Our first trip to France (there are 3 of us traveling) and needing some input re: itinerary and logistics. We are planning to go at the end of August/early September for approximately 12-13 nights. Wish list as follows: Paris (day trips to Giverny and Versailles), Normandy (D-day beaches tour), Mont St. Michel, Loire Valley chateaux, Provence and French Riviera. Open to renting a car and/or taking train as necessary to maximize time. Prefer to avoid 1-night stays if possible. Any input from this experienced group is appreciated.
That is a lot for 12 - 13 nights. Paris alone is good for 4 nights - add 2 for Versailles & Giverny. I would then rent a car and split the next 6 nights Normandy/Mont St. Michel/Loire. Save the south for another trip.
That itinerary sounds like an episode of Amazing Race. Way too ambitious for my taste but I understand the desire to see as much as possible. Experience has taught me to do less and enjoy more so I suggest Paris and Provence for a first time trip to France. That would give you enough time to see Giverny and Versailles while in Paris (with two trips so far I have yet to visit either but I try and avoid crowded attractions that require a full day).
Paris and Provence are logistically easy via the TGV. Renting a car in Provence and driving with a GPS is a pleasure.
My travel in France is pretty limited, but I think that is a lot for 12-13 nights. You could easily spend 4 or 5 nights in Paris, 4 in Provence, a couple in the French Riviera and be fine. Or switch Mont St. MIchel and Loire for Provence and the Riviera. Whatever your decide, I would suggest putting your time in Paris at the end of your trip, when you have recovered a bit from jet lag. More of the things you will likely do in Paris require getting there early to avoid lines.
With 13 nights ...
Firstly start in Paris for 4 nights
Hire car: Rouen > Bayeux (2nts) > Mont St Michel (1nt) > Loire Valley (2nts)
Train: Return to Paris then TGV south to Provence (Arles) or Cote d'Azur (Nice) for 4 nights
Fly out of Marseille or Nice
An easier, less stressful option would be ...
Start in Paris for 5 nights (make a long day excursion to eitherNormandy D-Day beaches, or Loire Valley chateaux)
TGV south to Provence (Arles) for 4 nights
TGV to Cote d'Azur (Nice) for 4 nights
Fly out of Nice
With the time you have you should IMHO pick two. I'd do Normandy and Paris and leave the rest for another time. Here is what we did with 5 nights in Normandy:
And Paris for a first time really needs a week. But if you want to cover more ground then spend at least 5 or 6 nights in Paris and split the rest between Normandy and the Loire. There just isn't time for Provence and the Riviera on so short a trip. You could head for Tours on arrival; spend the night and then pick up a car and spend a couple of days visiting chateaux. Then head for Normandy stopping at Giverny, Rouen, Mont Ste. Michel and on to Bayeux and the beaches then Honfleur and Etretat and on to Paris where you drop the car and finish the trip.
Agree with most of the others that it's too much for 12 days. I would pick either Paris/Normandy/Loire or Paris/Provence/Riviera. My personal choice would be to spend 5-6 nights in Paris with a day trip to Versailles, then rent car and drive to Bayeux stopping in Giverny on the way (rather than doing it as a day trip from Paris), then do Mont St Michel as a day trip from Bayeux. Or, if you want, spend one night on the Mont before proceeding to Loire Valley , see the chateaux then drop the car and take the train back to Paris to fly home.
Paris - 5-6 nights
Bayeux - 2-3 nights
Amboise (or another Loire Valley town, perhaps Blois) - 3 nights