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Advise on route

Hi, we are a family of 5 including 2 teens and a 9 year old. We will be flying to Brussels early July and had planned to rent a car, drive to Paris to spend 4 nights, then 2 nights in the Loire valley. We are left with 3 extra nights, last night we have to stay in Brussels since our flight to the us is the following morning. My question is, where should we spend the 2 nights in between? I thought about going to Mont Saint Michelle for 1 night and 1 more night closer to Belgium. Is it worth spending 1 extra night in Belgium? Is it worth driving through Dunkirk?
Any tips or advise about the rouse will be appreciated.

Posted by
954 posts

I would take a train the whole way. I would train to Paris, then the Loire, where I would rent a car for a few days, then I would train to Bruges or Ghent for those two days, probably, and then back to Brussels for the flight...
I would not rent a car to take to Paris. Definitely avoid having a car there...

Posted by
1108 posts

You will not want a car in Paris. It will cost you 40€ to 50€ a day just to park it. Definitely take the train from Brussels to Paris. The sooner you purchase tickets, the less you will pay:

www.loco2.com

www.trainline.eu

www.oui.sncf

I would pickup a rental leaving Paris which is cost effective and easy to do. Avoid picking up at either an airport or train station which will add a possible 45€ location service charge to your drop off charges. Choose an office near Place d´Italie or even better near Port d´Orléans which has easy access to A6, the initial autoroute to destinations south. Obtain a quote from Autoeurope.

After the Loire Valley, you could spend a couple of days in or around Strasbourg and Obernai. It´s a wonderful area with a lot to see. The Hôtel Arnold in Itterswiller, just a bit to the south of Obernai is one possible place in which to base yourself or you could stay in Strasbourg.

I would leave the car in Strasbourg and take the train back to Brussels for you flight home. One way drop off fees outside of France can be excessive.

Posted by
11437 posts

I also would say ditch the car idea in Paris.. Take the train to Paris.. then take a train to Loire Valley and rent a car there for a day or two.. but a car in Paris is simply a huge hassle..

Also two nights in the Loire Valley is only ONE full day.. I would stay three nights to have two full days to see the various chateaus.. they are spread out so you cant just run from one to the other..

Why not consider a beach stop on way back to Brussels.. its not exactly on the way.. but its not as far as MSM etc.. (MSM will be a mosh pit of bodies in july .. ) . but a night or two in Trouville Sur Mer would be a nice chance for kids to just relax a bit from formal sightseeing.. enjoy some beach time etc. It will be busy .. its one of the most popular beach destinations closest to Paris.

Posted by
14007 posts

What is "worth" seeing or doing is a very personal matter. I've never been to MSM because it was never worth it for me to give up those days in Paris. Friends did a 2-day trip from Paris to visit the D-Day sites, were taken to the grave of one of her relatives and he's ex-GI who served in France. It was one of the most memorable things they've done in many trips to Europe. What are your family's interests? Are you spending any time in Belgium?

Train travel in Europe is fast, generally efficient and very comfortable. The problem right now is that there are ongoing rail strikes in France. Right now it seems to be a cycle of 2 days of strikes, then 4 days of normal service. I think only some trains stop running on strike days, but it can affect other trains as well. I don't know if Eurostar international trains are affected.

Posted by
11743 posts

I don't think it's a bad idea to start with the car in Loire. Unless you have stops planned you can't easily reach by train, waiting for a car would save you parking/traffic in Paris. Driving Loire to MSM is as good of choice as any, so I wouldn't drop the car off yet.

From MSM, with a car, you could work north depending on what interests you. For many WWII is an obvious draw in the area. If not, maybe lunch in Honfleur then an afternoon/night in Etretat or Fecamp on the coast would be nice. I'm not sure how it ties in with a train from there. Bayeaux, Caen and Rouen all have a direct train route to Paris. I'm not sure if you can skip that and go straight to Belgium? Maybe drop the car in Amiens and train from there?

Posted by
2520 posts

I agree that taking the train from Brussels to Paris is the most efficient way to go. Train takes about 2 hours vs. 3+ if you drive. When checking ticket prices, note that the teens fall in to a discounted fare tier as does the 9 year old. Round trip could cost anywhere from €350 to €450 depending on the class of the ticket, how soon they are purchased and if they are changeable or not. I think most of us on this forum would advise buying changeable tix for your arrival day. If your plane is late and you miss the train, the cheapest tickets would be worthless. It does seem expensive for a family of 5 vs. driving but as mentioned a) you shouldn't do this drive directly after a trans Atlantic flight b) you don't want to pay for parking in Paris or drive in Paris. Check out the info at seat61.com.

If you can spend the night on MSM, it would be a unique experience and from there you could head north-east to the D-Day sights in Normandy. With teens and a 9 year old, they might enjoy visiting the landing beach at Arromanches where you can still see the remnants of the Mulberry harbor and visit the quaint museum that explains the harbor and has many artifacts from the period.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all for your responses. I will look further into using trains instead of driving. I like the differnt ideas mentioned for what to see on the way!

Posted by
4029 posts

You are short changing the Loire, however, adding a night here would leave you with just a one night stay.

For 5 of you, a car gives you flexibility. I too would avoid MSM in July. It’s lost its magic since they built the tarmac road over the causeway and July will be hideously busy.

St Malo or Dinard are good coastal bases or there are the Normandy beaches if you are interested in WW2.