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Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

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Miami, FL
posts: 107
Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

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:

Friday Sept. 14 - Saturday, Sept. 15 - fly NYC to Geneva

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!

Fairbanks, Alaska
posts: 1,555
reviews: 106
1. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

I will respond to your question related to the Alps here, and to your question about Eiffel Tower hotels on the identical question that you posted on the Paris forum. FYI, it's easier for others if you refrain from posting identical questions, since the answers often build on each other. Also, it's easier to answer questions when they are simpler and posted on the local board.

You can rent a car on the French side of the Geneva airport. Then I would recomend that you return the car in Lyon and take a direct TGV to St Pierre des Corps (near Tours). The TGV takes 3 hours, compared to at least seven hours of driving.

You can check driving times and tolls on Via Michelin.

Train tickets are relatively inexpensive if you purchase the nonrefundable prems tickets 3 months in advance. There is a lot of information here: tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187070-i12-k51054…

Good luck with your planning!

Guildford, United...
posts: 2,017
reviews: 50
2. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

If you rent a car on the French side of Geneva airport be aware that it might not have a Swiss Motorway vignette (windscreen sticker), so you need to pick a route to Chamonix that stays off the Autoroute until you are back in France - there are maps on the Geneva Airport web site.

Miami, FL
posts: 107
3. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

Thanks AAL08! Sorry! - I didn't know the difficulties of duplicate postings, I'll break it down for future postings. Your suggestion of the high speed train from Lyon sounds like the way to go. Everything else I could see involved alot more complications.

Biarritz, France
Destination Expert
for Biarritz, San Sebastian - Donostia
posts: 3,219
reviews: 325
4. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

I can help with Q1. September is a lovely time to stay in Chamonix. You can get rain but you can equally get sunshine and warm weather. It will be colder in Chamonix overnight than in Annecy.

Saying that, Chamonix is the furthest away from Grenoble whereas Annecy is in-between. You might want to consider a town equidistant such as Megeve or Le Grand Bornand.

In response to post #2 the alternative driving routes to Geneva can be found here: gva.ch/Portaldata/…af.pdf

Route 'C' is the one you would be interested in.

Fairbanks, Alaska
posts: 1,555
reviews: 106
5. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

Personally, I think that your itinerary is too ambitious. I'd recommend that you look at ViaMichelin and figure out the driving distances before you finalize your itinerary so that you don't spend your first ten days just driving from place to place from morning until night. You lose a lot of time checking out, traveling, and checking in again, and I have found that a stay of at least 3 nights works best.

For example, if you are going to take an early morning balloon ride in Chenonceaux, you probably don't want to drive to Caen or Bayeux that evening. And the day that you plan to drive from Honfleur to Rouen to Giverny to Paris doesn't sound workable either.

Although it sounds great, don't get your heart set on the balloon ride. We had a balloon trip scheduled for Chenonceaux last May and due to weather we weren't able to go even after we rescheduled for the following day. (If you book a balloon trip, make sure that the tickets are refundable; some aren't.) We stayed right in the village of Chenonceaux so that we were close to the launch site in the early morning.

I recommend that you look at your list of places to visit and decide what you must see this trip and what you can save for the next trip. For example, you could save a day by skipping Rouen and taking the train from Bayeux or Caen to Paris, and maybe save another day by skipping Honfleur too. (Giverny is an easy day trip from Paris by train.)

It wouldn't hurt to add another day or two to Paris, since you will only have three days there plus a day at Versailles. Your apartment options might improve if you are staying for a full week. And since you will save some money on meals, you might be able to afford an apartment with a nice view. (But don't delay making a reservation, whatever you choose.)

If your plans involve picking up or dropping a rental car on a Sunday, check the rental agency hours; they are often limited on Sundays.

Hope that helps!

Miami, FL
posts: 107
6. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

Thanks Railenthusiast, BiarritzTaxi, and AAL08! Excellent points all. So much to think about! Sounds like the balloon idea, although fun in theory, will have to go. Between the unpredictability, the extra expense (which I can now put towards Paris lodging!), and the logisitics of that day, it just doesn't make sense for a "splurge" activity. I would rather not cut out Honfluer, although I could give up Rouen. Honfleur reminds me of Kinsale in Ireland, and that was one of our favorite places to stay on that trip. From a logisitcs standpoint, rather than my proposed itinerary above, would I be better off flying into Paris from the Alpe on day 4, pick up the car rental at the airport, and drive that same day to Giverny/Honfleur. Then day 5, drive to Caen/Bayeux, and then on day 9 drive back to Paris via Chenonceau?

Edited: 8:32 am, February 17, 2012
Fairbanks, Alaska
posts: 1,555
reviews: 106
7. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

Yes, I think that order of things makes more sense. But I would take the train from Annecy or Geneva , through Paris, to Rouen to pick up your car there. (You will have to change train stations in Paris.).

At the end, I'd turn in the rental car in Tours and take the TGV back to Paris.

The trains in France are just so much better - faster and usually cheaper -- than either flying or driving between major points.

I'm still recommending Giverny as a day trip from Paris. I think it would be difficult to travel from the Alps to Giverny, see Giverny, and then drive to Honfleur all on the same day.

Miami, FL
posts: 107
8. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

Thanks AAL08! Duly noted!! With that idea in mind, I am going to work on revamping the basic structure of the itinerary and see what I can come up with. Such fun - its like moving around pieces on a chess board :o) I do like the idea of trying to do a full week in Paris, or at the very least another day! I don't mind doing GIverny as a day trip, just thought it made more sense in connection with Honfluer. I have seen day trip tours to Loire Valley advertised, which makes me think hitting Chenonceau on the return to Paris is a do-able. I don't see us ever staying in the Loire Valley for more than a day, because we would get bored seeing more than a couple of castles. We like to mix up the experiences a bit. But, i could probably pass through Chenonceau on another trip if I really can't make it work this go round. (See, I can be flexible - LOL!) Anyway, we will have the full day in Versaille, which may be more than enough granduer for this 1st trip. I really don't want to give up the active adventures in the Alps, the history of Normandy, the quaint and picturesque harbor at Honfleur, or Giverny, or any time in Paris - so that pretty much leaves the Loire Valley as the thing to be cut if necessary :o)

Thanks again so much for all the helpful advice! Thats why we post before we make reservations, right?!?!? I will rethink, and post again . . .

Fairbanks, Alaska
posts: 1,555
reviews: 106
9. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

If you have your heart set on the Loire valley, I think it is possible to leave Bayeux in the morning, drive to Chenonceau, have a visit, and then return your rental car in Tours (St Pierre des Corps) and take the 1-hour TGV ride to Paris, all in one day. (However, if you decide to stay in an apartment in Paris, you may need to check in by a certain time in the afternoon.)

But if you don't have your heart set on Chenonceau, then just take the train back to Paris from Normandy, and enjoy another day in Paris.

Trip planning is like moving puzzle pieces. Last year we spent over three weeks in France, staying 3 - 5 nights in Lyon, St Remy de Provence, and Chenonceaux, and 11 nights in Paris. I thought about driving to Normandy from the Loire, but just couldn't make it work. We did the Normandy D-day beaches as a day trip from Paris, which worked fine for us,

This year we are spending almost 4 weeks in France, staying in Paris (only 3 nights), Carcassonne, the Canal du Midi, St Remy, Annecy, and Alsace. A few times this trip we are going to violate our usual rule of at least three nights in each place; we'll see how that goes, but it is so hard to fit everything in!

10. Re: Itinerary help - starting trip in the Alpes

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