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France Itinerary check: Nice, Provence, Burgundy, Paris, Bordeaux

France Itinerary check: Nice, Provence, Burgundy, Paris, Bordeaux

Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 08:46 PM
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France Itinerary check: Nice, Provence, Burgundy, Paris, Bordeaux

Ok Pros! After countless hours of research, reading this forum, watching Rick Steves, and reading books, I think I have a roughed out itinerary and welcome any suggestions. This area is foreign to me and it took a while to get a handle on distances.

Basics: We have 26 days, and will fly into Nice and out of Paris. It’s just my husband and me and we like everything: History, wine, food, ancient ruins, people.

It sounds like the month of September is ideal for Provence.

3 nights Nice: Tour to Monaco, Ezes.

Rent a car upon departure and drive the inland Riviera, ending in Aix.

2 nights Aix: Cassis day trip. After checkout, do Luberon villages on way to Saint Remy.

Should an effort be made to visit Arles?

4 nights Saint Remy: With this longer stay, this is likely our only non-hotel and would like apartment recommendations, please. Day trips to Ubes/Pont du Gard/Nimes, Avignon, Sorgue and or L’isle de Sorgue.

After checkout, head north to Chateauxneuf de Papes for a visit ending in Beaune.

4 nights Beaune: The focus will be food and wine. Any restaurant recommendations? We would love to go on a barge if day trips exist.

1 night Chateaux de Vault de Lugny: See Vezeley

Those last two places can be reversed easily.

Is there a winery where we can arrange for a lunch in the vineyards? With a group would be fun.

Checkout. Return the rental car in Dijon, and take the bullet train to Paris. I haven’t searched very thoroughly yet, but I am assuming Sixt offers one-way rentals.

4 nights Paris: We have 4 free nights at a really nice Park Hyatt.

2 nights Bayeaux (Normandy)

Then, we really want to check out the Bordeaux reds so…

We will take the train from Normandy to Bordeaux via Paris. I realize we’re going to lose a whole day but we like trains and most everything else was pretty efficient in a compact region.

4 nights Bordeaux: I haven’t researched this area at all yet. Should we do every night in town? Can we skip the car?

Depart late. Train to CDG free Marriott room. Depart next morning.

Any tips? Did I fail to list any must-see villages?

We really appreciate the input.



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Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 09:35 PM
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We stayed at La Maison de Lines in St Remy last October and really enjoyed it. They have a very nice pool and several apartments. We stayed in the “A Cote Cottage”, large bedroom, nice little kitchen and sitting room, big bathroom. Owned and ran by a young couple who were helpful with restaurant suggestions and site-seeing. Free secured parking. It’s about a 7 minute walk into the center of town. We walked in each evening for dinner and made sure we were there for the Wednesday market. https://lamaisondeline.fr/rooms-cottages/

in Aix we stayed at the Hotel Cardinal, just a couple blocks from the Cours Mirabeau. They don’t have a parking lot but there is an underground lot a few blocks away for a reasonable price. We stayed in one of their annex rooms which was huge. The staff was very nice. https://www.hotel-cardinal-aix.com/en
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Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 10:07 PM
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Indicate the days of the week you will be visiting all of these places. You don't want to be in Aix or Bordeaux on a Sunday or Monday. There are other days-of-the week considerations also.

I thinks you are short changing the Cote d'Azur & Provence part of your trip. Only 2 1/2 days in Nice & surrounds, and 3 1/2 days in St Remy is almost no time at all. My wife & I have vacationed for 43 weeks in this region, and we are going back for 4 more weeks this June. There is a lot of stuff to do & see there. Only 1 1/2 days in Normandy is also a "mistake", IMO.

We've spent about 7 weeks in Burgundy, and found ourselves spending too much time in the car getting to the various sites. And I don't know how the stop in Chateauneuf du Pape works out with the normal lunch closing of shops, wineries, etc. Chateau de Vault de Lugny is a gem - we had a fabulous stay & dinner there this past Sept.

I think you might be a tad disappointed with the Bordeaux Red adventure at the end of your tip. You are dedicating a lot of travel time to get there.

Do you have my 35 page Provence & Cote d'Azur itinerary. I've sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors. E-mail me at my Fodors name at AOL and I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail. Indicate that you want the Provence itinerary, cause I have about 10 others for different regions in France.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 23rd, 2023, 10:35 PM
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Bordeaux city is a great city but not the place where wine is grown, made or marketed. The types of wine and the potential area is massive so I suggest you should go in the Pauillac tourist info website. Look at the section called something like things to do. This will pass you through to the "medoc" website and offers visits, places to stay, etc etc.

You should be able to make up a far few days of fun from this however,

You could also visit St Emillion which is a lovely setting, gets crowded, and is a marketing nightmare but is certainly an experience which your wallet will remember.

Then there is also a lot of duck and shellfish in the area. You will find shellfish being sold out if shacks down on the coast ( or proper restaurants) which with a little Chablis go down well.

All this can be done on bicycles as the place is littered with cycle paths if you are up for it.

I'm on my phone, so limited access, but if you want more ideas shout

ah, here is a link into the start of the Medoc site https://www.medocvignoble.com/en/ it is part of a whole web of linked sites which offer you the chance to stay in a vinyard, in an ancient chateau, etc etc.

Last edited by bilboburgler; Feb 23rd, 2023 at 11:28 PM.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 06:56 AM
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Also, the coast from Nice to anywhere you'll want to cut over to Aix is not scenic for about 90% of the route. The Cote de l'Esterel has about 20 mins of scenic stuff, and the coast along the Corniche des Maures southwest of St Tropez is scenic - but a slow winding slog. It is nothing like the drive along the Big Sur coast in California. It is loaded with (over) development, and more like driving from Santa Monica to Huntington Beach in the LA/Orange county area (if you are familiar with the California coast). Get your coastal fix in Cassis - but fitting Cassis in as a day-trip from Aix will consume almost an entire day from your 1/8 day in Aix. Getting from Nice to Aix along the coast will consume 1 entire day, and you'll need an early start to visit the villages in the Luberon before getting to St Remy. The inland route from Nice to Aix, north of the A8 is much more scenic. See my itinerary for details.

Slow down - less is more.

Stu Dudley

Last edited by StuDudley; Feb 24th, 2023 at 07:12 AM.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 07:53 AM
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bilboburgler.

We have never visited the Medoc. We have spent 3 nights in a B&B in Sauternes, 2 nights in St Emilion, and several nights in Bordeaux. But these are not in the Medoc. Stephen Birnbaum (deceased) wrote in his 30 year old guide book, that the Medoc is windy, dusty, and the villages have not benefited from the money that the wine industry has brought to the region. Is this a good description of the landscape today? I very seldom read the Medoc mentioned on Fodors by someone who has actually been there. We are not interested in wine tasting or winery visits. We've lived near Napa/Sonoma for over 45 years, and we gave up tasting/visiting 20 years ago (we are serous wine drinkers, however).

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 08:07 AM
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Less is indeed more. Your 26 days seems a lot. From the 26 subtract 1 day each for arrival, departure, and each change of base location. By my count using your itinerary, that's 10 days of travel instead of visiting. The remaining 16 days are to be divided among 7 locations. Although this can be done, it will get exhausting. I suggest dropping Bordeaux and Normandy, leaving them for your next trip.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 08:45 AM
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The whole spit of land north of Bordeaux is one enormous ancient sand bank between the river and the sea.

I've been on four holidays there, twice on cycles. I don't think of it as a windy or sandy (well down on the beach it is sandy)

The money used to all go to Bordeaux who did the shipping. Over the past 30 years (my drinking period) the vinyards have had all the money and the need to ship from Bordeaux has disappeared. At the same time luxury brands have bought Chateaux (Chateau plural for those who might get confused and I cannot bring myself to type (chateau...s}). So what used to be a just a farm with a posh frontage on, probably has E100 million of plant out the back. The best places are serious business now and you and I will not get to visit the first growth sites. We might get to visit the 2, 3, 4 and 5th growths and even here there is money, there is fraud, there are wine mistresses the whole shebang of Wall Street in miniture/agriculture.

Away from the top ACs on the peninsula it is still a cheap place to holiday, with lots of golden sand and the odd little ferry across the river.

The whole Cadillac and other sweet wine line of ACs is equally wealthy. Bergerac to the north east is a bit cheaper still along with cheaper ACs to the north west on the north side of the river. The area of the Entre-deux-Mer (which is white and its red relations) is more like the cheaper flat land wine areas of CA and the wealth is lower hence, more full of second homes.

St Emillion, Graves etc are somewhere in between and I've already covered St E

I hope that helps
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 09:56 AM
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Echoing the other suggestions to drop Bordeaux and probably Normandy too, adding days to the other places that deserve more time.

Lovers of ruins and wine should mosey much more slowly up the Rhone, touring Roman remains in Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine and Vienne, savouring the vintages and views of Gigondas, Séguret, and the other “named villages”; Tain l’Hermitage for their own wines + Cornas and St Joseph (dinner at Le Cerisier in Tournon, amazing wine list).

And yes, all the major car rental companies offer one way rentals. It should add about €100 to your cost.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 11:24 AM
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Hi Jill02, just my 2 cents about Bayeux: I made it a day trip from Paris by train to see the tapestry. Unless you're planning other nearby venues, you could edit your time there.

I loved Arles and hope you get there.

Last edited by TDudette; Feb 24th, 2023 at 11:30 AM.
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 12:33 PM
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Got it!

Bordeaux is nixed. Gone. Good points! A destination might sound enticing, and look good on paper, but when people share the realities with you, it’s not always a good fit.

I will put the extra nights into Normandy, Saint Remy, Nice, and ….? I have one more.

I like the thought of ending with Normandy. It can be a more passive part of the trip where we rely on tour guides to educate us and then we take a late train back to the airport and go home.

I will email for the guide and check out the apartment.

I will book airfare tonight, and then solidify the days of the week. To be continued…
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 03:02 PM
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There is no wrong answer as to where to put the extra night.

Enjoy!
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 06:08 PM
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Some extra replies popped in out of order, some sort of site management maybe. Anyway, thank you!

Although unfamiliar with this area, we are seasoned travelers and are aware of the pitfalls. I too, sometimes see itineraries like “London, Paris, Venice, Rome, Athens - 2 nights each.” 🧐 But France is the size of Texas (so I heard; please don’t fact check me &#128521 and I do not consider it a day lost when we check out of an accommodation and tour en route to the next. Plus, Bordeaux may have deleted after the advice. I am so grateful for this forum!

Ha Stududley! The extra night in Nice put us in Aix on a Sunday. 🤯 Not sure why that’s dreaded but, can it be survived if we wake up, eat, check out and head for the Luberon Villages? Should we make a B-Line for the Isle de Sorgue Sunday market or steer clear? Maybe do that village in the afternoon or return from Saint Remy.

I am also digesting your proposed route from Nice to Aix. I was looking at Rick Steves “inland Riviera” that goes through Vence, Grasse. Is that scenic? If I have learned anything, the journey between these destinations is part of the whole experience in this region.

I booked flights so now I’m ready to book hotels if Nice - Aix - Saint Remy - Beaune works. The nights are 4, 2, 5, 5 then one at the Château.

Actually, I will take one night off Saint Remy and put it in Aix, because a kind blogger really wants me to see Arles so that’s what we will do!
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Old Feb 24th, 2023, 09:17 PM
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I think I just sent you my Provence itinerary. Read page 2. On Sundays, non-touristy cities & villages in France have almost all non-food shops closed. Monday morning also. If you want to visit museums & churches - you can do that (some museums are closed Monday). But If you want to enjoy my wife's favorite shopping city in France and feel the "vibe" - you're outa luck. Some shops will open around 2:30 on Monday. The Luberon is a better place to be on Sunday. Gordes & Roussillon are the touristy places that have shops open. Actually St Remy also. You might consider visiting St Remy first, then Aix. That will probably place you in Aix on one of their market days - which are fabulous.

I would not go to the market in l'Isle sur la Sorgue on Sunday unless you can arrive by 8:30- 9 AM. It will be a zoo around 10:30. Like almost all markets in France, it will be closed by 2PM. Except for the permanent antique shops.

I will e-mail you my Normandy & Brittany itinerary.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 25th, 2023, 05:33 AM
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I would visit Arles from Saint-Rémy, not Aix, as the distance is far less. No doubt an extra night of dining in Aix would not go amiss. But if your stay in Saint Remy stretches through Saturday night, the Saturday morning market in Arles is terrific and you can pick up a delicacy to bring home to your apartment.

Key to enjoying Sunday night in Aix is to have reserved at a restaurant, since many are closed. Sunday lunch is very popular, so also should be reserved if you’d rather make that your main meal. Poivre d’Âne is open Sunday evening and recommendable.

Musée Granet closed Monday, but Vasarely open, if either is important to you.

Not sure where Mr Steves wants to send you after Grasse, but if it’s Moustiers Sainte Marie, Manosque and Apt, I agree with him. It would be a vastly slower drive than the same distance through Texas, guaranteed. Perhaps cut down through Pertuis if becoming short of time.

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Old Feb 25th, 2023, 10:59 AM
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Definitely you should go to Arles from St. Remy. It is closer than from Aix and Aix has some traffic on the ring roads getting out (and some tolls). I assume you will also hit Les Baux. BTW, getting to the Luberon and then to St. Remy is kind of a circular route to get there.

It sounds like you are very into wine. There a number of other Appellations after Chateauneuf-du-Pape worth trying, in their villages, like Gigondas and Vacqueras. You could also hire a guide. I'd also make room for a good rose tasting in the Luberon.

Coming from Nice (where we have a place), you can definitely hit the mountain route. There are some lovely stops like St. Paul de Vence but I'm not a fan of Grasse as much (Tourettes-sur-Loup, a smaller village, yes).
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Old Feb 25th, 2023, 11:57 AM
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""There are some lovely stops like St. Paul de Vence but I'm not a fan of Grasse""

Neither am I. Been there twice. There are better choices in the region. Tourrettes is a gem. So are the villages around Fayance. See my itinerary for driving details.

Definitely, do not take the coastal route to Aix. The OP has roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has most likely experienced much better coastal scenery along the Northern California Coast (Big Sur/Hwy 1, San Mateo Coast, Marin Coast, Sonoma/Mendocino coast).

FWIW, Rick Steves is rather "light" on France, IMO. In fact, his France book was mostly written by Steve Smith - a collaborator who lives in Burgundy. No wonder his book & shows push Burgundy - which, IMO, is overrated - except for Beaune & Dijon.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 25th, 2023, 12:23 PM
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Wow. Such great tips.

Agreed Stu - it’s why I’m on this forum! We are not up for a $90,000 Canal cruise.

Any wine tour suggestions Ooster? Uncorked? Oliver?

Thanks for the Saint Remy La Maison de Line referral - all booked! Got the last cottage. Phew. Close one.

Sounds like I need to study the maps again and look at my path. Maybe we will take the train from Nice to Aix and get the car there.

Obviously in big cities like Paris location is everything because you need to walk everywhere. How about cities like Aix? Can you be a little outside? Perhaps we should be one night in Aix and then go to Arles.

Very excited about Château de Vault de Lugny - all booked.

Deciding on Aix and Beaune accommodations.
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Old Feb 25th, 2023, 12:48 PM
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""Perhaps we should be one night in Aix and then go to Arles."

Again - what day of the week is your arrival day in Aix. If it is Sunday - the same Sunday & Monday closings will exist in both Aix & Arles. If you already have St Remy booked starting on a Tuesday, I would book Sunday & Monday in the Luberon near Bonnieux. Then visit Aix on Tuesday morning (their market day), and then re-route to St Remy in the late afternoon.

I do not know where & what day of the week you plan to rent a car, but many car rental offices are closed on Sundays. The rental office at the Aix tgv station is open - but not the office at the central ville gare. There are only 2 direct train departures from Nice - one too early, and one too late (7am & 3pm) for the 2 1/2 hr trip to the Aix TGV station. Then you will need to pick up a car if you want one, and then drive 15-20 mins into Aix.

It is a somewhat scenic 2 hr drive on the Autoroute from Nice to Aix. Which is what I would do. It is a 2 3/4 hr drive from Nice to Bonnieux, where I would stay. And 15 mins less to Lourmarin (closer to Aix). Less than 1 hr from Bonnieux to Aix.

Stu Dudley

Last edited by StuDudley; Feb 25th, 2023 at 01:07 PM.
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Old Feb 25th, 2023, 01:20 PM
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While in the Cote d'Azur & Provence, if you visit St Paul de Vence, Tourrettes, Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Menerbes, Roussillion, and Gordes - you might be somewhat disappointed when you then visit Vezelay in Burgundy. Same with the other villages in Burgundy - except for Beaune.

Stu Dudley
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