We are traveling with our 9 year old son to France this June 2016. We have four weeks to travel. We, as a rule, do not enjoy staying in big cities for long periods of time. We like a more leisurely pace. Our current plan is to stay in Paris for a week, then to Provence/Avignon area of a week and finish in Dordogne for 2 weeks. Are we going to kick ourselves for not staying longer in the Paris area or does this sound ok? Any feedback would be appreicated, thank you!
I think for this trip, one week is fine. Two clues as to why one week is fine, you are traveling with a 9 year and you do not enjoy staying in big cities for long periods of time. Paris is an amazing city and I am sure you will enjoy it and so will your son. But going to the countryside will be a great "family" vacation and you will be more relaxed and your son will be able to "run" around and see the water and sky and nature and have fun. Paris is overwhelming and beautiful and busy. Read up on what to do with children in the RS Paris guide book. Seeing the Eiffel Tower, going to the top, going to the Arc de Triomphe, going to the top, there is an elevator if you ask to use it, seeing Napolean's tomb will be amazing and enjoyable with your child. I love Paris and have stayed one week, could stay 10 days, but even I like to get out and see something new and different away from the city. Maybe consider going to Monet's gardens while you are in Paris. Have a wonderful time. You are introducing your child to culture, art and food and that will stay with him forever. Go to Montmartre and walk around, go to the church, great views from there too.
and don't forget Luxembourg Gardens!
If he likes to bike, the best way to see Versailles is on that Fat tire bike tour where you get to pedal around the gardens and have a picnic. I did this with my daughter when she was 11 ( and that was back when you had to get your bike from Paris to Versailles on the train - now they have bikes in Versailles). It was one of the highlights of her trip to Paris and she went back to do it again as a college student and love it just as much.
I agree that a week in a big city is enough based on your details. We are not generally big city people either. You won't see everything, of course, but your whole plan sounds FANTASTIC!
Are you flying in and out of Paris? If so, I would consider splitting your days in Paris so you have some at the beginning and some again at the end. You might do perhaps 4 nights at the beginning which would give you 3 full days + one jet lag day on the front end and then 4 nights or so at the end.
You don't have to spend any time in Paris at all, if other places draw you more. And you can, with a plane change, fly to any airport in France, so you don't even need to fly into Paris if it's not the most convenient for your plans. The larger airports like Nice, Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux and Toulouse have connections from lots of European airports, so you can even avoid connecting in Paris (even those who love Paris rarely love CDG airport, although my one connection there went fine).
I do agree with Pam that if you are flying in and out of Paris, plan on spending some time there at the beginning (to get over jet lag without a car) and at least one night at the end (to make getting to your departure flight easier). But, for instance, you could fly into Nice, see the Riviera, then drive to the area around Arles/Avignon and see that, then drive to the Dordogne and see that, then fly out of Bordeaux or Toulouse, and never get near Paris at all. Of course, with four weeks, you have lots of options, but don't feel "pressured" to see places you don't want to - even if everyone else says they are a "must see," or (even worse) "must see before you die."
The Dordogne is fairly remote (for France) and with a more sparse population - I wouldn't give it 2 weeks.
Paris - 1 week
Loire Valley - 4 nights
Bordeaux - 3 nights
Dordogne - 1 week
Provence - 1 week
I don't know . . the Dordogne is gorgeous, and if you like outdoors activities like canoeing and hiking, I can easily see how you could enjoy two weeks there! (and precisely because it is more remote, you need a little more time for it, because it takes a good day to get there from anywhere else, it seems. at least that's been my experience. As for being sparsely populated -- that sounds like a bonus to me, not a negative!)
Or you could add a little more time to the Provence/Avignon part and take a few days away from Dordogne, for about 9-10 days in each. I think it's nice to enjoy one area for a little more time rather than trying to hit every region of France and losing so much time in the transit between regions.
And I agree, based on your interests, no, you shouldn't feel bad that you want to see Paris for "only" a week. That week will go pretty quickly with your first arrival/jet-lag day being part of it.
I really like the pace and feel of the trip you mention. Go for it!
IMO one week in Paris is barely enough, the minimum.
Just one thought. There are some guidebooks specifically geared toward travel with kids. I just looked on Amazon and saw 4 or 5 titles. Enter "France with kids" in the search box, and they'll come up. Such guides can put you onto great experiences that you might otherwise miss. I bought a Rome with kids type book last year for my daughter. She found a walking tour combined with a cooking class aimed at 6 - 10 year olds. My grandson loved it.
An observation is not necessarily a criticism, just something to consider and balance with your requirements.
I agree with Kent. It's a good start though. I don't think of Paris as overwhelming at all, in fact, it's the most tourist-friendly city I've ever been to.
I took my son to Paris when he was 11 yo and he fell in love with it. We stayed 2 mos and he cried when we left. We spent some time most days at the Luxembourg Gardens (wonderful playground, carousel, marionette shows, donkey rides, cafes, crepe stands, ice cream, etc), we rented bikes in Paris and rode along the river on Sundays when they close a major portion of the road on the north side of the Seine river to traffic, rented bikes at Versailles, rented bikes in the Bois de Boulogne. Here are some of the things he especially enjoyed:
the Metro, the buses, the stores, the cafes, going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, climbing the stairs to the top of Notre Dame, boat rides on the Seine, the Conciergerie (prison where Marie Antoinette was kept), street performers in front of Notre Dame at night and on the pedestrian bridge leading to Ile St. Louis day and night, Berthillon ice cream, French hot chocolate, pastries, crepes, the Jardin d'Acclimatation (in the Bois de Boulogne - a very nice, clean, old-fashioned amusement park for children), Napolean's Tomb and the military museum there, Vaux-le-Vicomte (chateau outside Paris where they filmed "Man in the Iron Mask" with Leonardo di Caprio), I could go on and on... he loved everything. All kids are different.... and some fall in love with Paris.
Wanted to add.. one of the unintended consequences of my son playing at the playground in the Luxembourg Gardens is that he played with lots of other kids that were from all over the world. It totally widened his world view, he saw they were the same no matter what nationality they were. Even if they couldn't speak to each other, they found ways to communicate and have fun. That's an education you can't get in school or from books.
Trust your intuition. All of the places you are traveling to are wonderful. I have my own opinions, but questions of city vs. country and how long to stay in one place seem to be two of the most highly subjective and tied to personal preference of those generally asked on this board.
I wish I was Susan's 11 yr old son! That description makes me yearn to be a child in Paris - sounds like it was a great time.
Nicole, I was thinking the same thing! What a fun way to see Paris.
Nicole and Pam, thanks.. : )
I miss those magical days!
You can have a leisurely pace in a big city and I think Paris is worth at least a week . I would suggest renting an apartment in a neighborhood .Then you can get up-have a nice breakfast - do some sight seeing and have a place to return too. I took my 9 yr old to London and he loved it. Its a nice experience going to a playground /park with your kid in a foreign city. Got to caht with other moms- we are the same everywhere.
My son loved any transportation related event - rriding the train/bus and transport museums
An excellent daytrip from paris for kids ( and adults really) is Provins.. its a world heritage site.. a medival village.. ( well the old part and the ramparts) and during the season ( which is when you will be there) they do great shows there.. jousting.. etc.. all the "knights " in armour etc.. I ended up seeing the Birds of PRey show and it was great. .costumes. horses.. and yes.. birds of prey.. they do several different shows so do check schedule to see the ones you want.
That's the thing.. while a week is ok for Paris. there are still so many easy daytrips from Paris that you could stay longer and not just be in the city all the time.
I am on sure of your routing so not sure if you can pass by Guedelon ,, ( are you renting a car? ) If so .. stop in Guedelon.. its a medival castle being built with the exact same methods of the era.. I took my 11 yr old there like 8 years ago.. and she loved it. .( everyone in the village is in costume too) and they explain everything to the kids ( and adults ) fascinating.. you do need a car to get there though.
PS Fat Tire bike tours are a lot of fun.. personally I have done them all ( over many years of visits not all at once) and I think the one to Giverney to see Monets Gardens is the most kid friendly.. you are out in the country side.. you buy food in the market and picnic by a river.. then you ride mostly on an old decommissioned rail line that runs along the river.
One of the things I noticed in Paris was how many Parisian kids used those mini-kick scooters to get around, to and from school, etc. There is lots of walking and sightseeing to do and I think that would be a fun way for a 9 year old to get around. They have foldable models that come with shoulder straps for carrying. We plan to buy/bring scooters for our kids (10,8,5) when we go this summer.
All good thoughts above. My two cents would be that two weeks is a long time for the Dordogne (which we loved), and that Paris has a lot to offer kids, even without the bonus of Susan as your guide. ;-)
It's not just the kids that use the foldable scooters - I saw more than a few adults using them as well!
What happened to Jill (OP)??
Gee, I hadn't noticed, she posted over a month ago and hasn't been back. Well, always fun to hear from Susan anyway!
Dick, you too!
We've been to Dordogne twice once for 4 weeks and once this year for 2 weeks. Provence once for 2 weeks. Paris once for three days. We loved Dordogne, 4 weeks was good, 2 not enough. We liked Provence but not as much as Dordogne. We're not big city people so Paris was ok but hot and crowded.
Be sure to watch the television show "Travel With Kids". The Roberts family has a television series where they travel the world with their two young boys. Season two has an episode where they go to Paris. I think the show will give you great ideas on how to make Paris fun for a 9 year old boy. The shows used to be on iTunes, but I think you can now access the episodes on the Internet or on YouTube.
Everyone's different... we had the opposite experience of hmcpeake. Loved Paris, couldn't ever get enough, and the Dordogne was just ok.
Thank you everyone for all of your responses, advice and tips!! You were very helpful. We officially booked one week in Provence, two weeks in Dordogne, 3 nights in Normandy (had to see Mont St. Michel!) and 5 nights in Paris. Now I will start researching what to see and do, so I will be asking for more advice from all of you :) Thank you again!!