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Trip Report - 2 weeks in Loire Valley, Normandy, Paris

Just returned from 2 weeks in France with my family - husband and 2 boys (11 & 13). Here is a recap of where we went, logistics, places we stayed & general feedback

Arrived CDG at 9:30am and needed to get to Tours. Wanted to take the TGV but didn't reserve tickets before leaving US in case flight was delayed or we had other problems. In hindsight I wish we had. Got through customs super quickly but TGV we wanted to take was sold out - found out after waiting in LONG lines because train area was packed

Took the city train to Gare de Lyon, walked across bridge to Gare l'Austerlitz to catch 1:00 intercity train to Tours. This was not as bad as I thought it might be - walk is not far and easy to figure out. Line at the station was VERY long again and barely made the train. It was full but was an "open" train meaning they allow you to stand if there are no seats, which we did. Would risk reserving the TGV before leaving the US if I could do it over

Rented a car at Avis right at St. Pierre des Corps train station in Tours - this was very easy

Stayed at Chateau du Pray just outside of Amboise. Would HIGHLY recommend this hotel. It was gorgeous, staff was incredibly nice and helpful, breakfast in the dining room was wonderful, and the pool was a huge bonus! Stayed in a Pavilion room which was lovely with beautiful view of the chateau. Castles visited: Chambord, Chenonceaux, Chaumont, Amboise, Blois and Clos Luce. Would recommend all of them with the exception of Blois, which was not nearly as impressive as the others

Drove to Bayeux, Normandy which took 3 hours - very easy drive on AutoRoute. Did not get GPS with rental car, but used phone GPS which worked wonderfully. We got a global data/text/voice package through Verizon. There were only 2 toll booths along the way - one with an actual person, the other automated. Used a Chip/PIN Visa card on the whole trip and never had any issues in any stores, restaurants, machines, toll booths

Stayed at Hotel Churchill in Bayeux - would highly recommend this hotel. Great location, good price, very nice staff. Breakfasts were simple, but good. Took a private 1/2 day tour of D-day sites with Bertrand Saudrais of Executive Day Tours. He was wonderful! Very knowledgeable, passionate, kind and gave us great suggestions on follow up sites/activities to do for the rest of our stay. Would definitely recommend him. He did a great job giving us a ton of fascinating information while also allowing time for the boys to wander and explore the bunkers and gun batteries

Spent one day at Mont St. Michel (we drove), but Hotel Churchill has a shuttle that leaves right from the hotel. We chose to drive to give us more flexibility on how long we stayed. Definitely worth going later in the afternoon, like RS suggests, if it works for your schedule. The crowds are huge and streets on the island are incredibly small. We bypassed the main path up to the Abbey and hiked the stairs which is a more direct route, but steeper. RS recommends this path and I definitely agree! Got great suggestion to get a picnic lunch before leaving because of crowds & high prices. Best advice ever! We picked up baguettes, meat, cheese, fruit and drinks and picnicked from up high overlooking the town below

Dropped off car in Caen and took train back to Paris. Stayed at Signature Hotel Saint-Germain which we LOVED. Manuela at the front desk was amazing, rooms were beautiful with A/C, location was great. Breakfast only OK.

Crowds in Paris were enormous, lines VERY long! Waited 2.5 hrs for the Catacombs, 1.5 to climb Notre Dame tower, Bateaux Mouches were packed, 45 min to walk stairs at Eiffel Tower at 9:30 at night! Would recommend museum pass if going to many of covered sites, get a multi-day metro pass to save money. Make a plan, by day, of what to see based on closures/schedules. We made a priority list and tried to do at least 2 sites/day. Don't try to do it all! We had a great time!

Posted by
21 posts

Thanks for your report. We are considering a similar trip next year. I have made note of your recommendations. Glad you had a good time.

Posted by
559 posts

Was it the $40 Global package from Verizon? Did you have enough data, and did you make a lot of calls? Am considering that for my next 15 day trip.

Posted by
18 posts

Hille - yes, it was the $40 package. I got it for both my husband and myself. I only got the $25 data package for my kids. My husband didn't use all his data but I did get a text message from Verizon about half-way thru the trip saying they'd added more data to my phone because I'd used mine (an extra $25). However, I was the one using my phone's GPS while we were driving so it used up a lot of data. Without the GPS I would have had plenty. This was still less expensive than renting the GPS through Avis! We really didn't make calls and only used texts sparingly.