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Dijon, Provence and Cote D'Azur Spring Trip Report

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Sep 28th, 2011, 03:04 PM
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Dijon, Provence and Cote D'Azur Spring Trip Report

In planning our recent adventure in France, I received invaluable assistance from veteran Fodors contributors. I really can’t thank all of you enough. On our trip, we traveled with two other couples of similar age, each participating in a different segment of the trip. Our primary travel interests are food, culture and good opportunities to walk and exercise.

May 18: We arrive CDG and taxi to Gare de Lyon. Traffic is insane and the taxi ride takes over an hour. Glad we didn’t book an earlier train to Dijon. At Gare de Lyon, we discover how to find the “voie” for our departure (color coded on the large displays of departures and arrivals) and the necessity of validating our tickets (ordered in advance from RailEurope) in the little yellow machines. Many people wait and stand…some exhausted like us from an int’l flight. The arrival of our train is announced and we bolt to the train with the crowd and find our seats. We finally relax because this is the last leg of our journey.

Dijon: 2 nights
Quality Hotel du Nord: Very nice, well located and has a good restaurant, walking distance to rail station and major sites; we are all happy with the choice.
Stephane Derbord: We made advance reservations for this wonderful, formal restaurant. The meal and service were excellent and very memorable. Best of trip: a red wine cocktail with sugar on the rim and the seared foie gras starter.
Dijon: We loved Dijon. It’s very walkable with diverse architecture and sights and an impressive public market building (designed by Gustave Eiffel) that made us wish we were staying longer and were able to cook there.
Alter N Go wine tour: The tour guide, Elohim, was outstanding. We did a Cote de Nuits tour of the wine growing area south of Dijon. Elohim is funny, knowledgeable and was the perfect choice for us. Best of trip: Boeuf Bourgignon at the wine tasting, Clos de Napoleon restaurant in Giverny Chambertin.

Uzes: 1 night
Maison de la Bourgade: Perfectly situated bed and breakfast in very old building within 2 minutes walk of the centre village in Uzes. Lovely rooms, quiet street, great breakfast and well priced, with a tiny but appealing backyard pool.
Uzes: We enjoyed Uzes very much. It has a beautiful open “place” with huge shade trees, shops and restaurants and a vibrant social scene for a smaller town. We loved the Friday market and it might have been best-of-trip for markets. First encounter with the herb and sausage purveyors we encountered throughout Provence. Bought herbs and sausages!
Pont du Gard: The bridge itself is striking from different angles, and the museum was a good air conditioned diversion for 30/ 45 minutes. A very nice restaurant, La Terrasse with a view of the bridge, was the perfect spot for lunch. First steak hache hamburger ever, and it was very good despite our nervousness. We agreed that a rare American hamburger was not in our future. Some things are best eaten in France.

Goult: 7 nights

We stayed in Villa Italienne, Le Hameau development. This is a newer attached townhouse that is built in the traditional style to match older buildings in the village, with an excellent view and a swimming pool as best features. Although there were pros and cons to this rental, we found it to be a good choice for us for the week. If you want more info on the pros and cons, please reply and I’ll respond. Goult is a very charming base for the Luberon…close to all the “name” villages, but low-key and more affordable…and it has Best of Trip: La Bartavelle. We can’t speak highly enough of this tiny, wonderful restaurant and it set a new culinary standard in our travels, for better or worse. Here are other highlights of the Luberon:

Bonnieux: We liked this village very much and visited it twice. Great views from here and good shops, too. Delicious, relaxing lunch at Il Fournil. We visit Chateau La Canorgue winery, headquarters for the filming of “A Good Year” with Russell Crowe, and enjoy meeting and chatting with winemaker Nathalie Margan during a wine-tasting.
Gordes: One of the most dramatic settings and views of any of the villages. Bought several things at the excellent farmer’s market. Wished we had spent more time here.
Roussillon: Another dramatic setting in the Luberon with good shopping and cafes. Best of Trip: Loved hiking along the red cliffs and trails adjacent to Roussillon.

Above were our favorite villages, but we also visited Menerbes, LaCoste (great confit de Canard at Café de France), Cucuron and Lourmarin (high-end shopping), all worth seeing, too.

All in all, the Luberon exceeded our expectations

Villefranche Sur Mer: 7 nights

Next, we traveled to the Cote d’Azur and Villefranche Sur Mer. Here we had no car…dropped our Luberon rental off at the Nice airport and used taxis and busses to travel in the Cote D’Azur. This was an OK decision. I’m not sure a car would have added much to our experience. Probably our major regret of the trip was choosing Villefranche over Nice, Monaco or Eze as a base. Why? Well, we had a very nice view apartment within walking distance of the waterfront, but Villefranche Sur Mer is noticeably lacking in fine dining and good grocery options, probably because it’s a cruise-ship destination…lesson learned. It’s most positive attributes are the lovely harbor and close proximity to Nice, Eze and Monaco, all three of which had better dining options, so foodies take note. Chateau Eza in Eze was a culinary highlight, as was a tiny restaurant in Nice called La Table Alziari. We liked Nice and thought Monaco and Eze are must-dos in that area because of unique views and cultural attractions. Best of Trip: Touring the palace in Monaco and surrounding area…it’s a guilty pleasure and something of a Disneyland for adults.

The Cote D’Azur is highly populated and busy, so keep that in mind when planning trips there.

Epernay: 2 nights

We fly from Nice to Paris on Air France and drive to Epernay for our final experience, two nights on the Avenue des Champagnes in a bed and breakfast, Parva Domus, before returning to CDG. Epernay had several highlights:

Cave de Champagne: This was a great restaurant with an appealing champagne tasting menu, plus other options. Tiny, but very professional service and delicious food.
Moet et Chandon: It was the weekend of public garden tours in Champagne and we were lucky enough to tour this one.
Best of Trip: Our friend, Marianne, who lived in our neighborhood for 5 years with her family before returning to Paris. She traveled to Epernay (her first time there) by train to spend the day with us.

CDG Sheraton: 1 night

This hotel is worth whatever it takes to reserve it, so monitor prices regularly through the internet. You can walk to your gate, the rooms are sound-proof and comfortable and it has a great buffet lunch that lasts all afternoon. We were so tired from our previous travels that the Sheraton amenities were a welcome relief.

I am happy to try to answer questions for those of you planning a trip next year.
voyager61 is offline  
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Sep 29th, 2011, 07:37 AM
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I'm very happy that you loved Dijon (maybe not the part between the train station and place Darcy with all the tramway works)
Hotel du Nord is a nice hotel and well located, right at the start of the main shopping street rue de la Liberté which goes straight to the dukes palace. Did you have time to follow the Owl's trail?
I'm also glad you enjoyed the wine tour with Elohim. It seems that all the wine tours suggested at the tourist office are very good. (by the way you've been to Gevrey Chambertin not Giverny)
If you ever come back you can try a cooking class at l'Atelier des Chefs, my guests really enjoy it, as well as the Dijonnais.
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Sep 29th, 2011, 04:01 PM
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Thank you for the correction on the village name...that's what happens when you consume a lot of wine before writing your travel journal in the evening. : ) We would love to return to Dijon and spend a week just eating and cooking. We did most of the trail and saw the duke's palace. Of course we only had a taste of Burgundy, but it left us wanting more.
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Oct 1st, 2011, 05:25 AM
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Would love to hear more about your stay on the Cote d'Azur since we are in Nice next week for 6 nights. What did you do during the days? What areas/towns would you not recommend visiting? For example, did you visit St Paul? Menton? Antibes? I always panic before a trip which is probably obvious !
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Oct 3rd, 2011, 03:12 PM
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First, we liked Nice...it is a big city, of course, so keep that in mind. But I thought the promenade along the sea, the old town and other areas in the centre were quite charming and had very interesting architecture. Great farmer's market there, but I don't remember which day of the week it was. We stayed in Villefranche, but there really isn't much to see there, except the harbor. We visited Eze le Village, Monaco and Nice, but none of the others you mentioned. The views from Eze are astounding, and the little shops on the way to the top are very good for high quality gifts. Monaco is definitely a must...everyone has heard about it, so it's fun to see the real thing and I wasn't disappointed. We had friends who stayed in St. Tropez and enjoyed that location too.
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