By Mark Orwoll
Mark Orwoll, seasoned traveler and T&L Managing Editor, is here to help you with your travel questions. Think of him as your personal concierge, and ask away...
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Q. We are thinking of driving from Paris to Avignon, in the south of France. How long do you think it will take?And if we wanted to stop and spend the night someplace interesting and affordable 1/3 to 1/2 of the way, do you have any recommendations of towns to stop in overnight?What we REALLY want to do is take a train from the Paris (de Gaulle) airport to Avignon, then rent a car and drive to where we are staying near Aix. We are worried about the connection, though. Our flight from San Francisco to de Gaulle is scheduled to arrive at 11 a.m. Paris time. The train we would take departs at 1 p.m. If we consider flight delays, and customs, we are worried we won't get to Avignon before the rental-car company closes at 6 p.m.. If we didn't make it, we would be stuck without a car and without an Avignon hotel reservation.
Do you think we should take the train, and take our chances, or just rent a car and stop somewhere mid-trip for the night?We have to consider that the flight takes 12 hours, and we will have a restless seven-year-old with us who might think the train is more fun.
A. The last thing anyone in his right mind would want to do after a 12-hour flight is hop in a rental car and drive for several hours more. But you're in a predicament, what with the train departure being timed so near your arrival at de Gaulle. I wouldn't count on making the connection to the train. Even if your flight arrives on schedule, you can expect 30 minutes to collect your luggage, another 30 minutes to get through customs and immigration, and maybe another 30 minutes to track down the train station at Terminal 2C (Air France's terminal), buy your ticket, and get on board. Unfortunately, the next train, as you point out, would get you into Avignon too late to pick up your rental car. And that's if the plane lands on time!
I would suggest that you spend the night in Paris, either at an airport hotel or in the city. Even though that will lose you some time in your ultimate destination near Aix, you'll be in a much better frame of mind to enjoy the remainder of your trip if you avoid the rush and hassle of the same-day connection you're now contemplating, and which you're likely to miss anyway.
Whether you should, on the next day, go to Avignon by car or train is a toss-up. The train is certainly faster-- four hours from Paris to Avignon, but it ain't cheap (a one-way adult ticket costs about $87). Driving time in a rental car from Paris would be about seven hours (435 miles). If you decide to drive, consider overnighting in Lyon, a large city with plenty of good hotels in all price categories and wonderful restaurants as well.
The information in this story was accurate at the time it was published in March 1999, but we suggest you confirm all details and prices directly with the service establishments before making travel plans.