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Cote D'Azur and Beyond...

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Feb 14th, 2014, 01:53 PM
  #1
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Cote D'Azur and Beyond...

Hi everyone,

I am new to this forum and would really appreciate your advice.

My husband and I and our two teenage boys, ages 15 and 17, will be travelling to the South of France for 15 days (not including travel days) and we are flying in and out of Nice (flights already booked).

We had planned to spend 7 days in the Nice area so we would have the time to see Nice and the surrounding area, including Antibes, Monaco, Eze and Cannes. Is 7 days enough?

However, we do not know where to spend the additional 8 days. We have thought about going to the Italian Riviera, and basing ourselves out of Portofino or Santa Margherita. We have also considered travelling to Corsica, as we have heard it is a beautiful island with some very nice beaches and quaint towns.

We also have recently thought about heading west and spending time in the western part of southern France, as Carcassonne is a place we would love to visit, and we can then drive up to see the Bordeaux region. We have been to the Provence area in a previous trip to France a few years back.

We are confused and need your help. We enjoy visiting medieval towns, taking in a good museum, enjoy local cuisine, being able to walk the old cities at night and would like to spend a few days at least relaxing at a nice beach.

Thanks.


Alexandra
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Feb 14th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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Well, what can anyone answer other than their personal opinions?

Is 7 daye enough? some say yes, some say no, what does it tell you? I once spend 3 months in Antibes and didn't find it 'too much'. That's really a 'how long is a piece of string' issue isn't it.

Re your other choices, Carcassone is a day visit. I like Bordeaux but I'm into wine tasting which is probaly not high on the list of your sons. Corsica is another place I have spent time and could spend a month or two with no problem. Portofino I have been through and you couldn't pay me to stay there. Personal opinions obviously.

Rather than being confused and uncertain, which just results in making a decision difficult, I think my advice would be to simply spend your two weeks on the Cote d'Azur. But NOT in Nice. You can easily day trip along the coast by train to visit places like Nice/Monaco/Cannes for a day if they interest you. Rent a car for day trips to St. Paul De Vence, Eze village, etc.

I would suggest basing yourself in Antibes. It's a 'real' town with a real life besides tourism. You probably don't want to cook on your vacation (my wife doesn't) but renting an apartment for 2 weeks is much better than a hotel room (or two with your boys).

Here is an example to consider: http://www.tripadvisor.ca/VacationRe..._Provence.html

LIVING there for 2 weeks is a whole different experience from a hotel room. I once spent 3 summer months living in Antibes and have visited several times since. You could get a real 'insider' feel if you stayed 2 weeks.
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Feb 14th, 2014, 03:54 PM
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I think 7 days around Nice is enough, sure. The problem is you are leaving from Nice, so going over to Bordeaux seems like an odd choice to me. You must know how far away that is, don't you? I really like SW France, and there is plenty to see around Toulouse (including Albi and Carcassonne). It's kind of far from Nice but at least not as far as Bordeaux. That's one option. If you go highway, it is really only about 6 hrs from Toulouse to Nice, and you'd go through Montpellier. The beaches are nicer to the west of Marseille, anyway, and not as rocky. It's not quite as crowded either, as I understand it (have not been to the beach on Cote d'Azur, only Nice but not to swim as it is rocky and I'm not really into beaches much, anyway, actually, other than to look at).

I haven't been to Corsica or Italian Riviera so can't comment on that. Going into Italy a bit and coming back would probably be closest to Nice, of course. You don't say when you plan this trip, though, so that could affect some choices or recommendations, why don't you mention it?

This is probably not your case, but some people think Nice is in the Tropics and hot in the winter like the Caribbean or something. If you want to go to the beach, I am guessing you are doing this in summer?

A week outside of Nice isn't really that long but you could drive to Montpellier, see it and Narbonne and Carcassonne at least, and maybe do some beach over there. Not enough time for Toulouse, probably. You'll have to reserve a day to drive back to Nice, though, I don't understand that schedule as that will waste a day and you'll have to stay there before your flight, right?
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Feb 14th, 2014, 03:58 PM
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Well, the obvious choice with kids that age after Nice would be the Dordogne, with a stop in Carcassonne along the way. The problem is, you've got that flight home from Nice, which wasn't such a good idea (open-jaw once you had decided on the other area would have been much better). It just depends on a) whether you can change your flights, or b) whether you don't mind a long-haul backtrack to Nice to fly home.
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Feb 14th, 2014, 04:44 PM
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I'll "second" the Dordogne. Visit Carcassonne on the way there, like St Cirq mentioned. Carcassonne is a 2 1/2 to 3 hr visit. I think your boys would love the Dordogne region with canoeing down the Dordogne River and exploring the many castles & caves.

It's a long drive from Nice to the Sarlat/Dordogne area, so I would perhaps stay near St Cirq Lapopie for the first 2 nights and visit St Cirq Lapopie that first late-afternoon (thus avoiding many other tourists). Next morning visit the fabulous Pech Merle Cave (make a reservation!!!) and then drive down the beautiful Cele River & visit one of our favorite medieval villages in France - Figeac. Figeac is good for a half-day visit. If there is time left in the day, visit Cahors (I prefer Figeac, however). Next morning, get an early start & visit Rocamadour before the hoards of tourists arrive. Then the Gouffre de Padirac (the boys will love this). Next, you'll get your fill of "cute little villages" by visiting nearby Autoire, Loubressac, Carennac (our favorite), and Martel. Then a short drive to the Dordogne.

I would drive back to the Nice region and stay near St Paul de Vence before your flight home.

Since you are new to Fodors, you haven't heard my spiel about my itineraries. My wife & I have vacationed for 16 weeks in the Cote d'Azur & 10 weeks in the Dordogne, plus several weeks in the nearby Lot region. I developed a 27 page itinerary for the Cote d'Azur/Provence area and a 20 pager for the Dordogne. These itineraries describe our favorite villages, scenic drives, markets, sites, restaurants, etc. I've sent my various itineraries (I have others too) to over 5,000 people on Fodors. If you would like copies, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach them to the reply e-mail. I also have a 35 page Languedoc itinerary.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 14th, 2014, 06:44 PM
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When are you going? I assume that since your kids are school age-probably summer? It would make a difference in where I would go....
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Feb 14th, 2014, 08:07 PM
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Bus and train services in Cote d'Azur are really good and cheap. I'd stay somewhere on the train line and take advantage of them.

If you spend your holiday in two different locations, I'd consider going to the non-Nice one first (e.g. jump on a train east or west on arrival) even if you don't make it all the way to your destination. I prefer to be in the place I'm leaving from before an international flight.

I didn't like the beach at Nice as it shelves quite steeply and there was a bit of an undertow where we were.
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Feb 15th, 2014, 10:24 AM
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I think seven days is a good amount of time for Nice. What time of year is this trip? Do you plan to drive while you are in the Nice area?

Mid summer the traffic in the area is pretty bad. I stayed in Vence last summer and drove around the "hinterlands" towns and it was no problem but the traffic on the coast road was not fun. Nice itself is a great town and has good bus/train connections to other towns. The towns you mentioned are all along the coast. I would base in Nice (or Antibes) and take trains. If you want to see some of the hill towns (I love Vence and Tourettes especially) then maybe rent a car and stay up there for a couple of the days.

Last summer I came from the Dordogne (by car) and after the Cote d'Azure went on to the Italian Riveria (by train). Both trips are doable but long, not fun days. Your problem is you have to get back to Nice so you'd need to do it twice.

If you do decide on the Italian Riveria I'd stay in Camogli or Rapallo. Portofino is very beautiful but tiny and full of very very rich people. Great day trip though. Santa Margherita is OK but both Camogli and Rapallo have more charm and you can easily get to all the towns (including Cinque Terre and the even better Portovenere) easily.

If you decide to stay in France maybe you could combine Carcassonne (really only worth one day) with Collioure and Ceret and other towns in that area for a few days and then do some of Provence on your way back. Provence has so much, did you "do everything" on your last trip? Aix, Arles, Uzes, Pont du Gard, Avignon, St Remy, Luberon villages, etc.

Here's my trip report from last summer which included Dordogne, Provence, Cote d'Azure and Italian Riveria (plus other places you are not considering).
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...swiss-alps.cfm
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Feb 16th, 2014, 06:55 AM
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Hi everyone,

Wow. Thank you so much for your advice.

We are travelling in the last two weeks of July and we will have a car for the parts of the trip that are necessary. While in Nice, we will use the train or other public transportation to visit nearby sites so we do not have to drive in and out of Nice every day.

Our kids do love to travel and see new and interesting things and they love exploring on their own as well.

When we were in Provence, we definitely did not see the whole area. We stayed in Arles (at a hotel right across from the colosseum) and St. Remy, and explored the area over a 6 day period, so we did not see it all.

We do enjoy having a few days relaxing at a beautiful sandy beach while in Europe. Obviously, the beach in Nice is rocky so we would like to combine these beach days with sites in an interesting area and do not mind driving to spend time there, whichever place it is. This is the reason we were thinking about Corsica or the Italian Riviera. We have also heard that the beaches west of Marseilles are very nice, so any advice on this would be really helpful so we can combine medieval villages and sites with sandy beaches in the South of France.

Thanks again.


Andrea
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Feb 16th, 2014, 07:08 AM
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In late July the area west of Marseille, particularly around the Camargue, is going to be very hot and humid. While we love that part of France, personally I'd explore there some other time of year. (Spent Christmas once in Aigues Mortes before it was "discovered" and had a very special time.)

Just to throw out a curve ball, what about heading north into the Alps? With a week you could do a very nice loop up as far as, say, Annecy or Geneva, then back to Nice to fly out. Mountain villages, gorgeous lakes... what's not to love?
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Feb 16th, 2014, 07:34 AM
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The Italian Riviera beaches are not a whole lot better. Small and crowded - you rent a chair/umbrella, although some were sandy. Obviously people do go there to swim/beach but the main draw I think is the views and the towns. There were some beaches in the Colloiure area I think, the town itself has some. I was there in March so wasn't concentrating on the beaches. But that would combine better with Carcassonne. There is also Cassis near Marseille. You do do a combo of those areas and Aix and some of the Luberon area of Provence. All together that would be a good week and if you didn't mind doing a couple nights in three or so different places you'd break up the driving.

I would do about 5 or so nights in Nice, then rent a car, drive to Carcassonne for a night, to Collioure for a couple beach days, then start back and stay in Aix for a few days (do day trip to Luberon villages), then back to the Nice hinterlands (Vence) for the last few days before flying home. You could stop in Aigues Mortes on the way back to Aix. I thought it was "ok" - not worth a long detour but you'd be going right by it.
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Feb 16th, 2014, 07:40 AM
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Cannes has a nice sandy beach. The "famous" beach near St Tropez (Pampalonne) is beautiful sand. It's our favorite beach in France - by far. I also believe you'd enjoy the beach in Nice more than you think. At the "private" concessions, they have decks with grass runners on the places where you would walk. You lay your towel on a chaise lounge, with a side table for drinks, and an umbrella - quite decadent. You'll only have to walk on the flat rocks when you go into the water. There is also a nice restaurant with each concession, where you can spend 1 1/2 hrs during the hottest time of the day having a relaxing lunch with pink wine (maybe even the 17 YO).

Reserve in the South of France ASAP. I think you'll have trouble finding places for late July at this time. We'll be there this June for 2 weeks and we reserved our apt in about May last year.

You will encounter a lot of traffic (often bumper-to-bumper) on the roads in late July when you "do not mind driving to spend time there". I wouldn't stay in Nice and pop down to Cannes or St Tropez for the day just to find sand. If you really want sand, stay in Cannes or St Tropez.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 16th, 2014, 07:56 AM
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take portofino off your choices unless your family is into lots of yachts, very expensive (obscenely expensive) goods and restaurants and like to sit in the cafes and be "seen"...seriously it is very very beautiful and I have stayed some nights in a small hotel there but the crowd at the time you are going would not be interesting for a family vacation. I am sort of the mindset that when doing a two centered vacation you mix two things up that are different or not worth moving...Nice is a good base and day trips to various places along the coast are fairly easy ...i can't recall where you get the boats for Corsica (or flights) but I think that looks like a fun adventure when you get tired of the life along cote d'azur. It sounds like to have explored Provence so I would add something new and different.
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Feb 16th, 2014, 08:06 AM
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The beach in Antibes and in Jaun les Pins is sand.
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Feb 16th, 2014, 08:43 AM
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I second Stu's recommendation for the beaches near Saint-Tropez. We stayed in Ramateulle high above the coast looking out at the sea.
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Feb 16th, 2014, 09:49 AM
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The kids may enjoy a day in Juan les Pins. It has a nice sandy beach, lots of concessions where you can rent a 'matelas' on the beach, and have a nice lunch.
It's the Jazz Festival the last two weeks of July - see if there is anything that you would like to hear and book tickets. It's not all jazz, some 'golden oldies' and current stars perform as well. Last year it was Sting, Diana Krall among others.
It is really nice, not a very large venue, and you are sitting outside overlooking the Med.
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Feb 16th, 2014, 09:51 AM
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Pampelonne beach is great, but getting to St Tropez by car in July is hell. Get the boat from Cannes instead - to get to the beach you will need further transport from St Tropez. There are speedboats you can rent (at a price) or take a taxi.
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Feb 16th, 2014, 09:59 AM
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That's why I suggested staying IN St Tropez. The traffic getting to the beach is horrid.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 18th, 2014, 07:15 PM
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Cinque Terre in Italy is a fun place to go if your family likes to do a little hiking. We stayed in Santa Margherita and took a day trip to Portofino (beautiful place to visit but not to stay in). My daughter and her friends spent a week in Cinque Terre after high school and loved it. It all depends on what you are looking for but I love Italy.
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