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3 days in Nice/Provence-suggestions please!

3 days in Nice/Provence-suggestions please!

Jun 13th, 2006, 08:23 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 159
3 days in Nice/Provence-suggestions please!

Calling all you experts! Would anyone like to critique my plans/answer my tedious questions below?! ha ha!

We will be arriving from LAX in Nice Sun Sept 17 2006 around 12:30pm. We will be embarking on Uniworld's Rhone River cruise from Arles on Thu Sept 21. We would like to see Nice area, St Paul de Vence for 2 nights (Sun & Mon) and then drive to Gordes in the Luberon region, staying at La Ferme de la Huppe for 2 nights (Tue & Wed)to tour the area. I know this is much too short to do both areas justice, but I'd like to get your ideas about maximizing these days.
I booked us at Le Grimaldi for Sun night then I thought we could move up to Hotel Le St Paul for Mon to tour up there.
Should we just stay in Nice for both nights and drive up the hill to explore and not stay there; or stay both nights at Le St Paul and drive down the hill to tour the coast?
We will have a car whilst in Nice and Provence.
Another thought was to stay only the first night in Nice and then leave for Luberon on Mon to have one more day there, and do more of the Nice area and the coast on another trip entirely...

By the way, we have 3 nights in Paris following the river cruise (Sept 28-Oct 1). I've booked us into the Aubusson (and the Hotel de Vieux Paris!); it's hard to choose from everyone's reviews!

Thank you ahead of time for your suggestions/thoughts!

P.S. Our interests are architecture, hilltowns, art, we don't drink (!), don't really care about Monaco this time, are boaters, love the flowers/landscape, yummy local food-not the "experimental"/trendy stuff too much! We were all over Italy last fall and loved it. We're 47 (wife) and 62 (Hubby). Love to drive ourselves and explore. Hope this helps.
Katerbug is offline  
Jun 13th, 2006, 08:51 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 216
Next spring we will be doing a river cruise through Provence. I'll be interested in following your replies as well.
altajoe is offline  
Jun 13th, 2006, 09:08 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 7,134
Maybe more nights in Nice and a daytrip to St. Paul de Vence. (Though if you like art and architecture, DO NOT miss the Fondation Maeght just outside St. Paul. Great architecture, great - modern - art, great site.) Except for this trip, you'd be better off without a car in Nice. Also you make no allowance for jet lag. Getting off a long overnight flight and leaping into a rental car is not a good idea. Better a few days in Nice, then rent the car. In Nice you can choose among the Chagall and Matisse museums as well as the Beaux Arts museum and the Modern Art museum. It's a pretty city with an interesting cuisine, a mixture of French and Italian.

Also Nice is a good transporation center. You can take a bus to Eze, a hilltown with an eye-popping view of the coast. Also you can bus to St. Jean-Cap Ferrat and visit the Villa Ephrussi-Rothschild, am over-the-top Belle Epoque villa with an exquisite garden and views to the Med on both sides of the peninsula.

Then keep to you 2 nights in the Luberon.
Mimar is offline  
Jun 13th, 2006, 10:23 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 801
Just to add to Mimar's excellent recommendations consider the Matisse Chapel in Vence. Check beforehand that it is open--it used to close part of the week.

I love Impressionist art, Van Gogh, Cezanne. Though the Maeght Foundation is dedicated to modern art it is a spectacular place, not to be missed. At the bottom of the hill near the Maeght's entrance is the famous restaurant Colombe d'Or where famous artists traded their work for drinks and meals.

Have a great trip!

Powell is offline  
Jun 13th, 2006, 10:30 AM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 125
Another vote for Eze!! Beautiful hilltop town - be sure to go to the gardens at the very, very top. Wonderful gardens, great sculptures, fantastic views !!!!!!
joearena99 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2006, 11:06 AM
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We really liked our recent three-night stay in Nice, at the Le Grimaldi. It is a very nice little hotel, and Nice makes a very good home-base city, with several easy mass transit day-trips. I wouldn't have a car in the city, either. I think it was about a 25EUR cab ride from the airport to the hotel.
Vieux Nice is quaint, with restaurants, shops, etc. The promenade along the seaside is especially pretty to walk at night. I wrote a trip report, with details our our day-trips, restaurants in Nice, and more about the Grimaldi. I will cut and paste it below (because I'm not skilled in posting links):

"Nice, three nights in May, 2006

We arrived in Nice in the early afternoon on Friday, via train from Santa Margherita Ligure. The trip had been long enough, and was complicated when the Italian train quit one stop before our mid-point destination of Genoa. The conductor walked through and told everyone we’d have to get off the train and catch another one. No explanation given, simply 'get off and go catch another train'.

We had been seated relatively comfortably, with my huge bag safely stashed away, and we only needed to go one more stop to reach Genoa. But, instead, we dragged our luggage off that train and onto the next one, as directed. It was packed, standing room only.

We all stood there about fifteen minutes on that train, when another conductor came in and said yet another train would leave first, and we should get off and catch that one. So we again dutifully picked up all our stuff, and hauled it onto the next standing-room-only train.

Finally, it departed and we arrived in Genoa. Luckily for us, our train out of Genoa was late, too, so we were able to catch it. (It reminded me of Rick Steves’ saying that Italy is like a tangled plate of spaghetti: it’s a mess, but we love it anyway.)

Our Hotel le Grimaldi (http://www.le-grimaldi.com/) was a short cab ride from the train station, 10 EUR for myself, my daughter, my gargantuan bag, and her two small ones. We were greeted graciously at the hotel, which immediately struck us as a good find.

The hotel is actually two Belle Epoque buildings back-to-back. One side is much prettier to enter, as it faces a nice church. The other side is fine, too, but a bit boring. I think the side on rue Grimaldi is the plain one, and the other side on rue Maccarani is prettier.

The man at the front desk carried my bag to the room, and showed us around. There’s a business center on the ground floor, with free internet use on their two computers, and a free printer to use. (Also wi-fi in the lobby, I think for a fee.)

Our room was a ‘classic’, twin-bedded room, which was quite large (for Europe), had a little balcony, a sparkling yellow and white tile bath with fluffy bright yellow towels, and nice toiletries. It was 150 EUR plus tax, and 10 EUR per person if we opted for the hot/cold breakfast buffet. They suggested we check out the buffet served till 10:30a.m. the next morning, and if we were interested we could sign on for it. The deal is that you have to buy it everyday to get the 10 EUR rate. Otherwise, per day, it’s 15 EUR per person.

So the next morning, we were happy to find hot eggs, proscuitto, yoghurts, cereals, cappuccino, assorted croissants, juices, etc. We thought it a good deal and quite convenient, so we enjoyed it each morning.

It's an easy walk to the train station (w/o luggage) from Le Grimaldi, and a slightly longer walk to the bus station. Easy walk of a few blocks to the grand promenade at seaside, just past the pedestrian zone. Also not far walking to Vieux Nice. The neighborhood felt perfectly safe, and we walked back to the hotel late each night.

For our first dinner, I had brought the name of a restaurant I’d found on Travel Talk, and the front desk agreed it was a good one, a local favorite in old Nice. It’s called Acchiardo, at 38 rue Droite in Vieux Nice. We headed over for their opening at 7 p.m., and were very happy with it. Really friendly and attentive service, very quaint and casual atmosphere, with a good menu. I had a steak dinner, which actually included vegetables on the side. My daughter had two different salads. We had bottled water and a half-liter of house red wine. When the bill arrived for 28.50EUR, I thought they’d made a mistake because it was so much less than I’d been accustomed to paying in Venice, Florence and Rome. But, no, it was correct. (We would have maybe eaten there another night, but found out it closes on weekend nights, believe it or not.)

We walked all over old Nice, then through the pedestian area to the promenade and took that way back to the hotel. It’s such a beautiful walk at night. The Chateau hillside is all lit up, the palm trees are lit, and the waves look so pleasant. It was how we ended each of our Nice nights, with that walk back to the hotel.

The next day we decided to take the short bus ride on the #81, to visit the Villa and Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. (The bus is just 1.30EUR each direction, which you pay in exact change on the bus.) We didn't stop to see the Greek Villa, but it's also on that same bus route, near the Ephrussi. You can easily catch the #81 for your return trip to Nice, at any stop along the road.

It was a nice visit, especially to see the views of the sea down below on both sides of the hillside. I thought the price was a bit steep, at 9.50EUR for an adult, because the Villa isn’t really all that interesting (sorry!), but the gardens are pretty. There’s also a nice little café there, for a light snack or drink or meal, which was a welcome break from all our walking.

While we were there, a very strong wind came up, which caused quite a bit of white caps in the water below, and chased everyone in from the patio tables. The wind stayed with us for the rest of the day, but wasn’t terribly annoying.

From the Villa, we did the easy walk down to the port of St. Jean to walk around and check it out. There are nice boats in the little harbor, with cute restaurants and shops. It’s very tiny, so doesn’t take long to walk from end to end of St. Jean. We spent just about an hour and a half there, then caught the #81 back to Nice.

That evening, we returned to old Nice for dinner. We loved that neighborhood’s little streets, overall atmosphere, and cute shops. We found the Restaurant la Tapenada, 6 rue St. Reparate and had a very nice dinner. It was probably about 60EUR for the two of us, on their fixed price menu, with a bottle of house wine. Very nice little place, with friendly and attentive service. They even let my daughter trade her dessert for a salad. So she had two salads to start, one after the other, and they timed the arrival of our main courses perfectly. We were completely happy with our meal there.

The next day we decided we’d stick to the coast and see Antibes, which is a short 20-minute train ride from Nice. We were glad we’d chosen Antibes, as it’s beautiful. The sea wall makes a nice walk, and the Centre Ville is very charming.

We wandered its streets, shopped in a tiny clothing boutique, found a little place for omelettes (nothing special, but nice enough), then headed back to Nice by train after about four hours total. It was a good choice for a quick day-trip.

That evening we weren’t very hungry, so opted for the simple Pasta Basta, once again in old Nice. It was a nice meal, although not extraordinary. Good prices and decent service.

All in all, we were very impressed with Nice and the surrounding area. It’s a very pretty city, with a friendly attitude, sitting on a lovely shore. There are many options for things to do near Nice. We’d considered St. Paul de Vence and Digne, but with the beautiful clear weather, we were drawn to stay at the seaside, and were glad we did."

Jun 17th, 2006, 08:03 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 159
Maureen, I did read your post last week and it inspired me to post myself! Early on in my research for this trip, I became interested in St Paul de Vence and will visit that area if we don't stay up there (versus Le Grimaldi). Mimar: thanks for reminding me about allowing for jet-lag! I think we'll keep the 2 nights in Nice, then get the car to drive to Luberon for 2 more nights prior to our cruise. Somewhere I read that Eze was too touristy; it sounds great to me! thx much to all who responded.
Katerbug is offline  
Jun 17th, 2006, 08:08 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Since you'll have a car, I'd recommend staying up near St-Paul-de-Vence (try the pretty little in Le Hameau) so you won't need to pay Nice overnight parking fees. There are a few low-cost lots where you can leave the car during the day while sightseeing.

I hope you like La Ferme de la Huppe as much as we did. Please let us know on your return.
Underhill is online now  
Jun 17th, 2006, 08:10 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 159
Altajoe, are you looking at Uniworld's new Rhone River cruise called "Connoisseur's Provence"? The boat, River Royale, is brand new for 2006, and it's a small boat with 132 passengers. This will be our first cruise; we normally don't go for group touring but are hoping to be pleasantly surprised. I've read the cruise lines are changing gears to appeal to younger travelers. We were considering also Viking River Cruises but our travel agent was familiar with Uniworld and their new philosophy, boats, etc, and the price was good too!
Katerbug is offline  
Jun 17th, 2006, 08:52 PM
Posts: n/a
Katerbug, have fun! Be sure to post your experiences and impressions when you return, ok?
Jun 18th, 2006, 08:39 AM
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 216
Katerbug, we'll be on the Peter Deilmann "Princesse de Provence" from Lyon - Arle and back. We plan on flying in to Paris a few days earlier to see some friends that live there. Its the back end that I'm trying to figure out. So many options!
altajoe is offline  
Jun 18th, 2006, 02:04 PM
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Underhill, I chose "the Huppe" after much debate betwn La Bastide in Bonnieux and Auberge de Presbytere in Saigon. Stududley sent me his personal itineraries on Provence and he also suggested Gordes area accomodations. Your comments helped too! We'll be driving from Gordes to Arles on Thur Sept 21 to embark on ship in the afternoon 3pm-ish; your suggestions for a good route on that day? thx
Katerbug is offline  
Jun 18th, 2006, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 20,286
Head from Gordes to the pretty town of St-Rémy on your way to Arles; nice spot to stop for lunch and a look around. Since you're embarking at 3:00 I don't think you'll have time for more than that, but if you get going early you could have a few hours in Arles--great sightseeing to be had there (Roman arena and theater, church with magnificent cloisters, a fine folk-art museum). There are a number of cafés right around the arena.

BTW, "huppe" means the bird "hoopoe." We were lucky enough to see one near Oppède-le-Vieux: wow!
Underhill is online now  
Jun 19th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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Underhill: I just called Uniworld to get more details on the time frame they have scheduled for us (my travel agent is traveling!). The only thing that is on the clock is dinner from 7-8pm so we can check in anytime prior to that, i.e. return rental car. AND after dinner we are free to explore Arles then. We spend the night in Arles, have breakfast on board which is followed by a market & ancient ruins tour; the boat then leaves for Avignon at noon. So we won't be as rushed enroute from Gordes via St Remy. (I'd love to skip the dinner onboard but maybe this first night we should eat w/ the others!) Thx for your suggestions; it's time I dove more deeply into the Provence guidebooks I've bought too. I've been concentrating on accomodations and also our 3 nights in Paris after the cruise.
Katerbug is offline  

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