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3 weeks in France, solo and without a car: please advise!

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Aug 18th, 2016, 10:43 AM
  #1
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3 weeks in France, solo and without a car: please advise!

Greetings! I just booked a roundtrip ticket to Paris for three weeks (Sept 14-Oct 5). I'm in the process of planning my itinerary and need some guidance. I'm in my early 40's, female, will be traveling alone, and will NOT be renting a car (this is non-negotiable). I've never seen France outside of a brief visit to Paris 15 years ago.

To give you a sense of my traveling style: I like lingering in places for a decent amount of time in order to get a feel for the place. I'm not that into sightseeing for the sake of sightseeing, though I enjoy an occasional museum, historic landmark, etc. I like to walk A LOT (je suis une flaneuse!), sit at cafes, drink and learn about wine, watch people. I like to absorb atmosphere and I am not easily bored. I don't want to be traveling to a new place every 2 days, especially since I will have to negotiate public transport. My budget is pretty slim, so my plan is to rent cheap but charming airbnb's (with kitchens for cooking many of my meals) along the way.

Here is the itinerary I have come up with... I'd love to hear your opinion!

6 nights in Paris
5 nights in Arles
4 nights in Lyon or Annecy
3 nights in Beaune
2 nights back in Paris before flying out of CDG (11 am flight; I will stay close to a metro that goes directly to the airport)

Opinions?

Any thoughts on Lyon vs Annecy (I realize they're probably apples vs. oranges, but what do you think?)

I'm open to any and all suggestions! Is there a place that completely captured your imagination that you think I should include? Anything you would cut?

Thanks in advance for your help.
cypresstree is offline  
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Aug 18th, 2016, 10:49 AM
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How about two nights in Lyon and two nights in Annecy?

5 nights in Arles seems like a bit much unless you have already checked the schedules of the regional buses to the Camargue, St. Rémy, Les Baux or perhaps Avignon.

Here is a report (not by me) that might pique your interest in Arles and the surrounding region, though: http://anyportinastorm.proboards.com...h-camargue-sea
kerouac is offline  
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Aug 18th, 2016, 10:58 AM
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4 nights in Lyon will be far more interesting than the same amount of time in Annecy. Avignon has many more public transportation options than does Arles. Staying in Arles will mean you´ll be going to Avignon anyway if you want to take the bus or train to nearby locations such as Isle sur la Sorgue, Pont du Gard, Nîmes, Uzès, etc. I would seriously consider staying in central Avignon rather then Arles.

Paris is completely covered by the métro network and you are rarely very far from a métro station. To reach CDG from any métro station, connect to the RER B. The ticket, including any required métro connection, will cost 10€.
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Aug 18th, 2016, 11:03 AM
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Stay in Paris last. There are direct trains from CDG [Roissy] to Lyon taking about 2 hours.

http://en.voyages-sncf.com/en/
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Aug 18th, 2016, 11:54 AM
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Might help a bit around Beaune and vicinity with these pics taken right after grape harvest. We liked Beaune as a small, compact friendly town. https://photos.google.com/album/AF1Q...U5ua_1kWCRLX4A
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Aug 18th, 2016, 11:59 AM
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The pictured Hotel Athanor in the center of town (walk everywhere)turned out to be a winner at very fair rate. Public no-fee parking two blocks away. The Patriarche Winery is also walkable and our choice as the best in the area.
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Aug 18th, 2016, 12:12 PM
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Yes Lyon is a far more faceted city than Annecy in terms of varied things to do - I spent a week there once and never got bored (I am rather easily bored) - some nice short day trips to from Lyon - but more days than Annecy though Annecy is more overall gorgeous perhaps.

for lots on French trains check www.voyages-sncf.com or www.capitaintrain.com- same fares same trains both sites.

You may want to look into a France Railpass since you are taking several longer trains - can chose which trains to hop once there though you still must make seat reservations at an extra small fee on TGV trains - other trains optional or not possible.

for lots on French trains check www.seat61.com - good info on discounted tickets; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Take trains from Beaune to several famous small wine villages like Nuits-Sts-Georges - you will be in the heart of the vintage harvest.
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Aug 18th, 2016, 12:15 PM
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I agree with putting all your Paris time together, rather than staying there twice on the same trip.
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Aug 18th, 2016, 01:23 PM
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We were in Annecy about 4 weeks ago for a 2 hr stopover before taking the train to Paris. It's about a 1 hr visit if you are not into shopping or don't do a boat trip, IMO. We were also there about 5 years ago for 2 weeks and spent almost all of our time taking drives through the Alps & to over cities. I agree with others - spend the time in Lyon.

We've also stayed for 2 weeks near Beaune. It's smaller than you might think. You might consider staying in Dijon instead and do a 20 min train day-trip to visit Beaune from Dijon. Dijon and Toulouse are my two favorite cities in France after Paris.

Avignon might be a better base than Arles. We always visit Provence by car, but as I recall - Avignon has better transportation options than Arles.

Agree with others about doing Avignon/Arles first from CDG, then Lyon, Beaune/Dijon, & Paris last.

Stu Dudley
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Aug 18th, 2016, 02:48 PM
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Thank you so much, everyone! This is all so helpful.

I would love to stay in Paris for the final leg, but unfortunately that final week lines up with Fashion Week, which is a huge turnoff to me (though of course I've never experienced it so I don't really know). Should I just get over it already?

Also, regarding Avignon vs Arles, I have read numerous times in various forums that Avignon is too touristy and lacks charm. Is that off base? It would indeed be a much better transportation hub than Arles. But I'd like to spend a significant amount of time in my base town, rather than just see it as a place to sleep, so Arles appears more appealing. And I'm in the process of reading this book, set in Arles, so I'm rather biased !: https://www.amazon.com/Yellow-House-.../dp/0618990585

Regarding Lyon: I keep reading about its charms and underrated nature. I'm very intrigued! Yet, I'm not really hungering for a large city, especially after spending significant time in Paris. Annecy appeals to me for strolling around the town, sitting in cafes, renting a bike and driving around the lake, taking nature walks. Hmmm...

I need to learn more about both places. Id like to book everything in the next couple of days so I need to get moving!

Thanks again!
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Aug 18th, 2016, 03:18 PM
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I've never thought Avignon is any more or less touristy than Arles. It is a larger city - so you can find your corner & hang out there if you feel surrounded by too many tourists. The square where the Palace is located and also Place de Horlogue can get crowded with day trippers - but that's a small park of Avignon.

Annecy is a large city (51K, with suburbs 160K). The old town with the canals is quite small. You'll find yourself walking the same streets after about 45 mins there (we did). Also, the area immediately around Annecy has some ugly sprawl too - especially on the west side of the lake & north of Annecy. When we were there for 2 weeks we actually stayed in a gite in Talloires. The road around the lake can get quite congested with cars & trucks - you might want to inquire more about the advisability of biking around the lake.

Stu Dudley
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Aug 18th, 2016, 03:26 PM
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Fashion week should not get in your way, just make sure you have a place to stay.

Another vote for Lyon. There are beautiful Roman ruins and many offbeat museums/attractions/murals.
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Aug 18th, 2016, 03:47 PM
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http://www.atlasobscura.com/places/t...ecret-passages

Be sure to ferret out the famous and mysterious traboules -tiny passageways between buildings in Lyon- don't get lost however.
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Aug 18th, 2016, 03:48 PM
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https://www.google.com/search?q=trab...HTznC14QsAQIGw

Les Traboules de Lyon!!!
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Aug 19th, 2016, 08:05 AM
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I don't know why being in Paris for fashion week should be off-putting. You don't even have to know it's happening. I've been there several times during fashion week and didn't even notice it.

I do like Arles a good deal more than Avignon, plus it's closer to the things I generally want to see in the area.

Agree to cut back on Annecy (fine for me for maybe an hour or two) and add the time to Lyon, which is endlessly fascinating.
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Aug 19th, 2016, 08:30 AM
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Hi cypresstree,

I spent a week in Arles a few years ago, and I didn't have a car. I had a wonderful time!

I think there's plenty to do there to keep you busy! You could spend a day just investigating the ruins & museums, and another day getting lost in the small winding streets and going shopping or window-shopping, and yet another day just following in the footsteps of van Gogh.

I was interested in seeing the lavender fields, Gordes, and Roussillon, and so I took a small tour -- I forget the name of the operator but can dig it out if you'd like. It was perfect for me; there were just 4 other people in the van, and the driver added on a stop at Bonnieux just because we asked.

I think you'll enjoy Arles and its atmosphere!

Have fun as you plan!

s
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Aug 19th, 2016, 08:38 AM
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Based upon ONE DAY in each, Arles was so much more interesting to DH and to me. And I wasn't much of a van Gogh fan at the time.

I agree with swandav2000.

Please do a trip report!
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Aug 19th, 2016, 08:43 AM
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I never even notice fashion week, and even when I was working in the "Golden Triangle" I saw little or no trace of it.
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Aug 19th, 2016, 09:08 AM
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We did a train only trip from Avignon, stayed in Nimes and Arles as well. Got to Gard du Tarn by bus, all very doable on shanks's pony
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Aug 19th, 2016, 12:16 PM
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I also spent four nights in Arles without a car, solo, in January one year. I liked it, enough to do, and I would imagine that in September there are still plenty of companies offering day and half-day trips if of interest and you get tired of the public transportation options.
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