Avignon and ?? this Jan.

Old Dec 15th, 2004, 12:55 PM
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Avignon and ?? this Jan.

Thanks to all who have helped me narrow down my choices for a last minute week in France. I have only been to Paris, and after buying and reading two big guidebooks, pretty much everywhere sounded interesting.

My two top choices were (are) Beaune and ?? in Bourgogne, or Avignon and ?? in Provence.

I'm thinking Avignon, mainly because of the various budget-with-charm places I've written to, Hotel de Blauvac said they could accommodate me. Should I add another town to this itinerary? If so, where? Arles? Someplace smaller?

I really really really don't want to rent a car.

My itinerary is as follows, so far:

Saturday: SFO-CDG

Sunday: overnight in Paris

Monday: train to Avignon. Stay at De Blauvac in Avignon for how many days?

I need/want to be back in Paris by the following Saturday, as my flight leaves early Sunday afternoon.

About what I'd like from this trip: I'm one of those people who always enjoys her holidays. My favorite places are Rome, Assisi, the Serengeti in TZ and Paris. But...this is my first real trip alone. My silly romantic fantasy involves me relaxing and doing some writing, enjoying good food and wine someplace beautiful and atmospheric, but not like Paris.

Suggestions appreciated. Bossy and opinionated? I'd love to hear from you.



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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 01:22 PM
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Is there a reason you want to spend the night in Paris? You can easily take the train from CDG to Avignon. I personally think without renting a car you will miss 3/4 of the charm of Provence. Driving is not difficult. You don't say what time of year.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 01:36 PM
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Gretchen,

I'm going the last week of January. I realize this probably isn't the best way to see Provence, but this whole trip came up very suddenly when I realized that I have a week's vacation that I need to use up by January 31 or I "lose" it.

So, I'll be travelling at the coldest time of year, for a shorter period of time than I normally take, on a tighter budget than I'm accustomed to, etc.

A little bit of an adventure, I guess.

I don't have to spend my first night in Paris. I just thought I might be tired when I arrived, and I'm reasonably comfortable in Paris and feel like I can get from point A to point B without too much mental strain.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 02:17 PM
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This may not be what you want to hear but, without a car and in January, my suggestion would be Avignon and Paris.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 02:20 PM
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Since you are on a budget there is no reason to go into Paris--money spent when you can just go from CDG. It's a 3 hour train ride or less. I might agree with the other poster--spend a few days in Provence and then paris. I think many things may be closed in Provence that time of year.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 02:27 PM
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Leely,

Here's my suggestion for Arles. Consider staying at the Hotel Le Calendal. It's a very comfortable and cozy hotel located in the old walled part of the city, next to the arena and across from the amphitheatre. Staff is very helpful and friendly and most are very fluent in English. Rates are quite reasonable. Try to book Chambre #4. It has a large bath and a great terrace. (One drawback - no lift, not a problem for us) You could spend your whole time wandering about. There are many, small restaurants, shops, museums and points of interest close by.
JoeG
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 02:58 PM
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I don't think I'll be disappointed with wherever, really, as long as it's pretty and there are a couple of open restaurants. Since this is a surprise vacation anyway, I really don't need the best , nor do I expect it.

I had been going through old posts the other day, however and someone said she/he had heard Avignon was "boring." Then I think I read a similar comment about Arles. Those things started to freak me out a little.

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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 03:01 PM
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Hi Leely,

How about Beaune and Dijon? You have to go into Paris Nord and leave from Paris Lyon.

For only a week, I go with the idea of taking the train from CDG to Avignon and then back to Paris.

Actually, in January, I would visit just Paris.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 03:04 PM
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Leely:

Just wanted to let you know if you stay at Hotel de Blauvac, be sure to get a double room, not a single. I stayed there last year. I reserved a single room, but it was SO small and the window looked out across a tiny little alley directly into another building. There was also a contraption on the wall in the bathroom that made a clicking noise and emitted this really horrendous awful deodarant smell. I got a double room as soon as one was available. The great thing about this hotel is the location and the staff. They are just wonderful, very friendly and helpful. Have a great trip.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 03:05 PM
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I travel a lot without renting a car, so can relate to that. I don't like it and much prefer not having to deal with a car. I've visited Provence without a car, you can easily enjoy the main cities (Avignon, Arles, Aix, Nice, etc.) by train.

To be honest, I wouldn't do Provence in January, but if I did, I definitely would go for the urban environment. I haven't been there in winter, but I just am having trouble envisioning what would be so enjoyable in January in a rural area where it gets dark early and you don't have the attractions and options of a large city.

I'd just stay in Paris myself, but do like Avignon very much and can see that possibly as a second choice. I really like their small excellent fine arts museum, don't miss that (the Petit Palais, I think it is called). I always thought it was fun in their big main square in summer with all the outdoor cafes and people watching, wonder what that's like in winter.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 03:18 PM
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Thanks for all the comments. I spent Christmas in Paris last year and it was wonderful. Am spending the holiday in New York this year, so I'm just craving something a little less big-world-class city for January.

Once I started reading about the different areas of France I got overwhelmed--everything sounds lovely in different ways. It's kind of a nice problem to have.
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 03:29 PM
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Leely:

I have visited Provence in January and it was wonderful - I had four sunny days and weather warm enough to get away with just a jacket & scarf (of course, I DID arrive from sub-zero Toronto . However, the days are short, so it does reduce touring times. Also, I HAD a car and that gave me lots of options.

Personally, I HATE Avignon (been here four times and it has never grown on me) but there is enough things to see to fill two days. I'd suggest you check out trains to large towns such as AIX (liked it a lot), Arles (excellent Roman ruins), Nimes (LOVED IT!). Smaller towns/villages will take longer to get to, so perhaps keep those for another trip when you have a car.

An alternative would be the Cote d’Azur (been there twice in December & January). Again, excellent weather and great hotel rates. I am not partial to Nice, but I loved Menton and you can get trains/buses along the coast to many of the towns and villages including across to Italy. Consider Antibes or Cannes. You would have to fly from CDG or Orly, but can get cheap return flights on AF in January (I paid about 250 Euros booking only a couple of weeks in advance; you can do better). It is also more convenient than the train as you could have your baggage checked through to your final destination.

BTW, you CAN get the TGV directly from CDG (which we did in October) which will mean you can avoid the cost of transportation to/from CDG/PARIS and the higher cost of hotels. You can get very cheap hotels around the airport (e.g. Ibis) or, if you are not too exhausted, take a train straight after the flight (GRIM!!!). An alternative would be to stay in a chateau outside of CDG – I have stayed in Ermenonville twice and you can get a reasonable rate in January. Food is EXCELLENT. Taxi will cost you about 60 Euros. Let me know if you are interested and I will post the link.

Hope this helps.

Regards Ger
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Old Dec 15th, 2004, 10:32 PM
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I'd suggest maybe a night or two in Avignon and then on to either Aix or the old town of Nice. You say you want to be somewhere completely different from Paris. While I like Avignon, it always feels to me a bit like Paris architecturally. Very monumental. Aix, by contrast, is the south of France, par excellence - no pun intended. And Aix, thanks to it's huge student population is always lively and active any time of year. The same can't be said for Arles, for example. Stay at the Manior Hotel if you want something not too expensive and right in the center of town. The old town of Nice would also be a great choice, if you want to go a bit further a field.

Anyway, a full week in Avignon in January isn't the best plan.

-Kevin
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Old Dec 16th, 2004, 08:46 AM
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If you prefer not to rent a car, I think a few days in Avignon and a few in Aix might work. While I'm not a fan of Avignon, better prefer Aix, staying in both there are enough museums and restaurants to keep one happy. From Avignon you can certainly pick up a bus to the Pont du Gard and maybe even to Nimes. You can then train from Avignon to Aix which I found fascinating and busy with lots to see and loads of people of all ages. From either town your can arrange a day trip to Arles to visit the ruins, but for a base or bases, Avignon and Aix would be my choices. From Aix it's a short ride to the Marseilles airport for return flight to CDG (unless you choose the TGV for the return). While you might get mild weather, be prepared for snow and possibly the Mistral. Leely, go for it. It will certainly be different then your recent trip to Africa. Have fun!
 
Old Dec 16th, 2004, 09:18 AM
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Thanks for all replies. I don't know why this I'm finding this trip so difficult to plan.

I am curious about one thing: those who do not care for Avignon, what is it exactly that you dislike?

Okay, I'm sold on Aix now. Called my travel agent/friend and she found a flight for me SFO-Marseille R/T for only $25 more than SFO-CDG. I'm thinking I'll just scrap Paris altogether as perhaps that would free me up to do more exploring, perhaps even renting a car--eek. (I know, I know, this is probably tantamount to someone telling me she's going to Italy but bypassing Rome.)

Sandi, I am still saving almost all my pennies for Rwanda/Uganda sometime late 2005. Just thinking about that trip to Tanzania brings tears to me eyes. It really does.

Again, thanks for all the help.
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Old Dec 16th, 2004, 09:29 AM
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It's not that I dislike Avignon; it's just that a day there is, for me, enough.

I'd second Ira's suggestion of Dijon and Beaune. Dijon is a major city with much of historic and artistic interest, and I think it would be a good place to visit in the winter. Beaune is a very pleasant small town, easy to get around without a car. From Beaune you could go by bus to Autun, which has a magnificent cathedral and medieval precincts.
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