Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report Three Weeks in Cote d' Azur, Provence and Languedoc

Jump to last reply

First, thanks to all on the forum who provided great advice (especially Stu Dudley’s comprehensive itineraries and commentary). I’m not going to try to replicate Stu’s and others’ extensive commentaries, nor repeat what’s in the guides (we use the Michelin Green guides and lately have been toting Rick Steves along). So, I’m tilting toward some practical advice, quick hotel and restaurant reviews, and some personal (and maybe peculiar) observations.

Nice
Nice exceeded our expectations. The city has three very good museums (Chagall, Matisse, and the Contemporary), and an easy bus ride, especially to the Chagall and Matisse gets you out and up the hill for a nice look at where folks live. We did an easy day trip by train to Antibes. Buses run west and north, but we decided to spend more time in Nice. The Cours Salyea is tourist central, but the cafes, restaurants, markets still make it a great place to be or be near.

Hotel Suisse Okay, but you pay a high price for the view. And how much time do you spend in your room or on the balcony?

Le Safari Good: two good meals in the bustle of the Cours which is an attraction itself.
Da Acchiardo Very good. A heavy tilt toward steak. Solid, very affordable. Many typical choices for entres and mains. A very nice room with mostly locals. No cards.
Le Comptoir du Marche Excellent. Warm room, pleasant staff, terrific and innovative food.

Antibes
A very nice and easy day trip by train from Nice. A congenial town with a great covered market. The Picasso Museum not only has very interesting art, but a terrific (sculpture filled) terrace with a great view of the port and Cap d' Antibes.

Aix en Provence

Aix is an easy and congenial city. We have nothing new to add to what you get in the guides.

Hotel du Globe Great value, very pleasant staff, nice rooms and breakfast. Book a place in their small garage. You don’t want to drive in central Aix, and you won’t be able to park.

Chez Feraud A very good dinner in a warm and pleasant room. A bit pricey wine list.
L’Alcove Excellent. Innovative takes on Provencal favorites (and surprises). Book ahead.

St. Remy
We had a gite for a week and took day trips out to Avignon, Arles, Nimes/Pont du Gard, Gordes, Roussillon, Lacoste, Orange/Vaison de Romaine. We generally had our main meal of the day in one of the towns or cities, picking what looked good from the street – and never disappointed. We came back to the gite for omelets, salads, ravioli, pate, cheese – and the bottle of wine we didn’t dare have navigating and negotiating the roads. (I wish we could get the 25cl pitchers and 50cl bottles regularly in the states.) The inner town is nice, but like the most popular towns, given over to tourist-oriented shops. (See below.)

Le Bistrot Découverte We had a very nice lunch in this highly recommended restaurant.


Carcassonne
This is a great divide, and we’re on the one – not three – star side. We were on our way to Albi, so we stopped. It’s too restored – dangerously close to The Magic Kingdom. And the fortress is largely empty inside. There is great stained glass in the cathedral, but by this point in the trip, we were sick of walking through small towns overwhelmed by tourist shops.

Albi
We loved Albi. Yes, the old town has the same up-market clothing, housewares, and specialty food stores as smaller towns, but Albi is big enough to absorb them within a working city. Lots of Albians (?) in the old town and shopping at the beautiful covered market (with its modern supermarche in the basement). St. Cecelia is a knockout inside (rood screen, paintings, and decorations) and out (spectacular flamboyant gothic porch). The Toulouse Lautrec museum is terrific and provides a broader and deeper appreciation of an artist who is too-often pegged by one or two popular posters and paintings.

Le Lautrec restaurant – One of the best all-around dinners of the trip. Innovative cuisine around regional classics in a beautiful room, warm service, and good prices.

Hotel Pastilleirs. Okay to good. Convenient location. Nearby free and safe parking. Pleasant staff, but rooms are okay at best.

Toulouse
We also loved Toulouse. It’s a big and vibrant city, and the center has a lot to see and enjoy. Be sure to go inside the Capitole (city hall) for its great rooms, staircases and paintings. The Place Woodrow Wilson is lively with cafes and restaurants. St. Sernin is a masterpiece, and Les Jacobins is a great example of a Dominican preaching church. (You can imagine St. Dominic preaching the Albigensian Crusade from inside this vast church/hall). The Musee de Augustins is wonderful – one of the best collections of Romanesque sculptures along with other art in a beautiful large monastery (with a lovely cloister).

Brasserie Beaux Arts: Very good. Mostly locals eating shellfish in this off-center restaurant on the quai. Very good fish, nice service. Expensive.
Brasserie d’Opera: On the main Capitole square. More tourists, wide menu. Nice service. Good, and much less expensive than Beaux Arts.
Hotel Albert 1e A very nice hotel just off the main square, but quiet. Well-appointed rooms, good service, and a very nice breakfast. All over, a very good value.


Some summary thoughts and suggestions.

Market day: We’re not shoppers, so I guess that’s the reason we think, you’ve seen one, you’ve seen most. (Sorry, Stu.) We can remember the first time we saw the market in Arles in the late 1970s. We thought we’d died and gone to heaven. Now we have three each week in our suburban town. We’ve enjoyed them throughout Europe and elsewhere for decades. And we still like to walk through them. The market in Antibes; the covered market in Albi; market (and flea market) day on the Cours in Nice are great to look at – and get some groceries if you are staying in a gite. But, market day means it’s a devil to park, and we tend to see the same non-food goods from place to place.


Luberon Hill Towns: These towns are great to look at. Gordes is probably the best, so make sure you take the pull-off before you get into town for your pictures. But parking in Gordes is almost non-existent. Be prepared for a long hike up from the out-of-town parking area. There’s another lot a km or so beyond the town and an easier walk down to the town. So, you might drive right through the town towards the upper lot. We got lucky and found a spot in the middle of Roussillon (which is probably why we liked it so much), but the availability of parking varies widely from day to day and time of day.
And towns and small cities in general: I know some on this forum have visited many, many towns and small cities in the Cote d’Azur, Provence, and Languedoc and enjoy the subtle differences among them. I am not in the “seen one….” camp but there is a sameness about the repeat of up-market housewares, clothing, and specialty food shops from town to town, especially in the most popular. So, I argue for being selective about which towns to visit and spending more time in one rather than trying to take in many. There’s a big difference between seeing the lovely town perched on the side of the hill and being in the town. (Dropped down into the streets in middle of Les Baux or Carcassonne, or other towns you would be hard pressed to tell the difference.)
It’s unfair to accuse these towns of being too “touristy,” but it wasn’t that long ago that they were virtually abandoned before we tourists showed up. The “authentic” Provence is more likely down in the valley where the folks can park their cars; the kids can play soccer; and the family can have bathrooms, kitchens and other mod cons unconstrained by 16th century construction.

Driving: Plan your driving ahead –and do it again!

Get your maps way ahead. Have your navigator plan your trip, and be prepared to lose direction signs at the most inconvenient places – especially in cities. Folks must figure that the signs got you to our town, so why should we worry about indicating the direction to the next town. Cavillion (coming and going) was especially egregious on this count. Roundabouts have taken over almost every town (thank goodness), and it’s sometimes not exactly clear which exit to take. So, slow down and go around again. We “churned butter” in a couple of cities. And for your navigator, know where you’re not going as well as other towns along your route that may be indicated. After much discussion here on the forum and elsewhere we decided to forgo our GPS in France. However, we used Via Michelin’s on-line trip planner (printed out at home) as an excellent supplement to the Michelin maps. They take a little getting used to, but they’re especially good on which exit off the roundabouts to take; what the autoroute signs are going to look like; precise distances between points; and even the toll amounts.

I’ve driven in many countries in Europe, and I love driving in France best. On the autoroutes, the trucks stay in the right lane; most drivers signal lane changes; there are only a few autobahn speeders in the left lane; and everyone seems to behave themselves. (Not like Sicily.) The other roads are generally pretty good. But I repeat: safe driving requires a savvy navigator. Plan ahead and don’t try to figure out where you’re going while you’re going.

Picking up a car in Nice: We picked up our rental car in the row of rental agencies next to the Albert 1e park. (Cars are in the underground garage.) It’s right off the Promenade d’Anglais and very easy for getting out of town. Picking up at the airport – no more than 2 km away – will cost you an additional 37E tax.

American credit cards: Don’t worry. Every restaurant and hotel that takes cards will swipe your American card. BUT stay out of the Telepage line (Yellow T only) and credit card line on the autoroutes: your card won’t work. The Yellow T and green are okay. And your card won’t work at pay-at-the-pump gas stations, so fill up when you see one with an attendant.

That’s it for now. I’ll stick around on this site and will be happy to answer any questions.

13 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

  • Announcements:
  • Writers Needed for Mexico
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 24, 14 at 12:19 PM
  • Writers Needed for Georgia Coast
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
  • Writers Needed for Rwanda and Uganda
    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Jul 18, 14 at 03:12 PM
View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 3 weeks in Europe
  2. 2 2 full days in Strasbourg - need advise on what tours to take
  3. 3 staying a month or so in each place
  4. 4 How can I organize my own Language Exchange trip Abroad
  5. 5 Moving to Bayswater (London) - How is the neighborhood?
  6. 6 10 days in England
  7. 7 Paris: A Classical Music Concert
  8. 8 Saint Malo or Dinan?
  9. 9 2 day break from London: Edinburgh, Dublin, Luxembourg, Paris, York?
  10. 10 Premier Inn in Edinburgh, City Center, UK
  11. 11 Rioja in one day on way to Basque
  12. 12 Self-driving tips for France
  13. 13 Trip Report Trip Report: 10 Days in Spain
  14. 14 Good Flamenco in Seville
  15. 15 Copenhagen - Must see places and time required in city!!
  16. 16 Trip Report Sirop and Sandwiches, Normandy, Loire and Paris with our grandsons
  17. 17 Trip Report Madrid and London
  18. 18 Stay in Bayeux or Honfleur
  19. 19 Stockholm/Archipelago Dinner Cruise
  20. 20 Determing Location of FIRST BIG TRIP - Where do go in Italy?
  21. 21 Trip Report Stay away from EF Tours
  22. 22 Sardinia, near Olbia
  23. 23 going to italy
  24. 24 If you had a week in Switzerland...
  25. 25 Mailing prescription meds to France?
View next 25 » Back to the top