Paris to NW France by public transportation

After nearly a decade travelling together, DH and I are starting to recognize our travelling patterns. Here are a few that may impact this trip:
1) We travel much slower than Rick Steves usually suggests
2) We like getting started early in the morning and rarely are out late at night
3) We prefer public transportation
4) I experience a lot of anxiety moving our bags from point A to point B and checking in and out of places on vacation. I prefer as few "home bases" as possible on each trip.

Which leads me to our next adventure- France 2015. It's my husband's first time there and we plan to spend about 2 weeks in France. So, this is where I'm struggling to figure out what towns we should stay in and the best itinerary for those who aren't particularly fond of renting a car. Originally I thought we would go to Paris for nearly a week and then hop around Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley (Giverny, DDay sites, Honfleur, Bayeux, Mt St Michel and the castles/vineyards of the Loire). In reviewing Rick Steves 2014 France guide it seems that many of these trips (by public transportation) go back and forth through Paris and that perhaps there isn't a good home base (besides Paris) for this. Should we reconsider and either do just Paris+day trips (Versailles, Chartres, Reims, Giverny for example)? Or Paris+Loire Valley? Could Bayeux be a reasonable second home base?

Anyone done Normandy/Brittany/Loire by public transportation or are we looking at lots of 1 day stops carting our luggage around to do all these places?

Any ideas or suggestions are welcome...Thanks

Posted by LeeB.
211 posts

Jenny: Last year I based myself in Rennes to do day trips to Mont St. Michel, Nantes, St. Malo and Dinan via bus and train. Then I moved to Tours for day trips via train to Orleans, Angers, Chinon, Blois and Amboise. I also took a tour van trip one day to four chateaus.

Posted by T.
Seattle, WA, US
439 posts

Having been to all three provinces recently, I think you can make certain towns a home base. For Normandy, I'd choose Bayeux. For Brittany (and Mont St. Michel) I'd try Rennes. For the Loire, I'd go with Ambroise. If you don't want to rent a car, I would definitely sign up for a tour of the D-Day Beaches -- you will waste a lot of time trying to do them via public transport. I would also take advantage of the shuttle services in the Loire that can get you to the chateaux efficiently--Rick describes several alternatives in his book. In both Bayeux and Amboise, you might want to reconsider and rent a car for a day. You can get an early start and beat the tour buses (particularly important at a chateau like Chenonceau) and a car lets you see what interests you the most.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
9896 posts

To connect a few home bases: Some train departures from Bayeux to Amboise (for the Loire) do connect back through Paris and require changing stations, too, but other departures don't go via Paris, e.g., about 8:39 Bayeux-Caen-St.Pierre des Corps-Amboise. Same kind of choices if you travel from Mont St Michel to Amboise (or one less connection if you stay in Tours or St.Pierre des Corps. How to Look Up Train Schedules Online gives you the DB train schedule link and tips for using it.

Posted by Jennifer
13 posts

I think we'll try to base in Paris and Bayeux with day trips from both places to reduce the number of times we check in/out of hotels and move luggage around with us. I don't mind a few hours on a bus or train with the money belt and a day pack in order to use public transportation. Thank you for the suggestions.