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Overwhelmed and Cramming too much in -- Paris/Normandy/Loire/Provence

I could really use a bit of help -- my husband and I are going to France in July for our tenth anniversary -- I lived in France as a child (I haven't been back since 1996), and I so want to show him so many wonderful places where I have fond memories...I may make him hate France by the end of it all.

We are starting our time with 7 days in Paris. This part, I'm not too worried about, although I'm trying to decide if a day trip to Versailles is worth it for him.

This is where things go off the rails: Please help with a reality check. Here's my itinerary for the rest of our time. Please bear in mind, we are from Texas, so driving four hours is just a nice afternoon trip -- that's sometimes the part we love the most, so some of our car riding may be surprising.

Day 7 -- leave Paris early by train to Normandy (not sure where yet) join a half-day D-Day beach tour. Stay in a small town, either Saint Malo or a small town around there.
Day 8 -- drive to Mont St. Michel and tour the town, stay that night on MSM
Day 9 -- travel early AM to the Loire Valley, staying either in Amboise or Blois, tour one Chateau
Day 10 -- Tour 2 Chateaux -- still deciding, but our front-runners right now are Chenonceau (my all-time favorite), Blois (a family favorite, along with Leonardo Da Vinci's house) and *Cheverny. We may switch one out for Chambord, but it's just so huge.
If my hubby is having castle burnout, we may choose to go to Gien instead.
Day 11 -- Travel to Vienne (the town I lived in) and tour the town/see the Roman ruins/ampitheatre -- stay possibly in a vineyard along the Rhone
Day 12 -- Travel to Nimes, visit Pont Du Gard, spend the night
Day 13 -- Nimes/Travel to Nice mid-day, spend the night
Day 14 -- Nice/afternoon trip to Monaco timed to go to dinner and the Casino, spend the night in Nice
Day 15 -- fly out of Nice, ending our trip.

Please tell me if I'm being ridiculous. I know this isn't a deep dive into some of these cities, which may sound sacrilegious, but I'm trying to give him a broad view. We have been saving for this trip and talking about it for years, and I want him to see how beautiful and varied the country is and why I love and miss it so much.

Any help is so greatly appreciated!

Posted by
27267 posts

I really, really think that pace is a mistake. I can understand why you're doing it, but I would not enjoy it. I think the time in Paris sounds great, but you do realize that you do not have seven days in Paris if you're leaving the city early on Day 7, right? And are you counting your arrival day as Day 1? It's not a full day, and it may be mostly a wandering-around/trying to stay awake day. So I'm guessing that you have five days and some jetlagged hours in Paris.

If you're interested enough in the D-day sites to detour there rather than going straight to Mont-St. Michel, I feel like it's a mistake to settle for a half-day tour. I took a full day tour (really liked it), so I'm just guessing about the contents of the half-day tour. I assume those go to Sainte-Mere-Eglise, among other places. That's at least a 45-minute drive from Bayeux. Not so bad if you have a full day, but that's a good chunk out of a half-day tour.

Are you sure your husband is going to enjoy the chateaux? I've found I am totally bored by palaces and things of that ilk. (I'm female, and I like pretty things--I guess just not pretty things from some periods.)

Posted by
2466 posts

I'm not sure about driving 4 hours - even though you are from Texas - is worth it.

I'd stay in a hotel for 1 night to get over your jet-lag, then check out, and enjoy Paris for awhile.

I think you are cramming too much in. I think you will be unpacking and packing too much, and you will be too tired to appreciate the country, even though you miss it so much. Your husband may come to hate France, at this breakneck speed. And I wouldn't blame him!

To be going after 1996 is totally different. You have to be prepared for a lot of crowds, and waiting in lines.
You should go to the official website to see if you can get advance tickets.

Posted by
6113 posts

I too agree that you are trying to fit far too much into your timeframe.

Personally, I would drop the visit to MSM and add this time to Normandy. MSM doesn't have the same magical appeal since they built a road bridge over the tidal causeway a few years ago. Alternatively, just head straight to the Loire after Paris and aim for 3 or ideally 2 bases for your second week, which you will enjoy more than changing hotel every day.

Posted by
43 posts

test. I've now tried to respond to this query three times and it's not posting.

Okay. So let's try again:

This is an awful lot for 15 days. By way of comparison, our upcoming trip is 16 days (15 1/2 days on the ground. Fly home day 17). We are planning Paris 2 nights, Normandy (Rouen and Bayeux) 3 nights, Saint Malo 2 nights, Loire (Amboise and Chartres) 4 nights, and Paris 5 nights. And you know what? I'm worried that is too much crammed in. Because like you, I've seen it all before and I am dying to show it to my husband on our special anniversary (20th). I totally get it. We too will have one hellish day of driving from Saint Malo to the Loire Valley and it's fine, we do it all the time too. Laughed at your Texas, I went to college there, I get that too.

But note, we have only one long leg of driving. The rest, while a lot of driving still, will be broken up every hour or two. We have a full day American D-Day sites tour scheduled. Not a half. And again guess what? We still won't see everything. We hope to get the Tapestry, British, and German cemeteries in on our own, and we won't see Arromanches and several other things. We will see MSM, but quickly. Saint Malo will be a blip too. See if we love it so we can one day plan an entire trip to Brittany.

So yes, show him Paris and let him fall in love with Paris. That alone is enough really. But since you have so much time, maybe do what we're doing, just Normandy and Loire. Or, for sentimental reasons like showing him where you lived, do the Loire and then the South. Or do just Paris and the South. Fly back from Nice. Great plan.

My DH would be miserable if I ran him ragged like this. He wouldn't have any fun at all. I want him to love France, he does so far. Your will too.

PS: Isn't da Vinci's house in Amboise? Clos de Luce? I hope so because that's on my itinerary so either I'm right or very confused. LOL. And I'm with you on Chenonceau. It's gorgeous and we're planning an entire day for that one.

Don't worry, yes you've got too much but you can rejigger this into a beautiful trip. Just eliminate something, and keep the rest.

Posted by
4132 posts

Okay, you've got two weeks, the first of which is spent in Paris. Then a week of madness. Which you know is a problem, just read the title of your post.

I think you can sprint for a few days at a time, as you do in Normandy. But it's not sustainable.

Think how much better your trip would be if it were JUST Normandy and the Loire (after Paris). Or JUST Provence and cote d'Azure. You might further enrich things by stealing a day or even two from Paris. Your husband will see so much more if you slow down.

I realize these are not fun choices, but honesty will pay dividends. You will return to France, right?

Posted by
2565 posts

6 days in Paris is fine. What you have planned for the next week is impossible without adding a 3rd week to your time in France.

I assume that the Vienne to which you are referring is Vienne, Isère and not to Vienne the department in Aquitaine. If it is the former it´s a good distance out of your way. If it´s the latter, you could include it easily in your time in the Loire Valley.

But your overall itinerary for basically two weeks should be limited to Paris, Normandy, and the Loire Valley.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you, everyone. Yes, I know the itinerary is scary. We're probably eliminating Nimes, to give more breathing room and eliminate another hotel switch. The Hubs really wants to go to Normandy and MSM, so we're planning to still do this. We may still do some castles in the Loire, but we may cut down here as well.

Yes, Leonardo Da Vinci's home is in Amboise, but growing up, we would go to the castle in Blois, and then swing over to Amboise to go to his house -- the castle in Amboise just wasn't as grand, and we hit the high points there. Sorry for causing confusion there. My husband loves architecture and the history of it, so that's why I think he could do the castles, but I also want to expose him to some of the Roman architecture as well.

The Vienne where I lived is Vienne, Isere. It's just 30 minutes from Lyon, and if you're coming from Clermont-Ferrand, you actually pass through Vienne to go south. There is a really beautiful amphitheater and Roman temple in the city, as well as incredible ruins from a Roman city across the river. The town is smaller, with less tourist traffic, so we may just opt for this to get our roman exposure and cut Nimes.

As to returning, this is probably our once in a lifetime trip. There's a reason it's taken us 10 years to do this, and with our positions, taking such a long trip is a luxury we can't do often, so we are trying to push through as much as possible. I will definitely take your advice and trim where we can to save on the unpacking/repacking.

I really appreciate the feedback. Thank you!

Posted by
692 posts

I would definitely cut out the diversion to the Pont du Gard on this trip and add the extra day in Vienne and the surrounding towns, even a Lyon daytrip. I'd then make a day long journey via the countryside or mid journey stop in Avignon for the architecture (watch your luggage). As you likely know, Monaco is more of a checklist item -- I'd make sure to go to Eze. I'd add some beach chill time as well, you could use some down time after that week.

Posted by
615 posts

I would cut the Paris time in half, eliminate Nice and fly home from Marseille or Lyon. Use the time saved to add time in the other spots.

I found msm to be wonderful last summer.

Posted by
2565 posts

For people who love architecture, I would skip Versailles and go to Vaux le Vicomte. Versailles has become a mad house of people making it difficult to really enjoy. The same architects who built Versailles, first built Vaux le Vicomte and it is splendid.

In the Loire Valley, the underrated Château Blois is magnificent as is Chambord. Standing in the courtyard at Blois, one can vividly see and enjoy 3 distinct architectural styles each developed over decades. The double helix staircase inspired by Leonardo at Chambord is worth the trip all on its own.

Le Clos Lucé in Amboise is not really worth the trip in my opinion. There is nothing of his in the house. There are other venues with far more compelling histories and you do not have a great deal of time.

Posted by
129 posts

Great suggestions above and mine is a bit off topic but suggest you consider taking carryon luggage only. Less time at airports, less packing and unpacking at your various hotels and generally, less “stuff” to lug around. I manage 6 weeks in Europe with a carryon and a large tote which is my “purse”. (holds a smaller purse along with other essentials). May help! Have fun

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you everyone. We have firmed up our plans -- I appreciate especially the tip about Versailles. I was leaning that direction, and I think we'll definitely spend that full day in Paris instead.

After a lot of your feedback, I had a pretty frank conversation with the Hubs, and he listed his musts -- of course, they're on diametrically opposite sides of France -- he wants to see Normandy (although he said everything he really wants to see is included in the half-day Overlord tour), he wants to spend the night on MSM -- he hates crowds, so the thought of being able to walk around at night after the crowds leave was appealing to him, and he wants to go to Monaco. He's a veteran, and one of the major ways he got through his deployment was playing poker with his buddies, so going to the Casino is a big deal for him. Thanks for the caution about time spent there -- we plan to do a nice dinner in Monaco and dress appropriately for the casino and that's about it. The majority of our time will be spent in Nice. I may see if I can talk him into a quick stop in Eze.

We've nixed Nimes, and we're going to spend a little longer in Normandy and Loire, so that we have less hotels and more time between road trips. A few of you have mentioned carry-on luggage -- our plan is actually to take a big suitcase, a smaller suitcase and a collapsible, small duffle bag that will fold up and fit in one of the suitcases. We are renting a car after Paris, so on the days like Normandy and MSM, we'll just carry the smaller duffle and leave the bigger suitcases in the trunk.

I understand that it sounds like a trip down memory lane for me -- but when I asked him and told him he needs to give me his priorities for this trip, he told me that his biggest priority is seeing what is meaningful to me. He wants to see France through my experiences, and that's why the trip looks the way it does.

Thank you all for your thoughtful input and for taking the time to help us out. Your insight and recommendations have significantly shaped our plans, and I think it will greatly improve our time there.

Posted by
2466 posts

I would caution you about hauling big luggage. You might not be able to fit it in the car and hide it sufficiently, if you had to park somewhere outside.
I would opt for smaller luggage, myself.

Posted by
1156 posts

Any suitcase is difficult on Mont-Saint-Michel. The bus drops you a distance from the Mont, and once you go through the gate, there is one, narrow, cobble-stoned lane leading uphill to wherever your lodging is. I watched a young, healthy looking couple struggle with normal sized rolling luggage on that street. At the very least, leave the bulk of your stuff hidden in your car, and pack only your valuables and whatever clothes you need for the night in something you can comfortably carry.
btw, get the access code for the preferred parking lot at MSM ahead of time. When you arrive at the parking area, you will need it to get into the close parking lot (reserved for those with reservations). And you won't want to try to find it when the attendant is waiving you and every car behind you towards the lots that are much farther away.

Posted by
2565 posts

our plan is actually to take a big suitcase, a smaller suitcase and a collapsible, small duffle bag that will fold up and fit in one of the suitcases.

You might want to rethink luggage. Suitcases bigger than 22" are really too big. They´re heavy to lift, will not easily fit into rental cars, which often have smaller trunks than those to which you may be accustomed, and are overall unnecessary. In July you will not need heavy sweaters and coats so you can easily travel with much less. It just takes organization and planning.

Posted by
12172 posts

The only comment I'd add is I think you can get a good taste of Normandy and Loire in a week. It's not really long enough to see both Provence and Cote d'Azur. If you have to fly out of Nice, drop Normandy and Loire and maybe at least one day from Paris to give you more time for the south. I spent four nights in both Provence and Cote d'Azur. I felt I could have spent more time in both but I definitely missed a lot of sights I would have otherwise liked to visit in Provence.

Posted by
2466 posts

I wouldn't suggest leaving your clothes in your car, when it is exposed - even if you pack them.
I also agree that hauling your stuff up and down the Mont is to be avoided.
You will probably wear t-shirts and shorts or maybe some light jeans.

Posted by
15 posts

Lyon has a casino, I believe, at the Hilton. My husband isn't a gambler, but he won ninety euros, then stopped. I loved Vienne and Lyon. I think you might cut out the Pont du Gard and Nimes, a day or two in Paris, and maybe a chateau. My husband and I did one or two nights in places and it was fine. We were in our thirties, then. I love Paris, but I think that it can be a bit hectic and I would cut it down to four days if your husband really wants to see Normandy and you really want to go back to Vienne.

Posted by
27267 posts

There's a casino in Deauville and/or in Cabourg, up in Normandy, too. I haven't been in either of those or in the one in Monte Carlo, so I don't know how they compare.

Posted by
99 posts

I am following this thread because I hope to plan a trip to Normandy/Loire Valley in September (with a little Paris of course!) and I wanted to give input on the traveling lite thread. We always travel with just carryons on our European trips but on our most recent trip to Italy this past Fall although the size was okay they made us check because of weight which was the first time I ran into this. Our carryons were under 50lbs but apparently their weight restriction was far below this. Has anyone run into this?

Posted by
27267 posts

I always check my bag, but the weight of carry-ons is frequently discussed here. I've seen references to limits as low as 8 kg. (17.6 lb.) on a budget carrier. I wouldn't be surprised if most airlines have some sort of limit. You'd need to Google for carry-on weight limits for your specific airlines. If it has only happened to you once, I think you have been lucky!

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks for the info on casinos! I just never really paid attention to casinos while we lived there -- I didn't realize they were prevalent.

We have definitely nixed Nimes from our agenda, and the small duffel bag will be our "overnighter" option when we just want to carry essentials inside and leave our heavy suitcase in the trunk. We're springing for a nicer rental car that has an actual trunk, so we know this will be a safer option for our stuff and won't leave us too exhausted by the end.

Lostinspace, so excited for you to be going to Normandy and the Loire Valley! Like they said -- check specifically with your carriers -- I once had a flight attendant on a budget airline tell me that my purse counted as my carry-on. It was a bigger purse, but it definitely was still considered purse size -- they made me check my actual carry-on. Just something to keep in mind depending on who you are flying.

Where all are you planning to go on your trip?