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5 days in Paris, but then where to go??? Looking for suggestions.

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My wife and I are taking our second trip to Paris. We both speak a little French, enough to navigate through the city. We're planning on five days (first day to recover from flight, one day at the French Open, one day off to Giverny; and a couple of days to just walk through the different neighborhoods and eat and drink). But we'd like to go somewhere else for the remaining ~4 days of our vacation. Thought about Lyon, but the food there strikes me as kind of heavy? Thought of Switzerland (Lausanne), but the prices seem ridiculous. Where would you go? We love to walk around and explore; love to eat and drink; don't need to dine out at 3-star restaurants . . .

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  1. I would go to Lyon. The food is heavy-ish but oh so good.

    Option 2 would be to head West or North West to the coast. The north west has you in Normandy/Brittany, where the butter, crepes & seafood are excellent

    Both regions are very walkable places (Nantes & Lyon are both very nice to walk through)

    1. One concept: Train to Lorient or Vannes.

      Car to chambre d'hote Le Talvern in Landevant where you can enjoy an evening meal from the garden and shore. Owner was previoiusly chef at Laperouse. http://www.chambre-morbihan.com/fra/a... Next day (or two), drive to coastal villages, pack a picnic to enjoy on starkly beautiful St. Cado island in the Etel River, visit Carnac and Quiberon, if you plan ahead enough take the ferry to Belle-Ile.

      Drive to San Joachim, maybe visiting salt beds of Guerande en route, stay and dine at Au Mare aux Oiseaux in the nature preserve. http://www.mareauxoiseaux.fr/sommaire/

      Return car in St. Nazaire, train to Paris.

      5 Replies
      1. re: mangeur

        La Mare aux Oiseaux -- this place looks amazing.
        I don't have a great sense of travel time/geogaphy. How long a train ride to Lorient/Vannes?

        1. re: bauskern

          From Paris: 3 hours 15 minutes to Vannes; 3 hours 45 minutes to Lorient; 2 hours 50 minutes to St. Nazaire.

          1. re: mangeur

            There are so many options within easy TGV distance of Paris, but mangeur's rec makes me smile because right now we are planning a trip to this area. Other places (in addiiton to mangeur's) very near Lorient and on our radar:

            Chateau Locguenole, in 56700 Kervignac, http://www.chateau-de-locguenole.com

            Le Petit Hôtel du Grand Large, 11 quai St-Ivy F - 56510 Portivy, http://www.lepetithoteldugrandlarge.fr (According to Michelin: “A remarkable seafood bistro, run by a self-taught chef for whom the sea is a passion and whose fisherman friend supplies him with fresh fish every day. The fish is of an extremely high quality and is cooked to perfection, often with an original twist.”)

            Le Moulin de Rosmadec, Pont-Aven,http://www.moulinderosmadec.com.

            Manoir de Kerledan, Route de Kerlédan, 29270 Carhaix-Plouguer, Finistère. http://www.kerledan.com -- table d'hote.

            -- Jake

            1. re: Jake Dear

              OK, since we had 5 days in that part of the world last summer; photos and details elsewhere; I'd heartedly endorse Brittany; esp the Roi Arthur in Ploermel and De La Plage in Sainte Anne le Palud.

              1. re: John Talbott

                John, yes, Hotel Restsurant de la Plage also is one of the places we are considering, a bit farther from our starting base in/ below Lorient. It looks both remote and inviting! -- Jake

      2. I would go to Lyon. In fact, I DO go to Lyon, often. The food is wonderful, and you don't have to eat in the bouchons. There are plenty of places serving ethereal fish and other modern cuisine.

        Imho, it's the most wonderful city in Europe. Older than Paris, and full of history, both food and otherwise.

        1. I would agree with others - don't go to Swtizerland - Lordy no; Lyon? - the food is no heavier than here; Vannes/Nantes, cool.

          TGV an hour or plus; rent a car (SNCF deals are good) and do a walk-about. Colette and I made a great trip to the West in the summer.

          9 Replies
          1. re: John Talbott

            "Lyon? - the food is no heavier than here"
            I beg to differ. Lyon food is heavy with cream and sauces. Not saying they're not good. But light, they are not.

            1. re: Parigi

              <But light, they are not.> Depends upon the restaurant.

              1. re: ChefJune

                " Depends"
                Exactly; places in Les Halles or like those I ate at with my 3 heart-attack/5 bypass buddy from Geneva (it's midway, thinkaboudit) were not heavy.

                1. re: John Talbott

                  John, What do you think about a couple of nights in Reims? Beautiful cathedral . . . seems very accessible from Paris . . . great champagne . . . have you spent much time there?

                  1. re: bauskern

                    It is indeed a nice city, near and there are some great restaurants; We stayed and ate one trip at Les Crayeres overlooking the park and we still remember it fondly - it's quite expensive now however but check it out.
                    We haven't been in the town in quite a while, however, maybe it's time to do a little weekend.

                    1. re: John Talbott

                      Ah John, if you haven't lunched at Assiette Champenoise, you really owe it to yourself!

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        John, You seem tres knowledgeable about Paris and France in general. Our plan right now is Paris for 5-6 days,, and then to Beaune for a couple of nights; then back to CDG to fly home. We are leaning this way b/c I hear the food in Burgundy is magnificent, and of course the wine will be great. Thought Beaune would give us a nice mix of countryside; looking to find a chateau to possibly stay in, as a real change of pace from Paris. Without a car, Dijon would probably be logistically easier, but Beaune sounded lovely. And I didn't want to spend inordinate amount of time travelling across the country . . . .

                        1. re: bauskern

                          I just realized I never responded to this and I apologize bauskern; Colette and I have indeed been fortunate to visit almost every nook and cranny in the hexagon and now it's a struggle to decide where to go back yet again.
                          But you've got a plan - have fun! Wander off the path.

              2. re: John Talbott

                Switzerland is beautiful, particularly Lucerne. It can add up but the alps are amazing.

              3. I'm a big fan of the Marais Poitevin, but it is very much a collection of villages, not city living. It's nickname is The Green Venice. Villages such as Arcais, Coulon, Damvix, Sansais-La Garette, have tiny canal ports that are irresistible.

                Oysters, snails, eel, perch, bream, angelica, ham, white beans, and farcis maraichine (a spinach and pork terrine) are among the specialties along with locally raised lamb, duck, and the regional drink, cognac.

                I adore this short video, so cute:

                http://www.vendee-tourisme.com/infos-...

                4 Replies
                1. re: Steve

                  That video is great. Would we take a train from Paris to Nantes? And then rent a car to get around? It seems pretty rural/agricultural around there. The food looks very "local."

                  1. re: bauskern

                    I rented a car in Paris. It's not a terribly long or difficult drive. Having a Michelin road atlas would be essential for truly enjoying and understanding the area.

                  2. re: Steve

                    Steve, do you have any specific recommendations for food and lodging, preferably maisons d'hotes or small hotels that serve outstanding food?

                    1. re: mangeur

                      No personal recs, unfortunately. I ate at the famous Les Mangeux de Lumas which I first read about in a Patricia Wells book. After 31 years, I believe it went out of business last year. The economy has been difficult in a region which doesn't get a lot of press.

                      Two restaurants were featured in the video.

                      One is Le Central (this is a hotel as well) in Coulon. Coulon is on the list of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France. This is an interesting list because, although it is somewhat of a publicity stunt, each village must retain its essentially rural characteristic.

                      the other restaurant featured no longer serves the luxe food seen in the video. They have since simplified their menu. Again, the economy has taken its toll.

                  3. I'd definitely go on to Brittany or Normandy, some of the best food I've ever had. If you're going to Giverny, why not go on the Rouen? Good restaurants, culture, parks and well connected by rail for day trips to other Norman towns.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Londonlinda

                      I'll go with that too.
                      We just take the TGV to Rennes or Vannes or Rouen, rent the SNCF rent-a-car deal of the day and plunge on (I've given up keeping a car in Paris since like NYC it's as expensive to box it as have a studio apt.)
                      Brittany and Normandy are really good year after year. Sauvage/beachy; oysters, butter, oh my!

                    2. We loved La Poule au Pot...friendly and fun wait staff..good food and typical Paris bistro..

                      1. OMG! Please, please, please go to Alsace. Almost no one does. Great food, great wine, lovely villages, and all about 1/3 to 1/2 less than you'd pay anywhere else in France.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: pikawicca

                          Agree...a great hidden gem.

                          1. re: pikawicca

                            After much back and forth [who knew how tough this would be?] we have decided to take the train to Strasbourg [?] and then rent a car. We'll be based out of Colmar, only about 1/2 hour south of Strasbourg. We plan on three nights, then back to CDG to fly home. If you have any favorite spots, feel free to let us know. Merci.

                            1. re: bauskern

                              Good plan. In case you are looking for lunch on the drive down, we'd suggest Le Pressoir de Bacchus, 50 route des Vins, 67650 Blienschwiller. (No Web site that I can find.) It's a wife-husband place (she, Sylvie, is in the kitchen; he's front of house). As the sign outside the door says, “Ni Bistrot, Ni Gastro . . . C’est la cuisine de Sylvie!” I posted here about this and others in the area around Fall 2011.

                              In case you are looking for a place to stay, next time we head to the-outside-of-Colmar area we plan to stay in the simple Hotel A l’Agneau, in Katzenthal. http://www.agneau-katzenthal.com/en.php It's a traditional hotel restaurant in a typical-style regional house next to a family-run winery, with two small, pretty, and packed, trpical Alsatian dining rooms. -- Jake

                              1. re: Jake Dear

                                Thanks, Jake. I'm "saving" this thread.

                                1. re: Jake Dear

                                  Thank you for your suggestion. We are now making our reservations at that very hotel for three nights. We'll have a rental car so we can explore the area. The hotel seems very reasonably priced, and the food in general looks like it will be great. And we'll definitely look for Le Pressoir de Bacchus, 50 route des Vins, 67650 Blienschwiller.

                                  Thank you again for the suggestions. Barry

                                  1. re: bauskern

                                    Hi Barry, thanks for doing recon for our next trip to this beautiful and distinctive area. We hope for a report back! It's a simple place in a simple village, but struck us as having a particularly good feel in the dining rooms and bar. And I agree with others that Auberge de l'Ill would be a fine nearby splurge --we were sorry not to return there in 2011, and may go back there for lunch on the patio next time.

                                    -- Jake

                                    1. re: Jake Dear

                                      PS: Speaking again of lunch -- for a very "local feeling" place near Munster (worth a visit on its own to see the town and storks), we'd again recommend "Restaurant des Cascades," in Stosswihr, at the end of the road in a low-mountain valley. http://www.restaurant-des-cascades.co... -- Jake

                                      1. re: Jake Dear

                                        Restaurant Des Cascades is great to combine good, solid, typically Alsatian food wiith relaxing in unusually serene surroundings. Sitting outside on the patio and looking around at the forest and a couple of donkeys grazing nearby is a wonderful way to unwind after busy days doing the touristy things. The place is inexpensive and simple, but beautifully located and packed with locals!
                                        http://restaurant-des-cascades.com/ht...

                                        On the other end of the spectrum is Auberge de L'ill. Very expensive these days, after opening the second place in Japan, but it's a superb restaurant, well worthy of its 3 Michelin stars. Also the most romantic place to have a drink before or some digestive afterwards sitting at one of the tables adjacent to the river.
                                        http://www.auberge-de-l-ill.com/V2/in...

                                        I would also like to suggest "Nouvelle Auberge", restaurant somewhere between those above mentioned two.
                                        Much fancier preparations than Cascades and much more affordable than Aunerge de L'ill. The decor is somewhat Alsatian, but without everpresent stuffed storkes (sorry, guess I've seen one too many :). Food is actually not very Alsatian - the chef comes from Brittany - but it has enough little Alsatian accents to satisfy chef's wife's Alsatian roots. It is located in Wihr-Au-wahl, on the road to Munster.
                                        http://www.nauberge.com/

                                2. re: bauskern

                                  Ok: it's been 6 or 7 years since I've been to the area, but tonite I read our own Sophie Brissaud's (Ptipois') book on Jean-Georges Klein's joint in Arnsbourg (the book is called l'Alchemie des Elements, the hotel, Hotel K, a Relais et Ch.) prices not ruinous; 53 minutes from Strasbourg, 3 stars, website in English is http://www.arnsbourg.com/english/inde...
                                  and I was blown away. The guy spent one week with Adria and like everyone who's done that, most of whom settled around Gerona & Perpignon, he absorbed a bit but was not taken in by the show (if I read him right.) Try it out for us, Colette and I just might spring for that in a couple of weeks.

                                  1. re: bauskern

                                    Great, great, great news! Please put my favorite restaurant in the entire world on your dining list: the incomparable L'Auberge de L'ill in Illhaeusern, not far from Colmar. My preference is for a leisurely lunch if the weather is fine. Have a seat under the willows and sip on a kir royale while watching the swans glide by. Definitely start with the foie gras terrine, then the salmon souffle (NOT to be missed), and if you can bring yourself to order something that sounds entirely pedestrian, get the roast chicken for two. I dream about this dish (and its presentation is an ode to a time of more refined pleasures). They have an incredible cheese cart, as well. Desserts are outstanding. (The main reason I prefer to lunch here is so that I can go for a very long walk afterwards.

                                    There are many lovely villages to explore, all within an easy drive of Colmar. Don't miss the oustanding museum in the old cloister in Colmar itself. Also, be sure to eat lots of macarons -- the best in France, IMO.

                                    1. re: pikawicca

                                      "L'Auberge de L'ill"
                                      I'll second that; greatest Thanksgiving meal I ever had. Just don't drive into the ditch in the fog/mist.

                                3. I vote for Arles. About 3.5 hours from Paris by train+bus. Lovely compact Provençal town with Roman ruins and one of France's most mouth-watering markets, plus excellent eateries, from neighborhood traiteurs (check out "Génin") to starry temples like Rabanel.
                                  The provençal tastes, light and herb-focused, like the landscape, contrasts uniquely with what one finds in Paris. Even though it only takes 3.5 hour transport, you really feel you are tasting a very different life and different pleasures.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    Another good call, Parigi. Next month we'll spend two nights at Mas de la Forge, the chambre d'hote for Camargue seafood restaurant La Telline. For the second night, we'll book a table at La Chassagnette in nearby Le Sambuc. One could add a lunch at Le Bistrot du Paradou in Le Paradou. And/or, after a visit to Pont du Gard, a lunch at Le Tracteur in Sanilhac-Sagriès.

                                    One efficient way to cover this territory might be to take the TGV to Arles, pick up a car and drive to Mas de la Forge (Villeneuve, Route de Gageron), spend several days outside of town, then return the car in Arles and enjoy the town for a couple of days before taking the train back to Paris.

                                    An additional restaurant rec for Arles: L'Autruche.

                                    1. re: mangeur

                                      We are happy to take train+bus to Arles and joy the town for a couple of days or a long weekend without a car. The town has enough in terms of culture and history and archeology and food and food and food to keep us under its spell.

                                  2. Thank you all for your suggestions. As a neophyte to france, it is a little overwhelming, but it sounds like we can't really go too wrong! Right now it looks like this: five days in Paris, with a day at the Franch Open, a day trip to Giverny, and 3 days to explore different neighborhoods; then a day or two in Beaune; and then down to Provence for a couple of days. . . . But the suggestion for Alsace looked intriguing . . . .

                                    27 Replies
                                    1. re: bauskern

                                      The Alsace is amazing. Drive the wine road from Strasbourg down towards Basel through all the little villages. You won't be dissapointed with the food and wine. You can take the tgv to Basel/mulhouse or Strasbourg and rent a car from either of those places to see the area better.

                                      1. re: bauskern

                                        Another option would be to pop up to Brugge. Lovely town...good food and beer.

                                        1. re: bauskern

                                          If they weren't already grown and beyond my control, I'd offer up my two first born if you explored and didn't love Alsace. Please give it a try. It's my favorite part of France (and they have the best macarons, bar none).

                                          1. re: bauskern

                                            Add me to the list of people who love Alsace. I'll be making my 3rd trip there this spring (to hike the wine route this time around). The little villages are beautiful and Strasbourg and Colmar are fun and lively. A great area to explore.

                                            That said, it is hard to go wrong in France.

                                            1. re: LulusMom

                                              "That said, it is hard to go wrong in France."
                                              My point exactly. Get on the TGV, rent a Hertz/Avis, go in any direction, can't miss.

                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                That would indeed be my advice.
                                                (Hey John, thanks! I second L'Arnsbourg too. Truly amazing. And the place, too.)

                                                1. re: John Talbott

                                                  John, we're looking to rent an apartment in Le Marais for our five days, but running into little luck through the VRBO site. Do you know of any other sites that have apartment rentals? We stayed in that neighborhood our 1st time to Paris and really loved it.

                                                  1. re: bauskern

                                                    Not sure whether these will have places in Le Marais or not, but here are some I've used: http://www.homeaway.com/ http://www.greatrentals.com/ and http://www.findrentals.com/europe-vac...

                                                    Best of luck.

                                                    1. re: LulusMom

                                                      Thanks, we'll look into those sites.

                                                    2. re: bauskern

                                                      Sorry I haven't rented in 40 years; I'll ask friends tmrw.

                                                      1. re: bauskern

                                                        We found a great apartment in the 5th near the Jardin des Plantes on Homeaway.com. In Lyon we rented through airbnb.com. Both were great experiences, and I'd recommend either.

                                                        1. re: bauskern

                                                          OK; so I talked to my old buddy from the Bronx who loves his 60 sq meter joint in the Marais which he says is wide open for many weeks - go to VRBO to 293 228. Good luck.

                                                          1. re: John Talbott

                                                            Thank you. We found the apartment on VRBO and sent him a message. Appreciate your help!

                                                            1. re: bauskern

                                                              Excellent; pure chance my friend was here.

                                                              1. re: John Talbott

                                                                Dear John, It looks like the apartment owned by your friend is already taken for the 5 days we had in mind. Too bad! But I think I found a place on the edge of the Marais, in the 11th. This is the description of the neighborhood: "Located just in front of the very famous Hotel Murano and also close to the Cirque d'Hiver, this Paris apartment rental is on the border of the Marais, 10min from Place de Vosges. . . . " Are you familiar with this neighborhood? If it's safe and has nice walking, then we'll rent it. Unfortunately, the only neighborhood we really "know" is the central Marais, which we really loved. But this apartment seems very lovely, and of course we'll be exploring throughout the entire city. But if you said, you know, that's kind of a sketchy neighborhood, we'd look elsewhere. . . .

                                                                1. re: bauskern

                                                                  I'm a Daniel but I'll pretend to be Dear John. :)

                                                                  Excellent location for a foodie. And no swarms of tourists and suburbanites like in the Marais/ Beaubourg. But if across from the ultra-trendy and expensive Murano, probably right on the very busy boulevard du Temple. And yes, safe (can't quite think of anywhere in Paris that's unsafe) and well situated for great walks through both the Haut-Marais (buzzing with non-tourist life) and the atmospheric Canal St Martin/ Hôpital St Louis area. Multi-line République métro station just up the street and, even better, buses to many parts of Paris from the boulevard du Temple, République and Timbaud/Oberkampf (so nice to see and feel Paris rather than blindly rush from one place to another underground, eh?). Wonderful Popincourt street market on the boulevard Richard Lenoir between the rues Jean-Pierre Timbaud and Oberkampf in the 11th on Tues and Fri mornings less than a 5-min walk. Very trendy Rue Bretagne "rue commerçante" in the 3rd for daily shopping or café-hopping + the historic covered Marché des Enfants Rouges for mini-restos/ takeaways also just a 5-min stroll. Excellent bakery 134 RDT and legendary pâtisserie/ salon de thé Jacques Genin across from each other on the rue Turenne, a 3 or 4-min walk. Good to great restaurants in a 5-to 10-min walking radius: Pierre Sang, Ober-Salé, Repaire de Cartouche, L'Illot, Le Barav (wine bar), L'Entrée des Artistes (cocktails + nosh), La Villaret, l'Aller-Retour (for steaks), Au Passage, La Briciola (for Italian), Seger (for Ethiopian), Au Fil des Saisons, Au Bascou, Zerda Café (for North African), etc etc.

                                                                  1. re: Parnassien

                                                                    I am John and I agree esp that "can't quite think of anywhere in Paris that's unsafe."

                                                                    1. re: John Talbott

                                                                      John, I came across your review of Metropolitan in the 4th, but I see that that was over a year ago. Did you ever go back, and if so, did you have a better experience? It seemed like you were in a bad mood that night,and the noise level was deafening, and both can detract from a pleasurable meal!

                                                                    2. re: Parnassien

                                                                      C'est parfait!

                                                                      1. re: Parnassien

                                                                        Based on your email, we went ahead this morning and booked the apartment for five nights. The neighborhood sounds amazing, and we would not have stumbled across it without your help. So glad we'll be exploring a new section of the city.
                                                                        I seem to remember the last time we were in Paris trying to find a legendary chocolate maker, and coming across a store that sold nothing but mens' ties, floor to ceiling. The neighborhood was about a 10-minute walk east of le Marais/Place de Vosges . . . .

                                                                        1. re: bauskern

                                                                          I'm not sure why the Marais hold such a magical charm for Americans, but hey.

                                                                        2. re: Parnassien

                                                                          Did you mean Sheger in Republique? Trying to look up your Ethiopian rec on Google, but the restaurant at 2 passage du Jeu de Boules is what's coming up. Thanks!

                                                                          1. re: shipshape

                                                                            Oops, sorry for iPad typo... yes, Sheger on passage between rue Amelot and bd Voltaire.

                                                            2. re: LulusMom

                                                              LulusMom: If you're going to hike the wine route in Alsace, don't miss Bott Freres in Riquewihr. Despite the name it's run by two women (family members). I have yet to get to Alsace, but they are so lovely and the wine is SO delicious. It's high on my list for when I do go.

                                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                                OK, I'm marking this down. I think my meals are all paid for in advance (I'm hiking solo, but someone else is taking care of transporting my luggage and reserving my rooms, etc.) but I don't care - if the food is really superior, I'll skip out on the prepaid (letting them know in advance, of course) and head somewhere else. I'll definitely have a night in Riquewihr (and you should go - lovely lovely place). Thanks for the tip.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  I don't know about food at Domaine Bott Freres, but I'm sure they won't let you go hungry!

                                                                  1. re: ChefJune

                                                                    Maybe I'll drop by for a glass of wine post-hike, pre-dinner?

                                                          2. the loire......magical. we stayed.10 years apart at.....Les domaine des Haute loire outside of one of the cities( begins with a B) they're a Relais et Chateaux place....marvelous meals. not cheap.

                                                            Also the Dordogne..beauty, interesting prehistoric places, marvelous food, damn near anywhere. We stayed at another Relais et Chateax place in Tremolat.with our kids 5&7, then......that was marvelous also

                                                            1. Or....head north to Brugge Belgium, one of the best preserved and romantic old cities in all of europe

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: FriedClamFanatic

                                                                Brugge is beautiful and there is great food and beer there, no question.

                                                                1. re: LulusMom

                                                                  and wonderful chocolates and fries.....as well as glorious sites