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Two weeks in Europe, second week in Paris, where to go for the first week?

Hi, We arrive last week of July and will be staying in Paris the first week of August. Seeking a plan for that last week of July in the countryside, on the beach or in the mountains prior to Paris. Thinking of staying in France for simplicity & travel efficiency. Planing to travel by train & not rent a car. Moderate price range. We love to bicycle & walk & our Rick Steves guidebook assisted trip to the Cinque Terre remains a highlight of our travels, thank you. Annecy, Collioure, Menton & St Malo look interesting & I'm sure there's much more. Fellow travelers what would you do? Thanks in advance!

Posted by
10344 posts

Potentially, there is a big weather difference, even in July, between St. Malo, on the one hand, (which is on the English Channel), and Menton and Coullioure, on the Mediterranean hundreds of miles south of St. Malo.

So, St. Malo is much closer to Paris than the other two choices.

Menton is on the French Riviera, the area close in to Monaco; it's between Nice and Monaco, just before you crosss over to Monaco. Check the travel time to and from Paris.

Coullioure is as far as you can get from Paris and still be in France, on the beach.
France is roughly the size of Texas, to give you an idea of the geographic areas.
Sometimes rail lines don't pull up right to the beaches.

Posted by
4132 posts

One week, huh? Here's one idea.

Fly into Toulouse or Bordeaux and rent a car. Drive to the Dordogne valley for a good 3 days. Then head south to Couliore or other beach town. No more than 2 night there. Drive or train to Provence for some quick highlights, then by train to Paris. If this sounds good, maybe steal a day from Paris for more Provence or Languedoc.

Or maybe from Dordogne drive WNW to the Atlantic coast. I don't know much about La Rochelle area but beaches there are. From there drive to Paris or to Angouleme and take the TGV the rest of the way.

Posted by
7458 posts

An idea by train:

Fly into Marseille, After some time at the coast, take the 30 minute fast-train to Avignon. Avignon is easy to get to Nimes for a day-trip (great Roman ruins) & take a bus to Pont du Gard. You can rent a canoe to go under the bridge. Avignon is on TGV train route to Paris.

Posted by
3260 posts

I would go to Nice, lots of interesting sights in and around Nice, easily accessible by public transportation. My daughter would choose Aix, but I can't tell you why because I think I didn't listen… I'm sure there are many places as France is a beautiful country, IOM.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you for the input! This is great. Yes I see how it lines up on the map.
Maybe Marseille > Aix > Avignon & Nimes for the first week, then to Paris?
Is Marseille > Aix > Avignon & Nimes in a week a resonable itinerary? Or too ambitious?
if that is too ambitious should I keep Aix or Avignon on the list?
More ideas?

Posted by
10344 posts

shredgar1014,
Your original post said you wanted to do "countryside, beach, or mountains."
But the cities you mention in your most recent post are the opposite of those: big cities.
Just checkin': are big cities really what you want?

Posted by
4 posts

I'm just trying to brainstorm with a map & the the Internet & am open to suggestions.
Never been there = clueless, so I'm trying to climb the learning curve & appreciate any assistance.
A few years ago we spent two weeks from Rome > Tuscany > Cinque Terre & had big fun.
We walked for miles through the city, the hill towns & the coastal towns. Trip of a lifetime.
Now we're trying for something similar in France & want to get it right.
Half of our trip is in Paris, where should we consider going for the other half?

Posted by
6670 posts

Good suggestions above, but my question is: do you have your flights lined up yet? And if so, where are you flying into? The fares will only go up from now on.

If it's Paris, then I'd suggest driving somewhere like Normandy, Brittany, the Loire, Alsace, or Burgundy to make the most of your time and not spend too much of it on trains or highways. St-Malo could be part of a Normandy-Brittany itinerary. Just one or two of those regions would make a good week.

Late July in the country and early August in Paris is a good strategy for avoiding French vacationers who will be doing the opposite, but you will run into some of them sometimes! ;-)

Posted by
10344 posts

shredgar1014,
You've said you want to travel by train & not rent a car. A lot of people here don't want to rent cars--but that decision does somewhat limit where you can go, limits it to the areas with sights you want to experience that are near train stations. Most of those sights will be in the larger cities (not much demand from the local populace for train stations in country locations where few people live).

A possible strategy is to take trains and then connect with commercial tours that will provide transportation from the train stations to the sights you want to see. For example, this would work for some sights in the Loire Valley, such as Amboise, where there are sights in the town. But that doesn't get you into the country.
Many of the chateaus in the Loire Valley are in the country, but the ones in the country would not be near train stations--so you would need some means of transportation to get you from the train stations to the sights.

Or rent a car. But it's understandable that you may not want to do this, for various reasons.

Or you could use trains to visit urban areas, such as the cities that have already been mentioned by others, such as the Provence cities/towns of Avignon, Nimes, Arles, and Aix. But these are urban areas, so to get to country destinations in Provence, you would need either a car or to connect with commercial tours.

Possibly you would find a guidebook on France useful? It's a big country with so much to do, you wouldn't want to be limited to just what we're able to tell you here.

Posted by
8230 posts

Countryside means a car. You could go to a small town in Burgundy and use it as a base for the area (we used Semur en Auxois and loved it) or Normandy would be a great area -- you might be able to do that by public transport a bit better e.g. if you spent a few days in Bayeux you could do an all day bus tour of the beaches with Overlord and you could join the Hotel Churchill minivan tour to Mt. St. Michel (reserved well in advance for both). But in Normandy you also really need a car to explore the countryside.

Posted by
16894 posts

If you head toward Annecy, then I would not spend a whole week there, but preferably a few nights in Chamonix. You could also stop in Beaune (Burgundy) and train options to get there would be either through France (7 hrs, 3 connections) or through Switzerland around Lake Geneva (6 hrs, 4 connections).

Posted by
4105 posts

Fly into Geneva, train to Annecy ( 3 N). Day trip, bus to Chamonix. Train Annecy to Lyon (3 N). Train Lyon to Beaune (1 N),
Train to Paris (6N). Fly out of Paris.

All train and bus times are around 1 1/2 hrs. Look at Rome2rio to see transportation options.

If you've already purchase R/T CDG, you could Train to Lyon from Paris.

Posted by
10344 posts

shredgar,
How are you doing? Have we helped?
Let us know.

Posted by
4 posts

Great information thanks! As you said it's a big country with lots to see & many choices. Annecy > Chamonix > Beaune looks very fun. We are avid skiers, never skied in Europe & even a summer visit to Chamonix would be meaningful.

Posted by
1 posts

Also check out SNCF. In Languedoc-Roussillon where I live, we have 1 Euro trains, each way several times a day to all major cities. Check out Regional Trains on SNCF for a cheaper (the local way) of transportation!

Posted by
2261 posts

Thanks mimc, welcome!

Posted by
380 posts

My favorite thing to do is spend a week in Paris and a week in French countryside -- a few of my favorites that might appeal to you: a week in Brittany, including St. Malo, Quimper, and other coastal areas like Concarneau (beautiful walks from one town to another); self-guided cycling in the Languedoc along Canal du Midi -- beautiful scenery. I've done all the above traveling by train.
You could also combine, as earlier poster said, Annecy (lovely cycling along lake) and Beaune -- more cycling thru countryside. You really can't go wrong.

Posted by
1014 posts

Nice is a great visit. You can stay there for a week and use local buses to travel to other cities like Grasse, Monaco, Cannes, etc. When we were there, the bus ride was 1 Euro each way per person. Cheaper than driving. In Grasse, you have the perfume factory and sales, Monaco has casino (Special Clothing), great shop viewing (prices are high), great views of the harbor (free), got pick-pocketed and did not make it to Cannes. On that note, be especially vigilant at the train station, and metro stops. The Hotel ibis Nice Aéroport Promenade at 65 dollars per night is not a bad deal. It is a 5 minute walk to the beach. You could then take a train or fly to Paris. I have done both. Train can be as cheap as €39.90 pp, and flying Air France 6:00 AM NCE 1h 25m Non-Stop 7:25 AM ORY Total price $52 pp. The train station in Nice is downtown, and so is the one in Paris. Flying, you must take a bus or cab to each airport, which increases costs.

If you need a studio in Paris to stay in, pm me and I will send details.