sorry if there is already a thread for this but I couldn’t find one. I’m planning on going backpacking around France for two weeks in September, travelling around on the train. It’s about a decade since I last went to France and most of my previous holidays there have been family camping holidays when I was a kid.
At the moment I’m thinking:
Eurostar to Paris, then Paris for 3-4 days as I’ve never been before.
Loire Valley. Saumur, Amboise, Orleans and/or Blois. 3-5 days
Would like to visit the absinthe distillery at Saumur and Leornado Da Vinci’s home at Amboise.
Then finish in Dordogne for the caves (based in Perigeux?) or alternatively 2-3 days in Lyon.
Have also considered adding Bordeaux, Nancy or Toulouse to my itinerary
Would be grateful for any recommendations or advice from anyone who’s visited these places
Did a variation of this a few years ago when I was over there for Euros. Basically spent the best part of a fortnight travelling around the South of France by train. It was absolutely fantastic.
Bordeaux is a really nice city - it’s got quite a relaxed and friendly atmosphere about the place. Actually liked it so much I went back the next year. Toulouse and Montpellier are worth a look, too. Carcassonne’s old town is really picturesque, like walking round a film set for Robin Hood, but it does get clogged with tourists.
The trains are pretty good (if they’re not on strike) and good value compared to the UK. SNCF has quite a good app which is useful for journey planning. Be prepared to get irked after a while by the little jingle they play before the platform announcements. The TGV is rightly admired, but I think I preferred the slightly slower Intercites which have old fashioned carriages with comfortable seats and big windows so you can enjoy the view.
If cycling is your thing the Loire has a great cycle path network. Getting about by train/bus might be a bit torturous and I don’t know about the absinthe place but certainly most of the wine tours aren’t in the centres of towns so not easy without transport.
+1 for Bordeaux, it has a really nice vibe and you could do the wine thing in that region or go to the amazing beaches if that’s of interest.
You can buy advance tickets I believe. However, I believe that’s primarily for entrance. Some private tour companies offer guided experiences (similar to how many national parks work), but there aren’t too many “official” representatives.