France Itinerary

We get to go to France next fall! As background, I spent a semester in Paris in college, but didn't visit Lyon or the French Alps. In 2007, my husband and I visited Paris, the Luberon, Provence, and Madrid. I have a friend who grew up in Lyon, and hope she'll be around when we visit. We don't have much time; we'll be leaving our two daughters (3YO and 1YO at time of travel) with my mom. Day 1 Fly to Paris Day 2 Paris Day 3 Paris Day 4 Paris to Lyon via TGV Day 5 Lyon Day 6 Lyon Day 7 Lyon, possible daytrip to Perouges Day 8 Lyon to Annecy Day 9 Annecy Day 10 Annecy, see Thones, Talloires, Duingt, others? Day 11 Annecy to Paris via TGV
Day 12 Fly home At first, I considered skipping Paris, but since we have to fly into Paris, I felt like we might as well spend a couple of days since it's my favorite city. We can obviously switch Lyon and Annecy, which I've considered, but even though Lyon has an airport, a brief look through flights on Delta/Air France (the only airline with a direct flight to Europe from SLC) wants us to take a train from Lyon to Paris and then begin our flight from Paris instead of flying out of Lyon with a layover in Paris. I thought I'd leave the order more up to where the weekend is, maybe spend the weekend in Lyon instead of Annecy. Do I seem to have a good timeline? I may be able to add one day to the Annecy leg, but it will depend on my mom's ability to watch my kids for that longI think 12 days is a bit of a stretch as it is. Where should I pick the car up? We'll only need it for the Annecy stretch, but I'm not sure if there is anything we should stop for between Lyon and Annecy or if we should just take the train over. What are some of your favorite villages and towns near Annecy? Thanks for any tips!

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

You will be so close to Chamonix/Mt. blanc, you just have to go, especially with a car at your disposal. Although Geneva doesn't get much respect from our posters, you might consider a 4-5 hour expedition to check it out.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2253 posts

Consider doing Lyon first. It takes 2 hours to get to Lyon Part Dieu from CDG and 30 minutes to Paris Nord, so your not saving much time for your jetlag day by staying in Paris. Your return flight from CDG will leave in the morning, so you'll need to spend the night in Paris regardless at the end of the trip. So why not make it a couple of days? Also, of course, you'll want to find out when your friend in Lyon is availabe for a visit. You could rent your car at Lyon airport (reached by rail from Lyon center), then use it to get to Annecy and for touring from there. Return the car at Lyon airport and head to Paris Gare de Lyon from the airport TGV station.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

Thanks for the ideas! We talked about Chamonix, but weren't sure it was worth the time for us since we are so short anyway. What about Chamonix do you love? We have talked about daytripping to Lausanne (did I spell that right? It looks wrong) as well, and I think we'd be more inclined to go to Switzerland (including Geneva) than Chamonix, but I wasn't sure we'd have time. What is reasonable for seeing the lake region? And great point on the airport thing. It sounds like we'd be saving half a day by ending in Paris since we have to end there anyway, so I think jumping right on a train at CDG sounds like a good plan. How would we arrange for TGV tickets, though? I mean, how much time would we nned to allow between arrival and train departure, or should we just buy tickets when we get there?

Posted by Adam
Boston
2627 posts

Can you fly into Lyon? Or home from there, and reverse part of your itinerary? Another way to save that half day.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

Adam, I thought when I originally checked that Delta wanted me to take a train to CDG from LYS, which I thought was pretty dumb; I don't need an airline to arrange a train ticket for me, and I thought it was ridiculous I wouldn't be able to just have a layover in Paris. But I just rechecked to make sure I was remembering correctly, and it looks like Delta will let me have a 2 hour layover in Paris and then fly to LYS. Thank goodness I was wrong! I'll plan on that, instead of RT from Paris. Thanks!

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2253 posts

Yes, using the air connection from CDG is cheaper and you are protected if your inbound from SLC gets delayed. Here is the website for getting TGV tickets on line. You can't buy until 90 days out. http://www.tgv-europe.com/en/?DISTRIBUTED_COUNTRY=GB Remember to always identify your country as Great Britain or they will switch you to the Rail-Europe site with higher prices. They may also ask you if you want to purchase in British Pounds. Say you want to purchase in Euros or you get bumped to Rail-Europe again. The T3 tram gets you to Gare Part Dieu or Vaulx La Soie Metro station for 13 Euro. Here is the Metro site. 10 ticket carnet is 14.30 Eu.
http://www.tcl.fr/en

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2820 posts

If you book the flight and train combo with Air France on one ticket, your train gets a "flight number." So, you should be protected if your arriving flight from the US is late (they should put you on a later train). And, the train leaves right from CDG airport, and then gets you closer to the center of Lyon the LYS airport. If you are booking the trip from the US to Lyon all with actual flights, make sure you don't have to change from CDG to ORY.

Posted by Jim
Dallas, Texas, USA
495 posts

Becca, have you considered getting RSteves guidebook for France and studying Chamonix? If you want to see the Swiss Alps.....Mt. Blanc. Annecy is wonderful..... For maybe 2 days, once you experience Chamonix/Mt. Blanc you will understand why. Geneva is worth 1/2 to a full day especially with Lake; how about Castle Chillion, in Montreux?

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

@Jim, I've pre-ordered the France 2013 book, but it won't be released for another few weeks. I wondered what about it you love just to get an idea from another traveler; I've read RS brief article on this website (which I know is very brief), and it sounded interesting, but not interesting enough to squeeze in, but I'll read up on it when my book comes as well. I think with restructuring my flights as recommended and heading straight to Lyon, we'll be able to squeeze in Switzerland much more easily. I haven't heard of Montreux yet, I'll add that to my list to research! So, I think we'll plan to fly to Lyon, spend 3 days (incl. daytrip to Perouges), then take the train to Annecy, spend 3 days (incl. daytrip to Switzerland), then take the train to Paris for 2 days before flying home. I'm leaning towards picking the car up in Annecy, since we probably wouldn't need it the first day we are in Annecy, and possibly a good portion of the second, maybe pick it up after lunch. Does that make sense to do it that way? Also, I love Paris, but does it make more sense to cut it out entirely? Does Lyon deserve more time than I am giving it? I'd be sad to cut out Paris, so I guess that's my answer, but also wondering what you think. Thanks!

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

You don't need, or want, a car in Annecy, unless you have your heart set on a particular village near Annecy that you can't reach by walking or bus. We've stayed in Annecy on several trips w/o a car, and you can get all around the lake by bus or walking. We went to Duingt and Talloires by bus, and walked to Veyrier du Lac, Menthon St. Bernard, and Sevrier. Thones might be more complicated, but I believe there's a bus stop there.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

That's great to know, Robert! I would prefer to skip the car, but figured I would need it. Train schedules look complicated (2-3 changes) and long (3 hours) for getting to Switzerland from Annecy though; would it be advisable to rent a car just for the day to drive into Switzerland? I know there's a toll or a pass or something you have to buy to drive in Switzerland, but thought it might be worth the time we could save. Am I misreading the train schedule? I don't like driving, but will if it's the better option of course.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

Thanks for the clarification, Nigel. It sounds like trains might be easier than dealing with potential traffic and parking. And yes, no kids on this trip. As much as I love 'em, they'll have more fun with Grandma I think. I'm going to try and plan our time around spending the weekend in Lyon rather than Annecy because I'm assuming that it will be more crowded in Annecy on the weekend. And FWIW, we are going to shoot for the latter part of September maybe into the first week of October, hopefully to maximize good weather. I know there's no guarantee, but we can always hope!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

Becca, I want to help you with the trains you may take but I'm not sure where "Switzerland" is for you. You did once mention Lausanne but is that your goal? When you were looking at 2 or 3 connections, you need to be aware of a couple of things that I have noticed on an Annecy to Lausanne run. BTW, we look fondly at the photos we took in Lausanne, I've got several now going past on my photo frame. We had a really good time there. We liked Annecy too. The shortest train trip I found just now, looking for morning departures, was 2:51 with just a half hour connection in the French town of Aix-les-Bains-le-Revard and then a 13 minute connection in Geneva main station. With a very frequent service of trains between Geneve and Lausanne (about half an hour) you could add time in Geneva and have a nice time. The longer and more connections options are largely by BUS, not train. That's the first caution. The bus is operated by the train company instead of a train. The second caution is that some trains and some buses take you to Geneve Eaux Vives station rather than the main Geneve station. Only the tiny provincial trains and some buses go to Geneve Eaux Vives which is a tiny one or two track weed overgrown provincial station which is really a bit of a walk from the main station. I've used both and I'll take the main station any day. Happy planning.

Posted by Becca
Provo, UT
163 posts

@Nigel, Sorry I got ambiguous! Yes, I am thinking Lausanne. I think it would be ideal to head to Geneva, spend a couple hours looking around, and then head on to Lausanne for a few hours before heading back to Annecy. Thanks for the tips on the train route; I had hoped it would be more in line with what you said, but I had no idea about the Geneva stops. I had seen Geneve Eaux Vives in the route details from Annecy to Lausanne but didn't know it wasn't the main stop. What is the name of the main stop? I was having trouble on the DB Bahn site. And I'm glad to hear you've really enjoyed Lausanne and Annecy! I'm very excited for that portion of the trip.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

Figure an hour and a half or so to drive the route from Annecy to Lausanne, plus the CHF40 Swiss Vignette plus mileage plus parking (if you can find it). Depending on when next fall you go (warm day? weekend? raining?) you may be able to park along the lake and take the funicular replacement thingie up the hill. If you go on the wrong day you may find the traffic around the lake a little slow, and I had a bit of traffic in the French countryside southwest of Geneva. Don't forget - with the two babies they will each need suitable baby/child seats for their ages and sizes properly attached to the car in the back seat to comply with French, EU, and Swiss law. >>EDIT: rereading it looks like the kiddiewinks aren't in the package. Oh well... for those reading who will have munchkins along they will need to do the child seat thing.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8731 posts

The main station in Geneva is simply known as the Gare de Geneve, listed in the Bahn website as Geneve. If you put in Geneve, it will be at the top of the list. The others are bus stops and suburban stations as well as Geneve Eaux Vives.