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Help with 2 week Itinerary Paris & beyond

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My husband and I are planning to spend 2 weeks in France this summer (late July- early August). We will fly into Paris and spend 4-5 nights (it is not our first time in this city). We then plan to rent a car and drive south. Our goal is to spend 4-5 nights in the Avignon area and then drive further south to the Riviera for the last 4-5 nights. We plan to either fly back from Nice or take the train back to Paris.

Some background information: We are in our early 40's and while very active, we also want to relax on this trip. We have rented cars in foreign countries in the past and are very comfortable driving. Our traveling philosophy is "less is more" in terms of not trying to do too much in any given day. An ideal day for us consists of driving to different towns, walking around and maybe poking into a church, gallery or shop, sitting at cafes and watching the world go by and eating at restaurants that are local favorites. We usually like to spend the later part of the day relaxing at our hotel either at a pool or back at our room if we have outdoor space. Walking to town for dinner is always a plus, but we are ok driving too. We are also runners so we always love to explore great routes for taking in the environment, whether it be the streets of Paris or the countryside. Finally, this is a bit of a splurge trip for us, so we are looking at higher end, smaller boutique hotels.

Based on the research I have done so far, this is what I've come up with:

Fly from NYC to Paris on Saturday morning. Spend Saturday- Wednesday in Paris. My husband is taking care of our accommodations in Paris.

Rent a car and drive from Paris to Provence. I know this is about a 7 hour drive. Should we consider stopping for one night and if so, where do you recommend we do so? Or, if we drive straight, any good suggestions for towns, sights, meals that are not to be missed?

Once we arrive in Provence, my two top choice hotels are either Le Pigonnet in Aix or Chateau des Alpilles in Saint Remy. I am leaning towards Saint Remy as it seems more centrally located. It appears as if both hotels are within walking distance to the towns but I am curious to hear thoughts about which area suits us better. Spend Wednesday/Thursday- Sunday/Monday.

Depart Provence and drive south towards Riviera. Originally we were looking at Villa la Mauresque in Saint Raphael. Nice waterfront property and walkable to shops, restaurants. However, after a little more research, Les Mas Candille in Mougins and Hotel La Perouse in Nice also look nice. Someone had suggested we look intoTiara Miramar Beach Hotel as well.

I think the third leg of our trip is where I need the most help. Where do you suggest is the best place to stay if our goal is mostly relax but still have the ability to walk to places, find local restaurants, shops, etc. We definitely want to get an idea of the French Riviera and I know it will be touristy, but is there someplace that will give us a happy medium? Depending on what area we stay in, do we need a car? I'd prefer not to have one at that point, but it may make sense if we want to do a little exploring. My husband really wants to see Marseiiles.

Finally, we would either take the train back to Paris on Friday and then fly back Saturday. However, my preference is to fly from Nice to Paris to NYC on Saturday.

So there you have it. Any suggestions, ideas, tweaks are welcomed and much appreciated.

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