Northern France in 10 days

I'm traveling with my wife to France in November and would like to get a good 10-11 day overview of Northern France and Loire Valley. Was looking at flying into Paris and taking a train to Reuen, spending the night, than picking up a rent a car the next morning.

From Reuen thinking:
3 Nights Bayux (or one night Honfleur, and two in Bayux?)
2 Nights Mont St. M (on island or off?)
1 Night Dinen (is this worth it or should we just head to Lorie?)
4/5 Nights Amboise

Was thinking I could drop car in Amboise and take a train to Bordeaux or drive to Bordeaux, where we are catching a boat.
I'm open to any and suggestions. Any insights about traveling in early November? Should I book places to stay or wing it? We travel light so I'm not opposed to moving around more, but my wife hurt her back, so the longer we can stay places the better.


Posted by Ed
9110 posts

With that amount of time, Honfleur has to be a lunch stop - - or an overnight (with a late arrival) and an early departure.

One night is plenty for Mont Saint Michel - - it's tiny. Opinions vary on staying on the island, you might as well. If you want to get in the abbey, get there before it closes and you can do everything else afterwards. Mid-afternoon arrival and a first-light departure is about ideal.

Diner? Dinan? Skip it and go to St- Malo for the night - - good wall walks and much better food. St-Malo is worth whatever it takes to spend the night. Dinan is almost worth a ham sandwich.

Skipping Amoboise and the Loire since I don't like it. But you should make a couple of hour stop at Fougeres on the way down. With the night saved at MSM, you might want to give Carnac a shot on the same jaunt.

The problem with taking the train to Bordeaux is that you miss both La Rochelle and the lower Gironde estuary.

An alternative for the start is to get a car at the airport. You can drive to Rouen much faster than you can get into Paris and catch the train headed north (it takes less than two hours). Depending on your arrival time and stamina, you could polish off Rouen and make it to Honfleur (one hour) for the night. Rouen takes three hours, max, more likely two if you don't eat. One the other hand, a week there is not insufferable.

Posted by CC
Santa Rosa, CA
48 posts

I'm not sure what exactly you want to see in each of these areas, but having just returned from my first trip to France I can suggest the following:
2 nights in Bayeux - 1 full day seeing the DDay sights. I drove from Paris in the morning to Giverny to see Monet's gardens, then made it to Bayeux in the late afternoon.
1 night on Mont St Michel. That's all you need. If you can arrive mid-late afternoon and leave by 11-12 the next day, you will avoid all the crowds. I stayed on the island which made it convenient. Book your room early.
I'm not familiar with Diner.
4-5 nights in Amboise is A LOT! If you are really into seeing all the Chateau's, you can see many many in 5 days. I only stayed one night because it was raining the next day so I moved on, but still toured Chateau A'mboise, Chenonceau and Da Vinci's home at Clos Luce.
Happy travels!

Posted by Mark
Johns Island, SC
153 posts

Yes, meant Dinan.
All good suggestions thanks!
Any ideas about needing to reserve rooms in November?

Posted by Adam
2925 posts

I'd spend a night in Honfleur, if it calls to you, and I'd steal a day from the Loire to do it.

And 1 night at MSM, as Ed says, is plenty.

You might want to book your MSM room if you are staying on the island, as there are not so many of those. But you'd probably be fine even there without a reservation that time of year, and traveling without reservation would make it easier to work around the weather. (If it's stormy, wait a day for MSM.)

Other reservations only matter if you really care about room choice. eg if you must stay at the Dwight Eisenhower Suite of the Hotel des Americas, book it.

Posted by T.
Seattle, WA, US
439 posts

Just a warning that the weather can be very cold and rainy in November, so you may want to curtail outdoor activities. If I were you, I'd at least try to go to the south of France instead (or an even warmer destination) and save northern France for warmer weather.

Posted by Pissarro
Daphne, Alabama, United States
54 posts

My husband and I went on the Rick Steves Heart of France Tour in September. I wished we had more than one day in Bayeux. If you are at all interested in D-day there is enough to keep you busy for days. As for Mont St. Michel, we stayed one night on the island. There are no cars on the island so be prepared to haul your luggage from the causeway and up plenty of steps. We were able to pack an overnight bag and leave most of our stuff on the bus. November will be cold. I would rather be cold then hot!!!

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9971 posts

I agree that 4 or 5 nights in Ambiose sounds like a lot. Shaving some time from that stop would allow you to take the more leisurely driving route that Ed suggested to Bordeaux. And although Rick wouldn't make a purposeful trip to the city of Bordeaux, I'd still want to spend a day to see the highlights, while you're there.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4045 posts

I don't think 4 nights in Amboise is too much. We love Amboise and the Loire Valley. With 4 nights you actually have 3 full days and you can leisurely enjoy many chateaux, the beautiful scenic countryside, Amboise itself (a charming town) and Clos Luce, a beautiful home where Leonardo da Vinci lived.

Bayeux... needs a minimum of 3 nights imo. One full day to barely scratch the surface of the DDay sites (2 full days is much better) and one day for the town itself... also very charming. Bayeux has the best WWII museum of all imo and deserves a couple hours, and then there's the Bayeux tapestry.

Love Mont St. Michel and one night there is a great plan. I liked St. Malo a lot too so I'd follow Ed's advice on that one.