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19 nights through France. Itinerary help please

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19 nights through France. Itinerary help please

Old Jun 12th, 2020, 03:04 PM
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Dnf
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19 nights through France. Itinerary help please

Hello Fodorites!
I hope everyone is well and remaining hopeful that we'll get through this difficult time soon . Until then, travel plans and dreams continue...
I am trying to refine a trip to France in September. Hopefully, we can travel this September. The trip starts in Colmar and ends in Nice and I'd appreciate thoughts and suggestions from you. We would do open-jaw flights to/from the US. Fly into Paris and take the train to Strasbourg where we would pick up a car and drive to Colmar. We would end in Nice, flying out of Nice back to the US.
Day 1- Arrive Paris- train to Strasbourg- car to Colmar (x2 nights).
Day 2 - Day trip along the Rue de Vin to see Strasbourg, Requewihr, and Eguisheim.
Day 3- Drive to Annecy (x1 night)
Day 4- Drive to Avignon (x5 nights)
Day 5-
Day 6- day trip to Nime, Arles
Day 7-Gordes/Rousillon
Day 8- Pont du Gard
Day 9- Drive to Aix- en- Provence (x4 nights)
Day 10-
Day 11- Maybe day trip to Gault or Bonnieux
Day 12- Marseille/Cassis
Day 13- Drive to Nice (x7 nights). I would probably return the car.
Day 14- Villefranche
Day 15-Antibes, Cannes
Day 16-Eze
Day 17- St Tropez
Day 18-Menton, Monaco
Day 19-
Day 20- home.
what do you think? If the weather is nice we may spend one of the day trips AT the beach but we live in Florida so we really aren't going with the purpose of lounging on beaches.
Any help tailoring the itinerary would be greatly appreciated.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 03:32 PM
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The risks of planning a trip this fall have been discussed elsewhere on this site, considering the risks of a second wave of covid, unpredictable closures, quarantines, etc. so I will comment on your plans as if you are considering the trip for another time. First, travel days are not vacation days. You leave a place, get to the next, eat meals, pack/unpack, check in / check out, and the time is gone. So a one night stay in a place leaves no real time for the place (Annecy, for instance). Are there really that many days worth of things to do in Aix? The places you want to see are mostly well worth it, so a few tune up changes may make this a rousing success.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 03:41 PM
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Why not two nights in Strasbourg at the very beginning? It has more to see than the villages on the route du vin.


You may want to keep the car in Nice, or stay outside Nice. It took us all day by public transportation to get from Nice to Vence and back.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 03:49 PM
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Thanks AJPeabody! Yes, I realize the risks and nothing is firm. I would only book lodging where I can cancel for free and would not risk airfare until the very last minute IF things looked ok. Numbers are rising again so it mightn't be possible and I'm ok with that- can easily move the trip to the spring/early summer next year. And yes, travel days are half days at best and evenings at the worst. Annecy is only added to break up the trip to Avignon. You think 4 nights in Aix is too long? I wanted to really explore the area and leave a day or two in for the markets and some downtime.
What suggestions would you make?

Last edited by Dnf; Jun 12th, 2020 at 03:54 PM.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 03:53 PM
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Thanks Michael,
I thought about that with Strasbourg, it definitely is more practical after a long haul flight, but I believe we would like the charm of Colmar better than we would Strasbourg, so I figured we could muster another hour of strength and keep it going. My plan would be to get a flight that arrives early in Paris. The place I am looking at in Nice is smack dab in the middle of town and the distances by car (at least) to the day trip areas are within an hour.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 03:58 PM
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I have stayed in Nice twice for a week each time without a car. I had no trouble whatever getting around by public transport. Maybe if you want to visit somewhere like Grasse you might need one, but there is more than enough to do without going there.

Please do not drive coming off a Transatlantic flight. It's just as dangerous as driving drunk. Either take the train on to Colmar, or base in Strasbourg, which is a lovely town in its own right, and with more to do/see than Colmar. Actually, I'd be inclined to do without a car for that leg as well, take the train to Lyon and pick up the car there.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 04:10 PM
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My general suggestion is to list what you want to see in a region and use the list to determine how long to stay there. My wife and I did a road trip or two in the areas you are considering back before mobile phones, the internet, and economy air lines. We used Les Baux de Provence as a base for many of the places you listed rather than Avignon or Aix. We found that a driving trip was much easier if we stayed in small towns since getting in or out and finding the hotel was a snap. Cities were much harder. Of course, now there is GPS, so your mileage may (literally) vary.

What are you interested in seeing during your trip? Scenery? Architecture? Museums? Michelin starred restaurants? Roman ruins? Let us know.

And if you are lucky, Stu Dudley, our France expert, will chime in on this thread.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 04:42 PM
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Leaving in a few minutes for my very first sit-down-in-a-restaurant dinner since early March (Woo Hoo ! ) so just one very quick comment. Please don't drive that first day! An overnight transatlantic flight, immigration and dealing with the snake pit that is CDG, a 2+ hour train ride to Strasburg, futzing around with a rental car, and a 90minute drive . . . is a recipe for disaster IMO.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 05:12 PM
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We had planned a trip to Alsace last year, which we cancelled when my FIL had a stroke. We rescheduled it for this Sept - and cancelled it again because for covad.

Currently, the TGV schedule from CDG to Strasbourg isn't great - unless you arrive before 8:30 AM. So plan accordingly.

I always add at least 1 day to the arrival destination to recover from jet lag and get oriented. You have only 2 nights/1 1/4 days there - which is not much time to see much of anything. Especially if you want to visit Strasbourg. We were in Alsace several years ago for 1 week - and didn't see all we wanted to see (thus the return trip we had planned for 2 weeks).

As AJ pointed out, you won't see much of Annecy. I would skip Annecy, stay in Colmar at least 1 day longer, and take the 9:32 TGV from Colmar to Avignon which arrives at 2:27.

I would not stay in Aix for 4 nights. It is our favorite city in Provence, but it is not centrally located enough to visit the sites most people want to visit. Base in Avignon instead (or in the Luberon - our favorite), and visit most of Provence from there. Note that Gordes, Goult, Roussillon, and Bonnieux are just minutes apart - so no need for 2 trips to this region. And note the spelling for these hill villages.

Perhaps spend more time in Alsace, less time in Provence by only staying in Aix for 1 night on the way to the Cote.

Dinnertime now - further suggestions tomorrow.

Stu Dudley

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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 05:43 PM
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Thanks for the suggestions guys. I do the transatlantic travel quite frequently and as long as we arrive in the morning, we are ok driving a couple of hours. I may fly into Zurich and drive to Colmar from there. I use Rome2Rio and have found its driving distances accurate so when I picked the base in Avignon for 5 nights, it was for visiting the villages listed. I may reduce Aix as suggested though... and add that night in Alsace.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 06:51 PM
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No, you only think you are safe to drive. Jetlag causes microsleeps.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 07:36 PM
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I don't think you have nearly enough time in Alsace. Your plans for your one day there are very ambitious. Transport is fine in the area (trains and buses) so you could use public transport until you arrive in Avignon. If you travel by train from Colmar to Avignon, you save a night (and sounds like you're not really interested in Annecy). Basel is another option for flying in to the area, then take the train to Colmar. Alternatively, if you have only one day in Alsace, then skip it altogether and head straight to Avignon by TGV. I don't think I'd bother if I had only one day, because of the extra travel it entails for such a short stay.

Like thursdaysd, we also found public transport in/out of Nice to be very good, including to Grasse where my daughter and I had a lovely day lingering around the perfumeries. The bus journey there was longer than the other places we visited but not difficult at all. There are many possible day trips from Nice.

With regard to COVID-19, there are risks of you catching it but also risks of unwittingly passing it on. On the plus side, I think Provence is nicer in the spring than the autumn, if you decide to delay your holiday - and assuming travel next year is viable by then. Nobody knows.

Last edited by dreamon; Jun 12th, 2020 at 07:40 PM.
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Old Jun 12th, 2020, 08:44 PM
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In your shoes, I think I would roam from, say, Menton to Avignon - and skip Alsace. Would easily fill your time available and would be wonderful.

And perhaps on another trip, you could travel from Strasbourg to Annecy or Lyon over a few weeks?
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Old Jun 13th, 2020, 02:24 AM
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Hi Dreamon,
Thanks for those suggestions. You know, my Alsace jaunt was originally the beginning and tail end of a trip to Switzerland that I canceled due to Covid. It was 3 nights in Colmar to start, and 3 nights in Annecy before leaving out of Geneva. We will do the Switzerland trip in May.

After I built my 16 nights in the South of France, I had three nights left over and wasn’t sure what direction to go in. We considered driving through the Ligurian coast from Nice, stopping in Portofino for a long lunch and ending somewhere in Tuscany in order to fly out of Florence. So maybe you’re right, and I delete the Alsace portion altogether from this trip. Maybe I should reduce Aix to 3 nights and either use that extra night on the back end or add it to my 5 in Avignon. 🤔

Last edited by Dnf; Jun 13th, 2020 at 02:27 AM.
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Old Jun 13th, 2020, 03:43 AM
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AJPeabody, we don't want museums on this trip. Some Roman ruins, day trips to quaint villages, scenery, food, and wine would do us well. We have only been to a handful of Michelin starred restaurants but have always had a great experience so if you have recommendations for same, I will gladly take them .

Stu, I am sorry to hear your FIL suffered a stroke and hope he came through OK.
see my spelling of Goult, and Roussillon were off. Makes a huge difference in driving time compared to other places with similar spelling ;-). Are you saying that all 4 villages can be seen in one day on one trip? From Avignon for example? We did that in a drive around the Greek Isle of Naxos, we hit three small hill-top villages in one day, just meandering through the lanes, stopping at cafes in each village for a meal/drink or snack. I have been using google earth to look at places and while I like the feel of the small village for day trips, I prefer to stay in larger places. I loved the look of Avignon and felt it would be a good base for seeing some of the Luberon.
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Old Jun 13th, 2020, 04:30 AM
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If you drop the car off in Italy, you may face higher charges (not sure as I don't often hire a car). Could you consider flying into Montpellier, train to Avignon (or Nimes) where you could hire your car the next day, ending by flying home from Nice (or in reverse)? If you prefer to go to Italy, then Genoa or Pisa may offer alternatives to Florence, for flying home.
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Old Jun 13th, 2020, 06:07 AM
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WELL...I live in France, and I think you're dreaming if you think you're going to have a nice little old vacay in France this fall. But leaving that aside, your first day is nuts. You can take a train all the way to Colmar, if that's your goal, and I don't see why it is, but there is no way you should jump in a car and drive even the hour or so it will take you to get to Colmar from Strasbourg. And why all the logistical twists and turns to spend just a couple of days in Alsace? Hardly worth it IMO. Among other things, you do realize it was the hardest-hit region in France with the virus, eh? I would skip Alsace, but then in your shoes I'd skip the whole idea of a vacation in France this fall, so my vision is clouded. FWIW, dropping off a car in a country different from the one where you pick it up almost always incurs significant charges.

It's the Route du Vin, not the Rue. It wouldn't be much of an attraction if it were only a rue.

And I don't see anything remotely resembling "quaint villages" on any of your proposed itineraries, which is fine because in truly quaint villages nothing at all is happening. You mean quaint villages with souvenir shops and clever cafés serving stuff the locals know you think are "genuine." Well, those exist everywhere that there's a savvy local entrepreneur. Anyplace on your various proposed itineraries will fill that bill.
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Old Jun 13th, 2020, 06:15 AM
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I agree with the eminently straightforward StCirq. But there is no reason not to indulge fantasy planning that could be used in a year or two for a real trip. The OP has yet to fully embrace the logistics required for such a trip, but there is plenty of time to plan..
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Old Jun 13th, 2020, 06:36 AM
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I'm all for fantasy planning, AJP. I've got my sights on Cambo-les-Bains in the Pyreneés to do a big soak for my next foray. I know it will be at the very least a year away. And I dream of Ischia and Sicily, but emphasis on DREAM....it's not going to happen here anytime soon. As for Americans who think they are going to jump on a plane and do the usual European roundabout ...well, think again. It's going to be a very long time.
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Old Jun 13th, 2020, 06:59 AM
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Yes - you can visit all 4 villages in the Luberon on one trip - if you get an early start. Here is something I wrote many years ago about visiting the Luberon.

Luberon - Time schedule

8:00 or 8:30 - Get to Gordes, pull the car over at the view "spot" & take a picture. Park the car in the lot, and visit Gordes. Have a cafe creme & croissants for breakfast at one of the outdoor cafes. Walk down to the Lavoire & back. Explore Gordes.

10:00 leave Gordes.
10:30 arrive in Oppede le Vieux & explore a bit
11:30 leave Oppede, drive to Menerbes
11:45 arrive in Menerbes & explore. Grab a sandwich for lunch & sit on a bench with a view & have lunch.
12:45 leave Menerbes
1:00 arrive in Lacoste, drive up towards the village & view Bonnieux across the valley. No visit of Lacoste. Drive to Bonnieux.
1:45 Visit Bonnieux (sandwich, if you didn't have one in Menerbes)
3:15 leave Bonnieux & head to Roussillon.
3:45 arrive in Roussillon, park the car, and explore Roussillon. Visit the Ocre fields. Have an afternoon coffee at a cafe.
5:45 Leave Roussillon. If you still have some energy left, visit Goult - otherwise, call it a day.

End of Luberon

Also, make sure you are not in Avignon, Strasbourg, Aix, Nines (spelling), Arles, or any medium sized city on a Sunday. Most shops will be closed them & the place will seem somewhat deserted. Nice is OK.

My wife & I have vacationed for 22 weeks in Provence & 21 on the Cote d'Azur. Attached is a 35 page itinerary I wrote.



St Tropez is not a day-triip from Nice. Many reasons why this would not be smart. Stay 2 nights in St Tropex instead.

Stu Dudley
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Last edited by StuDudley; Jun 13th, 2020 at 07:02 AM.
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