A Family Vacation in Provence?

Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 08:42 AM
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A Family Vacation in Provence?

I am trying to get some Fodorite expertise and advise regarding the feasibility of a family trip to Paris (for 3-4 days)and then on to Provence for 8-10 days during the month of June, 2003. Pardon the detail, but I believe a little background would be helpful.

My wife and I have 2 teenage daughters, the oldest of which is graduating from high school after having taken 4 years of french and we had thought that as part of her graduation gift, we would make our summer vacation a trip to France, or some other french speaking location.

We would all be first timers to France and are on a middle class budget. Of course we want to do the Paris thing for a few days, but we really want to kick back and enjoy the sites and "back roads" of Provence. In order to stay in France for 2 weeks, I know we will have to be very prudent with how we spend our money. As far as hotels are concerned, we are "Comfort Inn" kind of folks so, as long as the room is clean, has A/C, and everyone can sleep in a bed that's good enough for us. Is it a total joke to think we could find a way for the 4 of us to get to France and stay in Paris/Provence for 2 weeks for under $10K?

Could you help us with any of the following questions:

1)It seems to me that most of the hotel rooms are just for 2 people...is that true?
Is it possible to find a room to accomodate a family of four, or do I need to count on getting 2 rooms everywhere?

2)Our tentative plan is to leave Paris on the train to Provence and then rent a car there. We were thinking we could stay in one city as a home base, such as St. Remy, Aix, Avignon, etc. and see the other cities making day trips in the car all over the province. Is that reasonable or would we be better to find ourselves in a diferent location every night?

3) Can you recommend any mas, country inns, etc. off the beaten path that might give us a great local feel at a more reasonable price than the city hotels? Any reasonably priced hotels/inns you could recommend would be appreciated.

4) If you think that Paris/Provence for 2 weeks for a family of four in June is going to be outragiously expensive, what other french areas would you recommend such as Quebec, Martinique?...we are trying to find a suitable "Plan B" in case we just can't do France right now as a family.


Steve B.
Baton Rouge, LA
SBrown8243 is offline  
Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 08:56 AM
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It all depends what you think 'expensive' means. I think you should look into renting a house and you may be surprised what deals you find!
I did a search on Google with 'Provence gite rental' and found some really cheap houses. For instance:
You will have to take care of your own meals, but you can choose to do your own grocery shopping (a great treat in France and good for your daughter's French!) or go out. Believe me, you can save a bundle!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 09:02 AM
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That sounds very reasonable to me. My family of four did Italy and France last summer for 22 days for less than that. I think airline prices are higher for next summer and the exchange rate is worse, but still. Pleny of hotels have quads and there are plenty of inexpensive hotels out there. Three years ago in Provence we stayed at an Ibis outside of Avignon (that trip was a triple) for under 100E. There are plenty of these no frills motel type places in Provence. Ibis has a web site of it's own but also try placestostay.com and other general sites. Go to google and type in the town name and "hotel" and you'll get lots of sites and you can pick and chose which ones have the types and prices you like.

You definitly want to rent a car but I would pick a couple of towns to base in rather than one. Actually I was there for just over a week and spent 2-3 days each in Vence, Aix, and Avignon with day trips and thought that was fine. In Vence we stayed at a Karen Brown Guide hotel that was inexpensive (most of her places are more upscale, but it's worth checking, some are reasonable and all are wonderful).

In Paris we had a quad at the St Andres des Artists Hotel in the 6th. Shabby but clean with good beds and nice bathroom and (boring but free) breakfast. It was 105 euro. Very good location.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 10:58 AM
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That budget is quite large, much more than I ever spend, I can't imagine why you'd think you couldn't do that. Even if air fare costs $1000 a person (which is what I've been seeing this summer RT US east coast to Paris), that still leaves you $6000 for 14 days, or about $425 per day! That is luxurious by my standards unless I'm doing something wrong in understanding your budget, even if you do need quad rooms.

My only comment is that hotels in Provence are cheaper than in Paris, so don't worry about that (unless you go to the deluxe resort type places with AC). You may want two rooms with teenagers, it won't always save you any money (or much) to try to get a quad and you will be much more limited in choice of hotels and rooms if you do that. You can easily get 2-star hotels in Provence for less than $100 for a double (much less sometimes).

If you don't go to France, I might suggest Guadeloupe instead of Martinique, I think it may be cheaper and more laid back. I went there for 4-5 days once and had a great time.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 01:28 PM
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I suggest that you check the Idyll Untours web site (www.untours.com). The cost is very reasonable and includes airfare, a two-week apartment rental in Provence, and a rental car. They also provide fantastic support (a local person available to help with any information you might need and detailed information about the area, including events specific to the dates when you are there). On the other hand, you are free to do what you want when you want. In France, they also have programs in Paris and in the Alsace region. In my opinion, it is an ideal combination of independence and support. Good luck!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 01:30 PM
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For Provence I would consider staying in a gite or some type of rented self catering dwelling as someone above suggested, not necessarily to save $$ (although you certainly would) but because of the flexibility it gives you. You could rent a car and go about 30 miles (or more/less, depending) in any direction each day from a well chosen base town/village and see the wonders of Provence.

We rented a gite thru www.gites-de-france.com several years ago while our daughter was spending her jr. year from college in France, and it was a wonderful experience. Renting gives you all more space and that is so much nicer, IMO, than 4 people squeezed into a French hotel quad room. We would go to daily markets in the various villages, sightsee, just hang out in our lovely provencal house, cook some meals in, eat out, also. We were there in late May, and our gite kitchen doors opened onto a patio that was surrounded by an herb garden that was so wonderful to smell as we drank our coffee out in the morning sun. Beyond this, we overlooked fields of poppies in bloom and olive groves.

I think renting a house is just the perfect way to go in an area like Provence which is so dense with places to visit, things to see. Our place was a couple k. from Gordes and had 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, well-equipped kitchen, living room, dining area, and was built in a Provencal style with the big shutters on the windows, etc.

Have a wonderful time, however you decide to do this trip!

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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 02:23 PM
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I've been planning 10 days in Provence for May and found these websites very helpful: www.provenceweb.com and www.avignon-et-provence.com (check out the "guesthouses" options as well as B&Bs and Hotels and apartments) Another good one is www.provencebyways.com There are some excellent apartment rentals mentioned here. With 8-10 days, you might want to consider two bases, one to the West and one to the East, one an apartment and the other a cosy guesthouse. With two teens, two rooms are really better than a quad. Even in Paris. (Especially considering those tiny bathrooms...the thought of three women trying to shower, apply makeup, dry their hair...well I can hear the whining already!) Bob Voyage!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 03:55 PM
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You can easily do this trip for that amount of money. We are renting a two bedroom gite this July for 630 Euros. I assume we will have breakfast and one other meal in the gite or buy supplies for a picnic. You have to eat out when in France, as the food is half the fun. You can eat lunches out instead of dinners etc. Rent a car and have fune.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 04:03 PM
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I haven't read every word of this thread yet (need to make dinner), but I'd like to second (third?) the gite (pronounced zheet) recommendation. We have stayed in gites on a couple of trips to France and have loved each location. You may have to hunt around for their English website and spend a little time trying to figure it out, but the time is well worth it. I'd get going on it, because some of the best properties are reserved early. Have a great trip; I'm envious! Be sure to report in when you return.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 04:12 PM
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I agree with the self catering principle.

Here is another good site with direct from owner rentals:
www.flv.fr - with full English version.
Pick Geographical search - Provence/Alpes/Cote d'Azur, and then Bouches-du-Rhone or Vaucluse.
As an alternative for a complete house, look for a place where you can rent a large room with kitchen, terrace and garden, plus an extra smaller bedroom/bathroom for the teens. Reason being that many smaller houses still come with only one bathroom.
Bear in mind that most gîte or villa rentals are on a weekly basis (Sat to Sat).
A/C will be hard to find outside of the large hotels. But June is not that hot and you can always ask for a fan.
Also, I would stay at one, or max. two locations.
Distances are short, and getting around very easy. Hotel hopping with luggage for four is not very convenient, and driving around with all your belongings while sightseeing between hotels not recommended. Even if nothing happens, you will always worry somehow and spoil what should be a relaxed lunch or village visit.
Bon voyage!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 04:52 PM
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About 5 years ago we stayed a week in Graveson which is 15 minutes south of Avignon, very close to San Remy. The owners were wonderful. See the website www.laconviviale.com. Would be a good spot for a family.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 05:25 PM
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We're taking our family of 4 to France/Italy/ Austria in June. I am hoping to spend three thousand for a three week trip. SO, far, our airfare was free via frequent flyer miles. We have a gite in the Dordogne area for $320 for the week. And have 5 nights free with the Hilton -2 in paris and 3 in Innsbruck. We leased a car from Renault for $860 for a mid-size (10%) off by using Am. Express. I just have 7 more nights to take care of. I also won some free tickets to the top of the Eiffel Tower. So, pick your budget and work on it.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 05:38 PM
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Hi S,
Sorry if I am repeating messages, but am having a little problem with the website. What a lovely idea, and a lovely present for your family. Have you checked out www.untours.com ? they can give you two weeks in Provence in a French farmhouse, etc., at a very reasonable price, plus whatever time you want to spend in Paris. We have traveled with them and are completely satisfied. For some reason, you do not hear much about them on this board. Oops! I see prizen has already said it! I will add my plaudits to prixen's recs. Have fun. None of you will ever forget it.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2003, 06:04 PM
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Not sure if anyone mentioned this, but I have heard of house-swapping with someone in France. You might want to call an international real estate company and check it out.
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Old Feb 3rd, 2003, 06:52 AM
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You have some great ideas so far.
When I traveled in France 18 months ago with my 2 sons, I found reasonable hotels with the help of this board. In Paris, I would recommend the Citadines apts if they have not already booked.

I would recommend splitting your time in Provence into 4 days and 4 days. I personally find it a pain and time consuming to pack up and move into and out of hotels. Also, I had read a lot about not leaving luggage in your car while sightseeing. Perhaps try for 2 different areas.

In Avignon, we stayed at the Clarion Cloitre st Louis. We had a huge room(suite actually) which slept 3 people very comfortably and you may be able to put in another bed.

From there we moved on to Les Baux, south of St Remy. We found this a great base for exploring many villages. We stayed at Le Mas D'Aigret in a troglodyte ("cave-type") room carved out of the mountain. Actually what this means, is that the back wall was part of the rock formation of the mountain.It was large enough for 4 and there were other families. It was such a different experience.It has beautiful gardens and a pool. Very important after a day of sightseeing. Outside our room was a picnic table where we sometimes ate lunches we had bought from village markets.

It is right next to Les Baux but we were never bothered by trffic, crowds or tour buses. In fact, it felt very private. After all the crowds had left, we would walk up to the fortress and enjoy quiet times with a great view.

It was an easy drive to the village of Maussane st Alpilles with good restaurants and also to St Remy. We felt so relxed as it was away from crowds and had a beautiful view and a relaxed atmosphere.
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Old Feb 4th, 2003, 07:57 AM
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