This September my wife and I will be touring the Loire Valley for 5-6 days and then heading to Burgundy. How difficult is it to drive thru Paris from CDG to the Loire? Should we opt for the train?
I agree with the previous poster. We went to the Loire valley after arrival at CDG a couple of years ago. We stayed the first night in Paris then took the train to Tours, where we picked up the car. If you have a fair amount of stamina and depending on when your plane arrives, you could potentially take the train straight to the Loire valley without spending the night. I am always pretty dead after the transatlantic flight, so am glad we recovered for a night. That said, driving in the Loire valley is very easy.
We arrived at CDG in the early AM and took the train to St. P. De Corps (just near Tours). Picked up the rental car and had an easy 25 minute, traffic free drive to our B&B just outside of Amboise. For me, that's a nice use of day 1 jet lag and set us up for a full day of sight-seeing on day 2. I recommend this route - though give yourself a good amount of time between your arrival at CDG and your TGV departure to factor in potential delays. TGV tickets are non-refundable and the "next train" could be sold out, leaving you burning a day at the CDG train station and spending your euros on bathroom tickets (I speak from experience if you couldn't tell).
One more note - St. P. De Corps has a healthy stock of automatic transmissions to choose from - making it my choice for the TGV destination. If you are tied to an automatic like I am and want to do your trip in reverse, you would have to rent from CDG, as Dijon (or other places in Burgundy) does not have automatics.
Final note - if you are considering Icelandair keep in mind that they fly out of Geneva - so that the end of your trip could look like this: Drive Burgundy to Annecy, spend day and night in Annecy (one of my favorite places). Drive to Geneva airport in the morning (about 1 hour), fly home. The drive from Annecy to Geneva airport is really, really easy. When you stay on French roads it is a lovely rural drive with no traffic to the French side of the airport. The Geneva airport is easy to negotiate. This may be a better option than getting back to Paris, returning the rental, bussing into the city, bussing out of the city to the airport again, burning a night, etc.
Matt--Sounds like a winner including the rental car suggestion. We will be spending the first few days in or near Chinon and then to Amboise for several days before heading to Burgundy.
We will also be arriving in the AM. Do you recommend buying the TGV tickets in advance in the US or upon arrival?
If I am arriving on a morning flight from the States, I never buy a TGV ticket in advance because I can never be certain about flight delays. If you miss your train and you have an advance-purchase ticket--you've just lost all your money. There is an Air & Rail program that Air France has that guarantees your train connection--but I think it can be expensive. However, other travelers I know have bought advance TGV tickets--with three or more hours between landing and the train departure--and they've haven't lost their money--yet.
I've done this once. I bought my tickets in advance, my flight was delayed and I lost my tickets. When I went to purchase the next train, it was sold out, so I had to purchase a later train. So, I ran into BOTH cons - delayed flight and sold out train. Next time I would book in advance but be more conservative with my time selection. For the four of us the total $$ lost was 130 euros (total for all 4) - so nothing to shed a tear over in the long run.
Matt's sudgestion of driving to Geneva sounds good, but you must take in consideration the drop off fee that the auto rental people will charge for dropping car off in different country.
I have flown Icelandiar several times out of Paris, taking the early afternoon flight home to Boston.
This enabled me to drop the car off in Lyon, stay the night and take the early TGV directly into CDG.
Europcar has a dropout adjacent to the Lyon train station and there is a good hotel there also.
We were able to make our 2:00 pm flight with no problems.
Easy and less expensive than drop off fee.
If you can drive in Los Angeles or Houston or Seattle, and if your travel companion can use a GPS and convey to you the exact turns and lanes without fighting, then get a car. We picked up a car along the Seine, jumped on a freeway & I drove with a 13 year old giving good instructions for two weeks. I like cars, I like trains, but the countryside is easier with a car, unless you like having a private car service.
There will not be a drop off fee in Geneva if you drop the car off at a rental agency on the French side of the airport. That is one of the benefits of the fact that the Geneva airport straddles the border between France and Switzerland and has car rental agencies on both sides of the airport.