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Plan B - ideas for trip in France

Hi fellow travelers! I really want to make up for lost travel time, if possible, in 2022. I’m signed up for a multi-country RS tour but also want to have a 1-country solo itinerary ready to go if decide to change plans for June.

Here’s itineraries from my past trips to France. All of them were fantastic, but I especially liked the locations & variety in the last one.

I love smaller cities, medieval buildings, churches, museums, early-morning photography as a town awakes, pastry classes or city food tours & beautiful gardens - less interested in hiking scenery. I only travel by train, pack very light and moving locations often feeds my adventurous side & energizes me.

What 5-7 places would you recommend? The lists below are where I’ve traveled already.

  1. Paris, Normandy Beach, Caen, Avignon (w/ Nimes & Pont du Gard), Luberon villages, Carcassonne, Toulouse

  2. Paris

  3. Paris

  4. (From Italy) - Annecy, Lyon, Paris

  5. Rouen, Chartres, Le Mans, Angers, Tours, Paris, Nice & French Riviera, Nancy, Colmar

Posted by
162 posts

I agree with Mary Pat, but the Dordogne isn't easy with public transportation. Alsace is lovely with Strasbourg as a base, getting to the wine villages will require patience but possible. Perhaps your visit to Colmar was enough. Provence is limited without a car, but you could link together the major hubs of Arles, Avignon, Aix. Crack open the RS guide and see what strikes your fancy.

Posted by
4455 posts

Schteffi, I tend to really like the less touristy locations that aren’t in the RS guidebook - Le Mans & Angers, for instance were wonderful! Then a few popular ones round out a trip nicely!

Posted by
6478 posts

Check out Brittany, there's very little of it in RS's books - except for Mont St Michel, St Malo, and Dinan. There's much more to Brittany than those three places that are closest to Normandy, which he covers more extensively. I loved my time in Brittany. I stayed in two different areas - at a B&B outside of Dol de Bretagne (with access to St Malo, Dinan, Rennes, etc), and at another B&B in Plougonven near Morlaix in the Finistere department of Brittany. I had a car so not sure how good the train connections are in the Finistere but they are good around Rennes, Dol d Bretagne, etc. But worth checking into.

Posted by
21050 posts

How many nights?

I enjoyed traveling through western France in 2019, basing in Bayonne, Bordeaux, Bergerac, Perigueux, Brive-la-Gaillarde, Cahors, Limoges, Poitiers, La Rochelle, Quimper, Vannes and Nantes. I didn't encounter many other American tourists.

Elsewhere in France I enjoyed Troyes (remarkably few foreign tourists) and Rennes (with side trips to Vitre and Fougere). There are also some interesting possibilities down in Languedoc and Occitanie--places like Pezenas, Ceret, Perpignan and Albi.

Posted by
4455 posts

Hi Acraven, that’s the beauty of being retired! I don’t have a specific number of nights. I usually stay for three weeks unless my husband would like to join me, also, for part of it. Since I wasn’t able to travel in 2020 and cancelled my solo trip last September, I’m ready to spend more time in Europe when I’m there again.

Posted by
4455 posts

Thank you, MaryPat, Schteffi, Nancy & Acraven! I am looking up your recommended towns this morning for ambiance, photo options, museums and distance between locations by public transportation. Already seeing some nice ones!

Posted by
8396 posts

Southern Languedoc : Nîmes, Montpellier, Sète, Carcassonne, Narbonne, Collioure, day trips to Uzès and Pont du Gard.

Posted by
4455 posts

I’m especially interested in any itineraries where you traveled by train - thank you!

Posted by
658 posts

While the Normandy beaches are some of my favorite places on Earth to visit (8 times in the past 13 years), I would not recommend them if your goal is to travel solely by train. The Normandy beaches are very widely spread out, with very minimal public transportation. It is 45 miles as the crow flies from Utah Beach to Sword beach, but you won't be flying like a crow between them. All are far from the main auto routes. Plus there are many, many other sights related to the battle of Normandy that are scattered throughout the area. It is a place that really cries for a car. Even a tour guide would only get you to the few "must sees," and you would miss everything else.

Posted by
21050 posts

Jean, I always use public transportation, so the places I listed in my earlier response can be considered for a car-less trip.

Posted by
4455 posts

Acraven, thank you! It’s hard to start looking at wonderful locations, get excited, and then later find out a car is necessary. 😉

Posted by
8396 posts

What I outlined is by train, except Uzès. Pont du Gard is a bus day trip from Nîmes.

Posted by
191 posts

Jean, I second kerouac2. You would like the towns he mentioned. The Luxembourg American Cemetery is the resting place for Gen. George S. Patton. If you are flying home from Paris, a stop in Reims (pronounced "Rance") on the way back is worth a stop for its cathedral and tours of local champagne caves.

Posted by
4455 posts

Thank you for those ideas, kerouac2. I hadn’t even considered Luxembourg. We really enjoyed Nancy when we stayed there for three nights in 2019. The light show in the evening was one of the best ones during that trip, and the art nouveau architecture and the grand buildings that reminded us of Vienna were wonderful. We also noticed how cordial everyone was to us in Nancy.

Posted by
659 posts

Jean,

We were in Aix-en-Provence for a month this past September. We arrived from Paris via TGV and never had a car. The bus from their very efficient bus depot easily went to:

Avignon
L’Isle sur la Sourgue
Marseilles
Lourmarin
And many surrounding small villages and towns

Probably due to Covid travel but there were very few American tourists, some French and some Germans. Not crowded at all. Very safe. I would go back in a hot minute!

Posted by
21 posts

On a drive back from Normandy we stopped in Falaise, birthplace of William the conqueror, and Tours. I’m booked for a month in France in May but my next trip will be in that area.

Posted by
21050 posts

There's a newish museum in Falaise focusing on the civilian experience during the war. It covers Resistance activities as well. It's modern and English-accessible.

Posted by
4455 posts

CaliMom, a month in France sounds wonderful! Thanks everyone for these additional ideas! Lots to consider.