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Trip Report Cote D' Azur, Provence & Paris 11 day Trip Report

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Or more accurately, Cote D'Azur and Provence Itinerary. Paris only last couple nights before returning to Texas. 11 day trip with another couple. Places stayed - 3 to 5 stars with excellent local flavor. Restaurants - love reds and French bistro cooking. Being obsessive, I make reservations over 6 months in advance. It goes without saying (unless you want to see the lavender blooms), in my opinion, that the best time to visit this region is the first couple weeks of October. Would classify our arrangements as high moderate or would that be low high. Well, you get the idea. Nobody minded speaking English and all were very helpful. Thanks Fodors and TripAdvisor for suggestions.

Cote D' Azur
Stayed: The Dortoir B&B in Nice (adjacent old town). RECOMMENDED. Much has been written about this B&B. Won't bore you by repeating what so many people have said. High end finishes and steps upon steps to reach. We stayed in the Longani suite. Would highly recommend because of the open air patio. We spent hours drinking great reds and talking. Weather perfect. The other couple stayed in the Massai. Very nice but lacking a patio. Great location and great choice.

Did: walk old town, flower market, along Mediterranean, and Riviera Together Tour. RECOMMENDED. My wife and I had visited this area of France before but the other couple had not. I contacted three of the highly recommended tour guides and selected Guy (pronounced GEE - rimes with key) Alfonsi owner of Riviera Together Tours. Why Guy ~ he was cheaper by several hundred USD. The other two were private and Guy had a 8 passenger van. HOWEVER, we were the only 4 people signed up for that day so was a private tour. Guy was outstanding. The particular tour we took included Cannes, Antibes, St. Paul de Vence, Monaco, etc. 8 hours. He worked and worked. New van. Excellent accented English. Took time to review the rest of our scheduled trip after we were to depart Cote D' Azur. He made some excellent recommendations for our drive to Aix. Guy rerouted us through Gorges du Verdon (French Grand Canyon) and Moustiers Ste. Marie. My wife and I purchased some nice faience in Moustiers Ste. Marie. Mostly country drive through lavender fields to Aix. Thanks Guy or GEE whatever.

AIX
Stayed: Hotel Le Pigonnet. DON'T RECOMMEND. We stayed here several years ago and had very fond memories. I knew better as soon as we saw our room. It was a dump (the bell boy was funny in that he described it as trying to maintain the character of the hotel). The elevator was about half the size of the one we have in a bay home. That is small small. I read ahead of time about asking for the remodeled rooms in the main house but, frankly, forgot. The other couple did get a remodeled room and it was very nice. Both rooms faced the beautiful garden in the back of the hotel. We had a delightful evening at the garden bar. Were there for hours enjoying French reds and appetizers and finally had a "wonderful" hamburger. Actually, we all had a very nice evening. Now the next morning we did not want to pay their price for breakfast (seems like it was 35E each) SO I went to a very near McDonalds and brought back some very good French McDonald's food. We sat on their patio and enjoyed the meal. We like the location and the Hotel BUT DO NOT forget to ask for the new rooms. FYI made the reservations at much higher prices but checked their website until those rooms went on sale. They changed the rate and we saved about $100.

Did: nothing (does drinking wine count as nothing). Got to hotel late afternoon after a full full day touring on our drive from Nice to Aix.

St. Remy/Provence
Stayed: Le Chateau des Alpilles. RECOMMEND. 5 stars and worth every penny (or koruna, or kuna, or pound, or euro). Just a great place to stay. If you can arrange it, arrive in time for lunch. If the weather is nice (which ours was perfect), eat on the tables in front of the chateau. AND order the escargot. Best I have ever had. I should frame the photo I took of the dish. Had dinner in the restaurant that night. Make your dinner reservations in advance. We tried to eat there another night but was booked. The bar is small and wonderful. This is your story book Chateau in the French countryside. We stayed in the main house, 2nd floor (well US 2nd story), corner room facing drive into chateau. Perfect room. All of the people that work there could not have been more helpful. Thanks Chateau des Alpilles.

Did: On the drive to Alpilles, we wanted to stop at the antiques market in Isle Sur La Sorgue. NOT RECOMMENDED. Mostly flea market with clothes, etc. We only saw two or three antique booths. Gets good reviews but not in our book. We wanted antiques and got somebody's old clothes (unlike St. Remy market which we enjoy).

Avignon - must visit. Always fun to walk around the Palais du Papes including the gardens. Tried to eat at Fou de Fafa but they were closed Mondays. Ended up eating lunch at a place called "Maison Nani". Excellent place. We saw line of locals and thought it would be good and IT DID NOT disappoint. TripAdvisor mixed but very good in our exprience.

Pont du Gard - damn those Romans could engineer after all. For years, we have created a "Hello Grandchildren" sign showing their names and our location. Took that photo in front of the aqueduct. Actually, I am obsessive so after every major trip I create a travel book. The book is leather and I include, among other things: the itinerary, some of the trip photos, antique hand colored area miniature maps, old currency, old/new postcards, old me photo, antique trading card, stamps, etc. They can't say that I didn't leave them something.

Chateauneuf du Pape - DON'T RECOMMEND. Drove here but arrived somewhat late. We did buy some nice wine and had a short walk around the village. Probably would skip altogether next time.

Les Baux - this was a surprise. We had been to Les Baux on a previous trip. We were driving up to the citadel and saw people, buses and a parking lot. We took it, purchased tickets and walked into the "Carrieres de Lumieres". Wow! Look it up on the internet. In brief, was an underground (or they added the roof later) rock quarry and they converted into a theatre of sorts. I think hundreds (well maybe dozens) of projectors and speakers using every rock surface as a screen. Unbelievable. You just stand in the dark looking at the stone walls being using as a screen with beautiful music. Strongly suggest you visit and plan on spending an hour. We reluctantly departed and went on up the hill to Les Baux. They still have not remodeled that place - it looks exactly like it did a few years ago. Well worth the trip. Stunning views in every direction.

Bonnieux - our favorite restaurant was closed on our Wednesday in Bonnieux. Took some nice pictures but would probably skip on the next trip.

St. Remy Market - RECOMMEND. Very much enjoyed the market. Purchased a small watercolor that is now permanently ensconced in my travel book. I am sure it will be priceless in the future!

L'Aile ou la Cuisse - MUST EAT HERE. RECOMMEND. The night we could not get reservations at the Alpilles, they recommended this bistro in St. Remy. Small but wonderful food, ambiance and service. They were using HUGH wine glasses (about two feet tall) as decanter. When I returned to Texas, had to purchase a bigger one. Could not let the French have something bigger than Texans. Make reservations AND order their free range chicken.

Paris
Train: took the Avignon to Paris TGV train. RECOMMENDED. STRONGLY suggest using Capitaine Train website. RECOMMENDED. Web page easy to navigate and since I purchased early, I think was about 25-30E each first class. We have been on this trip a couple of times and have always thoroughly enjoyed. Beautiful scenery and first class cars. We also tried the train wine. Why is the wine always good in France.

Stayed: Hotel Relais Bosquet Paris. RECOMMENDED. We enjoyed the people, location, breakfast and actually the hotel. Had we stayed here first, we would not have stayed at the Alpilles first. Enough said. Make your reservations through Face Book. Much cheaper and tacks on free breakfast. They arranged an on time 5am limo out to CDG. We appreciate their helpful attitude. Mostly English speaking people at the small hotel. Typical small rooms and very reasonable Paris hotel prices. Walking distance to the Eiffel Tower.

Did: Sainte Chapelle; Notre Dame, River Seine cruise, Eiffel Tower

Ate: Petit Pontoise. RECOMMEND. Once again, very quaint bistro with excellent food and pleasant staff. They opened at 7 but we arrived early at 6:20. They welcomed us and recommended some excellent wine (I think we drank three or four of those wonderful bottles). Make reservations before leaving your home country. Met a cousin who lives in Paris there for dinner on our last night. Thanks Mary Ellen for ride back to the hotel and the driving tour.

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