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Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

Tallahassee
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Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

My wife and I are traveling from Paris (where we will stay for 3 - 4 days) to the Normandy region, where we will spend 2 days (one at the D-Day beaches and one in Honfleur and Mt. St. Michel). We then will travel to Provence (staying in Avignon) for three days and then on to Nice and Monaco for a day or two, flying back tot he USA from Nice. My questions are:

1. I think we need a car for the Normandy portion of the trip. Should we rent it in Paris or should we take a train to the Normandy region and rent a car there? If the latter, in what city should we rent the car?

2. Given that we will have a car in the Normandy region, should we keep it for the rest of our trip, driving it from Normandy to Avignon (if so, how long will it take)? Or should we return the car either in Normandy or Paris and take a train to Avignon, where we can rent another car for the remainder of our trip? Any advice will be greatly appreciated!

Andrésy, France
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1. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

Whether you drive from Paris to Normandy or take the train is your choice. Journey time to D-day beaches is around 2 hours. Train to Caen or Bayeux is similar. Honfleur isn't far from D day beaches, but Mont St Michel is another matter. It's nearly 300 miles from MSM back to Paris. Depending on drop off charges rent the car in Paris or Caen and try to drop it off in Rennes. From Rennes there are 2 direct trains to Avignon daily taking just over 5 1/2 hours. Driving time from Normandy (beaches) to Avignon is about 8 hours. See www.viamichelin.com for routes and tolls. Their driving times are optimistic. If you decide to take the train book as soon as you can (max 90 days before) on www.tgv-europe.com. Do not say you live in the USA as you will be redirected to a rip off site.

Fairbanks, Alaska
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2. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

I just did parts of this same trip. We took the train from place to place and rented a car to tour the local area in Tours (Loire Valley) and in Provence. The cost for a 3 day car rental was fairly reasonable.

I agree that you will want a car to get to Mont St. Michel. However, you could rent the car in Caen or Bayeux. The train from Paris (Gare St. Lazare) to Bayeux, Normandy, takes two hours; our Prems tickets, purchased 3 months in advance, were 15E each (one way).

You could take the TGV to Avignon from Rennes or LeHavre, depending on which order you visit Normandy sites. There is a TGV from LeHavre to Avignon at about 8:00 a.m. that takes about 6 hours and costs about 40E for a Prems ticket. (If the first class Prems tickets is only slightly more, I highly recommend it for a trip of this length.)

Edited: 17 June 2011, 19:07
Louisville, Kentucky
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3. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

We take a train as often and as far as we can and rent a car only when it is necessary to reach certain destinations. The two parts of your trip that I know something about are in Normandy and the Cote d'Azur, and here are my suggestions:

1) For Normandy, take a train from the Paris St. Lazare station to Caen and rent your car there, or take the train on to Bayeux, tour the D Day sites with a guide (highly recommended) and afterwards, take the twenty minute train ride to Caen for your car rental. There are several car rental offices located outside the Caen train station. Renting a car in Bayeux is complicated and limited in your choice of rental companies. Public transportation from Paris to Normandy is great, but once there, a car is necessary to do much touring. Renting a car in Caen and dropping it off in Rennes is a good option if you are ending this leg of your trip visiting Mont St. Michel. I've not been there, but I understand that car rental offices in Rennes are also close to the train station.

If it is of any interest, here is how we made our trip to visit the D Day sites and Honfleur. Just ignore the parts that don't apply to your trip:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187179-i607-k4177…

Here is a discussion that includes a list of D Day tour guides on the first few pages. Ignore the rest...toward the end of the post, TA took down inappropriate comments from a contributor with a personal ax to grind:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187179-i607-k4194…

2) You really don't need - or want - a car in the Cote d'Azur. Parking and the coastal traffic can be brutal, especially during peak travel periods. This region has one of the most efficient train and bus networks I have seen on any of our travels, and that's how we get around. Here is a post on how I use these systems, including a link to some boat voyages. Come back for specific directions when you know more about where you want to visit:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187216-i137-k4033…

Here is a link to what I think is a good discussion on the "must do's" in the Cote d'Azur Monaco would not be my pick as place to spend much time, but there are other travelers who would not travel to the Cote d'Azur without going there. There is no right or wrong way to plan any vacation, and you know what is best for your trip. Make it your own:

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187234-i138-k4471…

This is a great site that will walk you though the train booking process. Pay attention to the glitches that can befall American travelers and in particular, the Rail Europe site. The writer is a frequent TA poster, sydneynick, and a TA Train Travel Expert. He knows his stuff and this site is very helpful:

www.nickbooth.id.au/Tips/FrenchTrain.htm

Driving laws have recently changed in France, and it's always good to have this info before you set out on a road trip. As Americans, we tend to think that things may be a bit more lax in Europe, but they're not...in particular, pay attention to the DUI levels. I wouldn't even venture a glass of wine with dinner before driving back to where I was staying.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187070-i12-k44724…

It's all about make the roadways safe, and that's why I like trains and buses! Whenever possible, I let someone else get me where I want to go.

Have a great trip!

Edited: 17 June 2011, 23:19
4. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

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Removed on: 18 June 2011, 19:19
Ohio, USA
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5. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

Do not rent a car at CDG if you are planning to drive to Normandy. CDG is on the wrong side of Paris.

PhoenixJohn's itinerary might be fine for someone with a lot more time than you have but is impossible in two days. TBH I think you are trying to do way too much as it is. The D-Day beaches is not a place you want to rush around nor IMO is it a place you wan to visit without a guide unless you have done an enormous amount of reading on the Battle of Normandy and have a guidebook that specifically covers the beaches and the various other sites. Then Honfleur and MSM lie in opposite directions from the landing beaches which are best visited from a base in or close to Bayeux.

Next it will take you pretty much an entire day to get from anywhere in Normandy to Avignon by train, a VERY long day if you drive. On some days in summer you could leave Honfleur at 7 a.m. and not reach Avignon before dinner.

Finally it will take you a good half day to get from Avignon to Nice, possibly longer, again depending when you are travelling. If you take any of the several more interesting routes it would take you most of a day. If you drive to Nice along the Autoroutes you will see little but concrete and other traffic which in the summer months would be very heavy. It would be a shame to drive past some of the finest scenery in France whether along the coast or inland and see none of it. I would suggest you drop the car as soon as you get to Nice as trains and buses make getting around the area very easy and driving, or more particularly parking, can be a hassle.

I think you should skip Normandy on this trip.

When are you making this trip?

phoenix
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6. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

Rent a car at CDG. Any computer map site will guide you away from the airport on to the road to Giverny, Honfleur and Normandy. It's easy. I've done it.

7. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

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Removed on: 19 June 2011, 03:03
Andrésy, France
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8. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

Since the OP wants to spend time in Paris at the start of the trip it is senseless to rent a car at CDG. A car in Paris is more of a handicap than an advantage. Either rent the car upon leaving Paris - preferably at agency on the west side. Or take the train and rent it in Normandy - a more relaxing solution.

Tampa, Florida
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9. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

Keep these things in mind as you plan:

-- your first day will be largely lost to getting from the airport to your hotel, and you'll be very foggy from the jet lag. You won't be settled and leaving your hotel until nearly noon, and you need to plan to take it easy and stay outdoors and mobile.

-- you need two nights in any given location to get one full day of sightseeing.

-- you lose at least a half a day, and usually more than that, every time you change cities. You can salvage a few hours, but it's a long way from being a whole day. Normany to Provence will eat an entire day.

-- your last day tends to be pretty much a loss, too, as getting to the airport so that you're at the airport 3 hours before departure (necessary for North American-bound flights) pretty much eats the morning. Again, you might manage an hour or two, but it's mostly shot.

With these limitations in mind, you're starting with 11 days if I'm reading correctly. With the first and last days gone, you're at 9 days. One day Paris to Normandy, one day Normandy to Provence, and one day Avignon to Nice as Rovr mention (and Avignon to Nice is just one region!), and you're down to 6 days in 3 cities....which isn't very much time to see or do much of anything.

Skip Normandy and split the time between Paris and Provence.

Paris, France
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10. Re: Paris to Normandy to Provence: Car or Train?

In its application, your itinerary will consume an enormous amount of time just in travel.

Another vote for skipping Normandy and concentrating on Paris and Nice.

Edited: 18 June 2011, 08:13