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Close to final itinerary for Cote D'Azur and Provence - Feedback?

Close to final itinerary for Cote D'Azur and Provence - Feedback?

Aug 27th, 2009, 07:09 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 162
Close to final itinerary for Cote D'Azur and Provence - Feedback?

Hi Everyone - Thanks to all of your very helpful feedback, I am very close to finalizing my itinerary to the Cote D'Azur and Provence for September. I wanted to get everyone's feedback before confirming everything to see if I am on track here.

I am doing a combination of trains and driving, because I do prefer to limit driving if possible, but, I still would like to do some exploring on my own...How does this sound to you?

** Cote D'Azur (by train):
Day 1 - NICE - land @ 11:30AM - visit Ville Franche/Cap Ferrat area - Stay at Hotel Windsor in Nice
Day 2 - NICE - visit Eze/Monaco - maybe Antibes
Day 3 - NICE - bus or drive to St. Paul de Vence
Day 4 - ST. TROPEZ - drive or take ferry - Hotel des Lices
Day 5 - ST. TROPEZ

** Provence and Cassis - combination driving, train, tour:
Day 6 - AIX - drive to Aix on market day - Hotel Le Pigonnet
Day 7 - Guided tour to CASSIS - back to Aix by 1PM, take afternoon train from AIX to AVIGNON - overnight AVIGNON
Day 8 - AVIGONON - take guided tour of Gordes, Roussillon, Abbey & Le Baux, etc.
Day 9 - rent car to hit Sunday market at Isle su La Sorge + other sites we have time for -overnight in ST. REMY
Day 10 - explore St. Remy area - maybe hit some wineries - overnight in ST. REMY
Day 11 - free morning/early afternoon in St. Remy area - then drive or take train back to Nice - overnight NICE
Day 12 - depart back to NY @ 3:30PM

What do you think? I am thinking that a day tour on my first day in Avignon (maybe even a private one), will help me to get comfortable driving the roads in the Provence area and help me figure out where I might want to return on my own. From there, I have 2 1/2 days to do some exploring on my own by car basing myself in St. Remy.

Any feedback on this itinerary is appreciated. Thanks!!
alldaytravel is offline  
Aug 27th, 2009, 08:22 PM
Join Date: Feb 2008
Posts: 588
allday...The Sunday market at Isle is definitely a treat! One of the biggest treats there was the paella which you will run into there. It was the best 10euro meal I think I have ever had. The lady serving liked my wife and I and piled it on high.

I drove to Gordes because it came highly rated on this forum. Quite frankly, I didn't get it. I'm not sure what there is to do there. We walked around and tried to figure out what the attraction was. See for yourself.

Down a side street in St. Remy is a wine store. If you click on my name and check out my trip report 2000 miles driving. I beleive I have the name and website for this wine store. The owner is originally from Norway and is one of the finest "wine guys" I have ever met. He has a private tasting every night. His recommendations were spot on! Make sure you try the white Vieux Telegraphe Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It only makes up 10percent of their harvest and they don't export much of it. The 1998 Vieux Telegraneuf Chateuaneuf-du-Pape is one of the finest ever. The 2005 is a close second. Might be worth a splurge!!

One other thing...google maps you can actually do a street view of St. Remy (Victor Hugo Boulevard). I virtually "drove" down the main street before I ever got there.

Bon chance!

Masterphil is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 02:05 AM
Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 503
Hi! Sounds like a great plan, except you may be piling on more than you can handle. Do you have enough time to actually enjoy Nice, Aix, and Avignon? The one place where you seem to have plenty of time is St. Remy, which may not require as much. (I'm one of those who spent about two hours there and really didn't "get" it.) Also, I'd like to put in a plug for Arles, but I have a feeling you've done enough research already to rule it out.

Good luck!
abbydog is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 02:26 AM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 6,628
Abbydog beat me to it--I also don't think you're giving yourself enough time in Nice and Avignon in particular.

Nice has a great old town and fun market plus there are the Matisse and Chagall museums. The Matisse museum incorporates his house as well as Roman ruins discovered in the garden so I believe it's of particular interest.

In Avignon there's of course the Palais des Papes as well as a large pedestrian district. I think it's reflected in your itinerary but to state the obvious, you do not want a car in any of the cities.

Please report back on the Hotel des Lices in St. Tropez--I stayed there about 15 years ago and liked it very much--great location--not right on the port but very close.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 03:37 AM
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Posts: 162
Thanks for the feedback! I agree I'm cutting it a bit short in Nice - wish I had more time, as I would really like to visit Menton, Antibes and a few other places - I will be staying in Nice, so I will definitely make sure I see the Old Town...If I really I have missed a lot in Nice, then on my last full day, I will leave the St. Remy area very early and try to have most of that day in Nice. Also, since my flight doesn't leave until 3:30PM, I figured I will at least have the AM to tour around Nice before I head to the airport.

I am staying in the St. Remy area only so that I can drive around Provence and base myself there - I don't plan to spend all of that time in St. Remy - I will probably hit wineries, visit Pont du Gard or whatever I don't see on the guided tour...

As for Avignon, I would also love to spend more time there, but as you said, I may already be doing a bit too much...Which is the other reason I didn't sqeeze Arles into the itinerary. Would also love to see Arles, and still might on our open days in St. Remy, but just not sure what I will have time for...

With all of this said, do you think I should modify this at all before finalizing??
alldaytravel is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 03:41 AM
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Oh yeah, one more thing...I haven't booked my day tour yet from Avignon to visit some of the smaller villages in Provence - there is a half day tour which gets back at 1:30PM - it visits Gordes, Roussillon, Les Baux and the Abbey. This would allow me the rest of the day to spend in Avignon...If I book a full day tour, that would not allow me as much time in Avignon...My focus was more on some of the smaller towns/villages in Provence, but maybe I should allot more time in Avignon if it warrants it??
alldaytravel is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 04:12 AM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 286
did you read my trip log AH Provence?
frenchwow is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 06:58 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Here's my two cents. I would drive to St Tropez unless you know the boat schedule and that it will be running since it won't be high season anymore.

Go to the beach for some of a day.

Antibes and Cap Antibes were both beautiful and interesting.

I think that you have plenty of time in Nice considering you are staying there. I didn't find that much to do except for the few things mentioned above.

If you are in St Tropez on a tues or sat go to their market, it's as good or better than Isle's, where I was based for two weeks one September. Don't get me wrong, it's a good one too, but so is ST's.

I don't think that you need a guided tour of Cassis unless you mean a trip to the calanques. It's quite a small town to see on your own. I would do all 8 calanques which will take 1 1/2 hours. If I had seen only the first three I would have been underwelmed, although I certainly wasn't overwhelmed with them.
susanna is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 07:23 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 466
While in Nice, you can go to the perfume capitol -Grasse- for 1 Euro each way by bus. Beautiful little city. Also, while in Nice, go to the downtown plaza at night. Wonderful entertainment. Dancers, musicians, etc. Just be wary of pickpockets and keep valuables under wraps. The changing color human sculptures are really neat. Also, the beach is kinda different. Here, in NC, our beaches are sand. There, they are black stones, worn smooth by the ocean.

When you land at the airport, you can take a bus to town and save cab fare. I think the bus fare is either 4 or 5 euros. It ends at the train station, with about 3 stops along the way. You might want to get a bus map and see where your hotel is in relation to the airport or train station. Could save a bit this way.
jkbritt is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 08:07 AM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,742
If I count the days correctly, you arrive in Nice on a Saturday. On Sunday & Monday, many shops in Old Nice will be closed - especially on Monday. I would just stay in Nice on Saturday, and visit Villefranche/Cap Ferret on Sunday, then Eze & Monaco on Monday.

I would rent a car at the Nice train station on Tuesday Day 4 and visit St Paul, Vence, Tourrettes, & Gourdon and drive around the scenic Valley du Loup. Then head to St Tropez. I ALWAYS recommend that people don't try to arrive in St Tropez before around 5 in the afternoon. It's too crowded & the traffic can be bad before then.

I'm well aware of parking in all the cities you've mentioned. We also stayed at the Windsor (around 4 weeks worth of stays), the Lices, & Pigonnet. Both the Lices & Pigonnet have parking for your car - which is what we did. The Pigonnet is very easy to get to - it is outside of Aix center a bit & it is a "no brainer" to get to it. Getting to the Lices is a little more difficult. You have a VERY compressed schedule. Trains/boats/buses/guided tours will waste a lot of time and will reduce your flexibility. The drive from Nice to St Tropez is quite scenic on both the "backcountry"/small roads and the freeway (around the St Tropez exit where the Maures mountains are located).

I don't think I would visit both St Tropez and Cassis - there are many similarities. Personally, I think St Tropez & it's surrounds (Bormes, Gassin, Ramatouelle, Grimaud, Pampalonne Beaches, N98 around la Mole) is more interesting than Cassis.

I would NOT stay in Avignon - visit it as a day trip from St Remy, and I would certainly NOT take a guided tour of the Luberon (Gordes, Roussillon, etc) - that's an area where you absolutely need to set your own pace & dawdle where you like. I happen to enjoy Gordes - but not necessarily the touristy area around the Chateau where all the shops are located. On my Itinerary (which you have), follow the path to the panorama, then backtrack to the small church and find the GR route down to the interesting base of Gordes and the Lavoire (washbasin). This is off the tourist route & we always enjoy walking down & back.
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 09:40 AM
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Posts: 162

Here are a few points - I am leaning toward driving to St. Tropez, to give me a bit more time in Nice and possibly stop in St. Paul de Vence on the way to St. Tropez instead of doing that on Day 3, but haven't finalized that yet. There is a ferry going to St. Tropez on Day 4 (a Tuesday), that gets in at 11:30AM...The benefit of taking the ferry is I guess I could make it in time for the ST market...

As for Cassis, I haven't booked a tour yet, but most seem to include a visit to only the first 3 calenques. How would I visit all 8 either through a tour or on my own?

StuDudley - you always have great ideas and as you can see, I am staying at all of the hotels you recommended! Yes, you calculated the days correctly (I should have listed them) and I do arrive on a Saturday in Nice. Do you think my compressed schedule is too much? Should I cut something? I like the idea of visiting the calenques which is the main reason why I am heading to Cassis. As for Avignon, I would like to see Avignon and thought a train from Aix would be an easy way to cut down on driving...Then, given my "worries" of the roads in Provence, I could get familiar with them before venturing out on my own through a tour. I agree I lose some flexibility this way, so I am considering the added cost of a private tour where we could still go at our own pace and see what we want, just have someone else drive

So, not everything is 100% baked yet, but this is the rough plan...I appreciate everyone's input and will probably modify this itinerary slightly based on your feedack.
alldaytravel is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 12:33 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,742
>>There is a ferry going to St. Tropez on Day 4 (a Tuesday), that gets in at 11:30AM...The benefit of taking the ferry is I guess I could make it in time for the ST market...<<

The market gets WAY too crowded for us by 10:30 from June through Sept. - and if you get there at noon, the market will start to close. Don't think you'll see enough of the market to enjoy it.

>>As for Cassis, I haven't booked a tour yet, but most seem to include a visit to only the first 3 calenques. How would I visit all 8 either through a tour or on my own?<<

The web site that's listed in my itinerary has been modified. Now it is useless for finding info about the Calenques. There are "booths" at the Cassis port that offer tours. You can go on multiple Calenques tours. We did the middle tour - more than 3 Calenques, but not all of them.

>> Do you think my compressed schedule is too much? Should I cut something?<<

The section between St Tropez & Avignon seems a tad too tight by car - and I would call it impossible if you rely on public transportation.

I'm assuming that you'll have a car starting in Nice - or else you're not going to make the Aix market - and I don't even know how you could get from Aix to Cassis back to Aix then to Avignon by public transportation in 1 day - and enjoy that day.

You leave St Tropez very early & get to Aix early/mid morning - hopefully not as the market starts to close around noon. Pigonnet is about a 30 min walk from the market.

You visit Aix that day (that's enough time).

Next morning you check out of your hotel & drive to Cassis early in the AM. Check departure times & schedules for the boat ride & reserve. Wander around Cassis, have lunch at the port. Drive to St Remy or Avignon (not really that far away - viamichelin says 1 hr 20 mins.

>>> I like the idea of visiting the calenques which is the main reason why I am heading to Cassis. As for Avignon, I would like to see Avignon and thought a train from Aix would be an easy way to cut down on driving...Then, given my "worries" of the roads in Provence, I could get familiar with them before venturing out on my own through a tour. I agree I lose some flexibility this way, so I am considering the added cost of a private tour where we could still go at our own pace and see what we want, just have someone else drive<<

With your planned itinerary, I don't think public transportation would be a good idea after Nice. St Tropez is hard to get to & from by public transportation. So is Cassis. Aix to Avignon is fine by train, but you'll want a car for the rest of your trip. Might as well get one at the train station when you get ready to leave Nice.

When are you going on this trip - I forgot? If it is soon - doubt if the Windsor, Lices, or Pigonnet has rooms available.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 03:05 PM
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Posts: 162
All very good suggestions - I have to figure this out...I leave in September - 2 weeks from today if all goes well!

I have Hotel Windsor and Lices confirmed already (their cancellation policies are pretty lenient if I have to change this plan a bit). Le Pigonnet does have availability (I was surprised at that too)...Not set up in Avignon or St. Remy yet - my first choices are not available, so I'll have to settle in this area.

If I drive to Avignon instead of taking the train, where would I park my car?? I know that's not easy to get in and out of apparently...

Also, if I stick with the current plan of taking a tour from Aix to Cassis, there is a tour company that offers a reasonable tour (38E/pp) and would drive us to Cassis, get us out to the calenques, allow time for exploring the port, and then drop us off in Aix by 1PM (pick up is at 9AM). That is how I am thinking I could reasonably get from Cassis to Aix and Avignon in one day - there seem to be pretty regular train schedules from Aix to Avignon (1:53PM - arrives 2:30PM, 3:23PM - arrives 4:03PM) - some of the later trains take an hour longer (40 min vs 1 hr 40 min - not sure why??)..But I was thinking I could arrive in Avignon by around 4PM and not kill myself - but maybe I'm wrong and this is too difficult. I have to rethink this a bit...

You bring up very valid points across the board - I guess I am just trying to limit my driving and ensure I see Avignon where I thought it would be difficult to drive and maybe easier to just take the train coming from Aix...
alldaytravel is offline  
Aug 28th, 2009, 04:02 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
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In Avignon, we always park at the train station covered parking lot (3-4 times). It's pretty easy to find & we've never had any problems parking there. It is on the St Remy side of Avignon, so you don't have to circle the walled town to find it if you visit Avignon as a day trip from St Remy.

The Calenque boat trip booths & departure piers are smack on the port in Cassis - so I don't understand the tour company's offer to drive you to the Calenques. Actually, you CAN drive to the Calenques and explore them on foot - but they close the access roads at times for fire protection - and I have no idea if that is the case in mid Sept. Anyhow, the boat that we took departed from the center of Cassis at the port. Also, I really don't understand the scheduling for the pick up at 9 & return at 1. You'll probably get to Cassis a little before 10, but you'll have to get back in the car by noon to make it to Aix by 1. Don't know how you can take a 1+ hr or so boat trip, wander in town, have lunch at the port & leave by 12:00. Actually, you won't be able to have lunch at one of the cafes on the port, because you won't be able to complete lunch by the time you have to leave Cassis. They don't START serving lunch at these places earlier than noon. There is a sandwich shop in town that we've used a few times. This doesn't sound like a very pleasent day in Cassis. Do it by rental car, spend much of the day there, don't return to Aix - just drive on to Avignon/St Remy after spending an enjoyable day is Cassis & the Calenques.

I could not find any reasonable train schedules from Aix center to Avignon center. There are several 40 min TGV trains from the Aix TGV station to the Avignon TGV station - but both TGV stations are quite a ways out of town - expecially the Aix station. I suppose that the tour company could drop you off at the Aix TGV station, and then you could take a bus into Avignon from the Avignon TGV station. This might mean that your bags will be in the tour operator's car all morning - hope that does not bother you and are you sure it's not a "group" tour where there is no room for your luggage. Make sure that the same car that drops you off also picks you up (with your bags in the trunk).

If you were lucky enough to book the Windsor, Lices, and Pigonnet - I would not change this portion of the schedule at all - but I would strongly urge you to rent a car at the Nice train station & drop it off at the Nice airport & use it to get to St Tropez, Aix, Cassis, St Remy/Avignon, Luberon, etc. There is some commute congestion around the Nice train station in the morning, so you'll have to weigh avoiding the commute traffic against getting a late departure to St Paul - which gets crowded mid-day. Cassis is a little difficult to park in, so get there early.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 29th, 2009, 05:12 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,324
I have to agree with Stu about getting into the port in ST at 1130. You will have your luggage and need to get to your hotel to at least drop it off. I don't agree that the market it too busy by 1030. June and Sept are much better than July and Aug, it's a huge huge market and I think it handles the crowd well, plus for me it's the fun of all the people and all the shopping and all the food. I"ve arrived as early as 800 and as late as noon and it was all good. I am not one to get an early start and when I have and get to one of the markets early I miss all the buzz, I kind of like it crowded.

Cassis: As Stu says the booths are on the left side of the port and there are tons of boats and they seem to leave about every half hour so I think you can find it and do it easily. Parking is hard in Cassis but if you can't find parking in the lower area go all the way to the top of the town, way up there, and there is a huge lot and there is usually a cab to take you down for about 5E, way easy.

Have a wonderful trip.
susanna is offline  
Aug 29th, 2009, 05:39 PM
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 131
Cassis: the boat trips to the calenques are great (I would recommend either of the longer trips over the shorter one), but i suggest checking the weather report because if it is too windy the boats don't go.
EastBayer is offline  

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