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Back After Twelve Weeks

My wife and I returned from a twelve week visit to France a few days ago. Now that the “dust has settled,” I thought I would offer a few glittering generalities before memories begin to fade.

We flew into CDG and leased a diesel SUV through Auto Europe. If you are looking to rent a car for three weeks or more, check out leasing. You get a brand-new car with all insurance and no deductible which, in our case, saved a lot of money. Another benefit is that you give them a call when you have your luggage and they pick you up and take you to a location just outside the airport. They give you a tutorial on the car and answer your questions before you head out. Handy restrooms. Only complaint we had was the car came with a tiny amount of fuel in it, so the first thing you had to do was go to a gas station and fill up. They put the nearest station in the GPS to make it easier. When we returned the car, we found out that there was an option available to get a full tank of fuel which would be great if not too expensive. Unlike rental cars, there was no requirement to return the car with a full tank, one less thing to worry about on a busy day. After a quick check in, we were then shuttled to our terminal with our tons of luggage almost like a special service, since there were no other passengers. By the way, diesel was cheaper than regular gas everywhere we went and available at every gas station.

Last summer when we flew back from France, we flew back out of Nice and got caught up in the mess at Heathrow, resulting in an overnight stay and necessary changes. This year we booked a non-stop direct flight from ATL to CDG and back with Air France to avoid Heathrow and reduce delay risks. It has been years since we flew out of CDG, so we knew we were in for a special treat not being familiar with any physical changes and no doubt being very busy this summer. Our shuttle dropped us off at Terminal 2 a little after 11:00 am. After going through the processes and security screening, we made it to our gate for our 2:00 flight just when they were ready to start pre-boarding at 1:05. Because of our Premium Economy seats, we were able to use Sky Priority lanes a number of times. If not for that, we would have arrived later while boarding was in process. When they say arrive a minimum of three hours before your flight, they are not kidding!

The biggest mess was security screening. One lady inspector was unusually concerned with liquid gels verses solid pills in an Advil bottle that actually had gummy vitamins in it. My wife set off a detector because of her hip replacements, as she always does. So, despite her explanation, instead of patting her down they made her take off her sandals and go through again. This of course resulted in another alarm and delay. Good thing I was in front of her to grab her items off the relentless conveyor before they were launched onto the floor by the solid line of red plastic trays behind them! It is a pity that videos are not permitted in the security area since they made me take off my belt and I was trying to deal with this while holding my pants up with one hand. Someone paying attention would have had a guaranteed viral video for social media.

The flight ended up taking off about 40 minutes late because of baggage loading delays. Our plane had a camera on the top of the tail which showed what was happening on the ground, clearly showing containers being loaded after we were all buckled up and ready to go. After landing at ATL, Global Entry enabled us to zip through Customs and get to baggage claim where our bags were waiting for us. If you do not have Global Entry, get it before your next international trip. It is worth it!

Oh, by the way, we had a great time in France and did not witness any signs of social unrest anywhere we visited.

Posted by
14288 posts

Good to know how things went for you at CDG. I prefer the direct flights if I can get them as well. Interesting that your plane had a camera on the tail! What airline?

Happy you had a wonderful time in France!

Thanks for posting.

Posted by
5262 posts

Will you be writing a trip report?
I’m definitely interested in reading about your travel adventures.

Where did you go?

What were the highlights of your travels?

Posted by
7468 posts

“ You get a brand-new car with all insurance and no deductible which, in our case, saved a lot of money. ”

Sounds like your trip report will have an additional car story to it!

As others mentioned, we would love to hear where you went and your favorite experiences.

Posted by
3364 posts

Enjoyed reading, would like to hear more! Soon, we also will be traveling for longer periods. How did you plan your trip? Did you have all accommodations before leaving?

Posted by
52 posts

Looks like I should provide some more information, so I will work on that.

Chris

Posted by
91 posts

Loved reading about your lease.

Did you specify a SUV?

Wondered if you thought the car was too big.

Posted by
2925 posts

Great report so far. Can’t wait to read more. Where all did you go? What did you do and see?

Posted by
10370 posts

@Mikewade98, Yes, you choose your car minimum 3 weeks ahead, even much longer lead time nowadays. The car will be registered in your name. You are the owner for the period. It has pluses and a couple of minuses. If you have an accident and have to wait for a repair, you have no other car to use as this is your car, registered to you
The car comes with red license plates, indicating that it is registered to non-résidents,and paid for with non-EU currency. Thieves know this. That said, we've had only good experiences, one minor repair covered by insurance.
SUV, we've had them in France. It can be difficult to park. We have several friends in France who can't use their own garages because the cars won't fit. We're considering buying a car, but nothing larger than a Toyota Yaris. No SUV, though they are popular in Europe, too.

Posted by
52 posts

Since reporting about a long trip like this would require a ton of time for this two-fingered typist trying to get back in the daily groove, I will summarize and avoid getting into too much detail. I should note we do mostly driving trips and stay in rentals rather than hotels, using Airbnb, VRBO and Gites de France. For research, Rick Steves and the Michelin Green Guides and maps are very useful.

First of all, a trip of twelve weeks requires a good bit of planning, research and decisions as you might suspect. The key decisions for us revolve around what areas to visit and what place would be a good base in each area so that daily windshield time would be minimized. It is good to avoid very long drives between bases because it always takes longer than GPS indicates. We shoot for a maximum one-hour drive to a tourist site. Past experience has shown we prefer to stay for a minimum of two weeks at each base before moving on to the next. Of course, being retired allows for longer visits and we have had many European trips in the past stuffed into much shorter periods when we were working.

Once areas and bases are resolved, we check to see if there are places to rent near the targeted bases. Sometimes we have to make changes because a proposed base looks good on paper but rentals are too expensive or almost non-existent. For us, the sweet spot seems to be a rental on the edge of town with parking on site and grocery stores, bakeries, restaurants and local attractions within walking distance.

For this trip we booked the departing flight as early as possible and the return twelve weeks later after resolving how long we would stay and where we would fly out of. At this point we could also book the lease car and start reserving places to stay. Obviously, the earlier you do these things in the process, the better choices you have. That being said, in 2000 we put together a month-long trip to the Czech Republic and Hungary, starting three weeks before our departure date. It came out just fine, but things were different then.
Our itinerary worked out to be this:

  1. Fly into CDG, pick up the car and drive to Chartes. Stay two nights to see the cathedral and overcome jet lag.

  2. Yvrac for two weeks in the Bordeaux area. Wine tasting and city sites.

  3. Sarlat for two weeks to visit the Dordogne. Caves and chateaux.

  4. Angiers to visit the west side of the Loire Valley (saw most of east side previously) for two weeks. More chateaux, Saumur,
    Angiers.

  5. Quevert (Dinan) to visit Brittany for two weeks. Dinan, Rennes, Dinard, St. Malo, Mt. San Michel.

  6. Caen to visit Normandy and D-Day sites for 16 nights.

  7. Honfleur to visit the eastern side of Normandy and the coast for 7 nights. Local sites and Bastille Day, Rouen.

  8. Senlis for one night in a suburban hotel to get close to CDG to fly out the next day.

I hope this proves useful.
Enjoy!

Posted by
714 posts

Chris- I just sent you a PM.

EDIT: We will have 4 nights in Chinon. Other than 3-4 Chateux is there anything unusually special we might want to see or do? We will have a car.
Also, we have 7 nights in Bayeux-same question. Two of the days we have scheduled D-Day Tours.

We love good, not terribly expensive food-€ 30-50pp for dinner plus wine is okay. Any suggestions either parts of the country would be most welcome.

More EDIT to add: No car, but same for Bordeaux, especially restaurants. We aren’t adverse to having to take a train or bus to dinner.

Posted by
52 posts

Regarding anything unusually special in Chinon or Bayeux, nothing comes to mind. Just review RS and Michelin Green Guides.

Concerning restaurants, I will go with RS and Trip Advisor to start the hunt, then adjust as necessary. Did not have any super fantastic meals to report. We have noticed a number of restaurants out of business, limited opening days, and new places popping up not mentioned anywhere. In general, your best restaurant values are away from the tourist sites where locals eat. In Brittany and Normandy, we found crepes to be tasty and inexpensive. One tip is to show up right when a restaurant opens if you do not have a reservation. Most locals appear to eat later, so you are more likely to get a seat.

Since we stayed in rentals with kitchens, we had many meals taking advantage of prepared dishes from the butcher or grocery, take-out salads and multiple variations on cheese, wine, bread, fruit and local specialties. Having breakfast in saves a lot of time and money and is an excuse to raid the local bakery for fresh and wonderful things.