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Best use of pre-tour days

We would like help with the itinerary for our first trip to France in mid-September 2016. We are booked on a seven-day RS Paris tour, arriving on the Wednesday morning before the tour begins on Sunday. We have 28 days total, flying into and out of Paris, and hope to gain a broad exposure to the whole country. We want to make the best use of the pre-tour days. Options we’ve thought of, leaving CDG:

  • Alps: Train to Annecy and Chamonix to see this area in best weather, back to Paris for tour, then counterclockwise toward Normandy.
  • Normandy: Train to Rouen or Caen then car to D-day sights, back to Paris for tour, then clockwise toward the Alps.
  • Sites close to Paris such as Chartres, Rouen, and Reims, back to Paris for tour, then clockwise toward the Alps.

We may have the option of switching to the Paris tour that starts on Monday if an extra day in one of these areas would make a big difference in the experience. Thanks for any thoughts on the best way to make use of these pre-tour days.

Posted by
7175 posts

I like the day excursion idea pre tour.
With approx 16 days post tour...
Bayeux (2nts)
Mont St Michel (1nt)
Loire Valley (3nts)
Lyon (2nts)
Annecy+Chamonix (4nts)
Provence (4nts)

Posted by
15642 posts

You are likely to be sleep-deprived after night flight and you'll probably have jetlag. You have 3 full days before the tour. I wouldn't want to land in Paris only to have to transfer to another location by train and I certainly don't recommend taking a car immediately (which I note you also are not considering). I would want to get cheap train tickets - another poor idea for your arrival day, because you never know how much time you'll need to get through immigration or how long you'll wait for luggage, not to mention the myriad reasons why your flight could be delayed. That pretty much means either buying train tickets when you arrive, at full price, or staying overnight in the city.

When I consider all that, I'd choose to spend the first night in Paris. Chartres, Rouen, and Reims are easy day trips by train, which means you don't have to change hotels. Or you could spend the time in Normandy, perhaps taking the train there and back (car rental in the area). Then you may only need an overnight bag for 2 nights, leave the rest of your luggage at your Paris hotel for your return. Use Wednesday and Sunday for sights in the city that aren't included in the tour.

The Heritage Days (Journées du Patrimoine) in Paris (all of France, I think) are the third weekend in September. In Paris, pretty much all the government buildings are open to the public (and only on these 2 days of the year). This may not sound like much, until you realize that the General Assembly, the Senate, the President's Residence, the Paris City Hall are all in stunningly beautiful palaces. Other government offices are housed in beautiful mansions, as are many foreign embassies, some of which open their doors to the public as well. It's worth standing in line for up to an hour to see the inside of the Luxembourg Palace or the Hotel de Ville, and the smaller places may not have any lines at all. Plan to spend that weekend in the city, whether it's pre- or post-tour.

Posted by
4978 posts

Do spend the first night in Paris to get acclimated. Reims is an easy day trip from Paris by train. You should spend some time in Normandy. Easy to get there by train and perhaps spend one night there combining the D Day Beaches area with Rouen.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you all for the suggestions. We had no idea about the Heritage Days and will certainly try to participate!