Vacation in France: Loire (Amboise), Burgundy (Beaune), & Paris (10th)
September 11, 2019 12:55 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations to fill out our activities for an upcoming vacation in France. We'll be spending a few days each (driving between them) in the Loire valley between Saumur and Amboise, Burgundy between Beaune and Dijon, and then back to Paris in the 10th arr.

We have our lodgings and travel figured out, and many ideas for activities. Looking for interesting restaurant alternatives and interesting activities not found in the travel guides. Also, if you have suggestions for reasonable (not expensive, not stuffy) wine tastings near Beaune, I'd love to hear about it.
posted by aught to Travel & Transportation around France (12 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I just did something similar in May. We too booked our lodging in advance, but honestly we were glad we hadn't committed to any restaurants, etc. in advance. We had a ton of fun asking locals for recommendations and making things up as we went along.
posted by jdroth at 1:21 PM on September 11, 2019

Best answer: For a traditional Parisian meal, try the boullion Chartier. A boullion was once a type of working-class eatery, and Chartier is one of the few left. The food is good, if a bit standard, but the room itself is gorgeous, and the atmosphere is fantastic.

In Paris, you should also have Moroccan food, and Chez Omar in le Marais is one of my parents' favorite restaurants.

For meats, cheeses, wines, prepared foods, etc. that you can sit and eat in a park, check out the Marché des Enfants Rouges and nearby shops in the 3rd. There is a nearby charcuterie shop called Caractère de Cochon that will make you an amazing sandwich jambon-beurre with any kind of ham you want.

I always encourage visitors to Paris to check out the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th (NE Paris). It's a lovely park, with fewer tourists, cool rock formations, and a fantastic view of the city.

I would always recommend the Musée Carnavalet, which is the official museum of the city of Paris, but unfortunately it is closed for renovations right now. As an alternative, I might recommend the museum of the National Archives at the Hôtel de Soubise in le Marais. They often have very interesting special exhibitions of important historical documents (I once saw the actual Edict of Nantes there).
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:08 PM on September 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Best answer: In Paris, you should also have Moroccan food, and Chez Omar in le Marais is one of my parents' favorite restaurants.

It would be remiss of me not to also mention Chez Hanna in the Marais. THey're known for their falafel and the like, but have an impressive menu. I've been going there on every trip through the city for more than a decade now. It won't break the bank by any means and is delicious--I recommend the stuffed eggplant, and basically any version of eggplant they make. Their smoky eggplant "caviar" is among the most delicious things I've ever tasted.

I also like walking the various shopping passages couverts, like le Passage du Grand-Cerf.

We'll be spending a few days each (driving between them) in the Loire valley between Saumur and Amboise

Oh lovely! I lived in Orléans ages ago and used to spend a good deal of time in this stretch of the Loire. I expect you'll be seeing some castles, but keep an eye out for some of the less-touristed ones, which can be amazing. You'll pass very close by the château d'Azay-le-Rideau, which is a little gem and not as overwhelmingly tourist-clogged as Amboise/Clos Luce (both of which are still super duper top notch places to visit). Plus, some/many/most châteaux these days have gotten pretty hip to adult interests, so they'll often have nighttime events. The website for each one is a good resource for that sort of thing.

I've had a good time kayaking the Loire and other rivers if the weather and water levels are just right. There are boating outfitters all over the place.

Have a blast!
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:34 PM on September 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In your reading, you've probably come across Le Cadre Noir in Saumur so that's a thing if you are chateau'd out.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:52 PM on September 11, 2019

Best answer: The best meal that I have had in France was the boeuf bourguignon at Chez Leon in Dijon.
posted by Kwine at 4:46 PM on September 11, 2019

Best answer: If you like art museums, the one in Dijon is really good: beautifully laid out with modern museology, and the current exhibition on Yan Pei-Ming is great, though it's only on until the end of the month. In Dijon, I would give a pass to the Cathedral, which is not very interesting architecturally.

When I went there, I dined at the Chanoine. The food was traditional (i.e. cooked with wine), and very good.

For the Loire area, I recommend both Chenonceaux and Azay-le-Rideau.
posted by snakeling at 11:27 PM on September 11, 2019

Best answer: Chenonceau is one of the most beautiful of the Loire châteaux. If you're going to visit only one, though, I'd pick Blois, because of its architectural variety: Louis XIII's brother Gaston d'Orléans started to renovate it but the project was never finished, so it has a high medieval hall and Gothic (Louis XII), Renaissance (François Ier), and classical (Gaston d'Orléans) wings. If you do the guided tour you can see approximately where the duke and cardinal of Guise were assassinated.

It's been a while since I lived in the 10th, but a good traitteur (sort of like a deli, lots of prepared foods) is Julhès, on the rue du Faubourg St.-Denis just north of the Grands Boulevards. It looks like they've expanded a lot recently, including new locations. You could assemble a picnic. A stroll along the Canal St. Martin to the Bassin de la Villette, with a picnic en route, is a great thing do do on a nice day.

Another fun activity is to head to Bastille and then pick up the Promenade plantée (it now has a new official name, Coulée Verte René Dumont), which follows an old railway viaduct. (Look for the chorus line of copies of Michelangelo's Dying Slave on one building.) When you reach the rue de Picpus, take the stairway up and head over to Raimo, which has excellent ice cream; then you can get on the métro at Daumesnil or walk SW, starting on the rue Hippolyte Taine and going under the railroad tracks to the Gare de Lyon, toward the Parc de Bercy and the new Bibiothèque Nationale on the other side of the Seine.

The city of Paris owns fourteen museums, and admission to their permanent collections is free. (You have to pay for special exhibitions.) Some are currently closed for renovations, like the Carnavalet (as TheWhiteSkull mentioned), but others are open. The Petit Palais and the modern art museum at the Palais de Tokyo are my favorites (besides Carnavalet).

A few destinations on the west side of the city and near suburbs include the Jardin Albert Kahn, which is reopening Sept. 21 after renovations (the museum is closed until 2021), the Sèvres porcelain museum, and the gardens and greenhouses of Auteuil.

There are so many restaurants that it's hard to make a recommendation. For decent traditional French food in a gorgeous setting, though, I recommend the Bouillon Racine in the 6th, near the jardin du Luxembourg.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:37 AM on September 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In Beaune, go to Ma Cuisine and Caves Madelaine for meals.
posted by nihraguk at 9:59 AM on September 12, 2019

Response by poster: Thank you all for your suggestions! We'll definitely incorporate some of them into our time there.
posted by aught at 11:56 AM on September 12, 2019

This recommendation is dated now, but Saveur claimed that Du Pain et Des Idees had the finest jambon-beurre in Paris.
posted by wnissen at 4:43 PM on September 12, 2019

FYI, if you or any of your traveling companions are Tolkien fans, the Bibliothèque Nationale has an exhibition on the Lord of the Rings at its Tolbiac (François Mitterrand) site through February.
posted by brianogilvie at 2:23 PM on September 25, 2019

Response by poster: To follow up, selected / recommended highlights include:

- Bouvet-Ladubay - sparkling wine cave (bicycle tour in cave, great tasting)

Langeais area
- Touraine Cheval horse trail rides
- B&B - A la Fleur de Lys - quaint, in the middle of a movie-set scenic village, amazing breakfast
- Chateau Villandry - amazing gardens, even late in the season
- I would recommend the pizza place in Langeais but they were closing down the week after we were there

- Restaurant les Arpents - inventive, delicious
- Restaurant le Parvis - tasty, grilled meats
- Chateau de Clos Luce - museum and park, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his later years
- Chateau de Chenonceau - stunning building and gardens
- B&B La Commanderie - run by an interesting guy who's also a jazz historian, modern accommodations, grounds were supposedly once the headquarters of the Knights Templar
- Cave des Producteurs de Montlouis-Sur-Loire - interesting self-guided tour, no pressure tasting
- ProTip: don't let the GPS send you through the Centre-ville of Tours at rush hour

Beaune area
- B&B - La Passerelle des Corton - very quaint, hosts are super-nice, great breakfasts
- Restaurant: Le P'tit Paradis - delicious, cool owners and waitstaff
- Moutarderie Fallot - taste every kind of mustard known to humankind, buy little jars to take home (there was a tour but it looked very crowded)
- Domaine Joliet (Fixin) - cool old building, nice owner, great wine, and they have a 15th century wine press in the cellar (which they stopped using 50 years ago, but it's still impressive)
- Cave de l'Ange Gardien - very long varied Burgundy tasting presented by a curious old dude who will teach you to appreciate how you smell wine differently through each nostril (it's kind of true), and will make some dubious comments about climate change, but will pour some great wines and not pressure you to buy anything from his shop. Biggest downside here, other than biting my tongue and not arguing with him about human contributions to climate change, was that it ran so long we missed our freakin lunch reservation at the one-star Michelin restaurant in Beaune. (Also, I think I lost my Fitbit there, but that wasn't his fault.)
- ProTip: you might not want to eat at a working class "routier" (truck stop) restaurant (in this case Le Mariten), even on a lark (think: very tough steak, very very chewy escargots, some unusual tasting salads; however, the meal comes with a little pitcher of house red)

- Going to Paris between now and January? Like painter Francis Bacon? Do not miss the show at the Pompidou
- Like Monet? Do not miss the Musee Marmottan Monet (which has an interesting side exhibition of early Mondrian work currently)
- Restaurant: Pramil - great meal, great chef (who used to be a physicist?)
- Restaurant: Pierre Sang in Oberkampf - delicious "blind" tasting menu, try to sit at the counter if you can and chat up the chefs -- fun!
- ProTip: Driving into Paris to return your rental car? Be sure you know when the Journees sans Voitures days are. Yikes; glad my rusty French was up to explaining things to the gendarmes turning cars away at every port roundabout.

Summary ProTip: so, in many significant ways, driving across central France (in our case from the Loire to Burgundy) is not unlike driving across the upper Midwest in the US: lots of agriculture & industry, more interesting but very slow going off the highway, very boring on the highway. France is, after all, a place where lots of real people live and work and farm, and not a giant quaint, historical diorama for tourists. Also, the French toll roads are very expensive, so have a lot of large Euro bills and misc coins on hand before following that big blue Payage sign. All that said, there are some things we were able to do and really enjoyed that we wouldn't have been able to get to very easily without a car, so it was worth it.
posted by aught at 12:08 PM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

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