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A few question to help us along

Still plotting for our trip to Normandy/Amboise after south of France and Paris. Questions -
- since we travel in mid-October to Bayeux, via car rental picked up in Caen, is it necessary to book a hotel in Mont st. Michael or will we find one if we just arrive later in the day. Wondering how busy it may be in October.
- will drive from MSM to Amboise and will stay there for a few nights. The car will be returned in Tours (I think, as I can't seem to make a reservation for returning in Amboise, when we are done. Any experiences with returning cars there or Tours?
- any experiences on which route we would take from MSM to Amboise, recommendations on maps, etc. Gps is not available in the cars we looked at.
- anybody else nervous on driving??
- will take train back into Paris, from Amboise, does anyone know if this is the same train that would stop in Versailles or is there such a thing?

Posted by
2466 posts

I would strongly recommend booking a hotel if you want to stay on Mont St Michel at any time of the year. This has become a wildly popular attraction, and it would be better to be safe than sorry. When we went in mid-October 2 years ago, we couldn't get a room anywhere except on the mainland - not a very nice experience.
No experience in the other matters you mentioned, so will let others chime in.

Posted by
603 posts

Hi Judy,

Driving is easy. Don't go over the speed limit ever and know the rules - listen to this podcast http://joinusinfrance.com/episode-16-driving-in-france/

The St Pierre de Corps trains station, where you will likely drop off your car, is small and very manageable. I wouldn't anticipate any issues.

I suggest searching eBay for a TomTom GPS with French maps. We got one used for $35 and it was well worth it. Used it all the time and never failed us.

I've not yet been, but only because I didn't know about it - check this out!

http://www.cntraveler.com/stories/2013-03-03/gourmet-mushroom-cave-loire-valley-france-vacation

Thanks,

Matt

Posted by
4522 posts

Judy,

will take train back into Paris, from Amboise, does anyone know if this is the same train that would stop in Versailles or is there such a thing?

The train you will need to take from Amboise to Paris is not the same train to Versailles.

When traveling to Paris, you have a choice of trains:

  • TGV& TER via Tours ( more expensive), arriving at Montparnasse station

  • or Intercity train (less expensive), arriving at Austerlitz station.

When we were in Paris in June, we took the direct intercity train to/ from Paris to/from Amboise, for 15 Euro pp each way ( booked tickets in advance)

To travel to Versailles, you have different options as follow:

  • Take RER C (commuter train) to Versailles Chateau- Rive gauche

  • or SNCF train from Montparnasse station to Versailles-Chantiers

  • or SNCF train from Saint-Lazare station to Versailles-Rive droite

Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
2579 posts

Understandable that the rental car company wants the car returned in Tours, not Amboise, since Tours is more of a major city.

Given that you're turning in your rental car in Tours, I'd advise taking the train to Paris from Tours.

As for finding the train station and rental car dropoff location, be aware that Tours is a pretty big, congested city where it is easy to get lost, so plan ample time. I would try to plan at least an hour of leeway between car dropoff and the time you need to be at the train station.

Posted by
768 posts

I picked up my rental car in Tours actually the train station at St Pierre des Corps,most of the car rental agency''s are at the train station and you can go to Paris on the train from there.We have driven in France with no problems,get a GPS with European data base for your trip,Garmin or Tom Tom and a paper map.
Mike

Posted by
2773 posts

If you want to go to Versailles then return the car there. No sense in complicating things by going to place you don't want to go and then training from there (multiple trains also).

Posted by
3826 posts

Just wanted to reply to the 'anyone nervous on driving?' question. Yes - the first time my husband and I rented in France in 2012 (this was our first time renting a car anywhere) we were both nervous beforehand (and I wasn't even going to do any driving!). I just told myself - tens (maybe hundreds) of thousands of people rent cars every year, and I'm sure at least half of them are worse drivers than my husband (who is a really good driver for the most part) and they do it without any issues. I just kept repeating that to myself.

Now - you may luck out and get a car with an integrated GPS - both our rentals in France came with GPS already in the car - no extra paid. The first trip, we had a Michelin map, but didn't use it. The second trip, we had borrowed my sister's GPS. She lives in the UK, and for some reason, I could not get her GPS to stop telling us to drive like we were in the UK even tho it knew we were in France (go around roundabouts the wrong way...). Didn't matter because we just used the one in the car and I tossed hers in the dash after 5 min. If you can get a GPS (maybe get a used one on ebay with updated France maps) - I really found it invaluable - even to tell you how long to get to where you are going, warn you of traffic slowdowns, take alternate routes, help you keep tabs on the speed limit.

The only other thing I would say is if you have a larger car - you may want to avoid indoor parking garages. We had a Citroen Cactus the 2nd time and ended up putting a huge scrape on the side (on an otherwise scratch free car with only 10,000km on it) in a very narrow parking garage trying to go around between the levels. AMEX came thru for us and covered the damages, but I know if we rent again and have a larger car, it'll only be outdoor parking for us if at all possible.

Posted by
4125 posts

Years ago coming from the Loire we decided to return our car at Versailles to avoid congestion closer in to Paris. It was a poor choice, and we encountered heavy traffic in Versailles. It would have been a better choice if we actually wanted to stop in Versailles, but we didn't.

On our way to Versailles we spent several hours in Chartres. We should have returned the car there! (There are hourly trains from Chartres.) But only because we were going to Chartres anyway.