How to Have an Affordable Luxury Trip to France


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The Apollo Gallery at the Louvre. Getting a Museum Pass can help you save on a high-end trip to Paris.

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Dmitry Kostyukov for The New York Times

France can be a notoriously expensive vacation destination — particularly if you have got your sights set on Paris or the French Riviera. Are luxury seekers on a limited budget out of luck? Not at all, said Joelle Kolich, the director of See Travel, a Bordeaux-based company selling luxury trips to the country.

Here are some of Ms. Kolich’s tips for a luxurious but budget-friendly vacation in France:

Ditch That Rental Car and Take the Train Forget renting a car (or, worse, relying on a private driver to get around), said Ms. Kolich. Instead, use the TGV, the country’s high-speed train system. “The TGV has lots of routes and is affordable and clean,” she said, “whereas the cost of a car, even a rental, adds up fast.” Ms. Kolich regularly books the TGV for her clients at favorable prices — for example, 45 euros (about $54) from Paris to Bordeaux.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Michelin-Starred Restaurants France’s many Michelin-starred restaurants aren’t the only places to enjoy high-quality, multicourse meals. “Wherever you go in France, you’ll find small restaurants where up-and-coming, talented chefs serve inventive cuisine,” Ms. Kolich said. One example is Racines, in Bordeaux. It’s a favorite of Ms. Kolich’s, and a three-course dinner showcasing seasonal produce starts at 29 euros a person.

Avoid July and August The French escape to the country during these summer months, which means that prices and crowds swell everywhere. Visit any other time, and expect rates for hotels and private tour guides to drop by 30 percent or more.

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