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France road trip with a 9 month old. West or East France?

Vancouver, Canada
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France road trip with a 9 month old. West or East France?

My wife and I are taking our soon to be 9 month old to a wedding near Mirepoix/Carcassonne. We are renting a car in Toulouse and spending 6 days at a house rental on a vineyard. Great, right?

Our problem is, we can't decide what's our best options afterwards, to spend 7 days before flying back to Canada from Paris.

About us: My wife loves touring the vineyards and tasting, but that's tough with a small child. Both of us love immersing ourselves in new places, trying the food, strolling around, and taking in the scenery. I love history, old architecture, and the character you cant find in North America. Both of us are very nervous about traveling with a 9 month old for 2 weeks, for the first time...

Original Plan: After the wedding, we have 7 nights before staying at airport in Paris and flying out the next AM. We were to drive to Bordeaux and spend 3-4 days in the city while branching out to vineyards before driving back through the Loire Valley, stopping for 2 nights somewhere before heading to Paris. Both of us have been to France but never Bordeaux. Bordeaux shows up as very kid friendly and so did the Loire Valley. That was our thought process.

Problems with original plan: we are now having doubts. I've heard driving in and out of Bordeaux is hard and it makes the trip back to Paris that much further. I've also heard the vineyards are scattered all over which is hard to do with a 9 month old who naps a lot.

Question: Has anyone traveled this area with a small child? Is the driving tedious? Lots of places to stop along the way? I'm use to driving long distances (canada's big) but I'm worried Western France is pretty spread out.

Alternate plan: Work our way from Carcassonne to Lyon and maybe up to Strasbourg before flying back to Paris

Questions: Do the smaller towns this route have a bit more character than the ones between Bordeaux and Paris? Are the kid friendly? Do more of the people speak english or accommodate

it?

Any info or input would be great!

Also (my wife said to add this) - Do we need to bring our own car seat? She's read that car rentals often don't have them. Are they different in France(rear facing for 9 month old)?

Regards,

Phil

Edited: 13 June 2018, 12:10
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1. Re: France road trip with a 9 month old. West or East France?

Hiring a car seat, like hiring a GPS is so expensive that if you are renting for more than a few days it makes more sense to bring or buy own. You can check in a car seat on a flight, my brother used to do that, travelling from the US

We travelled to the US to visit my brother when our son was that age and it was a good trip. We had a weekend in New York but did mainly day trips, including to Boston from his home in RI. Having a base and doing day trips is definitely the easiest with a baby, and toddler. And I would say that an apartment, or aparthotel is better than a hotel room, even if only for a night or two

We recently spent time in western France, flying into and out of Bordeaux. We dropped off the rental car at the airport before we spent 3 days in Bordeaux itself at the end of the trip. In your case maybe you could stay somewhere nearby like Libourne or St Emilion and go into Bordeaux by train a couple of times. We liked Bordeaux a lot, very pleasant to walk round and some interesting museums, including a couple of wine related ones, with tasting, not that we went them, our focus is more art and history.

Do go to the Jardin Public, we happened on it almost by chance and were very impressed.

The TGV from Bordeaux to Paris takes only a couple of hours so that makes the return to Paris simple

Arcachon on the Bassin and coast is lovely and an hour by train to Bordeaux apparently. It is most famous for its oysters, and as a traditional seaside resort. We had picked up the car at the airport and spent the first night in Arcachon after driving along part of the Bassin, from Andernos.

We then headed to the Dordogne which is so pretty, beautiful countryside, lots of lovely towns and villages (Sarlat gets three stars in Michelin guide) and the Dordogne also has vineyards so you do not have to go all the way to the Loire. We stayed in Sarlat, with a lunch stop in Bergerac. It made for quite a long day in the car (we got to Sarlat at about 5pm) Bergerac is one of the appellation from the Dotrdogne, but there are others. Google vineyards Dordogne and you will see you get loads of hits. We went down to Cahors in Quercy one day (the local grape is malbec).

We went on from the Dordogne to La Rochelle, which was also very attractive, smaller than Bordeaux but with the same maritime heritage (there is a museum dedicated to the French in the Americas, the Musee du nouveau monde). That area, the Charentes, is known for its fortified wine Pineau des Charentes. Cognac is on the way too

As to eastern France, there is a TGV from Strasbourg to central Paris and CDG even, also very quick. We spent 10 days in Alsace a few years ago and it is also lovely, not least the towns and villages on the Wine Route. But it is a very long way from Carcassonne. I would suggest leaving it for another trip, you could combine it with Burgundy and Champagne

viamichelin.com would give you realistic driving time (googlemaps tends to underestimate for journeys in Europe, sometimes by 20% or so)

Edited: 13 June 2018, 15:01
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