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Planning a trip to France

We plan to spend 16 days in France in early September and would like to visit the following places:

  1. We will arrive in Paris on a Sunday and will spend 6 nights there. Plan to spend one day in Versailles. We have already found a suitable hotel in Paris and are all set.

  2. we have been thinking of spending 2 day visiting Normandy and one day in St. Michel. Since we do not intend to drive, (a) what would be the best way to get to these places from Paris? (b) are 3 days enough for the visit? and (c) where would be the suitable home bases?

  3. Our next stop is the Loir. (a) Would one day be sufficient to travel here and also have enough time to see places of interest? and (b) What would be the most suitable way to travel from St. Michel to the Loir?

  4. Since we will not have enough time to see all the interesting areas in southern France, we have to optimize the remaining 6 days. (a) What would be the interesting places to visit in Dordogne, Provence, and French Riviera during this time period, and (b) the best way to get to travel to from the Loir Valley to this part of the country. we will be flying out of Nice. Thanks!

Posted by
8691 posts

I think you are trying to cover way to much ground in the time you have, and you aren't allowing for travel time. Does your 16 days include the day you arrive and the day you leave?

It's easiest to plan by how many nights you will be in a place. Two nights is one full day, 3 nights is 2 full days, etc. You have to allow a half day or more each time you change location for packing, checking out of your hotel, getting to the train station, waiting for the train, traveling, finding your new hotel, checking in...

With your above wish list you could take a train to Bayeux and spend 3 nights. I assume you want to explore D Day sights. Do an organized tour for that. I believe a hotel there has transportation to Mont St. Michel, so you could spend your second day there.

One night for the Loire? That means a few hours actually being there. Why bother?

After that you want to spend your remaining 6 nights visiting the Dordogne, Provence and the Riviera. Let's say you spend 2 nights in each place. That means one full day for each.

I think you need to be realistic about the time you actually have, because I'm sure your intention for your trip is not to spend it all on trains and in train stations. Everyone wants to see it all, but it's impossible. I always start with a wish list, then pare it down to a realistic schedule and know that someday I will return. I do commend you for spending a good amount of time in Paris. There is so much to see and you should also enjoy just being there.

Posted by
2871 posts

Bayeux would be good home base for your Normandy and MSM exploration. The Hotel Churchill has a tour of MSM so that will be helpful because you do not want to drive. The Dale Booth Normandy tours are highly recommended both by Trip Advisor and Rick Steves. The answer to question 3(a) is no. It takes around 3 hours to get from Normandy to St Pierre des Corps in the Loire Valley and that is if timing works for you to get a train that goes straight from Caen to the Loire Valley without you having to go to Paris and change there for the train to the Loire Valley. Given the train schedules, that would give you a couple of hours in the Loire to explore the area if you limit yourself to one day. MSM does not have the best train connections so if I were you and did not want to drive, I would take the Hotel Churchill's shuttle to MSM and after the MSM tour, I would go back to Bayeux on the shuttle and then plan to leave the next morning for the Loire Valley. Train service from Bayeux to the Loire would require that you change trains in Caen for the direct train that I mentioned above or depending on the timing go back to Paris to catch the train to the Loire Valley. It's all doable, of course, and is actually kind of fun, but it will probably take a bit more time than you have scheduled. For the southern part of your trip, I happen to love all of the areas that you mention but as the other responder said, you probably will not have the time. Travel time to and from the Dordogne will eat up two days -- maybe drop that region and focus on Provence and Nice. You could take a direct TGV from St. Pierre and get to Avignon in a little over 4 hours. You could get to Perigeux in the Dordogne in 4 hours from the Loire Valley but then you will need 8 hours or so to get to Provence.

Posted by
2081 posts

welcome

we have been thinking of spending 2 day visiting Normandy and one day in St. Michel. Since we do not intend to drive, (a) what would be the best way to get to these places from Paris? (b) are 3 days enough for the visit? and (c) where would be the suitable home bases?

You dont have alot of choices if you dont want to drive. The train from Paris to Bayeux is a nice ride and took me about 2h20 to get to Bayeux. Caen is about 20 minutes before. Just so you know, 2 days isnt alot of time for Normandy. But it will depend on what you want to see.

AS far as Mont Saint Michel (MSM), i took the shuttle from Bayeux to MSM. The shuttle leaves from the Hotel Churchill in Bayeux in the AM and you have several hours to wonder around MSM. Its not cheap but if you dont mind it works.

I stayed in Bayeux when i was there and would do so again since i liked the homey small town feel. Its also easy and nice to walk around and quite.

Since we will not have enough time to see all the interesting areas in southern France, we have to optimize the remaining 6 days. (a) What would be the interesting places to visit in Dordogne, Provence, and French Riviera during this time period, and (b) the best way to get to travel to from the Loir Valley to this part of the country. we will be flying out of Nice. Thanks!

I havnent been to any of the places here, yet, but.

In Dordogne i plan on going to all of the cave painting sites. i studied them in art/Architecture classes, so for me its a treat.

From what i read about the south, in Nice, there are alot of nicely preserved Roman Ruins, so thats what i would be doing down there.

the rest im sure others will give their 0.02

happy trails.

Posted by
4125 posts

This itinerary might be feasible with a car, though I would argue that the 10 days after Paris would be far from optimal. But I don't think it should be entertained without one. You'll be spending too much time waiting for and riding in buses and trains.

Think of it this way. You have picked great destinations, and are prepared to spend significant money to get there. Why shortchange them?

You can certainly get to Bayeux efficiently by train, and arrange for tours of D-Day beaches. Getting to Mont St. Michel is harder and longer, and then what?

From MSM you can return to Bayeux--probably a couple of hours each way--and thence to the Loire, a good 4 hours by train. Or you could continue on to Rennes and catch a train there, same thing. I assume you've located a tour to visit chateux. Another option is bicycles.

Getting to the Dordogne is also arduous. If you are in Amboise there is one train per day that is only 5-1/2 hours to Sarlat. You can hire a guide to see some sites, and/or take a taxi. These include the fortress towns along the river and the cave paintings. You will not be able to see the best of them, too far away over in the Lot.

The worst leg is getting to Provence from Sarlat. Your best option there is "only" 8 hours. Although the small towns will be out of reach, there is a lot you can see in Provence by rail in Arles, Avignon, Nimes & Orange.

Provence to Nice is a 3-hour trip.

So of your 10 days, 3 are essentially all travel days, with significant travel on other days as well. You hope to visit 5 destinations in that time. It's too much.

If we take Nice and no car as givens, I'd suggest dropping the Dordogne (too much of a logistical problem) and MSM (ditto) and then choose between either Loire or pared-down Normandy.

If you have other priorities I suggest rethinking your Nice departure or mode of travel or both.