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Two week family vacation in France - need suggestions

My wife and i are planning a two week vacation in France in mid-July, 2016. We are taking our three kids (ages 19, 17 and 12). We will be arriving into Paris, and plan on spending 5-6 days there (this includes a day-trip to Normandy and a half-day trip to Versailles). From there, we are trying to figure out how to best spend the 8-9 remaining days. We definitely want to visit Provence. How many days do you recommend there? In addition, we are trying to decide between Burgandy, Alps and the Riviera. I think we will only have time for one of these. Any suggestions?

Thanks!

Posted by
14263 posts

I am not the expert on this, but I just did a Rick Steves tour that included a day tour of the Normandy Beaches. I would use a couple of your extra nights staying at least 2 nights in Bayeux, first to see the tapestry on the afternoon you arrive, then to give yourselves a full day to do the tour of the battlefields. There are companies that will pick you up in Bayeux. This was a very powerful and interesting day that I am sure you and the kids will get a lot out of but you need at least a full day on the ground there without travel time back and forth to Paris.

The guide we had was Dale Booth Normandy Tours and he was beyond excellent.

Posted by
2261 posts

Lance, France is a huge country, nearly as big as Texas. I think you should make a choice- Normandy or Provence and the south. You could easily fill 3-4 days in Provence with plenty to see on the way, if that's a priority don't put yourself in a time bind. With 5-6 days including these two day trips, you'll leave a lot unseen in Paris. Normandy is 2.5-3 hours from Paris, that is not an ideal day trip, especially with five of you.

My two cents.

Posted by
23471 posts

A day trip to Normandy is nearly impossible to do using public transit and nearly impossible to do using your own car. The beaches and areas behind the beachers are massive covering more than 50 miles from east to west. If you are just planning to hit one or two sites, it is not worth the expensive and effort. You should really plan a min of one night, preferably two in that area. That is where I would use some of your extra time. For there you could move south into the Lorie valley to visit some of the castles in the valley.

Posted by
5059 posts

Totally agree with Pam. Stay 2 nights in Bayeux. See the tapestry the day you arrive. You really need at least a full day to do the tour of the beaches and battlefields. It is definitely a very powerful and interesting experience. The kids really need to visit the places that were so very pivotal in modern history. It is really hard to do justice to those places with just a day trip from Paris, but there are companies that start tours in Bayeux that should be should work well.

Posted by
4600 posts

Rick has a recommended see the whole darned country in 2 weeks itinerary in his book. See if it works for you. Adjust as needed. You also need input from the kids so they aren't bored to death and a total pill.

Posted by
7175 posts

I really think Normandy requires more than a day excursion from Paris, so would consider leaving it for another time. Chartres and Rouen+Giverny are much easier days from Paris. Versailles is a long day, and especially so with July crowds.

Being a family I would be searching out apartments ... www.vrbo.com

Paris (6 nights) - look around Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, the Marais.
Provence (4 nights) - Arles is central for excursions to Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon, Les Baux, St Remy
Cote d'Azur (4 nights) - Antibes with its sandy beach for excursions to Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo.
Fly out of Nice.

Posted by
2261 posts

"You also need input from the kids so they aren't bored to death"

+1

Agree with phred here, get them involved in planning so everyone has some buy-in to the itinerary.

Posted by
621 posts

I highly recommend the alps.

I've never been to Normandy, so I can't comment on that.

Note that if you end your trip in Annecy and fly home from Geneva it is only an hour drive to the airport.

-Matt

Posted by
4105 posts

A great adventure.

5 nites Paris with a day trip to Versailles

TGV train to Avignon 3H47m. 3 nites in this area. Use any of the villages listed as a base

Rent a car for ease of reaching the villages.

Arles, Nimes, Pont du Gard, L'Isle-sur -la-Sorgue, Gordes, Rousillion, Apt.

3 nites Provence

2 nites Nice

This site has been a wealth of info for this area http://www.beyond.fr/villages/index.html

Get the kids involved in the process, it makes them better travelers if they're well informed.

Have a fun time planning and a great trip.

Posted by
10358 posts

Gerri is correct to tell you to go beyond Avignon in July. The whole area is crowded in July, but Avignon has a very important theater festival going on the whole month. Accommodations there are scarce.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks so much for the great feedback. It looks like I was trying to squeeze too much in :)

Based on the feedback, I am going to plan on six full days (6 nights) in Paris and stay two nights in Normandy so that we don't rush in and out of there in a day and miss how meaningful and powerful it really is.

We are thinking of doing Burgandy instead of the Riveria, so I'm thinking:

Day 1: 9:00am Paris arrival from US
Day 2: Paris
Day 3: Paris
Day 4: Paris (day trip to Versailles)
Day 5: Paris
Day 6: Paris
Day 7: train to Normandy / Bayeux (2.5 hours), visit the tapestry in Normandy
Day 8: full day tour of Normandy (Dale Booth Normandy tours)
Day 9: train Bayeux to Dijon (5 hours), get a car, 45 minute drive to Beaune (Burgandy)
Day 10: visit Burgandy vineyards
Day 11: Drive to Provence (Avignon or St. Remy), visit more vineyards and other sites along the way.
Day 12: Provence
Day 13: Provence
Day 14: Provence
Day 15: commute to Nice airport, travel back to US

Is this more reasonable, or am I still insane? :-)

Thanks for the help.

Posted by
24 posts

Does anybody have any hotels to recommend in Burgandy? We are looking for something quaint, preferably within walking distance to restaurants.

Thanks!

Posted by
855 posts

I think you have a pretty good plan now. I see 2, possibly 3, flaws that you might be able to work around:

  1. The first flaw is that Day 9 is essentially a travel day. On a short trip, I try to avoid travel days. You could change your itinerary to go to Bayeux first, then back to Paris. That way on Day 9 you would only a few hours of travel. If you could avoid Paris on Day 9 with your original plan, it's not horrible, but if you have to change train stations, it doesn't sound like a relaxing day.

  2. Why fly out of Nice? Could you fly from Marseilles or Lyon? Or take the TGV back to Paris and fly from CDG? Nice would not be convenient from the towns you mentioned.

  3. Make sure the day you travel from Beaune to Provence is not a heavy travel day, e.g, Friday afternoon, esp of a long weekend. I made the mistake of arriving at CDG on the Friday of a long summer weekend and taking the train to Avignon was expensive and crowded. If I had realized it was Pentecost weekend, I would have flown a day earlier.

Sounds like a fun trip. One more thought, will your kids enjoy a vineyard day? There are plenty of other things to do -- so you could still enjoy a day in Beaune. I know my kids would not be thrilled to spend a day on wine when they don't drink wine.

We stayed in a RS recommended hotel in Semur-en-Auxois and it was very nice, sort of hard to find (I got directions at the tourist office) but was charming and had a number of restaurants within walking distance, including a fine pizza restaurant which was a hit with the kids.

Posted by
7175 posts

With three kids (ages 19, 17 and 12) I really think you should throw it open to them.
Are they history buffs interested in WWII battlefields?
Normandy beaches are usually quite bleak and windswept.

Posted by
4105 posts

Lance,

Keep in mind that you arrive in France
a day later. You loose a day going over

Posted by
302 posts

Lance,

We took our three sons, at the time aged 13, 11 and 9 to Paris for an August trip. We flew into Paris, stayed a couple nights at Hotel Le Regent in the 6th - lots of small shops, including a little bakery the boys would go to each day with a Euro for a fresh croissant. Dinner was at small restaurants, walkable, usually split three or four prie fix dinners for the five of us, then stopped for a treat on way back to hotel. I digress.

We trained to Bayeux from Paris, walked into town with our rolling suitcases (a ten minute walk, I believe, very easy), and stayed at Le Tardif, a guesthouse in the center of Bayeux. (No idea how much it is now, our trip was a few years ago. However, we really enjoyed it.)

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187181-d603119-Reviews-Hotel_Tardif_Noble_Guesthouse-Bayeux_Calvados_Basse_Normandie_Normandy.html

We did NOT see the tapestry - my kids just liked wandering around. On day two in Bayeux, we did a day long tour of Normandy, ticking all the boxes: Landing beaches, cemeteries, pillboxes, etc. My one recommendation would be to do the splurge on a guide with a car - worth every cent (and we have send three other families to her over the last years). Truly, we saw the backroads sights, as I type this I can still remember how amazing it all was.

For our last stop we did Amboise, and stayed at a place near the castle. This was fairy tale stuff, and a Rick Steves pick city.

Have a great time!

Posted by
302 posts

Ooops, PS, Lance, I agree with posters on giving Normandy enough time to really see it. We stayed two nights. I don't know about your kids, but the more I schedule, the more we risk cranky teen syndrome - ugh. Two nights in Normandy was a good pace for them, using the full day to see the cool stuff. TIP: Watch the Band of Brothers episodes (I think the one on the Normandy landing is "Day of Days"?) Especially your 19 year old - many of our U.S. Soldiers were the same age.

Posted by
15684 posts

Having recently spent time there, I'd vote for Burgundy and Alsace. If you can't fly home from Strasbourg, there are fast trains back to Paris or to Frankfurt. Buy train tickets as soon as they go on sale (120 days ahead, usually) for big savings. With a car, you can stay in small towns or villages. Book early (4-6 months ahead) for good prices. There's lots to see.