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First time in France, I need help completing my itinerary

Hello there!

As I mentioned, this is my first time to France and I have some must-do's and some spare time. This is my itinerary as of now:
10 Full days in France, flying in and out of Paris, travel will be public transportation, by myself.

Day 1: Paris
Day 2: Paris
Day 3: Paris
Day 4: Disneyland Paris (sleep near by)
Day 5: Versailles (sleep near by or back to Paris..?)
Day 6: Mont St Michel/Dinan (sleep in Mont St Michel)
Day 7 - Day 10: A mystery...

After purchasing Rick Steves France book, I'm lost as to where to spend the end of the trip. The two ideas I have right now are either sticking around Paris longer and doing Château of Pierrefonds, Château of Chantilly, Fontainebleau, etc., or going south-east from Mont St Michel and heading into Loire for Amboise, using it as a base for day tripping the Loire, then heading back to Paris.

The one thing I want to stay away from is travelling too much while travelling, if you know what I mean. I like a relaxed pace. :) Any and all suggestions and advice welcome! Thanks!

Posted by
7 posts

Oh I should have mentioned, I'm not interested in war-related tour areas.

Posted by
3199 posts

It's only about a 40 minute ride on the RER A from Gare de Lyon in Paris to Disney. I wouldn't bother moving out my Paris hotel to spend a night near the park. That way you'd still be in Paris to visit Versailles. I think trying to see Dinan and Mont St Michel deserves an extra day. When I visited Dinan, it was about a 5 hour trip by TGV and local train. If you wanted to head back to Paris, consider a night in Chartres. The train from Dinan to Amboise takes close to 6 hours and involves 4 changes so if you don't want to spend time traveling and dragging your stuff with you, I'd advise against it. Remember, too, that at the end of day 10 you want to be near the airport.

Posted by
1443 posts

Avignon and Arles in Provence are connected to Paris by high speed rail. You could get there in 4 hours and spend 2 nights. Lots of Roman sites in the area, art, insane food, and wine. You could take an all-day wine tour of the region. Then hop back on the train and go back to Paris.

Posted by
3199 posts

Only problem with visiting Arles or Avignon - beautiful places - is that from Dinan, you have to travel back to Paris for the TGV. Trip time is 9 hours.

Posted by
5697 posts

All subjective, but I would not waste a day of a short trip to France on Paris Disneyland. Maybe if I had six months ... And for sure wouldn't spend the time to relocate there for one night. Same for relocating for Versailles, which IS worth a day trip.
Mont St Michel is a LONG way from Paris and also quite a distance from Amboise (by car ?) Loire castles deserve several days.

Posted by
171 posts

I agree with Laura B. I would not spend a day of my Paris trip on Disney. And I agree with Philip that Versailles can be done conveniently in a day from Paris. I would not want to pack, check out, travel 40 minutes, check in and unpack, just to save a same-day return trip which you will have to make another day any way. And don't forget it would take another series of packing and unpacking and checking out and in.

My preference of how to spend the extra four days would be to head down to the chateaux of the Loire. They are beautiful and could easily fill two days or more. My preferred chateaux are Chenonceaux, Chambord and Villandry. Although Chantilly would be a good alternative it would not occupy more than one day although it might be possible to combine it with Pierrefonds.

Posted by
4991 posts

Seven days really isn't a lot of time. Consider staying the entire time in Paris and just doing a day trip or two. Versailles can be done in a day trip. So can Reims although to do it justice you'll need to leave Paris early in the a.m. and return late in the p.m. You've indicated don't want to spend anymore time in transit from place to place than needed. Good thinking. Believe me, it always takes more time to change your base of operations than one plans.

Posted by
16 posts

I am a Disney lover and love going to the park in Anaheim, however, I have been to Euro Disney and it is very disappointing and would not waste my time in such a wonderful place as France and Paris. I agree with others about the Loire Valley and even though you are not interested in war sites, a trip up to Normandy and the beaches and war sites there is very moving and on your way to Mont St. Michel.

Posted by
4132 posts

How big a priority is Brittany? You are not spending much time there (and I think you would need 2 nights even to get just a taste).

That said, it is feasible if you drive (get car in Paris or Rennes) and spend a night as you suggest at MSM and another in Dinan.

I'm not arguing against it, just trying to give you a sense of the logistical scope. There are day trip tours to MSM from Paris but I suspect these would not be satisfying.

Posted by
1878 posts

I have been to Disneyland Paris, it was fun but I would not take a day away from Paris to go there either (we did it when we were in Paris again in for five nights in April 2001 after having just been there for three nights in September 2000). But if it really is a must-do for you, then it's easy to do on the train. You are going to lose more time away from the park relocating to sleep near there than you would by just taking the train to the park. For that matter, visit Versailles on the RER as well. You lose a lot of time checking in/out and getting your bearings in a place when you change hotels. The practical choices, which with only three extra days to fill you should stick to, would be to tack on the Loire or Normandy. There is more to Normandy than World War II sights. It feels like the English part of France, and that's probably because the Normans conquered England! Bayeaux, Honfleur (less directly on the way), Rouen, all worth a visit. But even just passing through, and even for those not into WWII sights, really the American Cemetery is a must-see for an hour or two for anyone who has benefited from the sacrifice of those who lie buried there. Chartres cathedral ties Salisbury for the best I have seen among dozens, and the town is pleasant and easy to visit with a car. Also Monet's gardens at Giverny is well worth a visit. In the Loire we stayed in Chenonceau and found the chateau there to be great. You can see multiple chateaux in one day, we saw Chenonceau, Chambord, and Cheverny as well in one day. I have also visited Fontainbleu and I did not think it was so great that you should go out of your way to go there vs. chateaux that are on your route to/from Mont St. Michel.

Posted by
7 posts

Based on everyone's input I have updated my itinerary as so:

10th – Fly to Paris
11th – Land in Paris 11am ish, check in to hotel, tour around Paris
12th – Tour around Paris
13th – Day trip from Paris to Chateau de Pierrefonds
14th – Day trip from Paris to Versailles
15th – Day trip from Paris to Chateau de Fountainebleau
16th – Day trip from Paris to Vaux le Vicomte
17th – Check out of hotel, train to Mont St Michel, check in to hotel on island, tour Mont St Michel, sleep there?
18th – Travel to Dinan (somehow?), check into hotel, tour around Dinan, sleep there
19th – Travel to Honfleur (somehow?), check in to hotel, tour Honfleur, sleep there
20th – Travel to Rouen (somehow?) check in to hotel, tour Rouen, sleep there
21st – Half day in Rouen, train to Paris, check in to hotel, sleep there
22nd – Fly out of Paris (1030am)

Does this seem doable? I'm a little worried about fatigue from moving constantly the last half but all those places look so amazing! Also, if anyone has advice on travel between smaller areas, or if trains and buses will be perfectly adequate, I'd love to know. Thank you!

Posted by
101 posts

Well, your new itinerary is certainly NOT going to be relaxing. First off, you don't say where you're coming from, but if it's from the US, jetlag is going to have you in a fog on the first day. Plus, you've only left one full day for Paris with all of those day trips. I can't even imagine having to get up almost every day in Paris and have to schlep to the train station then come back after a full day, only to do it all over again. I think you should cut two of the day trips and focus those on Paris. DH and I did Fontainebleau and Vaux-le-Vicomte in one day, but we had a car so it was easy. Not sure of the train situation but they are very close.

I would say the second half of your itinerary would be incredibly rushed, but would work if you had a car. But using public transportation is going to be a bear because you're at the mercy of the transportation schedules, having to pack/unpack every day and haul everything you own with you each day. With that in mind, I would really start looking into plotting out how you're going to get from Point A to Point B and how long it's going to take before nailing down an itinerary.

If I were unable or unwilling to rent a car, I would choose either Brittany side of your trip (Dinan/Mont St Michel) or the Eastern Normandy side (Honfleur/ Rouen) and set a more relaxing pace. You want time to wander and not just to tick locations off of a list. Also, assume you'll be back!! It took me three trips to France to make it to Mont St Michel.

Hope this helps!

Posted by
7 posts

These are very good points. I will do as you suggest and try to combine Fontainebleau and Vicomte.

As for the second half of the schedule, what if:
17th – Check out of hotel, train to Dinan, check in to hotel, tour Dinan, sleep there
18th – Day trip to Mont St Michel
19th – Train to Rouen, check in to hotel, tour Rouen, sleep there
20th – Check our Rouen (or day trip to Honfleur? If easy)
21st – Train back to Paris, half day touring around Paris
22nd – Fly out of Paris (1030am)

That seems more reasonable and I'm only losing sleeping on MSM which looks like it's okay but not spectacular as there are severely limited hotels there, and also losing Honfleur.

Posted by
10298 posts

There are several problems with all these itineraries--they are on different train lines and will each take about 5-6 hours to connect. Some places, like Honfleur, only have bus service. You need to check how you get from place to place using

It's very difficult to get to Vaux le Vicomte without a car, much less go to both Vaux le Vicomte and Fontainebleau in one day unless you sign up for a guided tour. You are loaded up on day trips to chateaux and time in the provinces but not seeing Paris. Are you reading the France guidebook? If so, you really should buy the Paris guidebook and concentrate there with a side trip to Versailles, one to Mont St. Michel/Dinan, perhaps one more to Chantilly or Fontainebleau, but leave Pierrefonds for the next trip.

Just assume you'll be back.

Posted by
2005 posts

Pierrefonds is lovely from the outside, but a bit empty inside. Actually it is a 19th century rebuild by Viollet le Duc and inside there are items on display about this but in fact that’s it. Nevertheless the whole setting is impressive and charming and certainly worth a visit, with its medieval appearance it is different from the other châteaux you have on your list. However you don’t need a whole day there to see it all.

In case you want to fill a whole day you can go to Chantilly and combine it with historic Senlis, both quite easy to reach from Paris. But Chantilly is in the same category as the other big three, so Pierrefonds can bring some variation and make the visits this way more interesting. Or Château de Maintenon (second wife of Louis XIV) well to combine with a visit to Chartres as it is on the same railway line.

Finally you have four châteaux on four consecutive days on your list and the risk is that you get fed up with visiting them. Maybe it is better to spread the visits like two in the beginning and two (with one with the least priority) at the end of your journey. You can if necessary drop one château, so creating room for a possible change of mind during your visit in France.

As it is your first visit to France there is little room for Paris, what remains a destination in itself, so likely you will have to change plans during your stay there, so be prepared for that. But as Bets already says just assuming too you’ll be back and see it all in a more relaxing way.

Actually what time of the year are you going?

Posted by
751 posts

Just wanted to note that if you decide to go to Vaux le Vicomte, it's actually very easy to do without a car. They've recently added a shuttle bus that meets every train at the Verneuil l'Etang station. I did this last year and it was super easy - and the chateau is gorgeous! I preferred Vaux le Vicomte over Fontainebleau, even though Fontainebleau is more historic with the Napolean connection.

Here's the link for getting to Vaux le Vicomte from Paris - if you have the navigo card, the train from Paris (Line P) is covered. The only thing you have to pay for is the shuttle, which is 10 euro round-trip.

Posted by
14580 posts

Chantilly is lovely, lovely to walk around; it's the chateau of the Grande Condé, the victor of the decisive battle of Rocroi over the Spanish. This event is depicted in a painting which you can see in the "battles gallery" at the Chateau in Versailles.

Posted by
7175 posts

11. Arrive Paris. Train to Rouen (2N)
12. Day to Honfleur
13. Train to Pontorson MSM (1N)
14. Train to Dinan (2N)
16. Train to Paris (6N)
22. Depart Paris

Your various itineraries are very chateau 'heavy', so unless you are truly dedicated, I would look for a bit more diversity.

Posted by
101 posts

Sorry, but did you do as I suggested about looking into actual transportation before settling on an itinerary? You need to plan out how long it's going to take to get there and what the logistics are. It's not as easy as walking down to the train and taking a direct path from one place to another.

Posted by
7 posts

@ djp_syd
I thought about that schedule and I do agree it has benefits, but I've recently booked a hotel for Paris for the first 6 nights so I won't be able to change the beginning of my trip beyond this point. Thank you!

@ melodyesch
I did look up trains between Paris and MSM, Dinan and Rouen. They didn't seem like 5-6 hours, more along ~3 hours. But to your point, I am not familiar with the French train systems. Previously, I've only used the trains around Japan and South Korea (which are amazing) so I'm probably a little over-confident in the French system.

With the first half of my stay in stone at this point and day trips I can change if I desire, I'm trying to figure out how to make the last half as pleasant as possible. I agree that I was being too ambitious :) Does 2 nights in Dinan and 2 nights in Rouen seem like a more reasonable itinerary?

As always, I sincerely appreciate the time you've all taken to help me on my first trip to France. I'm a little nervous, but you are making me feel more confident by the day :)

Posted by
101 posts

Ok, let me just tell you about my experiences and maybe that will help.

Dinan: Arrived early afternoon, walked around the old town a bit an had dinner. The next whole day, walked the path down to the river (it was a pretty & slow hike down because of the cobblestones) and then walked back up and walked the ramparts. Full, tiring day. Felt like a full day and a half was a good amount of time.
MSM: We loved spending the night. We arrived early evening and spent the evening walking around (up and down, up and down) and rarely saw other people. Awesome. Next morning, first in line for the tour of the abbey and ended up finishing around 11:00 am. Loved it.
Rouen: Went here as a stop on a river cruise. Spent a full day. Felt like it was enough.
Honfleur: Spent one night here. Beautiful port area, but we felt like maybe 1/2 a day was enough. Really enjoyed evening meal near the water.

Whatever you do, you're probably going to have a great time. Only you can decide by the way you travel how much is too much. I'd say go for your one night stays if you pack light, can move about efficiently, and if the train schedules run in your favor. If it's a chore for you to lug your belongings, then I'd do two night stays.

If you could possibly change your hotel reservation to be in Paris at the end, I'd definitely do that. Not only will you get your moving about done up front, you won't have to carry anything you bought in Paris around with you for those extra days. But whatever you do, don't stress. The French people are lovely and you'll have a great time.

Posted by
7 posts

Hey Melodyesch!

Your experience description is SUPER helpful. I am planning on packing very light (1 small rolley case and 1 "day bag") so moving around in that sense seems very doable. Also, I'm a big fan of hotel design in general so seeing new hotels seems really exciting. That said, "traveling while traveling" is NOT my favorite type of vacation.

The more I think about it, renting a car for my travels outside of Paris may be the significantly better option. I'm a little intimidated about driving in a foreign country but I have a feeling that after day 1, it wouldn't be very scary.

Posted by
101 posts

Honestly, driving in France was SO easy. The cars are small and easy to maneuver. Can you drive a stick? After having driven my DH's Mustang with a stick, the Renault we had was so smooth to drive. I think you can get an automatic but those are a little more limited. We downloaded the European maps for our TomTom and it never led us astray. Well, it did going to Mont St Michel. It led us to the service road entrance to a barrier where you push the button to talk and we couldn't understand the muffled, rapid-fire French. But we worked out that we were in the wrong place and turned around and found signs to lead us to the correct place.

If you're staying on Mont St Michel, there is a secured parking lot where you need a code to get in to park, then you take the shuttle. The very good advice I read was to only take a small bag for only what you needed for the night. You should have seen the folks trying to get up the hills with their big suitcases! So use your day bag and out the rest in the trunk if you decide to spend the night there. I highly recommend it.

There are tollbooths along the main roads where American cards sometimes have problems, but we planned our route out using and it tells you exactly where the toll booths are and how much so we just took coins. Easy peasy.

With that in mind, you could take the train out of Paris to maybe Rennes, pick up your car and drive to Dinan. At the end, drop your car in Rouen and take the train back to Paris. We did not drive in Rouen and I understand that can be a bit tricky, but I'm sure your hotel will give you some guidance.

When is your trip? DH and I are going back to Paris in the spring for two weeks, but only doing day trips this time. It's coming up fast!


Posted by
7175 posts

Hotels are not adverse to changing bookings, and will do their best to accommodate a change of dates. This also applies if you have booked thru an online agent, as long as you are not cancelling. It never hurts to make enquiries, especially if it is going to make a huge improvement to the way your trip works.