Normandy to Languedoc

Bonjour -- Here's one aspect of the travel planning I'm puzzling through. (The set up: We are taking our first trip to France next month. We have three-weeks total (20 days & 20 nights, plus departure morning), including a full week (Sat-Sat) in a rented house in south central Languedoc, east of Carcassone. We fly into CDG, and start the trip with five nights in Paris. We leave Paris on Tuesday morning, heading to Normandy. Current thinking is to rent a car (either in Paris or Bayeux) for sightseeing (Giverny, Honfleur, Rouen, Caen, D-Day Beaches, Bayeux.) We have a room booked for Thursday night on Mont St-Michel.)

SO, the question is: what's the optimum way of getting from MSM on Friday morning to our town east of Carcassone by mid-day on Saturday? Planes, trains, automobiles . . . We are leaning towards surface transportation, and while it would be great to see the chateaux of the Loire or the caves of Dordogne, it doesn't seem like we have quite enough time for that, given our pace in Normandy. Google Maps shows two primary driving routes (westerly through Nantes and Bordeau, 8+ hours; or easterly through Tours and Limoges, 9+ hours). As for trains, travel down the west side seems rather indirect. I'm thinking it might be better to head back to Paris on Friday and take the TGV to Avignon, and thence to Narbonne. Or, that we might save ourselves several hours by taking a regional flight to Perpignan (presumably from Paris). Any advice would be appreciated -- thanks in advance!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

You're going to loose a heck of a lot of time changing modes of transportation and it will actually take longer.

Get the car in Paris, keep it the whole time. Take sort of what you describe as the western route, but stop in La Rochelle for the night since it'll be a real treat. You'd also have time for Fougeres that first morning. Haul tail the next morning to everwhere you're going in Lanuedoc.

Here's where you're about to screw up with your northern France thinking.

. There's only one car rental place in Bayeux and it's way the heck on the edge of town. There's several at the Caen train station.

. You can drive from Paris to Caen faster than the train can make it.

. Giverny is between Caen/Bayeux and Paris. You don't want to backtrack southward since you have so little time in Lower Normandy.

Honfleur is almost along the way, but it's an hour each way from Caen. The same time logic prevails.

. Rouen - - same as the last two. Catch it headed north.

. If you start driving early, you can hit Giverny and make it to Rouen for an early lunch - - or eat at mid-afternoon in Honfleur - - and still get to Caen/Bayeux by dark.

. With all you have on your plate, it's going to be a real bear to leave Paris early on Tuesday and chug into MSM Thursday night. You're only going to get a cursory shot at the WW II stuff, so plan that day very carefully.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1079 posts

Ed's right (as usual), might as well keep the car since you'll want it in Languedoc as well as Normandy. I also agree that you won't have time to see all the places you list in Normandy in the time you have. It'll be a blur. So I'd suggest setting some priorities there.

It seems like you have more days in your 3-week trip, after the Languedoc rental. What are your plans for that last week or so? Would it be possible to shave a couple of days off Paris at the start, spend them in Normandy, and then return to Paris after Languedoc? Or use those days for Loire and/or Dordogne on the way back north?

Posted by Reeshard
Seattle
8 posts

Thanks, Ed. Your point about mode-changing being inefficient sounds right on. I will look into a different opportunity to take a train ride. As for renting, is there a particular car rental office in Paris that is convenient to the road west (apparently, the A13)? Eurpocar, which people on this forum seem to like, has lots of options all over the city.

La Rochelle looks like a great stop on the road south (approx. 4H south of MSM). Thanks for that tip. I'm not sure about going there by way of Fougeres, though; wouldn't that add several hours of driving time, plus any time spent at the chateau? (And on the side, is Fougeres more worthy than Chambord or Chenonceaux, IYHO?)

Merci encore!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

I like walled cities and castles more than chateaux. Everybody's different.

Rent the car at Paris Nord for the easiest, fastest way out of town by a long, long shot. Anything out to the war just looks easier.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2923 posts

Fougeres is a crumbling midaeval ruin. A pleasant lunch stop enroute. Get the brut cidre with your gallettes.

Chambord and Chenonceaux are poufy Renaissance palaces. Chacun a son goute, but how do you possibly have time to see them?

In your place I'd be thinking about less, not more, especially in Normandy.

Posted by Reeshard
Seattle
8 posts

Thank you as well, Dick. I definitely agree about the need to prioritize and avoid the whirlwind tour scenario. Less is more for sure.

I didn't mention that we're traveling with friends, including several couples, so the initial list of places is a conglomerate wish-list that will be pared down to reflect reality, one way or another. Having multiple cars will also allow us to split up and regroup as desired, so we won't all necessarily do all the same things.

And yes, we will have another four nights at the end of the trip. We're still early in the process for those days, but I know heads (mine) will roll if we don't make it to Champagne. Chamonix also has its champion(s), so the trend is to return up the east side. I'm sure we will want more time in Paris too. Never enough time, right? (Also, we really can't shave days off Paris at the outset, since we're staying at a nice place with a minimum rental policy.)

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2592 posts

Agree with the others about keeping the car and driving being the most efficient use of your time and money. Usually the longer the rental period, the lower the per day price. You should try to get as far along in your trip as possible on Friday to avoid weekend traffic. You can verify the accuracy of the Google route using viamichelin.com.

FYI for future reference: Toulouse is the regional airport most people in Carcassonne use. It has car rental agencies. Yes, the most efficient train would be to return to Paris and take the TGV via Montpelier or Toulouse, and the regional train to Carcassonne. The only problem is all the car rental agencies are at the Carcassonne airport outside town. The train station is in town. Both Narbonne and Avignon are out of the way for your route.

Posted by sanderskn
San Jose, CA
324 posts

I say rent the car in Rouen or Bayeux and keep it the whole time. If you do rent a car in Paris, do it at Gare du Nord. We did that this June and drove to Normandy and it worked out well. Such a beautiful drive. Have fun!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Repeating:

There is only one out-of-the-way rental place in Bayeux.

If you rent in Rouen, Giverny is already behind you.

Posted by Reeshard
Seattle
8 posts

Merci bien, Bets. The Michelin webpage is brilliant -- instantly estimates time, distance, gas, and toll costs! Very helpful.

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
2592 posts

I'm not such a genius, Reeshard. Any of the guys could have given you the same info, as it's in the RS book, I think. Do note however, that the site will also give you names of restaurants and hotels along your route--and count a little more time if you drive like me, or less time if you drive like Ed who's a pro.

Posted by Reeshard
Seattle
8 posts

B-t-w, Ed and Adam -- a funny thing happened on the way to Fougeres. That place name doesn't appear in the index of any of several tour books, so I searched for it in Google Maps. Somehow, I ended up at "Fougeres-sur-Bievre," which is over near Amboise amongst the famous Loire chateaux. Now that I've noticed the Fougeres in Brittany, your suggestion makes a lot more sense. :-)

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Lessons learned:

It ain't all in guidebooks.

All nations have many places with close to the same name.