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Advice Normandy/Loire/Sarlat

We need some advice for travel end of June/early July 2011; please help. We will spend 7 nights in Paris. Then we will have 8 nights to spend in: - Normandy - Loire Valley - Perhaps Sarlat We are a family of 4 with 2 teens so renting a car for the 8 days outside of Paris seems like the easiest and most cost effective option. My questions are: 1. Since we will need to return the car on a Sunday, renting from and returning car to Orly airport seems like a viable option. Does any one have a better suggestion of where to rent. We will be staying in the 7th arr. in Paris. 2. Leaving Paris, we can head to Normandy (Bayeux,MSM), Loire, and then Sarlat. Or to Loire, Sarlat, then Normandy. Can you suggest which is better. 3. Are we trying to pack in too much? Should we leave out Sarlat and spend more time in either Normandy and Loire?
Thank you for all your input.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for your tips so far. I have two teen boys so Normandy should be interesting to them. While the Loire is beautiful, I think 2-3 castles should be enough. Gardens? Perhaps 1 or 2 also. I am considering renting a car from and returning to Orly Sud airport. The reason for an airport location is they are more likely to be opened when I return on a Sunday afternoon. Any recommendation on other car rental locations, immediately outside of Paris, that might be more convenient then Orly Sud and that will be open on Sunday would be much appreciated. Thanks,

Posted by
7 posts

Oh, I should also mention that the option of taking the train to Caen, renting and returning car there, and then train to Tours or Bordeaux, renting and returning car there, seems like a lot of hassle and wasted time for a family of four. Not only that the combination of train and car would be much more costly. But this will be our first trip to Europe so I can certainly use a lot of advice.
Thank you,

Posted by
811 posts

i did about the same trip a few years ago and my route was to train to bordeaux from paris first, then i drove from bordeaux to salart, which takes about half day and you can stop by some nice villages, or just picnic along the river. you can overnight in salart, then drive around to see some caves, more little villages, rent a canoe, for another day. Then you can drive up to loire. you have to pick out the castles you want to see ahead of time because there are too many you can't cover all, and you can spend about 2-3 days in this area. then you can drive to bayeaux and check out caen and the beach. you may have 1 more day to stop my msm. the order doesn't matter as far you don't waste time drive back and forth you should be able to cover a lot in 8 days.

Posted by
283 posts

1. I would not drive a car in Paris. I would stay in Paris in the 7th and pick the car up on the way out of town. If you check the various rental websites, there is usually a drop down list of where you can pick up a car in that city. You could take a cab, or Metro if you can lug the bags, to the airport or other pick up location, but I would make it outside the city center. 2. Normandy will take you at least three days to see the biggies: beaches, cemetaries, museums, Bayeux (don't miss the tapestry.) You definately need a car in my opinion, although a lot of folks here like the bus tours. The Loire, you could spend the whole 15 days, depending on what you want to see-castles, gardens, etc. 3. I think it is a little much, but doable. I personally like to settle in one place for the whole two weeks, so Ican really see and enjoy that part of France.

Posted by
403 posts

Twee: Certainly if you left Sarlat out you would have a far more compact trip geographically, and thus less travel time. However, if you are determined to keep it, then I would suggest the following changes: 1. Take one day from Paris and add it to Normandy/Loire/Sarlat. 2. Consider flying "open jaw". That means, into one city and home from another. Click "multi-city" on travel web sites to see your options. The price will be very close to a straight round trip AND you will avoid wasting hours of travel time back-tracking to Paris. My suggestion would be to return the car at the Toulouse airport (TLS), spend the final night at an airport hotel, and the next day fly home out of Toulouse. 3. You could also run the trip in reverse, flying into TLS, driving to Sarlat and eventually returning the car at Caen and taking the short train ride into Paris.

Posted by
4405 posts

Things to consider - for example, if you rent a car in Caen, the car rental companies are literally across the street from the train station (check it out on Google Street View). Simple. And many trains b/n Paris and Caen. Also, from my forays into car rental in France: all of the companies that I researched allowed me to rent from any location in France, and then to return to any location in France. For example, rent in Caen and return in Sarlat. No difference in price. The biggie you've already investigated - whether or not the location is open when you need them to be!!! And allow yourself some wiggle-room for the return, in particular. It can be difficult trying to find the entrance to the car rental place, or perhaps the attendant got bored and left early...

Posted by
93 posts

Take the Battlebus Tour of Normandy. We did the one-day American Tour from Bayeux. It was excellent! You must meet around 8AM and it's a full-day tour. You also must book it way in advance.

Posted by
689 posts

My experience is like Eileen's; I've never been charged a drop off fee for returning to a different city in France. If you know your first stop in Normandy, you can see if they have car rentals at the train station. That would be a lot easier than going to Orly, I think. The last time I went to Normandy from Paris I trained to Lisieux and rented a car there (Hertz, I think). Then we left the car at CDG and flew home. I've rented from train stations many times and it's always very easy. If you have a car, don't stay in Sarlat. There are so many beautiful little towns and b and bs in the Dordogne countryside, and Sarlat is a traffic clogged, touristy place. Take advantage of the fact that you have a car and stay elsewhere.

Posted by
143 posts

Twee, You did not say where you plan to stay in Normandy. We were there this past October and stayed in Bayeux, and I recommend it. You could train to Bayeux, take one of the day-long bus tours the first day, do the Tapestry and other things around Bayeux the second day, then rent a car (right across from the railroad station) and do a day there on your own. Then you could drive to wherever else you are going and leave the car there. Enjoy France!

Posted by
143 posts

Oops, forgot to mention that Battlebus is no longer running as such. But there are other day tours that leave from Bayeux city center that you could do.

Posted by
4132 posts

1) Orly is reasonable, but you could also investigate (a) taking the train to Bayeux and renting a car there, (b) flying to Bordeaux or Toulouse and renting a car upon arrival. (A) assumes you will not need to pick up your car until the next day, since there is plenty to see in a half day in Bayeux (tapestry, cathedral, museum, ambiance). (B) means you drive south to north, reversing your proposed itinerary. 2) Of those two, the first is betterassuming you fly home from Toulouse or Bordeaux. 3) It is definitely too much if you do not fly open jaw. Otherwise I would suggest 3-1-4 days in Normandy, Loire, SW France. I like the suggestion to shift a day from Paris to the road trip, either SW (what I would do) or Loire. I am not nuts about the Loire myself but leaving it out does not save you much time. Don't forget, there is a lot of driving in this itinerary.

Posted by
973 posts

Twee, if you are comfortable driving in southern CA, you are more than competent to drive out of downtown Paris ! Truly! Take the metro or a taxi to a nearby location and return the car at the departing airport. I rented at the Airfrance Terminal at Invalides with Europcar. This is a convenient interactive map/rental counter locator for Europcar> http://www.europcar.com/car-rental-FRANCE-PARIS.html You can play around with the costs on this site also.
I drove out of the Invalides garage a block or two away from the counter midday in July 2008 with a teenager navigating the TomTom, no problems- well, a couple slowdowns on the highway towards Honfleur. Nothing you wouldn't see on the 5 or the 405. The rest of the advice is good for Normandy/Loire/ Sarlat. We stayed in Montignac, a good base not far from the caves, canoes, castles,Sarlat, tasting rooms.

Posted by
9327 posts

I think Tom's advice is excellent. Just want to say we thought the WWII museum in Bayeux was the best one, and we really enjoyed staying in Bayeux at Hotel D'Argouges. I would drop Sarlat if it were me. Your boys will love Normandy and the Loire, my son did and still does (we've been to both many times).

Posted by
3313 posts

And my advice is the opposite. Minimize time in the Loire and spend more in the Dordogne. Better castles, beautiful country - and foie gras!

Posted by
251 posts

We rented a car in Paris and drove to the Loire valley, staying in Amboise and then drove out to Mont St Michel.
A lot of driving, but we enjoyed it. A good GPS system is a must. Hope you have a great time.

Posted by
212 posts

Another satisfied customer who did Normandy/Loire. Drove out of Paris through Giverny/Rouen/Honfleur, making it to Bayeux late but in time to see the tapestry. Onite at a fab place in the hills, Ferme de la Ranconierre. Great dinner! The landing sites each have museums, and we did it all in one long day. Then MSM the next day, and along the Loire West to East, for two days. Highlights there: Chenonceaux and Chambord. Great hotel right at the foot of the Chambord chateau, on the grounds. Went back to Paris through Chartres, and to the airport.

Posted by
299 posts

We did the same trip in August of 2009. Paris first, then Normandy and then Amboise in the Loire Valley. We had three boys, aged 13,12 and 10. No car, just trains. I have no interest in driving in France - especially in Normandy where we wanted to see all the WWII sites - many of which are off the beaten path. We never would have found them without a guide. The train tix for five of us were very reasonable and we booked them before we left the States. Also, I didn't know what the parking situation would be. Our trip was 10 days total, 5 nights in Paris, two in Bayeaux and two in Amboise, and one overnight from O'Hare.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you all for your input. Based on all your advice, I've decided that it's probably best that we train to Caen and rent a car there. We'll spend 3 nights in Bayeux, 1 night MSM, and 4 nights Loire.
I still have one question: is it easy to drive from Tours to CDG? viaMichelin showed route via Boulevard Périphérique when approaching Paris. I wanted to know if this route would be easy to drive. My problem is Tours train station is not open on Sunday which makes returning a car there difficult. Otherwise I would just train back to CDG from Tours.