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2 week France Itinerary

I'm in the very early stages of planning a trip for my husband and I to France, and wanted to get some input on my draft itinerary. Flying into Paris and out of Nice, and planning to use the train for our main mode of transportation (may consider renting a car for a day to get to some hard to reach sites). I prefer to stay in a place for at least 2 days, but prefer 3. We like walking, biking (nothing too strenuous though) history, art, architecture and chateaus...not so much into museums, but do like to go the "can't miss" museums and churches. My husband's only request was that we visit I need to fit that in. So far, the plan is: 4 days Paris (including morning arrival day), 2 days Amboise, 2 days Bordeaux, 1 day Carcasonne, 3 days Arles or Avignon (need help deciding), 4 days Nice. Any suggestions?

Posted by
4125 posts

Bordeaux is so out of place in this itinerary that I am going to suggest another itinerary in which it will fit better.

It's out of place because of the effort it will take to get to and from there. It takes a disproportionate bite out of a two-week trip. But there are other logistically awkward days in your itinerary (Amboise - Arles for instance) too.

The best itinerary that includes Bordeaux I think is to travel from Paris to the Loire to the Dordogne to Bordeaux, flying home from Bordeaux. You'll need a car for some of the trip, bit it's worth it. The Dordogne is spectacular.

A less radical departure would be to fly into Bordeaux and travel by train to Carcassonne, Arles, and Paris. I wouldn't try to squeeze the Loire into that but you could. Perhaps by flying into Paris and going directly to Amboise, then proceeding to Paris, Arles, Carcassonne, and Bordeaux.

I save until last the idea of appealing to your husband to drop Bordeaux and do something like your original itinerary. For Bordeaux substitute Burgundy, which has great wine (and an accessible wine culture) and food, and many wonderful bicycling options. I'd also get rid of either the Loire or Nice or both--you just don't have a whole lot of time.

Just my two cents! Have fun.

Posted by
1878 posts

I suggest staying in Villefrache instead of Nice. Nice is a big city on the Riveiria, Villefranche is more like a quieter village. We stayed in Nice and wished we had stayed in Villefranche. Be careful to figure out the train travel times in advance, trains are not that convenient in France unless you are traveling to/from Paris. It can take a long time to get from place to place, even for locales that are fairly close on the map.

Arles is a nice town, we were there a few years back. Do not miss Les Baux and the Pont du Gard. That might be a good stop to get a car. I have not be to Avignon, but hope to go in the future. Three days in Provence is a minimum -- we had only two nights and only one full day on our trip and wished we had had more.

Posted by
58 posts

I'm a little confused as to why Bordeaux isn't a good fit. It's a 3 hour train ride from Amboise to Bordeaux and another 3 hours from Bordeaux to Carcasonne.

Posted by
9110 posts

What I'd do is snag the car as you leave Paris. Get it from the spot closest to where you're staying since getting out of the city is a snap. (Going in and driving around is the pain in the neck. Going out, you're on the ring road in ten minutes with only a couple of turns, then you're running free.)

Paris to Amboise is only a couple of hours driving, plus you can swing by Chartres to see the cathedral. Figuring an hour stop, that puts you in Amboise in time for lunch and an afternoon of looking at chateaux.

If you spend the next morning in the Amboise area, you're only about three and a half hours from Bordeaux. This gives Himself an extra day in Bordeaux, which I can't champion enough. You'll use the car there, either up on the estuary or going out to Saint Emillion.

You'll need the car going through the Lot/Dordogne area. Stop in the national prehistory museum at Les Ezyies if you can -- it's the best of its kind I've ever seen.

I wouldn't worry about getting to Carcassonne until real late in the day after the hoards leave (it's a three-hour straight drive from Bordeaux) since, even if you get there after the castle (not really worth seeing) closes, it only takes a couple of hours to walk the streets and walls. (Good spots to eat are up and to the left shortly after you go in the gate.)

For the next stretch, the car will come in handy for stopping at Pont du Gard. If you can, look at stopping at Aigues Mortes (between Montpellier and Nimes) for lunch and a look at what used to be a walled port but is now a walled city since somebody went and moved the Med.

I'd pick Orange or even Nimes over either Avignon or Arles and use the car to get around to all the other spots.

Odds are, the longer car rental will cost about the same as a shorter rental and a bunch of train tickets. Logistically, it might even be faster and sure lets you see more.

I'd ditch the care upon arrival in Nice.

Posted by
58 posts

Thanks Ed. You're definitely making me reconsider renting a car! It will all come down to cost I think. I will have to do some more research.

Posted by
196 posts

Yeah get the car. I don't think Bordeaux is out of the question at all. There is solid train service between Bordeaux and Carcassone. It's not a TGV but it's good. I did the opposite one time.

In Carcassone try to stay within the city walls if you can. Hotel Donjon is inside the city walls and has a worthwhile breakfast. This hotel is actually a Best Western but it is nothing like a what you imagine. It's very nice.... take a look:

My itinerary suggestion is to take the train to Tours and get the car there (car rentals are a lot cheaper). Drive short distance to Amboise. One week rental through Hertz or some other large rental company will allow you to return the car in Avignon after you see the pont du gard. Speaking of Avignon, many people prefer Arles and it is just as good a base. If you decide on Arles check out Hotel Le

Then train to Nice.
In Nice stay near old town (Vieille Ville) if you can. Vieille Ville is where you will find the best restaurants in and around Cours Saleya along with other night life. I always tell people that are disappointed with the rocky beach in Nice to pay for beach access at Beaurivage or Opera beach to really enjoy a couple of lounge chairs, umbrellas, towels, carafes of wine, great lunch... etc. It changes the whole experience.

Have a great trip.