We plan a 2 to 3 week trip to France in 2010 for our 45th anniversary. We will stay 1 week in Paris and remainder traveling country by car or train. We have traveled Europe several times, but not France. We use Rick Steves "backdoor" travel guides and generally like historic sites and markets. Which Marriott property do you recommend?
What a great trip you have in the works!
First of all, make sure you revue all of the previous notes placed about previous insiders comments about Paris/France. Be sure to go to Monte Carlo!, Normandy, Chateau areas, and anywhere you have a desire.
Secondly, while there are few actual properties outside of Paris, remember there are other properties in close proximity in Germany, Switzerland, and England if you are planning to use points to keep your costs down.
As far as how you get around, really think about what you are most comfortable doing. I have seen France mostly by car and have always enjoyed it, but you really have to be patient, careful, and have a really great navigator. If you think your spouse will make a great one, be prepared, and you may want to see a lawyer so you will have a #46. What I really mean is a navigator is really more important than a driver and if someone does not like doing it, don't drive. Good luck!
For historic sites in Paris, I recommend besides the usual suspects (Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, Notre Dame), the Conciergerie and Sainte-Chapelle (buy a Paris Museum pass in advance, which will save you money and time), Saint-Denis, the Champs de Mars and the Napoleonic military museum, Château de Vincennes, Jardin des Plantes (where Franklin and Jefferson used to walk), the Latin Quarter in general and the Roman Arènes de Lutèce, Luxembourg Gardens (site of many revolutionary trials) and the Marais (including the Hôtel Carnavalet, which is the city museum and former residence of the prolific 17th-C. letter writer Mme de Sévigné).
For relatively modern history in the rest of France, I will leave that to others -- my specialty is medieval and early modern France. Other highlights: Near Paris, Versailles, Fontainebleau and Chartres are wonderful! In the Champagne region, stop at Reims where you can visit the houses for free tastings and then take in the glorious cathedral; Troyes is a very well-preserved medieval city. In Normandy, besides the landing beaches and cemeteries, be sure to visit Rouen for the cathedral and the Old Market. In Brittany, Le Mont St-Michel is a marvel. Don't stop at the touristy street that leads up, but go all the way to the top; likewise go around to the back of the Mont, which few people do.
For the south of France, you should definitely spend time in Avignon, city of medieval popes (and an enormous papal palace and great art museum) and many summer cultural events; Arles, Nîmes (with its Roman colosseum), and Orange (many Roman ruins); Marseilles for its wonderful fish market and the Château d'If at the harbor entrance. Further west, not far from Toulouse (which has a few spots worth visiting but is not my favorite city in France), be sure to visit Albi. If you get a chance, though it's off the beaten track, Foix and St. Jean Pied-de-Port, the beginning of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in the Pyrenees are great places to visit.
Hope this is of some value! I've lived in France for years at a time and each region is completely different in terms of people, architecture, cuisine, etc.
Have a wonderful trip!
After my post, I realized when reading Jerry's that I'd completely left out the Loire Valley. It's wonderful. In Amboise, the Château is beautifully preserved and stands on the heights. Not far away is Clos Lucé, the small château Francis I gave to Leonardo da Vinci when he enticed him to come to France. Inside there are models of almost all of Leonardo's creations.
You can actually do several of the châteaux in a day or so. My main recommendations besides Amboise would be Chenonceau, where you can actually take a boat ride through the gates under the castle. Henri II gave it to his mistress Dianne de Poitiers, but after the king's death, his widow Catherine de Medici made her exchange it for a lesser castle. The gardens are gorgeous.
Another favorite of mine is Chinon. Although it is mostly ruins, it contains a great deal of French and English history. It stands high above the city and you can still see both the medieval and Renaissance rooms. Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II of England spent considerable time there and their son Richard the Lionheart was born there. You can even see the kennels Henry built for his dogs. (The Hepburn/O'Toole version of the Lion in Winter was based on the Christmas stay at Chinon.) Joan of Arc first met her king there to tell him of her mission.
Saumur (city and castle) is enchanting and like Chinon is famous for its wine.
Finally, there's Chambord, built in Renaissance style for Francis I. It's very impressive looking from the outside, but I found the inside (except for the famous staircase) disappointing.
There are many more, but these would be the châteaux I'd try to see. Congratulations!
How about a stop in Sancerre!
Here are some pictures of the city that produced Hemmingways favorite white wine.
This walled city is a great experience and inexpensive to enjoy.
Do not forget the Mallieu bridge!
In October 2007, we stayed at the Courtyard Neuilly using MR points and found the hotel very nice. It is in a residential neighborhood away from the hustle and bustle of the city center. There is a 10-15 minute walk to the subway line but we always felt safe - even when walking late at night. The hotel staff was pleasant and helpful and the room was large by European standards. We want to return to Paris and will definitely consider this hotel when we do.
Thanks for sharing this, but after staying here, this would be one of my last choices to stay. NOTHING wrong with the hotes, but, you are really at a spot that is tough to travel in/out of.
This would be a choice only if I was using points and could not get any other place. Week-ends you would be far better to pay/stay at La Defense Ren. and NOT have to walk as much as you would at this CY.
Got me again, Jerry! Not only did I forget Sancerre, I forgot my very favorite region of France, Burgundy. Dijon is an absolute gem, but if you're into wine, food, history and culture, nearby Beaune (and it's Hôtel Dieu) is the place to go. There you should have a hearty breakfast before you embark on wine tastings at the bottling houses (or bring bread with you). For a nominal entrance fee, you get a tastevin and Père Patriarche and others typically allow you on your own into the caves where bottles of wine stand open in each room. Just don't make the mistake I once did. They give you a tasting evaluation card. Mine clearly showed that I enjoyed a bit too much of the cheapest wines at the start, because my comments at the end were illegible (with the great wines). There is the expectation that you'll buy at least one bottle of wine, but that's a small price to pay for the experience.
Further south into Burgundy, try to visit Tournus and Cluny.
Other Paris threads to check
http://www.rewards-insiders.marriott.com/photoAlbums/1101 La Défense, Paris, France
SusanL (Renaissance Vendome)
Thanks & CDG to Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero (Renaissance Le Parc Trocadero)
Paris! "Never better!" (Arc d'Triomphe trip report)
Surprise (discussion on Paris sights & hotels)
Hotel and Metro in Paris (hotel airport transporation options)