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Normandy - Loire Valley - Paris

Hi - it's our first time to France and we have 7 days / 6 nights to explore. Ideally we'd fly into Paris, rent a car and head straight to Normandy spending 1 night, 2 days visiting D Day Beaches and Mt St Michel. After Mt St Michel drive to Loire Valley for 2 nights and lastly Paris for 3 nights. Is it enough time to cover all of those places? Any suggested itineraries for that amount of time? Thank you!

Posted by
1538 posts

You won't have 2 full days to do the DDAY beaches and Mon St Michel. By the time you get to Bayeux or Caen, you'll be lucky to have 1 1/2 days. If you're coming off an overnight flight from North America, I also don't recommend driving on that first day. Jet lag can be as bad as impaired driving. Why not take the train and rent a car when you get to Normandy?

2 nights in the Loire only allows one day to explore a fairly large region with many Chateaux and vineyards. You would only have enough time to see 2, maybe 3 castles. If you do this, I'd recommend turning in your rental at the St Pierre des Corps station in Tours and taking the train back to Paris.

Personally I think you're stretching yourself too thin. In this short a time, I'd recommend either just staying in Paris for the whole time (trust me you won't run out of things to see and do), or pick ONE other place to visit.

Posted by
3826 posts

I agree with CJean. Remember, 2-nights = 1 unbroken day, with maybe some sightseeing crammed in on the travel day.

Any chance you could add a few days to your trip? It might make all the difference.

Posted by
11132 posts

I agree; less is more. And if you're seriously interested in the D-Day sites, you'd see and understand much more by taking a one-day van tour rather than driving around by yourselves. Most of the tours start at Bayeux, accessible by train from Paris.

Posted by
326 posts

Jet lagged driving IS impaired driving IMO. I agree with the other posters that it's best not to drive any distance on the day you arrive.
Even if you do, your first day will be largely used up just getting to Normandy. It'll take anywhere from 3+ to 4 hours to drive to Caen (near D Day beaches), depending on route. That's after you actually start driving. Before that you have to allow some time to get from the plane into your car, with potential delays along the way (passport officials, baggage claim, rental desk, and all those other pesky travellers trying to do the same as you).
Keeping in mind what's important to you, that leaves you a few hours see the D Day beaches. (On the map. it makes more sense to do D Day first, then Mt St Michel.) The invasion beaches are not a single stop. They are strung out over quite a distance. A previous poster estimated 45 minutes driving time just between Omaha and Utah beaches (not including any time experiencing them or getting to and from them).
The next day, you'd see the other (Mont St Michel ?) before you headed for the Loire Valley (which part?). If you want to actually walk on the Mont, rather than look at it from onshore, that involves parking, taking a tram, walking some, and then doing the same in reverse. Remember you started the day driving from Caen and are going to still drive to the Loire Valley. So yes, you could literally see both the invasion beaches and the Mont, but not spend a lot of time at either. No one but you can judge how satisfying that will be. Could be that you really want to just see them and not spend a lot of time.
Now you'd have the remainder of the day to reach someplace in the Loire valle. If it's Amboise, that's 3 1/2 to 4 hours. It sounds doubtful to me that you could visit a chateau that day, but you could see one or two the following (full) day. The drive back to Paris is 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
So your itinerary is do-able but sounds hurried to some of us. I am a strong supporter of you getting to design your own trip even if some of us might do it differently.

Posted by
43 posts

Very good advice above. I hope you'll listen to it.

If this is your first time in Paris, you can easily spend the entire 6 nights there and not run out of things to do. Easily, and very very pleasantly.

So we just did what you're wanting to do, and our trip was 19 nights. Ten of which were in Paris, and it was far from our first time in Paris. If you must do this, eliminate either the Loire or Normandy. You simply can't do both in this time frame. At least not well. You'll spend most of the time traveling around instead of seeing anything properly.

Which leads me to another point. If you do decide to do Normandy, take the train. It is considerably faster than driving. The train Paris to Bayeux is only around 2 hours. Then either rent a car there or take one of the local tours that includes transportation. I would do a minimum of two nights in Normandy if you want to have a proper, unrushed tour of the landing sector. Even then you won't see everything, but you'll see quite a bit and allow it the time it deserves. If you also want to see Mont St. Michel, you should add another night. We did the Mont quite comfortably in four hours on a late afternoon. But you still have to get there, which is a good 90 minutes and then get back. So the better part of another day is gone. Perhaps you can spend a third night on the Mont, and take the train back to Paris from Rennes. That could work. At least you're not doubling back.

In my opinion, Normandy may be worth leaving Paris for a while on your first trip if you don't think you'll be back. The Loire, while beautiful, not nearly as worth it. You can see Chateaux closer to Paris. Normandy is unique.

Posted by
3309 posts

Limit your trip to Paris, Versailles, and possibly one more nearby attraction, like Giverny if that interests you. We didn't go to Normandy until our eighth trip to France. (But in fairness, none of our parents or uncles served the U.S. armed forces IN Europe.)

We did combine the Loire with Normandy and MSM. But that was a two-week trip, taking the TGV directly to St. Pierre des Corps from the airport upon arrival, and driving (for hours and hours over various days) in a clockwise semicircle. We returned the car inside Paris, which was a horrible mistake. But we wanted to spend a few nights there before flying home.

Posted by
1707 posts

I agree that is way too much. For a start, I would cut back on the days for Paris to the minimum that works with flight arrangements. We essentially did what you did over 13 days. You will be spending a lot of time on the road. If you believe you will be back to France you can explore more of Paris on future trip(s) since that may likely be an airport you'd use for future travel. I like to feel like I've covered an area pretty well. If you get out to Normandy and you feel like you've missed a lot, you'd probably want to go back which may not be the most efficient way to manage your travels.

Posted by
2 posts

There's so much to do and cover! Thank you for the advice above. it's very helpful and a lot to think about. Much appreciated!

Posted by
100 posts

Related Q for me someday...would staying in Paris for about 6-7 days and doing four group day bus trips suffice for Normandy and Loire Valley (and Versailles, and the Champagne region)...or should one pack up and move for any? thanks.

Posted by
11132 posts

I can only address the Normandy question: Assuming you're thinking of a D-Day tour, it's far better to spend one or two nights in Bayeux so you can take a full-day van tour from that city. You'd take the train from Paris to Bayeux the day before the tour; that's faster than making the trek by bus. All of that bus time really cuts into the Normandy sightseeing time when you take a bus tour from Paris. Another consideration is that Normandy has lots of other points of interest in addition to the D-Day sights. You could spend extra days there seeing places like Honfleur and Deauville and
Perhaps taking in one or more of the WW II museums in the area. A car is great for seeing things other than the D-Day sites (where I think a guide is really helpful), but with a bit of patience you can see a lot of places via public transportation.

Actually, I do have a coment about Versailles: That is regularly done as a day-trip from Paris. You don't need to take a bus tour; by all reports it's easy enough to manage on your own, except that the crowds have gotten very heavy. However, folks have made positive comments about the King's Apartment tour offered by the site itself.

Posted by
3309 posts

We went to Versailles on the RER on our first trip to Paris. This is entirely appropriate as an independent day trip, and should not be done on an organized bus tour. It's worth most of the day, and does not require a professional guide. Enjoyment of the fabulous and famous gardens depends on the weather.

My feeling is that Normandy, the Loire, and MSM are too far for effective visits by group bus tour. I do not slam group bus tours. We used several on our visit to Lisbon. I didn't want to drive until we rented a car for more northerly traveling in Portugal. We saw as many as four sites in one long day (often getting back at 7:30), with no annoying navigation errors, and a pretty good guide. I'm just saying that your list doesn't match what the tours can provide at their best.

Our host, Rick, has a saying, "Assume you'll return." You can't see a whole country in 7 days, and you will harm your experience by pretending that you can.