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Driving from Aix en Provence to Nice

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We will be driving from Aix en Provence to the Nice area( we will be staying in Vence) and wanted to know the most scenic way to get there. We plan to leave early in the morning and would like to arrive by late afternoon. We are not interested in seing Marseilles. What part of the coastal road should we or should we not take?

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    You can take N98 along the coast to Nice but keep in mind that this road has very heavy traffic at times and traffic can slow your progress tremendously.

    You may want to check what either of the following might suggest:

    http://www.mappy.fr
    http://www.viamichelin.fr

    I recommend you deselect Express by selecting sans péage in the criteria window on the Mappy site. Or on the Michelin site choose only Eviter les péages under options, preferences.

    The scenic route will take just over 4 hours nonstop.

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    I wouldn't take the coast - about 70% of it is not scenic at all between Cassis & Nice. About 15% is just OK, and about 15% (Cote d'Esteral) is very scenic. And like like Sarastro says - it can have horrendous traffic.

    Here is something I wrote up - but it's from Vence/St Paul to Aix:

    The Department of the Var, in the hillsides behind St Raphael & St Tropez.

    This is a beautiful area with quaint villages, vistas, rolling countryside, & vineyards. This is mainly a “drive through the country” & you can get out & wander in a town if you like. This drive will take less than 4 hours, even with some short stops & some browsing along the way.

    Get on the A8 towards Cannes and get off at exit #39. It’s marked “Fayence”. When you get to the D19 from the D562 (the D562 has some ugly commerce along the way), take it toward Fayence & drive through Tourrettes (keep to the right through a parking lot as you enter town), then Fayence (explore – look for the “Vieux Village” sign just past the fabric shop on the left), Seillans*, Bargemon, and then the D25 to Callas. These are all very charming villages. Stop at some if you have the time - perhaps Fayance is the best place to stretch your legs and your wallet. One of my wife’s favorite Provence fabric stores is in Fayence. There are great views along this route.

    If it’s past 3:00 pm at this point and you plan on heading into Provence & staying in either Gordes or St Remy for the night, it’s probably best to get on the A8 and head there now. To get to “central” Provence from Callas, stay on the D25 and head south toward le Muy where you can pick up the A8. This is actually a very pretty drive with wonderful views of the Maures Mountains in front of you as you drive south.

    If you get to Callas before 3:00, then continue through the Var. This is my favorite section of this driving route. As you leave Callas, take the small road that heads southwest and ends at the D54 at Figanieres. Take the D54 northwest toward Chateaudouble. When you hit the D955 (before Chateaudouble), head south. This is the very picturesque Gorges de Chateaudouble*. Stop at the D49 junction on the D955, turn around, & retrace the route on the D955. When you get back to where the D54 hits the D955, take the D51 to Chateaudouble. This is a cute town. If it’s lunch time, try “Restaurant la Tour” with fabulous views on a square shaded by plane trees. It's the 2nd restaurant from the parking lot. Then continue on the D51 to Ampus (explore). Take the D49, D51, D77 to Aups*, which is one of my favorite towns in the area. They have a very nice farmers market on Wednesday & Saturday mornings. There are also several interesting shops to browse in. After Aups, retrace your route a little & take the D77 east to Tourtour*. Park in the parking lot just outside of town (nice view of this medieval village as you approach town). This is another pretty village. There’s a good panorama from the grassy area near the church. There are some nice outside places to have lunch under plane trees, if you’re there around lunch time. Tourtour has several hotels hear by (we’ve never stayed at any of them). The Bastide de Tourtour is located in a lovely setting close to town. The fixed price menu is reasonably priced, but the selections looked very un-interesting when we glanced over them. The a la carte selections were expensive.

    Leave Tourtour (drive through the village) on the D51 toward Villecroze and continue on the D51 until it hits the D560 near Salernes. If you are doing this drive on a Sunday morning, there is a nice outdoor market in Salernes & there are lots of outdoor cafes where you can watch the market activity. There is a nice store featuring tiles produced in the area, at the northwest end of town on the D560 (5 min walk from the market area). After Salernes, take the D560 west to the D22 toward Cotignac. As you approach Cotignac, get the cameras ready for some great photo ops of this town, looking down on it from the cliffs above. Cotignac* is one of our favorite small towns. Get out & explore - this is a good lunch spot with a large central square lined with cafes, shops, and shaded by plane trees. Leave Cotignac on the D13 toward Carces. You will start to see a lot of vineyards now, and in May & early June there are fields of red poppies in bloom. Drive through Carces & take the D562 toward Le Val. There is a by-pass around Le Val, but instead, drive through Le Val – however, take the by-pass & enter town from the south side instead of the north side (the north entrance has an impossible acute turn that your car will have trouble with).

    If you feel like lingering in this area a little longer, Lorgues is a nice town to visit & the drive from Carces to Lorgues is real pretty. Pick up an English walking tour map of Lorgues at the tourist office. There are several shops & outdoor cafes under plane trees and there’s a great Tuesday AM market in town. Le Thoronet Abbey** (close to Carces) is one of three Cistercian Abbeys in Provence. The most famous one is Senanque near Gordes, but Senanque has guided tours (only) in French, and if you want to wander inside an Abbey on your own, then visit Le Thoronet.

    Get on the A8 & head to Aix.

    Stu Dudley

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