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Help for travel logistics in France

My husband and I plan a trip to various regions in France for either Fall 2022 or spring 2023. We have been to Paris, Versailles and Chartres. We plan to fly into Paris, but from there these are the places we are considering but need some help to either pare down the list and ideas for easiest way to cover these places in 2 weeks or less. We are also considering going from France to Italy (our favorite country), probably the lakes in the NW part. Here is what is on the long list for France:

Definitely Normandy and Mont St. Michel (thinking 3 nights in Bayeau);
Definitely Provence (best place for a home base while there? Do we need a car? How many days?);
Reims, Giverney, Amiens, Rouen all possible ideas, as well as St. Denis and St. Sulpice in the Paris area;
Should we consider the Loire area?

We need some help in deciding which of the possible places are worth it to see (we love cathedrals, wine, smaller towns with character and beauty), as well as figuring out if we need to drive or can we get there without a rent car and, last, a reasonable itinerary to cover these places but not at break-neck speed. We are in our early 70’s but very healthy and active. Thank you for any suggestions! This forum was very helpful when we planned a month in Italy a few years ago!

Posted by
21037 posts

The time you'll need in Provence very much depends on what you want to see down there. I'd think five nights would be the minimum when you're going that far south on a trip that is more focused on northern France, but I spent seven nights in Avignon and five in Marseille in 2017 (at age 65). I didn't have a car, so my side trips were not very time-efficient. A car is very, very helpful in Provence. Without a car, reaching the cute little villages will be impossible or very challenging unless you pay for one or more bus tours. However, if your main interests are some of Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, St-Remy and Nimes, you can get around by train and (for St-Remy) bus.

Bayeux is a good base for seeing the D-Day beaches. Most of the tours depart from Bayeux; I'm a big proponent of the small-group (van) tours, because the typical tourist would not know what he or she was seeing at a lot of the invasion sites--even assuming the tourist could navigate well enough to find them. If you'll be satisfied with a one-day (or two-day) van tour, you won't need a car at that point.

Public transportation between Bayeux and Mont-St-Michel isn't great and puts you in MSM during the core day-tripping hours, which sound very unpleasant to me. If you had a rental car, you could drive there, arrive around 4 PM to see the island, stay in a nearby hotel if you wanted to, and see the place again early in the morning before the tour buses start arriving. By all accounts that makes for a much more pleasant visit.

The best option without a rental car may be the Mont-St-Michele shuttle run (pre-pandemic, anyway) by the Hotel Churchill in Bayeux. You don't have to be staying in the hotel to take the shuttle. I don't know how much it costs.

Posted by
1991 posts

Definitely Provence (best place for a home base while there? Do we need a car? How many days?

If you do not rent a car, Avignon is the transportation hub of western Provence and the easiest location from which to explore by public transportation. You could spend the entire 2 weeks exploring this area. If you rent a car, the list of places to stay is large. I would stay in Gordes.

Should we consider the Loire area?

Not with only two weeks if you keep the other locations. There is not sufficient time.

Reims, Giverney, Amiens, Rouen all possible ideas, as well as St. Denis and St. Sulpice in the Paris area;

Time is the restricting factor. The basilique cathédrale de Saint-Denis is the only reason to go to St Denis.

Why St Sulpice? What specifically is it that you want to do here?