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Final Check Before Departure - Any Missing Tidbits???

Good Day,

My family and I (wife, 9 year old and 6 year old girls) are departing for our 3.5 week trip to France in 10 days. The objective of this post is to check if I’ve missed anything that would complement the proposed itinerary. Please note that we are more than ready to scale things back if the pace it too strenuous so I’m looking for input on the content of the trip, not the pace or quantity of things planned. I’ve been on this board for about a year now and I’ve found it so helpful every stage of the way – from trip conceptualization to getting the details in place. Thanks to all who have helped. Anyway, here’s the plans:

Day 1: Land in Paris, TGV to Tours, pick up rental car, hotel (has kitchen and play yard) south of Amboise, chill out

Day 2: Chenenceau in the am, lunch at home, Amboise and Da Vinci house after lunch, dinner at home

Day 3: Drive to Beynace, 7-day gite rental near the castle, chill out – no planned stops along the way (other than rest areas)

Day 4: Beynac castle, castlenaud, boat trip between the two, walking around town, 6:30 tour of Elevage du boyssou (goose farm)

Day 5 (this is a Monday): Grotte de Rouffignac and La Roque St. Christophe and whatever else catches our fancy in the region – gone all day, picnic lunch and snacks

Day 6: Eastern Dordogne sites – Gouffre de Padirac in the AM, Monkey forest after lunch, lunch in one of recommended villages – likely skipping Rocamadour

Day 7: Sarlat market in am, tour Sarlat

Day 8: Scenic drive or Canoe ride of the Dordogne villages

Day 9: Open – options include Cahors and the Lot region, chilling at the house, Quercy water slide park, or something else that we learned about while there

Day 10 (Saturday): Drive to Tarascon (between Arles and Avignon on the Rhone) – Considering breaking up this long drive with 2 hours in Lagrasse – 7-day gite rental with pool

Day 11: Carriere des Lumieres in the AM, lunch at home, pool time and siesta, PM at Les Baux (with picnic dinner)

Day 12: Pont du Gard in the AM, Haribo Museum, Nimes in PM (if we can swing it, else go home after Haribo Musuem

Day 13 (Tuesday): Cotes to Rhone driving tour

Day 14: Arles market in the AM, Van Gogh Scavenger hunt (self made), home for pool time and siesta, Bull games in Arles at 5:30pm

Day 15: Luberon driving tour – lunch in Joucas near playground

Day 16: Tarascon Castle, Beaucaire castle and bird show, pool time

Day 17: Drive to Annecy – 7 day gite in old town with garage parking, chill out (anywhere to stop inbetween????)

Day 18 (Sunday): Lake Annecy boat and hike tour, city walk, etc.

Day 19: Le Semnoz luging in AM, Annecy Bastille Day Eve in PM

Day 20: Bastille Day activities in Annecy all day (and swimming in the Lake)

Days 21, 22, and 23: Two days touring Chamonix plus one day in a small mountain village, likely Beaufort – I’m trying to find a Beaufort cheese tour but can’t find one – any thoughts? In Chamonix we will do the greatest hits.

Day 24: Fly home to Boston from Geneva

Final Note: Provence is so full of places to see that several had to be cut. If we were traveling without kids we would definitely do a day in Marsaille and a day in Cassis, but this is likely too much for the kids - so we tried to keep it more local, when possible. Thanks again for all of your input!

-Matt

Posted by
1549 posts

Just a thought, do you regularly take long driving tours with your kids while at home?
I am not trying to be negative, but with the age of your kids I am wondering what will compose their lasting memories of this trip? Suggest keeping an eye out for inclusion of serendipity opportunities that only kids would love to do.
Most important, I applaud you for taking the whole family on this journey.
Safe, and fun, travels!

Posted by
8240 posts

I am 70 + and still remember how much my parents used to love going for a drive and how very much I hated it.

In the Dordogne, reserve a day for a canoe trip with picnic (or stop at a riverside restaurant) on the Dordogne -- definitely the Dordogne and not the Vezerre which is much less interesting. We canoed from above Le Roque Gageac to the canoe rental site below there -- most of a day. You can choose the amount of time you want to be out and they will haul you that far up river. This is fun and stunningly beautiful. The canoe rental venders will haul you up river to the length of your choice and you canoe back down to the agency base; easy as you are going with the lazy river flow.

Also in the Dordogne don't miss Lascaux II. While it is a recreation of Lascaux which is closed to visitors, it is a stunning and perfect one. This is something your kids will love and always remember. Roffignac is a good choice if only for the little train that takes you deep into the mountain. The art is childish/amateurish however and nothing like Lascaux or Font de Gaume. Font de Gaume is almost impossible to visit and you won't want to line up at 6 am with young kids for the handful of tickets available and so Lascaux is the best alternative. Pech Merle is an interesting cave -- more beautiful case than pre-historic art but it does have the famous spotted horses.

Posted by
5065 posts

Not sure if your day 4 boat ride is a canoe trip. If not, I highly recommend a canoe trip on the Dordogne. It is flat, calm, but moving water, and you can do as long or short a trip as you like. One of the take out points is in Beynac and you might be able to just leave the car there, have the canoe company shuttle you up river and you'll have the car waiting for you at the end. The kids will love it.

Posted by
1549 posts

Perhaps you might consider a post titled "seeking fun acrivities for kids". I suspect you will gather a few golden nuggets to consider amidst the well intended gold mine of options posters can provide.

Posted by
6670 posts

This looks like a well-planned family trip with enough down time and not too much driving. My childhood memories of family road trips are mostly positive, including long days between New Jersey and Colorado (and before the interstates).

Good use of limited time in the Loire. If you had more time I'd suggest the Chateau d'Usse (the "Sleeping Beauty") castle or Azay-Le-Rideau, both east of Tours, but not this time.

I'd echo Janet's recommendation of Lascaux II, which I'd think the kids would enjoy too. I'd recommend a canoe too for the Dordogne, but maybe not as safe for three young kids and two adults (meaning two canoes for the five of you) as the gabares, larger tour boats. Cahors is an interesting city with a great medieval bridge but a fairly long drive from Beynac, maybe not worth it for the young'uns.

Can't help you with Provence, hope to visit someday. And of course you'll want to show them Paris one of these years. Have a great time!

Posted by
621 posts

Dick and Janet - thanks for the opinions on Lascaux II. I've spent a lot of time thinking this through but don't have the perspective on what is the best balance between the hassle of getting tickets with the kids and the enjoyment of what you see. Your input has convinced me that Lascaux is worth the effort over Roffignac. Thanks a bunch.

On canoeing - I'm hoping that we can but it is questionable whether or not my (nearly) six year old would be allowed. I figured we will feel things out and our 'day 8' would be via canoe or car, depending on what we find out.

I agree that I can't really justify Cahors as a kid-friendly day, especially when paired against a water slide park - it's a low percentage play for sure in a trip where I've tried to mix in kid-friendly stuff on every other day. But I've always found that the more prepared and well planned I am, the more spontaneous I can be.

I'm hoping that my kids memories of the trip are not that of being driven around all day staring out a car window and I'm sure they will tell us if they are not enjoying the activities (at 6 and 9 they are pretty outspoken about such things and my wife and I are certainly receptive to their opinions). The 3 'travel days' will be a bear to manage but as Rick says, vacation is intensified living and all of our Sundays are relatively local. We have a pool for 7 days and a Lake for 7 days so the fallback options in the latter half of the trip are well established. Beyond that we have birds, monkeys, caves, castles, a luge, fast trains, glaciers, a candy factory and geese to keep them vested in the day.

Thanks and keep them coming if others have ideas on other fine tuning!

-Matt

Posted by
855 posts

I hope you have a wonderful trip. When my boys were younger and we went on driving vacations, I put favorite snacks in the glove box (often goldfish) and a tiny wrapped package with a trinket like a matchbox truck and pulled these things out as needed. It's amazing how a little snack will make things all right again.

Posted by
87 posts

You can reserve tickets for Font de Gaume online. That's what I did when I, my wife and son visited France two years ago. It is definitely worth a visit.

I'd skip Sarlat, especially in high season. Reminded me of Times Square on New Year's Eve.

Posted by
621 posts

Went to Lascaux and it was amazing. Canoeing was no problem with the 5 year old. Ended up doing everything on our Dordogne itinerary except the Sarlat market day and town tour.

Posted by
71 posts

Matt,

You sure put a lot of time and work into what looks like a great family vacation! (It takes a planner to know a planner!) Your wife and children are so blessed! I can't comment on what to do as I haven't been to any of those places and my Paris trip is a few weeks away.
I just wanted to wish you and your family a great time and be sure to post a trip report. I would love to convince dh that it's ok to drive in France and take a vacation like this one day! :-)

Posted by
8240 posts

We have done Lascaux II twice and each time just walked up to the ticket booth in Montignac and booked an English tour within two hours. The first time we had it in half an hour and just drove straight to the site; the second time, the next trip that was open was two hours, so we had lunch at a cafe in Montignac and then headed up into the hills for the cave.

someone else posted that the age for kids for canoes was 5; it is a very lazy river and I have seen small kids with their parents in canoes many times. It is a lot of fun and very scenic.

Posted by
10 posts

I have a suggestion for around Day 14. St. Remy might be worth a stop and is only 30 minutes from Arles. The kids might enjoy Glanum - ruins of a Roman city. Parents might enjoy Sainte-Paul-de-Mausole which is a must see for Van Gogh fans and is very close to Glanum. It is the hospital Van Gogh stayed in for a year after he cut off his ear. He painted 100 or so of his most famous paintings there, including Starry Night which he saw in the view from his east facing hospital bedroom. You can visit his actual bedroom and see the views. Google it for a complete list of all the paintings he did while he was there. The grounds and building are lovely and you can see the views of the olive orchards, Alpiles mountains, the wheat fields and Iris beds that inspired him. Replicas of these paintings are located at the sites where he painted each picture. This is not a Disney like re-creation. It is still working hospital/sanitarium and a must see pilgrimage for Van Gogh fans. We have been there twice and I was moved to tears each time. You could easily do St. Remy in a half day. Suzy (Bob's wife)

Posted by
10 posts

I thought that they would be on Day 9 or 10 now.

Posted by
9436 posts

Kathy beat me to it... Matt's 7/3 post above indicates they are back. Would enjoy reading your trip report Matt, hope you all had a great time.

Fwiw, I grew up in France and my childhood memories are filled with happy times on weeks long car trips all over France/Europe. My parents, two sisters and me in a Volkswagon station wagon filled with blankets, pillows, bags of yummy treats and stacks of comic books while my mom exclaims "Look at the castle up on that hill!"
Happy, wonderful memories...

Posted by
621 posts

Thanks! We have finished our time in the Dordogne and leaving for Provence today. Thanks for the details on st Remy. We will fit it in for sure.

Posted by
57 posts

Traveled with 3 children in France for 4 weeks. I used frequently 2 timeworn activities:

If in a Museum/Historical site etc..buy postcards and send them off on a treasure hunt.

If spending downtime...Teach them a short phrase/question they will need and send them on an errand.