We are four lifelong girlfriends all turning 60 in 2020 and taking a once-in-a-lifetime trip together! We will arrive in Paris the afternoon of Sat, May 16, 2020 and depart the morning of Sun, May, 24. We're planning to spend 3 nights in Paris (Sat, Sun, Mon) and want to then tour Versailles, the Loire Valley, Mont St. Michel and Giverny. We know we're planning to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time but we're ok with that. We're hoping to stay somewhere close to Rue Cler (hotel recommendations for less than $200/night/room with twin beds appreciated). We want to sit at outdoor cafes and observe Parisian street life, wander pedestrian streets/shopping/markets, take a hop-on hop off bus tour and hopefully an evening dinner cruise on the Seine. We plan to check out early Tue am and rent a car (somewhere) to drive to Versailles, tour Versailles and then continue somewhere down the road towards the Loire Valley for Tue night. Spend Wed touring 2 or 3 chateaus in the Loire and possibly part of Thu? Drive to Mont St. Michel on Thu and tour Thu eve and Fri. Drive Fri to Giverny area. Tour Giverny Sat and drive to Charles de Gaulle airport to return our car rental and hopefully stay in a hotel at the airport Sat eve. Would appreciate any/all thoughts/insight/suggestions regarding any/all portions of this itinerary, can't miss sights along the way, hotel and restaurant recommendations, etc! We're more into quintessential French quaintness than mega-tourist attractions. Thank you in advance for your help!
Yes, it is an ambitious itinerary, but doable. The only thing I would recommend is to stay somewhere in Paris more central than Rue Cler. That is really far from the majority of sights, and if sitting in Parisian cafés and enjoying the ambiance is a goal, I suggest there are much better, and more Parisian neighborhoods. In Rue Cler, you are just apt to see even more Americans clutching their Rich Steves' guide books. Enjoy!
Thank you PharmerPhil! Thoughts on a recommended hotel/street/neighborhood in Paris? Are you thinking maybe 6th arrondissement? Rick Steves is so partial to Rue Cler, which is the primary reason driving us in that direction...
P.S. Our two primary criteria for hotel/neighborhood = SAFE and CLEAN.
Agree with the pp. I'd look for something in the Latin Quarter or the Marais.
I'd also recommend against a dinner cruise, instead doing them separately on the same evening. I think the best time to cruise is just after sunset, which at that time if year isn't till 9:30 pm. Also, since you're sightseeing on Mon, be aware of which sites are closed that day.
It's only about 2 hours to drive from Versailles to Amboise in the Loire ( unless you run into traffic problems or wait until rush hour to start out.) No reason to stay NEAR the Loire that night. Stay IN it.
I think you need to spend some time looking a travel routes and times. Look at Google Maps or viaMichelin. Be aware of toll roads and the need for cash.
The RS book suggests arriving at MSM in late afternoon as the crowds are thinning and spending one nite. It looks to be around a 3 hour or so drive so I'd suggest touring chateaus on Thu until perhaps 1pm and then drive to MSM. Having seen it Thu afternoon and gone back at nite, you might just want a brief visit Fri morning before going to Giverny. it really isn't the kind of place where you can spend more than a few hours. To me this is where the itinerary is a bit slack; you can see the gardens in Giverny in a few hours and if you left MSM at 9am you'd be at Giverny around noon Friday. There are other towns in the area you could visit (get the Michelin Green guide for more info) but one thing you might want to consider is returning the car Fri afternoon in Rouen and spending a nite and the following day (Saturday) there. Saturday evening have an earlier dinner and then take the train to CDG. Or instead of Rouen you could pick a different town in the area such as Chartres.
One other issue with 4 people in a car is the importance of packing light. You don't want to have any luggage visible as you park in tourist lots. There are threads about this, such as https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/versailles-car-rental-or-better-idea
I have never understood the attraction of rue Cler which is not central and is loaded with American tourists. Ditto for the Marais which is pleasant enough, but one has to leave to see any of the sights. We just came back from a trip staying in the 7th across from the Musee d’Orsay which was great. The 6th is good, too.
Also, your itinerary is ambitious for your first time there. Rethink each area you wish to visit and whittle it down so you do enjoy your visit.
Happy Birthday! This trip sounds like fun.
One thing that occurs to me about your itinerary is that both Versailles and Giverny could easily be done as train day trips from Paris - if you wanted to extend your time in the city and limit the number of hotel moves, driving and parking (I have driven in France, including in Paris, and personally prefer transit to driving whenever practical). My suggestion would be to stay two or three extra days in Paris with day trips, then to minimize driving, take a train from Paris to a convenient starting point in the Loire (maybe Tours - someone else may have a better suggestion) rent a car there, do the chateaux, then make your way to MSM and drop the car off somewhere of interest outside of Paris as suggested above and train to CDG.
I’ve stayed in Rue Cler and found it to be nice enough but a bit isolated and the least convenient neighborhood that I’ve stayed in for getting to where I wanted to be. As others have suggested, the Latin Quarter, Saint-Germain-des-Près and the Marais are charming, close to where most tourist want to be, are very walkable and close to good transit connections.
Thank you all for sharing your thoughts so far. You've given us great ideas to consider. The idea of day trips to Versailles and Giverny are worth thinking through. Please keep them coming!
So how come Rick Steves is so high on Rue Cler but most everyone else says 'nah, too far from everything else'?
I feel like RS practically created the tourist scene on Rue Cler. Sometimes it is hard to figure why he recommends some places, and why he simply ignores others. Certainly the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Près areas are touristy too. But at least there's a variety of tourists (not only Rick's fans), and those locations more central to many of the sights you are likely to want to see, other than the Eiffel Tower.
So how come Rick Steves is so high on Rue Cler but most everyone else
says 'nah, too far from everything else'?
I'm just theorizing, but I think it goes back to Rick's early days when he was all about "back doors". At the time Rue Cler wasn't on any tourist radar. It was just a small local market area in Paris that he liked for its local character. But now that is all but gone, drowned under a sea of RS fans.
PS: I really like the idea of staying extra days in Paris and doing Giverny and Versailles as day trips. Less packing, unpacking, and changing hotels is a good thing. As is minimizing the amount of driving you have to do. You could then take a TGV to the St Pierre des Corps station in Tours to pick up your rental car.
I agree too to stay put in Paris and make Versaille and Giverny Day trips. You may want to see the Marmottan Museum before going to Giverny.
Rue Cler is a mystery choice for most of us who know Paris well. My theory is that his France co-editor was the one who got him hyped on it and he never took time to explore other options, though his tours stay all over the city. It was always a socially conservative, old-money area, very different from what RS usually writes about. I used to work for a wealthy lady there, and I had a friend who grew up there, son of a shopkeeper. It's clean, safe, upper-class.
Hi, I am a 71 year old female, and as a single traveler I have been on 3 RS tours that stayed in Paris hotels. The first time was with the Best of Paris tour, and we stayed in the Rue Cler at the Hotel Londres Eiffel. It is convenient to the Eiffel tower, which is on most first timers 'to do' list, but not on the tour itinerary, so maybe that is why Rick recommends it. It is also nearby the Seine river tour locations. I found the restaurants nearby to be good, but maybe not as highly concentrated as in other areas. The Cafe Constant seems to be favorite with Forum members. I ate at Le Fontaine De Mars several times and liked it. My next time in Paris was at the beginning of the RS 14 Day Best of Europe tour, and we stayed at the Hotel Saint Cyr Etoile. This is very near to the Arch de Triomphe. For lunch the first day, I shared a charcuterie board at L'Etoile 1903 with another single female tour member, and our group dinner was at La Maison which was fantastic. My last RS trip to Paris was in Oct 2019 as part of the 'Paris and the Heart of France' tour. We started in Paris at the Hotel Lenox Montparnasse. This was my favorite area so far. I liked that there were so many markets, bakeries, and crepe restaurants nearby and also the proximity to the Gare Montparnasse would be good for your group, because there is train service to Versailles. The Lenox is also newly renovated. The nearby Rue de Odessa has tons of creperies that I sadly didn't have time to try, hopefully, next time. We had our group dinner at Le Petit Broc, which is also where I ate lunch twice. Very good food and the service was friendly. The salmon lunch dish is excellent. Our tour took us to Mont Saint Michelle, which I found disappointing. Yes, the tourists leave in the afternoon, but so does everyone else. We checked into our rooms and by the time I came out of my room at 5 pm, the town seemed to be closed down. Maybe that is not the case in high season. I felt lucky to even find a place to eat. If I had a "do-over" I would much prefer to stay in Bayeux and commute from there. On our return to Paris, we stayed at the Mercure Paris Sorbonne, which is a good location near the Cluny, Notre-Dame, etc.
I also think you will be better off seeing Versailles and Giverny as day trips from Paris. You could do this at the end of your trip, after MSM. That also makes for an easy transit to the airport for the trip home.
As for where to say, central Paris is small and very well connected by metro and bus. Nothing is too far from the sights. That said, there are plenty of great places to stay, no need to feel locked in to Rue Cler.
Don't rule out staying in the absolute center of Paris on Ile St. Louis. At that time of the year you may find rates quite reasonable. We stayed at Hotel des Deux-Iles and really enjoyed the location. It's quiet with friendly and helpful front desk personnel. Very well located -- cross the river and you will be in the Marais -- cross it the other way and you'll be in The Latin Quarter. Walk to the end of the island, cross the bridge, and you'll be close to Notre Dame -- such as it is now as some of the immediate area is closed off. The Metro is near enough that getting anywhere is not a problem.
We emailed them and requested rate and booking information and got a reply within 24 hours. We opted out of the hotel breakfast as it seemed, to us, expensive for what was offered. If you do stay on the island we know where you can get a great little breakfast for a good price.
If they can't accommodate you, a few doors away is their sister hotel named Hotel de Lutece. We would stay there based simply on our experience at Hotel des Deux-Iles.
There is another hotel on the island named Hôtel Saint-Louis en l´Isle. They have (or had) a dedicated shuttle that will pick you up at the airport . Not sure about the cost. It may be complimentary depending on the length of your stay. Now that taxis into the city from the airport charge a flat rate that may be the way to get to any hotel.
Spend a few minutes googling hotels on the island and that should give you an idea if staying on there is a possibility, or if you should rule it out.
We've taken cruises with several companies and Vedettes du Pont Neuf is, in our opinion, the best. The evening cruise when the city is all lit up is really great -- gives new meaning to "The City of Lights. So far as the dinner cruises offered by some companies, we prefer to have a nice meal in a restaurant and just do a cruise. Food is usually only so - so on dinner cruises. And how does one enjoy a meal and the vistas at the same time? If you do the cruise on arrival day you may be jet lagged and in something of a daze by sundown. Perhaps another evening would be better. Just something to consider.
I agree with all the others about going to Versailles and Giverny as day trips from Paris. I would discourage you from attempting to drive in Paris. I also agree that taking the train from Paris to a Loire destination and picking up a car there is preferable. Drive to MSM (which I found disappointing except the view from off the island) and from there go to Giverny. Return the car at CDG and stay in an airport hotel your last night. You said you have a morning flight (what time?) and you should arrive at the airport 3 hours early.
I stayed by Rue Cler my first trip to Paris because it was recommended by Rick. I've gone back 5 times and chosen more central locations. I like the Marais (4th) and the Latin Quarter (5th). The 6th is also good and Île Saint-Louis would be ideal.
I hope you and your friends have a fabulous time. I spent my 60th in Paris...my favorite city!
Everyone - thank you again for all of your awesome suggestions. Your insight is greatly appreciated. We'll be collectively rethinking our gameplay based on your ideas! Please keep them coming.
Just piling on with respect to the Seine cruise: time your cruise to coincide with the lighting of the Eiffel Tower (after sunset) and dine on shore, before or after, at one of the many nearby restaurants. Spend your time on the boat taking in the sights and lights.
I didn't see the rental car angle addressed:
If you're staying near Rue Cler, there is a Europcar close by at Invalides (it's at a train station). There also was a Hertz at the Air France Invalides office, but it moved to the Louvre recently apparently, now just Europcar.
The cheapest rates between those two Paris Invalides and Paris CDG Airport are on Kayak directly or europcar. Autoeurope wasn't as good as a deal as it often is and didn't include SUV inventory. If you can get the luggage into a Citroen C3 it would be $97, otherwise a larger car for $120 or an Suv would be $221. Those are manual transmission prices, get automatic if you need to, there's an automatic Peugot 308 for $147. If you're thinking about the Citroen, google 'Citroen trunk space' and check the pictures that show the smaller trunk size (not the big one) to see what you can fit. I'd guess you'll need the SUV.
You go, girls!
I have a few questions:
1. Have any of you ever been to Paris?
2. Do you want to go to the Loire Valley, or do you just want to see chateaux, not necessarily in Loire?
3. Is Mont St Michel a must-see, or would you be happy seeing other amazing churches (but not in the wonderful setting of MSM)?
4. Any shared interests: Paris-set books/movies that you all liked, Julia Child, Hemingway, WWII stuff, Impressionist art?
I like to look at things on a paper calendar. You have 7 full days in France (8 nights). Arrival day will be taken up with getting to the hotel, walking around in fresh air to reduce jet lag, and having an early dinner. Saturday night pre-departure should be in Paris or near the airport.
I think I would plan on staying in Paris the whole time, and doing a 1/2 day trip to Giverny (or make it a full day and add Rouen) and a 1/2 day trip to Versailles (a chateau!).
Instead of going to MSM, which I think would take 2 days including travel to/from, you could see wonderful churches in and around Paris -- like St Denis or a day trip to Chartres, or a day trip to Reims for a wonderful cathedral, important WWII sites, and champagne!!! MSM is a very special place, though I don't know if it would be worth it on a 1-week trip.
For more close-in chateaux, consider another day trip to Chantilly or Fontainebleau. TBH, I'm not all that interested in chateaux, so take this with a grain of salt. Maybe Loire would be the highlight of your trip, but again, you could do that on a long-day tour from Paris.
For me, day trips mean early morning starts. I usually don't like to do them on back-to-back days.
This is still a lot of activity and you're seeing a lot, but it eliminates hotel moves and possibly stressful driving. And then you would have more time to enjoy Paris! Montmartre! Passages! Sitting in random cafes! Impressionist museums! If you didn't feel like doing a day trip, just hang out in Paris!
I have grown to like staying in Montparnasse -- a bit off the tourist path maybe, but an area with excellent transportation options, great cafes and creperies, Montparnasse Cemetery, lovely street market, and a pleasant 30 minute walk to Place St Michel. You can use LeBus Direct to/from the airport.
Ditto what Pam S said.
Ditto what PamS and JenS said. :) Good advice. Scale back and enjoy your time in the street, not on the road.
Also following up on what someone said about the rental cars and packing light:
If you do rent/drive/park (which I don't think you need or should if you follow PamS' advice), note the cars are smaller in Europe and for good reason. So you'll really need to pack light - the trunks are small, too). Give yourself extra time when you look at the google driving maps, cuz it always takes longer than you think.
We like Montparnasse too, as a home base. We like Hotel Mistral.
Since I started packing light my vacations have been a whole lot more enjoyable. RS has a whole forum devoted to packing: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/packing. I take the same 21" rolling carryon for a weekend or a month, but you probably won't fit four of them in a trunk. So use duffle bags and inside put your clothes in compression bags.
Better yet, stay in Paris as others have suggested and use trains for day trips. Here's my report of a week in Paris in April-May 2018 with day trips to Giverny and Versailles, to give you an idea of a relaxing week: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/april-in-paris-1e48a51b-4933-490e-9e0d-e8bdf1035b47
Totally agree with JenS and TC......their advice is right on. Have been to Paris 3 times and will make it 4 in April. We love staying on the Ile St. Louis as TC mentioned....central location to anything you want to do. It is a charming neighborhood as Rue Cler is and you get a sense of Paris daily life. I think your day train trips to Giverney and Versailles would be so much easier than trying to rent a car and drive there. Have been to both and they are delightful. We traveled to MSMichel after a trip to Normandy and spent the night on the island.....and drove to the Loire Valley after that. We LOVED the chateaus and gardens there.....and I wonder if that would be a better trip taken at a later time. We based ourselves in Amboise for the LValley and drove to the chateaus and gardens from there.....only to enjoy a wonderful meal each night in a charming town like Amboise after a day of touring. You could do the Loire at a later date and add Beaune and Dijon and then back to enjoy Paris before you go home. The Seine boat ride at night is lovely....take the 9:30pm one after a nice Parisian meal and see the Eiffel Tower sparkle from the river.....a sight to see! I will add 2 pieces of advice....we have learned in Paris to walk everywhere.....eat all you want, walk it off and see the city on foot as you do-not the Metro hassle of pushing and shoving, getting off the wrong train and pickpockets galore. Seeing Paris from a street-walkers vantage is lovely. Lastly.....if you drive anywhere in France get a map of THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES OF FRANCE as we do.....then you stop to have a pastry and coffee in a beautiful, picture-postcard village you would not even know existed except for the research you have done with your map to see these lovely little towns! They are ALL worth a stop and live up to their designation.
I did this tour from Paris to Versailles and Giverny a couple years ago booked through Viator (I should have said)
It was excellent including the lunch at an old mill.
I am sure Viator is not the only company that offers it but this gives you an idea of the itinerary.
Edit: Here is another tour:
FYI, Viator is a third-party tour reseller owned by Trip Advisor, Expedia. If there is any way to figure out what company is giving the tour, it's always better to book directly, removing an unnecessary layer in case of change or problem.
I didn't read all of the earlier posts so sorry if this is redundant - but you need to buy or borrow a travel guide in addition the RS book(s). Suggest Lonely Planet and/or Eyewitness Guides (lots of pictures!).
Oh God, how cool it is !!! I also want to travel with my friends at such a great age. You have a great plan. I really want to know your impressions after the trip.
I agree with the others that both Giverny and Versailles are day trips by train. With really only 8 full days , then 2 of them used then I’d stay in Paris the entire time. There is Montmartre that is a must. Eiffel Tower , Louvre - go straight to the tour desk and book English speaking tour. boat tour., shopping, etc. Brussels and Bruges is very close (2 hr train) You could take the train to Brussels for 2 nights to see something different. I don’t know about the Loire Valley but it may be too far for this trip. The Marais is the place to stay these days. Check out apartment rentals. They can be cheaper and have kitchen and common area you can all spend time together.
Brussels and Bruges is very close (2 hr train) You could take the
train to Brussels for 2 nights to see something different. I don’t
know about the Loire Valley but it may be too far for this trip
Not all all. St Pierre des Corps (a jumping off point for the Loire) is only an hour from Paris. Much more logical place to visit; especially in conjunction with MSM.
Wow. Such wonderful information. So many willing to share their thoughts. We deeply appreciate it. I can tell we may need to rethink some elements of our upcoming whirlwind tour, to include... whether we want to devote time to get to the Loire Valley and MSM, probably makes sense to day trip out of Paris to Versailles and Giverny, maybe there's a better location to stay in Paris than Rue Cler, etc. Again, we appreciate everyone's input and ideas. Please continue to share!
OK, Karen, since you asked ... :o) I have another idea/thought/reason to stay put in Paris. I don’t think you’ve shared whether the members of your group have traveled to Europe before and perhaps are familiar with how they will respond to jet lag, sleep deprivation and culture acclimation. Each of you will be adjusting to jet lag and a new culture at your own pace. With a single home base, if someone needs to sleep in one day or someone else needs a nap the next, or another person wants some alone time - that’s all doable without seriously impacting the group. With a tight schedule, changing hotels every few days, it can be difficult to accommodate everyone’s inevitable need for downtime. When we travel overseas with our adult daughter, she always has a tough time with jet lag the first and second day. My husband and I usually power through the first couple of days and need a break about day 4. We expect that we won’t do everything together and split up accordingly. Planning to have a single home base for a week-long trip everyone can rest when they need it.
I usually travel solo, but JenS's post sounds wicked smart! Even when I don't plan for it, I find there are unexpected times I need some down time to just go to my hotel and chill or nap based on jet lag, time zones, adjusting, etc.. Others in your group may feel the same.
Check out the Hotel Residence des Artes “apartments”, actually two double rooms and one has a living room and kitchenette. About 300€/night total. There’s only two rooms per floor. We stayed there in November with our two teens. The rooms were very nice. The room with the living room felt palatial for Paris. It’s on a side street a block from the Seine, very close to Notre Dame. Location can’t be beat. Charming old streets nearby. Tons of great cafes and bakeries. Around the corner from metro and RER. Staff was very helpful. Both rooms had two twins pushed together, but you can probably request them to be separate. Skip the hotel breakfast and go to Circus bakery for a cinnamon or cardamom roll straight from heaven.
I like this area much better than Rue Cler. Instead of being one charming street tucked among all the others, St Germain has tons of charming streets to explore. We stumbled upon a great outdoor market, too. Use google earth to explore the area and see if you like the “feel” of it.
JenS makes another excellent point about the value of a stable place for downtime when traveling in numbers. Very smart.
Someone else mentioned
You could take the train to Brussels for 2 nights to see something different. I don’t know about the Loire Valley but it may be too far for this trip.
I don’t agree at all. The Loire Valley, to me, is so much more special than Brussels, and frankly just as easy if not easier to get to. Anyway as many have mentioned you don’t necessarily have time to get there on this trip but it is something to keep in mind for next time.
I have taken one Rs tour - we did not stay anywhere near Rue Cler . We stayed in the 14 th . My friend took same tour the next year , the Rs tour stayed in the 11 th . Rs only features a few areas in his books but that’s only his choice because there are so many great areas he would have to write a whole book on them lol
The 6 th is lovely . Closer to river than farther is nice as I find it easy to navigate walking to many sites from that area .
I’ve stayed at the Hotel Le Regent twice and quite liked it , but book the deluxe rooms as the standards are tiny -
I’ve also stayed at the Hotel Des Grand Hommes which is actually just across border of the sixth in the 5th - 1/2 block to Luxembourg Gardens - and rer station Luxembourg ( which comes in from airport ) and hotel looks right out at the Pantheon . Rooms are small and but very traditional decor ( modern bathrooms , mini fridge but otherwise very “ quaint “ )
I’ve stayed at four other hotels in area but they are my more budget friendly picks so don’t know if I’d do a once in a life time visit to them ( they are fine , just small rooms and plainer decor )
Sorry I can't really contribute to your questions ... but I am also turning 60 this year and planning a trip with family also in late May! Happy birthday to us!
You have a lot of exciting places on your itinerary. I've visited them all except for Giverny. My suggestions: After you land at CDG, take the train into Paris and then transfer to the one that takes you to Versailles. Spend Saturday night in Versailles and tour the Palace the following morning. Then rent your car and drive to the Loire Valley OR drive to the MSM area. Spend Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday nights in one location in the Loire area and then do day trips to the chateaus OR spend Sunday and Monday nights in the MSM area and then Tuesday night in Giverny. Then return to Paris for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. If your lodging is near the Gare du Nord you can get up early on Sunday and take the train from there to CDG - also, the Montmartre is within walking distance and the heart of Paris only a short train ride away. You will need to research rental car drop off options/costs but driving in Paris is challenging - you can always return the car to Versailles and take the train back to Paris. The first time we visited France we stayed 5 nights in Paris with a day trip via train to Versailles. I then rented a car in Paris and drove to MSM for 2 nights and then to Amboise in the Loire Valley for 2 more before driving back to an airport hotel near CDG before departing the following morning. It was too much driving and in hindsight would have done it more like the suggestions I've provided above. An airport hotel is a waste when you can stay in the city and leaving Paris after a few days and then returning for another night is also wasteful of your time. You can do it all - Paris, Versailles, Loire, MSM, Giverny BUT you will be doing a lot more driving than you will want to be doing. You will have a better vacation if you do a few places well rather than several quickly.
Thank you all again. We really appreciate your thoughts. Given the feedback we've received, we're contemplating revising our gameplan... maybe something like this instead...
Arrive CDG around 1pm on Sat, 5/16, rent a car and drive to Loire Valley. Chateau touring on Sun & Mon. Drive back to CDG on Mon late afternoon and catch the train into Paris. Stay in Paris for 5 nights (Mon-Fri) and day trip to Versailles and Giverny, in addition to Paris touring. Hop the train back to CDG later on Sat, stay at CDG hotel for early flight on Sun am back to MSP. Anyone have thoughts on a quaint place to stay in the Loire? Or maybe a chateau hotel? Thoughts on VRBO and/or AirBnB places in Paris? After looking at hotels, we're starting to think an apartment/pied de terre might make more sense, since we're looking for lodging for 4. And we're rethinking Rue Cler area and think maybe 5th or 6th Arrondisement might make more sense?
Thank you all again - you've been a tremendous help!
New itinerary looks good. I would caution against renting a car and driving on your arrival day. Jet lag/sleep deprivation + driving in a foreign country is not a safe combination. There are direct, high-speed trains from Paris CDG to the Loire area (I haven’t taken this route, but I’m sure someone else can give you details). I would take the train to the Loire area and rent and return a car there and take the train to Paris from there.
I think Kevin, upthread, may have described the best way to accomplish the ambitious itinerary you crave. A variation would be to take the train to the Loire the first day.
However, I suspect you may have a better trip if you can stand to scale back. Sometimes you see more when you don't cram too much in.
OP, I think your revised plan works better, BUT I really advise against driving all the way to the Loire from CDG on your arrival day. That long a drive, while jet lagged, could be as dangerous as drunk driving. If you want to get there that day, taxi into Paris and catch a train to St Pierre des Corps (Tours) and rent the car there. Some rental agencies at the station are closed Sat afternoon and all day Sun, but Europcar appears to have open hours on Sat afternoon. Return the car there. And train back into Paris.
Thanks for updating us on your plans.
If you are thinking of an Airbnb in Paris, make sure you have a phone that works in France (which is a good idea if you're driving, too).
As have others, I advise taking a TGV from CDG airport to Tours (St Pierre des Corps TGV station) and renting a car there so you won’t be doing so much driving on your arrival day.
When you finish in the Loire, you can return the car to St Pierre des Corps station and take the TGV into Paris Montparnasse, which positions you well for lodging in the 5th or 6th arrondissement.
I have enjoyed two stays in the small village of Chenonceaux (yes the village is spelled with a final “x” while the Chateau is not!) at the Auberge du Bon Laboureur. There are also several nice options in Amboise that people on the Forum frequently recommend.
I think your trip is really coming together!
We enjoyed Amboise as a base in the Loire - don't have a good lodging recommendation because our place was a bit disappointing. Would suggest you stay in the old town below the chateau. BTW - Clos Luce is in town and Chenonceau is only a short drive away. There are sooooo many lodging choices in Paris - I'd pick a geographic area close to the places you want to visit and then research your options in that area. We stayed on the Left Bank at the Hotel Des Grandes Ecoles and it was a nice hotel. BTW - like your idea of getting the car at CDG and heading out.
Here's some advice from someone who has done just what you are planning.
Our flight arrived at CDG @1:00 pm on Saturday we picked up our rental car and drove immediately to Loches, which is 20 or so km south of Tours. It is a 3 1/2 or 4 hour drive and we didn't arrive until 6:30 that evening.
I travel extensively for work and I often arrive in a new city and have to pick up a rental car and navigate to my destination. I have also driven in Europe several times. Are you a confidant, experienced driver? Will you be flying first class where you have more assurance of being able to sleep? Even if you are a good driver and can sleep on the plane, after making that drive I do not recommend it.
I suggest you spend a few days in Paris, then train down to Tours on Monday or Tuesday. There's a high speed train that only takes a couple of hours. Rent your car in Tours and visit the Loire Valley. Drop down to Loches on Wednesday and visit the town market. It's a lot of fun!
My hubby and I did essentially your desired trip in 2017, but did it over two weeks! In 1999 I traveled with three girlfriends to France - my first time and we rented an apt for a week in Paris. We felt like locals, as early each morning I walked to the bakery at the end of the street to purchase croissant.
Hubby and I stayed on Mont St. Michel in 22017 and the sunrise and sunset were breathtaking. Like others, I would jettison that area since you've only got one week. I also agree with the others regarding Versailles and Giverny as day trips from Paris. So easy to take the train to those locations. As far as the Loire, I would recommend Le Choiseul in Amboise as a centrally located hotel to see the Chateau in that area. Lovely hotel (free parking!), located on the River Loire, not far to walk into town for dinner, but the restaurant in the hotel is stellar. If you can't see the DaVinci exhibit at the Louvre in Paris, his final home is in Amboise (as someone else mentioned, Clos Luce) and he's buried on the grounds of the Amboise Chateau. Happy Birthday and enjoy your trip.
There’s been so many wonderful suggestions and considerations here! I agree with taking the train to visit the sites as day trips from Paris. My one addition would be to try to time your visit to Giverny as early in the morning as possible. We were one of the first two buses to get there and it made it really special before the true hordes arrived. It became so crowded mid morning that we were ready to leave and thankful we had gotten such an early start.
If you’re interested in Monet, be sure to go to the Orangerie, and if possible the Musee Marmottan. And of course the top floor of the Musée d’Orsay. One of my very favorite pictures from there is a silhouette of my daughter standing in front of one of the giant clock faces, looking out over Paris.
Another special place I don’t think I saw mentioned yet is the Musée Jacquemart-André. It has a beautiful tea room that I think would be a special experience after touring this amazing private home.
Also, I didn’t discover the historic and beautiful passages, or the views from the cafes on top of the Printemps and Galleries Lafayette stores until my third visit to Paris. If you are nearby those areas, they are free to visit and worth checking out.
If you do have time to be in Amboise and see Chenonceau, I would also highly recommend the Clos Lucé. Our family learned so much about Leonardo da Vinci there and it was really interesting.
I hope you have a wonderful trip! How very special to celebrate your birthdays together in this awesome way.
You say you’re more into French quaintness than mega tourist attractions ... but your itinerary contradicts that: Versailles, MSM, Giverny, and Loire chateaus are definitely heavy on the tourist hoards and absent quaintness.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with going to those places ... but know that you won’t get what you say you want.
I’ve been to France 20 times, and helped numerous friends plan trips there. The first thing I always advise is: Don’t automatically think you HAVE to do XYZ just because it’s THE thing to see or do. Really think about the sort of things you all really enjoy (is it history, food, wine, fashion, architecture, churches, classical music, nature, exploring on foot, art/museums, antiquing ...?). Any of those interests (and lots more ) can be easily pursued.
If you visit Versailles and 2-3 chateaus I think you’re going to face opulence overload.
I’m sure you got oodles of great advice in the above posts, but I’ll put in a vote for Hotel Diana in the 5th ... very affordable , good A/C, and you can’t beat the location >> 7 minutes to the river and same to Luxembourg Gardens.
If you do end up in the 5th let me know, and I’ll tell you where to get the best croissant I’ve ever had.