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Visiting France in June...How many days for Amboise/Loire Valley?

Hello Seasoned Travelers,

My family is planning a trip to Europe in summer 2022. We are booked to arrive at CDG at 6:55 AM on June 10 and have two weeks for France. We want to see Paris, Loire Valley, Normandy, and perhaps Burgundy (Dijon/Beaune). We have rail passes because the trip also includes travel to Brussels/Bruges, Hamburg, and Copenhagen for an 11-day Scandinavian cruise. After the cruise we either train or fly to the U.K. (Edinburgh) because we have tickets for the 150th Open Championship at St. Andrews. My question is how to arrange the trip in France to maximize our time? My wife has some mobility issues so we will be limited in the number of sites we can visit per day.

Specifically, how many days for Loire Valley? How much time in/around Paris? Paris Disneyland is a must visit for my 15-year old daughter and we have free passes given by cast members here in Orlando.

Any other areas to see? My wife has never been to Europe. I have visited a few times but not since 2001 (Italy/Austria/Switzerland). Neither of us has ever been to France.

Thanks in advance,

Dr. Rob

Posted by
85 posts

I'm going to be in France at the same time you are and this is my plan:

5 nights Normandy - I'm using Bayeux as a base and day tripping. 1 day to see Bayeux and Caen, 1 day for Honfleur and etretat, 1 day D-day tour, and 1 day MSM

3 nights Loire - couple of chateaux, hot air balloon ride, Amboise, and maybe some biking or canoeing

2 nights Disneyland Paris - 1 day for each park

5 nights Paris - I have been before so I don't have the need to "see it all" and will see some of my favorite sights from my first trip plus do a day trip to giverney, Versailles and some walking tours or food tours

Hope that helps! I personally think trying to add Burgundy would be a lot but that may depend on where you go after France. If it's on the way, it might be worth it

ETA - I think you could do burgundy on the way to Paris, though it's a 4 hour drive and 5 hour train ride. I think it depends on what you want to see more of and spend more time in

Posted by
2067 posts

The French itinerary will be far easier with a rental car than with rail passes, something I might strongly discourage your purchasing. How many people are travel together?

Generally, upon your CDG arrival, I would continue on to Tours (St Pierre des Corps) for 3 nights. You could easily stay in Amboise if you like. I prefer Tours because of the restaurants, cafés, and overall activity. From there, you might travel to Bayeux in Normandy for 3 or 4 nights. You could easily visit as far west as Mont St Michel, maybe a trip to St Mère Eglise, all very easy by car. Not so easy by train.

Next drive to Paris and drop off the car. Paris takes 4 full days, 5 nights, and you could add one for Disney and one for somewhere like Château Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Chantilly, or Fontainebleau. Adjust days as necessary, then train to Brussels.

It is very difficult to plan without more information from you, but I strongly recommend your renting a car for the first week or so.

Posted by
8888 posts

When planning you need to go by how many nights you have in each location. If you have 2 nights you have 1 day, 3 nights is 2 days, etc. Don’t underestimate how much time is involved with changing locations, which can eat up half a day or more depending on how far you’re going. It sounds like your overall trip is lengthy. No one can keep up a fast pace for an extended period, so build in some down time. You’ll need to do laundry, so don’t forget time for that.

Will you have a car? You absolutely don’t want one in Paris, but it will enhance your time in Normandy and the Loire. I’m not sure that you’re going to have time for Burgundy unless you shortchange the other places. A car might be helpful with the mobility issues, but if you prefer to take trains it can be done. Please don’t drive upon arrival on an overseas flight.

What do you want to see in Paris besides Disneyland? You will need 2 nights (1 day) just for that. I wouldn’t spend less than 5 nights there. Normandy with a car I would spend 4 nights if you want to see Mont Saint Michel. Without a car I would spend 2 nights and do a day tour of WWII sites, or 3 nights if you want to do a MSM tour. For the Loire you could base yourself anywhere, such as Amboise. Without a car I would base in Tours because the transportation options are better. I think 2 château a day is a good goal, or one if mobility is a big obstacle. Factor how many nights by what you want to see. We stayed 3 nights with a car, and are returning for 4 nights this year. You might be able to squeeze in Beaune or Dijon, but without a car other places in Burgundy would be a challenge. I suggest you check train connections if you won’t have a car to see if it’s something you want to do.

Good luck with your planning. I hope you have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
5594 posts

This thread, and links in it, may be helpful to you. You may also wish to check for Son et Lumiere or exterior Candlelight Illuminaitons, if that interests you, at Chateaux. Three days in the Loire was enough for us. As others have noted, local transportation for your (large?) group can be a problem, which is why we rented a car in St. Pierre des Corps.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/france/normandy-brittany-thoughts

Your trip sounds very ambitious and to involve a lot of planning. You need to make sure that special trains you are taking can be coordinated with your railpasses without too much difficulty or additional costs. Also, your border crossings may still be troublesome even if Covid cases continue to decline. For example, pre-check-in time for Eurostar trains is now 90 minutes, for customs and immigration between the EU and the U.K. You might find our host's Travel Tips helpful, top left blue menu. I don't personally know the logistics of buying seat reservations before you have possession of the Railpasses.

You'll also have to deal with issues like some trains towards Bruges stopping/changing in Antwerp instead of Brussels, and most trips to Bruges requiring a change to an unreserved, local "commuter" rail train. (I mean with stairs and no real luggage racks.) I don't consider Hamburg to be the most attractive city in Germany, but it can be on the way to Copenhagen.

I hope you are not treating this trip as the only likely lifetime trip to Europe for the younger passengers.

Posted by
32 posts

Bonjour,

Thanks for all the planning tips. We are currently booked for 13 days in France (six nights in Amboise, seven nights near Paris). We have a car reserved for arrival in Tours at St. Pierre des Corps. We are considering cutting the Loire to three nights or keeping our rental unit there and driving to Normandy coast one morning and staying overnight with return to Amboise the next evening. Is that feasible? My wife is not interested in WWII sights but I am.

We plan to return the car in Tours (St. Pierre des Corps) and train from there to our accommodation near Paris Disneyland. We will use RER and metro to visit Paris. We have seven nights booked in Paris (Marne la Vallee Chessy). Must sees for my wife include the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Musee D'Orsay, Notre Dame, and a cruise on the Seine. Versailles and Giverny are optional if time allows. Since we live right next to Disney World in Florida, we are only visiting Disney Paris for the unique attractions (both parks since we have free park hopper passes).

We would love to do more but are planning to spend more time in France next summer (I teach so I have May-July free to travel each year).

Dr. Rob

Posted by
1204 posts

Two nights in Amboise with a side visit to Château de Chenonceau and dropping into Chartres on the way back to Paris is the extent of my Loire Valley area experience. I'd give it 3 nights if that leaves you 11 for Paris, Normandy and Burgundy. If you drop either of the latter two add a night in the Loire and another in your other non-Paris destination. Rent a car at your non-Paris destinations to explore those areas.

Posted by
5594 posts

It is difficult to change the mind of someone who wants to focus on Disney, but I'm bewildered by the the idea that Marne la Vallee Chessy is "Paris." Part of what's wonderful about waking up in a major city of the world is to stroll out in the morning and be IN that city. I'm sure the RER is convenient, but I don't consider staying in Jersey City or Mamaroneck to be "visiting New York City." I also like to be able to drop into my hotel room sometimes.

I have no delusions about "living like a local", and I abhor AirBnB. But you're missing something by staying at Paris Disneyland. Isn't 15 a little old to really want so much Disney? (I don't have children.) Is it your idea or hers?

Posted by
32 posts

Tim,

That's a good point. We are planning a single day for Disney for my daughter. Yes, it is her idea. My wife could care less about going to Disneyland...we can go here any day we want to. Do you have a recommendation for a location to stay in Paris that is close to Metro/RER? My wife has some mobility issues but can walk up to a 1/4 mile at a time. We know this will be challenging for her with all the museums and places she wants to see.

Rob

Posted by
5594 posts

Thanks for your gracious reply. I consider Paris to have lots of Metro stations but your wife's impediment is a problem for long distance underground line-transfers. Etoile and Chatelet are well supplied with hotels, and right on the Red RER. For 1 day at Disney I'd rather not limit myself to that rule!

Would your wife go to the Louvre (and Arts Decoratifs) more than once? Should you stay near there? My favorite tiny Tourist hotel right now is the Louvre Sainte Anne. But maybe you'd prefer the giant former Hilton Etoile (not Hilton anymore, don't know the name.) Paris has hundreds of hotels. What are your price and luxury requirements?

Posted by
32 posts

Tim,

Once again, thank you for the reply. Here is what we currently have planned:

June 10 arrival at CDG, take TGV to St. Pierre des Corps (6 nights in Amboise)
June 16 return car and take TGV to Paris Disney area (7 nights in Chessy)

Given your advice and others, I am thinking to either cut down the stay in Loire to three nights and drive to Mont Saint Michel, then Normandy Beaches, then to Paris to return the car.

My wife would likely visit each museum once this trip. We are hopeful to make Europe an annual affair after this.

Wherever we stay, we need either three twin beds or a queen and twin/sofa bed for my daughter. That's not as common in France as in the U.S. We do not need luxurious accommodations and prefer to be near public transit options but we know very little about the various neighborhoods in Paris. Reading about them is not the same as firsthand experience. We have a backup booking at the Hyatt Regency Etoile in La Defense area with two kings in a spacious suite for a terrific rate of 228 Euros per night. It does seem quite a distance from the major sights, though not as far as Disney is.

Since this is a first trip, I want to have a good experience that makes me want to go back. My daughter and I visited NYC last summer and could not wait to leave (we stayed three blocks from Times Square). It wasn't all bad, just crazy busy. We'd like to avoid the hectic pace and enjoy Paris at leisure.

Rob

Posted by
109 posts

Edited - I pressed post before I was finished.

Dr Rob, your trip sounds like an exciting adventure! You’re getting a lot of good advice here. I’m in agreement with those suggesting that staying in Paris vs the suburbs would be a good idea. Some of my experiences match your issues and concerns, so hopefully I have some relatable advice. We’ve traveled to Paris with a 15 year old - check, Disney parks appreciator - check, mobility concerns - check, recently stayed in Times Square in NYC - check.

Starting with the big, noisy city thing. I get your concern, we travel to NYC regularly and I like to stay in the Times Square area for convenience, but as much as I like it, it is overwhelming for me at times. That said, I cannot think of an area that I’ve stayed in in Paris that might compare. We’ve always managed to find quiet, even serene locations. If you’re interested, I'm positive that with the help of the very knowledgeable people on this forum you could find a hotel that meets a need for leisure and calm without sacrificing location.

The last time I was in Paris I had a serious mobility issue and I was so relieved to discover how good the bus system is. Buses are everywhere and go everywhere. Often I was surprised to find the bus stop was right in front of my destination, saving walking and energy for museum perusing. If you decide to relocate to an in-city hotel, and buses sound like a good option, I’d recommend google mapping any hotel contenders to look for convenient bus routes. As an example, the Paris bus 69 connects several must-see destinations running through a number of popular hotel neighborhoods (the Marais, St -Germaine-des-Pres and rue Cler).

We’ve been to Paris Parc Disneyland and enjoyed our day there. We believe that amusement park visits add texture to our trips. It is fun to compare how the attractions differ from park to park. (My husband let me know he may need a Hyper-space Mountain fix on our upcoming 11 night Paris stay.) But funny thing, the first time we took our daughter to Paris, when she was 9, we offered an amusement park as an option on the itinerary. The night before the planned park visit she asked if she had to go, because she loved Paris so much, she didn’t want to miss one day in the city. Luckily, we had not purchased tickets in advance. We made it to the park on our 4th trip.

Posted by
85 posts

I think you should split your 6 nights between Loire and Normandy. While I haven't been to these regions yet, I have dinner a fair amount of research and I think there are plenty of things in Normandy to entertain your wife and daughter of they aren't interested in WWII. Your wife might welcome a down day to recover while you visit some of the d day sites.

Also, I love Disney and am excited to see Disneyland Paris, but I agree with the others - I think you will logistically regret staying in the suburbs of Paris and commuting in every day. Stay in the center of the city and commute once to DLP versus 6 of 7 days into Paris. Your wife might also like the convenience of going back to rest midday if you're centrally located, which would be more difficult outside the city center.

If you do a search of this site for Paris hotels you will get plenty of recommendations for arrondissements and specific hotels. The Rick Steves Paris or France guidebooks will also have a ton of recommendations as well.

Posted by
32 posts

Thank you all for the wonderful replies and lots to think about. As a result, I have re-planned the itinerary as follows and would love any input.

Arrival in Paris June 10 and stay three nights (currently Hyatt Regency Étoile), which maps 1.3 km walk to Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysées. I will scour the guidebook and any resources here for hotel recommendations. I have the 2017-18 France RS guide.

Pick up rental car on June 13 and drive to Amboise via Chartres. Spend three nights in Amboise. Hotel recommendations welcomed. Most places I have checked in the guide do not have triple rooms.

June 16 drive to MONT SAINT MICHEL for one night.

June 17 drive to Bayeux or Honfleur for two nights (1 day for D-Day sights)

June 19 drive to Giverny for Monet Gardens.

June 20 back to Paris and return rental car. Stay in central Paris four nights.

Thoughts?

Rob

Posted by
85 posts

I think this is much better for you. A couple thoughts - I prefer fewer hotel changes and like to base in an area and do day trips. I know many recommend staying on MSM but a one night hotel stay is just a big ugh for me. Where are you staying on your giverney day?

Second thought - I would try to group your Paris nights all together to again minimize your hotel changes. Packing and unpacking takes time and gets very old after the 3rd or 4th time, and it sounds like you have a long trip ahead of you. You might consider heading straight for the Loire after you land, then going to Normandy and finishing in Paris. Less time overall spent on packing, traveling and checking into and out of hotels.

Posted by
32 posts

Katherine,

Thanks for the tips. The desire not to change hotels often was the reason we had decided to stay out by Paris Disneyland. We thought it would be better to book a condo with full kitchen if we were staying in one place for a week so we could have some meals in our unit. We both like the idea of staying in a base. MSM seems like a long day trip from Bayeux/Normandy beaches but if it is doable we could stay 3 nights around Bayeux/Caen and then the last night in Giverny or make that a day trip from Paris. It looks like a car is the best way to go to Giverny as public transit seems more limited there but I don't know since I have not been there,

Our total trip time is 42 days from U.S. to U.S. France is the beginning and Ireland is the ending point.

Rob

PS: Would you mind if I ask questions via DM instead of posting everything here? If not, that's fine. I appreciate the information.

Posted by
8888 posts

If you can find a place in the city center it would be much better than La Defense, which is full of high rise office buildings and zero charm. You might want to check booking.com for apartments in a more desirable area. For first time visitors I recommend in the 4th, 5th or 6th arrondissements as close to the river as possible. That’s as central as you can get and many things are walkable from there. Taking buses vs. the metro would be beneficial to your wife. Another benefit to staying in the center is the ability for your wife to be able to take a midday break if she needs one.

Posted by
5594 posts

I personally prefer to answer questions on the regular newsboard, but others may feel differently. I believe that almost everything discussed on this board is of use to others, in the future if not today. I think it is possible to bring up unique travel needs without allowing hackers to track you down and steal your bank accounts! It is important to be frank about what you really want.

I can understand why you may not have liked NYC. But that's one reason the people on Trip Advisor/NYC try to dissuade people from staying "in or near Times Square." I tell people that you should not eat in any restaurant from which you can see Times Square. Our host, Rick Steves, has a rule to "walk three blocks away from the public square before looking for a restaurant.") Since your Rick Steves profile does not reveal where you live, we have no idea how often you might often enter big cities. I grew up in Manhattan, but over the years I have learned how attached people are to their automobiles - I say that not as a criticism, but as a recognition of why you are willing to make the tedious drive from the Loire to MSM and back in a day. (Our itinerary was in one of the linked threads.) The drive from Bayeux to MSM is not as tedious, but it's hard to explain that every interesting stop along the way (Like Vitre, Coutances, Dinan, or whatever) is a huge detour from the main roads, 20 minutes each way, and then a search for parking in a town that does not have a high-rise paid garage, like big cities in Europe do. (And the discovery that the ramps and stalls in that garage can barely contain the SUV some unwisely rent at the airport.)

It's not possible to recommend a single hotel in Paris, because most hotels in Paris regularly sell out at various moments in the year. One reason I thought of Chatelet (besides the Red RER) is that it has a pleasant historical urbanism about it (the Mairie, for example ... ) with history like the Tour St. Jacques, and a non-pretentious set of restaurant streets for an evening stroll and meal. That, to me, is a positive feature of a big city. But it's not like being in a stage set for Band of Brothers, is it? I like staying between the Palais Garnier and the Louvre.

The fact is that Paris, and France tend to be busy during the summer. You are going to experience crowding on MSM just like Times Square (although for the last year, Times Square has been a pale shadow of its regular crowding!) You are hardly the only family to value a kitchenette for your stay, and not for financial reasons. But that tells me that immersing yourselves in Paris is not really an objective. France is famous for its food, even its cheaper family-fare. I can't imagine cooking for myself on vacation, even in a country with less famous food, like the Netherlands. (Even Belgium has better food than the Netherlands.)

It's fine to take the car to Giverny, but most people do it as a train daytrip from Paris. That's not "better", but it exposes you to the local life of mass transportation (including the many regional rail stations in Paris), maybe bicycling to the Garden from the station, and (yes, alas) the awful bathroom in the bar across from the bike rental! If you insulate yourself from local life, you learn less about France and Paris. It sounds dumb to recall that I took the NYC subway to High School every day, a ride of about 20 minutes. But there you are. I learned something about NYC when I went to a Vietnam war demonstration one morning at 5AM. I didn't know that the subway was (pre Covid, of course) more crowded at 5AM than it was at school time.

Posted by
32 posts

Tim,

Thanks again for the reply and great advice. I am still learning and reading lots about Paris/France every day, including immersing myself in learning French.

I live in the big city of Orlando so I am quite comfortable with them, though I detest driving in them. That's why my daughter and I took the awful, slow, 22 hour train from Orlando to NYC last year (plus we were going to Washington, D.C., and Williamsburg, VA. I found moving around NYC/DC very easy with our metro pass and hope that getting around Paris is as easy (or easier). I am willing to drive because I spent many years in California where public transit is all but non-existent and visiting places like Monterey or San Francisco required, as you put it, tedious driving. When my grandfather visited us in CA he could not believe how far everything was. He spent nearly his whole life in East Hartford, CT, and worked just across the river at Travelers Insurance.

Is Chatelet a specific neighborhood or a hotel? I would love to stay in a neighborhood where I can go out for a walk and dinner each night. I am not a fan of cooking on vacation, either.

I am sure I would enjoy the bike ride from the station to Monet Gardens but my wife could not do it. I suppose there is a taxi/bus we could take?

I updated my profile to include my location.

Again, thank you for all the insights. We will definitely look for a hotel with character in Paris proper.

Rob

Posted by
1 posts

Bonjour!

I’m the wife with mobility issues.

First I want to thank everyone for the excellent advice. I’ve wanted to go to France since the 3rd grade, when my elementary school started bringing in a French teacher for lessons once a week. I then took French from 7th - 12th grade and 2 semesters in college. When I graduated HS, I was so fluent that I sometimes dreamed in French. Now my wonderful husband is fulfilling that dream for me with this extended trip, ending in a dream for him with our visit to St. Andrews.

Before going to graduate school, Rob was a travel agent for many years and he is doing the bulk of the planning for this trip. He said last night that he doesn’t want us to regret anything about the trip, and I so appreciate the care he’s taking to plan the trip of our dreams. I am open to staying in Paris proper, if that’s what will be best. I especially appreciate the advice about being able to take a break at the hotel if needed. We hadn’t thought about that,

One big question we have is, how many nights do we really need in Paris? As Rob said, my musts are the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Musée D’Orsay, Seine river cruise, and for our daughter (and Rob, who loves Disney more than he’s letting on😂), a day at Disney Paris.

I also really want to see Giverny and the Monet gardens, which I know is outside of Paris. Are there any must-see sights that I’m missing from my list? And, how many days do we need to do all of that at a pace that isn’t exhausting?

Thanks again everyone, we appreciate all of your suggestions. 🥰

~ Kate

Posted by
1144 posts

Hello, I went for the second time to France this fall. Although I had been to Paris already before (some decades earlier) for eight days, I still wish I’d had more time this trip. We ended a 22 day trip with five full days and five nights in Paris. I think that is absolutely a bare minimum to see what you want to see unless you want to have no downtime to relax. Looking at what you want, I would think seven nights would be better because it would be easier on you. Believe me, you will never get bored in Paris! Enjoy

Posted by
32 posts

Bonjour,

Thanks again for all the terrific advice. We will stay in Paris proper. I have found a hotel that seems suitable for the three of us in the 10th Arrondissement near Gare de L'est and Gare du Nord. Is this area okay for two adults and a teenager?

Rob

Posted by
5594 posts

Did you use Google Maps to view the area around the hotel as eye-level photos? I've been to those stations, but have not stayed there. Because you have been to Europe before, I figured you would know that train station environs tend to have lower-priced hotels and a slightly seedy air. (That was true of Pennsylvania Station in NYC before it was torn down!) I would not even remotely describe Paris as dangerous in the way we use the term in the USA. Train station areas just aren't residential or retail enough. Today most hotels in Paris have double-glass windows, so street noise isn't a problem IF they are AIR-CONDITIONED.

Sometimes being near a train station can be great, if you have daytrips or a next-stop departure that uses that station. If I were staying in the 10th, I (setting aside bad knees) would walk to Sacre Coeur, Palais Garnier, and the Louvre. But the Metro is fine too. One reason you may find you don't have enough days is that you may discover the Musee des Arts et Metiers, and the Fashion and Arts Decoratifs annexes near the Louvre. You really have to keep your eyes open when you are walking around. When passing the east side of the Louvre, you have to stop and read the (English) sign in front of the Saint-Germain-l'Auxerrois to learn that it was the starting place to conduct the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre. (Of course this is just an example ... ) I would not have described myself as an Ethnographic Museum nut. But the Musee du Quai Branley is just superb. We even sprang for an overpriced restaurant on the roof because it's almost under the Eiffel Tower. (Book Eiffel Tower visit well in ADVANCE.)

I first went to Paris in 1987, and have been at least 7 times since. It was originally true that you needed to speak French to have a good time in France. That is no longer true except in the most rural places. And of course, working people like bus drivers and street cleaners may not speak English. But you will not have any trouble making yourself understood, and more importantly, no one will be rude to you just because you speak English anymore.

Posted by
84 posts

Hi Rob and Kate,
We will be staying in Amboise in May. I looked on booking.com for June 13-16. The Place I chose is not available, but Les Charmilles is. I had considered it but it was not available for my preferred dates. It is all ground floor, where as many places have stairs. I also liked the look of the little yard for evening relaxing.

Posted by
32 posts

Bonjour,

Thanks again to everyone who made comments and offered suggestions. I cannot tell you how helpful they have been for first time visitors to France (we hope...between Covid and Russia/Ukraine, who knows?). Our nearly final itinerary looks like this (any further suggestions appreciated):

Jun 10-13: Loire Valley (pickup rental car)
Jun 13-16: Normandy coast (near Bayeux)
Jun 16-22: Paris (near Arc de Triumph and Champs Elysees)
Jun 22-24: Disneyland Paris area
Jun 24-26: Brussels/Bruges

Thanks again for all the help. We truly appreciate your patience and expert advice.

Rob