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Ideas for 3-4 days in France (or thereabouts) with my two teenage sons?

Hi, everyone. I wonder if you might have recommendations on where to go / what to do with my two teenage sons (ages 14 and 17) if I have 3-4 days with them in France (or in a country nearby).

Basically, the situation is this: We're in London for a few days to see a few things and connect with friends, and then we have 3-4 days to "kill" between July 9 or 10 and July 13, when we need to arrive in Paris for a work arrangement that I have for several weeks.

So, we'll see plenty of Paris, and we'll also get an opportunity to see Normandy as part of my work trip.

But is there a region of France where it would be good to spend 3-4 days with my boys? On a previous trip, we spent some time in Aix-en-Provence and saw Pont du Gard, Arles, and Les Baux (all wonderful!). I'm interested in having us explore a different part.

Of note: we don't necessarily need to go from London to France — we could fly to Portugal or Switzerland or somewhere else instead — but, with only 3-4 days, it seems like a low-cost flight to France makes the most sense. We would rent a car for a few days, then take a train to Paris on July 13.

Some of my ideas thus far:

  • go to the World War I trenches and related sites in that area

  • find castles to visit (recommendations on particular sites and regions?)

  • go to Nice for the sun and sand for a few days, and a chance to see Monaco as well (though is that area too pricey?)

  • go to Carcassonne to see the castle and explore that region

Thanks for whatever recommendations you might have!

Basque Country! Visit tiny Andorra and do a beginner via ferrata - rock climbing aided by iron ladders mounted onto the rocks. Guided tours are available for all experience levels. Both the Spanish & French sides of Basque Country are gorgeous, and have great food. Visit San Sebastián on the Spanish side (also called Donostia in Basque language). The head over to France to St Jean de Luz & Biarritz for perfect beaches and Basque architecture.

Posted by
27407 posts

I don't think the Riviera necessarily has to be too expensive. You can explore hotel options (and also see some apartments) on Nice is probably the most convenient place to stay, and it has a lot of hotels, so it's not the most expensive. Unfortunately, Nice is not one of the places in France you can reach from Paris in just 2 hours or so; the fastest train routing takes 5 hr. 40 min. On the inbound leg you can get around that problem by flying from London to Nice, but you'll still need to get back to Paris for your work activities.

My first thought, though, was Alsace. Having been part of Germany in the past, it has a different look from other parts of France, and there are food differences as well. There are very fast trains from Paris to Strasbourg (taking about 1 hr. 45 min.), and there might be flights from London. Colmar is a very pretty (but notably touristy) smaller city that's well located for visiting cute wine villages in the area--which might not hold much interest for your teenagers, but I believe there are castles of some sort.

The big-deal castle in Alsace is Château du Haut-Koenigsbourg. I haven't been there, but I've read (here and elsewhere) that it's very interesting. Nearby (and also not visited by me) is Montagne des Singes (Monkey Mountain), with 200+ Barbary apes.

The area around Carcassonne (Languedoc) is interesting, and you could hop over to the coast if beach time was a must. But do check the transportation schedules to be sure travel time won't cut too deeply into your "3-4 days". That's not long at all. France is a huge country; unless you head to a destination with TGV service from Paris, trying to cross France will chew up a lot of time.

Posted by
14 posts

Years ago, we traveled with our teens. Biking in the Loire Valley was a great way to keep them active & engaged. Bike, eat, visit a castle, bike, use the pool, eat & drink wine(!) and call it a day.

Posted by
2029 posts

Your destination options will mainly depend on what accommodation will remain available.

France is the number one tourist destination in the world, in July and August most of the best accommodations close to places to visit have already been booked for months

Don't wait to make a choice.

Note that there are low cost flights from London Stansted to Carcassonne airport, and also to Brive la Gaillarde airport which is just North of the Dordogne, in the Lot valley.

Posted by
27407 posts

The Dordogne has a lot to recommend it for a family willing to rent a car, but--as with Carcassonne--check your options for transportation back to Paris even if you can get a good flight to Brive-la-Gaillarde. The train from Sarlat-la-Caneda (a popular Dordogne destination) to Paris would take at least 4 hr. 49 min.

JoLui is right about accommodations. I'd look at for the exact nights you'd need to stay, to be sure there's still reasonable availability in the places you're considering. A lot of local residents will be traveling all over France at the same time you'll be there.

Posted by
7447 posts

If you’re able to get away on the weekends during your work weeks, you could see the closer locations, such as taking the train to Tours and seeing some of the chateaus, taking the train to Chartres to see the gorgeous cathedral and cute town and taking the train to Strasbourg.

The place that takes longer for transportation is going to Nice, so I would pick that location for your 3-4 days. Fly to Nice and then take the train back to Paris afterwards. I spent five nights in Nice and saw so much, including the fun Italian area of Menton’s town. Everything is easy to reach (& inexpensive) by train or bus in that area, so I wouldn’t want a car there.

Hopefully you can spend a night in one of the cities in France that have the night light & music shows on the front side of the cathedrals! I saw them in Rouen, Chartres, Le Mans and Nancy.

Posted by
10344 posts

You can also fly to Bergerac from London and rent a car to drive to wherever you want to visit in the Dordogne. This area has been a very popular place for English people to live, so there are many air connections. You could then drive two hours back to Bordeaux train station to take the high-speed train for two hours to get back to Paris