I am traveling to France this summer for a wedding with my husband and 2 daughters (5 and 6 years old - we spent 3 weeks visiting family and traveling to Amsterdam/Sardinia/Rome last summer and the trip was excellent). We fly in and out of Paris, the wedding is the last 3 days of our trip in Lyon. Initially I had thought that we would rent an apartment in Paris for 2 weeks and then take the train to Lyon for a week. Now I am second guessing that plan and wondering if I should add another location to the trip. But, if so, then where? I like the idea of going somewhere more outdoors/less urban (Mont Saint Michel and Normandy have been on my list for a while) or perhaps the wine country somewhere? I am fairly open, but was reluctant to do the coastal southern France because it will be the crazy crowded summer months. We do prefer to spend a good amount of time anywhere we go so that we can have a more leisurely pace (it seems to be most helpful with the kids), so I don't particularly enjoy itineraries where you travel/change locations every 2-3 days. Any recommendations or should we just enjoy a more extended stay in Paris and Lyon? If we add a place we would likely still do 1.5 weeks in Paris, 5-7 days somewhere else, and 5 days in Lyon (the final 3 being the wedding). Thank you!
Is this a first trip to France for you and husband?
It is not my first trip. But it will by my husband's.
It was a long time ago, but I spent time in Paris with some day trips.
Ok, I'm guessing that since it's your husband's first trip to Paris, he (and others) will enjoy having enough days/time to enjoy one of the truly great cities in the world.
1) What are his travel interests: history, art, food, etc?
2) Do you have a guidebook (online or hard copy) yet?
Thanks for your reply, his main interest would probably be food and drinks, he finds the history and art interesting but does not necessarily seek it out. I love the history, art, architecture but also enjoy more rural experiences. His favorite experiences in both Rome and Amsterdam last summer was probably just being in the city, going out to eat, walking around and experiencing the ambiance, finding his favorite place to get coffee etc (even though we went to plenty of museums and saw lots of historical sites).
Ok, let's think about this. 1 week in Lyon might be too much time there, there's so much to enjoy in France!
I'm a retired father so it's a bit of a quandary for me to think about what your 5 and 6 year olds are going to like, probably too much time in Paris museums is just not going to happen because of the kid's limited tolerance for museums.
But you sound like you'd love to get away for a few stolen hours in Paris' Orsay impressionist museum, if there is some way you could work that out?
Now that's just Paris. We still need to think about places before or after Paris.
Stay tuned.... :-) and hopefully others will contribute with ideas?**
I liked Lyon a lot despite being ill during my visit there, but I do think 5 days (or 5 nights/4 days) might be enough.
Normandy/Brittany is a very good idea in the summer, when temperatures can be uncomfortable in much of Europe. Although I'd want at least two bases to pull it off, you certainly could pick a place like Fougeres, a very attractive town, and take side trips to Mont-St-Michel, Rennes, St-Malo, Dinard and Dinan. This wouldn't be advisable without a car.
Farther to the east, there's a cluster of possibilities stretching between Bayeux in the west and Honfleur or Etretat in the east. But even Bayeux is sort of far from Mont-St-Michel for a day-trip. Trying that would appear to doom you to seeing MSM at its worst, awash in day-trippers.
I assume with 2 young children you are not exactly moving at lightning speed. So I think 5 days in Lyon is not excessive, especially if there is a wedding involved. There is tons of stuff to do there.
But if you want to get into the countryside, I think you will want a car for that segment of the trip. Otherwise you are just in smaller cities (such as Beaune) that have train stations.
Are you OK with the car? If so, Burgundy is within easy reach, and logistically handy to Lyon. Normandy and the Loire are possible too, but they are the wrong direction and you'll spend more time in transit. Also I'll bet your girls will be thrilled by those empty chateaux for about 20 minutes, tops.
I suggest this is a job for a mild-mannered guidebook or three. Have you and yours see what is possible and what calls to you and what works for your family. There are people on this forum who can advise about almost any part of France.
I was going to suggest the Loire on the theory that the little girls would love to explore some actual palaces where real princesses (OK, duchesses) lived, but my respect for Adam's judgment is so great, and my experience with little girls so limited, that I'll just forget about that! ;-)
Normandy, Loire, or Burgundy, with a car, between Paris and Lyon, for let's say 3 nights in one base location. Burgundy would mean the least travel time. Or just give the time to Paris with some day trips if the kids are up to it.
Also (thinking of the kids again), places like Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Jacquemart-Andre Museum (actually a house full of beautiful furniture and art, its museum status can be your little secret). And keep in mind that Paris is full of parks, boat rides, playgrounds, and street entertainment (watch your stuff!) that they should enjoy.
Are you willing to rent a car? Will your girls be okay with 2-4 longish drives (an hour, an hour and a half) a day?
We are completely fine with renting a car, if it makes the most sense and my girls are fine with 2-4 hour drives (as long as it isn’t daily). I feel like we would enjoy and easily be able to fill time in Paris. But there is so much to see in France and every region has so much to offer it’s challenging to figure out what makes the most sense for us if we were to choose one other location. My future BIL recommended Annecy possibly. I’m still strongly considering Normandy. I have read plenty on line about different regions and most all of it sounds great. So far we have considered 1) just an extended stay in Paris with a couple of day trips (Versailles, giverny) 2) little less time in Paris and Lyon + one other area (somewhere in normandy, we have considered the French alps, considered and ruled out Nice, burgundy, a house in Provence - but also thought that is likely out of the way and will probably be very crowded. We are also open to other ideas. A quaint town with interesting architecture and good food, where we could enjoy the culture of the place and we could explore an interesting region from there would be great!
South coast of Brittany. My French cousin has her grandchildren with her there in a campground for a month every summer. These places rent little cottages, have pools, activities organized for kids and adults. Lots of people take day trips from there. You'd have to buy some staples on arrival, but you can rent sheets and towels. There will be some English speakers, but it will be mostly French. We've stayed in a Vacation Village. An organization called Arts et Vie has a lovely one, called a residence, where I plan to take my five-year old grandchild.
Two weeks is a nice time for Paris but you could also rent a place in a small town in a region. The two that come to mind for me are Burgundy and Brittany/Normandy. Brittany has nice beaches. But Paris is a really good spot for small kids -- lots of playgrounds, activities, in late summer carnival in the Tuilleries, little boats to sail on fountain pools etc etc. With small kids I'd get an apartment near a big park like the Luxembourg Gardens or Tuilleries or one of the other large ones and just be 'locals' for two weeks. There are tons of great day trips as well an hour or so by train from Paris to vary things a bit. Provins might be interesting to the kids with the falcon demonstrations etc.