Cote d'Azur: Car or Bus/Train

Old Sep 16th, 2003, 07:27 AM
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Cote d'Azur: Car or Bus/Train


Our family of 4 will spend 6 days in Beaulieu Sur Mer this January. We're debating whether to rent a car or use public transportation. We'd like to visit the whole coast from Cannes to Menton during the week, and would like to be able to reach hiking trails. When possible we prefer traveling without a car, but wonder if it's necessary in this region. Thanks for any ideas.
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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 07:33 AM
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From Beaulieu it is very easy to take the train to most places on the Cote d'Azur; the railroad goes right along the coast. Not sure about reaching hiking trails from there.
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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 07:41 AM
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I've done both in the area, but if you are interested in doing some real hiking, or visiting a couple of towns in one day, a car will be invaluable. With a car we managed to go to the Verdun Gorge (great place for hiking), and still stop in both Grasse and St. Paul du Vence all in one day. That would difficult or impossible to do with public transportation. If you just want to go into Nice one day, Cannes or Monte Carlo another, then the train will do nicely!
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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 08:33 AM
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So bottom line, if you want to explore the coast towns, the train that runs along the coast is very good (although I'm not sure there's a stop in Beaulieu. You might want to check on the train website sncf.com) To explore the hill towns, which may be more interesting for hiking, a car will be a better option and give you more freedom. As Patrick points out, you'll also waste less time waiting for trains.

BTW, there is bus service to some of the hill towns like St Paul & Vence, but I think you'd have to catch the bus from Nice & I'm not sure how regular/reliable the schedules are.
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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 08:46 AM
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There is a train station at Beaulieu/Mer, just 10 minutes from Nice-Ville. Download timetable from http://www.nice.aeroport.fr/acces_st...vintimille.pdf
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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 01:27 PM
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I'd go with the Car - but do make sure the trunk is sufficient to accommodate all your luggage (to/fr airport). And if there will be a second driver, you have to pay a fee for this (though small).

While you can get a one-day train pass that allows you to get on/off any number of times that day, you have to meet train schedules and that time is wasted.

Most places can be reached by train with a short walk or brief taxi ride to reach your destination.

That said, the car gives you the convenience to come/go when you want and where. Check the price of train fares and multiply by four and you'll come close to the daily rate for the car. And don't forget to figure that the cost of gas is about $4/gallon.
 
Old Sep 18th, 2003, 11:00 PM
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If you rent a car, maybe this will be a guideline for you. We just rented a mid-size car from Auto-Europe for a week in late Nov-early Dec. picking up and returning to Nice aiport. Total was $200 plus airport fee and road tax, which should be about $40 total.
Question: Where are you staying in Beaulieu Sur Mer? I was interested in that location but have just about settled on Vence as I like the idea of a village setting.
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Old Sep 19th, 2003, 02:39 AM
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We always rent from Easy Rentacar; they are not right on Nice Airport, but a short walk away, and I have always found them the cheapest. They only do Mercedes (the small one; A-class I think). And another idea; this does not really qualify as a hike, but there is a very nice path around Cap d'Antibes, right along the sea. It starts at the Plage de la Garoupe. It is not accessible when it is very windy (too dangerous), but it is a beautiful walk. If you're in Beaulieu, you can also walk around Cap Ferrat; there is a path there as well, but beware of where you walk, since the locals unfortunately use this lovely walking path as a dog toilet.
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Old Sep 19th, 2003, 02:53 AM
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Thanks so much for all the help!
We'll be staying at the Hotel Frisia in Beaulieu.
As to car rental companies...Easy Car has the best rates, but I wonder if the little Mercedes is big enough for 4 adult-size people and 4 (carry-on size) suitcases?
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Old Sep 19th, 2003, 05:43 AM
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Dear Violin: I think it's wonderful that you chose Beaulieu as your headquarters for the week. We stayed in Nice, and while we liked our hotel, I think we would have enjoyed locating our "center" in Beaulieu or Villefranche a bit better.

But before you get the car, I just wanted to know how much hiking you plan to do. Where do you want to hike? How much time are you going to do that per day?

The reason I'm asking is that we opted not to rent a car--and like you, we did Cannes to Menton. We primarily used the rail and then took buses everywhere else. Frequently we'd get off the train in one town and walk the coast to the station in the next. The only time we thought a car might be worthwhile was at Renoir's house--the road going up to the house had some blind curves and walking there felt a bit unsafe. In general, though, we thought the rail system there was a snap--could go anywhere and return on a whim--and the bus sytem was both extensive and flexible.

I can say we walked no less than five miles any day and probably averaged around ten miles. All the "Caps" in the area have walking trails or routes, so the train serves you well there, and the hilly terrain makes touring some areas--Grasse, Mougins, Monte Carlo, etc--more of a workout than a stroll anyway. Right near you is the Eze sur Mer to Eze hike--you walk 1/4 mile from the station and you're on the path.
 
Old Sep 19th, 2003, 08:16 AM
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To Violin...

The Frisia is a good hotel choice, and you will surely stoll down to the yacht harbor to check out the African Queen and the other restaurants lined up there. I find these to be overpriced and the quality not all that great.

The place you definitely want to try is La Pignatelle, which is a short distance away. 10, rue Vincent [04 93 01 03 37]. Closed Wednesdays.
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Old Sep 19th, 2003, 10:25 AM
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Train vs Car? Times i've driven in this area the roads have often been frustratingly gridlocked. As the Cote d'Azur metro commuter train goes about twice hourly all along the coast all the way from St Raphael to Ventimiglia, Italt, that may actually "save" time as opposed to a car. New double-decker trains yield a superb vista from the upper deck. The ride between Menton and Beaulieu/s/Mer is one of the most scenic in Europe. The roads on the other hand go mainly inland. For your plans there is no doubt the train is better. A great easy walk goes from the Cap d'Ail train station two miles along the coast to Monaco. A note on trains - due to problems with the new tunnel under Monaco, all train service is currently suspended and replaced by bus at this point, so transit times may be slower.
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Old Sep 19th, 2003, 06:33 PM
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Just returned from almost two weeks in Beaulieu. Loved the area and there are many places you can get to by train. The train that runs from Nice to Monaco isn't always one of the newer double deckers. The closed train tunnel is causing traffic jams, especially during commuting hours. Going to Italy just became too tough by train so we cancelled that part. Must go back to Nice and catch a very early train and then get off at Monaco and take a public bus, with suitcases, to Menton and then on to Ventimillia and on down the coast for hours. The tunnel has been closed for 3 months already. Don't go to Monaco w/o a bus map! You must tell the difference between the inner city buses and the intra-city buses and their stops.
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Old Sep 20th, 2003, 04:11 AM
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Alright, folks...we've decided to enjoy the area WITHOUT the burden of a car. It sounds like there will be ample opportunity for hiking along the coast, and the scenery is certainly more safely viewed from the window of the train or bus!
Ready for another question? Is there any sort of bus/train pass one can buy for that area?
Many thanks for all your advice.
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Old Sep 20th, 2003, 07:13 AM
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When we went, the passes were seasonal, Violin. Since we were traveling in the "off" we were out of luck. If that policy remains the same, your January trip means you will be passless, too.

But something that is to your advantage on the coastal rail line is that with one ticket you can get off at one town on your destination, visit it, and get back on to go to your next later in the day as long as the train's not a TGV, etc.

Very handy for coastal hiking.

We used at least two different bus lines/companies. One operated basically out of Nice and was more coastal: Rapides Cote d'Azur. Their website, http://www.rca.tm.fr/2index.htm, is currently under construction. This line did have a seasonal only pass, and I've not found anything that says it's year-round now.

The other line operating in the Antibes/Cannes area up to Grasse, does have a series of passes.

Although this page is in French (and I can't seem to get it to go into English), here is the airport website's summary of the bus companies that leave from it:

http://www.nice.aeroport.fr/acces_st.../bus/infos.asp

I think it's a good starting point to give you an idea of how to go.

As to how we operated (we were also a family of four), we used the "Daytrips France" by Earl Steinbicker as a starting point of what we could do in any given day. Although I alway carry way too many guidebooks and so had a wealth of info at my fingertips, this book had the "skinny" on the most essential info. for any of our adventures.

We made no plans--just would eat breakfast, decide on our route for the day, and show up at either the bus station/stop or the train station.

A real gem of a site is http://www.provencebeyond.com/ which can give you detailed information on each town on the coast.

One pass that we did buy was the Cote d'Azur Museum Pass. Since our goal was to do art, this was very cost effective for our family.

 
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