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France Itinerary

Hello:

We will travel to France in June for 16 nights and would like some itinerary advice. So far, we intend to spend the first six nights in Paris (already arranged) and plan tentatively to spend the rest, other than a final night near the airport, in Provence and the Loire Valley. I have a few questions:

  1. Does it make more sense to take the fast train to Provence right after the initial time spent in Paris? Of the nine nights remaining, should we spend 6 nights in two different Provence locales? Which two would you recommend? We would rent a car for transportation.

  2. To minimize driving, we would like to take the train to the Loire Valley. Can we get around there without a car? Is three nights enough for this region?

  3. Finally, can we take the train from somewhere like Amboise back to Paris to stay somewhere near the airport on our final night?

Thanks for your help!

Suzanne

Posted by
12040 posts

"To minimize driving, we would like to take the train to the Loire Valley. Can we get around there without a car?". Difficult, unless you take a bus tour. A car really is the best way to explore the region.

"Is three nights enough for this region?" Yes. Although you can only visit a small fraction of the chateaux with three nights, to be honest, they start blurring together after the 5th or 6th. Plan on visiting two per day, and you'll probably get your fill.

Posted by
3313 posts

You'll need a car for your time in Provence and the Loire. So, depending on where you want to base in Provence, you can pick up the rental there - the Avignon TGV station would be one choice.

Then simply drop at the airport you're leaving from. You didn't say which one.

Posted by
4 posts

Hello again:

Thanks for the replies. The airport is Charles de Gaulle. If we need to drive in the Loire Valley too, does it make sense to rent a car in each place and use the train for the longer distances? Or should we drive between the Loire Valley and Provence?

Thanks!

Suzanne

Posted by
4132 posts

Here are a few logistical tricks you might try.

Although there is something to be said for a road trip if you budget enough time for it, I think you want to rent one car in Provence, which you will return there, and another to see the Loire. This lets you use France's rail network to best advantage.

A 2nd-class French saverpass with the car-rental option may be a good value for you on such an itinerary. However, Rick Steves no longer sells these passes, and you may need to buy them through a good travel agent. (The 1st-class version of this pass that Rail Europe sells is not nearly such a good deal). I suppose it is possible that this pass is no longer offered.

There is a direct TGV train from St-Pierre-des-Corps in the Loire to Charles Degaulle that leaves at 8:03 and arrives at 9:42 a.m. No change required to the RER in Paris. Similarly there are direct TGVs from Avignon that will deliver you to CGD at 9:30 and also at 11 a.m. If this meets your schedule, and you don't mind getting up early, you can take one of these trains and avoid the need to uproot yourself a day early to stay at a sterile airport hotel on your last night in France.

Posted by
4132 posts

A car in Provence means you can stay anywhere. If your stay begins on a weekend, you might consider renting a flat or a cottage and making that your base for the six days you have. Rentals typically run Sundays to Saturdays, and if it works for you can save money and be a terrific experience.

Your original plan of staying on two different venues is not a bad one either. I'd advise picking spots near things you want to see and do. If you want to stay in a town like Avignon or (better) Arles, make sure your hotel has a place for your car.

Or if you are disciplined you can plan to see only sights on the rail line for the first few days and not rent a car until you are ready to move to your second locale which, if rural, would not pose logistical issues with your car. Arles, Avignon, Nimes, and Orange are all easy to visit by rail.

Your whole trip sounds lovely, have fun!

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks very much for your help, everybody.

I think we will take your suggestion and rent a car in the two different areas (using the train for the longer distances).

And, as you said, we night not need the car for the first few days in Provence.

Suzanne

Posted by
2035 posts

Can't comment on Provence, but we did visit the Loire Valley last spring. We spent 3 nights in the Loire Valley area and enjoyed it tremendously. We took the TGV from Paris to St. Pierre des Corps (a suburban stop a mile or 2 outside Tours) and picked up an AVIS rental car...small station, easy to drive in and out. We stayed at the Auberge des Launay and I recommend it very highly. On the northern side of the river across from Amboise and a super base for touring the area. Helpful and friendly owners, nice room, exquisite dinners and breakfast...all for less than our shabby hotel alone in Paris. I would think a car for the Loire is a must. When we left, we returned the rental car and jumped on the TGV that dropped us at Charles de Gaulle where we stayed in a hotel until our flight home the next morning. It was very easy.

Posted by
632 posts

you didn'tsay where you were staying in Provence...if you are staying in Aix, then I think you can spend a few days there without a car...if you are staying anywhere else, I would recommend renting a car so you can really explore the area...we spent 2 weeks there and visited Aix En Provence, L'Isle sur la Sorgue, Avignon, St. Remy, Les Beaux, Pont du Gard, Arles, Cassis, and of course the surrounding country side. Without the car, we could not have seen 1/2 of the places we visited.

Posted by
4 posts

Hello again:

Denny: Thanks for the suggestions about the Loire Valley area. I suspect we will do precisely as you did. Hopefully, we can get a late train to CDG on the night before our flight so that we can spend more time in the area. I haven't figured out how to read the train schedules yet! By the way, if you particularly liked your airport hotel, please let me know its name.

Bill: Thanks for the Provence info. We don't know where we are staying yet (perhaps Avignon or Arles?). If we were split our time of six nights between hotels in two different areas, perhaps a town and a village, which two areas would you choose?

Thanks for all the help!

Suzanne

Posted by
44 posts

Suzanne -

When guests ask where else they should base in Provence after a stay in the Luberon, I tend to recommend Arles. This gives you a great geographic spread and between the two locations, you'll never have more than a 45 minute drive to see all the sites. Plus, they are two very different areas - and you get the advantage of experiencing a larger town and village life in the countryside.

There is nothing wrong, by the way, with just one base for the six nights. Western Provence is not an enormous area, so no matter where you are, you won't be overdoing the driving - and plus, the drives are very often spectacular and half the fun !

-Kevin

Posted by
421 posts

Loire is wonderful and yes you need a car there...
I am going to second the suggestion about staying in Arles. It is a great central location to everythign and has so much character.