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Village Outside Paris

Looking for quaint town or village approximately two hour from CDG Airport
near train service,to spend two weeks in March. Trying to get a feel of the French living. Prefer not to need car.

Posted by
11450 posts

Gary a "village" does not have train service usually so you will need a car. Suggest you put away the fantasy of a french "village" and look for a small city or larger town. As suggested Dijon is good but I would also think about Amboise , its close to Paris, small, but has train service and of course the chateau. Not sure what you mean by "get a feel of the French living". .its not easy to break into the locals.. and I know this because I was born in France and have french relatives .. and have spent summers there with my granny etc.. my "in" was I already had relatives there.. you don't.and you are only going for 2 weeks. you need to be around a lot longer to break into local scene really, so I would concentrate of finding a place to stay that had enough sites to keep you busy for two weeks.. I honestly think you may need to rent a car I can't imagine just sitting in your rental will be much fun after a few days..

Posted by
3308 posts

The previous posters are completely correct! Don't stay in too-small of a place. You will be bored quickly! The French are very private and stick to their "circles" of people. You won't get to know your neighbors. We have spent as long as 10 weeks in small towns in France and have found this to be true everywhere we have stayed.
The best way we have found to meet people is to frequent the same restaurants and cafes over and over again. The owners will begin to recognize you and the regulars will as well. Even so, don't expect an invite to anyone's home...this is not really done in France except with the closest of friends and relatives. Very unlike the US where you might be invited to someone's home after just meeting them! I remember a quote I heard in the French speaking part of Switzerland when we were there this summer..."The first time you will see the inside of a friend's home is when you carry out his coffin." I think this might be a bit extreme but it expresses a bit how things are!

Posted by
8293 posts

Well, in all fairness, the OP did not say he wanted to be cosy with French people in a village. He wants to "get a feel for French living", which is a different thing altogether from expecting to be palsy walsy and sit in front of the fire drinking marc with Monsieur & Madame.

Posted by
11450 posts

Well there is "french living" everywhere in France. lol might as well be in Paris then ..

Posted by
228 posts

Gary,
We spent a fantastic time in the Loire Valley, and I think this just might fit your bill! We took the TGV (bullet train) directly from CDG airport to Tours. It took just at 2 hours. Right at the train station in Tours there is a car rental place where we picked up our rental. We stayed near Chenonceau castle, but from Tours there are sooooooo many places to stay and see. Next time we'll stay in Azay-Le-Rideau, or Loches... both are fantastic! think about this as your option.

Posted by
3549 posts

A little more than 2 hr -try Provence ie. Arles.
Not a village but has a historic village ambiance.

Posted by
14 posts

I think I get what you are trying to say, Gary, but correct me if I'm wrong. I don't think most Americans are aware that village is a technical term in France, so as other replies have pointed out, that's probably not what you are really after. If you look at population of the top cities in France, almost anything after Paris, Marseille and Lyon is going to feel like a village to an American. Buildings are older and pace is slower. I would consider picking a city between the top 7 and the top 20 because they will have the most to offer in the way of attractions and entertainment during your stay but still offer that 'normal French person' feel in day to day life. Look into a few regions of France and decide what character and sites will most interest you and use that to choose a city. Try Airbnb for a place to stay, if you aren't particular about the location, cast a wide net of several cities in order to find accommodations that will suit you. I lived in one of the top 10 cities in France for several months and if I had made the effort or had the time, I could definitely have befriended many neighbors and shop keepers. My life still felt leisurely and wholly European during that time, despite being in what was technically one of the largest cities in France. By American 'city' standards it probably wouldn't have cracked the top 50. I think this is what you are probably going for, but I could be wrong. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1579 posts

Consider buying a copy of one of Ina Caro's books, Paris to the Past or The Road from the Past. She talks about many of the smaller towns which are historically significant and the books will give you a strong sense of locations. Perhaps one of these locations will appeal to you. On the Amazon website you can check out the table of contents for either of the books. Driving in rural France is very easy, not much different than driving in the USA except that the signage isn't as extensive.