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Help ! My turn to plan trip. Spoiled. Last year Tuscanny and Almafi coast. Paris then ??

So the plan is 4 days in Paris as we have never been. My wife isn't particularly interested in going to France so I need to come through. We stayed in Tuscany for a week and then a week on the Amalfi coast and then 3 days in Rome. Fantastic.

We would like suggestions for a western run to Normandy, Mont St Michel and the Loire Valley? Don't want to live out of our luggage if possible. Maybe two locations? Charming area no hustle and bustle. Small B and B. Will drive anywhere.

The forum was great last time. Just my wife and I. Young 60's.

Posted by
3789 posts

Any chance of a bit more info? Like time of year and how long in total were you thinking? Interests? For example, are you wanting D-Day sites in Normandy, or the old casino bath towns on the coast and Bayeaux Tapestry? Loire is at least self explanatory ;-)

Posted by
5745 posts

Indeed, Maria is correct above about needing more details (when, how long), but that said: if you want to charm someone who "ins't particularly interested in going to France" (poor, misguided soul...fortunately you should be able to fix that), then yes, Paris + Normandy & MSM + Loire Valley is a great start and ought to do the trick.

Just be sure you have enough time on the ground to do them right (4 days in Paris is OK for a taste...if possible you will want 10 days to 2 weeks total to do the above with comfort and minimal hustle).

Posted by
1842 posts

What made your prior trip such a hit? That will help point you in the right direction. In both Rome and Paris we did a mixture of some major sites along with just enjoying strolls and taking in the ambience.

I’m unclear as well regarding how much total time you have. I like your last trip’s itinerary. I agree with two locations, that’s what we like.

We are flying into Paris the first of May and immediately driving to Loches where we will spend a week. Then we Eurostar to London for a week for my wife’s business part of the trip. We may see a chateau or two, but we’ve left the time inFrance open. The London segment will be hectic so we want to loaf a bit. Young ‘60s as well.

Posted by
42 posts

David, LOL. Misguided soul is right. How can you not have France on your bucket list??
Paris 4 days, Then find a base in Bayeux to do one day on D day sites and one day trip to MSM then base out of Loire Valley in some super quaint B and B and do some wine tasting, etc.?

Posted by
42 posts

The trip to Tuscany was great because we stayed in a restored farmhouse bed and breakfast. Views of olive fields and vineyards. Post card kind of stuff. We stayed a week hitting all the cities from there, Florence, Pisa (a dive), Chertaldo, Siena, etc. Then we stayed again in a hotel in Priano away from the hustle and bustle and went to Pompeii, Capri, Amalfi, Rufalo, etc. Unbelievable. It is a challenge to not go back there. Had to hit Rome just because.

That's what I'm up against. Viking tour maybe??

Posted by
3789 posts

Ah, so things will be cooling down on the Normandy coast, so I would actually suggest visiting Normandy then Loire ending up in Paris.
I saw Normandy with a friend who has a summer house there, so I wasn't paying much attention to geography, but easy to drive with little traffic even in August. If you pick up the car in Paris, then Giverney (Monet's home and garden) is enroute to Normandy.

Granville is near MSM and has a Christian Dior Museum. It was his family's home and is stunning. In summer, there are usually special exhibits, but not sure when the season ends. The town is a lovely regional type place. Long expanses of beach and if you are inclined, take the ferry to the Channel Islands. In fact, it wouldn't be such a bad place to set routes - depending on where you really want to travel in Normandy. MSM to the west and Bayeaux to the east. Normandy beaches are just beyond Bayeaux. If the D-Day beaches are the draw, Deauville is a quaint town that was an old resort town. Further away from MSM, but doable.
I haven't been to Loire, but I would stick a pin in the middle of the castle region and call that home. Looks like Tours for central, but Villandry or Amboise may have more atmospheric lodgings. It is also wine region, so if harvest or celebrations are of interest, check those dates to determine when to go and how long to stay for. I would be inclined to spend most time there, myself.

Posted by
3562 posts

We loved our 25 night trip to France last Sept.
Paris- Normandy- stayed in Bayeux, then MSM, then Loire Valley- Amboise- the Loire was actually our least favorite segment of the trip. Then we headed to Sarlat where we spent 5 nights-LOVED the Dordogne area, so much to see and do here. Then headed to Provence for 6 nights- St-Remy and Arles before ending with 4 nights in Nice.

Looks like you have 13 nights
4 Paris
3 or 4 Normandy/MSM area
If Loire entices you- then 2 or 3 nights there I guess- I would chose Dordogne over this area unless visiting chateaux is high on your list.
Maybe end in Lyon and fly home from there? Or Bordeaux?

Posted by
5745 posts

Arrive on Sept 18th, leave Oct 1.

Trip is 12 full, usable days.

Posted by
21289 posts

I actively dislike most castle/palace interiors, so no help from me on the Loire Valley. But I can suggest a few places with picturesque architecture that might be a hit with your wife.

Rouen is a good-sized place that unfortunately took a heavy hit during the war, but they've done a fabulous job of restoring/rebuilding the historic area. It's more or less on the way to Bayeux. There were a good many other tourists in town when I was there in June or July 2017, but they were mostly concentrated in a couple of spots. As I wandered the streets full of half-timbered buildings, I was often alone. Rouen is and feels like a city, albeit a very pretty one.

I liked both Deauville and Cabourg, but they might not be right for you wife if she prefers towns with older architecture.

Fougeres and Vitre are smaller than Rouen and really lovely spots roughly south of Mont-Saint-Michel. I was amazed at how few other tourists I encountered there. I thought they were charming. (I suggest Googling for photos.) Also in that area but either on or near the coast, you have the much more touristy options of Saint-Malo, Dinard and Dinan. On top of MSM that might well be way too many touristy places for your wife, but that issue aside, they are architecturally gorgeous, and there's plenty to keep you busy in that area for 4 to 6 days without going beyond the eastern edge of Brittany. I stayed in Saint-Malo to see Dinard and Dinan and the city of Rennes (handsome historic district) to see Fougeres and Vitre.

If you're interested in the D-Day sites, I highly, highly recommend taking a one-day van tour rather than trying some sort of do-it-yourself approach. Most of the tours originate from Bayeux, and you travel in a small group. With a professional driver/guide you can be sure of not wasting time getting lost and being given information to help you understand what you are seeing. I don't often take day-tours, but I was really glad I had made the decision to do so, because I would otherwise have been bored looking at sand and chunks of concrete. If you primarily want to visit WWII-related museums, that's a different matter.

Posted by
11292 posts

It sounds like a big part of what made the last trip a hit was the fact that you spent much of it NOT based in a city. So, you may want to spend most of your France visit outside of Paris, and only end with a few days in Paris. You may even want to focus all your time on Normandy and the Loire (you won't run out of things to see on a short trip like yours), and only use an airport hotel the last night, and not see Paris at all on this trip.

I can already hear the screaming - "how can you visit France and not see Paris?" It's easy - just see other places. Paris will still be there next time, and if you like this trip, there will be a next time. Or maybe you just aren't as interested in Paris as in other kinds of places, and that's OK too.

Posted by
1549 posts

We spent so weeks in France last Ctober 4-15 and weather was fabulous. (Burgundy, Ruean, Loire, Chamonix.) Big circle around Paris as we’d been there before and we’re traveling mst of the trip with my brother and sister-in-law.

We love to travel (and now live) away from big cities. Based on your comments, we may be similar (loved our week in a farmhouse in Tuscany, loved our 5 nghrs in Sorrento.

The highlight of our recent trip was spending 3 nights in Arromanches. Hotel room faced the water and the swings in the tide were fascinating along with the WWII history. Good base with a car for all the d-day sights. We spent two nights in Ruean, but 1 full day.

I personally was not impressed with Mont St Michele, too touristy and thought the night we spent off the island was a wasted night. My husband really liked it. In hindsight we could have done a day trip from Arromanches.

In the Loire, we spent 1 night at an impressive Chateau for a splurge. Next two nights in Abroise.

If you are interested in any if our accommodations let me know and I’ll look them up.

Posted by
5745 posts

I personally was not impressed with Mont St Michele, too touristy and thought the night we spent off the island was a wasted night

MSM is at it's absolute worst and most touristy during the day, it's best in the late afternoon/evening and early morning, when those crowds of tourists are gone. The solution is simple: Don't be there from 9 am to 4 or 5 pm, and most of all, sleep on the Mont, so you can easily enjoy the place without all the tourist crowds and when it's magical.

Posted by
42 posts

Karen, Arromanches seems like a good base for us rather than Bayeux? My wife likes water views. Can you recomend a place to stay?

Posted by
42 posts

Thank you all for all the good information. Trip starting to shape up. Definitely finishing up in Paris for 4 days. Have to get there. Then to Normandy with either a base at Bayeux or as Karen recommends Arromanches.

Seems like some ambivalence about the Loire valley. We were looking for a place that mimics Tuscany countryside. Should I consider elsewhere? Farmhouse B and B and spend a week driving around enjoying the sites of ????? wine tasting??

Thank you

Posted by
42 posts

Accraven
Thanks for the other choices. Checking them out. What is the must place??

Posted by
42 posts

Well, I'm not going to detail where you might go instead of Normandy and the Loire valley right now. However, I don't think those two will come close to matching Tuscany and the Amalfi coast.
If interested in an alternative itinerary that's going to be quite memorable, please post your interest below.

You have my interest.

Posted by
7691 posts

If you,re going to be there second part of September, I,d suggest going down to Provence. Easy to get to Avignon on the TGV, then you can pick up a rental car and enjoy the villages and countryside.

Posted by
335 posts

I'm voting for the Dordogne. We spent a wonderful week there last June. Easily could of spent much longer. My wife was on the fence about going to France as well. But the Dordogne with its beautiful villages and enchanting river won her over. We would love to retire there. Tons of castles and amazing places to stay. We even did an early morning hot air ballon ride. We drove from Paris down there because of the rail issues last year. We took two days driving down. We returned via Bordeaux on the TGV. We stayed near the town of La Rouqe-Gageac in a manor house called the Malatrie. Outstanding stay. http://www.chambresdhotes-lamalartrie.com/en/
I'm a fan of smaller villages. So many things to do or not to do in that wonderful part of the world. She enjoyed France of so much we are headed to Provence this June via Barcelona. Happy planning

Posted by
1842 posts

That's what I'm up against. Viking tour maybe??

You don't mean a Viking River Cruise do you?

Posted by
21289 posts

I don't think any place is a "must". To me it's about what I feel like doing on each individual trip; I always seek variety and have a problem spending much time in places totally jam-packed with tourists as only tiny little overrun towns can be. As the trip begins to come together, I attempt to pick places that fit together logistically so I don't go hopscotching all over the place, skipping places that are probably as nice as the ones I'm going to. I will absolutely choose places that, in a vacuum, I might rate #1, #4 and #8 rather than #1, #2 and #3 if the first set makes more sense geographically.

France is fabulous. As long as you pay attention to you own preferences (which seem to include limited time in big cities), you are going to have a great time. You can drive yourself nuts trying to pick "the best" when "the best" is pretty much impossible to define.

Posted by
28087 posts

I often prefer to return to places I love rather than trying to find that elsewhere... I'd return to Tuscany - maybe somewhere slightly different - and Amalfi.

Posted by
42 posts

You don't mean a Viking River Cruise do you?

Yes looking at a river cruise. Lyon to Provence?

Posted by
42 posts

Richard/Andrew
We're flying in and out of Paris. The area of Dordogne looks great but to far from Paris to go back and forth. We need to stay further north in Normandy or the coastal areas as someone else pointed out? Saint Malo or the islands?

maybe do a southern run next time.

Posted by
3789 posts

The Viking cruise - Lyon to Avingon is a Sept 22 departure, so cuts into your dates for Paris or Northern France. Also, I see it has 3 days in Lyon? Hardly seems worth the cruise...but, that's just my opinion. Too bad the Paris and Normandy cruise is sold out for September. The Bordeaux to Bordeaux Sept 21 start date could be interesting, but would shorten your Paris visit or again, make Normandy fairly impossible unless you do one overnight.

Posted by
1842 posts

You don't mean a Viking River Cruise do you?
Yes looking at a river cruise. Lyon to Provence?

From what I’m reading from you, I don’t think a VRC would be a good fit.

We had some lifelong friends ask us to join them on a Rhine cruise a few years ago. We went in July after doing our own trip to Tuscany the December before. We had fun with our friends and Viking did a good job, but I really didn’t like the trip.

Everything revolves around the meals. No tours start until after breakfast. When we travel independently, we’re out the door 1 to 2 hours earlier. Then the tour finishes up to get you back to the boat by lunch. For example, I was really looking forward to seeing the Black Forest. It was 45 minutes on the bus to what is essentially a tourist trap. We had just over an hour before we had to leave to get back to the boat for lunch.

The same thing happens in the afternoon, with some days cut short for the boat to leave for the next stop.

We paid extra for a room with a little balcony. At most stops we were tied up with another Viking ship and our view was the cabin on the other ship.

If you watch Masterpiece Theater you see those excellently produced commercials for Viking. Too bad it’s almost all fantasy. They show 2 or 3 upscale couples having an intimate experience at a vineyard or other setting. The reality is you will be there with 100 or so of your shipmates and at least a few will be loud and boorish.

BTW, the VRC cost us almost 3times as much for the same length of time as our independent trip to Tuscany.

Posted by
70 posts

Rent a car and take the Loire River tour: Chinon, Blas, Amboise, Chambourd. If you hustle and get out of bed you can get in two chateaus a day.

Posted by
7691 posts

Here’s the thing: the speed of the TGV means that you can be in Provence in about the same time you can drive to Normandy. From what you’ve described about what your wife liked about Tuscany, I think she’d much prefer Provence.

Posted by
1821 posts

Based on what you liked about Italy...take the fast train to Provence. Rent a car in avignon and stay in st. Remy. You're welcome.

Posted by
38 posts

I agree 100% with Andrew. We took a trip to various areas in France last year, including Normandy, MSM, the Loire Valley and the Dordogne Valley. In hindsight, I was glad that we had ordered our trip the way we did. While we enjoyed the Loire Valley and Normandy while we were there, once we got to the Dordogne (stayed in a gite in St Vincent de Cosse), it took our breath away. The other areas would have paled in comparison had we done our trip backwards. We checked out prehistoric caves, visited picturesque towns on market day, picnicked by the river on food bought fresh at the markets, saw wonderful troglodyte structures...and we are planning another trip to the area for next summer. Can't get enough of it!

Posted by
1133 posts

I have to vote with the Dordogne group.

If you are looking for an area close-ish to Paris, train to Bordeaux and rent a car for the Dordogne.

And the Malartrie is fabulous !

For me, this would be an amazing Tuscan comparison without going as far as the Tarn or Luberon....

Posted by
3239 posts

Florence is my favorite place I've ever been and I'm not a Francophile. But I loved our visit to Chenenceau and am now planning to spend some more time in the Loire valley.

Posted by
1549 posts

We stayed at Hotel De La Marine in Arromanches. €96/night in Oct- booked directly with hotel 3 nights before stay, booked 2 nights, added 3rd night.

In Loire our Splurge was Chateau de Rochecotte €146.50 (booking.com night before our stay)

Amboise- Le Clos D’Amboise - (booked morning of on booking.com €114)

Since we were traveling with our chocolate lab, we may have had slightly fewer options, but all three places were great for the price and locations could not have been better.

Posted by
8394 posts

All the areas suggested are fantastic. I have to respond though to some of the negative comments about Normandy and the Loire Valley... i adore them both, they are as wonderful and spectacular as anywhere else in France imo.
That said, you’ve gotten great advice, now you just have to choose.
I suggest watching videos on YouTube of these areas, and specific towns and villages so you can see them which can help in deciding. A RIck Steves France map opened and in front of you also helps while watching the videos. That’s how we choose.

And David is right about Mont St Michel, only be there after 4:00 ish and leave by 11:00 ish next day. Stay on MSM, not nearby. It is an amazing place and very worth it if you do it this way.
Stay up late and walk the island, then again early the next morning. It is magical.

Posted by
8394 posts

You might also consider Burgundy... charming villages, beautiful scenery, vineyards, and Beaune is a wonderful town with a great outdoor market.

Do you have Rick Steves France guidebook? I recommend it. He describes all these areas of France and what he considers worth seeing.

Re: Chenonceau in the Loire Valley... my favorite chateau of all.

Also, Bayeux, in Normandy, makes a great base and is a very walkable, charming, small town. Best WWII museum, imo, is there.

Posted by
317 posts

I second Andrew's recommendations! We visited Cahors, Domme, Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, and La Roque-Gageac with friends who live in the region. They were so happy to share such special villages with us - and each village was breathtakingly beautiful. We walked along the Lot River to reach Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, through fields and under soaring cliffs. Now we want to explore more of these regions of France! In La Roque-Gageac, we saw people canoeing on the river, and I wished we'd had time to do that as well.

We've been to Paris several times, and I've been to Florence a couple of times, and loved them both. But making time to get out of the big cities and see marvels in the countryside is definitely worth the time, in my opinion. It's a totally different experience.

Laurie

Posted by
1133 posts

Well said andrew.reis !

And add in the Tarn, Luberon, and Vaucluse....if these are regions.....

Posted by
243 posts

I would suggest as another poster said to watch some videos and see which areas appeal the most to you. Why did Tuscany appeal to you so much?? I have not been to MSM but spent time in Normandy, Provence, Dordogne, and Loire. I thoroughly enjoyed each area but for different reasons. Each area has their charm and you should see if the charms coincide with activities and sights that are important to you. If WWII sites/history or prehistoric caves are important, then your decision is easy. If chateaux and Chinon wines are important, then another easy choice.

Have fun planning this.