I'm in the process of trying to figure out when to go to France, either Spring or Fall. A spring trip would probably start in early to mid May and a fall trip would start in early September. We'd be traveling for three weeks total. Here comes the tricky part: We're starting in the north of France and ending in Provence. The rough itinerary would include Paris, Normandy, the Loire Valley, the Dordogne, Carcassonne, and then over to Provence. Lots of territory and probably some very varied weather. That being said, is the weather nice enough in early May, ie not rainy or constantly gloomy? I think we'll be safe in the south but I'd like your thoughts on Paris and Normandy that time of year. I'd love to hear some personal experiences of people who've traveled both times of the year.
Of course if someone could predict the weather with accuracy they would not be answering your question because they would be too busy selling the information. Our experience with Paris is that it tends to be cool, rainy, and damp in April and May. Not every day but frequently. We generally find the fall - Sep and Oct - to be warm and dryer. But not always. So we travel most of the time from later Sep through Oct.
We have traveled both times of the year, but not to all places both times of the year. May is glorious in the south and probably throughout France. You also get more daylight a month out from the solstice than in September or October. Still the fall is said to be drier in Normandy. You could consider hedging your bets and starting in the south, saving Normandy and Paris for last. You would then need to account for, and might perhaps benefit from, D-Day anniversary observances (and crowds).
According to this site September is the driest month: http://www.worldweatheronline.com/Paris-weather-averages/Ile-De-France/FR.aspx Yahoo weather used to be a good resource but I do not see that they are showing precipitation averages; now they are using Weather Channel data. I would not worry about cold in either case. We have been to France twice in the fall and twice in the spring. We have not been too heavily impacted by rain in either case, except in Paris where it seemed to always be rainy. Probably just luck of the draw. When we were in Paris in May 2010 it was downright warm, with highs near 80 degrees Farenheit and not a drop of rain. I think you may find it to be higher season in early September vs. mid-May though. We try to stick to the second half of September for fewer crowds.
Have done both. Both have their points. However, I prefer the autumn. Not just in France but in Europe in general. Summer doesn't really end until the second half of September, so I guess I'm talking more about October and even Novemberish. Fall produce and seasonal specialties are in abundance. Wild game can be found in the markets. St Martins feast day (11 November) is the traditional start of the roast goose season. Roast chestnuts start appearing. Soup season is in its full glory and they are delicious. Many places have Harvest festivals. The first pressing of the grapes yields delicious frothy half-fermented grape drinks (called "sturm" in Austria) and, later, the first wines of the harvest. Kids are back at school, leaves on the trees have turned red, gold and brown, weather as others have noted above is generally not bad. Cool evenings and crisp sunny days. But, hey, it's Europe: Rain is always possible too. Anyways, that's my 2 cents. I know their are also plenty of spring lovers out there too. I look forward to reading their views! :-)
I'm with Thomas, we love the fall across Europe for the reasons he stated. It's always chilly around the rivers like the Seine and fall brings a crispness to the air and often a joyousness to the mood of the locals. Great eats, great markets, and a great adventure await. We're off the end of this month for a couple weeks to Italy, France next time (for our 7th trip there). The hunting is also a good reason for us to go in the fall. Wild game, the original low fat, organic meats.