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4.5 weeks in france

Brisbane, Australia
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4.5 weeks in france

My mum and are starting to plan a 4.5week (on land) trip to France in August and early September. I am aware that this is the height of tourist season but It is ideal for travel for us before I start my study in the UK. We have from Mon 3rd Aug - Fri 5th Sep. We hoping to travel mostly by train/bus but to hire a car 2/3 times to explore places a little off the beaten track (perhaps in the Loire Valley and Provence areas). I was just hoping for a little advice on a very early draft itinerary. We are both happy to be travelling full on for the whole time with early starts and late nights. Any advice/ideas/suggestions would be great to hear. I have yet to look at transport to/from and around these areas so am aware that some of the following may be not be achievable or may be inefficient.

Fly into paris

Day 1 - Depart Paris - visit Rouen - end the day in Honfluer

Day 2 - Explore Honfleur/surrounding areas

Day 3 - D-Day Sights - overnight Bayeux

Day 4 - Mont St Michel - overnight nearby

Day 5/6/7/8 - Loire Valley - pick up car?

Day 9/10/11/12 - Dordonge Region (including Sarlat and possibly a trip to Bordeaux??)

Day 13 - (ditch car here??) Carcassone - overnight here

Day 14/15 - travel to Arles - explore arles and surrounds

Day 16/17/18/19 - pick up car again?? and explore provence region

Day 20/21/22 - Drop car back then Southeast coast/riviera

Day 23/24/25 - Travel to (possibly stop in Lyon for one night) and around Chamonix and alps area

Day 26/27/28 - Return to Paris (nights in Dijon and somewhere else?)

Day 29/30/31/32/33/34 - Paris (plus day trip to Versailles?)

Day 35 - Mum Fly home, me travel to London


Sydney, Australia
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for Train Travel
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1. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

I would rent a car for the whole of this holiday, except the time in Paris, and would choose a small nearby town to stay in to visit Arles and Lyon.

Paris, France
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for Paris, Loire Valley
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2. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

One rental car is a much cleaner way to approach this itinerary. You´ll pay much less with one long rental than you will with multiple short term rentals. There is little chance that buses will be available to transport you from location to location, you will either drive or take the train.

I might suggest renting a car in Bayeux and leaving it in the Côte d´Azur then taking the train back to Paris or stopping in Lyon if you really want to see Lyon. You will not need a car either in Paris or in Nice.

Toowoomba, Australia
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3. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

My first comment is that on day 1, you are going to be feeling a bit ragged after flying from Brisbane.[ speaking from experience ]. When we flew into Paris with a 6.30am arrival we stayed up all day in Paris [ we were able to get into our apartment early and have a shower and a cuppa ], walked around, early night, and were not too bad. I do not know how we would have handled getting from Paris to Rouen [ train?] and then onto Honfleur. [ train again? ]. The first stage , yes. But towing luggage around Rouen then another train trip. It makes for a very long time from leaving home to booking in and getting a shower.

I am not very informed about public transport so cannot help with , for example getting from the Dordogne to Carcassonne, but others here are. But you could easily drive through some lovely places and then onto Provence where you need a car. I do know that some train fares are better booked early [ they come on line three months out and get dearer as the date approaches. ] So you would need to look at that. Several short car hires could be more expensive than one hire. So that is something to think about as well. The following is useful for planning if you do drive. It gives approximate times [ no allowance for stops or delays etc ], tolls on autoroutes, scenic route options significant sites.


I am pleased to see you have some 3 and 4 night stays. As you are already aware that this is peak season, I would advise pre-booking accommodation as you are visiting popular regions. You do not want to be spending a lot of time at the end of the day looking for somewhere to stay within your budget [ if this is important ]. The tourism websites for towns have a lot of info and accommodation options.


These are hotels in smaller places. They often have a restaurant. Chambre d'hotes [B&B] are also an option.

You may already have these sites






Bon voyage

Toowoomba, Australia
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4. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

I hope you do decide to have a car for the trip as I think this is the best way to explore country France. You should know that fuel is cheapest at the service stations attached to supermarkets. These will often close for a couple of hours over lunch on weekdays and may not open at all on Sundays. We travel all over France and find it unpredictable. During these times, fuel is available self service with a credit card, but there is no guarantee a foreign card will work when you cannot sign. The same applies at toll booths, so always have cash. Fuel is always available at services. The autoroutes are great for getting from A to B quickly, but it is much more interesting on the lesser roads.

Bon voyage.

Tours, France
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5. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

I'd agree that hiring a car for the entire trip is best, given the sort of things you want to see.

As regards the Loire Valley , you could set yourself up in one location for a few days and still see most of the interesting sights in the central Loire - Amboise, Chenonceau, Villandry, Azay, the vineyards etc etc.

Have a look at Saumur as a base for that portion - its then a five hour drive down to Sarlat or Bordeaux.

On the alpine part, I can recommend Morzine as a really nice place to visit in the summer - it still has a busy vibe because there are lots of mountain bikers which keeps the ski resort feeling going. You'll still get a view of Mont Blanc from the top of the ski lift!

Alternatively, Samoens if you want somewhere quieter in the Alps.

For accommodation try https://www.chambresdhotesdecharme.com/ - as you'll want short term style lodgings for much of your trip - these all have a bit of character.

Have a great time!

Jon L

Brisbane, Australia
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6. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

Thanks all! Glad to see people don't have much of a problem with the actual itinerary!

As much as a I wish I did, I don't have the funds to hire a car for the whole trip (i'm a student) but I think maybe the time from Bayeux to Provence is achievable, this is currently 15 days. I might have to put in a little more time making the rest of the itinerary more train friendly.

I am definitely planning on pre-booking accommodation, I don't want to waste time while there on that. Plus I like to do my research on accommodation.

Thank you all for all the tips and recommendations. Will definitely be looking into everything you have said.

England, United...
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7. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

There is a separate Train Travel forum on Trip Advisor which you may find helpful when asking specific questions about travelling between towns and cities. The people who answer questions on that site are extremely knowledgeable.

www.voyages-sncf.com is the site for the French rail network (including the TGV - train grand vitesse - high speed train)

The general advice is not to use RailEurope which is not an actual rail network, but an agency.

If you want to explore the Dordogne area, you really will need a car as public transport is extremely limited (if not rare!)

To avoid doubling back on some of the places of interest you have mentioned, have a look at day trips from your base town/city. The individual online tourist office information may prove useful.

Paris, France
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8. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

Don't completely dismiss the idea of renting a car for the whole - or most of the trip. Longer rental periods can be cheaper than shorter term rentals. You can also look into short-term lease programs.

Paris, France
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9. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

Here is some advice on train and bus travel:

Look at this link to see a map of where the regional and long distance trains go in France:


To see maps of the local train routes for each region go to www.ter-sncf.com and look at the map of France in the upper right corner and click on the region that interests you. Once you click on a region scroll down and look on the lower left of the page in the column that says "Se déplacer en TER" and in that column click on "Carte du réseau TER" and you'll get the map.

There are three types of websites you'll need to get familiar with using: 1) train websites 2) bus websites 3) tourist office websites.

You can use the TER website to search train schedules and prices in each region but it is in French only. You can also use the SNCF website to search for schedules and prices. Keep in mind that for any train journey that requires a TGV train and most Intercités trains you will get the cheapest prices by booking three months in advance. Last minute fares for these trains will be the most expensive. The TER trains are local trains and have fixed prices and no reservations are needed.

To buy train tickets and check schedules and prices for anyplace in France you can use http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/ When using the http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/ website here are a few tips.

Be sure to uncheck the box marked ''Direct Trains''. If you are redirected to the RailEurope website try again and select ''Antarctic'' as your ticket collection country. The RailEurope website usually doesn't show all the trains and shows higher ticket prices. Be sure to also look at other ticket purchase options. If you are having troubles with the SNCF website you try using a new ticket selling website called www.capitainetrain.com. I have generally stopped advising people to use the SNCF website and instead have been recommending capitainetrain.com because it won't redirect you to the RailEurope website and won't cause difficulty in accepting your credit card. You can also use the German rail site www.bahn.de for schedules but it will not give train ticket prices.

For any train related questions use the website www.seat61.com.

Look at this link for bus info. It has a list of all the départements in France so find the département that interests you and click on the link and you'll be directed to the bus website for that département.


You also need to learn how to use tourist office websites. You should google the tourist office websites for any region, département, city , town or village you may want to visit. You will find loads of info on these websites including hotel/accommodation and restaurant info as well as what to see and do in the area. Occasionally the websites have English versions. In doing a google search enter the words "office de tourisme" followed by the name of your region, département, city, town or village and this will bring that place to the top of your search.

This thread has links to most of the major tourist office websites in Lower Normandy:


This is a similar thread with links to Loire tourist office websites:


And for Mont Saint-Michel:



Le Bugue, France
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10. Re: 4.5 weeks in france

There is no train station in Honfleur. You'll have to go to either Deauville or Trouville (I forget which) and take a bus.

I think you are really shortchanging the Dordogne, especially if you are including Bordeaux, and Provence as well. I might exclude the Alps for this trip and add a couple of days onto the Dordogne and Provence. You could substitute a day or two in Alsace.

Look into a short-term lease for the car.