A stellar month in southeastern France

Jul 15th, 2019, 05:21 AM
  #21  
 
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I’ve got my coffee and am waiting patiently to travel to southeastern France with you.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 05:45 AM
  #22  
 
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What an amazing trip! Yes, much more fast paced (and lucky for you, longer) than what we're doing, but you got to see and experience so much. No, I will not regret my decision to hear about all the details, that's why we travel.

I don't know how long it will take you to write this all, but if it takes you too long (we're leaving in early Sept) I would appreciate if you can have a couple things/notes out of order: La Ciotat, days 22, 23 (Pont du Gard only) and 25 (Village de Bories --> through Gordes --> Roussillon only). This is going to be sooooo good, can't wait.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 06:56 AM
  #23  
mms
 
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One thing that I have noticed and love is that you travel for you. I like fast paced travel and so often read that that is not the way to do it. There is no right or wrong way, just the way WE want to go and I love seeing that with your trip. Doing what you want is all that matters and I am so glad that you are unapologetic for that and that you had a great trip!
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Jul 15th, 2019, 07:58 AM
  #24  
 
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Wow, sounds wonderful, Can't wait to read more. I've always loved reading your reports and receiving your great advice. We just returned from a month in Alsace, the Black Forest and Berner Oberland with many thanks to all the fodorites that had great suggestions. Already planning next year's trip to France.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 09:41 AM
  #25  
 
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I wish I knew more people who don't mind skipping lunch. It is useless when I am visiting lots of things. I tank up at breakfast buffets and don't need to eat until dinner.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 11:33 AM
  #26  
 
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I am waiting for the rest! Sounds like a great trip.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 11:41 AM
  #27  
 
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Can't wait to read the whole report. I'm actually in south east France right this minute, taking a break from my normal travel routine to veg out so decided to check in with the forum and saw your report. I'm in Lyon right now, heading to Marseille day after tomorrow. Too bad your report probably won't get to those parts before I get there. Still, if you have any really great tips about either I'd appreciate knowing them. I'll check in again tomorrow.



Sounds like you had a great trip.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 12:09 PM
  #28  
 
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The ideal palace of Facteur Cheval, anyone?

Le Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval | Any Port in a Storm
kerouac is online now  
Jul 15th, 2019, 04:09 PM
  #29  
 
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Sounds like you had a wonderful time. It is such a reward when all the time spent planning and researching pays off with a memorable trip.

The Palais Ideal du Facteur Cheval is amazing. We visited it last year and were overwhelmed by the time, work and imagination that went into creating something original and so special for both the creator himself and those lucky enough to see it. We walked around several times and every time we saw something new. It is well worth a stop if you are in the area.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 04:25 PM
  #30  
 
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kerouac: I never heard of this place. Your photos are amazing. It does look like something you'd see in SE Asia.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 04:40 PM
  #31  
kja
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What a delight to see so many messages! Thanks one and all.

@ harry369: Welcome to this thread and to Fodor's!

@ TPAYT: Your coffee is probably cold by now -- thanks for your patience!

@ TravelerKaren: Thank you for your kind words about my trip reports and advice!

@ willowjane: it was a great trip! I hope you enjoy it, too.

@ rhon: Memories galore! For better or worse, my excessive planning has, once again, been rewarded.

Originally Posted by xyz99 View Post
I don't know how long it will take you to write this all, but if it takes you too long (we're leaving in early Sept) I would appreciate if you can have a couple things/notes out of order: La Ciotat, days 22, 23 (Pont du Gard only) and 25 (Village de Bories --> through Gordes --> Roussillon only).
I hope I'll finish my report before your trip, but a few comments now in case they help you plan:
  • La Ciotat was undergoing some major construction work when I was there, and some people would undoubtedly be bothered by that. I thought it had a very pretty little harbor, was less heavily touristed than many places I visited, and provided a great base for a boat ride through the calanques because of the unusual geology of the coast right around La Ciotat.
  • Pont du Gard. Wow!
  • Village des Bories – Interesting, IMO. Watch the short little film, which explains a few things.
  • Gordes – beautiful from a distance; so completely jammed with tourists when I drove through that I refused to even try getting out of my car.
  • Roussilon: Lovely! Consider walking the sentier de ocres.

Originally Posted by mms View Post
One thing that I have noticed and love is that you travel for you. I like fast paced travel and so often read that that is not the way to do it. There is no right or wrong way, just the way WE want to go and I love seeing that with your trip. Doing what you want is all that matters and I am so glad that you are unapologetic for that and that you had a great trip!
Thanks, mms! I’m firmly convinced that there are as many ways to travel as there are travelers, and maybe even more, since travel styles often change with age or interests or experience. And I wholeheartedly agree – no right or wrong answers, just differences, and vive la différence! FWIW, I didn't write trip reports for years after joining Fodor’s because I was intimidated by all the people telling me that I couldn’t or shouldn’t travel the way I do. (Too fast! Too much! No time to relax! You must drive a car! Don’t change hotels so often! Whatever.) I'm sure every one of those Fodorites meant well, and I appreciate that they took the time to respond, but it was daunting. And while I found some of the input invaluable in fine-tuning my plans, they certainly didn't change my approach. I finally decided that maybe it was time that I give some glimmer of hope – or a dash of reality! -- to others whose style is a bit more like mine.

Originally Posted by kerouac View Post
I wish I knew more people who don't mind skipping lunch. ... I tank up at breakfast buffets and don't need to eat until dinner.
One of the many advantages of traveling solo is that I get to decide when to do whatever, eating included.

Originally Posted by isabel View Post
I'm in Lyon right now, heading to Marseille day after tomorrow. ... if you have any really great tips about either I'd appreciate knowing them.
In Lyon, I was very impressed with the Musée des Confluences and, of course, the Musee des Beaux Arts.

I absolutely loved Marseille -- the MuCEM is wonderful, and if you have any interest in architecture, consider trying to join a tour of Le Corbusier's Cité Radieuse, even if it’s in French only. For wonderful meals, consider La Poule Noire (a bit upscale and priced accordingly) and Au Coeur du Panier (quirky and welcoming). I'd recommend reservations for each.

Originally Posted by kerouac View Post
The ideal palace of Facteur Cheval, anyone?
Fascinating! Reminds me a bit -- just a bit -- of Gaudi's Parc Güell and the Nativity facade of Sagrada Familia.


Thanks again, all of you, for your interest!
I'll post my most-liked list shortly -- it needs a bit of editing.
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Jul 15th, 2019, 05:48 PM
  #32  
kja
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What I liked most

I know at least one Fodorite who won't read anything with exclamation points. If you agree, stop reading! But if you remain capable of being awed by the things you see and experience, read on -- and be prepared for a LOT of exclamation points.

  • The diversity of my experiences! OK, that was "baked in" by my planning, but plans don't always go as intended. I was thrilled with the diversity of my experiences, particularly in terms of exposure to art, architecture, and scenery, and it wasn't just that I encountered a range of things -- I encountered a range of artistic masterpieces, architectural gems, and stunning scenery
  • The art! The work I saw ranged from the breathtaking reproduction of the 30,000 year old Grotte Chauvet through Nice's engaging Plensa sculptures, and in between, everything from fascinating petroglyphs taken from the Vallée des Merveilles and glorious Roman mosaics in Lyon and the stunning 15th century frescoes of the Notre-Dame des Fontaines and awe-inspiring masterpieces by Botticelli and Massys and some classic (and surprising) works by Impressionists and myriad Post-Impressionists (including many personal favorites) and Vaserely and Miro and the Giacomettis, not to mention the amazing Carrières de Lumières (where I was immersed in, and surrounded by, works by Van Gogh and some of my favorite Japanese masters -- aah, Hokusai!) -- and that doesn't even count the street art! Graffiti in Marseille's Le Panier, building-sized murals in Lyon, trompe l'oeil windows in Avignon.... And so many more amazing works of art!
  • The architecture! I saw the Pont du Gard (what an achievement!) and any number of amazing architectural accomplishments through and including Marseille's Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM), with its amazing "chicken bone" structure and stunning "mantilla," with Romanesque and Gothic and Baroque and Belle Epoque and Byzantine and Art Deco buildings and Corbusier's fascinating Cité Radieuse in between, not to mention the glorious Villa Kerylos, in an ancient Greek style, and Nice's St-Nicolas, with its onion domes, and the Lombard-style Fenestrelle Tower in Uzès and the decidedly Alpine architecture in Annecy.... And traditional building styles, too -- from the stone houses of the Village des Bories through the mas of Provence and La Camargue -- and so much more!
  • And architectural details! Sundials and cast iron bell towers and crenellated fortifications and Lyon's fascinating traboules and painted beam ceilings and Gothic tracery and a vast array of stunning capitals and corbels and vaulting ribs and gargoyles....
  • And let me not neglect the fountains! So many fountains, in so many styles -- from venerable and simple roofed lavoires through the grandeur of the fountain at Marseille's Palais Longchamp, from the elegant refinement of the Fountain of the Four Dolphins in Aix-en-Provence through the simplicity of that city's moss-covered rock fountains, from the crashing waterfall of Nice's Parc du Chateau through the slow pinging of the Pol Bury fountain at the Foundation Maeght, from the refreshingly potable fountains of Pernes-les-Fontaines through the dancing fountains into which children gleefully ran in Nice and Lyon....


  • The scenery! Snow-capped Alps and rose colored salt evaporation ponds; mountain streams rushing down boulder-filled beds and wide rivers edged by reeds and iris; the Pont d'Arc and the unusual geology of the uplift near La Ciotat (so different from the rest of the coast!); stunning gorges viewed from above and from below; the rote of the surf on both sandy and pebbled beaches and the turquoise and ultramarine waters of steep-walled calanques; towns and fortresses topping hills or tumbling down their sides and vineyards stretching toward distant hills; paths around rocks where waves crash and eddy and promenades beside gently lapping boat-filled waters; the nesting ground of protected seabirds on Frioul and the feeding, fishing, flying flamingos of La Camargue's Ornithology Park; long allées of trees so tall they made even wide roads look like bicycle paths and panoramas across dramatic drops out to the distant azure sea; multicolored ocher cliffs and green, green fields where the low-bellied white horses or black bulls of La Camargue grazed; the stark limestone escarpments and peaks of the Alpilles and the impressively gentle slopes of Mont Ventoux -- and so much more!
  • And the gardens and flowers! I roamed botanical gardens and rose gardens and topiary gardens and "English" gardens and gardens of formally arrayed flowers and monastery gardens and even an occasional "backyard" garden. Roses of every color and size were in full and aromatic bloom in many places I visited, and honeysuckle and lilac filled the air elsewhere. Glorious iris lifted their heads obligingly through much of the area where Van Gogh lived and painted. I drove past forests those rose above beds of flowers in a deep shade of periwinkle spread against a blanket of dark green foliage; and along roads verged with flowers of every color and height imaginable; and by vast fields where poppies fluttered along with greenery and something white and glittery and utterly beguiling....
  • And speaking of flowers, the markets! Flowers and fruits and vegetables and sausages (who knew one could buy a cornet of tiny different sausages?) and cheeses and breads and herbs and sweets and fish and meat and hot dishes, and almost everything arranged artfully and presented cheerfully, and with stalls or stands for textiles and olive wood and so much more!
  • And speaking of markets, the food! Perfectly ripened cheeses, crunchy baguettes and buttery croissants, flavorful salads, velvety soups, fresh fish and seafood, fork-tender meats, vegetables Provençal and otherwise, desserts both light and rich.... Did I mention the cheeses? Oh, the cheeses! And some glorious wines with which to savor these dishes -- Bandol and Chateauneuf du Pape and others.... I definitely ate well -- extraordinarily well -- on this trip.*
  • Opportunities to learn about various things -- how perfume is made and how jacquard looms functioned and how Biot glass gets its bubbles.... The MuCEM and Museum of the Confluence each held fascinating displays, and I loved to see the many children who were enjoying themselves at these and other museums and learning so much in the process!
  • Museums with resident cats who greeted me most graciously.
  • Infrastructure that helps make a tourist's life easy, including tourist information offices with take-a-number-within-a-language service systems and easy-to-use public transportation systems and a shout-out to Lyon for decorating its metro stations with artifacts from its ancient sites.
  • Unexpected performances -- street performers, including a living statue in Annecy who had a remarkable talent for engaging children and a gifted violinist in Aix-en-Provence; youngsters engaging in a dance event at the amphitheater in Arles; organ music heard in churches here and there; a drumming competition in Aix...
  • Some things that strike me as quintessentially -- and delightfully -- French:
    • carousels and children riding them as their parents smiled and waved;
    • lots of large pillows and a comfortable duvet in every room in which I stayed,
    • and of course, the ubiquitous greeting, "Bon jour, Madame!" So welcoming!
  • And last but not least, the gracious kindness shown to me by so many people as I traveled -- I have countless wonderful memories of these interactions!

I can't imagine having asked for more!

To be continued....
Next up: What I liked least


Last edited by kja; Jul 15th, 2019 at 05:52 PM.
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Jul 16th, 2019, 04:57 AM
  #33  
 
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Love the way you organize your TRs. Thanks for the notes, and I can't wait for the details.
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Jul 16th, 2019, 06:28 AM
  #34  
 
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kja: I love the way you write. I've been to many of these places but your descriptions make me appreciate these places even more and makes me want to return.
Can't wait for more...
TravelerKaren is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 12:54 PM
  #35  
 
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Yes, I agree with TK & XYZ both above---enjoy the way that you have written this TR.
Very happy to hear that you enjoyed this trip, KJA! (Wo)Man, you really got around.
I am done. The end.
zebec is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 06:28 PM
  #36  
kja
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@ xyz99,
@ TravelerKaren, and
@ zebec -
.....Thanks for your kind words!


Now for the things I liked least (in no particular order), and one source of profound ambivalence:

The things I like least:
  • Rounding a sharp, blind turn on an exceedingly narrow mountain road to find a car in my lane. Or a motorcycle. Or cyclists. Argh!
  • Flying steerage.
  • People who did not clean up after their dogs. I'm sure there are challenges to doing so on paved, pedestrianized streets, but I would also suggest that the need to do so is particularly great in exactly those circumstances.
  • Cruise ships blighting the views of gorgeous inlets.
  • Being upgraded to a vehicle MUCH larger than I wanted, and being given no alternative unless I wanted to wait until after a long holiday weekend.
  • Selfies.
  • The lack of a first-come-first-aboard standard for various boats. The priority was groups, often from largest to smallest -- and it doesn't get any smaller than a solo traveler. Even if I was among the first in line, a seat was not always an option.
  • People who stepped between me and a work of art I was admiring in a museum, apparently without even bothering to consider the impact of their movements.
  • The evidence of the ways in which tourism has changed some of the places I visited, especially some of the smaller towns. I know that I'm a tourist, too, and I recognize that I contribute to the problem in many ways. Even so, I find it disconcerting and disturbing to see the ways in which residents' lives are affected, whether because housing becomes unaffordable or because shopping at the local market becomes a time-consuming ordeal or because local businesses close to make more room for cafes and souvenir shops. I certainly don't have the answers, though.
  • Missing my cats. (At least I know that my cats love my cat sitters, and my cat sitters -- quite understandably -- love my cats.)
  • Weak, insipid wines. That, I had not expected! I did have some excellent wines on this trip, but a surprising number of whites and roses I tried in the area in and around Nice were, to my palate, appallingly uninteresting.
  • Seemingly helpful tourist information office staff who patiently provided me with FALSE information. Seriously! Twice, in two different cities! Growl. Adding insult to injury, I had had to wait a long time to be served in each case. Growl.
And one thing toward which I had an intensely ambivalent reaction:
  • My TomTom. It got me where I wanted to go -- eventually, but OMG, I had some "interesting" drives. Its an old GPS system, and although I had done my best to update its maps, TomTom staff had warned me that it probably wouldn't work because of technological changes -- and they were right. I knew to watch for -- and ignore -- directions to turn onto roads that are now one-way in the wrong way and to deal with roundabouts that my TomTom didn't expect, but I could never tell if the narrow lane onto which my TomTom directed me was a road I should avoid or a road I needed to take. Both of my rental cars had a map screen, so I could at least see where I was. The first car's maps were comprehensive -- meaning that if it was paved, it showed, with no indication of whether it was a major road or not. The second car's maps were more selective, showing me when I turned onto something it didn't think was a real road. That was very, very helpful! Still, my TomTom seemed to have an unerring nose for the road less traveled, without the wisdom to question why no on else took those roads. (I'm sure you realize that I had absolutely no role in these choices. ) Still, I saw some amazing scenery and I got where I wanted to go, so I can't really complain.
I trust it's evident that my least-liked list pales in comparison to the things I liked most. It truly was a wonderful trip!

To be continued....
Next up: From DC to Nice, and the start of my visit there
kja is offline  
Jul 16th, 2019, 06:35 PM
  #37  
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
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I've enjoyed reading your whirlwind tour of SE France. I didn't realize that you had travelled to so many places -- I'll enjoy reading about places that are still on my "to do" list.
gooster is offline  
Jul 17th, 2019, 01:14 AM
  #38  
 
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Ha, kja, you make me feel positively slothful in comparison you have a lot of energy.
Looking forward to the rest.
Adelaidean is offline  
Jul 17th, 2019, 04:39 AM
  #39  
 
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All the things you loved, I expected you would; they are the reason we travel.

The things you did not like, some of them surprised me; and the biggest surprise in this list, the wines. Definitely not what I think of when I think of France. Any thoughts on how to avoid the insipid wines? Was it the type of wine? The type of restaurant? Or just random?

Re: boat sitting. Was that the case for the La Ciotat boat? We'll take the boat from Cassis, but I guess that would not make much of a difference.

We have a very old portable Garmin. I wonder if we should buy the France chip and take that with us, instead of relying on their GPS. What do you think?
xyz99 is offline  
Jul 17th, 2019, 05:56 AM
  #40  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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Re: your aged TomTom. We had one too. On our last trip with it, it showed us swimming across the Seine — evidently on a newly built bridge.

I appreciate the detail of your trip-planning, just my style. And the detail of your trip-reports. Looking forward to this one.
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