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France intenerary

Old Nov 7th, 2015, 05:27 PM
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France intenerary

A friend and I are going to France for about 17 days in the spring of 2016. We plan to spend one week in Paris and one week in Provence. We have not been to France before. I would appreciate any guidance you might have regarding: a base town in Provence from which to explore. We would like scenery, colorful villages, and a taste of the French culture. We would also like to know where to go with the remaining 3 days of our trip. Loire Valley? If so, where, and what to do? Are we allowing too much time in Provence? We had planned to take the train directly there after landing from US in the airport. We thought about renting a car in Provence and then going back to Paris for the next week. Is this a good idea?
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Old Nov 7th, 2015, 06:31 PM
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You did not indicate where you are coming from but possibly consider flying into Paris and out of Nice or some other city.
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Old Nov 8th, 2015, 12:23 AM
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Aix en Provence is a good base and a nice city. Fro there easy access to Avignon orange etc.
or a smaller town.
Tourtour or a like.
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Old Nov 8th, 2015, 03:07 AM
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I find Aix to be just a big congested city--with a little Provencal charm thrown in. Stay in a smaller city--easier to drive in and out of for your WONDERFUL to be determined day trips. ST. Remy is often mentioned. We liked Avignon for our trip.
A week would be lovely I think and would give you immense amounts of time to explore.
I like your idea of going directly via TGV and renting a car. I would take the TGV back to Paris.
You might consider a few days in Normandy or you even go to Amsterdam for your last few days.
You will have much good advice. Congratulations on allocating good amounts of time to your principal places.
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Old Nov 8th, 2015, 03:19 AM
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We spent a week in Provence in July this year and stayed in Bonnieux and loved it. You can see our pics here

https://flickr.com/photos/[email protected]
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Old Nov 8th, 2015, 05:37 AM
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If you are flying from North America, here is my favorite route:
Fly to the south (Nice, Marseille) on a connection from your trans-Atlantic flight at a gateway such as Paris. It should cost almost the same and will save time. Aix-en-Provence is a shuttle-bus ride from Marseille Provence airport; Avignon is also easy to get to from there by train. Enjoy the south, then go north on the high-speed TGV to Paris. Flying home from there allows a departure at a civilized time of day.
As to picturesque villages, France is a modern country and the historic rubs shoulders with the present everywhere. Comfortable rooms and good plumbing beat picturesque traditions. Avignon combines history and convenience; its tourism agency is very helpful too. http://www.avignon-tourisme.com/home-1-2.html
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Old Nov 8th, 2015, 06:39 AM
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For 15 days, splitting half & half between Paris & Provence is fine. Adding a third destination that is a long drive or train ride away gets you 4 1/2 - 5 days at each location - which is kinda getting on the short side. If you wanted to add a third location - the Cote d'Azur would be perfect in Spring.

Aix is our favorite city in Provence - but it is really not centrally located enough, IMO, to visit the sites most people want to visit. It is almost 2 hrs from the Pont du Gard & Uzes and 1 1/2 hrs from Gordes in the Luberon. Plus you'll get tired if driving in & out of Aix with all the sprawl. For a base, pick some small village in the Luberon or St Remy instead.

My wife & I have vacationed for 20 weeks in Provence & 20 on the Cote d'Azur. I developed a 30+ page itinerary that describes our favorite villages, markets, scenic drives, restaurants, etc. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Old Nov 9th, 2015, 02:43 PM
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Thank you to each of you
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Old Nov 10th, 2015, 01:37 PM
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Not sure if you're still looking for advice, but I'll just offer this -
"Provence" covers an enormous area, with lots of different features to discover.
What interests you? Roman ruins, fields of lavender and sunflowers, following in the footsteps of famous artists, wine, food...

If you could narrow down what most interests you, it would be a lot easier to give better advice.

For example, we hated Avignon, but loved Albi, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, ambivalent about Marseille, enjoyed Nimes, Les Baux, Rousillon, Lourmarin, St Remy de Provence, la Camargue...all for different reasons.

Just wondering if you know what is actually out there in "Provence" - lots of people have misguided images of the area.

If it's your first visit, you might find that one week in Paris won't be enough time to really explore the city. Spring is a busy time of year, and things will be crowded. Driving takes much more time than you realize - especially if you'll be coming during European school vacations, when the roads are clogged. You could take the TGV to a major city in the South and pick up a car there - I'd recommend doing this, and also pre-booking.

I really doubt the Loire valley would be possible in the time you have allotted.
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Old Nov 10th, 2015, 01:49 PM
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Avignon or Arles or a town nearby would be my choice - lots of neat things within a compact area and though a car would be nice you can get around by public transport to many neat places.

Take a TGV train to Avignon-TGV station and then shuttle trains to Avignon itself or bus to Arles or pick up a car at the station - cars IMO would be the best bet - day trip to the Pont du Gard, Uzes, St-Remy-de-Provence (smaller neat town near Avignon to consider as a base if you have a car and public transport there is spotty); Les Baux-de-Provence; Nimes; the fabled Camargue and on and on.

Avignon itself is a nice nice old town with in it the famous Palace of the Popes - one of the most historic and monumental edifices in France.

Now for trains there check www.voyages-sncf.com and if you book far in advance you can get deep discounted tickets way cheaper than full-fare walk-up fare but they are I believe non-changeable non-refundable so be sure of your time and dates - their are train-specific - good only on the one train you book. For lots of info on French trains check www.seat61.com - good info on discounted tickets; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Aix I liked but for the sights around Avignon it is a little far removed and would be expensive to day trip to the Avignon area by train or car - and IMO there are not nearly as many neat sights within a short distance of town as in Avignon or Arles and its area.
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Old Nov 10th, 2015, 02:06 PM
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You have an "embarrass de choix" as our French friends would say--the country is such a treasure chest of things. Even for Provence, you could spend weeks. Do ask Stu Dudley for his excellent notes; we found them extremely helpful when we went a few years ago.

Get the Michelin green guide for all of France, look at their 3-2-1 stars (yes, it's not a perfect system but what is?), and see which regions appeal to you. Then get the Michelin guide for that region, Provence, for example, and really dig into the information. Rough Guide and Lonely Planet are good. We find Rick Steves helpful on lots of logistic data but sometimes his tone is tedious.

Two random places that we loved:

Lyon: not very much visited by Americans. A great, modern airport, quick mini-train into the historic city. Roman, medieval, Renaissance districts. Food, of course, On the high-speed train line from Paris to Marseille. So you could zoom down to Lyon, visit for one, two, three nights (we stayed four), then ride farther down to Aix or Avignon or wherever and pick up your car. Personally, I wouldn't drive from Paris to Provence unless you wanted to make stops along the way.

Uzes: a lovely village on the western edge of Provence, perched on a hill, well preserved medieval core. We stayed in a splendid hotel in a Renaissance mansion, L'Albiousse.

What an enjoyable task you have facing you!
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Old Nov 10th, 2015, 03:57 PM
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>>"Provence" covers an enormous area, with lots of different .......
For example, we hated Avignon, but loved Albi, Arles,
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Old Nov 10th, 2015, 11:01 PM
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You're right, Stu Dud - but it's not that far away, and well worth a visit.
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Old Nov 11th, 2015, 05:04 AM
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You will get lots of input from this forum - all of it based on trips we have taken and loved. But you will have to decide what you want to do. One of my favorite trips to France was a two week trip to Paris and Provence with my two sisters. We all loved the trip. We normally travel with DHs so this was a very different trip, We spent 4 days in Paris, took the TGV to Avignon, rented a car, spent a week in Provence in St. Remy, and returned to Paris by TGV for the last 4 days.
Some of our favorite places in Provence were Le Baux, St. Remy, Uzes, Gordes, Roussillon, the Abbaye du Senanque, the Pont du Gard, and Avignon. We didn't much care for Aix. We loved visiting the markets. We were there in late May so the flowers both Paris and Provence were lovely.
So you see - everyone has a bit of a different take on the area so you and your friend should have a fun time planning your trip. Enjoy!
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Old Nov 11th, 2015, 07:17 AM
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>>You're right, Stu Dud - but it's not that far away, and well worth a visit.
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Old Nov 11th, 2015, 07:22 AM
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Albi and its church was neat - spectacular rugged setting but yes it is nowhere near the Avignon/heart of tourist Provence area at all - not a feasible day trip. I took an overnight train from Paris to Albi - if picking up a car in the south keep that in mind and motor over to Avignon slowly like via Carcassonne and Toulose and the Canal du Midi area.
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Old Nov 11th, 2015, 08:16 AM
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We did a Paris/Provence/Nice trip 2 years ago and it was my favorite vacation ever. We spent 6 days in Paris then took the TGV to Aix en Provence (stayed at Le Pigonnet, 5 minutes outside Aix which was perfect for being outside the city noise but close enough to walk into town for dinner). We rented a car at the Aix train station and took day trips to Remy St. Martin and Les Baux; Cassis which is a lovely town on the Mediterranean; and Menerbes in the Luberon. Loved every one. Spent one day walking around Aix and relaxing at our hotel pool. Then we drove to Nice and stayed there for 3 days there which we really liked, and flew home from Nice. Could not have had a more perfect vacation.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 10:33 PM
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Les Baux de Provence is the central town for stay from where you can explore the place of Provence in France. You can also consider Bonnieux or Goult for the base location considering the views these locations offer.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 11:27 PM
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Excuse me, but Les Baux de Provence is absolutely NOT a "central town" from which to explore Provence. It is a backwater, tiny village that is extremely popular, with good reason, for its citadel and famous ramparts and its commanding stand high in the Alpilles. But it is not a town, and it is not central.

It's a tiny, very touristy place, worth a visit for sure, but could never be described as a "central town." It's also only central for the part of Provence that comprises les Alpilles. Provence in enormous, and Les Baux barely figures into the enormity of it.
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Old Nov 20th, 2015, 10:40 AM
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St-Remy-de-Provence is a sweet proper town very close to Les Baux and would make a neat base if you have a car - not far from Avignon or Arles and in itself it has the asylum where Van Gogh put himself after slicing off his ear in Arles - he painted many pictures here and you can see copies put up at spots he painted them.

https://www.google.com/search?q=van+...HfI9A88QsAQIHA
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