My husband and I were lucky enough to snag 2 inexpensive RT plane tickets to Paris in March. Now we're trying to decide what to do for two weeks in France. Lucky us! We figure we'll spend a day or two in Paris enjoying our favorite museums and restaurant, but then we want to hop on the train and go ... Somewhere. (We do not plan to rent a car.). But where should we go? We like to have a home base (or 2) and take day trips. We're looking at Avignon and Lyon, but are open to other ideas. We love great food and wine, and just poking around. Thanks for sharing ideas with us.
I would perhaps avoid Provence in March when Mistral winds can howl.
All these places are super easy by train from Paris.
Hey - my kind of people: no car :) My wife and I also enjoy just wandering around and drinking good wine (and eating good food, too).
Amboise could work, although not as easy to get around to surrounding towns, but still do-able. I found some incredible sparkling wine in Vouvray (as good as a lot of Champagnes that I've tried - I kid you not). Dijon is good, but I'd prefer to stay in Beaune. Transportation from there is super easy, and you're in the heart of Burgundy. Best wine I've ever had.
Alsace would be a good choice also - I would stay in Clomar. You can easily train to Strasbourg and surrounding towns. In Colmar there's a bakery with fantastic macarons - Gilg - better than Paris, honestly! Try the Vanilla, at the least. Colmar also has a great little wine bar on the Rue Bertha, I believe. It was awesome!
I've never been to Champagne, but I'm sure that it's worth going to. Sarlat is also an option - beautiful area, and good wine. Food is generally good anywhere in France (but I've found that you do need to search for a really good baguette).
Since I've never been south of the Lot River area, I can't comment on those areas (although I'll be going to Languedoc this November).
Great ideas. Burgundy is pretty appealing. Beaune with and Dijon look beautiful. Research indicated that Burgundy is expensive (and potentially crowded) because if of its proximity to Paris. Was that your experience?
Languedoc is also on our wish list. Thoughts about that?
So many choices!
Beaune and Dijon are easy to reach by train and walkable once you get off the train.
Close enough to Paris for a day trip, but possibly worth changing hotels to stay overnight, are Versailles and Fontainebleau (in different directions). In the same category are Chantilly, Rambouillet, Maintenon.
Since you have 2 weeks, you might want to head way south to Nice or Marseilles, or southwest to Bordeaux. Either of those regions would be a great contrast to Paris.
The Loire Valley is lovely and I believe train connections to Amboise are OK, but once you get there you'll need to take a bus tour or something if you want to visit a few of the Loire chateaux. Do not take train & stay in Tours; it's a fairly congested large modern city, not particularly scenic, even though on a map it looks smack in the heart of the Loire Valley.
Burgundy, the Loire, and the Dordogne (Sarlat area) are best explored by car. Relying on train and local buses will complicate your poking around. If you don't want to spend more time in Paris -- and from your post I take it you've been there before, perhaps multiple times -- and don't want to drive, then I'd suggest Lyon and maybe another big city. Or pick a region or two, like those mentioned, and look for a driver or day tours from a base if your budget allows. In March, I'd head south not north.
Lucky you! Just spent 15 days in France in May and loved every minute. We drove our way from CDG to the Normandy coast, Mont St Michel and then the Loire Valley. We fell in love with Amboise and that area. Its a charming town, easy to walk around in and filled with great bakeries, restaurants, markets and shops. The Manior Les Minimes was like a home away from home in Amboise. After touring castles all day it was like going home every night and relaxing at this lovely hotel. We were there 4 days and then drove back to Paris to spend 4 days on the Ile St. Louis.
I didn't find Beaune to be particularly expensive. It seemed to be on par with most other towns that have a lot of tourists. I can tell you that the wine there is cheap - at least cheap compared to what we have to pay for good Burgundy in the states. I can't recall the food being very expensive, and the market was amazing. Go to the Cheese shop that RS recommends - it's fantastic! We actually took a train to Dijon one day, and had a very nice time there - it was a great place to wander around in. Keep in mind that we rented bikes and rode in the countryside while there, so that enabled us to see a lot more without having a car.
Since I've never been to the Languedoc region, I'm excited to check it out. My wife and I chose to stay in Narbonne, which is pretty far south. It seems like a decent-sized town, looks cool, and is close to some other places that we'd like to see (i.e.: Carcasonne). We do plan on renting a car there, though. As was said above, it will be much warmer in the South than in the North that time of year.
Good luck with your plans!
You're talking about March: Nice, hands down. There's a reason so many artists, such as Matisse and Picasso, set up house along the Riviera. Weather elsewhere can be gray, rainy, and cold, even in Languedoc. Bleak even comes to mind in some of the places suggested--lack of charming vegetation, reduced hours at attractions if they are even open, etc. The exception would be any larger city where there are indoor activities: Lyon, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Dijon.
David said to avoid Provence due to the Mistral winds, and they are biting coming down the Rhone out of the Alps, but they are about every third day. You need a place where you can take refuge during the Mistral and Avignon doesn't really offer a lot to visit; it's famous for a bridge that no longer exists and the less-than-enthralling Popes' Palace.
Bets, can you suggest a home base in Provence? Remember that we are using public transportation, although we would be willing to hire a car and driver for a day?
Note: Nice is in an area called Cote d'Azur (Riviera), while Marseille, Arles, Avignon, the Luberon are Provence. You asked about Provence.
At that time of year without a car, I'd stay in a city such as Marseille or Arles in Provence. There is more to see and do in these two places. If you stayed in Avignon, you do have buses and trains to get around to some towns, and the train north to Orange and south, but as David mentioned, you also have the winds blowing some days. I have always had a car in Provence, so hopefully others who have traveled without one can chime in.
Otherwise, Nice is your most central location on the Riviera, known as the Cote d'Azur in French. You have a multitude of day trip possibilities by bus or train from Nice, including even over the border into Italy. The Mistral still blows there, too, but it's not as strong.