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Land at CDG, driving to Bruges, looking for good family place to stay for a night

My wife, 8 year old daughter, and I are looking for a nice village maybe an hour north of Charles de Gaulle airport. Would like suggestions on where we can stay on the way to Bruges after a very long travel day from the United States.

Posted by
2487 posts

Closer by you might like Compiège or Noyon. Not really villages, but small cities.

Posted by
784 posts

We stayed in Senlis, which is just north of CDG near Chantilly our first night after arriving from the US in route to Colmar, so this would work for Bruges as well. I believe we stayed at an Ibis, which was reasonably priced with a nice breakfast buffet.

Posted by
40 posts

Thank you for the suggestion. After looking at your suggestion. We thought Senlis looked like the best option as well.

Posted by
8173 posts

I was just going to suggest Senlis. You really don't want to be driving distance after an overnight flight. Senlis is 20 or 30 miles north of the airport, a charming medieval town and about 3 hours from Bruges. It is a great place to spend a day just wandering around. Here was our day trip from Paris years ago:
https://janettravels.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/moyen-age-visit-to-senlis/
Being outside in the sun is a good thing to help reset the jet lag and so if you have decent weather exploring an old town like this will be perfect.

Posted by
40 posts

Thank you for your website link. Very helpful with all of your beautiful pictures.

Posted by
9786 posts

But . . why driving to Bruges rather than taking the train? Is it because of your planned activities once you're there?

Posted by
2008 posts

Yes think about Kim’s idea, best mode of tranport remains the train to Bruges. Highspeed to Brussels, from there final leg to Bruges, within 3½ hours, some even 3 hours you can’t beat that with a car. Btw the freeway to your destination is long and boring.

Unless you have a good reason to use a car you can also think about staying in Pierrefonds, with it’s a bit Cinderella style castle, your daughter will love it (but will be for Chantilly too). Just follow the N2 east of CDG to Soissons.

Posted by
8173 posts

Having driven from Bruges to Paris stopping at Reims and Chantilly, I would agree that this is about the least scenic stretch of France. Unless there is a great reason to have a car, taking the Thalys to Brussels and then the local on to Bruges is a great idea. Thalys tickets are about a third the price of full price tickets if you book 3 mos out.

Posted by
40 posts

Thank you all for the wonderful insight!

Unfortunately we've already booked the rental car, but the thought was to move about freely for a couple of days. I also thought it might be nice to get a view of the French countryside, but from what you are all saying, I thought wrong :(

I have found one piece of good news in that I can use the car to Westvleteren for supposedly the best beer in the world.

  • For those of your that have taken the drive, have any of you used credit cards to pay the toll booths? I have a new credit card with a chip and I hope that will be good enough.
Posted by
2008 posts

With the car, depending where you will stay on the way to Bruges you can visit the cathedral of Amiens and the main square of Arras is worth a stop or at least nice for drinking coffee. Be aware that the N25 road between the two places is very busy with trucks avoiding the toll roads. In case you decide to stay in Pierrefonds you can make a detour to Laon, nice historical town with a cathedral on a hilltop. In Amiens you can visit the house of Jules Verne.

The abbey with brewery near Westvleteren is not open to public, but there is a bar/restaurant with car parc functions a bit like a visitor centre. Can’t guarantee, I think you can get there some bottles of beer. Worth to visit is nearby Ypres, the Flanders Fields Museum is interesting, but know that the experience can be too moving for your daughter. In case you take the A25 direction Dunkerque, hilltown Kassel is not directly a top destination, nevertheless nice for a detour.

I always pay cash on toll roads, so no advice from me about using credit cards, but nevertheless it always makes sense having some coins/banknotes with you in case of a problem.

Posted by
8173 posts

I have not used credit cards for tolls on this particular stretch but have driven from Paris to the Dordogne then along the Riviera and Ardeche and back through Burgundy to Paris. What we found last fall is that our US chip/sig credit card did not work on many of the toll booths in central France south of Paris and some of those did not have coin/cash or manned booths. Most had cash lanes. I always travel with a little purse full of one and two Euro pieces and small bills. At one booth there was no way to pay without an Ezypass or European credit card. We tried all three of our credit cards. We pushed the emergency button and a disembodied voice told us we could put the exact amount in a box next to the credit card slot. This small lidded box did not have the capacity to read money. Our toll was something like 19.20 and we just put a 20 in and the guy lifted the gate.

In the south of France we had no trouble getting the booths to take our credit card which was lucky as there are stretches along the Cote d'Azure where there are toll booths every 5 or 10 km.

The toll booths are run by a variety of companies -- our cards worked fine in those run by Vinci but not by those run by whomever managed the booths further north. I don't know who runs the booths in Normandy and to the east on your route or if they take chip and pin cards. Be well prepared with coins and bills just in case. We only had the one station where there was no normal way for us to pay.

Posted by
40 posts

IJzendijke,
Thank you again for your wonderful insight. We found a nice place right outside of Senlis for our trip up. We will most likely take your advice and stop in Arras on the way up. Our trip back to Paris will only consist of a stop in Westvleteren. I will hope for they have beer in stock for me. From there, I think it will be best to get back to Paris before it gets too late, so we will try to travel the straightest and fastest route back.

In your opinion, does it make sense to try and avoid the toll roads and use the local roads? Or does that cause a lot added time and trouble?

Janettravels44,
Thanks for sharing your experience with the credit card. I'm trying to avoid buying Euros at the ridiculous rate being charged by the banks and AMEX, but it looks like it can't be avoided. I'm going to call my credit card company and get the scoop on the chip and pin scheme.

Posted by
7504 posts

Mark, you might want to read some other threads on this board about ATM cards and getting Euros from your American bank account. I opened an account at a Credit Union when Bank of America started charging 3% for withdrawals of my own cash. You will certainly encounter places that do not accept credit cards, not only on toll roads. You can't buy a roll and coffee with a credit card in Europe like you can in L.A. and NYC.

On the subject of local roads, my wife used to drive between Antwerp and Turnhout (in fairness, busier than Brugge ... ) and the road was always bumper to bumper. She had an Avis mirror ripped off by a motorcyclist's arm (he kept on going .) I suggest that you rent the smallest car you are comfortable with. You will be shocked how small the parking stalls (including in garages) are, and how narrow the parking aisle are. A car is certainly a liability in Brugge, and I would imagine, any medieval town. You also want mirrors that fold in for narrow arches and turns. Can you drive a standard shift? The only automatic I was offered (at Frankfurt airport, not a backwater ... ) was a massive business van, so I turned it down and took a Compact with a standard transmission.

Posted by
2008 posts

The toll section between Paris and Lille begins just north of Senlis and ends justs north with the crossing with the A26 near Arras. Toll costs will be around €16. You can cut a few corners like leaving the A1 near Bapaume for driving to Arras, but will save just a few euro’s. Long ago I have driven the whole stretch avoiding the A1, but that’s once and never again, way too much time consuming :) . So prefer paying toll. However you can try and take driving north the D1017 from Senlis for a while till you have enough. As far as I know the A25 is toll free.

There are a few freeway service stations with restaurants and shops along toll roads to take a break, the French call them aires, like Aire de Ressons-Est and Aire d’Assevilliers Est along the A1. In case driving back Sunday late afternoon and evening you will join serious traffic jams near Paris, so be aware of that.

Posted by
40 posts

IJzendijke,

I think I will stay on the A1. Your advice about the rest stops is very good. I will probably use them a lot. Dank je!

Wyckoff,

Appreciate the warnings about the cars. I do know how to drive manual and we did get a smaller car. It looks to be the size of a Honda Civic. I got the Avis insurance for piece of mind and after reading your comments, it makes me feel a bit better about spending the extra $30.

On the money, I'm glad you mentioned how you can't really use them to buy coffee and smaller items. I'm so used to paying for the smallest things on credit card, that I forget that it might be different in other parts of the world. I contacted my bank after reading some threads and though it is expensive, I'm buying Euros directly from them. Right now, the Euro is at 1.17 and my bank is selling them to me for 1.22. Oh well, better than the 3% foreign atm surcharge + $5 atm fee + the 5% premium to the FX rate. Thank you for the advice!

Posted by
2916 posts

Senlis is a good choice for the first night. We've stayed there several times on our first night before flying out of CDG, including last year when we stayed at Fab House in the center of town. It was a terrific place. As to getting money, unless you have already committed to getting euros from your bank, you could wait until you get to Senlis and use one of the bank ATMs there.

Posted by
1005 posts

As far as using your credit card on the autoroute--always use the cash lanes marked with a green arrow. Be aware that there is no toll booth with a person taking your money--it's all automated. The machines that take cash also have a credit card slot, so you can try yours and maybe it will work (know your PIN). If not, you'll have cash as a backup. Machines take €20 bills or smaller and coins.

I also think Senlis is a great place for the night and has a spectacular cathedral.

Posted by
40 posts

Thanks T. That's a good piece of advice on the toll lane.