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RS - Best of Eastern France

I have signed up for the RS Best of Eastern France tour in June 2022. There are several questions I would like to ask fellow travellers for suggestions. I have been a big fan of RS for years, but this is my first time booked with the tour group.

Prior to joining the group in Reims, is a 4 day visit in Paris enough for a first time visitor? (Main interests: Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, Notre Dame and maybe a day trip to Normandy).

Chamonix in June: do I need a light winter squishable jacket? Is dressing in "layers" appropriate?

After the RS tour ends in Aix-en-Provence, I am interested in visiting Pont Du Gard. Which town should I stay as the base, Arles or Avignon?

Any suggestion is much appreciated.

Thank you.

Posted by
575 posts

For high altitudes, layers are the way to go. Buy one set of warm, breathable base layers. Also, don't forget a pair of good sunglasses.

Posted by
1956 posts

McLau,
I definitely think days in Paris before the tour will be great, one, to help you over jet lag and two, there are so many things to see in Paris. I think you will need two days to see Normandy. If you do any touring there of the beaches, etc., you will be hard pressed to see the main sights in one day. Transportation is another issue. If Normandy is a must, I would spend at least one night. Others will have their own take on this.
Enjoy your tour, it’s lovely to be making plans!

Posted by
12 posts

We did 5 days with a base in Paris including a day at Versailles by train and a day small van tour to Normandy beaches and Bayeux in May 2018. Originally we were going to take the train to Bayeux from Paris early to catch a tour of the beaches from the train station with Overlord Tours then jump on train that evening back to a Paris but the strike prevented us from doing a train so we had to go with plan B. A lot in a day but if important to you I would highly recommend. Also we used Fat Tire Tours to get in to the Eiffel Tower without waiting in a line and for the Louvre. Would recommend as well.

Posted by
6616 posts

For Pont du Gard , Avignon is slightly closer than Arles. It is a wonderful site to visit. We drove there from Avignon, not far.

Posted by
3893 posts

I don't think I'd count on much of the Notre Dame being open

Posted by
197 posts

We stayed in Avignon. One morning we took a public bus to Pont du Gard. We then bussed from Pont du Gard to Nimes, had lunch, and spent a couple of hours there before taking a train back to Avignon. Worked great for us four.

Posted by
1048 posts

Normandy is not a convenient day trip from Paris so skip it. I suggest buying Rick Steves’ Paris guidebook (not the Pocket guide) and taking his self-guided walking tours. To be honest, I would suggest a week in Paris if you can.
A good rule of thumb is to wear layers when going into the mountains. I would also pack a lightweight rain coat and umbrella.
You can take a direct train from Aix-en-Provence to Avignon (30-minutes). If you go to Arles, it’ll take longer and require a connection.

Posted by
14 posts

Thank you for everyone's insight and suggestions. Much appreciated!

Posted by
25771 posts

Is that 4 full days in Paris after your day of arrival? The first day is usually a bit of a blur.

You can wander over to the cathedral of Notre Dame and view whatever is going on, from a suitable distance, but only from the outside due the fire some time ago.

The Eiffel Tower is another story. Seeing it from the outside is the impressive bit, in my opinion best from Trocadero (but watch out for the junk sellers, by the dozen pre-covid). Do you want to also go up? Stairs or elevators? In the before-times there were long queues and tickets in advance were not always easy to come by. Do you want to have a meal at the top?

4 days can pass very quickly, perhaps too quickly to consider a day trip out of town, and definitely the best way to visit Normandy, if you mean the area of the D-Day invasion, is to be staying there and then taking an organized tour. If you are considering a tour from Paris there are some available by some of the best guides. You can take a very early morning train to Bayeux where they will collect you and show you some areas in a short tour and then put you back on a train which will get you back into Paris quite late. Not the best way to do it, and by no means comprehensive, but perhaps better than nothing for you. There are also more plebeian main stream bus tours from Paris to some of the D-Day beaches and catching a stop at Giverny on the way back. In my opinion that is far too much to try to cram in.

If heading to Normandy in June be sure to be aware of the dates. The anniversary times around the 6th will be very very busy.

Posted by
14 posts

Nigel,

I might extend the stay in Paris as other travellers suggested. Thank you very much for the detailed and helpful information. It is very much appreciated!!

Posted by
1616 posts

Hi McLau, we did this tour a few years ago, great choice 👍 It’s a good idea to spend some time in Paris before the tour, there’s lots to see and do. I don’t think you have time to do Normandy.

Be prepared for changing weather conditions. Our day in Chamonix was beautiful but the following day it was raining and snowing. By the time we reached Vaison-la-Romaine it was 90 degrees, I had to buy a pair of “souvenir” shorts! So, plan to dress in layers. I don’t think you need a winter coat, but a fleece and light waterproof jacket would be a good idea.

We had some great food on this tour! Savory buckwheat crepes (galettes) in Colmar, best Nicoise salad ever for lunch in Beaune, and a terrific group dinner in Chamonix (Le Comptoir des Alpes). The wineries and tastings were also a lot of fun. Hope you enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1584 posts

We took this tour in 2018 and loved it. You’ve gotten lots of good tips, but I would like to add that at the time we went the RS guidebook recommended an outdoor store in Chamonix. I was worried about weather but didn’t want to haul heavy stuff. The store was exceptionally well-stocked and very reasonably priced. We had layers but got a few things there. If my memory is correct, it was close to the laundromat which we used as well.

Posted by
25 posts

Bonjour, McLau. I am also on the Best of Eastern France tour - May 29, 2022 departure. Will be a redo of a cancelled 2020 trip. I had plenty of time last year to study (obsess, actually) about Paris and decided to increase my pre-tour stay in Paris to at least 7-10 days. So much to see and do in the city center! I will skip Versailles, Giverney, other sights and save them for another time. As they say -- Never say Adieu (goodbye) to Paris....say Au revoir (til we meet again).

Will probably also take the train to Reims on Friday afternoon, as there are a couple of champagne houses I want to visit in addition to what's on the tour and they are closed on Sundays. When the tour ends in Aix I will also spend 4-5 nights there relaxing at a hotel with a pool and spa to recover from the tour. Then take TGV to CDG and overnight there before a morning flight home. I thought Pont du Gard was included on the tour but I checked the itinerary and it is not mentioned. Hmmm..... Haven't booked hotels or additional tours yet. I'm keeping an eye on flight prices and will fill in my itinerary once flights are booked. Prices will be a challenge.

Thanks to everyone for your comments on the tour. I am so looking forward to it!

---Linda

Posted by
14 posts

Donna/Patty/GimmeGrench:

Thank you for the suggestions and experiences. All your enthusiasm and knowledge have made me even more excited about the trip next June! Much appreciate all of your input!!

Posted by
153 posts

We have been to Chamonix before. I will just bring my down vest when we go back on this tour in May. We plan to be in Europe for about 4 weeks total, but will just get to Reims early (from the east), and take the train into Paris for a day trip. Neither one of us is a fan of large, crowded cities😆

Posted by
33 posts

We were in Normandy on June 5th and it was FREEZING cold and rainy that day. I was bundled up in a coat, scarf, hat and gloves....you never know what you are going to get, pack accordingly!