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mrschef May 3rd, 2007 08:18 AM

Advice for First trip to France
My husband and I are traveling in France for two weeks this summer. My plan is to experience local cuisine from markets to fine dining. So far, I've narrowed our route down to the following; July 1-4 Paris (our anniversary), train to Bordeaux, rent a car, tour the region. Depart 8th and spend one night in the Toulouse area (Mountauban?) en route to Provence (based in St. Remy?) from 9-13. That leaves 2 days to try and squeeze in Lyon & Dijon. Does it make sense to stay in Provence and take day trips (as we take the train from Avignon/Paris the 15th)? I'd welcome any advice as to restaurants, accomodations (I'm vacilating between chateau and chambre d'hote, prices being sometimes very similar), must see's, markets, etc. Thanks all.

Christina May 3rd, 2007 09:11 AM

If I understand you correctly, you must take the train from Avignon at the end of your stay, to Paris (airport, I presume) to leave. In that case, I definitely would just to day trips from Avignon to Lyon, it's not that far. That's a TGV route, so it won't be as cheap as some other local runs, but it's certainly fast. However, if you are really in St Remy, not Avignon, that doesn't make these things easy, as there is no train station there. I wouldn't have stayed in St Remy myself with those intentions. It's fine if you have a car and just want to drive around the St Remy area, maybe to the Luberon, etc., but not to go to Lyon or Dijon.

There are other alternatives to your ideas if you weren't insistent on leaving from Avignon to Paris by train, what is the reason for that? Why can't you leave from Lyon or Dijon, for example.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 09:24 AM

Hi Christina, we could do. Our plans are not set in stone. We'll be leaving from Paris via the chunnel, not the airport. I was only trying to avoid too much driving for the hubby. What alternative homebase would you suggest to accomodate seeing Provence, Lyon & Dijon?

Michael May 3rd, 2007 09:24 AM

<i>train to Bordeaux, rent a car, tour the region.</i>

That is vague and would not be my first choice for a the first trip to France. If you are going to the Bordeaux area because of its wines, I think that Burgundy would be a better alternative, and then you would not have to squeeze as much to visit Dijon and Lyon.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 09:32 AM

Wow, now I'm really starting to doubt myself. Let me elaborate. My husband is a chef. My plan began with an attempt to create a culinary tour. I began with Les Grandes Tables du Monde, for inspiration. With that in mind, and some advice from a french co-worker, I figured two longer stops, with day trips by car, would allow us to range farther afield than trains, without spending our whole holiday in the car. Again, I'm open to all advice, especially if my original plan is not a great one. Food, not wine, is the primary focus, so advise ahead. Thanks.

Michael May 3rd, 2007 09:37 AM

Based on this web site, I would say that there are more <i>grandes tables</i> in Burgundy than in the area around Bordeaux. I would suggest renting a car in Paris and driving to the Provence via Burgundy.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 09:49 AM

Thanks Michael, that's certainly an option. I don't want to mislead though, we won't be dining exclusively at that level. Besides it being crazy expensive, we want to immerse ourselves in the regional markets and history, art and architecture as well. Food, for us, is just the natural jumping off point. So, you think we should consider blowing off Aquitane altogether in lieu of more time in Lyon &amp; Dijon?

Michael May 3rd, 2007 10:11 AM

For art and architecture, Burgundy would be as worthwhile as Aquitaine, although different. It's just that you would not be as rushed, and by driving down you could visit some sites that you would not otherwise see, such as Vaux-le-Vicomte or Fontainebleau. I suggest that you look at the Michelin Green Guides for an idea of what you might want to see in both areas.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 10:21 AM

Ah, but therein lies the rub. There is simply too much information out there. Too many wonderful sites. I want to do and see everything, but that simply isn't possible. Only two weeks in which to do it.

Michael May 3rd, 2007 10:26 AM

But the regional green guides offer basic itineraries according to the number of days available in the region. That's a good start. Then members of this board can add details.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 10:28 AM

I read about a comprehensive Provence guide created by a &quot;StuDudley&quot; on another posting. Does anyone know about him, or that?

amwosu May 3rd, 2007 10:35 AM

type StuDudley into the search forum box until you come across a thread with his email address then send him a request for his itinerary. He has much experience in Provence and will help you with specific questions.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 10:46 AM

thanks amwosu, as long as you don't think he'd mind, I'll do that.

Rastaguytoday May 3rd, 2007 11:43 AM

Stu knows more about Provence that most folks. His 26 page guide is great. Print it on two-sided paper.

If you want good food, please do not forget Lyon.

Try this link for a brit food writer's reviews of restaurants, as well as 3* Michelin listings.

It's not comprehensive, but it is certainly high end.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 11:59 AM

Thanks rastaguy, I'll check it out. Do you agree with the other posts that I should cut the southwest from my proposed itinerary, and focus on Provence, Lyon &amp; Dijon?

kerouac May 3rd, 2007 12:04 PM

Bordeaux is a totally uninteresting city. If you go there, leave immediately and enjoy other areas in the region.

StuDudley May 3rd, 2007 12:11 PM

Hi mrschef

I got your e-mail &amp; I'll send my Provence itinerary and also a list of my favorite restaurants in Burgundy &amp; Beaujolais. We were there (Burgundy &amp; Beaujolais) for 4 weeks this past Sept.

I agree with Michael about Burgundy instead of Bordeaux. My wife &amp; I are big-time foodies (with a medium sized budget), and we spend 9 weeks in France most years - that's 35 to 40 restaurants meals per year - and we've been doing that since we retired early in '99. The food in Burgundy is perhaps the best we've experienced (we travel to different regions).

The TGV makes visiting Provence &amp; Burgundy a cinch. You could take the 3 hr TGV to Provence &amp; camp there for a week, then either drive or take the TGV to Lyon, then Dijon (re-rent a car if you dumped the car in Avignon). It's only 1 1/2 hrs back to Paris on the TGV from Dijon.

IMO, some of the best outdoor food markets are in Provence - Carpentras, Aix, Arles, etc. Dijon has an excellent les Halles type market. The weekly market in Beaune is very good as is the one in Macon. We found the food in Beaujolais to be very creative &amp; inexpensive (see my e-mail when I send it).

If you're going to be in Provence for 6 days or more, I would stay in 2 different locations - St Remy &amp; the Luberon - although the Luberon is not where most of my favorite restaurants are located.

Stu Dudley

Michael May 3rd, 2007 12:12 PM

Bordeaux is not uninteresting although it has a long-standing bourgeois--i.e. staid--reputation, and its early 19th century unitary look has its charms, but it is not a primary destination for a first-time visitor to France.

mrschef May 3rd, 2007 12:30 PM

Got the material, thanks so much Stu. It's very comprehensive. Looks like a real labor of love. You guys have given me a lot to chew on (pun intended) since food is far more important to us than wine. I'm going to bone up on all of this and more than likely ditch the west. Anybody want to vote on what kind of accomdations are best? Chambre d'hote vs. chateau vs. gite vs. VRBO's?

ira May 3rd, 2007 12:38 PM

Hi MC,

Hubby is a chef. You want a foodie experience and you are spending only 3 nights in Paris?

May I suggest a week in Paris and a week in either Burgundy or Alsace?

You can train to either Dijon or Strasbourg in about 2 hr and get a car there.


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