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France, France, France A mini trip report

France, France, France A mini trip report

Sep 25th, 2007, 01:50 PM
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France, France, France A mini trip report

France,France,France
A Mini trip report of Provence, the Cote d’azur, and Paris

DH and I traveled alone, leaving the kids behind with grandparents for 10 days: We flew from Denver to Chicago to Paris (as Denver has no direct flights, Ugh!). Our flight leaving Chicago left over 1 hour late.

TGV at Cdg: We arrived in Paris one hour late, leaving us just one hour to catch the TGV. It was really no problem as we had carry on baggage, a quick wave through customs, up or down the escalator, and over to elevator #36 down to the CDG Val, a short train ride and we arrive at the TGV terminal about 15 minutes early.

We had purchased our tickets on line and were able to print them about 2 weeks later. We were on the upper level of our car. Three very elderly couples were just ahead of us, and cheerfully chatted the entire trip. I ease dropped, trying to hone up on my French as they talked. They each got out their little picnic lunch and ate, it was just so cute. With a little help from the lady sitting next to us, DH and I we were able to easily determine our stop, Avignon.

Avignon: We had rented a car through Auto Europe, which when I booked I never received a confirmation, but my credit card had been charged so I figured I had a reservation, but where? So when we arrived in Avignon, we just started trying places, and eventually landed at Hertz where we had a reservation, however, the car we selected from Auto Europe was now put in a higher category, and we could have it at the additional rate of 10 Euros a day, I said no and took the car that fit into the amount we had paid which was inclusive of some sort of insurance, but she said no it did not cover anything, we could purchase extra. We declined and took the Fiat, and no additional coverage, after 17 hours of traveling; we were too tired to figure it out.

Palais des Papes: www.palais-des-papes.com We loved this place, we went there as soon as we got our car. We parked just outside the wall near the Rhone. I was really impressed with Avignon, and wish we could have spent more time.

Arles: After an easy drive from Avignon we arrived in Arles and followed the signs right to our hotel, hotel d’arlaton. www.hotel-arlatan.fr Our room was small, in fact I don’t even see it on the website, we paid 130 Euros a night. To get to our room you first had to go through some out of the way places. It was tiny, but had a small courtyard in which we were able to leave the doors open for more space, it had a bathtub with a spray hose, but no shower curtain, needless to say we soaked the bathroom each and every time, we probably could have used a few instructions on how to bathe.

Arles was not my favorite place. I noticed a trend in Fodorites recommending not staying in Arles, I wish I had listened. I stayed on a recommendation from a friend. While it was nice during the day, in the evening everything closes up. Cafes tend to choose their hours on a whim, and ice cream shops close by 7pm inside the wall. Outside the wall however, we were able to locate a terrific gelato shop. I was also a little disappointed in the graffiti which was so visible after dark. It just was not what I was expecting. I would recommend going to Arles as a day trip.

L’atelier de jean luc rabanel : www.rabanel.com This place has been recommended many times on Fodors with good reason. It is fantastic. 15 courses for DH and 7 courses for me. Reservations are required. We made ours online. There were only 5 tables being served when we were there but people without a reservation were turned away. I think the food is so fresh, that they only have on hand what has been reserved. Needless to say, the service was exceptional.

Stes-Maries de la Mer: This is a little seaside town in the Camargue. It is quite a resort town with lots of hotels and horse back riding. I enjoyed this little town right on the water. Very soft sand.

Aiques-Mortes: This is a beautiful walled village, I was stunned at how intact the walls still are. I bought several bottles of wine along the drive.

Les Baux de Provence: Beautiful small village shops at the base of the medieval village. I highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes for climbing and buying your souvenirs after the tour. Bring euro coins for parking.

St.Remy de Provence: We were here on a Saturday, and not all of the shops were open. It was larger than I expected, but still a very nice town. The highlight being of course Joel Durand www.chocolat-durand.com . We almost missed the store, as it is on the outside of the village center, but as fate would have it, we took a wrong turn. I can’t even describe how delicious this chocolate is, and to top it off the salesgirl was as sweet as could be.

St. Pierre de Vassols: A teensy town just outside of Bedoin. DH had thought about riding up Mount Ventoux, then he had hernia surgery and had not fully recovered by the time of our trip. I had already made the reservation months ago, but decided keep our reservation even if he did not ride Mount Ventoux. Mas de Bonnety, is where we stayed www.masdebonnety.com . It’s hard to tell from the website how large the place is, but I was expecting something larger. As we were driving in the driveway, I was thinking “why didn’t I just make a reservation for Crillon le Brave nearby.” But it was a very nice Bed and Breakfast. My French teacher is always saying the way to appreciate the French is to get to know them. In this place you have no choice, it is very intimate. It is run by Frederic and Pascal who have refurbished the house and turned it into a B & B. Frederic really did all of the work and is very friendly. Pascal is what I would call a lounge lizard, as he was sunning himself every time I saw him. Our room was beautiful, furnished with antiques, the best shower we had in France. One interesting note, on the shower walls was a product called sika or siko from Switzerland. It is just painted on regular drywall and the wall becomes water proof, a very neat invention.
On our second day at mas de bonnety, Frederics parents showed up. Neither spoke English, so they avoided us at first. But later in the afternoon DH was playing games with the mother and swimming with the father. DH is like a kid, you put him in any situation and he makes the most out of it. It’s something I admire, while he was out playing, I was in the room thinking about how can I open the window and still have some privacy. This is a very intimate B&B, so if you are a person in need of privacy, it is not for you.

To be continued…

Pictures can be viewed at happytotravel.shutterfly.com
happytotravel is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2007, 03:22 PM
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Thank you for sharing your trip details and lovely photos. My husband and I are planning to travel to Provence next June.

Our last trip to Provence we stayed in Avignon for 2 nights and Arles for 1 night. While I very much liked Avignon, I had the same impression of Arles. We were there on a Monday and no stores were open. The town had a seedy feel to me. I think they've ruined some of the charm by paving the alleys with ashphalt.

We're going to spend 3 nights in St Remy and 5 nights in Menerbes.

Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your adventure and hopefully more photos as well.

CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2007, 03:29 PM
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Great report so far. Pictures are beautiful, love the one of the dogs at Isle sur la Sorgue. I remember doing major damage at that market.
laartista is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2007, 04:02 PM
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happy, I counted at least five of the dogs. Were only two real?
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2007, 04:25 PM
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if anyone has trouble with the photos: the click on the url didn't work for me but cut and paste did.
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2007, 04:36 PM
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Hi happy,
Love your pictures and report. We went to Provence last May and it was truly wonderful. Made me happy to remember our great time as I read your trip report. Hope there is more.
mimipam is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2007, 04:44 PM
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Great trip report so far -- I am looking forward to more!

Nice photos, too. Thanks for sharing.

We were in Avignon and Arles last December. We loved Avignon, but I agree that Arles seemed a bit seedy and rundown. Although nothing happened to us our our group, I felt just a little bit unsafe in Arles for some reason.
dwzemens is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 07:36 AM
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Thanks everyone, I was beginning to think no one was reading it.

Luberon: We enjoyed the villages of the Luberon, very scenic and pretty, some sections reminded me of the foothills of Colorado. It’s hard to tell from the map how hilly and windy the roads can be, so I was a little surprised. Getting around was easy, you just follow the roundabouts to the next town, so simple. My only advice would be to bring change for parking and some toilets.
We next headed to Villefranche, an easy uneventful highway drive, as we approached Nice, high-rises were surrounding us. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I somehow I pictured Nice as small town, not a big city with tall buildings and traffic. I think that I have studied French for so long, that I had this romanticized version of the whole country, after all I loved Paris, Burgundy, and Normandy, how could I not love the Cote d’Azur? I’ll blame it on the cold I was getting.
Villefranche: We stayed at the Hotel Welcome www.welcomehotel.com after we found our way it was an easy hotel to get to. They advertise parking but in reality they just direct you to the public lot. We paid 170 euros a night. It is a nice hotel right on the water. I think all of the rooms have balconies overlooking the water. The beach is just a short walk always. The lobby is a little dated, but has a telephone booth with a computer and free internet. Rooms are adequate, but I think the reason you stay here is for the location. Mostly an English speaking clientele.
The weather was perfect, warm without a cloud in the sky, DH was in heaven here. He was out swimming in the sea nearly as soon as we arrived.
Dinning: Like I said I was getting a cold, so I may have been a tad grumpy. The first night we ate an Italian restaurant catering to tourists, needless to say the service was awful. The next night we ate at a mom and pop place with wonderful service and food. In fact I had some delicious mint tea that I wanted to take back to the room and the women gave me a wine glass to keep, so I could have my tea. My advice is to stay away from the tourist type of restaurants.
Monaco: We spent one day visiting the Villa de Rothschild and then on to Monaco. In Monaco we parked near the marina, it was interesting walking by all of those big yachts. Right in the middle is an international school with a playground. I was wondering how parents got their kids to that school as it seemed to be an out of the way location. As we were leaving I found out, parents just double park their Bentley’s on the main road to pick up the kids.
Television: This may seem weird but I had never really watched TV in France, we usually have our children with us, not leaving any extra time for TV. This time, as DH was sitting on our balcony enjoying the view, and I was nursing my cold, I watched TV. It was fun watching the French version of Super Nanny: She looks the same as ours, only slimmer and speaks French. I think her advice varied a little from what ours would do. I also watched C’est Propre, where the 2 women go into a messy house and clean it up, mostly using organic ingredients. It’s funny how the TV shows can start at any time (like 8:13 for example), and they may have just one commercial, or none.
Nice Airport: For reference: Car rental return is located near terminal 2. Additionally there is a pharmacy located inside the terminal. I was able to pick up something for my cold “la rhume” (which contained Sudafed and Tylenol)
Easy Jet: We booked online about 3 weeks ahead; price was great I think it was 100 euros for 2 people from Nice to Paris. Very Economical. We arrived about 15 minutes after the check intime opened up and so we grouped in section 2. Not a problem we were still able to find seats together. The flight was short; our 1 hour and 15 minute flight took less than an hour.
The Taxi line at Orly was quite long but moved quickly, we spent maybe 5 minutes in line. By the time we arrived at our hotel in Paris my cold was already feeling much better.

Our Villefranche and Paris Pictures can be viewed here: http://tinyurl.com/2oddrz
Up next Paris, and our mini GTG.
happytotravel is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 10:27 AM
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sounds like a great trip and relly looking forward to Paris report and pictures
jody is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 10:44 AM
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The board moves pretty fast so sometimes your post will move down quickly and people will miss out on some great info. I happened to see your post and was glad that some other people did too.

Thanks again and looking forward to your Paris info.
CRAZY4TRAVEL is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 11:05 AM
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Enjoyed your report on Provence and loved your pictures. Did you eat lunch or dinner at L'atelier and what was price. Thank you.
benitakaren is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 11:14 AM
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Michelle, Enjoyed your photos. Did you know The man who walked through walls, Le Passe-Muraille is a famous story by Marcel Aymé and th sculpture was creted by th famous actor Jean Marais?
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 02:08 PM
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benitakaren: We had lunch at L'Atelier but I think the prices are the same for lunch or dinner. I think the 7 course was 35 Euros and the 15 course was 65 Euros.

cigalechanta: Thank you for that information, I had been meaning to look it up when I got home, but have not had the time.

Paris: I don’t really have anything to say about Paris other than Paris is Paris, whats not to love.
www.deuxiles-paris-hotel.com/ We had always thought “wouldn’t it be fun to stay on the Ile of St. Louis” and it was. We booked Des Deux Iles, and it was really nice. Rooms were very recently renovated, the lobby could use some work but the rooms were nice. Our room opened up onto the main street, so after getting some great Gelato next door I could sit up in our room and watch all the people walking by. It is actually a very quiet little street and noise was not a problem. The location is great unless you are a bus or metro person and you want views of the Eiffel Tower. DH loves to walk, so we walked everywhere, but really we only visited Museums located in the Marais, unless we were in search of food.

Mini Fodor GTG: This is a lot of fun, I highly recommend GTG’s, you don’t know who you are meeting but you know you have something in common. We were all going to meet at Robjames apt, and then walk to Cottage Marcadet for lunch. A great plan, but like all great plans things come up. For me it was Dh who said we have time, lets just go to the Picasso Musuem first and then catch a cab. It sounds simple enough, yet catching a cab took us about ½ hour to find one even at a taxi stand. I am sure we could have taken the metro in that amount of time, oh well, live and learn. So again, I apologize to Robjames and Sandra for being late. We did get to see Robjames and Sandra’s apartment. It was very cute and looked like it had all of the essentials. DJKBooks also had problems arriving at the apartment, but all ended well when we found each other at the restaurant.

We all had so much to talk about. It was interesting to see how travel works in relationships. For instance Robjames and I were the Fodorites who love to plan, yet I think without our spouses directing us, we would be hopelessly lost. DJKBooks and her husband were different, I think she is able to plan and direct, and her husband is able to just relax and enjoy. Well time just flew by, with great food and conversation, I am sure we could have stayed all day just talking. DH was impressed, he kept wondering, why are we going here and what kind of people are we going to meet. I really think this was one of the highlights of his trip.

After lunch Sandra gave us a great walking tour map of Montmartre which we followed for the rest of the afternoon. We then took the #95 to where we were going for Dinner at ZE Kitchen(great food by the way, but mostly filled with tourists) So all in all Montmartre was easier transportation wise than the Ile St. Louis.

On our final night we met with another Fodorite, who could not met up for lunch with us. Kathy and her husband were also a lot of fun. I feel bad for recommending a restaurant that turned out not to be as good as we remembered, but the conversation was very nice.

If you looked at my pictures you will see a picture of DH standing by an apartment door. That is the door of the apartment we stayed at last year vrbo 79965 which we loved. We were walking by and DH said “take my picture here” as I was taking his picture the owner walked out of the door. After a few glances we all recognized each other and she invited us over for a drink.
She is a woman after my own heart , but you meet her and you like her instantly. We had sent cards back and forth. I remember when I met her last year thinking that I had heard it was hard to get to know the French, yet she is so warm and inviting. We had a long funny talk about how her husband is a___(what do you call it when you love America and want to live in America, and love all things American) and like how I am a Francophile (when you love all things French?).
She is not so in love with America like her husband, she finds the women in Florida where they go, too done up. She prefers Paris where she can just be herself (she was wearing sweats by the way-but is a fashion designer by trade). I often feel this way myself, you think it would be more difficult to fit in, in Paris, yet I am often more intimidated shopping in the US.
Often you read on Fodors people asking if they should bring gifts to their hosts. Most people reply no, you should not bring gifts. She is an excellent example of why I think it is ok to bring gifts. Some people are not just renting out their apartments or rooms in their B&B’s, they are renting out a part of themselves.
The night before leaving Paris we stocked up on essential items from the Monoprix (the reusable sacs in bright colors that DD uses for swim and overnight bags, and disposable cuileres a café that dd uses for yogurt in her sac lunchs), and Laduree ( a nice big box of macroons-I kept them overnight in the fridge at the hotel, and gently carried them on the plane home)
That about sums up Paris. Each time I leave Paris, I feel revitalized, I don’t know what it is about that place, but I love it. Provence was great and I would love to spend more time there, I feel the cote d’azur may not be for me, I may give it another try, but I will probably leave it for those that love it.
happytotravel is offline  
Oct 4th, 2007, 02:22 PM
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I appologize for the giant paragraph, for some reason it all scrunched together when I posted, I tried to edit, but couldn't.
happytotravel is offline  
Oct 5th, 2007, 02:08 PM
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benitakaren: I just had the courage to check my credit card statement, we paid 181 dollars for lunch at L'Atelier. It included 1 glass of champagne and 2 bottles of water. But it was delicious.
happytotravel is offline  
Oct 5th, 2007, 02:54 PM
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"women in Florida where they go, too done up"

She's just going to the wrong places! I am anxiously awaiting the day when it's cool enough to change into sweats!My capri's have been on their last leags for about 2 weeks now!
jody is offline  
Oct 5th, 2007, 05:42 PM
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Thank you for looking at your statement for the exact charge. I have added the restaurant to my list for next year.
benitakaren is offline  

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