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Marseille to Paris, 12 days Itinerary

So we will be arriving in Marseille from jfk mid august, and staying for 12 days (early afternoon arrival, late evening flight departure). We were thinking of arriving in mrs, hanging around for a couple of days to get a nice beach stay with a teenager and 8 yr old, and then heading north to paris.
We're not sure where in Cote D'azur to stay, and we'd love to visit a couple of interesting stops along the way to paris.

Now here's the things, should we rent a car to make the trek up, so that we can stop wherever we'd like, or should we book train tickets?

We were thinking of paying $100 extra per flight for the four of us to leave out of paris, which is an extra 400, but we can also rent the car for all those days for about 300 and not have to buy train tickets, we would just have to drive back down and i guess all the extra issues of having a car.

We are comfortable driving, but I'd have to re-learn stick shift, as we took a road trip around the us last summer.

Any advice on stops, where to stay in south, and best way to get around?

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