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21 Day whirlwind tour of France-COMPLETED!

We just returned from the whirlwind tour as described in the RS France book. We quite literally did it 'by the book'. We drove 2600 miles, spent $350E on tolls, visited 15 cities, multiple museums, stayed in hotels, B&B's and an apartment in Paris and had a great but BUSY trip. The cities are set up so there are only two 5 hour drives, but it usually took longer for us. The roads are beautiful, expensive but worth it. The country is gorgeous, the people friendly. We picked up the car at the airport and dropped it in Paris. The first day was a bit of a zombie day as we were recovering from the jet lag from the East Coast, but we muddled through. We used almost all of his hotel recommendations unless we could save money by using our AX points and other hotels. We used all of the restaurants recommended for dinner and never went wrong.

This trip is not for the faint of heart or for people who don't like to drive. It's a very busy itinerary especially if you want to see the sites in the towns you're visiting. We did. We still had some down time, but we don't use these trips as vacations but rather as a means 'to travel'. If you do this trip, you certainly do that!

We budgeted about $100 per day for food, and we are light eaters. That's not enough. The hotel breakfasts are 11-16E per person if you choose to use them; sometimes there's hardly a choice because of where you are. Lunch 'plats' are 12E-18E, dinners 18E-skies the limit. I think a reasonable estimate for 'normal' consumers is more like $125-$150 per day. Plus, we don't drink much either, so there's that to consider.

All in all, a very memorable trip. I think I might make all my stays a two night minimum next time; there were quite a few of 1 night stays during this trip. The 4 night stay in Paris, in a Cobblestone apartment, was awesome. After 17 nights, we needed some room to stretch out, unpack, wash clothes and cook some meals.

Another RS trip in the books. We've done 4, and really get to see the countries we visit!

Posted by
51 posts

I would love to hear some details about your favorite spots etc. Where did you rent your car? Sounds like a great trip.

Posted by
613 posts

Great trip report, loved the information on the dining costs and find that very helpful. Fortunately our breakfasts are included in both our B&Bs in Normandy and our hotel in Paris, so I'm hoping we can get by on the $100-125 range, especially with a few picnic type lunches.

I have wondered about his suggested trip itineraries being very busy. Sounds like it's do-able but a little intense!

Posted by
20 posts

I could go on and on about the I'm happy to answer questions rather than ramble.

We picked up the car upon landing at CDG, and drove directly to Giverny to visit Monet's Garden. After that, we drove to Honfleur and stayed the night and began our trip throughout and around France. We dropped the car in downtown Paris 17 days later, at a Hertz location I had already looked up near the apartment we were renting. I don't think picking up at one location and dropping off at another cost any different money in this case.

I decided to go with Hertz because I had rented a car with fly-by-night company RS had recommended in Greece. The car was dirty, had 250k on it and the GPS was awful. The Hertz car was almost brand new, clean, efficient and had a wonderful built in GPS that was absolutely essential. You need a very good GPS in these countries. For $157 for 17 days it was worth every penny.

Happy to answer any more questions.


Posted by
20 posts

His itineraries are all very busy. We like it that way. We had done 3, two week itineraries before this with the RS books. Italy, Portugal and Greece. After 2 weeks, you're glad to be home in your own bed. But hey, you can always sleep!

After 3 weeks, you almost collapse in the Paris apartment. We literally saw about 14 museums, walked 109 miles per our pedometer, drove 2600 miles and stayed in about 12 different places. We're big believers in having only one carry on per person (kudos to my wifey!), so this helps alot...ALOT!!!

I would also recommend making sure you have a Credit Card with a chip in it (not AX). Europe is almost all chipped CC these days.

Lastly, I scanned all our important documents (CC, drivers licenses, passports etc) and emailed them to myself before leaving. This way I can access them if they get lost or stolen, and don't have to carry copies. I then lock everything up in the hotel safes or elsewhere..I never carry my passports around town.

Hope this helps!


Posted by
20 posts

Hi Jane.
Perhaps I was unclear in my post. The GPS, that was already built into the car we rented, was $157 for the entire 17 days. That cost was worth every penny, because it guided us all over France and never got us lost.

The bill for the Hertz car, including the GPS for $157, extra insurance with $1000 deductible etc, was like $800 for 17 days. We got an almost new 4/5 passenger, Ford CMax, 5 speed diesel that got great mileage.

When you go to book the car, it looks a lot cheaper than that, because the daily and weekly rates are actually inexpensive. It's the insurance, fees and any extras that bumps it up when you go the 'check out' on the website.

We picked the car up at CDG (right in the terminal BTW) and dropped it off in downtown Paris. Driving in France is easy, Paris will really challenge your nerves.

Good luck!

Posted by
4 posts

Hi nvf,

I'm planning to drive from Arles - Pont du Gard - Roussillon and other Luberon towns.
Did you happen to drive in Provence? Especially in the country roads of the Luberon?
Wondering what the winding roads are like - are average driving speeds like 30 mph?

Thanks in advance for your reply.

Posted by
20 posts

Oh sure we drove around Provence, especially around Arles. Didn't spend any time in Luberon, but we put 4000 km on the car while driving around the country, so I can say pretty authoritatively what driving in France, and the roads are like.

The highways are beautiful and well maintained. There are plenty of expensive tolls, but we didn't care since the roads were so nice. The speed limits are high, and the drivers polite, for the most part. Watch out for the Speed Cameras though!

The back roads are fine. Lower speed limits but again, well maintained. In comparison to Greece, they were like heaven. I wouldn't worry about driving anywhere in France really. The cities can be hectic, and Paris is pretty crazy (even for someone used to NYC drivers), but all in all , it was a pleasure.


Posted by
605 posts

Just got back from there and can say that the drive through the Luberon was relatively easy.

Posted by
208 posts

I agree. We were in South France two years ago, and never ran into a road that was a problem.

Posted by
14796 posts

Whew. I'm out of breath just reading the itinerary. Kudos!

I spent 10 days at the end of June with a car in France, starting in Chamonix, stopping briefly in Cluny, then spending the rest of my time about half in Burgundy and half in Alsace. Much slower paced than you! Loved it all - though the side roads in Beaujolais and Burgundy were challenging, the highways really are a pleasure to drive. I think I spent less than $50 a day on food including drinks and snacks, but I was so tempted by the cheeses and fruit at the local markets, that I usually had that as either lunch or dinner. Except for a splurge in Strasbourg, my dinners were usually main course, at least 2 glasses of wine and maybe a small dessert, around €20, with tip. Lunches were less - since I was driving, there was little or no alcohol involved.

Do you speak French? I found that my pretty bad French was a huge help. In Paris, everyone spoke English so much better than I speak French, but in the countryside, I very much relied on it.

Posted by
20 posts

Yup, we were about 'all touristed out' by the last day in Paris. We've done his whirlwinds 4 times. It's a great way to see a country. Doubt we'll go back to any of them, because there's such a big world to see and so little time!

My wife recalled her French speaking days, and was doing pretty well by the end of our trip. I just ordered the restaurant specials, plat du jour, so I got to eat what the French eat. Had some interesting meals that way!

I think the French have a bad reputation. We never experienced any rude French (except one taxi driver) and found them wonderfully friendly and helpful. I guess it's how you treat people, and expect to be treated in return.

I loved France. What a beautiful country. Paris has its' problems, but what big city doesn't?

Scotland and UK next, I think!

Posted by
74 posts

Hi! Glad your whirlwind tour was a success! I am wondering if you can comment on some of the days - I used his itinerary to make my own (we are doing the opposite, and skipping the west this time - Paris, Disneyland Paris, Loire, Beaune, Avignon, Nice). We will have our 3.5 year old daughter with us :)

So from the stops on the whirlwind tour, any recommendations, highlights (meals?) or things to skip? Namely:

Monet's gardens
Arles and Les Baux
(did you stop in lyon?)

Thank you!

Posted by
20 posts

Taunton? My son's girlfriend is from there! Both BC grads.

We kind of stumbled through Monet's Garden because we were just off the plane. Still, it was impressive as was his house. Not a very long visit, maybe 2 hours, but the 3.5 year old will be bored to tears. We did have a pleasant lunch right at the bottom of the hill there, though.

Arles was our visit to Provence, where we stayed at a really lovely B&B just outside the city. Since we were there on a Saturday, there was a huge street market downtown, but nothing there you couldn't live without. Certainly worth the price of admission, which was zero ; ). We also did the Picasso walk, which is ok, and interesting if you're into artists. Had a lovely dinner at La Plaza and met a nice French couple while dining on the sidewalk. This is my favorite thing to do!

The castle is Les Baux is worth the visit if you want to see how they lived (and killed) in medieval times. But Carrieres de Lumieres, a 10 minute walk away, is absolutely spectacular and one of the highlights of our entire trip! This is a "DON'T MISS" site. Even the kid will like it! Just amazing!

We were a little disappointed in Nice. We were expecting a little, romantic seaside town and got full blown Atlantic City beach with a very old city attached. Perhaps our expectations were wrong (obviously), but we were staying just up the hill in Viile Franche sur Mer, which fit our Nice expectations to a tee! Gorgeous little seaside village, and a short drive to Monaco. Monaco was cool.

We were only in Beaune 1 night, but got to see the Hotel Dieu Hospices museum, (cool) and did a brief trip to wine country and the vineyards. If you get the chance on the way from Paris, try to see the Chateau du Haut-Koenigsbourg, a really neat restored castle.

Have a great trip!


Posted by
74 posts

Hi Nick!

Yes we ended up here due to where my husband and I both work (it's a mid-point). We hope to move to a better school district in a couple years but it works for now :)

Thank you for the points - we are actually planning a stop at Monet's gardens after our flight as well, mainly because we can't get into our Paris apartment until later. I hope to get some photos of my DD in the gardens. LOL on being bored, I think she'll do better there than the Louvre...that should be interesting ;)

Glad to hear Carrieres de Lumieres is so wonderful - I was planning on a stop there because of all the positive reviews, but still can't quite grasp what makes it so unique. Guess I'll just have to go and find out!

Interesting on Nice - we are staying in a villa above Nice and plan for only a day there and otherwise we'll be visiting other areas (Eze, St Jean cap ferrat, etc) so I won't feel too bad about limiting our time in Nice. We aren't big city people anyway.

Anyway thanks again for your insights!