Bonjour! I love this board, and want to thank all in advance for your assistance!! I am a single adult woman (42 yo) who will be traveling with my mother (a very young and active 62 yo) to France in the last two weeks of September this year. This will be our very first girl's only trip (I am newly divorced and we recently lost dad - so this is by way of comfort and cheering up as well!)
I have put together a tentative itinerary, and am seeking thoughts and advice, as nothing is written in stone (we have not yet made any travel arrangements or reservations):
The tentative plan is:
Saturday afternoon (Sept 15) - Tuesday morning (Sept 18) - pick up rental car. We want to spend approx 2.5 days touring Annency, Chamonix, and possibly Grenoble. We want to see the ice glacier (go to cave), go to the top of Mont Blanc (Aiguille du Midi), maybe do a tandem paragliding flight, see the Gorges du Fier just outside of Annency, etc. Time permitting, an afternoon or morning in Grenoble. QUESTION 1 - should we stay in Annency or Chamonix, or somewhere else?
Tuesday, Sept 18 - turn in rental car. Travel to either Tours or Amboise area of the Loire valley - QUESTION 2 and 3 - what is the best way to get to the Loire valley from the Alpes(is flying an option? train? is it drivable in a day?); and where should we overnight in order to see Chenonceau the next day?
Wednesday, September 19 (pick up car rental night before upon arrival in Loire valley) - I just learned about a hot air balloon tour leaving from Chenonceau, and may do that first thing in the morning if possible. Then, tour Chateau de Chenonceau (eat lunch at Restaurant on sight?), and Chateau du Clos-Luce. Wednesday (late) afternoon, drive to Caen or Bayeux (QUESTION 4 - which would be better base for the next couple of days - Caen or Bayeux?)
Thursday, Sept 20 - Saturday, Sept 22 - spend one day on a day trip to Mont St Michel, and St. Malo and/or Dinard; spend another day at D Day Memorial, and on 1/2 day tour of D Day Beaches and Cememtary (QUESTION 5 - suggestions for best tour guide or operator??); the third day for miscellaneous sites of interest in area, including Bayeux Tapestry, Caen, other neat little villages in area, Camembert, - really whereever inclination leads us(Suggestions???)
Sunday, Sept 23 - drive to Honfleur, check into hotel, explore harbor and surrounding area (Suggestions??)
Monday, Sept 24 - drive to Rouen, explore historic core area until about mid day; drive to Giverny, explore gardens and Monet's house. Drive to Paris - turn in rental car and settle into lodgings
Tuesday, Sept 25 - Saturday morning, Sept 29 - explore Paris (to include: tentative thoughts - 1st day - take Segway tour to get the over view and see the highlights (plus, we just think they are alot of fun); do the Hop On and Hop Off bus for a day or two, some of the sites we would like to see if time permits are the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Musee du Louvre (short highlights visit - not an all day experience), Musee D'Orsay, Invalides, Tuileries, Musee National du Moyen Age (unicorn tapestry), Sacre-Coeur; and of course we will want to do our fair share of strolling the neighborhoods, markets and cafes - Latin Quarter, Marais, banks of the Seine, Monmartre, Trocadero, etc.; and a Seine cruise. We will sacrifice one day in the city to do a full day tour of Versailles and its gardens with Fat Tire Bike Tours.
Which leads to my next BIG QUESTION (for now!) - where to stay in Paris for around USD $150 per night (a little more for the right place is ok) with an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower (the view is very important to Mom!). As for the rest, I am not too particular about the neighborhood or which side of the river we are on, but would like it to be not too far from main tourist sites, close to a metro, with at least some cafe's restaurants or markets nearby. I would love to be near the Seine if possible. It doesn't matter if it is an apartment or hotel, we are good with both. We essentially want the most bang for our buck - Any ideas?
FINAL QUESTION - does the basic itinerary framework sound reasonable? Any suggestions?
Thank you all again so much! I look forward to hearing from you :o) I love this planning stage of the trip!