Critique Itinerary + Dordogne Car Rental

➜ Please critique my 2015 France itinerary.

0: Leave USA
1: Arrive Paris and sleep Rouen
2: Rouen
3: Bayeax
4: Bayeax
5: Mont St-Michel
6: Sarlat
7: Sarlat
8: Sarlat
9: Sarlat
10: Paris
11: Paris
12: Paris
13: Paris
14: Paris
15: Paris
16: Fly to USA

In planning our trip our priorities were
(1) Spend first two nights in a small-ish town close to where we landed (we’ve found this works best for us in acclimating ourselves to a new country/ time zone)
(2) Full day tour of D Day beaches and sites
(3) 4 nights, 3 days to explore Dordogne region
(4) Sufficient time in Paris to see major sites, and take at least one cooking class

We plan to do most of this itinerary by train. Day 6 will be a long train day departing from Rennes, and arriving in Brive, where we will rent a car for our time in Dordogne. Hubby is not fond of spending too much time driving while on “vacation” so the concession was to get the car where it was needed the most.

➜ The earliest train arrives in Brive just before 6pm. Will I be able to pick up a rental car this late in the day?

➜ If not, what is the best option?

• Bus or taxi to Sarlat and rent the car in Sarlat
• Take the train from Rennes to Sarlat which adds 2 hr. time for + €12 and rent the car in Sarlat

All comments are appreciated…if something looks totally screwed up just say so!

Posted by Adam
2923 posts

A better version might be some variation of this:
1: Arrive Paris and sleep Rouen
2: Rouen
3: Bayeax
4: Bayeax
5: Mont St-Michel
6: Paris
7: Paris
8: Paris
9: Paris
10: Paris
11: Paris
12: Sarlat (really, travel day))
13: Sarlat
14: Sarlat
15: Toulouse or Bordeaux (about 2 hours drive)
16: Fly to USA

This saves you a travel day, which in the above scenario is spent in Paris. It also makes the train trip to Brive shorter.

However, you might consider taking the TGV from Paris to Angouleme, renting a car there, and driving to Sarlat.

Also, if you are going to all that trouble to get to Sarlat, you should spend at least another night in the region. Give up MSM, shift a day from Paris (yes do it if you must), or add a day to the trip (smartest move of all).

Getting to and from MSM by train and bus is possible but in my view not worth the time on a tight itinerary. In your place I would probably rent a car in Bayeux to visit MSM and return it in Rennes, where there are fast trains to Paris.

Have a blast! And add a day, for goodness sakes.

Posted by Leia
33 posts

Adam, I have been researching your suggested changes and love the results!

It never occurred to me to fly out of Toulouse – I assumed it would mean significant addition travel time / money (which IS the case with Bordeaux), but Toulouse is comparable to Paris.

Hubby is agreeable to adding a day to our trip and allotting it to Sarlat, if we exchange the day in Mont St-Michel for another day in Bayeux so we can visit the Memorial Museum in Caen. Since Mont St-Michel was last on my "must see" list for this trip I am happy to give it up.

Thank you so much!!

Posted by Lara
Oakland, CA, USA
10 posts

Just arrived in Sarlat last evening from Lisbon via Toulouse and though I hear toulouse is great I'd opt for flying later in the day and having your last night here in the Dordogne. It took me 2 1/4 hours to drive from Toulouse and if you arrange to drop the car at the airport you can go straight to the terminal. Why go into a biggish city for one night after spending your few days in the country? Besides I'm spending 4 nights and already see I could spend 2 full days lounging in or around the river nevermind the caves and other sites. Enjoy your holiday!

Posted by Adam
2923 posts

Leia, you and yours will never regret adding that day.

I also think Lara's suggestion has merit if you can swing it (with a late departure from Toulouse). There's a lot to see and do in the Dordogne and frankly a half day in Toulouse does not do it justice anyway.

But if you can't swing it, I think Toulouse is not without charm. Check out the cafes around the old cathedral and have whatever the locals are having; walk along the canal; have a nice farewell dinner. Don't feel bad if that is how it works out.

PS I enjoyed the museum in Caen.

Posted by tecot
27 posts

I would recommend keeping the night in MSM; it's really a special place after sunset. With 2 nights in Bayeux, you'll have time for the Caen Memorial - just stop on the way from Rouen.