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Paris, Loire Valley, Provence In 13 Days?

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Paris, Loire Valley, Provence In 13 Days?

Postby Coyle » Thu Jul 16, 2015 8:44 am

Hi Terri,

My husband and I are leaving for Paris in about 2 weeks for a 13 day/13 night trip.  We would like to send about 5 days in Paris and some how split the last 8 days between the Loire Valley and Provence.   We aren't planning to go to Nice, Monaco etc because we spent time their on our last trip.  We plan on making our base Avignon in Provence.  I am not too sure how to manage the piece that includes the Loire Valley.  We could just take a day trip to the Loire Valley from Paris and then take the TGV to Avignon the next day or we could spend a night or 2 in the Loire Valley(not sure where) then head to Avignon.  Do you have any thoughts on this?  How hard is it to go from the Loire Valley to Avignon?  Do we need to go back to Paris first?

Your thoughts are greatly appreciated.

--Suzanne  
Coyle
 
Posts: 53
Joined: Tue Feb 25, 2014 7:54 pm

Paris, Loire Valley, Provence In 13 Days?

Postby Earie » Fri Jul 17, 2015 3:23 pm

Hi . . . Suzanne!

For you and your husband, leaving for Paris in about two weeks for 13 days, your plan is headed in the right direction.  Having about five days in Paris  is very good, but you have correctly identified the biggest challenge in getting easily from the Loire Valley to Provence.  

Whether by air or rail, the reality is that transportation is centered in Paris.  You could drive down from the Loire Valley, but that would take about 7-8 hours driving time to cover these 370 miles. And that driving route is not all easy, quick super highways.  

On rail, the best would be to take the train back to Paris, then the super fast TGV Express down from Paris to Avignon in only two hours and 35 minutes. You will have to change train stations in Paris. You could drive or take the train from Tours in the Loire Valley to DeGaulle airport and then fly down to Nice. Still takes time and has some hassles.  

You can use Paris more as your “base” and just do a day-trip to the Loire Valley in one day.  That would save some of the logistical hassles. And in one day in Loire by taking the TGV train out in one hour, renting a car there, then taking an evening train back will allow more fun without having to do all of the packing, luggage lugging, etc.  If you do a day-trip in Loire Valley, I would have your following day be a more relaxed one in Paris to recover before going down to Provence.

You are wise to maybe skip Nice, Monaco, etc., with their traffic and congestion.  Avignon or nearby is great as a base in Provence. On getting back to Paris, there are train options to the north, including direct to the airport.  There is also the option of flying out of Nice and connection at DeGaulle for your return home.

Below is some info on Paris, Provence and the Loire Valley.

Does this help? What are your reactions and needs for added information?  Be happy to provide additional info and answer other questions after learning more from you.  Be sure to complete the evaluation section so that our "bosses" on this volunteer service know we are working hard to make inquiring minds as happy as possible. ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio

KEY PARIS HIGHLIGHTS: WHAT MAKES PARIS GREAT/UNIQUE:   With style and sophisticaion, Paris is correctly proud of its cultural achievements over the centuries.   This confidence is expressed in Parisian life, including its architecture from ancient structures to controversy over Hausmann's bold late 1800's master plan and more recent modern developments.

Paris has taken bold decisions, including the Lourve with is now well-accepted glass pyramid by I. M. Pei.

Although at the heart of Europe, Paris is very individualistic and intuitive.   The city has attracted great writers artists and thinkers.   Historically, it has been a city of unrest, rebellion and revolution(an idea they helped finance in America and that lead to the sharp-edged 1789 removal of the Royal family).   

Paris has a special style and soul.   It is a high-flying mix of architecture, fashion, history, idiosyncrasy, style, texture, color and atmosphere.   Paris is romantic, distinctive!

MAJOR PARIS HIGHLIGHTS/OPTIONS:

(Some times might have been adjusted slightly since this was put together a couple of years ago; plus there can always be strikes, budget shortages, etc. that affect scheduled openings in France.) 1. Louvre(closed Tuesday, open 9-6, Monday and Wednesday until 9:45 p.m.) with Cafe Louvre on site for lunch or dinner, plus food court area with wide mix of different items; encyclopedic coverage divided into seven departments covering ancient times to middle of 19th century; Pyramid entrance designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1989; very big and can spend four days there and still not see everything; Denon(south) Wing on first floor has many of the key European paintings; Richelieu(north) Wing opened in 1993 and has large, covered sculpture courtyard in its middle; Sully Wing(east) has mostly Egyptian and other antiquities. Don't miss the Napoleon III apartments in the Richelieu(north) Wing from THE 1850-1870 period.  Very spectacular rooms being just as the ruler of France lived there at that time!  Check your times when getting to the Louvre.  Not all galleries and areas are open at all times.  SUPER PRIORITY

2. Notre Dame and Palais de Justice on island of Seine River at site of Paris' start; Notre Dame completed during the 1163-1345 period, tours 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; famous southern Rose Windows, climb up 380 steps of the tower for the best views of the city; Sunday night 5:30 p.m. organ concerts; famous Rose stained glass windows; Sainte Chapelle near Palais de Justice is 700 years old with outstanding stained glass windows; La Conciergerie is prison where many, including Marie Antoinette were held prior to being guillotined, is well-light at night with its unique architecture, functioned as prison from 1391 to 1914. PRIORITY

3. Musee d'Orsay(door-say)(closed Monday, open 10-6, except Thursday 10 am-9:45 pm), covers 1848-1914 period, especially great for Impressionist art; former railway station and hotel that has an excellent cafe in the museum with one of the most spectacular dining rooms in Paris. Then there is THE ART!  One whole room of nothing but nineteen Van Gogh's!  And they are ALL GREAT ONES, all in room!  Plus Monet, Manet, Renoir, etc., etc.!  Great art and a great location right along the Seine River. On Thursday night perfect for walk from museum west toward Assemblee Nationale and cross Seine River bridge towards Place de la Concorde seeing all of the building lighted and then looking back towards Eiffel Tower; Place de la Concorde was designed in 1775. SUPER PRIORITY 4. Eiffel Tower,(985' tall, 3rd floor at 305', built for 1889 Universal Exhibition).

5. Seine boat trip(board at Pont Neuf), great views of famous Paris sights, especially at night as major buildings are lighted.

6. Champs-Elysees(bargain with painters for pictures) and Arc de Triomphe, started 1806 to celebrate Napoleon's early victories, completed in 1836, 165' high.

7. Montmartre/Basilique du Sacre-Coeur(church started being built in 1875 on one of highest points in Paris, dedicated in 1910); dome is second highest point in Paris, took 35 years to build with public conscription, great views at dawn and dusk plus from dome area over city, area made famous by artist Toulouse Lautrec, cubism born there; do direct Metro here, nearest station is Anvers or Pigalle.

8. Luxembourg Palais and Gardens, built in 17th century for Marie de Medici, now houses French Senate, sculptures and fountains adorn extensive gardens, food available in gardens, great place for picnics, across street from apartment. 9. Saint Germain Market, open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m., open air, various food and meat items, near apartment; many galleries, cafes and antiques shops in area; rue de Buci street market.

10. St. Sulpice Church, second largest church in Paris, block from our apartment, famous for its organ and DeLacroix paintings, took 134 years to build, open 7:30 7:30.

11. Le Marais Area, NE of Hotel de Ville/City Hall, has Musee Picasso(structure built in 1659, opened in 1985 to settle his estate, open Wednesday-Monday 9:15 5:15) and Musee Carnavalet(built in 1540, two adjoining mansions with decorative arts from the various periods in Paris history), older area starting around metro St Paul statio;, has Jewish section in area with special foods and historic areas.

12. Musee Rodin, has nice scale in both the interior exhibit area as an old mansion, plus the gardens with the outdoor sculpture, at Varenne Metro stop next to Hotel des Invaldes, has third largest private garden in Paris, originally built in 1730, Rodin used as his studio from 1908 until his death in 1917, open Tuesday Sunday 10-5:45.

VERSAILLES: By suburban subway/train(RER-C5 line, from St-Michel, every 15 minutes) or train(30 minutes) from Saint Lazare; started being built in 1660's for Sun King Louis XIV(during 1661 to 1715 period, involved 32,000 to 45,000 workers) in French classical architectural style; conceived as a world unto itself as seat of government, permanent residence of the royal family and the cream of nobility, was previously modest hunting lodge in swampy area; palace highlight is 236-foot long Hall of Mirrors where treaty signed ending WWI; in garden areas are Grand Canal, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Hameau used by Marie Antoinette; town population of 100,000; possible bus tour or car drive options out to Versailles; open 9:45-5, park open sunrise to sunset; tour palace first and gardens later(closed Monday).

PARIS METRO/SUBWAY: Great, great system! Probably best to buy packets of ten tickets, rather than a multi-day, three or five day pass. There are thirteen different subway lines, plus the suburban RER rail options. It is important to know which line or lines you want to use, IN ADVANCE, and the name of the end station for your direction so that you go down the right set of stairs to be on the correct side of the tracks. It's not as simple as New York City with uptown or downtown! But it offers totally great, fast, frequent service. Very clean and nice!  Single tickets(1.40 Euros) may be purchased at the counters each time, but the better value is a carnet of 10(10.90 Euros), which will also save you waiting in line. Generally, we have found that buying the books of ten tickets works best. The multi-day passes cost, within the main parts of central Paris, 8.35 Euros for one day, 13.7 Euros for two days, 18.25 Euros for three days and 26.65 Euro for five days.  More Metro or rail info: www.ratp.fr

PARIS MUSEUM PASS: Strongly suggest getting the Paris Museum Pass for access to 60 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region. Multiple visits to the same museums are possible and there is no waiting in line. You get: * Entry into more than 60 Paris museums and monuments inside and outside Paris, including Arc de Triomphe, Pantheon, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Musee National du Chateau de Versailles, Musee National Picasso, Pompidou Center, Musee Roding, Chateau de Rambouillet, Basilique Saint-Denis, Chateau de Chantilly, Fontainebleau, etc.

* Multiple visits to the same museums or monuments at no extra charge * Validities: 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days * No admission charge, no waiting in line Paris Museum Pass, 2-Day Pass 30 Euro or $38

Paris Museum Pass, 4-Day Pass 45 Euro or $58

Paris Museum Pass, 6-Day Pass 60 Euro or $77

(based on 7-10-2006 dollar value)

You can get the Paris Museum Pass at the Paris Tourist Office, and in its reception offices in Paris train stations, and the Eiffel Tower or at over 60 museums and monuments concerned. More info:

www.parismuseumpass.fr

EXCELLENT PARIS WEBSITES, including hotels, apartments:

www.paris.org

www.travel-in-paris.com

www.paris-touristoffice.com

www.parisbandb.com

www.chezvous.com

www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/europe

BEST WEBSITES FOR PARIS: www.franceguide.com/us: official website of the French Government Tourist Office.

www.paris-touristoffice.com: website of the Paris Tourist office, info on hotels, restaurants, attractions, entertainment, and events.

www.chateauversailles.fr: Best site for the major attraction visited outside Paris. with music, pictures, artworks.

www.franceway.com: A helpful site for dining, hotels, and transportation, with detailed Paris listings.

www.sncf.fr: Official website of the SNCF(French National Railroads) with timetables and fares, sells seats online.

For outside Paris: www.gites-de-france.fr/eng/index

HERE'S SOME BACKGROUND ON THE LOIRE VALLEY:

This is the major chateau and castle country southwest of Paris; area peaked in power in the mid 1400's to 1700's period; Joan of Arc helped win battle at Orleans in 1429 that spurred power of French monarch to unify the country and drive out the English; Blois has population of 50,000; Tours has population of 130,000 with half-timbered houses on Place Plumeneau; priority for lunch or dinner at Chateau de Beaulieu(4 1/2 miles SW of Tours, 18th Century country estate, phone 47-53 20-26); among the top chateaus to see(all rated as three stars by Michelin Guide) that we have seen and loved are: AZAY-LE-RIDEAU, 15 miles SW of Tours, built between 1518 and 1527 with Gothic elements combined with early Renaissance decoration set in wooded area surrounded by water on River Indre, "a romantic pleasure palace", exterior unaltered over centuries, open 9:30-6, night lumiere program during summer; called by Balzac as "multifaceted diamond set in the Indre";  PRIORITY!

CHENONCEAU, 14 miles SE of Tours, built starting in 1513, structure stretches across waters of Cher River, early home for King Henri II's mistress; developed later by Catherine de Medici and five successor women associated with royal families, "a romantic pleasure palace", open 9:00-7 pm March 16th to September 15th, closes a little earlier late fall through winter, see first since it is closest to train station, avoid crowds and opens at 9 a.m., has one million visitors a year, and with the exception of Versailles, is the most visited castle in France; lunch or dinner at L'Orangerie on grounds.  www.chenonceau.com  SUPER PRIORITY!

CHEVERNEY, eight miles SE of Blois, privately held by family with lavish interior furnishings, rich tapestries, hunt tradition, built between 1604 and 1634, open 9:15 noon and 2:15-6:30 p.m.; kennel feeding time of 5 p.m., except 3 p.m. for Tuesdays and weekends. PRIORITY

VILLANDRY, 12 miles west of Tours, gardens are key focus, open 9-6 for chateau, last great Renaissance chateau built in Loire Valley;  Super wonderful gardens with many water features and other unique attractions!  PRIORITY!

Might consider a day-trip to the Loire Valley!  Nice, fairly easy and doable. Take the one hour express train from the Gare Montparnasse station in Paris to the suburban Tours station.  Get a rental car that you book in advance.  See and enjoy lots during the day, easily doing three of the chateaus and maybe seeing Blois.  Return the car early evening and take the quick train back.  Great and very enjoyable!

PROVENCE: WHY IT IS A GREAT PLACE?  ITS WONDERFUL OPTIONS: Why do people love Provence?  It is a region having a love affair with the land, earth and environment.  The landscape is lush and verdant.  Open-air markets have baskets of fresh herbs, fruits, flowers, fabrics, etc.  The colorful spirit of the Mediterranean fills the air.  Provence is nature at its purest.  The sky is a piercing shade of blue.  Fields are abundant and the air is clear.  The climate ensures that spring, summer and fall yield magnificent and varied harvests.  Throughout France, Provence is known for the best of everything natural.  People in the area take great pride in these natural traditions for what they grow and how it is prepared in each village and every kitchen.

LOCATION: Provence has at its southern edge the famed Cote d’Azur with its wonderful coastline along the Mediterranean Sea.  Generally Provence is consider the area east of the Rhone River with the Alps being the eastern border.  Provence enjoys a southern sun that shines 320 days yearly, giving the region blue skies and mild temperatures year round.  It is most picturesque in the spring with its flowering trees and shrubs.  Summer offers local markets full of fresh harvests.  Mid July is when the lavender field are in full bloom, filling the country air with a soothing fragrance.  The Mistral winds can bring icy temperatures on bright sunny days. Getting lost can be fun in Provence.  You can stumble across a charming village, history abbey or great tree-lined roadway. KEY PROVENCE LOCATIONS: AVIGNON is "one of the great art cities of France".  Its old part of town has the Papal Palace, seat of Popes 1309-1377, street musicians perform near palace; art museum in Place du Palais open Wednesday through Monday, population of 87,000, town is on Rhone River. Once the religious, political and financial capital, Avignon is today a cultural capital and plays host annually in July to the largest festival of live theatre in the world. It has some of the best example of Gothic architecture in Europe.

AIX-EN-PROVENCE(population of 125,000) with Cezanne's studio on the road to Entremont; university town founded 122 B.C. as first Roman settlement in Gaul, near thermal springs, dining at Gu et Fils. An elegant and beautiful town, the visitor will enjoy discovering its ‘thousand fountains’ as he or she roams through its labyrinth of narrow streets. Aix-en-Provence is also renowned worldwide for its unique classical music festival.

Car travel to such nearby areas as ARLES, highest priority area city with Roman ruins, including 20,000 seat arena where bull fights are held in the summer; founded 49 B.C. by Julius Caesar, population of 52,000, Van Gogh's former home. Tarascon has its 15th century castle. LES BAUX is a very neat medieval village with great views that has no major population now, but tourist flock to soak its history and great views. You should dine right near there at L'Outau de Beaumaniere for ONE OF THE BEST MEALS YOU CAN HAVE IN FRANCE(lunch is more affordable).  NIMES has its Roman ruins and great old arena.  Nimes was settled 121 B.C. and has a population of 140,000.

ST. REMY his its Roman ruins, a population of 9000 and is the setting of world-famous literature.  Saint-Remy is one of the most representative of Provençal towns and allows the visitor to appreciate the true charm of this oft-celebrated region of the country. It comes as no surprise that Saint Remy, like Cannes or Saint Tropez, is a destination for many well-known personalities.  This Gallo-Roman village is on the plains 20 km south of Avignon. Residents more recent than the Romans include Dr. Schweitzer, Dr. Nostradamus and Van Gogh. The picturesque, old village is protected by the circular 14th-century wall which is lined by its protective circle of buildings.  Its dolphin fountain is located in the shaded square in front of a 16th century old convent.  This is a busy, active village, with a good selection of restaurants and hotels for the traveller. Among the shops are a few with some regional pottery, including some beautiful sunflower plates influenced by Van Gogh.  The road between St. Remy and the autoroute(at Cavaillon, 17 km to the east) is a scenic drive out of the past: the road is lined by plane trees .

PONT DU GARD(Roman aqueduct/bridge) to the west of Avignon is a must see; Saturday AM market at Uzes near Pont du Gard can be totally charming and wonderful. Try good Provence website of:

www.provencebeyond.com  
Earie
 
Posts: 54
Joined: Wed Feb 26, 2014 5:04 am


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