11 days - south of France

May 17th, 2019, 08:59 AM
  #1  
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11 days - south of France

I will be in Paris this July with DH and our Tween. After spending a week in Paris, we would like to explore other parts of France for 12 days (11 nights) before returning to Paris for last 3 nights.

After spending several days doing research, I am leaning towards visiting Provence but still not settled with an itinerary. If 6-7 days in Provence is not too rushed, we will have few more days for time in Dordogne or Bordeaux or ????

- Train to Avignon or flight to Marseille. Rent a car.
- 3 nights in St Remy or Arles. 3 nights in a small village close to Aix.
- Drive to Dordogne or Bordeaux via Carcassonne (OR somehow manage to get to bucket list place Mont Saint Michel but getting to Normandy from Provence looks time-consuming and challenging)

After an active week in Paris, we would enjoy laid back towns and charming villages, scenic walks, forts and lavender fields if we get lucky. We will rent a car once in Provence and use train or flight for long distance.

If you had 12 days for south of French in late July, where would you go?

calgal2 is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 09:47 AM
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You are a bit late in your planning for July. Late July is super peak season in Provence and the better "choices" for hotels, B&Bs etc my be slim. We've vacationed for 22 weeks in Provence & I usually pick our gites (houses) 10-12 months in advance - for June stays.

Provence & the Dordogne are our two favorite regions in France. For 11 nights if you can deal with a somewhat fast paced trip - you can visit both.

Assuming your Paris hotel reservations are already made for the start of your trip, I would:

- Take the fast TGV from Paris to the Avignon TGV station and stay in St Remy or the Luberon for 5 nights. Do not stay near Aix - it is not centrally located enough. It is already too late to purchase super discount TGV tickets.

- Drive to Carcassonne for a 2 1/2 hr visit. Then continue on towards the Dordogne and stay near St Cirq Lapopie or Carcassonne for 1-2 nights and visit the sites east of the A20. There are many.

- Drive to the Sarlat area & stay for 4-5 nights.

- Drive to Brive la Gaillarde & take the train back to Paris.

There is no way a Bordeaux or especially a MSM visit will fit into your short time span.

My wife & I have vacationed for 43 weeks in Provence & the Cote d'Azur. We have also vacationed for 13 weeks in the Dordogne region. I developed a 35 page itinerary for Provence & the Cote, and a 20+ page itinerary for the Dordogne. I have sent my various itineraries to over 6,000 people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach them to the return e-mail. Specify which ones you want - I have others.

Stu Dudley
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May 17th, 2019, 11:00 AM
  #3  
 
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Late July is also peak season here in the Dordogne and it will already be a challenge to find accommodations.

Agree with all Stu's suggestions. Forget Bordeaux and le MSM.
StCirq is online now  
May 17th, 2019, 12:25 PM
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Agree with above two as well, half your time for Provence, see Avignon upon arrival, stay in St. Remy (loved Soleil) , then head west over to Carcassonne, perhaps Albi for the T Lautrec Musee (fabulous) for lunch, then wind back up into Dordogne to Sarlat and base there Take the A routes rather than wind up the river as we did heading south, very time consuming. There will be plenty there for 6 days especially since it'll be the busiest season, and there are trains to Paris from Breve I believe.
aliced is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 12:30 PM
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StuDudley StCirq Thank you for getting back with recommendations so quickly! I will start looking into train, flight and rental car options right away. Yes, we are really late in this planning (somewhat last minute plan and I am panicking), but there are some decent options. Now about home base in Provence, do you really think spending 5 night in one place is better? We usually don't have problem moving if that allows us to experience evenings in two different places and also cuts down on day trip timings.

We have been to Paris before and already have plans and reservations (except last 2-3 nights). We decided to extend our trip last week and now I am trying to figure out what to do!

StuDudley I would love to get your itinerary via email. I am sending you an email request!
calgal2 is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 12:57 PM
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Here is my "standard" response for where to stay in Provence.

If you want to stay in a small town surrounded by restaurants you can walk to, cafes, shops, and tourists speaking English - stay in St Remy. If you would rather be in the quieter countryside surrounded by cute hill villages, lavender fields, vineyards, rolling hills, and fewer tourists - stay in the Luberon near Gordes, Menerbes, Roussillon, or Bonnieux. But you may have to drive to dinner a few times, and there will be plenty of tourists in the hill villages - especially on market day.

Stu Dudley.
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May 17th, 2019, 03:00 PM
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I hope you have not yet bought your trans-ocean plane tickets. Your situation is ideal for a multi-city itinerary. Fly into Marseille Provence Airport, fly home from Paris. Flights don't cost any more and you save both the time and money of landing in, and then returning to, Paris. In between, train. Advice on that from www.seat61.com But you must use a multi-destination search function.
Southam is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 03:11 PM
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I don't know how th traffic in Provence and the Luberon compares to traffic in Cote d'Azur?

If the OP hasn't been, the coast between Cannes and Monaco is spectacular. Still think of Eze and Villa Rothchild, on clear sunny days, as some of the most beautiful locales in the world.

Traffic is rough but I recall bad traffic up in Avignon when I based there.

In addition to the coast, the Maritime Alps are scenic as well.

But if you're looking for the Peter Mayles, Van Gough experience, then Provence is great too.

You could possibly get around the Cote d'Azur on public transportation alone. It's tough but the traffic and parking is expensive in the big coastal towns.
scrb11 is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 01:56 AM
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We steer clear of the Côte d'Azur pretty much between July 1 and mid-August. If we want beachtime we go to the Atlantic or Languedoc-Roussillon, where though it's busy you can at least breathe and don't have to sit in your car for hours or share a bus with a gazillion other people (including pickpockets).

Traffic in inland Provence at that time of year can be a bit daunting at places like Les Baux or on market days, but it's bearable compared to the Côte d'Azur IMO.

Do get those train tickets sorted out asap. Generally speaking, prices increase as your travel dates approach, though if you can snag Ouigo fares that would be a boon.

And I wouldn't count on seeing much lavender in late July. Ours is already popping out. There are websites where you can check on the best places to see it - if it's still there. Good chance you'll see sunflower fields, though.
StCirq is online now  
May 18th, 2019, 10:00 AM
  #10  
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Train tickets to Avignon are booked (Ouigo fare), car rental is sorted out, and have narrowed down to few decent AirBnB options in Luberon. I will start looking into rest of the trip over the weekend. This trip is happening!

StCirq As per some of the website, northern parts will have lavenders late july - early august. I know there are no guarantees but will have try our luck.

I sincerely thank you all for taking time to give us suggestions. Please keep them coming!

Note: Turns out I am only allowed to post 2 posts in 24 hours. I will have to be think before I use up my quota.
calgal2 is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 10:14 AM
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I believe that new Fodors members are allowed only 2 posts in 24 hrs. This last post is your third - so I think you can post as much as you like now.

Stu Dudley
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May 18th, 2019, 10:30 AM
  #12  
 
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Don't miss Les Baux-de-Provence- the Dead City of a onetime fortress on a high plateau - lots of remains and superb views all around. Near St-Remy and not far from Avignon.
PalenQ is online now  
May 18th, 2019, 10:41 AM
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>>This last post is your third - so I think you can post as much as you like now.<<

In my observation -- it takes a few more posts -- like 5 or 6 before the training wheels come off
janisj is online now  
May 18th, 2019, 02:49 PM
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Well we'll see if OP don't post for a few more days. CalGal2 give t a try so we can see what it is currently.
PalenQ is online now  
May 18th, 2019, 03:37 PM
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>> it takes a few more posts -- like 5 or 6 before the training wheels come off <<

Or she gets frustrated like I would - and gives up on Frodors & goes "elsewhere".

Stu Dudley
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May 18th, 2019, 07:18 PM
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>>Well we'll see if OP don't post for a few more days.<<

No Pal -- she can post now. Apparently it is something like 2 posts per (every) 24 hours until the threshold is reachs. Not very difficult -- most people manage to be 'set free' in about 3 days . . .
janisj is online now  
May 18th, 2019, 10:03 PM
  #17  
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Hello again! I was able to post earlier today (after 24 hours window passed) and hopefully this goes through as well. I wasn't able to post last night and earlier today.

I haven't made much progress today. I am sort of lost in "Luberon villages" after thinking that I had figured out which village to stay in for the first three nights.
  • Avignon by TGV (booked)
  • Three nights in Luberon. Originally I had found something in Apt but then realized that it's a much larger town. Now between Méthamis, Lioux, Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt - which location you would recommend?
  • Two night in St Remy (booked)
calgal2 is offline  
May 18th, 2019, 10:30 PM
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I see two posts yesterday and two posts today - so it looks like its working like its supposed to. IB is based on the West Coast USA so maybe they count their work days rather than exact 24 hour periods -- dunno about that. But it seems that as of your next post or two there won't be any limitations. Good luck.
janisj is online now  
May 18th, 2019, 11:32 PM
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St Saturnin is a bit more east than I’d want to be based, Lacoste or Oppede would be more to my taste. But I suppose it’s fine if you’re mostly going to visit the Luberon hill villages.

Do make the drive further east to Viens, a lovely little town. Can’t remember if you’re the one who wanted to see lavender, you should find it around Sault a bit to the north. Mt Ventoux and Dentelles de Montmirail are a must IMO, very different from Gordes and other Luberon towns. Some very drinkable wines too if you’re interested.
geetika is online now  
May 19th, 2019, 06:35 AM
  #20  
 
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Yes, the OP was hoping to see lavender, but late July or early August? Maybe the lavandin is still alive then, but I think the real lavender is past. As I pointed out, we have a ton of lavender here in our yard and it's already starting to bloom. But as she said, maybe she'll get lucky. And there is SO much more to Provence than lavender, anyway.
StCirq is online now  

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