Paris and Germany

My family of 3 Adults and 3 children(8-14) will be flying in and out of Frankfurt in Middle March. The time of year is a problem due to school system moving traditional Easter to a "Spring Break". We have 9 overnights in Europe plus one on the plane to Frankfurt. Option 1: Children wish to see quaint German village, and at least one German castle (most are closed in mid March) did also want to do a Rhine or Mosel boat trip (but also not in operation). No idea on a good home base for visiting Germany (Rothenburg o.b.t, Heidleberg, or Rhine area). Paris is a must destination for three or four nights (is this enough time for sites: Eiffel tower, CDG Etoile, open market, Sacre Coeur and visit the Louvre or Orsay). Any suggestions on train travel and itinerary that is most efficient in both time and dollars for travel in Germany and trip to/back Paris. Concerned on how train to and from Paris and also where to stay last night before return so that we are close to Frankfurt airport. Suggestion for Family lodging is also welcomed (apartment or hotel suggestion for Paris or Germany? Option 2: Airfares appear much higher to CDG than to Frankfurt. However, a trip to France which would include a trip to the Normandy area where the kids great grandfathers and greatuncles (three) participated in D-Day. (what about Quaint villages and castles here??) We would need an auto for this excursion after Paris. Hope to receive suggestions on where to pickup 7 person van after Paris, sites to see, and Lodging for this option.
Feel free to suggestion itinerary changes, that is why I posted this. Thanks we appreciate your help. (We have never used trains in Europe - appears difficult to coordinate, is it??)

Posted by Jim
Slidell, LA
282 posts

If you're talking about March 2014 you should get good airfare to much of Europe this far out, even to CDG. March in Germany will be cold and as you have learned have fewer attractions open. Paris will also be cold (warmer than Germany though). You listed some of the sites in Paris, but there is so much to see that is just Paris, and not necessarily just the well known ones. With your family history in WWII I would recommend two full days in Normandy plus the several hours it takes to get there. Spend time at the American Cemetery and take time to actually walk on Omaha Beach which is just below it. I am a Viet Nam veteran and my best friend was killed there shortly after I left. My father-in-law was on the Enterprise supporting Doolittle's bombing raid on Tokyo, and I had two friends in our church at the time I went there who were in the first wave on D-Day. It was an emotional time for me walking on that beach and thinking about them. Also, be sure to see the WWII museum. As for lodging, you should find some ideas in Rick's Paris guidebook or on this site. Consider renting an apartment for the entire time you're in Paris, some place just off the beaten path close to the subway where you can shop for meat, fruits and vegetables nearby and cook some of your meals in the apartment. We did that in Florence and it made us feel like the locals. Germany in the summer would make the things you listed there much more fun and enjoyable. As Rick always says, assume you will return. I look for quality in these trips and not quantity. Good luck.

Posted by Joan
Gettysburg, PA, USA
170 posts

There is almost no way to predict the weather for Germany or Paris. I was in Germany in March last year, and sat outside every day without a sweater or jacket, even got a bit of a suntan.

Posted by Mal
28 posts

It looks like option 2 for us. Any suggestions for Paris that the children will enjoy? Besides D-day locations, what else is worthy of time in Normandy?
We have four or five days after 4 days in Paris.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2608 posts

I think the kids would love staying on Mont St Michel... especially at that time of year. I stayed there in Nov with 14 year old grandson in conjunction with our Normandy/Bayeux and St. Malo stays and it was a highlight. Fewer tourists and in the evening we felt like we had the place to ourselves to explore. Just dress in layers for cold/windy weather and be thankful when you get those warm afternoons. I pick up my vehicles at CDG and just head out of Paris. I almost always have a car as I prefer the freedom of doing what I want and venturing to remote places, plus with all those people it will likely be cheaper than the train, and it affords you a lot of flexibility.

Posted by Deanna
Canton, GA, usa
234 posts

My kids were (13&9) last time in Paris and Normandy. They loved the boat tour at night, the catacombs and standing under the Eiffel Tower (also loved a picnic at Eiffel Tower, but may be too cold for you), going to top of Arc de Triomphe was also a hit. Of course they loved stopping for crepes and chocolate mousse whenever possible :-)) In Normandy, they were amazed at the size of the American cemetery and were very moved walking through it and on the beach...I was surprised how much they were moved by it. They enjoyed walking on Omaha and Utah beach, as well as the museum in St Mere Eglise (sp). Also the huge gun encasements at Longues sur Mer were a big hit...climbing on them and seeing the gigantic guns is quite something!

Posted by Ray
Portland, Oregon, USA
1353 posts

It looks like option 2 for us. Any suggestions for Paris that the children will enjoy? Besides D-day locations, what else is worthy of time in Normandy?
We have four or five days after 4 days in Paris. I was only in the Normandy area for 2 full days so my time was limited but i enjoyed Mont St Michel even though it took most of a day. I stayed in Bayeux which i thought was a nice quite town. It has the Bayeux tapestry which i thought was really cool. I thought of it as a comic book of the time. Not that it was a funny subject, but a historical recording. Caen is a short hop by train too. Its more modern. However i only saw the museum and short part of the town. happy trails.

Posted by Lee
Lakewood, Colorado
11274 posts

Burg Hohenzollern, near Stuttgart, is open every day from Nov 1 to Mar 15 from 10:00 to 16:30, until 17:30 the rest of the year. Also near Stuttgart (Pforzheim) is Calw, a little villiage with lots of Fachwerk houses. Calw was the home of Hermann Hesse.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

Do take the suggestions to take layers to the Normandy beaches in March. If its not raining the cold wind'll get you. It can really blow, and a cold blow. Take plenty hankies for both the cold and the emotion. I ran out. I'd suggest against using RodT as a base. Great for a visit, especially at that time of year if the snow has gone but on a bit of a dead-end. Getting out from there visits around can be a bit tedious as the train is a very slow one and at the end of the line. The nearby villages are nice but the "Romantic Road" isn't much and we prefer the nearby autobahn.

Posted by Sam
Green Bay
2276 posts

Here is a good castle in France. Haut Koenigsbourg near Strasbourg and Colmar.
The weekend shuttle bus from Selestat station starts March 16. Outside of Colmar has lots of adorable little villages outside of town. Turckheim is just a short train ride away and has the "Colmar Pocket" museum for WW II buffs. Kaisersberg a bus ride and another cute town. These villages are chock full of half timbered buildings. The only problem is in March, all the flower boxes hung in the windows will be empty. http://www.haut-koenigsbourg.fr/en/castle/centuries

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

"Children wish to see quaint German village, and at least one German castle (most are closed in mid March) did also want to do a Rhine or Mosel boat trip (but also not in operation). No idea on a good home base for visiting Germany (Rothenburg o.b.t, Heidleberg, or Rhine area)" Germany is loaded with attractive, well-preserved towns. Throw a rock rock around Heidelberg and you'll hit one. Same in the Rhine area. I agree with the other poster that Rothenburg isn't a good base, due to it's isolation on a the end of a peripheral train line. Heidelberg has regular intercity service, and the Mittelrhein has frequent trains going in both directions on both sides of the river. Not sure where you're getting your information about castles and boat trips. Germany is littered with castle ruins that are open year-round. I can walk to the edge of my village and see at least 4 that you can visit on any day of the year. Likewie, I see tour boats going up and down the Mittelrhein all year round. I can't comment on the Mosel, though.

Posted by Mal
28 posts

I was informed that Rhein River KD boats do not start until end of March. I wanted to train from FRA to Rhine Area and visit a Rheinfels castle for a total of two or three nights in Rhine area before training Paris. Three nights in Paris then return to Germany for four more nights prior to FRA departure.
Does this sound possible? What other itinerary would you suggest? We really wanted to show grandchildren Germany and briefly Paris. Thanks

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Mal, you are going to have to trust me on this but seriously, consider taking kids to the Invalids Army Museum in Paris, I have taken my 11 yr old dd, and my 13 yr old son( two separate one on one visits to Europe ) and both loved it. Not crowded , not boring, and worth a good 2-3 hours at least. It goes right from medieval weapons ( battleaxes, swords, ) to armour( for people and horses!) to muskets and samurai stuff.. right up through both WWI and WWII ,,its a very interesting museum and would be great to see before Normandy.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

"I was informed that Rhein River KD boats do not start until end of March." KD is one of only several companies that offers day cruises. I've seen plenty of other tour boats that operate in the colder months, but off the top of my head, I don't know their names.

Posted by Mal
28 posts

Tom
I will search for other boat companies. What about the itinerary? What do you suggest as the routing via trains for my family which is considered as 3 adults and 3 children. We need suggestions for the routing that is most time and money efficient. I do not really want to drive a van, we will be very mobile as we will pack light. 9 notes in Germany, Paris total, FRA in and out, mid March. Your experience is much greater than mine and I appreciate your and/or other travelers help.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

I tend to drive most of the time (except when going between large cities that are far apart), so I'm probably not the best source of information for routing a group of people.

Posted by Claire
Santa Cruz, CA, USA
12 posts

Look on rail pass page here at Rick Steve's and it will tell you approx times and prices for trains. You can look at Deutsche Bahn or other national train sites, or if nothing else go to Eurail site and enter destinations and look at trains and times to get ideas.

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
912 posts

Is the head count seven? For the Normandy war zone, you might be able to negotiate a private tour for a group that size. It will not save you money but you are not paying just for transportation. The expert advice and context from a good guide will be well worth it. Much along the beaches has returned to normal after 70 years so it is the stories as well as the sights that will make the excursion memorable. Do consider the peace museum in Caen as well as the destinations from Bayeux. http://www.memorial-caen.fr/portailgb/
Travelling by rail in Western Europe can be both pleasant and efficient. To get a good overview, see www.seat61.com, an award-winning site crammed with information that also sugggests strategies for planning and for buying tickets. Generally, buy your tickets from national operators www.tgv-europe.com and www.bahn.com rather than commercial agencies such as RailEurope. Seat 61 will explain it for you.