/out of CDG. I think we want to do Loire Valley, Lyon, and of course Paris. Not sure the ideal order - but I figure since we're flying out of Paris, we'll save that for last.

Originally, I thought we'd do Loire/Bordeaux/Dordogne/Paris but I've simplified it a bit. I replaced Bordeaux/Dordongne with Lyon, which I think adds diversity and make a better base for trips to Rhone Valley, maybe Annecy?

Arrive early Monday to CDG
4 nights Loire Valley (check in Monday, check out Friday)
4 nights Lyon (check in Friday, check out Tuesday)
5 nights Paris (check in Tuesday, check out Sunday)
Depart Sunday night from CDG

Loire Valley (stay in Amboise)

  • Flights lands CDG 6AM.
  • TGV to Tours, arriving 11AM. Pick up car - drive to hotel
  • Eat lunch, check in, walk around Amboise
  • Over the next 3 days: chateaus (Chenonceau, Villandry), a winery or two, kayak or easy biking
  • Any must-see/do?
  • Leave Friday AM: return car @ Tours, TGV to Lyon (3 hrs)

Lyon + surrounding area (Stay on Lyon)

  • Vieux Lyon, Gallo-Roman museum, other Lyon sights
  • daytrip to Tain-l'Hermitage (Valhrona is a must; winery tour if walkable from train?)
  • daytrip to Annecy, Avignon, the beaujolais wine route, or other city ~1-2hr away
  • [do laundry during half way point]
  • hopefully do a cooking class o
  • would enjoy being car-free & taking trains on daytrips, but open to renting a car for a day
  • leave Tuesday AM for Paris

Paris (stay in Marais)

  • plenty to do here, not going to list it all :)
  • with 5 days in Paris, enough time to do a day trip to Giverny and/or Versaille (if both, on different days)
  • leaving Sunday night- any good "last day" things to do before catching a ~7PM flight?

Would the trip cadence be better if we went straight to Lyon, do Loire/Amboise via Tours from Lyon. Though I don't have the May TGV schedule, seems likely that there's a mid-morning train FROM Lyon TO Tours but not in reverse.

My questions:

  1. Am I doing the right thing by giving up on the Bordeaux and/or Dordogne?
  2. Should do just 2 nights in Lyon, 2 nights in Avignon? (we usually like settling down for at least 3 nights at a time)
  3. Are the days split up nicely? (too much time in Loire & Loire? Enough time for Paris?)
  4. Where should we go first after landing in CDG: Loire Valley or Lyon?

Thank you!

Posted by
2563 posts

I'll have a go at answering your questions.

Would the trip cadence be better if we went straight to Lyon, do Loire/Amboise via Tours from Lyon?
I don't think so. You'd be spending too much time "commuting" to the Loire region and it is very spread out in itself.

Am I doing the right thing by giving up on the Bordeaux and/or Dordogne?
Sure. You can always return to France another time and focus on that region.

Should do just 2 nights in Lyon, 2 nights in Avignon? (we usually like settling down for at least 3 nights at a time) [[I'm interpreting that as part of the following question]] Are the days split up nicely? (too much time in Loire & Loire? Enough time for Paris?)
Did you mean "too much time in Loire & Lyon?"
Chances are if you ever return to France you'll pass through Paris, whereas you might not choose to revisit the Loire and/or Lyon. So, I'd say spend the time to get a reasonably in-depth feel for each of them. Paris, of course, has more to offer than you'll be able to see in the allotted 4-5 days, but it's enough to let you feel that you have "seen" the city.

Where should we go first after landing in CDG: Loire Valley or Lyon?
Ah, tough question! I guess I'd go for Lyon, partly because it is the furthest point from Paris and you'll work your way back from there, and partly because the TGV will get you there pretty quickly.

Lucky you, sounds like a wonderful vacation!

Posted by
3283 posts

I can't speak to Lyon, I haven't been there. I really do think its a good plan to take a train to Tours and then rent a car. The benefit to Tours over Lyon would be that the day of train ticket is probably cheaper because of a shorter distance. Another option would be train to Chartres which of course has the amazing cathedral and a cute town. Chartres is closer, train ticket is cheaper, however there are fewer rental car options than in Tours. The 2nd time we went to Loire, we picked up the car in Chartres in the am, drove to Vouvray and tasted a bit of wine and then went to our BnB in Amboise.

I agree with the suggestion that if you need to modify your days to cut from Paris. I always cut from my "airport" city when necessary, knowing I'll most likely be back to start there for another adventure.

I have not been to Bordeaux or Dordogne (I have been to Loire, Burgundy and Alsace in terms of the "wine" areas) I'm told Dordogne is wonderful and Bordeaux not as nice/fun as Loire, Burgundy and Alsace. Three days is about right for Loire, if you had more there'd be plenty to do, but Loire is close to Paris and relatively easy to go back to.

Posted by
89 posts

Hi. Can’t really help much on your itinerary but a few of your interests listed made me think of a couple Paris suggestions. Wine, cheese, chocolate: we did a good tour with “Secret Food Tours” in Paris in Montmartre. . It included cheese, wine, and chocolate and also crepes, meats, macarons, and bread. It was fun and delicious. Also, photography. I figure you like taking photos, but if you and your wife would like great photos of the two of you in such a romantic city, check out the photo shoots that “Localers Paris” offer. We did the short 1 hour shoot with premium editing. The photographer was Olaf, and he was great. Very personable, great photographer. He ended up sending more photos than it says you get in the shoot and I love them. Just a few thoughts! Have a great trip. We spent 8 days in Paris and it wasn’t enough time. It’s a great city.

Posted by
4125 posts
  1. You are not doing the wrong thing, unless you prefer those destinations to the ones you have selected.

  2. I would choose between Provence or Lyon. Also

  3. You have too many day trips out of Lyon. Honestly there is tons to do in the city--I'd recommend at least two solid days for that. If you have to trim anywhere, trim a day from the Loire, though I think what you've got is pretty good.

  4. Close call, which means they are both good, but I'd say Loire because slightly closer

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks for the replies, suggestions, and reassurances so far. By going to France, there's a lot of pressure to make this trip count!

I'll definitely check out the food tour in Paris - seems right up our alley.

Posted by
1390 posts

To answer a few of your questions . . .

Good connections from CDG to St Pierre des Corps(Tours) and to Lyon Part Dieu

Bordeaux is not interesting in any way. The Dordogne is, but the Lot is even better.

You need a car to visit the wall-to-wall vineyards of Beaujolais

Nimes is to be preferred to Avignon

Posted by
16 posts

We've been on two vacations where the first half in the Loire and the last half in Paris. Both times we could have stayed in one place the entire time... So beautiful! Consider cutting out Lyon and return later for that abd Paris.
If you want to, PM me and i can give you tons of loire Valley advice. Too much to post here.

Posted by
7574 posts

I haven't been to Lyon, but it's definitely on my list of places to go. I would suggest you go there directly upon arrival. Why there first instead of the Loire? So you don't have to drive on your arrival day when you're sleep deprived. I have done that successfully, but wouldn't want to drive more than an hour. You're talking about landing in Paris, then taking the train to Tours, then driving to Amboise. I think it's too much.

Since you don't like moving around quickly (good idea) I think your plan is good, though I would be tempted to take one night from either Lyon or Amboise and add it to Paris. Full disclosure - I LOVE Paris and there is no such thing as too much time there for me. I've been 6 times and I've spent over 6 weeks there. I can't wait to go back. I still haven't seen everything I want to see. Your 5 nights in Paris only gives you 4 full days. On your departure day be sure to get to the airport 3 hours early.

When we went to the Loire we spent 3 nights in Amboise and did two chateau per day. We were on a longer driving trip through France and didn't have to coordinate with train schedules. My favorite was Château de Chenonceau. Not as well known as many, but located right in Amboise, was Château du Clos Lucé. Leonardo da Vinci spent his final three years living there. We found it to be very interesting.

What time of year is this trip?