Where would you recommend going that is ~2hours via train from Paris? Some place with a few sites, but not a hectic city. After 4 days in a town we will pick up a rental car and drive towards Dijon. We will be returning from Dijon to Paris so someplace about 2-3 hours by car from that area. We have already visited much of Provence, Dijon, Beaume and Lyon. Your thoughts are appreciated.
Somewhere Loire Valley area like Loches.
Loire Valley with many chateau to chose from. Although it is easier to get around with a car
Just so many -- we really enjoyed visiting Angers and Nantes last spring -- the Machine d l'les in Nantes was fabulous. You can see snapshots of that site in my photo journal.
Thanks for the suggestions. Has anyone been to Auxerre? How about Strasburg?
I think Strasbourg would be little busier; it is the gateway to Alsace and the overhyped Colmar.
Does staying in Barr need a car to visit the sites around it? This will be our first stop after arriving in Europe and we'd prefer a town we can just wander around for a couple days without the need of a car. Thanks!
There are many options.
I have been in Auxerre a year ago and it’s lovely and liked Troyes even more, it’s bigger and has some several small museums. If both places can offer enough just to hang around for a few days is hard to say, half a day is most of the time enough for each place. For just to relax I would prefer Troyes.
You can also stay in Fontainebleau for the château there, it’s a lively nice place and you can do trips to nearby Moret-sur-Loing and Vaux le Vicomte, for the latter train to Melun and from there a taxi, maybe there is a shuttle too.
Stayed nearby Barr a few years ago, is of the radar but certainly worth to stay and Obernai is within easy reach by train. Strasbourg is to reach within an hour, on the way to it you can get of the train to visit Molsheim. The view over the Rhine Valley from Mont-Saint-Odile is stunning, you need a taxi to get there from Barr. Just an example what you can do in that part of Alsace.
We enjoyed Nancy, very art nouveau. We were there 10 days and saw only one American tourist couple. This was in September, 2007 though so who knows now. There are American Fulbright scholars teaching in the school systems in the area, however. To me, it seemed like a small Paris and by the time we left we seemed to be familiar to all the vendors in the area of our hotel. Everyone was quite friendly. Strasbourg is an easy day trip or stop on the way to Nancy.
I think Loire would be a good three day visit. You can see a couple Chateaux each day. That's plenty to see without overdosing. When I went I stayed in Amboise and Chinon. I saw Fontevraud Abbey (coming from Brittany), stayed a night in Chinon - visiting the fortress, traded my car for a bicycle and rode to Villandry then Amboise. From Amboise I rode to Chenonceau, then visited Amboise and Clos Luce.
Other good options are either Champagne, Burgundy or Alsace. All can be seen reasonably well in three driving days, probably with one night stops along the way. Of the three, three days starting in Strasbourg and ending in Colmar with stops in small towns between the two would be my recommendation. It's a fairly convenient drive from Colmar to Dijon.
If you chose Burgundy, you would essentially get an extra day finishing in Dijon. When I visited, I started with a train to Auxerre, rented a car and worked my way down to Beaune. I visited Dijon. In hindsight, I liked Dijon's center better than Beaune.