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3 week road trip

My apologies if this post comes through twice. Having computer trouble today...

I am in the early stages of planning a 3 week trip to France in September 2019. I have been looking at the RS recommend 2 week itinerary (Paris to Nice) vs the 3 week itinerary (loop back up to Paris). We tend to move at a really fast pace and have driven in Europe before, but it just seems like a lot of driving. I am contemplating doing the 2 week route and just adding on more time to the different stops versus the 3 week route.

I know that this is subjective based on everyone's individual likes, but I am wondering if anyone has done this 3 week road trip and did it feel like you spent too much time in the car, was it rushed? In hindsight, were the stops on week 3 worth it to you or would you have slowed it down and spent more time at the stops on the first 2 weeks?

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
1026 posts

I did a 2 ½ week trip from Paris to Nice (and then continued by train into Italy). I did not feel like it was too much driving, as each destination was approximately two hours from the previous, so you're not in the car for a long time at once, although it was a lot of driving because everywhere you go requires the car (like around the Dordogne, Loire, Provence....). I dont know where RS goes on his 2 weeks. There is a lot to see and one could easily go from Paris to Nice in three weeks and see more. I would have liked to spend a few more days, and as I say, we did it in 2 ½ weeks.
I think looping back up in three weeks would feel rushed

Posted by
881 posts

I didn't see an RS 3 week France tour, but I did see the 2 week from Paris to Nice. Adding extra time at each of those stops isn't a bad idea to stretch a 2 week tour into a 3 week tour. It certainly gives you a more relaxed trip. The nice thing about driving versus a tour is so much more flexibility to go where you wish. Have a nice trip.

Posted by
19175 posts

I look at Rick's itineraries and (figuratively) roll my eyes. He says to assume you will return, but those plans look to me as if they are for folks who never expect to set foot outside their houses again.

France is a very sight-rich country. For every place named on one of Rick's itineraries there are several more, probably extremely close by, that are really lovely and/or interesting. You could extend your stays in the 2-week spots, as you are considering, without any risk of being bored, because you'd always have nearby places to add in.

Posted by
6749 posts

We spent a month, Paris, Burgundy, Provence and Nice, basing in one place in each area. It worked well and was relaxing and very enjoyable. We picked up a rental car as we left Paris and dropped it off when we arrived in Nice.

Posted by
4125 posts

We've only followed Ricks itineraries for shorter stretches, but based on that I would say that planning them at approximately 2/3 speed is about right, if you are "fast paced," slower if you are not.

I'm sure these itineraries work very well on the tours, when so much is provided exactly when you want it with no work from you.

Posted by
971 posts

I have to agree that I think Ricks itinerary is not very good, it tries to cover to much ground in too little time. As acraven says, France is rich with sights and Ricks itinerary will have you driving all over the country, while passing some great sights, where you could spend your time much better than on the road. My suggestion is to do some research and limit yourself to only a portion of France and focus on that area. Personally I have spend 3 weeks on a road trip in Eastern France, from Alsace and down to Provence and back. It was great, but there where still a lot of places we only stopped by shortly or places that we had to skip. The temptation is always there to try and cover a lot of ground and see whats over the next hill.

Posted by
14404 posts

Usually the itineraries are good for a guided tour, when you don't have to spend time parking, checking in/out, and getting oriented in each new stop. Out of curiosity, I used google maps to estimate distances. Just point-to-point on the 3-week route came to about 4300 kms (2700 miles) in 18 days (the last 4 are in Paris without a car, whew). I have the 2016 France book, it doesn't include the 2-week route. That mileage does not include tootling around each day.

My experience in Burgundy and Alsace was that the autoroute (tollway) was fast and easy to drive but taking the "back roads" is scenic and you go through the charming villages and towns that the autoroute blows past. If you hit grape harvesting (they grow grapes just about everywhere), the minor roads can be clogged with slow-moving loads of grapes.

Posted by
11798 posts

I've done four three-week road trips through France, none followed any of Rick's tour routes. IMO any of these are a good option in September.
- Paris, (train to Rouen to pick up a car) Normandy, Brittany and Loire (drop car in Chinon for a bicycle, train back to Paris)
- Paris, (train to Auxerre to pick up car) Burgundy, Alsace (plus Freiburg, Heidelburg and Reims) drop car in Strassbourg before train to Reims and back to Paris.
- Paris, train to Lyon (pick up car), Annecy, Chamonix, Ardeche, Provence and Riviera (drop car on arrival, fly Nice back to Paris).
- Paris, fly to Toulouse (pick up car), Carcassonne, Pyrenees, Lot Valley, Dordogne Valley, Atlantic coast (south of Arcachon) and Bordeaux (drop car and train back to Paris).

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks everyone for the feedback. The recommended RS 2 week itinerary is Paris, Normandy, Loire Valley, Dordogne, Provence, & Nice. The 3rd week includes Burgundy, Chamonix, Alsace, northern France and back to Paris. I still need to do a lot more research, but I think that there is easily enough to do on the 2 week route to keep us busy for the 3 week time frame.

Posted by
14404 posts

I'll bet even with 3 weeks and cutting out part of the itinerary, you'd still be skipping at least as much as you'd be seeing. The only bad choice for me would be speeding through and not taking time to enjoy and explore.

Posted by
19175 posts

Any trip that has you driving an average of 150 miles a day over 18 days (thanks to Chani for the research) is, in my view, seriously misguided.

Posted by
14404 posts

I love to drive, I always have. I lived for a few years in the SF Bay Area and went on long road trips 2-3 times a year. On many of those trips I averaged 150 miles a day, sometimes 200 a day. But that was driving in the west, where the roads are wide, easy to drive, little traffic, often very scenic and speed limits are 70 or 75 mph (and no speed traps). In other words, there's no stress. Driving in Europe is totally different. There are no wide open spaces. 200 miles in Utah or New Mexico can take 3 hours. 150 miles in France can take twice that - and you are constantly worrying (at least I was) that I'd go over the speed limit, or miss a turn, or take a wrong turn (and the car had GPS). Warning signs are in French, some traffic signs may be unfamiliar, you sometimes have to hunt for parking and figure out how to pay for it. I loved driving from Chamonix to and in Burgundy and Alsace, but I found it tiring because of the stress.

Posted by
19175 posts

The other difference lies in what you'd be whizzing past and not seeing, in the form of beautiful historic towns, etc.

Posted by
335 posts

Our traveling style is to base ourselves in one region and do day trips. This coming June we are flying into Barcelona and traveling by train to Nîmes and renting a car for 8 days and basing ourselves in Vaison la Romaine. Then back to Barcelona for two nights. That way can really see one region of a country. Plus I hate to pack and unpack.

Posted by
11 posts

Hi, My sister and I are planning a 28 day trip in may/ june. We are using Rick's itinerary as a springboard. We will be driving- which we are nervous about, but the train/bus situation doesn't seem to be adequate- a lot of transfers required. We are spending 3-5 nights at each stop, so we can enjoy where we land. We are starting in Giverny, driving to Chartres, Beynac( Dourdogne), Arles and Rousillon., then Nice for 5 nights. We are skipping the Alps, to 3 night in Beaune, then to Riems, (dropping the car) then Paris for 5 nights. It will certainly be a good amount of driving, but the car seems the most efficient way to see most of the areas. I'm hoping we get to relax and enjoy the journey, rather than fixate on the destinations. Bon voyage!!

Posted by
15 posts

That is a lot of driving Colleen, but it sounds like you will have more time than we will. I will be interested to hear about it when you return. Have a great time!