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Paris in late April ...have until 5 May (or so) ...where to go?
Old 10-12-2015, 01:00 PM   #1
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Paris in late April ...have until 5 May (or so) ...where to go?

Planning a trip and overlapping with friends in Paris 24-29 April. Would do the Normandy visit during this period.

Can pretty much go anywhere else after that but trying to balance weather, hotels (trying to use Marriott points), United points, etc.

Was thinking about Paris, then driving through wine country on the way to Nice ... a couple of days there and then out from the airport in Nice.

Also considering mixing it up with a river tour, but this sounds harder to organize ...

Anyone done something like this and went south out of Paris ...any thoughts would be appreciated!
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Old 10-12-2015, 01:07 PM   #2
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Those are pretty long distances, but lovely places to visit. Take the TGV and rent a car on either end, if you think you need an auto. Don't miss Fenocchio in Nice.
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Old 10-12-2015, 01:40 PM   #3
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Those are pretty long distances, but lovely places to visit. Take the TGV and rent a car on either end, if you think you need an auto. Don't miss Fenocchio in Nice.
I agree completely with the TGV suggestion from Paris to Nice. It's a delightful, high speed train and you can enjoy the scenery - especially if you get a seat in the upper level. Once in Nice, depending on where you stay, you probably don't need a car.

While in Nice - pick up a sandwich from La Fougasserie. I still have fantasies about their tuna on fresh roll, with olives, peppers, and amazing yummy other stuff.... Seriously - the best sandwich I have ever eaten - we got them 3 days in a row, they were so good. It's at 5 Rue de la Poissonnerie, 06300 Nice, France. It's a bakery with fresh breads and sandwiches - take one and walk 2 blocks to the beach to enjoy it.
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Old 10-12-2015, 03:01 PM   #4
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in '07 I did paris for a few days and then flew easy jet out of Orly to Geneva. Hit up Chamonix, Annecy, Lyon, Avignon, Pont du gard, Nimes, Aix en Provence and then over to Nice. All done via a rental vehicle and staying at gites along the way. A great trip, and I'd love to repeat via bicycle...

That being said, vehicles are usually fairly pretty economical to rent, but you'll feel like you are being robbed at each toll booth along the autoroutes. The cost in tolls very much will exceed the cost of fuel if you don't drive the slower roads. That don't give away TGV tickets either. There is something to be said for the adventure of driving yourself (GPS has made this SO easy, I've driven in Paris, but I'll only do with a GPS) and having a bit more flexibility along the way.

Good luck.
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Old 10-12-2015, 03:11 PM   #5
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Your itinerary sounds like a fantastic trip. Remember that when visiting Paris, the more you smile the nicer the locals will be to you.

I've been looking at going to Nice-Torino-Milan-Lake Como/Lugano. I looked into a river cruise, but the Tauck and Viking River cruises are 2 to 4 times more expensive than an ocean cruise. 4/2016, we're going on Celebrity Rome-Greece-Turkey-Venice.

Another great trip after visiting Paris is catching the relatively new fast train down to Barcelona. You can get to virtually any city in Europe on budget airlines very inexpensively from there. I'm always up for Rome-Florence-Venice on fast trains.
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Old 10-12-2015, 06:05 PM   #6
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If it were me, I would hit Dijon and the Burgundy region first (I recommend la route des grands crus). Lyon and the Beaujolais region are fantastic too (I lived in Lyon for a few years and I think that this is one of the most beautiful cities in France). Avignon is a nice stop on the way south as well. Then you have the Alps (Annecy, Chamonix, etc...) -this is where I will be myself in late April 2016- although it could still be pretty snowy there at this time of years.
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Old 10-13-2015, 06:36 PM   #7
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In late April, the vineyards will look pretty barren because the grapevines will only be beginning to get growth in Burgundy, Champagne, and Alsace. Vineyards will probably look a bit more alive in the Rhone valley and Provence, but late April is still very early. That said, the villages along the Cote d'Or in Burgundy and the wine route in Alsace are very pretty.

You can get great deals on train tickets in France if you know your dates and buy the tickets in advance online, much like airline fares on southwest.com, for example. I have bought tickets on the French railroad website ( SNCF - Trains, Services, Entreprises, Emploi | SNCF ), but I always do it in French. The site is multilingual but if you select English and say that you're outside of Europe, it redirects you to the raileurope website where you'll be charged a lot more for the same ticket. Therefore, I avoid raileurope.

If you want to take a train south from Paris, you might want to consider going only as far as Avignon instead of Nice, for 2 reasons: There's a lot of great stuff to see near Avignon and from there to Nice. Plus, beyond Avignon, the train goes much more slowly. The fastest train travel times from Paris->Avignon are about 2 hr 49 min. Paris->Nice is 5 hr 36 min.

Buying a non-refundable ticket in advance on the SNCF website, I'm currently seeing fares from Paris->Avignon as low as 26 euros, and Paris->Nice 43 euros. Buying a ticket at the last minute might cost about 3 times that.

When I have purchased tickets on the SNCF website from my home in the US, I just used a friend's address in France, but I could have also used a Paris hotel address. Once I've bought a ticket, I've never been asked for any sort of proof of address when I use the ticket. I had to contact my credit card company for the foreign currency transaction to go through since I was still physically in the US. Also, I couldn't retrieve my ticket at a kiosk in France because of the chip & pin issue (and/or the non-European card issue), so I had to go to a ticket window and retrieve my ticket from a human.
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Old 11-09-2015, 09:30 PM   #8
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Hi all and thank you for great comments ...been out of town and now back ... "negotiations" yielded some more solid planning.

We're gonna fly into Amsterdam and then do tulips for a couple of days ... goof off for a day or so there and then train to Paris to meet friends ... five nights in Paris with day trips to Normandy and Bordeaux ... them relo to the coast to a bit north of Perpignan then north to Marsailles and train back to Paris to escape ...maybe we'll make it to Nice ...

Recommendations for touring along the way or where to B and B or beach at? Favorite places?

Thanks, again, too all ...
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Old 11-10-2015, 07:47 AM   #9
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Hi all and thank you for great comments ...been out of town and now back ... "negotiations" yielded some more solid planning.

We're gonna fly into Amsterdam and then do tulips for a couple of days ... goof off for a day or so there and then train to Paris to meet friends ... five nights in Paris with day trips to Normandy and Bordeaux ... them relo to the coast to a bit north of Perpignan then north to Marsailles and train back to Paris to escape ...maybe we'll make it to Nice ...

Recommendations for touring along the way or where to B and B or beach at? Favorite places?

Thanks, again, too all ...
We will also be in Amsterdam in late April, and having researched our accommodation options rather extensively, would suggest you book as soon as possible. We noted a considerably shrinking of inventory between the start of our research a couple of months ago, and this week, when we finally booked a room for our stay. Popular time of year to visit!
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Old 11-10-2015, 09:30 AM   #10
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You'll have a great trip. Here are a few thoughts:
In Amsterdam, I imagine you'll go to Van Gogh Museum (worth it), but also try to go to the Kroller-Mueller, museum of a private collector of Van Gogh set out from town within a nearby National Park. Used to be able to take a round trip bus ride from out front of the VG-Amsterdam. Once at the park, the bus will take you to the museum, or you can enjoy the free bicycles to pedal to the museum. Can spend a very nice couple of hours.
In Normandy, the American Cemetery at St Laurent, Mont St. Michel, and Bayeux Tapestry.
Leaving from Nice is a great idea. We got great prices on flights to/from there. While on the Côte, with a car, drive the Corniche up to LaTurbie to see Roman La Trophee - Augustus' Trophy of the Alps.
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Old 11-10-2015, 08:33 PM   #11
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Paris - my always go sees are (Have been many times) - can do in one day (and have done)

St Chapelle
Musee d'Orsay
Musee D'Moyen Age or D'Cluny
Walk along the Seine and ensure you get to the Eiffel Tower Plaza
Walk in the gardens in front of the Louvre
The Botanical Gardens are beautiful as well
The Apiaries in the Tuileries
Sitting in a cafe, drinking cafe latte and people watching in the left bank
The view from Sacre Couer
Eating french country pate as well as Cassoulet

You are in Paris in April - when it is the most beautiful - Enjoy!
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Old 11-10-2015, 08:41 PM   #12
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A very nice time to visit Paris and France in general, IMHO. But, you can get rain so bring an umbrella and don't let it deter you.
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Old 11-10-2015, 08:43 PM   #13
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We will also be in Amsterdam in late April, and having researched our accommodation options rather extensively, would suggest you book as soon as possible. We noted a considerably shrinking of inventory between the start of our research a couple of months ago, and this week, when we finally booked a room for our stay. Popular time of year to visit!
We're always up for Amsterdam. Last time we were there, the non-chain hotels were getting pretty expensive, and they're really busy on weekends with the English revelers coming to town. Our favorite bed and breakfast (and many others) has been chopped up and sold off as condominiums. But Booking.com will always have accommodations.

We once were flying out of Schiphol Airport, and found Hotel Schiphol, a business hotel, to be the nicest place we've ever stayed at. The rooms are absolutely huge--our room slept 7 people. We took the hotel shuttle 2 mi. to the airport and rode the train to Amsterdam center city in 15 minutes. And the price was especially right for such a fine hotel.
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Old 12-20-2015, 10:08 AM   #14
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DW and I went to France for 2 1/2 weeks in 2014. We went to Paris, Etretat for the cliffs there, D-Day area, Bayeaux for the tapestry, Mont St Michel, Amboise for chateau country, les Ezyies de Tayac for the caves, Carcassone, Pont du Gard, and Chamonix. We did most by rental car but some by train. Let me know if you would like any details.
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Old 05-11-2016, 03:53 PM   #15
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We're BACK!

Thanks again for all the comments ...they were helpful, and while we didn't see everything and everywhere mentioned in your posts ... it was still great.

Below is my payback to everyone for all the comments and help!

Biggest downer first - TERRIBLE April weather for Amsterdam and France ...patterns increasingly disturbed these days. Snowed at the Eiffel Tower on 26 Apr!

Flew to Amsterdam, took train to Centraal Station and walked three blocks to Renaissance Hotel. Good location for downtown with easy access and had great concierge lounge. Did the canals, the Anne Frank house, people watching, "killer bike" watching, tour to cheese, harbor, windmills, Keukenhof Gardens, a classical concert at Concertgeboew. Three nights.

Five minute walk back to Centraal Station and caught the Thalys high speed train to Paris. First Class tickets (not really much difference, but did have light lunch and drink service) were $85E each. Arrived at Paris du Nord and grabbed the subway to Tuileries with transfer at Chatelet (taxi drivers at Nord were criminals wanting $60E to go 3 km with no traffic - about 5-8 minutes). Subway easy and accessible with some occasional climbing of stairs.

Met friends for Seine dinner cruise on Le Calife (great food, staff, wine, etc). Then did usual Paris stuff like Eiffel Tower (we did lunch in the ET, but I found this to be both overrated and irritatingly touristy), Arch, Louvre, St Chappel, Versailles ... cold and wet but still fun. Also did evening concert at Notre Dame .. way cool. Food incredible. Best food was not at the usual recommended restaurants. Incredible lunch at a little place at 6 Saint Place Michel - just a quick bite turned into two hours of gastro fun. The husbands even did an after sojourn to Jim Morrison's grave - yeah, pretty weird, but was easy and fun ...we took an iPad with Doors music and bourbon ... found out from the very angry Gendarme there are three rules at Père Lachaise Cemetery ... (1) No music, (2) No Alcohol, and (3) No sitting on the vault next to Morrison's grave ... yeah, we did all three ... AND, one is obviously not supposed to take photos of the angry gendarme under any circumstance.

Jumped the SNCF TGV train after four days in Paris to Perpignan (on the south coast just north of the Spanish border ... four first class tickets for $140E total!!) ... no service on the train, but we always brought bagette, fromage and wine!

Rented car from Europcar (brand new Renault Scenic that held all of us with about 6 suitcases for about $400E for five days ... 30+ MPG turbo diesel). Stayed three nights at the Les Mouettes hotel in Argeles sur Mer in Collioure ... family run with beautiful big views from balconies north and south on the coast, great breakfasts (we usually did big breakfast in hotels and skipped lunch), pool, bar, etc ...hit all the local wineries, several incredibly good restaurants, bought snacks and prepared foods in local markets, drove to Spain to say we did, stopped at some more wineries, etc). Great dinner in Saint Cypriene at Le Aquarium, where "martini" did not translate, but it was so great it didn't matter!

Cruised up coast as well as major highways taking detours here and there ... spent night in Sete ... not as fun as we thought, but was still cool and rainy).

Left Sete headed for Avignon where we would spend night, visit the old city and drop car before boarding TGV for Paris Charles de Gaulle. On the way took detour to Vers Pont du Gard to see the Roman built aqueduct , had an astonishing lunch at tiny, local Bar de Le Fountaine in Valliguires with a fountain (duh) and centuries old church to explore just behind it.

Arrived at the hotel across the river to the west of Avignon ... great location with easy in and out of the walled city. I thought the old walled city simply another version of a mall with lots of stores and shops. Also pseudo-thugs hanging around in some of the corners. We drove through it - small car is necessary - and then back out.

Big breakfast at hotel the next morning and headed out into the countryside to the east of Avignon the next morning ... ended up at a small town on the river - Fontaine de Vaucluse with cute cafes and ducks and shops ... very relaxing ... my last two glasses of rose (way more common there than in US) sitting outside by the river ... sigh.

Back in car to TGV station on the south side of Avignan ... did I mention Waze works perfectly in France? ... dropped the car, grabbed the train to Charles de Gaulle where we snagged the courtesy shuttle to the local airport Marriott (no concierge lounge, but at $135E inclusive of two very good, but overpriced breakfasts at $29E each was a good deal). Great bar (we should have eaten in the bar vice the restaurant - restaurant had terrible service, not mean, just badly managed).

Snagged shuttle back to the airport next morning and made it back to Washington Dulles.

Summary - easy trip, very nice people, be careful of the killer bikes in Amsterdam, French is easy and fun and should study and practice before going, food is really incredible in France, roads are very easy to navigate, Waze works great, make sure you get at least one Chip/Pin credit card, just get money from ATMs (Chip/Pin card debit/credit card required), exchange rate is pretty good, go before the crowds during summer, take the Paris metro vice cabs, don't be too worried about getting sick (we drank the water at hotels and restaurants), use www.captaintrain.com for train tickets, make reservations far in advance for great rates, travel light (don't check bags and don't forget you will need to carry everything) ... we missed 99.9% of France ... we're going back! (PS - one can live in southern France for about the same as living in Florida)
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