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-   -   Advice on south France itinerary (https://www.fodors.com/community/europe/advice-on-south-france-itinerary-840193/)

mmoroz May 14th, 2010 01:17 AM

Advice on south France itinerary
 
I have 12 days for a trip to south France. After adding everything I really wanted to see, I found that I ran out of days... so the last part of the trip (all of Provence!) is now compressed into a single day :(

If someone has been to these places, and maybe could suggest cutting some of the sites out in favor of something else, I'd be very grateful.

I like castles, food, rivers, canoes, hiking, cute villages, caves - as you can probably guess from this itinerary. I prefer lush forests to the more arid terrain, that's why I plan to drive so far north, into Perigord.

Thank you!


Day 0

[arrive Perpignan at night]

Day 1

Perpignan
Drive along the coast to Coullioure
Château de Peyrepertuse
Les Corbieres: Cathar Castles driving tour
[stay at Carcassonne]

Day 2

Carcassonne
Albi
[stay at Albi]

Day 3

Cordes S Ciel
Cahors
Sarlat-le-Caneda
[stay in Sarlat]

Day 4-5

Beynac & Cazenac
Castelnaud
Domme
Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
La Roque-Gageac
Sarlat
Dordogne
[stay in Sarlat]

Day 6

Rocamadour
Gouffre de Padirac
Cahors
St.-Cirq-Lapopie
Pech-Merle?
[stay at Rocamadour]

Day 7

Lot Valley (driving & hiking)
Conques
Entraygues-sur-Truyère (canoe, hike)
[stay at ???]

Day 8-10

Look at Millau Viaduct from Peyre
Driving tour: Canyon de la Dourbie
[stay in some small town near Gorges du Tarn]

morning: canoe from Ste Enimie to Pas de Soucy
Driving tour: Ste Enimie to Le Rozier
Walking tour: Corniche du Tarn?
Walking tour: Tarn Valley footpath?
Aven Armand
Grotte de Dargilan
Walking tour: Corniches Causse Mejean? (7 hr starting from Le Rozier)
Grottes de Trabuc?
Chaos de Monpellier-Le-Vieux?
Walking tour: Corniche du Causse Noir hike?


Day 11

St Guilhem le Desert
Canoe or raft down l'Hérault from Clamouse to St Guilhem le Desert to
Les Demoiselles.
Then by road or boat to Gorges de la Vis and Cirque de Navacelles.

Day 12

Aix-en-Provence
St. Victoire
Croix de Provence
Les Baux

Day 13

Leave in the morning from Marseilles

Echnaton May 14th, 2010 01:44 AM

As far as I see, you have at least 4 caves in your itinerary. Unless you are a spelaeologist, you might get a bit tired after the second or third cave. In any case, you should visit Pech-Merle - the rock paintings are spectacular. But after seeing three caves, you might skip the Grottes des Demoiselles.

Also, you have many limestone canyons in your itinerary. You might skip the last one after having seen so many others (and better ones).

In this case, I would also drop St. Guilhem-le-Desert, the Gorges de la Vis and the Cirque des Navacelles (which is very arid, anyway). By this, you get another day for Provence.

In Provence, I would recommend Pont du Gard and Avignon for the first day. On the second day, visit Nimes, Les Antiques, Les Baux. The Alpilles mountains are very scenic. I would drop St. Victoire (again, very arid) and Aix.

Pvoyageuse May 14th, 2010 02:22 AM

Day 1 : you are trying to pack too much in too little time and it will be hectic driving to Collioure and back to Perpignan then to the Cathar Castles. Either go to Peyrepertuse or to Queribus or to Lapradelle Puilaurens. You won't have time to see them all.

FrenchMystiqueTours May 14th, 2010 07:56 AM

Wow! Never mind Provence but you couldn't possibly do all those other places in the time you have allotted yourself. I'm assuming you have a car so what you should really do is go to www.viamichelin.com and get info on drive times and distances. France is not a huge country but it is bigger than you might be thinking. I've been to many of the places on your itinerary and am familiar with how much you might be able to accomplish in a given amount of time. Just starting with day 1, for example, if you want to visit Perpignan and then Collioure that's enough for 1 day. Personally, I would skip Perpignan and go to Collioure. Collioure is worth at least 1/2 a day. Driving around the Cathar castle regions you are on small and windy roads and while distances don't look far on a map, the windy roads add a lot of time. Two Cathar castles in one day is plenty. I can't comment on your whole itinerary because it is too extensive. Remember, you'll have to wake up in the morning and check out, then stop for lunch at some point, and then also remember that some places may require you to check in within a certain time frame and you'll need to eat dinner. And you may need time to wander around someplace to check out the restaurants and see which is best for you. After you do some Michelin drive time planning I think you will realize you are trying to do way too much each day and you will cut a lot of stuff out. Re-evaluate and then post again with a revised itinerary and it will be easier to help you with suggestions. Also, when are you coming? You've got to keep in mind what time sunrise and sunset are. Sorry to sound a bit negative but I'm just trying to help you be realistic. I like the list of places you want to see though. You obviously have done some homework and have a good grasp of what is worth seeing. You just need more time to see all those places.

StCirq May 14th, 2010 09:57 AM

Oh dear, dear, dear, please no!

You are heading to a part of the world where the essence of it is a laid-back existence and a bit of a time warp. And you're going to chug through it like a locomotive. Please don't. I'd want a minimum of a month to do what you're proposing. With 12 days I'd go to the Dordogne and Lot, or the coast and Provence.

mmoroz May 14th, 2010 10:05 AM

Thank you everyone for the comments! Revised :)

Echnaton, when you said 'limestones', did you mean something like Cirque de Navacelles or Chaos de Monpellier-Le-Vieux? I dropped both, but maybe I misunderstood.


Day 0

arrive to Collioure in the afternoon
[stay there]

Day 1

train to Perpignan to rent a car
Château de Peyrepertuse
Les Corbieres: Cathar Castles driving tour
[stay at Carcassonne]

Day 2

Carcassonne
Albi
[stay at Albi]

Day 3

Cordes S Ciel
Cahors
Sarlat-le-Caneda
[stay in Sarlat]

Day 4-5

Beynac & Cazenac
Castelnaud
Domme
Les Eyzies-de-Tayac
La Roque-Gageac
Sarlat
Dordogne
[stay in Sarlat]

Day 6

Rocamadour
Gouffre de Padirac
Cahors
St.-Cirq-Lapopie
Pech-Merle
[stay at Rocamadour]

Day 7

Lot Valley (driving & hiking)
Conques
Entraygues-sur-Truyère (canoe, hike)
[stay at ???]

Day 8

Look at Millau Viaduct from Peyre
Driving tour: Canyon de la Dourbie
[stay in some small town near Gorges du Tarn]

Day 9

canoe from Ste Enimie to Pas de Soucy

Day 10
Driving tour: Ste Enimie to Le Rozier
Aven Armand

Day 11

Pont du Gard
Avignon

Day 12

Nimes
Les Antiques
Les Baux
The Alpilles mountains if have time

Day 13

Leave in the morning from Marseilles

mmoroz May 14th, 2010 10:13 AM

Ah, StCirq, just saw your comment.. I agree with you, but I already booked tickets, for better or worse, which take me from the Spanish border to Marseilles. I can skip Provence, I suppose, explore Lot and Dordogne, and drive to Marseilles directly from Dordogne. Since I'm not booking the hotels in advance, I still have that option, if I find the schedule is too hectic...

sap May 14th, 2010 10:15 AM

Per StCirq, would it be possible for you to split this into two trips? It seems like you could neatly divide it somewhere between Days 7 and 8; then spread out the itinerary, doubling your time in each place. That way you could have two enjoyable experiences instead of one rushed, overloaded & probably disappointed one.

If you pick one (Dordogne/Lot OR Languedoc-Rousillon/Provence); create a new itinerary along those lines & come back for questions, Fodorites who are familiar w/each area will be able to more accurately (and more happily) help assess that for you.

Alternatively, you could double the time allotted for this trip. I think your only other choice might be to start hacking away at your list -- which seems to be a pretty good one, just not in the time you've factored for it.

StCirq May 14th, 2010 10:18 AM

Days 5 and 6 are humanly impossible unless you never get out of the car.

It's still waaaaaaaaaayyy too much.

sap May 14th, 2010 10:21 AM

Mmoroz, you were typing at the same time I was & I missed your post. If you're locked into the Spanish border to Marseilles (and thus also locked into your timing), perhaps sticking to Languedoc-Roussillon/Provence makes much more sense. Can you divide up your itinerary that way and save the Lot/Dordogne for another trip?

That's just my two cents. I'll leave the rest of the recos for the resident experts.

Pvoyageuse May 14th, 2010 10:22 AM

How do you plan to get to Collioure? It is South of Perpignan and Peyrepertuse is North. So you'll waste part of a morning going back to Perpignan to rent a car. Couldn't you rent it in Perpignan when you arrive and drive to Collioure (it takes at most 30 mn and the road is excellent).
It is pointless to drive along the coast from Perpignan, it's flat and sandy until Argelès. Take the fast road, get off at Argelès if you want and drive the remaining 6 km to Collioure along the coast.

Or forget about Collioure this time and drive to Carcassonne via Estagel, Saint-Paul de Fenouillèdes, stopping on your way to visit Queribus and/or Peyrepertuse.

mmoroz May 14th, 2010 11:22 AM

Since I'm leaving in a few hours, I'll try to modify my itinerary on the plane, and hopefully can post here if I get internet.

Thank you! I wish I didn't wait till the last moment.

sap May 14th, 2010 12:01 PM

Joke's on us.

FrenchMystiqueTours May 14th, 2010 12:52 PM

You just posted this and you are leaving in a few hours?! If you can do everything on your itinerary as listed above you may be eligible for some sort of Guinness world record. You are a very unique person and must have a good sense of humor. I'd like to buy you a drink someday and listen to you talk about this trip. Drop me a line if you ever come to Paris. I bet you've got lots of interesting tales to tell. I wish you the best of travels and adventures.

P.S. - Don't forget to check your drive times with viamichelin.com and pack lunches to save time.

mmoroz May 14th, 2010 02:21 PM

I have cut out everything north of Conques... I'll check all the distances, but I think it's ~150 km per day.

If I need to book anything in advance, I'm out of luck. But I hope because it's not high season, it may be fine. At least the first day's hotels were all available.

Day 0

arrive to Collioure in the afternoon
Hotel in Collioure

Day 1

Château de Peyrepertuse
Hotel in Peyrepertuse

Day 2

Drive to Carcassonne via Estagel, Fenoulledes, Quillan.

See Queribus and Carcassonne castles.

Hotel in Albi.


Day 3

Walk around Albi
Stop by Cordes S Ciel
Hotel in Conques

Day 4

Conques
Entraygues-sur-Truyère (canoe, hike)
Hotel somewhere near Ste Enimie (Lot Valley)

Day 5

Look at Millau Viaduct from Peyre
Driving tour: Canyon de la Dourbie
Hotel same place

Day 6

canoe from Ste Enimie to Pas de Soucy
Hotel same place

Day 7

Driving tour: Ste Enimie to Le Rozier
Aven Armand
Hotel same place

Day 8

Pont du Gard
Avignon
Hotel in ???

Day 9

Hotel same place

Day 10

Nimes
Les Antiques
Les Baux
Hotel in ???

Day 11

Hotel same place

Day 12

Hotel in Marseilles

Day 13

Fly out in the morning

Pvoyageuse May 14th, 2010 03:19 PM

"Hotel in Peyrepertuse"

There is no hotel in Peyrepertuse.

"Drive to Carcassonne via Estagel, Fenoulledes, Quillan."
You drove through Estagel on your way to Peyrepertuse. Why do you want to drive back????


"See Queribus and Carcassonne castles."
Queribus and Peyrepertuse are close to each other. Have a look at a map.


I would : leave Collioure early in the morning. Drive to Estagel, Maury and go to Peyrepertuse and Queribus.
When I am back on the main road and if I have some time left, stop in Lapradelle Puilaurens and visit the castle. Spend the night in Quillan.
Next morning head for Carcassonne, visit Carcassonne and drive to Albi.

FrenchMystiqueTours May 14th, 2010 04:04 PM

Just thought I'd let you know that another poster said that the fresco of The Last Judgement in the Albi cathedral is covered in scaffolding and will remain so until September. They also said the morning is the best time to get a picture from across the river due to the position of the sun.

just27 May 14th, 2010 07:25 PM

We arrived home last night after travelling some of the roads you mention. We arrived in Collioure at noon and one night was probably enough, although I could have stayed indefinitely. Spent the next night in Carcassonne and should have taken more time exploring along the way, or simply spent the afternoon in Carcassonne and driven on to Albi. We stayed 2 nights in Albi, which included a day trip to Roquefort (mmmm) and the Millau Viaduct. (Last week there was snow on the roads and several detours ... our Garmin was great, but it had no idea what that weather did to those little switchback roads. The freeways were, of course, fine.) The Albi Cathedral is spectacular, as is a little restaurant behind it, Le Clos Sainte-Cecile.

We then headed south and stayed 2 nights in Limoux, and enjoyed a fantastic cave tour (Niaux)before driving back into Spain.

louloufrance May 15th, 2010 05:19 AM

Good luck packing this all in. I live in the Languedoc and can honestly tell you that it is too much. You won't get a chance to experience the regions and the driving distances, although they might seem close, are exhausting compared to driving in the States.
And remember, a lot of places close at lunchtime.
Have a great trip!

abbydog May 15th, 2010 06:17 AM

Wow -- you are getting loads of great advice! All I would add is just the process of locating and checking into a place to stay takes a good amount of time, and it's really a joy to experience the ambiance (restaurants, shops, squares) in the evenings around your hotel or B&B. So even the most arduous itinerary should include at least two nights in each accommodation, and I'd say three if possible. Less wasted time packing and unpacking, and if you choose a spot in striking distance of several points of interest you can just take day trips.

My second thought is keep the region you cover as compact as possible -- in this part of the France there is so much to experience (and you want time to hike and canoe too!), so there's no need to drive long distances. I like the idea of saving the Lot for later.

Also, consider what's going on in your destinations on the days you're there. If you like markets, the one in Sarlat is fantastic!


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