Author Topic: Suggestions for trip to France  (Read 12456 times)

MerryMcQ

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Suggestions for trip to France
« on: January 21, 2016, 09:02:44 AM »
My husband, 14 year old daughter, and I are planning a 2 week trip to France this summer (probably mid-late August). Since so many on these forums are well-traveled, or from/currently in Europe, I'd love some suggestions and tips!

About us: we're not really "big city" people, so maybe visit Paris briefly, but spend the most of the time exploring other areas. We all love hiking, outdoors, and historical architecture (daughter & I particularly want to see beautiful castles - Loire Valley area?). DD and I love gardens, pastries/desserts, window shopping. Husband likes wine, so some trips to vineyards would be lovely. My DD is a young fashionista, so clothing shopping is her absolute favorite activity, but she likes to find great thrift-store treasures. None of us like big crowds and we're not really into art or museums.

My DD will have finished her 2nd year of French, and my DH speaks French from studying abroad as a college student. I, on the other hand, lost my hearing about a year ago, so I speak a little French but can't understand what anyone says (pretty nervous about this), and my pronunciation is atrocious (according to my darling daughter).

We don't want to drive and biking is not feasible, so tips on traveling would be great as well. We'd like to stay in smaller locations where we can talk to people (in French), like B&Bs, rather than large hotels.

Any and all suggestions, tips, must-sees, would be appreciated! Frugal ideas most appreciated!!!

raymond

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2016, 01:38:14 PM »
There is a well preserved medieval city to visit.
http://www.tourism-carcassonne.co.uk/
Skip the canal du midi, it's boring unless you own a boat and need to go somewhere.

lemanfan

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2016, 01:41:14 PM »
commenting to follow

cerat0n1a

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2016, 01:41:29 PM »
Not my favourite part of France, but the Loire Valley/Touraine area would definitely be top of the list for both chateaux and gardens and there is plenty of opportunity for vineyard visits/wine tasting, particularly the area around Tours.

Raymond's suggestion of the area around Carcassonne (which IS my favourite part of France and indeed Europe) is stunning, ticks the box for wine, but the castles tend to be medieval Cathar ruins rather than beautifully preserved 17th century chateaux and there aren't really too many famous gardens.

The Jardins du Château de Villandry is my favourite garden in France (but I like vegetable growing...) but there's at least 10 in the Loire area that are worth a visit.

For thrift/clothes shopping I would think Paris flea markets would be your best bet.

In terms of travel, it's straightforward to get from Paris to Orleans, Blois, Tours by train, but the chateaux and gardens you want to visit tend to be in the countryside. Your options might be to take an organised tour (usually by coach), hire bikes or cars, or perhaps consider boats (either a boat tour or self-drive a boat - the barges are limited to a few mph so this is very much the slow, relaxed option...)

My experience is that French people outside of Paris are pretty friendly, welcoming and are generally delighted to meet anglophones who speak French and will usually be happy to repeat, speak slowly (and switch to English if necessary).

Kris

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2016, 01:59:25 PM »
There is a well preserved medieval city to visit.
http://www.tourism-carcassonne.co.uk/
Skip the canal du midi, it's boring unless you own a boat and need to go somewhere.

Following from this, if you decide to go down that way, I would really suggest taking trains to various walkable cities in the south. Carcassonne is one, and you can also then go to Montpellier (fantastic town/city, very walkable, lovely, tons of fun stuff to see and do, no car necessary), and various places around there (Nîmes, Narbonne, Arles, and places around there are also fantastic for older, Roman architecture and history). 

cerat0n1a

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2016, 02:11:03 PM »
There is a well preserved medieval city to visit.
http://www.tourism-carcassonne.co.uk/
Skip the canal du midi, it's boring unless you own a boat and need to go somewhere.

Following from this, if you decide to go down that way, I would really suggest taking trains to various walkable cities in the south. Carcassonne is one, and you can also then go to Montpellier (fantastic town/city, very walkable, lovely, tons of fun stuff to see and do, no car necessary), and various places around there (Nîmes, Narbonne, Arles, and places around there are also fantastic for older, Roman architecture and history).
All fantastic places, I particularly love Arles and the Camargue.

I'd add so many other places near to Carcassonne to that list :-) Albi, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Najac, Cahors, Rocamadour, the various caves with prehistoric paintings, the space city in Toulouse....

In general, train is a very good (and not too expensive) way to travel around France.

raymond

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2016, 02:14:59 PM »
On your way down you could stop by Lyon, try a really good restaurant and eventually go to a still in use roman theater.
http://www.en.lyon-france.com/
http://www.halles-de-lyon-paulbocuse.com/
http://www.nuitsdefourviere.com/en/festival

The Grand Théatre and Odeon are roman theaters, went there for a rock concert once. The vieux lyon is a must see. The halles de lyon are where the cheap and good restaurants are. Depending on your budget consider one of the prestige address in the first link. 

edit: I can recommend this place, hopefully it hasn't changed a lot since last time.
http://www.lafourchette.com/restaurant/le-pailleron/26229
« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 02:30:07 PM by raymond »

TrMama

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2016, 02:19:46 PM »
Posting to follow. We'd like to do a similar trip in the next couple years.

Kris

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2016, 02:25:36 PM »
There is a well preserved medieval city to visit.
http://www.tourism-carcassonne.co.uk/
Skip the canal du midi, it's boring unless you own a boat and need to go somewhere.

Following from this, if you decide to go down that way, I would really suggest taking trains to various walkable cities in the south. Carcassonne is one, and you can also then go to Montpellier (fantastic town/city, very walkable, lovely, tons of fun stuff to see and do, no car necessary), and various places around there (Nîmes, Narbonne, Arles, and places around there are also fantastic for older, Roman architecture and history).
All fantastic places, I particularly love Arles and the Camargue.

I'd add so many other places near to Carcassonne to that list :-) Albi, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Najac, Cahors, Rocamadour, the various caves with prehistoric paintings, the space city in Toulouse....

In general, train is a very good (and not too expensive) way to travel around France.

Yes, definitely!  Only question for those is that the smaller places can be harder to get to without a car. 

Psychstache

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2016, 02:34:24 PM »
We did a Eurotrip this summer with family, but went early by ourselves to France.

Wife and I know maybe 5 French words between us and had no issues, so I wouldn't be wording about being unable to communicate if you need to, but certainly you will have the ability to practice your French if desired.

Paris was nice, but we only spent a day there. In retrospect, 2 would've been better to see all of the sites. We were running around a lot to check things out.

We spent a couple of nights in Nice and loved it. Like, I want to retire and move there loved it. It is a fun mix  of French and Spanish culture and food. We did a food walking tour that went through the old town of the city and stopped at different little shops and markets and had a blast. Highly, highly recommend Nice, especially if you are going in the summer and want a little coast time.

Marseilles was also nice, but we didn't find it as much fun as Nice. St. Tropez beaches are nice, and there are some shops and markets that are fun to check out, but it definitely had the South Beach Rich Bro vibe going on, so that may not be what you are looking for. Sete was a great little fun city. Depending on when your trip is, you might be there during the annual water jousting tournament, which was different and fun to check out.

http://en.tourisme-sete.com/joust-feast-popular-summer.html


In-laws spent the a couple nights in a castle on a vineyard in Aux Du Provence region and had great things to say about it.

Hope your trip is awesome!!

MrsDinero

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2016, 02:46:06 PM »
I've only ever been to Paris and I loved it.  If you don't want to drive or cycle then train or bus is your other options. 

You might want to rethink August.  That is the month where the French typically take their vacations.  The larger museums are still open but some smaller shops will be closed especially in some of these smaller towns you want to visit. Also remember they will be on vacation taking the same trains and bus routes as you so you can expect a little more congestion

Paul der Krake

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #11 on: January 21, 2016, 02:57:54 PM »
About us: we're not really "big city" people, so maybe visit Paris briefly, but spend the most of the time exploring other areas. We all love hiking, outdoors, and historical architecture (daughter & I particularly want to see beautiful castles - Loire Valley area?). DD and I love gardens, pastries/desserts, window shopping. Husband likes wine, so some trips to vineyards would be lovely. My DD is a young fashionista, so clothing shopping is her absolute favorite activity, but she likes to find great thrift-store treasures. None of us like big crowds and we're not really into art or museums.
Paris is mostly empty in August. Your two main options for outdoorsy things are the beach, or the mountains. You can get trains to either, or a blablacar if you are feeling adventurous.


MerryMcQ

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2016, 03:33:26 PM »
Great suggestions! We'll have fun looking all those places up together!

Several folks mentioned August as not the best month for travel. Would June or July be better for visiting France? School here gets out in late June.

We are fine skipping Paris altogether, honestly. :) Mostly we'd like to have a relaxing, unhurried vacation where we can soak up the culture and language, rather than be fighting crowds for a spot on a train...

raymond

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2016, 03:41:03 PM »
June or July are best, august is very warm and crowded.
Some more ideas :
http://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/FR/
Out of that I would pick the mont st michel
http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/index.htm?lang=en
Spend a night or two inside the walls.

edit : ride a bike from utah beach to the mont st michel
http://en.normandie-tourisme.fr/articles/historical-route-d-day-beaches-to-the-mont-saint-m-1328-2.html
« Last Edit: January 21, 2016, 04:11:26 PM by raymond »

biker77

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2016, 03:42:35 PM »
You have the Grand tour de France in July something to experience for free

Rubic

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2016, 03:49:13 PM »
Outside of Paris I'd recommend the Chartes Cathedral: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chartres_Cathedral

We rode our bicycles there and spent hours exploring the interior and exterior.  Talked with Macolm Miller, who's spent his entire studying the cathedral.

yyc-phil

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2016, 03:54:03 PM »
I lived in France when I was a kid and went back there many times to visit family and relatives. July and August are the worst months to experience France, but if that's what fits your schedule,  might as well work around it. I personally love all regions of France, but I am partial to the southeast, Provence-Cöte d'Azur area. But in the summer, avoid the Côte d'Azur at all costs, except perhaps Marseille, which is by far my favorite city in France. If you go there (a few hours by TGV from Paris) for a few days, stick around the old port and its busy street markets (more like souks) and soak up the blend of cultures and sights of this old cosmopolitan city. Find your way to Charly Pizza (my cousins') for a slice or five of what Marseillais consider the best pizza in the world. If you want to stay away from the crowds, rent a car (blablacar is nice but not very practical for a family) and head to the interior of Provence, toward Aix-en-Provence, and find your way to the Verdon river and its magnificent canyon. You can easily find nice and secluded spots along the river to spend the day with the kids, swim, and have a nice picnic. From Marseille, you can also visit Cassis, one of my favourite coastal village in France, then head to those typical villages like Lourmarin, Baux de Provence, Gordes, and Les Olivettes, to name only a few. There are dozens more worth a stop. You could spend months exploring the area, so you really can't go wrong for a few weeks.

Check2400

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2016, 04:19:52 PM »
Some of my suggestions:

If you are in France during the Summer Soltice, make it a point to be in Paris for the La Fête de la Musique: 
http://gutsytraveler.com/paris-free-music-festival-on-the-summer-solstice/
There are bands on every corner, the entire city is awake late into the night, and there is something great about hearing 24 year old Parisian street band singers sing affected covers of The Doors and other classics.  (side note, Jim Morrison's grave is in Paris, and the entire cemetery he is buried in is a testament to French sculpture).

The best meal I've ever eaten was the Fixe Prix option at Procope: http://www.procope.com/
Get the escargot, veal, and tiramisu.  Whatever you do do not let yourself get talked out of getting the escargot.  Think shrimp bathing in butter, then seasoned with butter, and then dipped in butter.  In fact, for every meal, get extra butter.  They do butter better than wine in France. 

Depending on your affection for history, I would say that as an American in France you owe it to yourself and daughter to go to Normandy.  There are copious options to take trains and buses, and it is well worth it.  The actual beaches are remarkable, but the cemetery is... hard to put into words.

In Paris, the worst thing you can do is force the sites.  Don't try and do the full city in three days or you'll exhaust yourself and hate the experience.  You'll enjoy the city much more if you take a picnic up to the hill on the side of Sacre Couer, sit at a café for an hour near the Pompidou, or explore Montemarte around the wall of love (Mur des Je t’aime) for a few hours. 

You'll be in Europe during the Euro Cup (like the World Cup but just for Europe).  Find our when France is playing England and go to the biggest viewing party you can (depending on the maturity of your daughter--they're not much better than College Football Fans) and soak in the experience.  If they make it deep then things get really hectic and they'll do things like show matches at Notre Dame and other large public spaces. 

A train ride down to Cannes or Cannet will introduce you to some wonderful view of rural France, and the seafood along Cannes' boardwalk is remarkable.  Cannet has fragrances houses, which is fun if a bit touristy. 

Parisians are like any other big city people-if you try and talk on the train or while they're getting things done, you'll be told they don't speak English to avoid you (they do).  But if you perfect your "I'm a tourist and need help and am sorry to bother you" face you'll find most everyone is remarkable nice.

France is great.  Get lost in it with a pocket full of Euros to keep hydrated with crepes and ice creams and fantas from the sidewalk vendors you'll pass by every block.   

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2016, 07:52:50 PM »
I'll second the recommendation for Provence and the Côte d'Azur. One of the best meals I've ever had was at La Vache a Carreaux in Avignon. We bussed it from Avignon to a small town (the name is escaping me) where there were these amazing ruins called Glannum. On the Côte, we stayed in Menton, which is right on the Italian border. We were there in February when they have a really neat citrus festival. My mouth is watering just thinking about the limoncello. Took the train to Monaco to go to the aquarium that Jacques Cousteau (one of my heroes) ran at one time.

Right now I am planning a trip to Brittany for this fall. We're hoping to convince some friends to join us so we can rent a boat and travel part of the Nantes-Brest canal. Besides that we are planning to walk various sections of the coastal path (GR 34), and look for lots of ancient dolmens and menhirs and explore the Celtic part of France. Oh, and eat lots of crêpes and seafood and drink lots of cider!

We will spend a few days in Paris to explore areas we missed last time, but we only have so much patience for cities and prefer to be out in the countryside.

Little Nell

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2016, 09:01:14 PM »
I love the south of France, but for July-August I recommend Brittany and Normandy. It's cooler and you can go see the invasion beaches, quite a moving experience.

An intense day or two in Paris on either end is well worth it.

FrugalZony

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2016, 09:31:16 PM »
The thing with August is that all the French will be on vacation.
So the beaches and touristy locations will be way overcrowded.
If you can, I would recommend you go in June or July.

It is easy to get around by train, unless you are heading to super remote locations.

I second/third the Cote d'Azur, Nizza, Cannes, St. Paul de Vence, Cap Ferrat etc.
I also LOVE Normandy and Bretanny, which are nice to visit during the summer months.

If you like wine, there are so many regions you can go to explore and and enjoy, it's really hard to recommend anything. Bordeaux is a great one, but there's really great experiences to be had everywhere.

The Loire castles are beautiful. You can maybe get on a house boat for a while to explore some of them if you don't want to drive.

And yes, Carcasonne is awesome, but there are many other Medieval cities and towns in France to see, so like the wine regions, you are likely to find something interesting in any area if that's your thing.


gooki

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #21 on: January 22, 2016, 12:45:13 AM »
I found Nimes towards the south of France a great place to spend 3-4 days. I liked it much more than Paris. Good food as well.

MerryMcQ

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #22 on: January 22, 2016, 09:50:40 AM »
Our schools have a week break in February, so we discussed last night potentially going in February (2017) instead of summer 2016, based on all the feedback of the French July/August vacation season & crowds. It would mean missing a week of school, but we could go for a bit over 2 weeks since costs would be lower.

After looking up many of the cities mentioned above, we definitely liked the idea of Provence. My daughter was very excited looking over the pictures of Carcasonne. It looked like there were quite a few things happening in Provence during February, like the Fête du Mimosa, Fête du Citron, and Carnival in Nice.

Weather-wise, we're from Seattle, so a bit of rain won't make us melt. We lived in San Diego for 3 years, and got our fill of perfect, beautiful beaches, so we honestly don't care a bit about sun-bathing or ocean swimming. 

Any opinions on if February would be better than July/August?

yyc-phil

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2016, 10:17:27 AM »

Any opinions on if February would be better than July/August?

Going in the spring is a wise decision. The summer crowds of French on vacations and the hordes of other Europeans from the North would really disappoint you. Our family has property in Provence and Spain, and everybody leaves between June and September/October. Provence and Cote d'Azur have a mediterrannean climate marked by the mistral in winter, a strong wind which causes very dry conditions but extremely blue and clear skies. Rain is very unlikely, but the winter wind can be bothersome but not enough to ruin the day. The coast is several degrees warmer than the interior of Provence, much cooler in the winter, so you should expect temperatures between 5 and 15 degrees C, but practically sunny skies and no rain at all except a bit of snow in the foothils of the Alps (Alpes de Haute-Provence). Let me know if you have specific questions.

Dusty Dog Ranch

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #24 on: January 22, 2016, 10:19:32 AM »
We went in February 2010. It was cold and snowy in Paris, but pleasantly light on tourist hordes. No line for the Louvre right at opening, which i think is pretty unheard of. I enjoyed it a lot compared to when I had been there in the height of summer.

The weather became rather more Seattle-like as we headed south to Provence- mid 50's, occasional drizzle, some wet snow at Glannum followed by sunshine. By the time we made it to Menton for the Fête du Citron, it was bouncing between cold and wet and not quite as cold and sunny. Had a lovely picnic on the beach in Antibes...picture Carkeek Or Golden Gardens on a sunny winter day. If you bring the Seattle uniform of fleece and gore-tex, I'm sure you'll be fine.

There were some places that were in their off season time-not as many shops and restaurants open, for example, but overall we found it a fun time to explore the south of France.

zoltani

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #25 on: January 22, 2016, 11:43:28 AM »
Im gonna go against the grian here and suggest that you rent a car. I know you said you don't want to drive, but IMO it is the best to see smaller villages and out of the way places. With 3 people travelling it might be cheaper in the long run as well. Car will give you more flexibility and also allow you to see more. For example, I highly recommend on visiting the Gorge du Verdon and the village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which is very difficult to do without a car or by bike.

Check this list of the "most beautiful villages in france"
http://www.les-plus-beaux-villages-de-france.org/en

Jouer

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #26 on: January 22, 2016, 02:24:33 PM »
France is great in June. Paris is shorts weather by day, light jacket by night. Normandy is cooler and often times rainy, which is perfect for the mood. South of France is sunny and in the 80s. I was also there during the music festival - it's not to be missed.

If you are going France, I think you owe it to yourself to spend at least a couple of days in Paris. It's such a walkable city, you can get to most sites by foot and the hop-on, hop-off bus is excellent if you are not big walkers. You can skip the museums if you like but there's lots more to the city than museums and tourist attractions. (Seattle isn't just the Space Needle.)

I agree with another poster that Normandy is a great region to visit. Small towns with old architecture and cobble-stone roads, like in Bayeux. Great seafood. But of course, you're there mostly for the history, if you do go. The beaches are breathtaking - they really give you a sense of what the soldiers were up against. These are not suntan beaches - these are "holy shit, so many people died right here" beaches. And yes, the American cemetery. I'm not even American and it was moving. There are many great tours or you can do the sites on your own. I did the Band of Brothers tour.

South of France. Oh my! Stunning. One of my favourite parts of the world. Great views. Lovely towns.

The farther from Paris you go, the less English there is. At least that was my experience. My wife is French so it wasn't an issue....but to be honest, it wasn't an issue when I was out by myself (I'm not French....trying to learn). I cobbled together enough words for vendors, etc. to understand and they were happy to use simple words and phrasing so that I could understand them.

StockBeard

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #27 on: January 22, 2016, 03:43:38 PM »
Being from Brittany I have to add my vote for Brittany/Normandy.
If you have the opportunity, try to walk the cote de granit rose, a nice area with lots of beaches known for its pink~ish round~ish rocks



There's great scenery, beaches (although the sea is much colder than in the south), and lots of cute shops in cities such as Dinan, Dinard, Rennes,...
Also food is great but I'm biased (Crepes, galettes, kouign-aman!)

However, Brittany/Normandy might not be your best bets for:
- wine (these two regions are much more popular for their cider - and here I mean the apple sparkling beverage with alcohol)
- castles/ They have a few (e.g. Chateau de Fougeres), but probably not as many as in the Vallee de la loire. That being said, the Vallee de la loire is not far from Brittany.

You could imagine staying in Rennes or Nantes (both easily accessible to and from paris by train - There's even a train from Rennes that takes you directly to the CDG airport, extremely convenient), and then do 1-day trips to the beaches of Brittany/Normandy, and the castles of Vallee de la loire. suggested places accessible from Rennes for 1 day trips: Nantes, Dinard, Dinan, Saint-Malo, Mont Saint Michel, concarneau. Look those up in gooogle.
Edit: oh, and yes as mentioned above, the Normandy beaches + WWII related stuff (American cemetery) are a good way to add some cultural dimension to the trip.

As others have mentioned, August will be a tourist nightmare in all of France. The south (Cote d'Azur) in particular will be crowded by cars, and beaches will be full of people. June (or early July?) would be a much safer bet, wherever you choose to go. July and August being summer vacation months for schools.
« Last Edit: January 22, 2016, 03:59:04 PM by wololo »

MerryMcQ

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #28 on: January 22, 2016, 03:50:36 PM »
The farther from Paris you go, the less English there is. At least that was my experience. My wife is French so it wasn't an issue....but to be honest, it wasn't an issue when I was out by myself (I'm not French....trying to learn). I cobbled together enough words for vendors, etc. to understand and they were happy to use simple words and phrasing so that I could understand them.

Part of our reason for traveling is so my daughter can practice speaking French with native speakers. She's taking high school French class (as a middle-schooler) and this trip is a bit of a reward for her hiking to the high school campus and braving out 2 years in a class surrounded by 17/18 year olds. :)  We're also thinking of trying to stay in AirBnB or B&Bs instead of hotels, so we can have more personal interactions.

thedayisbrave

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #29 on: January 22, 2016, 07:17:08 PM »
I spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence back in 2013.  Visited Nice, Arles, Marseille, Avignon, Monaco... loved them all.  It'll be pretty hot in August though.

Please eat as much pain au chocolat as you can handle for me.  That was my breakfast most mornings and it was so, so good with a cup of coffee.  I miss it - haven't found anything close to that in the States (of course there are chocolate croissants but they are never like the authentic ones).

worms

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #30 on: January 24, 2016, 04:14:43 AM »
Tons of good suggestions there.  My advice if you are considering February is to aim to visit anywhere south of a line roughly through Lyon.  There seems to be a real split in the weather around that point between Mediterranean influence and North European/Atlantic influence.

I love Provence but have found that many of the interesting (but touristy) boutiques are not open until late June. Although I have always used my own car, bus travel seems to be good and I know people who travel widely in the villages behind Nice without a car.

Good point above about the age of the castles/chateaux - my wife loves the Loire valley and its opulent chateaux, I prefer the medieval castles of the Dordogne.

chouchouu

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #31 on: January 24, 2016, 05:39:22 AM »
I would register for the Thalys website so they can give you updates on promotions, if you book early enough you can often get tickets half price. They also have ticketless travel for those registered for Thalys "TheCard"

In Paris I would stop at Gerard Mulot which is near Odeon Metro stop, it is the most delicious bakery I have ever had the pleasure of trying. The area below the sacre couer is famous for textiles, your daughter might find it interesting, stores with every fabric imaginable and everything you could need for the budding seamstress. Monoprix is kind of like target but has good quality fashion at affordable prices. Clothing is much more expensive than in the states but the quality is not comparable, the clothing is expected to last. I do think Paris is worthy of a deep visit, there are plenty of parks to get fresh air and it is very pleasant just walking and exploring. The left bank is much less hectic if you really want to avoid crowds but so long as you avoid the tourist areas it's not so hard.

Gigotte

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #32 on: January 25, 2016, 07:41:17 AM »
Hi,

Quick recommendation from a french reader (myself) : avoid July/August at all costs ! The whole France is on holidays, everything is super packed... Go in June or early September !
Paris will be empty in July/August though, as everyone would have left to the west or south.

Jouer

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #33 on: January 25, 2016, 09:33:51 AM »
OP, I love that you are planning the trip around immersing yourselves in the culture, particularly the language.

Absolutely use airBnB in France - I did so and loved staying right in a neighbourhood, rather than a tourist area. We had a local bakery and market on our street which was great for quick yet fresh breakfasts. I enjoy finding something to do within the neighbourhood we stay. For instance, we watched a Euro match at a locals pub. At first we hesitated going in but the guys welcomed us with open arms....once they made sure I wasn't cheering for the enemy.

MerryMcQ

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #34 on: January 25, 2016, 02:23:25 PM »
Thanks for the vote towards AirBnB. We've stayed in B&Bs here in the US, but never used AirB&B. My daughter kinda voted no on a traditional Bed and Breakfast. She wants to go to a genuine French bakery and eat chocolate croissants every morning! So the AirB&B might fit better, but (us adults) are a bit leery since we've never tried it before.

My daughter also mentioned it would be fun to learn to bake something French while we are there. (Chocolate croissants getting her vote...) We both enjoy desserts and are taking cake decorating classes together. My Google-Fu hasn't come up with any half-day/1 day baking classes though (in Provence area, which is where we looked). I've found a lot of week long cooking vacations, but nothing short-and-sweet... Any ideas?


Jouer

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #35 on: January 25, 2016, 04:02:00 PM »
Don't deny yourself the joy of eating croissants every morning. Delicious and frugal! And not just for kids.

A huge plus for AirBnB is that you get to cook in sometimes rather than eat out all the times for dinner. I especially enjoy getting local ingredients at a market and making a local dish. (and I especially enjoy not spending money in restaurants every day!!)

My wife and I did a full day cooking class in Tuscany this past fall - they brought us to a market to get fresh vegetables, a butcher to get meat, a bakery, etc. and then took us to a country house in the hills to teach us how to make proper Italian pasta and pizza. We then ate it with great wine pairings. There must be something similar in France for baking.

We used Viator for our excursion. How about something like this: http://www.viator.com/tours/Avignon/Provencal-Cooking-Class-and-Market-Tour-in-Avignon/d483-6339COOKINGCLASS. It's not just baking but looks like there is a baking component. Might not be perfect for you but I bet you can find something for baking.

GuitarStv

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #36 on: January 25, 2016, 06:05:23 PM »
Nothing to add re: tourist attractions, but if your family is so inclined . . . France seems like a really awesome place to do a bike tour.

raymond

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #37 on: January 25, 2016, 06:19:33 PM »
Quote
My Google-Fu hasn't come up with any half-day/1 day baking classes though

I found this, not a baking class but since they are english speakers it might be worth it to ask them.
http://www.canaldumidicooking.com/

As to proper baking classes there is this, no dates yet.
http://www.chambredhotecarcassonne.com/cours-patisserie-chocolaterie/

MerryMcQ

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #38 on: January 25, 2016, 09:59:33 PM »


As to proper baking classes there is this, no dates yet.
http://www.chambredhotecarcassonne.com/cours-patisserie-chocolaterie/

Thank you!!! That is exactly what I was looking for and it is a small hotel with a "family" room as well! Perfect!

MerryMcQ

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #39 on: January 25, 2016, 10:07:49 PM »
Nothing to add re: tourist attractions, but if your family is so inclined . . . France seems like a really awesome place to do a bike tour.

Unfortunately, I lost my vestibular system (along with most of my hearing) last year. No balance means no bike riding (even 3 wheeled bikes ... My vision goes wonky anytime I go faster than a moderate walk). Hiking is good. Other people driving, also good. Hanging out eating pastries, great! ;)  But I bet a bike tour would be lovely for a family so inclined.

aspiringnomad

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #40 on: January 25, 2016, 11:52:20 PM »
For anyone else who might be interested in bike tours, my wife and I did a bike tour of the Loire in 2012. It was spectacular. Much of it was off-road as there's a trail that follows the river to several chateaux. OP, would highly recommend the Loire Valley if you want to see chateaux and sip wine (sans bike), but of course, this being France means that there are several other great options for that.

MsPeacock

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #41 on: January 26, 2016, 11:09:46 AM »
Responding so I can follow.

zoltani

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #42 on: January 26, 2016, 01:52:46 PM »
Nothing to add re: tourist attractions, but if your family is so inclined . . . France seems like a really awesome place to do a bike tour.

You are correct, one of the best countries for a bike tour. "municipal camping" sites are plentiful and hardly ever more than a day's ride away, and CHEAP too.


GoldenNeko

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #43 on: January 26, 2016, 02:33:46 PM »
If your husband likes wine, and you want to see historical places, I can only recommend Bordeaux and it's area.

From there, you can go to the ocean or go visit ancient cities like Saint Emilion.

Also, the food is great ^^ + the city is bike friendly.

I'll let you check the website: http://www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk/
« Last Edit: January 26, 2016, 02:35:42 PM by GoldenNeko »

zoltani

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #44 on: January 26, 2016, 03:51:19 PM »
For shopping I highly recommend the Marche aux Puces de Saint Ouen just north of Paris. A wonderful vintage flea market, though the prices for some things are steep, it is a nice place to walk around.

http://www.marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com/1en.aspx

Taran Wanderer

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #45 on: January 26, 2016, 11:47:19 PM »
Mont Saint-Michel.  Fits well with a loop from Paris out through Normandy and back via the Loire Valley.

Haven't been to Carcassonne, but have heard wonderful things and it looks incredible.

I'm not a city person either, but Paris is one of my favorite cities. Stay in the Latin Quarter. Enjoy dinners in little restaurants. People watch. Go to the Musee d'Orsay. Visit the catacombs. Go up the Eiffel Tower, take the stairs down. Have a crepe.  Sit in the sun on the steps of the Catedral Sacre Coeur. Ride the metro. Climb to the bells of Notre Dame and think of Quasimodo. Ah, Paris.

K-ice

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #46 on: January 27, 2016, 12:41:21 AM »

I did a small loop in the Loire Valley by bike about 18 years ago. It was great! Very frugal.  We just rented bikes on our arrival.  Stayed in little B&B (Gites) along the way. I got a great Gite guide book (large pamphlet) for the area at a tourist office.  Only stayed in 2-3 (wheat stalk= star) places. But I was sure to always get a private WC.  Pre Air-B&B and cell phone days.  It was May so we could arrive in the town and call the Gite from a payphone.

Our route covered some of the same paths the big companies charge hundreds a day. 

My BF had cycling experience but I did not.  Averaged about 30-40 km a day except the day after a derailer issue and we had to make up 70km in one day.

We kind of did a figure eight loop.  3-4 days I think. I think we saw 4-6 Chateaus.  Started at the top of the 8 with our bags in the center we stayed 2 nights and traveled bag-less for the bottom loop, then looped back to our start up the other top side of the 8.

I would have to really stretch my memory and google map it if you like. 

I am much more bike timid now and do not think I would do it again but you never know... If they had car free paths I would do it.

Tried a similar long-weekend bike adventure in Province, Aix, Avignion, Les Baux-de-Provence ...  But there the hills were worse and we had to bus back to the start because we under-estimated the time it would take.

The Loire valley was better for bikes, Chateaus ... 

K-ice

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #47 on: January 27, 2016, 12:48:41 AM »
Sorry, I hadn't read your entire first post and see bikes are not an option.  I just saw Loire Valley and got all excited to reminisce. The Loire Valley is probably easy to do by car.

Here is the Gite website for places to stay. 

http://www.gites-de-france.com/


Jouer

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #48 on: January 27, 2016, 03:21:32 PM »

.....

I'm not a city person either, but Paris is one of my favorite cities. Stay in the Latin Quarter. Enjoy dinners in little restaurants. People watch. Go to the Musee d'Orsay. Visit the catacombs. Go up the Eiffel Tower, take the stairs down. Have a crepe.  Sit in the sun on the steps of the Catedral Sacre Coeur. Ride the metro. Climb to the bells of Notre Dame and think of Quasimodo. Ah, Paris.

This is correct.

MerryMcQ

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Re: Suggestions for trip to France
« Reply #49 on: October 15, 2016, 10:38:41 PM »
Thanks for everyone's input on the trip! We decided to travel during the kid's February school break. We'll be visiting the Loire valley for 3 days, then a week in Provence, with a day in Paris when we fly in, and 2 days before we fly home again. We're staying in AirBnBs and hope to really immerse ourselves in living like a local. We finally decided to rent a car (in the Loire valley and then again for our time in Provence).

Has anyone used the TGV trains that could give us some advice? It looks like it is a 35 minute TGV trip from Paris to Tours. Getting from Tours to Provence has me a bit muddled. It looks like it might be faster to go back to Paris, then to Avignon, rather than straight from Tours to Avignon?

Also, we can't decide on which city to base ourselves out of in Provence. Any suggestions? Aix-en-Provence? Avignon? This will be Feb 15 - 28, so off-season.