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Trip Report Menton, Lyon and London

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Hot diggity, I just lined us up for the above places in March 2010.

Went through Orbitz for plane tickets. Total was $1693.60:

Philly to London to Nice
Lyon to London (nonstop)
London to Philly (nonstop)

It will be our first trip from Philly. We have used Dulles or BWI in the past. Dulles can be a long drive for us so we have decided to experiment with Philly. If you can beat that price, please let me know because Orbitz promises to not be undersold!

We plan to take train from Nice to Menton and Menton to Lyon and will book those on our own or just wait until we get there. We'll stay 5 nights in Menton and 5 in Lyon and 4 in London before returning home. I need a Sargent "fix" and the Tate was closed when we were in London in the past.

I am now looking for hotels or apartments so might ask about things I see online. All suggestions entertained! Oh, can anyone recommend trip interruption insurance? We both have had health issues and want to have a good way to "Get the Heck Out of Dodge" should an emergency occur. Is it OK to ask about here?

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    Just a reminder: when you are seeking travel advice, don't add the "trip report" icon to your post. The trip report icon is for reports about trips you've completed. I hope people will still come on and give you advice, but you may have more luck if you re-post and leave off the trip report icon.

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    I'm a fan of the Prince des Galles in Menton, as you know from the other post on Menton hotels that you recently topped. I'm a big fan of Menton. I think I did a trip report of the week we spent there in November a few years ago. If I can find it, I'll top it for you. We'll be in Lyon over New Year's for 3 days so I can check out some hotels if you can let me know about them before we leave before Christmas. We stayed at Hotel des Artistes in Lyon on a previous trip. It was ok, but I'm hoping that the Royal Lyon where we're booked for this time might be a bit better. (We liked Lyon itself, very much, hence our interest in returning.) From what I've seen, Lyon is not blessed with lots of good mid-range hotels. Do you have a price range for your hotels?

    Your trip looks great to me. Sorry I can't help with the insurance issues.

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    Hi, TDudette, I looked for my trip report of the week we spent in Menton and finally found it posted under JMV, a username I went by back in 2003. I would guess that weather will be warmer in March than November there and that there will be a few more tourists than we experienced, but I hope this old (older than I recalled) report will be helpful to you. Here beginneth the report:

    My husband and I spent 8 days and nights on the French Riviera primarily in Menton, just over the border from Italy in mid/late November 2003. We'd always been interested in doing the Cote d'Azur during the off season and decided it was finally time to actually try it. In previous trips we'd found Menton appealing and somehow "liveable" and so decided to make it our home for the all but one night of our stay. I booked a good deal for us airfare-wise. About $550 to fly from Miami to Nice (connection in Amsterdam) and back from Nice to Minneapolis/St. Paul in order to spend Thanksgiving with our kids before returning to our new home in Pompano Beach, FL by rental van, carrying with us stuff we wanted to move from MSP to FLL.

    Enroute we had a 5 hour layover in Amsterdam so we took the intercity train from the airport to Central station. We headed for Rembrandt'splein but got sidetracked down a cute street and wound up seeing the University of Amsterdam, an area we've not previously explored. Temperature in AMS was probably about 55 degrees F, so great weather for our walk.

    We returned to Schipol and departed for Nice. There we picked up our rental car at Europcar, rented through AutoEurope, another good deal. So was our hotel, the Best Western Prince des Galles on the western edge of Menton, at 72 euros per day, an off season rate. We had a room with tiny balcony and a view across the street to the Sea. The room wasn't luxurious but clean and livable with more room than most Paris hotels.
    Service was pleasant but not gushingly friendly and some attention was diverted to repair and renovation work being undertaken because of the off-season slow down, We saw several people at breakfast several days in a row, suggesting that we were not the only ones to be taking advantage of the off-season rates for a longish stay. Breakfast and public rooms at the place were reasonably nicely appointed with old art deco posters from the 1920's heyday of Menton and the Riviera. Breakfast was extra, probably around 8 euros for the standard croissants, juice and coffee. We selected the hotel based on our own good feeling for Best Western value and on a recommendation on this site, I think from BobtheNavigator. We would stay there again. The only drawback is its distance from the main area of town, but even then it's walkable, just kind of a long walk back home after dinner.

    One thing we learned--off season really does mean off season. Several hotels in Menton were closed and a couple of nights we had to work fairly hard to find which restaurants were open. Reading through my Michelin Red Guide to the area, I learned that November is probably the lowest part of the low season in Menton and surrounding. Lots of hotels and restaurants appear to close in November and reopen in late January and February, though some are open in November and close in January, etc. and some, like the Prince des Galles, stay open year round. At any rate, all of this meant that we had things pretty much to ourselves or shared things with locals rather than being surrounded by tourists as we had on previous trips, primarily in September/October. It was a bit haunting at times, but mostly nice.

    Weather was apparently unseasonably warm. A couple of days temps reached high 70's maybe even low 80's but were generally in the 60's.. We only had a couple of showers during the 8 days and one of them was during the night. A couple of days it was really windy and quite chilly (low 50's, maybe even high 40's)--blustery, I believe Pooh would call it. But all in all, a very enjoyable time, made even better by the opportunity it afforded us to explore in depth places we'd only hurried through on previous trips.

    Here's what we saw and did and ate:
    Cannes--Fontville covered market, Souquet church and hill, lunch at Gaston et Gastounette with fish soup on the old harbor, walk along the Croisette,

    La Turbie--this was a new stop for us, the only town on the highest, Grande Corniche, and we stopped 2 or 3 times as we went back and forth to places out of Menton. We felt like it was our own little, non-touristy, poor man's version of a St. Paul de Vence, hillside village. Lovely, narrow, winding streets between ancient buildings topped off with the remains of a Roman temple, built in the 5/6th Centuries.

    Cap Martin--We took a leisurely walk along the shore past beautiful villas that we'd only sped past by car on a previous trip.

    Rocquebrunne (sp?) Vielle Village--and we'd thought La Turbie was cute! This place is narrower, older seeming, and if anything cuter than La Turbie. It has an ancient citadel at the top but my husband was unable to storm it as it wasn't set to open until an hour after we arrived. We sat in the deserted square, walked to the ramparts and took pictures down to the coast and hillsides below.

    Beaulieu Sur Mer--my husband had suggested we have lunch at La Reserve, one of the cushiest Relais and Chateau type hotel/restaurants on the Cote where we'd had a memorable meal on a past trip, but it like so many others was on Fermeture Annuelle--annual closing--so we satisfied ourselves with a walk about town and on the promenade along St. Jean Cap Ferrat where we saw villas even more beautiful and pricey than on Cap Martin. Unable to have our splurge lunch at La Reserve we ate instead at a cute little provencale place where I ordered two main courses in order to taste a couple of specialties--white beans with mushrooms and sausages and loup (fish) with fennel and provencal veggies. My husband had fois gras and a Sicilian pizza. All this with a bottle of Bandol Rose came to 72 euros, about a third to a half of what the meal at La Reserve would have been. A bonus--it was warm enough to have the meal outside.

    Villefranche Sur Mer--another place we'd sped by before and always vowed to return to and walk about in. Lots of closed places here, but a good opportunity to see what others rave about. Nearby we toured another place I've always wanted to see--the Villa and Gardens Ephrussi de Rothschild. Simply lovely, especially the well-tended gardens.


    That evening we had Beaujolais Nouveau at the best open restaurant in Menton, Le Nautic, just across from the Cocteau museum. It was November 20, the official arrival date of the Beaujolais Nouveau and though we actually ordered another wine, the waiter insisted we have the BN instead, wouldn't take no for an answer. Thin but drinkable. I enjoyed it; my husband did not. But then, he has never liked it.

    Saorge and Tende--These were two of my must see destinations for this trip. I'd read a couple of posts about them on this site, again from BobtheNavigator, and researched them a bit in guidebooks. I knew they would require some pretty diligent driving into the hills and had prepared my husband for it. My research and cajoling were rewarded by spectacular scenery, a delightful lunch, and a charming walk about in two wonderful tiny villages. They are most easily reached by driving first across the boarder to Ventimiglia in Italy then north on a small S20 road through the valley of the Roya river. It takes you into deep gorges with high cliffs. Saorge is a pretty spectacular medieval perched village with winding walkways between tall houses and almost cavelike settings. After exploring the town we stopped for a drink at a truly local bar with a blackboard divided into spaces for news of the villagers' latest fish catches, hunt shoots, etc. We moved on to Tende 12 km away, again through lovely hilly scenery still golden in places with fall colors. We were lucky enough to find the Auberge de Tendasque open for lunch and had a wonderful meal for 64 euros including again a swell Bandol rose. Boar pate, gnocchi with cepes in cream sauce and mountain trout with green bean bundles wrapped in bacon, steamed potatoes and tomato with bread crumbs and garlic, local cheeses and espresso. Truly a wonderful meal which we ate surrounded by locals. I'm guessing we may well have been the only tourists in Tende that day.

    Hanbury Gardens--another place I've always wanted to stop but been denied for need to rush on to another destination. It's right on the border of Italy and France (on the Italian side I think) A fabulous layout left by a botanist who felt that the climate would support more variety of trees and flowers there than anywhere and set about planting things to prove his theory. It needs and is getting work to bring it up to snuff. Hope to return when that work is closer to completion.

    Menton--each night and a couple of days we walked about the city and thought of it as our temporary home. Became familiar with one cybercafe, shopped in the market, walked about the old town and checked out the churches. Felt comfortable there. Even found a place I could foresee living out my old age--in an apartment on the second floor above a shop with windows opening onto the commercial heart of the city so I might watch the people come and go. Far better than TV don't you think?

    Eze--We began the day thinking about a biggy lunch--reasoning that in the off season we might be able to snag a same day reservation at the sumptuous Chevre d'Or in Eze. Alas, it too was closed for the season. So were a few of the shops in this usually tourist-infested, must see hill town. But enough were open to provide opportunity for me to purchase a lovely old marquisite and garnet ring that is my special tangible memory from this lovely trip. Since the Chevre d''Or was Fermeture Annuelle we ate at the far simpler little café at the bottom of the hill. Had more of the wonderful Bandol rose, stuffed veggies, wonderful cassoulet toulusian with sausages and pork, onion soup and chicken between the two of us, again for a fraction of what we would have paid at Chevre d'Or, though I must admit their view is better.

    Brief harrowing interlude--on returning from Eze, we stopped at a stop sign behind a motorcycle with a driver and one passenger. The passenger got off and the driver pointed ahead, apparently to distract us. As my husband tried to figure out what was happening, the passenger opened our back door and tried to grab anything available. I thought he was trying to get in and screamed bloody murder. By this time my husband realized what was happening, gunned the motor and we took off before our robber was able to steal anything. It all happened so fast that I didn't even have time to become really frightened. I had my purse up front with me and our camera bag was on the opposite side of the car in the backseat so the only thing we were really in danger of losing was one of my sweaters. So bottom line, we learned a valuable lesson about keeping our doors locked and we were careful to do so for the rest of the trip.

    Gorbio--another cute little perched village that we stopped at while returning from Eze to Menton, a pleasant stop after our attempted robbery incident. This town even had small children playing kickball in the main tiny square. Scenic, rustic, and lived in.

    St. Paul de Vence--is a well-known perched village that is lovely any time. But when you have it practically to yourself on a Sunday morning, it's fantastic. Window shopping among the wonderful art galleries without anyone bumping into you as you long and gaze is such a treat. This is what off season tourism is all about.

    Tourettes sur Loup--my other must find and see place (others were Saorge and Tende) for this trip. Another cute little perched village, this one with a large square that the town is built around. Still more steep alleys with picturesque doorways and windows with wonderful smells emanating from the open windows as French housewives prepared Sunday dinner for their families. Not being invited to any of their dinners, we settled instead for a darling restaurant, Le Medieval, complete with cloth table coverings and napkins and gleaming crystal. Fish salad with warm mussels and shrimps, rabbit terrine, trout and lamb with provencal veggies. Besides ourselves the tiny dining room was filled with an extended local family obviously celebrating some special occasion after church.


    Nice--was where we spent our final night, leaving our "home town" of Menton to stay close to the airport where we had a 6 a.m. flight back to AMS and then MSP. First we toured the town--actually only the antique market that had replaced the usual food market for the day and then had lunch nearby since rain was starting. After lunch the rain caused us to give up the idea of more walking about the old town and we drove to our hotel, checked in and dropped off our rental car. The hotel is just around the corner from the very large Nice Botanical gardens. Both outdoor and indoor foliage in what is a very up-to-date installation. We returned to our hotel--a place I've always wondered about--the Campanile chain that you see everywhere in France, especially near airports. Thinking "how bad can it be?" I booked us for one night at 69 euros. It was fine, swell actually. While at that rate it has to be pretty barebones, the rooms were clean and serviceable and the public rooms even had some charm, actually a nice little area for meeting with other guests or for meeting up with large groups before taking off for an evenings' festivities. Nice comfy couches. Cute little decorative touches. We even ate at the hotel since we needed to get to bed early for our early wake up and since we'd turned in our rental car to be completely unburdened when we took off the next morning. For an early flight, this place can't be beat. If your luggage is light, you could actually walk through an underground passage to the airport. We had a couple of bags and elected to take a cab which has a fairly long way to get there due to the intersection of several roads between the hotel area and the airport..

    Dinner was surprisingly good. We got an early start and we're lucky we did. The place filled up quickly and was packed, with people waiting by the time we left. My guess is that the diners were not only hotel guests but locals since it featured a buffet that was incredibly reasonably priced with lots of variety and very good food. Our bill came to just under 100 euros but that's because we had a 41 euro bottle of Tattinger champagne to celebrate a wonderful trip and a bottle of Bordeaux. The actual buffet was less than 50 euros for two. There was an appetizer/salad station, a cheese station (featuring cantal and St. Nectaire among others) and a dessert station including Ile Flottantes and coconut cheesecake and oodles of other things.. For mains we were served at our request steak and an Auvergne cassoulet special. One could opt for just appetizers for a much reduced price or appetizers/salads and desserts for a somewhat higher price, etc. in a kind of mix and match smorgasbord. With the size of the portions I saw people taking and the number of times I saw them return to the various stations, I cannot understand how the place can turn a profit on this but it is plain that they are very popular and with reason born of taste as well as volume. I'm a new Campanile fan, though I have a sneaking suspicion that this particular property is among their newest, most well-kept and most popular and may not be as representative as I'd like to hope.

    Overall, I have to say that I now know what those people are talking about who extol the virtues of off-season travel. There's something about being in a place where the pace has slowed, the locals are back in control and you, too, can pretty well really relax and enjoy what's there for you, even if the price is that some of it is not.

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    Yes, Bob and Julie, I did look at your recommendations. Thanks for your report Julie. Nice price! We made Nice a base a couple of years ago and saw some of places you mentioned above and will look at the others as we plan for this trip. We have been talking about Genoa one day too. Will play it by ear.

    Looking forward to reading about your time in Lyon. Off to the "drawing board"!

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    Presents are wrapped and so are we-in sweaters. 22 inches of snow are making me dream of warmer climates so I made a reservation at Princess & Richmond in Menton (570 for 5 nights-haven't heard back if they have senior specials). Also need to see if their mini-van is running in March. I also queried Hotel des Artistes in Lyon about rates. Julie, what was the downside of Hotel des Artistes?

    Still trying to find something in London. DH is in a special program with Holiday Inns and the first time we tried in the USA, our room was wonderful. We actually stayed at a Holiday Inn in Sicily (Siracusa) some years ago and found it to be a perfect combo of American modern fixtures with an Italian staff, charm and food. We were leery because we try to stay in small, non-chain hotels.

    Oh, I bought trip insurance through AAA ($160) and it does have evacuation because of prior medical conditions. One must buy the policy within 2 weeks of trip ticket purchase for this and there are a couple of other restrictions BTW. Also called MedJet and they have a 2-week policy for around $200. Gal said call 7 to 10 days before the trip to sign up. Forgot to say at the beginning that the Orbitz stuff is non-refundable so that's why I bought trip cancellation insurance. On our last 2 trips, we didn't get any. Plane trip refundable except for small fee and we'd only have to "eat" 1st night of hotel. Didn't seem necessary to get the insurance. Things have changed a little for DH so we decided to buy it this time.

    Online to London. Bet it's cold there right now.

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    In Lyon, we enjoyed our stay at Hotel La Residence. It is just a short walk from the main rail station and in the other direction, Place Bellecour. It is near the bridge that crosses over one of the rivers to the old town and The Hill That Praays. There is excellent bus transport nearby. Several of the museums are in walking distance and other easily accesible by bus or tram. All the good restaurants are in walking distance.

    The rooms were clean and comfortable and the breakfast more than adequate. There was a comptuer for guest use in the lobby . Not sure if they have wifi.

    http://www.venere.com/hotels/lyon/residence/

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    TDudette: You can e-mail katie at forums@fodors.com (or just click on that shaded triangle) and ask her to remove the Trip Report tag. I know you said this will be the site of your report -- but that can't possibly be for 4 more months - and that would be on a different thread.

    Passerine's comment is valid. This isn't a trip report and lots of folks who can answer your questions won't think you are asking anything since they'll assume you are already back from your trip . . . .

    JulieVikmanis: A hint for next time -- you can just post a link w/o having to copy the entire post.

    http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/off-season-riviera--so-france-in-november.cfm

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    avalon, I'll check that Lyon hotel also and look on londontown also. Thank you very much.

    janisj, although I appreciate your advice, it IS a trip report. The planning is as much a part of my trip as the actual travel as far as I am concerned. Furthermore, the people who have visited these cities are the ones who I hope are reading. Also, I loved being able to read Julie's report without having to go to another site.

    And now, I'm digging out the French tapes for listening while exercising. Will enough come back in the next few months??

    Thanks to ALL!

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    well - you are simply wrong, this isn't a trip report. If all the planning bits were trip reports almost EVERY thread would be a trip report, and that would certainly mess things up - don't you think? But hey, no biggie - have it your way . . .

    (If you go to the FAQ's about posting, you'll see the TR tag is reserved for posting after someone has actually gone on a trip and wants to share how things went.)

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    Yes, I think it might avoid confusion to have post-trip reports...tagged as trip reports. Planning for trips go into the "general" pool.

    When I see something listed as a trip report I settle in with a fine french wine expecting a good story..not questions :)

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    OK, kids. The hotels are now booked:

    Menton: Princess & Richmond (5 nights)

    Lyon: Hotel La Residence (Des Artistes never replied to my query) (5 nights)

    London: City Inn Westminster (3 nights)

    See you in March. Please pray to the health gods for my DH a lot and me a little...

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    Tonight, tonight...we're flying out tonight!

    Received an email from Orbitz reminding us that we are going on vacation.

    We picked up some pounds and some euros at Triple A this past week. They stopped taking checks in 2008 and we didn't want to pay any credit card fees so we had to make 2 trips to AAA. We like have money in our pockets when we reach the destination.

    After all our health worries seemed fruitless, DH fell on the ice a couple of weeks ago and has been hobbling around ever since. I suggested that his not being able to pull his suitcase would cause him to be left at the airport so he went to doc and all is better.

    British Airways strike may start the day we return or the day we fly from Lyon to London. After asking this board about phones, we have decided to buy one there or just ask our hotel to call if we need to change anything. Orbitz will contact by email if travel plans should get changed. Following suggestions here, we have hired Ray Skinner to pick us up/take us back from/to Heathrow. 44 pounds each way-hated to spend the money but it takes so much stress away to have that sort of thing arranged. We will take the local bus to Menton from the Nice airport and train from Menton to Lyon.

    DH has our laundry days planned as well. We will each take 3 changes of clothing. He does a neat chart of when he's wearing of outfit a, b and c. Hey, he enjoys this. Next stop, Philly airport. Stay tuned.

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    I'm sorry to say that we had to cut short our trip. DH had severe leg pains. It may be a "blessing in disguise" as we were able to get the same British Air flights home on the 17th without any problem. Hope trip interruption insurance will cover Orbitz's cancellation penalties.

    Plan to start a different TR with just Menton and a bit of Lyon as soon as I get things straight with DH.

    Others have mentioned SOS Medicins but I don't know if it was in Lyon. For 55 euros, doc would come to our hotel. We didn't avail ourselves of the service in order to get home. FYI if hospital is too daunting. Has anyone had experience with this?

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