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Change of itinerary to include Provence and French Riviera mid-late June - too late to start planning?

Change of itinerary to include Provence and French Riviera mid-late June - too late to start planning?

Feb 10th, 2002, 12:26 PM
  #1  
Jose
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Change of itinerary to include Provence and French Riviera mid-late June - too late to start planning?

My wife and I have tickets to Italy for the last 2 weeks of June (into Milan, out of Rome; 16 nights) and are now considering changing our itinerary to include time in France. We've been to different regions of Italy already and this time plan to limit the Italian part of our trip to Lake Como, Genoa/Camogli, and Rome.

We're thinking of starting in Paris via a flight from Milan. Maybe 3 nights in Paris (were there once before for 5 nights) then taking the train to Avignon (btw, how long does the train take?). We'd rent a car upon arriving in Avignon and then stay in one or two towns (still deciding which ones) in Provence for maybe 4 nights followed by 2 nights in a French Riviera town. Then we'd continue (by car) into Italy for the rest of the time.

This would be our first time to Provence or the French Riviera. We're excited about this itinerary but are wondering if we're a little late in beginning our planning, especially if the tourist season will be in full-swing by mid-June. Are we likely to find that the "preferred" hotels in each category are already booked up? What about weather - are daytime temperatures still pleasant or very hot? And will the towns be extremely overcrowded with visitors by then?

We normally plan our travel in Europe for the shoulder season but had originally purchased these tickets for an Italy/Greek Island cruise itinerary that was cancelled after Sept 11. After the cancellation, we considered using the tickets to visit Sicily but decided to defer Sicily to a cooler time of year.

I'm all ears and thanks for any advice.
Jose
 
Feb 10th, 2002, 04:29 PM
  #2  
Christina
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I don't think it's too late if you move quickly and decisively. First, the train takes 2-3 hrs, I don't recall exact time, you can check that on a rail site. Second, many hotels in Provence do get very booked up early in the year, I think July is slightly higher season than June, though--I believe I noticed some hotel rates went up in July when I was looking last year. However, it took me several weeks and many emails, FAXes, to many hotels, inss, etc, before I secured a room in Provence for last July, starting in February, but I did it okay. I like to stay in particular places I research though, so was not looking for just any room. I don't know about the Riviera at that time. In short, yes I think the most popular and best hotels probably will be booked very early but you should still be able to get a room at a good hotel if you try to get this done this month. I would not try moving between hotels within Provence if you are only there 4 days.
 
Feb 10th, 2002, 11:25 PM
  #3  
PB
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The TGV from Paris to Avignon takes 2.5 hours. You can easily pick up your rental car at the TGV station (there are actually a couple of TGVs a day that stop at the old station in town - there are also rental car offices there).

You should be able to book a hotel without much problem if you do it now. Season here in Provence does begin around Easter, but the busiest period begins the last weekend in June. Many of the sites are easy day trips if you stay in one village - so for four nights I wouldn't recommend moving from hotel to hotel.

Temperatures should be pleasant - but that would also depend on what you're used to. It can get hot in June... just depends on the year.

If I can answer any specific questions, feel free to email me.

PBProvence
 
Feb 11th, 2002, 02:41 AM
  #4  
Jose
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Thanks very much. Christina, my wife is like you...she spends a lot of time researching to find the right town to base, with hotels that will be central, good value and ideally with some charm. That's why I thought it would be best to ask here on the board before she kicks into gear with her research and ends up coming up empty.

Sounds like we need to get on it pronto and will likely find our first choices unavailable. I'll take both your advice and plan on basing in one town since we'll have the car for daytrips. Anyway, that should make the planning a little easier. Any towns that have a particularly good selection of hotels (ideally one that doesn't make having a car too much of a headache) that we should try first? Is Arles less likely to be booking up already than Aix and Avignon? Or should we maybe choose a smaller town? Any ideas gratefully welcomed.

As for temps, we live in NJ. Gets pretty hot and sticky sometimes in summer so we won't melt if daytime temps are in the mid-80s or so...and we plan to choose hotels that have air conditioning so we can sleep comfortably.

PBProvence I appreciate the offer and will take you up on it once we get some basics decided. One question on the train, should we make a reservation and buy the ticket before we leave the U.S. or can we do so upon arrival in Paris (3 days before)? Just thinking that maybe it will be sold out if we wait until we arrive and we'll get stuck with a slow train. Thanks again!
 
Feb 11th, 2002, 04:25 AM
  #5  
PB
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Jose,

I don't think you'll have a problem getting tickets three days before. I understand that purchasing tickets in the US adds to the price.

On the A/C decision... you should be aware that not many of the hotels down here have A/C. You're more likely to find it in the higher priced hotels.

The last two weeks of June will find the hotels in Avignon booking up in anticipation of the month long International Theatre Festival in July.
Avignon is also a busy congested city... and driving in that city is truly a pain.

Since you have a car, I would suggest somewhere in the St Remy area - centrally located for sightseeing, and in the countryside. Plenty of hotels and restaurants as well.
PB
 
Feb 11th, 2002, 08:54 AM
  #6  
Jose
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PB really appreciate your help. Definitely sounds like we'll avoid basing ourselves in Avignon but will start looking in the St. Remy area as you suggested.

We were planning to use 2 or 3 star hotels but from your comments about air conditioning it sounds like we may need to consider 4 stars to get air conditioning (unless evenings cool off enough?)

 
Feb 11th, 2002, 09:21 AM
  #7  
Sue
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Jose, if you do a search here on St. Remy, it might give you a place to start on hotels.

According to my Michelin guide for 2000, Les Ateliers de l'Image has A/C; rooms were going for 650/750 FF back then. You can see info on St. Remy and comments on the hotel at
www.beyond.fr/villages/stremy.html
or
www.1france.com/features/tr_atelierimages.html

A search for "Ateliers" here also yields some discussions about it and other hotels.
 
Feb 11th, 2002, 09:25 AM
  #8  
PB
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Jose,

If you're not in the town center, but outside the town - you probably won't need the A/C. I live outside of the village of Maussane - have no A/C (but do have stone walls about four feet thick) and it's quite cool at night, even in August.

Here are a few hotels in the area of St Remy - some with A/C, some without.

*** H™tel Les Ateliers de l'Image (in town)
Modern hotel, on the site of the old village movie house. AC, handicapped access.
16 rooms - 660,- FF
Tel: (33) 490 92 51 50 Fax: (33) 490 92 43 52
[email protected]

** Les Antiques (in town)
Charming mansion with gardens. Pool
27 rooms
Closed from 18 October to end of March
Tel: (33) 490 92 03 02 Fax: (33) 490 92 50 40
Hotel Les Antiques : Saint Remy de Provence (BoÉ

** Villa Glanum
(outside town, direction Les Baux - next to Glanum)
Comfortable, country style hotel. Pool, handicap access.
25 rooms from - 380,- FF
Closed from 15 November to 20 March.
Tel: (33) 490 92 03 59 Fax: (33) 490 92 00 08
[email protected]

** Mas des Carassins (outside town, direction les Baux)
Restored Mas, lovely gardens.
10 rooms from - 420,- FF
Closed 5 November to 1 April.
Tel: (33) 490 92 15 48 Fax: (33) 490 92 63 47
[email protected]

Les Baux de Provence

** Auberge de la Bevengudo (2 kms from les Baux)
Mas set in flower gardens. Restaurant (closed Sunday evenings). Pool, tennis courts,AC
20 rooms from - 700,- FF
Closed 3 November to 1 March
Tel: (33) 490 54 32 54 Fax: (33) 490 54 42 58

** Mas de l'OuliviŽ ( 2.5 kms from les Baux)
New hotel ( motel style) with gardens, set near olive groves. Pool, tennis courts, AC, handicap access
23 rooms from - 780,- FF
Closed 7 November to mid March
Tel: (33) 490 54 35 78 Fax: (33) 490 54 44 31
[email protected]

Maussane-les-Alpilles

** Val Bausssenc
Small comfortable hotel - view of Les Baux. Pool, handicap access, restaurant.
21 rooms from - 570,- FF
Closed 1 January to 1st March
Tel: (33) 490 54 38 90 Fax: (33) 490 54 33 36

** Du C™tŽ des Olivades (between Maussane and Le Paradou)
New hotel, in the style of an old Mas, in the countryside. Pool, Handicap Access and I believe some rooms with A/C
10 Rooms from - 650,- FF
Tel: (33) 490 54 56 78 Fax: (33) 490 54 56 79

Hotel Aurelia
New hotel, small rooms, but very neat and clean. Nice bathrooms. A/C, Pool
Rooms start around 550,-FF
Tel: (33) 490 54 22 54 Fax: (33) 490 54 20 75

PB
 
Feb 11th, 2002, 11:04 AM
  #9  
Christina
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Jose, I spent a lot of time looking for a good hotel last summer so maybe you can profit from my search. Originally, I wanted AC also as I was there in July. Very few hotels have AC in Provence, I was surprised; you do almost without exception have to get a four-star to get AC and only in a major urban area like Avignon or Aix. One exception is that there are several AC more expensive hotels around Gordes. I considered Domaine de l'Enclos and Mas des Herbes Blanches in that area, both of which have AC and were reasonably priced compared to the really deluxed places like Les Bories etc. Here is a good URL for that area which lists most hotels
http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/gordes/hotels.htm
I also used www.avignon-et-provence.com extensively, as well as Karen Brown's web site and www.chateauxhotels.com and the Logis de France site (which are below 4 star). I wanted to stay in Bastide des Cinq Lys which is lovely but doesn't have AC, although they didn't have a room for me by March (for July).

In any case, I stayed in Aix at a 4-star with AC which I loved (Mas d'Entremont on www.francemarket.com) and that might be a good area for you. Lots of folks do like St-Remy, though. Finally, I was there a while so moved hotels to the NE of Avignon as I wanted to explore that area more than Provence down near Aix, and I did end up staying in a lovely 2 star hotel without AC I can highly recommend for central location and quality (Hotel l'Hermitage just outside Pernes-les-Fontaine). I think it's a 3-star now (was definitely that quality, I thought it was only a 2-star due to not having an elevator, but it was only two stories so that didn't matter). It does not have AC, however, but is in the country, has lovely grounds, and my room (less than $100 a night) even had a private terrace. No AC didn't bother me at night, it was cooler and there was a breeze; although I will admit one night it was a little warmer for sleeping than I would have liked, but it was 90+ that day. This may not be too different than what you experience, it was early July. This is the URL of the hotel I stayed at
http://www.ifrance.com/lhermitage/
It's one of the few hotels I've ever stayed at where the web site is not nearly as nice as the actual hotel. I easily got a room there in late March, as I recall,for July after I had gotten closed out of many hotels with AC. Ultimately, I am glad that happened, it was a wonderful place.
 
Feb 11th, 2002, 03:32 PM
  #10  
Jose
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Boy am I glad I posted here with my question..really didn't expect to receive such detailed and helpful responses. We are starting the planning right away and these suggestions have given us a great head start. Thanks again.
 
Feb 11th, 2002, 04:33 PM
  #11  
Jose
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Boy am I glad I posted here with my question..really didn't expect to receive such detailed and helpful responses. We are starting the planning right away and these suggestions have given us a great head start. Thanks again.
 
Feb 12th, 2002, 02:12 PM
  #12  
Tony
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May I tag along in this discussion? My family of four including 2 young children will be going to Paris in late May and then on to Aix where I went to primary school. Would we be better off to rent a car in Paris and drive or take the train (TGV or regular) and rent a car in Aix? Also, I think some mention was made here that it might be less expensive to book the train from France instead of the U.S. but the rental car would be the opposite. Is that correct? Thanks to all for the helpful advice given to others as it is really helpful to us!
 
Feb 12th, 2002, 04:43 PM
  #13  
Jose
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Tony,

We considered driving from Paris to Avignon and looked up the distance and time on the following website:
www.iti.fr.

For us, the train is preferable as the driving time of 7 hours and 15 minutes from Paris to Avignon is much longer than the TGV train.

As far as renting a car in the U.S. vs. in Europe, I've always read that it's cheaper to reserve ahead from the U.S.. While I've never actually checked rates while in Europe to confirm this, the very reasonable rates I've gotten for rentals in Italy, France, and Spain (reserved with AutoEurope, Hertz, and Europcar)makes me think that it must be true. But we always rent a small car and I drive stick so I'm not sure if that holds true for larger cars/vans that you might need for your family.

Jose
 
Feb 12th, 2002, 11:25 PM
  #14  
PB
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Tony,

I would recommend taking the TGV from Paris to Aix. The ride is very enjoyable and takes only 3 hours.- I'm sure the kids would enjoy it more than sitting for over 8 hours in a car. There is a new TGV station outside of Aix proper, where you can pick up a rental car. And yes, if you book your car ahead from the US, you'll get a much better rate. If you prefer an automatic, be sure to book well ahead of time.

PB
 

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