Our family of four will be spending the week of Christmas in an apartment in the Marias, and then will return to Paris for a few days over near rue Cler....WE plan to leave Paris for 4 days/3 nights and not sure where we should go. The ideas we have are Normandy, or perhaps a train to Brugge, Luxembourg, and then back to Paris. We are two adults and two young adult/teens. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
I would do what I am planning on doing in April is head for Provence. You can see my post above yours. I have gotten some great suggestions. I would not leave France. There are too many great things to see. You could also head to Nice and explore that whole area too.
Do stay in France but head out to the Loire Valley chateau country - but don't miss Mont St. Michel! So much to see in a relatively short distance from Paris. You travel back in time as you travel eastward through the Valley. The royals knew how to live and "practiced" with opulence that culminated with the completion of Versailles.
I did this with my 15 yr old teen: We rented a car in Paris, drove to Honfleur, skirted the coast and saw the D Day beaches & the American Cemetery, and ended at MontStMichel. The next day we backtracked some for the Bayeux Tapestry ( has a great audio guide)and then drove on to the Loire Valley and saw one chateau: Blois in our case. Next day saw Chenonceau and Cheverny and drove by several others. Chambord is stunning for a first visit. I think it's an easy itinerary by car, even tho the days are shorter.
DO take a GPS and your warmest scarves and gloves!
I so appreciate your input. One more question... any issues with driving in France? Any concerns with snow etc in December?
No predictions on snow. The years I lived in France we never had more than a dusting in Paris and the northern region but last year Normandy was drenched in snow above the knees in late winter. There was snow all over France, even in the south. In December be sure to stay on the tourist track or you may run into closed hotels, restaurants, dead as a doorknob villages, etc. On the tourist track, in addition to the Chateaux, you could do a combination of Mont St. Michel and the historic, walled, Brittany seaport of St. Malo, with a swing back through Rennes, the former Brittany capital or Rouen, where Jeanne d'Arc was burned and Monet painted the cathedral. A day trip would be to see the cathedral in Amiens, which looks like a wedding cake. At night it's lit with colored lights bringing all the sculpture to life. Or you could go east to Alsace, namely Strasbourg. Historic, good food and wine, lively at Christmas, on the German border.
I was initially nervous about driving in France but it was easy and enjoyable, particularly if your copilot is used to interpreting the GPS. Practice at home for happiness later.
Have only traveled to Europe in the summer and fall, trying winter at the end of this month, so can't advise about the snow.
We visited the Normandy beaches one year- late summer. Bitterly cold wind blowing in off the Ocean. very glad to get indoors. be prepared
NW Europe doesn't get a whole lot of snow. But it does experience heavy fog throughout the winter. This is likely to be your biggest driving challenge, especially in the morning. I would recommend visiting another city over the Loire Valley or Normandy. With the very short days and the aforementioned fog, you can't see nearly as much in rural areas as you could in the summer. Go for the biggest bang for your time and money and hit another city.
I agree with Tom about the short days and fog making rural sightseeing a little less desirable. You could go to Strasbourg and visit the Christmas markets. Or head up in to the Alps for some pre-season skiing. (Some places should have snow by then.) Or try another big city like Brussels - with a possible side trip to Bruges. There's a BD museum if your kids are in to that. Could also go to Amsterdam (3.25 hours by Thalys train), but I have no idea how that would be in December.
I agree also about staying in cities in winter. It can really be dead in the countryside. Once you've seen the local sight, the sun sets early and it's off to dinner and your hotel room, unlike in summer when it is light until 10 pm. If you did go north to Brugge, you could take the train. On the other hand, the idea of Nice and the Riviera was good too. Fights are frequent and inexpensive.