Three Weeks in France
Rick's Favorite Itinerary
For Drivers: Whirlwind (Kamikaze) Three-Week Trip through France
Day 1: Fly into Paris, pick up your car, visit Giverny and Honfleur, and overnight in Honfleur (1 night). Save Paris sightseeing for the end of your trip.
Day 2: Spend today at D-Day sights: Arromanches, American Cemetery, and Pointe du Hoc (and Caen World War II Museum, if time allows). Dinner and overnight in Bayeux (1 night).
Day 3: Bayeux Tapestry and church, Mont St. Michel, sleep on Mont St. Michel (1 night).
Day 4: Spend your morning on Mont St. Michel, then head for châteaux country in the Loire Valley. Tour Chambord, then stay in Amboise (2 nights).
Day 5: Do a day trip, touring Chenonceaux and Cheverny or Chaumont. Save time at the end of the day for Amboise and its sights.
Day 6: Head south to the Dordogne region, stopping at Oradour-sur-Glane en route. End in a Dordogne village — your choice of the handfull I recommend (2 nights).
Day 7: Browse the town and market of Sarlat and tour Font-de-Gaume cave.
Day 8: Head to the Languedoc region, lunch in Albi, spend evening in Carcassonne (1 night).
Day 9: Morning in Carcassonne, then on to Provence with a stop at the Pont du Gard aqueduct. Stay in Arles (2 nights).
Day 10: All day for Arles and Les Baux.
Day 11: Visit a Provençal hilltown such as Roussillon, then depart for the Riviera, staying in Nice or Villefranche-sur-Mer (2 nights).
Day 12: Sightsee in Nice and Monaco.
Day 13: Head north to the Alps, and sleep in Chamonix (2 nights).
Day 14: With clear weather, take the mountain lifts up to Aiguille du Midi and beyond.
Day 15: A half-day for the Alps (in Chamonix or Annecy). Then head for Burgundy, ending in Beaune for a wine-tasting. Sleep in Beaune (1 night).
Day 16: Spend the morning in Beaune, then move on to Colmar (2 nights).
Day 17: Enjoy Colmar and Route du Vin villages.
Day 18: Return to Paris, visiting Verdun and Reims en route. Collapse in Paris hotel (4 nights).
Day 19: Sightsee Paris.
Day 20: More time in Paris.
Day 21: Finish up your sightseeing in Paris, and consider side-tripping to Versailles.
For Train Travelers: Whirlwind Three-Week Trip through France
This itinerary is designed for train travelers. To do this trip by train and bus, make liberal use of minivan tours and taxis. A France Flexipass with nine train days — buying tickets in France for days 5, 7 and 14 (short and cheap trips) — works fine. A France Rail and Drive Pass is another good option. A car is especially handy for exploring Normandy, the Dordogne, and Provence. If you only have two weeks, end your tour in Nice and skip Honfleur. Bonne route and bon courage!
Day 1: Fly into Paris.
Day 2: Sightsee Paris.
Day 3: More time in Paris.
Day 4: Train and bus to Mont St. Michel via Rennes (4 hrs, arrive on Mont St. Michel about 13:00). Afternoon and night on Mont St Michel.
Day 5: Train to Bayeux (2 hrs, arrive about 11:45). Afternoon for visiting Bayeux. Sleep in Bayeux.
Day 6: All day for D-Day beaches by minivan, taxi, bike, bus, or a combination of these. Sleep in Bayeux.
Day 7: Train to Caen or Lisieux, then bus to Honfleur (2 hrs). Sleep in Honfleur.
Day 8: Bus to Lisieux or Deauville then train to Paris. Transfer to Gare d'Austerlitz or Montparnasse (verify which works best for your trip) and take the train to Amboise (7 hrs total). Sleep in Amboise.
Day 9: All day for touring Loire châteaux (good options by bus, bike or minivan tour). Sleep in Amboise.
Day 10: Train to Sarlat (6 hrs, arrive about 13:30). Afternoon and evening in Sarlat. Sleep in Sarlat.
Day 11: All day for caves and canoes by bike or minivan/taxi tour. Sleep in Sarlat.
Day 12: Train to Carcassonne (5.5 hrs, leaving about noon is best, though earlier trips are possible). Dinner and evening wall walk. Sleep in Carcassonne.
Day 13: Morning wall walk, then train to Arles (2.5 hrs). Afternoon in Arles.
Day 14: Train to Nîmes, then bus to Pont du Gard. Tour the Pont du Gard, then bus to Avignon and spend your afternoon/evening there (consider dinner). Train back to Arles. Sleep in Arles.
Day 15: Morning in Arles or Les Baux (by taxi or tour), afternoon train to Nice (4 hrs), set up in Nice. Sleep in Nice.
Day 16: All day for Nice and Monaco. Sleep in Nice.
Day 17: Morning train to Lyon (4 hrs). Afternoon and night in Lyon.
Day 18: Train to Chamonix (4 hrs, consider a halfway stopover in Annecy — no bag check). Sleep in Chamonix.
Day 19: With clear weather, take the mountain lifts up to Aiguille du Midi and beyond. Sleep in Chamonix.
Day 20: Early train to Paris (leave at 6:30, arrive about 13:30). Last afternoon and night in Paris. (Or make it a 23-day tour with a scenic, 6.5-hr train through Switzerland to Colmar, spend two nights there, then take the TGV back to Paris.)
Day 21: Fly home.
Sightseeing Priorities for France
Depending on the length of your trip, here are my recommended priorities:
3 days: Paris and maybe Versailles
5 days, add: Normandy
7 days, add: Loire
10 days, add: Dordogne, Carcassonne
15 days, add: Provence, the Riviera
18 days, add: Burgundy, Chamonix
21 days, add: Alsace, northern France
23 days, add: Basque Country