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A month in France this June

After spending a week in Paris last summer, we've decided to spend our year's traveling month solely in France this year instead of dividing our time with other European cities. We are looking forward to getting to know France outside of Paris but we have no clue on how to balance our month's time. We will need to get to Monterosso in Italy's Cinque Terre for two days on June 6 and 7 (we arrive CDG on May 30) for a family reunion/celebration of life so we're thinking of taking the train from Paris to Nice on June 4 and after a few days there, take the train to Monterosso and back. Returning to France again by train, we think the logical thing would be to stay in southern France before taking a high-speed train back to Paris for the last 10-14 days in the capital.

We would appreciate any advice on how to get to a town in Provence from Monterosso via train where we could easily rent a car and where we could drop it off to take the train back to Paris. St. Remy sounds like it would be an excellent base but I don't know how easy it would be to get there via train or would a bigger town like Avignon be more accessible.

We have about 4 days at the beginning of our trip before we head to Nice and are thinking of spending that time either in Brittany or Normandy or even Burgundy. None of these places are familiar to us so any suggestions would be great. Once back in Paris at the end of our trip, we plan to take day trips to other cities as well.

Many thanks in advance.

Posted by
9646 posts

You will have to change to Italian trains going to Monterosso( at border or nearby) and back to French ones when you return. Instead, I would rent a car at the Nice airport, easy on to Autoroute, or in Nice and drive to the Cinque Terre. Not difficult. There is a large parking lot in Monterosso. You then would have a car to return you to France, St-Remy or elsewhere in Provence.

Posted by
7396 posts

I would think in aprox one week units and plan to rent a gite, cottage or apartment in a couple of regions; rentals in rural areas tend to run Sat-Sat. There are many wonderful regions with much to recommend each. I would recommend the Dordogne for a week or at least 5 nights -- with the wonderful opportunities to visit prehistoric caves, canoe on the Dordogne river past chateau and villages and many lovely day trip options. Here was one of ours last fall; we stayed in Cadouin and these are two of our day trips:

You could then drive north and visit Burgundy for a week or so on your way back to Paris

There are many great regions to visit -- the Loire, Alsace, Normandy and Brittany -- all good. I would just pick two or three in addition to Paris and then spend some quality time in each of them.

Posted by
24088 posts

St. Remy doesn't have a train station. It is a popular place for folks with rental cars to stay (though I don't know that there are car-rental options in the town), and you can certainly get to and from the city by bus from nearby cities that do have rail service.

You might consider picking the car up and dropping it off in two different cities to avoid the need to double-back.

If you take the train from Paris to Nice on June 4 and must be in Monterosso on June 6, you will not have a few days in Nice. The train from Paris takes nearly 6 hours, if not longer, so it will be mid-afternoon by the time you get settled in your Nice hotel. The Deutsche Bahn website is showing at least five hours between Nice and Monterosso, so unless just a few hours in Monterosso on June 6 is sufficient, you'd need to leave Nice on June 5. Result: two partial days in Nice, really not worth bothering with.

There's lots to see in both Normandy and Brittany, but I feel like four days would be rushed even for just one of those areas. You could head straight to Normandy (Caen or Bayeux) by train when you arrive in France (or perhaps get a connecting flight to Rouen if you're willing to take some schedule risk) and pick up a car the next day for local exploration, skipping Nice at this point of the trip. The problem is that you are now way up in Normandy and need to get to a small coastal town in Italy. There do not seem to be any non-stop flights from Rouen to Italy, so you'd be either taking at least two flights (extra time and $$$) or driving back to one of the Paris airports to pick up a flight. And when you land in Italy you'll have to deal with multiple trains. It will certainly be a whole-day effort. Bottom line: I wouldn't head north at the beginning of the trip with that firm arrival date in Monterosso looming.

Dijon and Beaune are good places to spend a few days, but they are both about 6 hours from Nice (and we've already established that a quick stopover in Nice won't be very productive) and 11 or so hours from Monterosso. That seems best avoided.

So I'm going to suggest a couple of possibilities that you didn't mention:

  • Go straight to Nice (flight or train) on May 30 and spend the time prior to Monterosso enjoying the coastal and hill towns along the Riviera, many of which can be visited easily by train, though you could rent a car for part of the time.

  • Split your Paris time, concentrating on the city sights at the beginning of your trip, giving you easy access to flights to northern Italy on June 5. The side-trips from Paris could be done at the end of your trip, possibly from a base other than Paris with lower hotel rates. Or switch it around and do the side-trip destinations at the beginning of the trip and finish up with Paris. Now you can head west from Monterosso by train, hitting the Riviera, then Provence, and on from there.

Posted by
5907 posts

Or head straight to Burgundy when you arrive (there are fast trains to Dijon from CDG without going into Paris), rent a car, drop it in Lyon, take a fast train to Nice, go on to Monterosso (can't help you with that), then get back to Nice or Marseilles and explore by car in Provence and/or Dordogne and/or Loire on your way back to Paris. Normandy and Brittany are great destinations but geographically less suited for this trip given your Paris and Monterosso priorities.

Posted by
781 posts

I stayed at the Same Hotel as Rick Steves in Monterosso and he had breakfast with us,really a nice Person.We stayed in Arles in April this year and it is accessible by train,we had a car and Day tripped in Provence for seven days,liked Arles alot.

Posted by
8639 posts

I like Dick's idea! That sounds like a good plan.

Posted by
579 posts

It also depends on your interests and priorities. Do you want natural beauty/outdoors? Art & architecture? Food and Wine? History? Countryside to balance the city stay at the end? Slow paced or rapid?

One alternative:

1. Arrive at CDG (stay the night if late), rent a car and head into Normandy. You can do a subset in four to five days. Return to CDG and catch a flight Genoa.
2. Train to Monterossa and the Cinque Terre.

3. Train to Nice. Spend four days here to explore the surrounding area, from Menton to Cannes, and inland a bit. Mountains to the beach, and everything in between.

4. Pick up a car at the gare and drive to St. Remy or your Provencal village of choice. One week here, with extended day trips.
5. TGV back to Paris. Alternate 1 (food, nature) is is to stop in Lyon for a couple of days (you can drive to Lyon as well and drop off the car). Expand the trip and you can get to Annecy and Chamonix/Mt Blanc. Side trip 2 (wine, history) would be to drive (with overnight stop perhaps in Carcasonne) to Bordeaux, where you can take the TGV to Paris, after seeing the region.

Posted by
362 posts

if you want to get to know more of France then 2 weeks out of your 4 week vacation spent in Paris might not be the best way to do it ;-) Rather than day trips out of Paris I'd suggest spending 3-4 days at a time in other cities across France.

As for starting in Brittany/Normandy with only 4 days the RS book would be sufficient for that small amount of time. For a longer visit books such as the Rough Guide give plenty of detail and the most coverage would be in the pair of Michelin Green books on the region. If you need to get to Nice, though, that wouldn't be my choice of starting point since it is about as far away as you can get so you're looking at a 10 hour train ride. I'd head somewhere in the Nice direction

Posted by
243 posts

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful advice. I plan to map out each suggestion and pull together a plan for our stay. Dordogne, Rouen, Dijon, Loire, Lyon, Beaune, Arles, Bordeaux, Menton, Normandy, Brittany, etc . So much to see by train, plane and auto. We are city folks at heart who love Paris but these other places sound so tantalizing that shortening our time in Paris sounds like the way to go. This is exciting. Many thanks again! Happy travels to all!

Posted by
2466 posts

I'd suggest you cut out about a third of the cities involved, otherwise, you won't be seeing anything but hotels and trains and rental cars...

Posted by
243 posts

Yes, thanks. There are a lot of places to read up on and then the hard part will be whittling it down to three or so regions outside of Paris. Provence for sure, then perhaps Lanquedoc-Roussillon and Burgundy or Normandy. Wine, food and a great view will be the deal breakers here.