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To Drive or Not to Drive...

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Boston,
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To Drive or Not to Drive...

A girlfriend and I are hoping to explore wine/champagne country while we're in France this summer (August). I had tentatively suggested we hop from Reims to Strasbourg or Colmar and then down to one or two towns within the Burgundy region (4 or 5 days) before heading north to Paris. Can someone please suggest the best mode of transportation to get from place to place?

We are thinking of renting a car but are also on a budget and would like to try to keep it cheap. If buses or trains are frequent and reliable, we may consider that option instead. Any advice would be appreciated. Also, advice on where to go within Burgundy would be appreciated as well. Merci!

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1. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

When in France -Always get a car and drive, drive, drive.

Rent a car and NEVER rely upon public transport (bus / train) since you will have to tailor your travels to it's schedule AND there will be loads of places that you can't even visit unles you get off the train and hire a taxi.

If you do a car rental - make sure to specify a diesel, since the fuel efficiency if about 40% greater, esp. if you get a standard shift.

AlpillesGal

PS - will re-visit and provide more info re: what to see and where to go and stay tomorrow.

Boston,
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2. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

Thank you very much, this is extremely helpful. Unfortunately neither of us drive stick (we both live in the city and don't drive at all actually), but we can certainlly shell out the extra money for automatic. It's not like we don't know what high gas prices are like here! I would definitely appreciate your advice on where to go within this region. We are staying in Reims on August 14th and are due in Paris on the 19th. I figure that gives us a good amount of time to see the country side, drink some wine and eat good food. I look forward to hearing from you. Thanks again.

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3. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

Since you are staying in Reims on the 14th and are beginning your stay in Paris on the 19th I really feel that your plan to visit both Strasbourg or Colmar and then going over into Burgundy to visit another couple of towns seems to be a bit busy, especially since you could easily spend 3+ days just touring around Burgundy and a similar amount of time visiting the Champagne region.

I guess what I am saying is that you may want to conosider planning your travels to see and enjoy more of fewer places.

I do not know if it is still in print, but there is/was a very good book entitled Driving Tours France (sorry, I can't underline the title) it was published by Prentice Hall Press and offers well described tours throughout France. We have used this as a resource on several vacations to parts of France that were less familiar with and have found it to be a useful resource. Another wonderful resource about travels in France that I know is out of print is Patricia Wells' gem of a book, The Food Lover's Guide to France. You might be able to find a copy on EBay or Amazon or even at a local used book store.

AlpillesGal

Just one more thing - if at all possible,try to pipck up the yellow Michelin maps (Local) for the areas where you expect to be driving prior to your departure. These maps are very detailed, have the scenic routes highlighted in green and having looked them over prior to departure will make your daily journies easier.

Boston,
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4. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

I agree that we'll probably want to limit the number of towns we'll visit while in these regions. Perhaps we'll skip Strasbourg and Colmar, though I hate to do that since it will be so close. We technicall have all day the 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 and we don't check into our hostel in Paris until 4pm on the 19th. Perhaps 3 days in Paris is too much. We could second guess ourselves forever though so we'll just try to go with the flow and see how it goes. I appreciate your advice about the maps and guide books. I'll try to find copies at my local B&N. Thank you again, you have been most helpful.

Guildford, England
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5. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

You might not be aware but 15th August is a public holiday in France and you may well find vineyards closed on that day. So do some checking.

Essex
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6. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

If I were you, I'd consider Staying at Reims, EITHER Colmar or Strasbourg, not both, (Colmar is a bit more 'rural') and then stop somewhere in the Loire region on your way back to Paris. Still a good wine region, and getting you closer to Paris, rather than Burgundy, which takes you further south.

IF you do decide you MUST visit Burgundy though, Dijon would make a good base, or Beaune is popular with many wine lovers on this forum.

IF you opt for the Loire, Blois is a nice though large town to stay in, the Chateau is interesting, and it is close to some good vineyards, and also the Chateaux of Chambord and Chennonceaux.

Boston,
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7. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

Great advice from all, thank you everyone.

Concord, Canada
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8. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

In your case if you plan to drive I would strongly suggest an automatic car as the driving is in many ways different in France – roundabouts, etc. Also inquire about driving in the areas you plan to visit, we did discover that driving on the Riviera was very similar to driving in Italy and the roads in the Pyrenees can be narrow and quite challenging. All this after moving to North America from France, bien sur. By the time we got used to it our vacation was over :)

Bon voyage!

London
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9. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

Weighing in here a little late as I've been travelling ... I'm going on the scenario that you really want to visit Champagne/Alsace/Burgundy somehow in this short time.

You won't be able to do much in terms of wine visits on the 14th (Sunday) and 15th (public holiday) so I would use that time to explore Reims as a city perhaps and drink some Champagne in the bars perhaps! If you decide to rent a car right away you could visit Epernay and might find c-comme Champagne (www.c-comme.fr) open which is a useful Champagne bar/shop.

Perhaps use the 15th to drive to Alsace so that you are ready to do some wine visiting on the 16th/17th. You could spend 15th pm visiting Strasbourg and then get stuck into wine visits from 16th morning, perhaps staying in Colmar that evening.

Then drive to Beaune in Burgundy either evening 17th or morning 18th so that you can taste/visit in the afternoon of that day and the morning of the 19th before you drive into Paris.

This is a crazy schedule but it could work if you are happy to drive quite a lot and pay tolls on the motorways (quite high). Also, fuel/petrol is probably much higher than you expect around 1.40 Euros per litre minimum (4 litres = 1 US gallon).

I hope you have a great time - you can visit wine regions on a budget if you plan carefully. By the way if you can let go of Burgundy, then you could have a more leisurely time with Champagne/Alsace doing train to Reims and then Strasbourg then back to Paris. Rent a car for just 2 days to explore the Alsace vineyards.

Hope these ideas help.

10. Re: To Drive or Not to Drive...

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