Bonjour mes amis Chowhoundaises! I’ve been working on research, on the Chowhound boards and elsewhere, for a family vacation to France this July, and I humbly request your thoughts and suggestions on my proposed itinerary.
I have two overriding questions -- How do the dining suggestions line up with our objectives as described below? And, is the itinerary reasonable or trying to fit too much into any given day? (And, can you forgive me for such a long post?)
Our preference is for “authentically French & regional cuisine,” at something less than Michelin-star prices. I understand that in today’s Paris, “authentic ‘regional’ cuisine” could well be Moroccan or Vietnamese rather than Breton or Provençal, and that’s a beautiful thing.
My wife and I have been to Paris twice before, once as a couple and once with the kids, but never to Normandy. We’re taking our 18-year-old niece on her first overseas adventure as a high school graduation gift, along with our 15-year-old son & 13-year-old daughter.
My wife and I each have lost around 100 lbs. over the past couple of years (using the boring but effective exercise-and-thoughtful-eating approach), so we’re “health-conscious,” but not fanatical. We understand we’re entering a world of cheese, cream and baguettes and fully intend to enjoy them, with hopefully some degree of moderation. We will enjoy a bottle of wine with dinner (and I expect to venture into the cider & calvados in Normandy), but we don’t claim to be oneophiles.
The kids are occasionally adventurous, but offal and escargot may be a bridge too far if that’s all they have to choose from. In fact, less formal settings generally will be better for us (quite probably, I -- gasp! -- will not even be taking a blazer). We’re hoping to average no more than €15 for lunch and €35 for dinner, understanding that some meals will exceed that and be well worth it. We would like to work in a couple of picnic meals, but are not sure where they fit best. I’ve also generally assumed that we’ll eat breakfast at the hotel but am interested in alternative suggestions.
Day 1 (Mon): Pre-Flight
Driving from northern CT to JFK, I’m looking for something ethnic (with Chinese and Indian as the leading options) that’s along the way. Based on NY Times reviews, Hunan Kitchen of Grand Sichuan and Biang! in Flushing look like contenders.
Day 2 (Tue): Arrival
After changing planes in Dublin, we’re scheduled to land at CDG in the early afternoon and plan to head immediately to our rooms at the airport Hilton for a quick nap and refresh before taking the RER into Paris for dinner and a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Looking for a bistro or brasserie around €20-30, and considering Restaurant St-Didier in the 16ème.
Day 3 (Wed): Giverny/Jumièges/Rouen
After breakfast at the hotel, we’re driving out to the Monet Museum before heading to Jumièges for lunch and a visit to the abbey. Considering Auberge des Ruines or Auberge du Bac for lunch. After lunch, it’s over to Rouen to walk around the medieval town center. We’ll be staying at the Hôtel des Carmes and are looking for something within walking distance, with L’Espiguette or Auberge St-Maclou as likely candidates.
Day 4 (Thu): Pays d’Auge & Caen
Breakfasting again at the hotel, we’ll strike out into the countryside to sample the Fromagerie Graindorge in Livrot and see the Tiger Tank in Vimountiers. Lunch options include L’Equerre in Vimountiers or Plaisirs des Mets in St-Pierre-sur-Dives. From there, it’s off to Caen to William the Conquerer’s Abbaye aux Hommes & the Caen Memorial Center for History & Peace. We’re staying at Le Mas Normand in Ver-sur-Mer, and their “authentic, generous and greedy” home-cooked Norman dinner looks tempting.
Day 5 (Fri): D-Day Beaches & Bayeux
The day’s forced march begins with breakfast at the hotel, and then the sights of the D-Day Beaches -- the D-Day Museum in Arromanches, the gun battery at Longues-sur-Mer, Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery, and the Airborne Museum in Sainte-Mère-Église. There don’t appear to be many lunch choices along the way, but La Marée in Grandcamp-Maisy seems to have potential. We’ll go from the beaches to Bayeux to see the Tapestry Museum. From there, we’ll head to our next B&B, La Relais de la Hardiesse in Courtils, where we’ll check in and then head for dinner. The Mont St-Michel area is purportedly a Chowhounder’s desert, but Le Manoir or Auberge du Terroir might fit the bill. If we’re still going, we’ll head to the Mont for a night tour.
Day 6 (Sat): Mont St. Michel, Fougères & Chartres
If we don’t get our fill at Mont St-Michel the night before, we’ll head back the next morning after breakfast for the full effect. Then, it’s off to Fougères to visit the Château and forage for lunch at the weekly market. We’ll drive all the way to Chartres to see the cathedral. I’ve read very good things about Les Feuillantines for dinner. Then, back to Paris to return the car and crash (most definitely in that order) at the Hotel de la Porte Dorée in the 12ème.
Day 7 (Sun): Paris/Versailles
First stop after the hotel’s petit déjeuner will be the Arc de Triomphe and a stroll down the Champs-Elyseés. Lunch will most likely be near the Place de la Concorde, with Le Souffle or Lescure as candidates. Then it’s the RER out to Versailles, before returning to dinner near the hotel. Le Bistrot de la Porte Dorée, Le Picotin and L’Escale de Marrakech look like contenders (although I would welcome other ideas, either in the neighborhood or along the way there, as well as those in Versailles itself).
Day 8 (Mon): Paris
We’ll likely start at the Louvre and, in that general vicinity, La Régalade St-Honoré or L’Ambassade d’Auvergne look like attractive lunch candidates. Then we’ll take in the Île de la Cité and the Left Bank. My assumption is that we’ll be looking to head back to the vicinity of the hotel for dinner, but would welcome suggestions for anything between the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Seine.
Day 9 (Tues): Bon Voyage
Our flight leaves mid-morning. We layover in Dublin for several hours at lunchtime, so any airport suggestions would be most helpful. Then, we get back to JFK, drive home and collapse.
So, "formidable" or "fou"?
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