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Pre-tour possibilities - France

I had a burst of optimism and signed up for Paris and the Heart of France, October 2022(!). Now mulling over pre-tour possibilities (post-tour, planning ~5 more nights in Paris). For pre-, though, considering 3 nights in Chantilly, with day trip to Senlis, OR 3 or 4 nights in Honfleur, day trip to Deauville. Pros? Cons?

Posted by
6587 posts

After Honfleur, go to Bayeux and visit the WWII D Day beaches. Skip Deauville, a beach resort area.

Posted by
306 posts

can't comment on Chantilly since I haven't been there. However I have been to Honfleur and enjoyed the town. I'm a fan of Impressionist art so went to Trouville (other side of a small river from Deauville), and also to Etretat. With the time you have you could explore more of the area including Fecamp and some of the inland towns. You'd probably need a car though. It's worth getting the Michelin Green guide for the region, it has detailed info on just about every village worth visiting.

Posted by
18869 posts

Do you plan to rent a car? That would make things easier in Normandy. There's train and/or bus service to a lot of places between Caen and Honfleur (including Deauville/Trouville and Cabourg), but that doesn't mean it's easy to string together visits to two or more places on the same day. I haven't been farther east than Honfleur and don't know how easy it is to reach Etretat without a car.

I'd recommend digging into a couple of guide books to decide exactly where you want to go before choosing your base . 3 or 4 nights in Honfleur sounds like a lot to me, and it's pretty far east. It's about as far from being a public-transportation hub as possible, so I definitely wouldn't recommend it if you plan to depend on trains and buses to get around.

In addition to the places already mentioned, I enjoyed Bayeux (cathedral, tapestry, historic center, invasion museum; and it's the departure point for most of the D-Day tours) and the larger city of Rouen. Rouen was hit very hard during the war (unlike Bayeux) but the old center has been brilliantly rebuilt.

Posted by
1461 posts

Thanks! Nope, no car. If it’s Chantilly, I’d go by bus from CDG to Louvres, then train; if Honfleur, train to Le Havre, then bus. I guess one argument for Honfleur is that Chantilly would be easy enough to visit as a day trip after the tour.

Posted by
1013 posts

Honfleur is going to be a hassle to get to from Charles de Gaulle airport. Rouen would involve one less connection but even that requires two transfers. Have you considered spending more time in Paris taking Rick Steves’ self-guided walking tours?
I looked at the Heart of FR itinerary tour and see that the Historic Paris and Champs-Elysées self-guided walks are included in the tour so I would focus on Rue Cler, Left Bank, Marais and Montmartre.
You also have the option of taking day trips from Paris and seeing Versailles one day and Chartres another.

Posted by
1942 posts

Inbsig,
This was my first RS tour! Just loved it. I think you will, too.

I’m with MaryPat and suggest you use Paris as your base pre tour and see Versailles and Chartres as 2 day trips. You will see the Normandy beaches and various wonderful chateaux in the Loire valley on the tour. Also, Bayeux is included, the Tapestry is so very interesting and the Bayeux Cathedral is one of my favorites in Europe.
You will cover a lot of ground on this tour in terms of distance and history so stay in Paris for your three days. Traveling to the coast you have to double back to Paris to meet the tour group. I’m not sure why you have chosen the places you mention. I’m sure they are fantastic but I think you will get your fill of moving from place to place.
Enjoy! I hope you report back on your decision!

Posted by
1461 posts

Thanks for the suggestions of additional places to see in Paris - I will keep them in mind during my post-tour stay there.

Posted by
1615 posts

Hi Inbsig, you picked a great tour! I agree with the posters who recommended you stay in Paris for the first few days. This is an active tour and you'll want to get over your jet lag so you can hit the ground running!

There's a lot to see in Paris that's not included on the tour. Get advance tickets to do the Eiffel Tower. If you are a Monet fan, visit the Marmotten Museum (not covered by the Museum Pass). Spend a few hours wandering around Montmartre, have lunch, and visit the Cathedral.

When you begin the tour you'll get a 2-day Museum Pass and you can use your free time to pop into additional covered sites. Some of my favorites are the Rodin (garden), Napoleon's Tomb, the Orangerie, and the Arc de Triomphe. Post-tour, consider a day at Versailles (we did a Fat Tire Bike Tour).

I'd love to do this tour again to see the progress at the Château de Guédelon. Normandy is a lovely area and the D-Day beaches are very interesting. Experiencing the tides at Mt St Michel was cool. And Amboise is a special place for me... hope you enjoy the tour!

Posted by
1461 posts

Thanks for the suggestion of the Marmottan - never enough Monet for me! Another museum I’d like to visit is the Guimet Museum of Asian Art. Also, I always love visiting city parks, and have my eye on the Bois du Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes.

Posted by
3767 posts

Chartres has an amazing cathedral - be sure to take the excellent English speaking tour offered there! I definitely want to see it again! It’s an hour train from central Paris. From there, Le Mans is an hour by train. I stayed in a B&B in the well-preserved medieval section of the city. Of course, there’s the car museum, also.

There’s never enough time in Paris. If this is your first trip stay there. I know many people like to stay in the same hotel as the tour, but I find it fun to stay in a different central neighborhood to get a variety of experiences. It’s easy to switch if you pack light and just take the metro to the RS hotel.

Posted by
3767 posts

If you happen to like art nouveau architecture, Nancy is a lovely town to explore. It’s 1.5 hours from central Paris. The gorgeous Stanislas Square reminded us of Vienna.

Posted by
1461 posts

Thanks for further suggestions! In fact, for staying in Paris post-tour, I’m looking into staying near the Luxembourg Gardens (must-see for me) and the Gare Montparnasse (for day-tripping to Chartres).

Posted by
25 posts

I did this trip in late 2019 (it was an excellent one). When the trip ended I took the train to Belgium where I spent three nights in Brussels (and took day trips to Ghent and Bruges). It was rather easy to manage this, and I'm glad that I did so.

Posted by
8235 posts

"I’m looking into staying near the Luxembourg Gardens (must-see for me) and the Gare Montparnasse (for day-tripping to Chartres)."

If you are a garden person, then I also suggest the Jardin des Plantes. I usually walk thru there once on most of my trips and enjoy the seasonal flowers they have there. There is this cool statue near one of the entrances as well, lol!!

https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/lion-of-the-botanical-gardens

Hopefully by 2022 things will be back up and running, so be sure to check out Paris Walks website a month or so before your trip to see what they might offer during your time frame.

Definitely do Chartres. If the tours of the Cathedral Crypt are back running, try to do that as well. When I took the tour several years ago it was only in French but they gave you a handout in English. I just appreciated being able to enter the area which is closed except for guided tours.

I'm with the others who have taken this tour. It's wonderful - a wide variety of things to see from the building of the medieval castle to DDay landings. I'm glad you've opted for extra time in Paris.

Posted by
1461 posts

Thanks! The Jardin des Plantes hadn’t crossed into my mental space previously, so much appreciated, Pam. Wow, that lion sculpture is gruesome! I also have my eye on the Parc Floral de Paris, in the Bois de Vincennes. In Chartres, in addition to the Cathedral and everything related, I hope to see the Maison Picassiette, being a fan of outsider art. Appreciate the suggestion of Belgium, Brian, but staying in Paris would do better for me, at least this time.

Posted by
8235 posts

Well, I am not entirely sure how they got those pictures of the sculpture as you view it from below. TBH unless you know he's gnawing on a foot you probably couldn't make that out. The lion is on the end with the arboretum which has some cool old specimen trees if that is of interest to you.

Posted by
1461 posts

Thanks for all the suggestions. I think I’ve settled on 2-3 nights in Chantilly pre-tour, and 2 nights Chartres followed by another 4 nights Paris post-tour.