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Figuring out our france itineray and would like input

Taking the family to France in early October for about 15 days and trying to finalize the itinerary.

A little background: Wife and I have been to France a total of 4 to 5 weeks over several trips, but that was many moons ago (before kids). The girls -- ages 9, 11, 13 -- got their first taste of Europe last year when we went to Italy. There, the girls enjoyed the Cinque Terre (and hiking between the towns), loved staying in a castle in Tuscany and exploring the medieval hill towns, and wandering around Venice enjoying the architecture and what it has to offer. We had a nice time in Rome too, but didn't do too much in terms of sightseeing besides walking the city (we lost a lot of time to logistics, a photo session and a soccer game ). Summarized a bit -- they seems to have enjoyed beautiful historic towns, staying in cool/historic places and absorbing the culture. I don't think they will have much patience for a lot of art/museums (hence, we skipped Florence).

Now, want to create similar magic is France. We are considering:
Fly to Paris, Head to Normandy -- Honfleur and Bayeux, and visit Mont St. Michel (we've never been here). Then to Loire for a few days, then to Beaune and finally, Colmar and back to Paris. The exact # of days at each stop TBD. We would rent a car and drive when we are not in Paris. I thought going to the south might be too much and better saved for another trip.

Three Questions:
What do you think of the proposed itinerary?

Should we skip some of it and add S. France instead?

Lastly, would love any cool Chateaus or historic apartments/houses to stay in during our visit. Been looking and found some cool options, but many were expensive and I don't want to spend a fortune. (fortune = over $350 to $400/night)

Posted by
8611 posts

For Alsace, rather than staying in Colmar, stay in one of the picturesque villages such as Riquewehr, Kaysersburg, Eguisheim, Obernoi. I think they would appeal to your girls more than Colmar. We were disappointed in Colmar. Loved Strasbourg too; it is a city but with lots of charm.

Posted by
453 posts

Sounds great ~ we just did this itinerary in May and loved it. Assuming you will stay some time in Paris? I am sure they will love that. Normandy is great but it is a lot of museums which we loved. Mont St Michel was awesome ~ I would stay overnight if I could do it again. It would be really cool to check out late at night and early in the morning when crowds aren't around. The Loire is beautiful ~ great towns and beautiful castles. We saw Chenonceaux and Chambord ~ both lovely. We missed Cheverny where they have quite a spectacle of feeding the hunting dogs ~ your girls might enjoy? We did a fun bike tour in Beaune and there were some girls younger than yours on the tour. Saw some beautiful small towns that we never would have seen on our own and had an amazing lunch and some wine tasting. I agree about staying somewhere besides Colmar ~ we stayed in Eguisheim and it was charming~ great town to walk around in and explore (as are the other small towns in the area).

There is plenty to do in 15 days and this is a great itinerary ~ I would save S France for another trip!
We stayed in some great hotels but didn't find any castles that weren't crazy expensive.
Have fun!

Posted by
6001 posts

Another vote for staying the night on Mont St Michel. It is an amazing experience compared to being there with the tourist hordes during the day.

Guedelon Castle https://www.guedelon.fr/en/
They are building a castle using materials found nearby and midevil building methods. Very interesting.

Posted by
38 posts

That sounds like a great trip for your family. We spent 4 nights close to Bayeux about 2 weeks ago and stayed at La Ferme du Pressoir. It is a farm about 30 minutes outside of Bayeux in the village of Villers Bocage. The farmhouse dates back to the 1700s, from what I could gather from the proprietor, Odile, with my poor French, and is lovely. Odile also provides breakfast each morning and we were so spoiled with plate after plate of pastries (among other breakfast items) everyday. We paid 120 Euros per night for our room, which includes breakfast. The room we were in sleeps 5 but we are a party of 4 which I think is what our price was based on.

Have a lovely trip!

Posted by
4512 posts

I agree on the Alsace suggestion. I would do Eguisheim or Riquewihr over Colmar. I would have to say that my husband and I really enjoyed Honfleur. We tasted cider, walked around the town and harbor, had a picnic on a beach and went to a great art museum. In Loire we stayed at Chateau du Pray. I was amazed at the pricing, quite reasonable. In Honfleur we stayed at La Cour Sainte-Catherine. If you are all the way to MSM, we really enjoyed St. Malo and Dinard. I noted a lot of families with kids really enjoying those two cities. We were in Normandy and Brittany at about the same timeframe you are looking at. I'm not sure about Beaunne with kids. I felt that it was more about wine tasting. Its charming, but we have liked other cities more.

Posted by
8647 posts

I agree to skip Honfleur, very touristy and didn’t care for it. Paris, Normandy,
Burgundy and the Loire are all very magical imo.

I wouldn’t go to Mt St Michel unless you spend the night. Get there 4:00 ish and leave by 11:00. First went when I was very young and after the hordes are gone it’s enchanting.

We’ve spent a week in Normandy 7 x and it is fantastic. It’s not just museums. We enjoy driving the 2 lane roads and just exploring... the chateaux, the small villages, old churches, toured a farm from the 1600s, did a candlelight night tour of a chateau, plus the Invasion sites. You only need to do one museum and the best one, in our experience, is the one in Bayeux. It’s small, very well done and not overwhelming. We stay in Bayeux, which is charming, at Hotel d’Argouges.

Beaune in Burgundy is wonderful, very walkable (as is Bayeux). We did the RS scenic driving tours, some of the little villages are out of a fairy tale. Chateau de la Rochepot is not to be missed.

We stay in Amboise in the Loire which, again, is charming and very walkable.
Chenonceau (Chenonceaux is the name of the town, not the chateau) is our favorite, but every single one is amazing and worth visiting.

I agree to leave the south of France for another trip as 15 days isn’t enough time for Paris, Normandy, the Loire and Burgundy. I’d also leave Colmar/Strasbourg for another trip.

Posted by
4125 posts

Aaron,

I think this is way too much for your two weeks, and also too much of your precious time on the road. If you pick logistically contiguous destinations and are all really good travelers, I think you might attempt 4 destinations in that time, but would probably, given the richness of Paris, have a better time with three.

And, just to be completely contrarian, I think Honfleur is charming and would make a spectacular overnight stop, especially given what you say about cool beautiful historic places. You'd have to make time for it though.

So, one trifecta would be Loire > Normandy > Paris. I think that order might actually work best for you, but of course you decide, and any order is feasible.

Another might be Paris > Burgundy > Lyon or Paris > Burgundy > Provence. But, there is so much to see in Paris and Provence that you might really like a week in both places, with a car in Provence to explore.

Another destination that works in that mix is Lyon, which is a really fabulous city with lots for everyone. If you've never seen it it might be your highlight. As a bonus, there are regular trains from Lyon that go directly to Charles deGaulle, bypassing Paris, so if you catch an early train you can make an afternoon flight (leave a little extra time).

So, Paris > Burgundy > Lyon; Paris > Provence > Lyon.

Paris > Colmar > Burgundy would work, but is the weakest of the itineraries; there you might prefer Paris > Colmar > Burgundy > Lyon.

Remember there are many fine day trips from Paris.

Those strike me as the logical regional groupings. Getting from Normandy to Burgundy is a painful stretch. So my advice is to think about which triad or quadrad is the most appealing, given the logistics involved. And by the way, if the girls don't like museums, I'll bet those big empty Loire chateau will pall quickly.

Posted by
8 posts

I was going to post this separately due to the kind responses I had when I posed a similar request 8 months, but your topic seemed appropriate to respond. I had asked 8 months ago on the forum about an itinerary for 9 days with a 14 year old and 12 year old. As a family, we had never been to France but have traveled to London and Northern Italy on separate trips. My kids are very good travelers. This was our itinerary and it was a spectacular trip. My children couldn't stop talking about their experience:

Arrive Paris and 5 nights:
Rented an apartment in the 6th arrondissements down the street from Cafe de Flore and Le Deux Margots
Day 1: Jet lagged 6:00 AM arrival -- Cafe, Notre Dame, Walk along the Seine (to stay awake), Eiffel Tower to the Summit, Dinner on Rue Cler
Day 2: Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées shopping, Concert at Sainte Chappelle
Day 3: Musée d'Orsay, Musée de l'Orangerie, Dinner Le Jules Verne (expensive, only tourists, but worth every penny from my kids perspective)
Day 4: Louvre guided tour with Context Tours (excellent!), Notre Dame Tower, Picnic in Luxembourg Gardens (picked up food at Rue Cler)
Day 5: Versailles, Dinner in Saint-Germain-des-Prés area
Day 6: Rented car in Paris - Giverny (Monet Gardens), Arrive in Bayeux (stayed Villa Lara -- highly recommend!)
Day 7: American Normandy Beaches tour with Dale Booth -- (Worth every penny) Dinner Bayeux and stroll through the town at night
Day 8: Morning in Bayeux and then Le Mont St Michel -- stayed at La Croix Blanche (request room 505 - unbelievable view of abbey at night -- truly magical experience. The kids LOVED exploring the ramparts, walking on the mudflats. The closest real thing to a Hogwarts like experience for my Harrry Potter fans.
Day 9: Tour the Abbey - depart for Paris - Last night in Paris on Rue Cler with Eiffel tower view hotel.
Day 10: Sad day to go home

We did not feel over scheduled. I made sure to have no more than 2 musts each day. The tour guides made the museums manageable - didn't need to navigate or figure out the crowds (especially the Louvre). I've done several European trips, and my wife even said I nailed this one -- and THAT is a compliment coming from my wife!

With 5 additional days we would have considered going south to the Loire from Mont St Michel, but were discouraged to consider it with only 10 days. I'm happy with our itinerary. Lots of great advice from individuals on this forum and I'd just thought I'd throw in my experience.

Posted by
1297 posts

Just the way I travel, I'd stick to two bases ( actually one, but that's not for everyone). The Loire and Burgundy or Alsace. I've spent a decent amount of time in the latter two, giving the Loire some serious thought for next year, if I can convince my wife. It will cut down on driving time, lots to see and do in all three areas mentioned in terms of hiking, cycling, sites and culture.

You will need a larger car. Can't help with accommodation, as it looks like you will require a 3 bedroom, but should be easy enough to find for that time of year. https://en.gites-de-france.com Also, google local towns and tourist boards for rentals - it is often cheaper dealing directly with owners, as opposed to booking through a third party.

Oh, for two of us, apart from Rome, I have yet to spend more than about 80 euros a night for an apartment, some of them two bedroom.

Posted by
5499 posts

I'd suggest Paris, Loire, and Normandy, in that order. Or just Paris and Loire. Unless your daughters are averse to big cities, they should enjoy Paris, and as someone said there are many possible day trips from there (Versailles, Giverny, Chartres if you like cathedrals, others). I'd think the Loire chateaux would also interest them, though it's possible to OD on them after a few days. I agree about spending the night at MSM if you can pull it off.

With a car after Paris, all that should be doable. I'd suggest starting with Paris because you don't want to drive very far jet lagged. And I don't think you have time for all the places you mentioned, like Beaune and Colmar. I drove from Beaune to Caen, easy enough on mostly autoroutes, but it took all day, less an issue on our five-week trip than it would be on your two-week trip.

Lucky daughters!

Posted by
21983 posts

Colmar is gorgeous (and has an excellent, not overwhelming, museum), but it does get a lot of tourists. I'd imagine the same would be true for the little wine villages in October, though.

October is not peak season for Normandy, which has a lot of overcast days even in mid-summer, so perhaps it will be less touristy in the fall. If you get as far west as Mont-St.-Michel, consider stopping for a few hours at Fougeres or Vitre, or both. They are very picturesque inland towns that didn't have a lot of tourist traffic during my July 2017 visit. Google for photos. I think they would appeal to your daughters.

I cannot imagine anything worse than several days of visiting chateaux. I'd rather spend the time in tourist-clogged St.-Malo, and that's really saying something. I suggest having a back-up plan in case your daughters have had enough after 1 hour in Chateau #1.

Google for information on weekly markets in the areas you'll be visiting and try to hit a few, as convenient. They are a nice break from traditional sights and a great opportunity to try some local food specialties.

Posted by
401 posts

Just to be a contrarian, my wife and I drove up to Honfleur to see it and the surrounding area last autumn, and we enjoyed it. Yes, it has tourists but it also has a quaint bay and, in my view, is worth a stop.

It's been six years since we visited Bayeux and I didn't find it that interesting or charming, which is why we haven't returned.

So -- I guess my point is think about what you enjoy and find interesting. Search for photos of the various places on the Internet to confirm that it's something you would like to visit.

One suggestion, if you're driving down to Bourgogne to visit Beaune, would be to stop by Vézelay, the Abbaye de Fontenay, and swing past Semur-en-Auxois to see these sites. Perhaps talk with your daughters about the crusades before visiting Vézelay so they have some context.

What a great experience for your family.

Posted by
401 posts

Pardon me, Andrew, but this is a board where folks post opinions in response to questions, and not everyone's opinion aligns with yours.

Of course I saw the tapestry. Good grief.

And thank you for informing me that the châteaux you favor are far from empty. Were you under the impression I thought they were empty? How did you reach that particular conclusion? I ask because they sure seemed to have stuff in them when I have visited them.

What an odd, odd response you've written.


To the original poster -- Carol above mentioned the castle being built using medieval methods and tools at Guédelon in Bourgogne. That might be a particularly interesting stop for your daughters because there are animals (horses and goats, to my recollection) at the site as well as interesting construction equipment. It might help them appreciate the vast effort that went into constructing some of the grand structures you're sure to encounter on this visit.

Posted by
40 posts

Thank you all for the great responses. I appreciate the feedback. I've been thinking more and am leaning towards adding S. France -- mostly because we are a bit worried it will be cold staying in N. France for the whole time and my wife wants some sunny days. My latest thought is this...

Land in Paris, 4 nights there.
Train to Avignon. Stay in a lovely villa/hotel in that area for 3 nights.
Drive to Carcassone, 1 night just to see the city.

Drive to Sarlat, 2 nights there.
Drive to Loire. 3 days there. We won't go crazy visiting chateaus. This is more relaxing time.

Back to Paris. If we feel ambitious, we might try to hit Mont St. Michel for 1 night.

What do people think? Too much? It's easy to get down to S. France on a high speed train. Getting between the smaller towns on train appears both long and expensive so our best option is to drive, though it's a long drive. This schedule was intended to break up the drive with interesting towns along the way.

The alternative would be to stay in Provence longer -- maybe day trip to Carcassone. Then train back to Paris and drive to Mont St. Michel and Loire.

Really struggling with where to best spend time. Feedback welcomed.

Posted by
4125 posts

Aaron, your second itinerary, with Sarlat, is really too much, and a boatload of driving. These places are not easy to get to from each other.

May I propose some alternatives? In adition to the others above.

1) Fly into Toulouse. 4 nights (min) Sarlat, 1 night Carcasonne, 4 nights (min) Provence, balance in Paris, fly home. (Or reverse it.)

2) Fly into Paris. Paris 5 > Loire 2 > Provence 5 > Paris remainder & home.

Mind you I think you could have a wonderful time with Paris >Provence > Lyon > Home. (Lyon is really great.) Just don't overdo it!