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France - Paris and Provence - with a family


Jan 8th, 2016, 03:16 AM
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France - Paris and Provence - with a family

Hi there

We will be arriving in Paris in March and driving to Madrid over 33 days....with our three children; 2 x almost 5 year old twins and 1 x almost 2 year old. Yes, we're quite possibly crazy!

We arrive in Paris on a Wednesday and are then looking to head down to the South of France and then on to Spain and Portugal. Our plan is to utilise the Peugeut / Citreon / Renault car lease back scheme and stay in self catered apartments. It's a last minute holiday, so we're only just starting to book things now, having just secured our flights last week. We like to balance museums, art galleries, markets, castles, ruins etc with kid friendly visits to parks, beaches, farms etc. Perhaps even a kid friendly cooking or art class. Basically we need space to run around each day! Plus the same dinner, bath, bed routine each night for at least 3-4 nights in a row. Our kids are great in the car, but wouldn't want to drive for more than 2 hours at a stretch.

If you could indulge me a few questions please:

* We would like to spend 4 nights of so in Paris and then head down to Provence on the Sunday (which is actually Easter Sunday). We were looking at a few AirBnB apartments in Paris. Does anyone have any recommendations on best websites to find family friendly apartments. We don't want to spend a fortune and are happy to stay further out if that reduces the cost.

* We planned to take the TGV to Nice / Avignon and then pick up the car.

* We would like to stay in a Gite in Provence. We had planned to spend 4-5 nights in one town of Provence, like Antibes and then 4-5 nights in a second area like Avignon. However, we understand that most Gites are usually Saturday to Saturday bookings. Do you have any suggestions on this? Is there a more central location, where we could stay for a week and explore the whole area with day trips? Or should we look for an alternative form of accommodation? We really do need to self cater. I'm really struggling with our itinerary here.

* How do we find a list of local markets, kid friendly activities / parks etc? I can find great suggestions for Paris, but not so many for this part of France.

* Any other suggestions for our itinerary? Given we're there over Easter, are there any local customs that we should watch out for / detour for, especially anything the kids might love?

* Where can we find a list of parking options?

Our rough plan so far was something like:

Paris - 4 nights (Ideas: 1. Champs de Mar Park / Eiffle Tower; 2. Versailles, 3. Lourve, Pompidou Centre, 4. Jardin du Luxemberg / Musee de Orsay/ Notre Dame Cathedral, 5. Montmartre and Parc des Buttes-Chaumont / Sacre Coeur / Musée de l’Orangerie)

Antibes / Nice - 4 nights (Ideas: 1. Eze / St Tropez / Monaco. 2. Villefranche Sur Mer, Nice, Antibes. 3. Grasse, 4. Stop at Aix en Provence on way to Avignon)

Avignon - 4 nights (Ideas: 1. Avignon. 2. Arles. 3. Luberon. 4. Orange, Pont du Gard, Uzes, Castillon du Gard)

Perhaps stop in St-Rémy-de-Provence, Camargue on way down to Barcelona.

Thanks so much
The Wombats
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Jan 8th, 2016, 03:28 AM
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Hello Wombats !

Marchés en provence
Google 'liste marchés provence' and check -you'll find some links that indicate 'syndicat' or 'tourisme'. They are usually officials.
(you can do the same googlesearch with the name of a city ...I selected this site, made by a fan http://provence-guide.net/

Gites :
http://www.gites-de-france.com/ is forme the best address. Keep it in french, it seems he offers gites which only gave a description in english if you select english.

I think you can travel with your baby carseats on top of your luggage - check that or buy carseats on arrival.

We found out that renting a car has the advantage of having the kids sleep easily when we are driving so that at the end, they are less tired ! So not such a foolish idea after all

Enjoy your vacation !
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Jan 8th, 2016, 05:09 AM
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When looking at gites be sure to check out the heating facilities. Some of these are essentially summer cottages and don't really have sufficient heat to stay there in Mar when it can get quite cold at times, esp at night and for little ones. (The lows can be 6 to 8 degrees in these areas in March.)
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Jan 8th, 2016, 05:23 AM
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Oh my goodness nytraveler, I just laughed out loud. It is going to be absolutely freezing - I had completely forgotten! That will teach this sun loving Australian to just book flights on a whim, thinking it's Spring time, it won't be that cold! It will actually be even colder than the Autumn/ Winter that we will be leaving. I really should have known better. Anyway, thanks for the heads up, will certainly be checking the heating out. And packing a few items of our warmest winter clothing. It's been a long time since we have worked/ lived / travelled on this side of the world, so best refresh my memory before we leave.

Thank you also whathello, will check those links out.

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Jan 8th, 2016, 06:03 AM
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The lows given are for Paris (and in °C, don't know if the Wombats are into Celsius or Fahrenheits).

In southern France it is usually around 15C - actually like now. Quite pleasant in the sun.

We stayed only once in a kind of appt in Paris, belonging to a hotel : Hotel Elysees Union, we were also 5 of us with a baby, we had 2 separate rooms and 3 bathrooms + one living room.

Being in a hotel can be useful compared to a real apartment as you get a desk with some people who can help.

You have chains of apartments such as Citadines hotels
see here

There is less chance to find an illegal rental on these apartments and there is a crackdown on illegal apts in Paris right now. If you want to rent an apt via whatever site, and there are great finds, be sure to check the references and ask for an invoice and see how the owner reacts.
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Jan 8th, 2016, 06:12 AM
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For a very nice day with the kids : Just at Antibes.

Please note that Marineland is one of 3 attraction parks at same location (you can have combined tickets). (on top of the site you see several 'onglets' on which you can select the other parks.
Be sure to be there early if you want to do more than one park, we usually arrive around 10-11 and we are not finished with Marineland in time to go to the other sites.

We've been at least 7 times and I have developed a 5+ pages itinieray - oops, no, not me.

Really great time, honestly been there about half a dozen times at least. Last time was when last kid was about 3 and she loved it.
In one of the other parks you can find a farm and kids can feed the animals (geese, lambs, cows, chicken etc). They loved it.
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Jan 8th, 2016, 03:09 PM
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Most of our trips have begun at the end of March and we have had a variety of weather. Sometimes quite cold and others quite mild. We were in Provence at the end of March/beginning of April2014 and the weather was lovely. But you will need to come prepared for cold.
We have usually found the gites we rented have some sort of heating, but at certain times of the year, there will be a surcharge. Sometimes this is a set fee eg 30 euro a week, 8 euro a day, 30 euro a load of wood, and sometimes it is simply an amount calculated at the end by a reading of the electricity meter - an amount per day eg 8kw [ 56 per week ]is included and anything over is charged. One thing we find is that the floors are often tiled and thus quite cold, so take slippers for the children at least so they can be comfortable at home and not have to be in shoes all the time.
Have a look at https://www.abritel.fr/. We have used them a few times and have noticed recently that they are giving prices per night. We really enjoy the self catering way of travelling especially on a budget as we are.
Good luck.
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Jan 8th, 2016, 11:08 PM
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Thank you everyone.

Does anyone have specific tips on whether it's better to find one central location for 10 days (any suggestions welcome) or rather should we keep looking for two shorter term rentals, one in Antibes and one in Avignon. We have seen some interesting things on AirBnB, but are beginners with this website, so somewhat cautious.

Thanks again for the wonderful tips.

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Jan 9th, 2016, 02:25 AM
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I'd split ) if only to share the risk.
With 2 places, you will be less mortified if one place is not up to standard.

Also I love Avignon and it is a good base to do some places that you won't do fro Antibes.

(My wife prefers Aix en Provence).
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Jan 9th, 2016, 02:49 AM
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btw, if you like jazz, i recommend 'la voute' rue Sade in Antibes (in the center) : very nice food, and they do concert some days.

even if you dont' like jazz (I don't) it is a nice place.
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Jan 9th, 2016, 03:50 AM
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First, climate.

I understand you will be there end of March / beginning of April.

In Paris, it will be definitly cold and be prepared for some rain.

In western Provence (the region around Avignon) you will most probably enjoy sunny days, but, albeit you have clear blue skies, the icy and gusty Mistral wind may blow. This means, you will have perfect weather for sightseeing and photographing, but make sure to have always a windproof jacket and a sweater in the car. The mornings, evenings and nights will be pretty cold, too. So, for al fresco breakfasts and dinners you will need sweaters.

On the Côte d'Azur (around Antibes) you will probably have mild weather, warm sunshine and agreeable short-sleeve spring weather. It will be the warmest place of your whole trip (it is a region where palms and cacti grow).

For Barcelona, odds are 50/50 to have either cold, rainy weather or mild, sunny spring weather.

In Madrid, you may encounter sunshine but pretty low temperatures (due to altitude, Madrid has huge differences between winter and summer temps).

This all said, you might enjoy spending a bit more time on the Côte d'Azur. But make sure to stay east of the Esterel mountain chain, because this is the final barrier that blocks the icy Mistral. The Cannes/Antibes region will be beautiful in late March/early April. You will love it.

Second, accomodation.

I do not have personal experiences with gîtes. We had always rented vacation homes when we were travelling with kids (we have twin boys too). But we love cooking, especially with French stores and hypermarchés offering incredible food items. This time of year, the prices for vacation rentals will be pretty low (maybe higher the weeks right before and after Easter), so check www.homeaway.com.

The Saturday to Saturday rule is typical for the European style of travelling, but you may find exceptions (probably not in the two weeks around Easter).

Third, sights and activities.

With 33 days, you are in a luxury position. Your itinerary is not rushed and you have a reasonable number of destinations.

Each of your destinations has a wealth of sights and attractions to keep you occupied. I would not overplan in advance. Instead, buy a few good guidebooks (I love the Michelin Green Guides) and see what the days will bring once you are at your destination.

Just a few rough hints:

Western Provence is famous for the Roman ruins. You find there some of the world's best-preserved Roman arenas (in Nîmes and Arles), the best aquaeduct (Pont du Gard) and probably the best-preserved temple (Nîmes). And excavations of several towns (Vaison-la-Romaine, Glanum) and a few most impressive monuments just standing roadside in the middle of the countryside (Les Antiques).

Besides, Provence has a few charming towns and cities with rich medieval heritage (Avignon with the Palace of the Papes, Arles, Aigues-Mortes with a complete city wall). Also, there is scenery, wine etc. Colourful markets you find everywhere in Provence and at the Côte d'Azur, sellings the same herbs, lavender, homemade soups, sausages etc. You will stumble upon the markets, so no need to plan your itinerary around a specific market.

Côte d'Azur offers incredibly scenic coastal roads (the Corniche d'Esterel between St. Raphael and Cannes and the three Corniches between Nice and Monaco), seaside resorts with classic grand hotels, the world's highest density of modern art museums - and also a few Roman ruins (arena in Fréjus, monument La Turbie at the Grand Corniche). And yacht harbours. And celebrity spotting. And picturesque hilltop villages (at least 20 more than over-touristy Èze). And all kinds of museums. And beautiful climate and flowers everywhere. And the azur-blue sea. And incredibly scenic hiking trails through rugged cliffs along a most dramatic coast. I must stop, wanderlust is coming...

One word to Whathello:

We stayed in Cavalaire a couple of years ago. I am afraid we now prefer staying in Agay because we love the red cliffs and we will be closer to museums etc.. And I am afraid, since or kids are grown-up and prefer to travel alone, we have fallen back to our old habit of sleeping in our tent on a romantic campground behind the beach... Maybe, we find a week or two to travel to the Côte d'Azur next September. But our next significant trip will be to Morocco in May.
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Jan 9th, 2016, 04:12 AM
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Hi traveler
Thanks for your words.
Don't know where Agay is actually.
I guess you are a few years older so our older kids would also not be with us anymore but we were careful to have our last well into our 40 so we stay young parents (or parents of youngsters (.

Anyway in case of need we can find a spot for your tent !
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Jan 9th, 2016, 05:13 AM
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Bonjour, Whathello (can it be that you recently changed your screen name?),

here is the wikipedia article about Le Dramont, which belongs to Agay which belongs to St. Raphael:


To continue our more private conversation, you may use my email adress:

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Jan 28th, 2016, 04:30 AM
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Thanks everyone. We've decided to skip Nice etc and instead spend 5 nights near to Avignon to explore this area (Nimes, Arles, Orange, Luberon, Pont du Gard) and you then two nights somewhere in the Camargue. We're also going to break up or trip from Paris to the South with stops in Loire Valley and the volcano area.

Any suggestions for tips on these places, let me know.

Thanks again for all of your valuable input, it has really helped to shape our holiday.

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Jan 28th, 2016, 06:29 AM
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With "volcano area" you probably mean Puy de Dôme. First, it will be very cold there in March. And probably rainy (actually it is always rainy there).

Second, compared to other volcano areas on the planet with bizarra lava formations (like the Canary Islands, El Malpais/New Mexico, Hawaii, Mount Etna..), it is not overly spectacular. There are no active volcanoes any more and the ancient volcanoes and lava fields are mostly green. However, the funicular to the top of Puy de Dôme is open all year.


If you want to stay at Clermont-Ferrand I can recommend Hotel Radio, a beautiful 3-star hotel with family rooms (stayed there with our twins) and an excellent restaurant.

In the Loire valley, we stayed with 5 persons in a suite of this lovely hotel:
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Jan 28th, 2016, 06:38 AM
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In Avignon, don't miss the Palais des Papes, the market in Les Halles (http://www.avignon-leshalles.com/), and la rue des Teinturiers (Teinturiers street : http://www.avignon-et-provence.com/a...m#.Vqoie5rhBDA).

A little further south, les Baux-de-Provence is one of the famous villages. There, let's go to the "Carrières de Lumières" (http://carrieres-lumieres.com/en/home).

In the Luberon aera, Gordes, Roussillon, Lourmarin are some of the hilltop villages you must see.

Enjoy Provence !
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Jan 28th, 2016, 06:39 AM
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You're planning to pick up a rental car on Easter Sunday? Good luck with that.

With two days in the Camargue you absolutely have to have dinner at Les Tellines, a tiny little house where a local fisherman and his wife will treat you to the catch of the day.
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Jan 28th, 2016, 11:49 PM
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Thank you.

Traveller1959, we're okay if the volcano area isn't amazing, it will be too two already five year olds! Plus I think there us meant to be an interesting child friendly museum called Vulcania. It seemed like a natural stopping point half way. We're off course open to other suggestions.

StCirc - We'll pick up or rental car when we land. Our Paris accommodation includes parking and my husband is used to driving in EU. It's not ideal to have a car sitting there for four days, but it will make it much easier for us at the airport and of course you're quite right, it's impossible to pick up a rental car in the city on Easter Sunday.

We're really looking forward to the Camargue. Any accommodation suggestions / Recommendation for a location would be most Appreciated.

Thanks Toulanais for the tips.

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Jan 29th, 2016, 11:15 PM
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For young children, Les Baux de Provence is definitely good fun, as there are kids activities as you move around the old chateau. Just check the chateau's website for when they open for Spring. And another vote for Carrieres de Lumieres - it's beautiful, and your kids will love it. Very close to Les Baux and St Remy. The Glannum Roman ruins just outside St Remy are also worth a visit.
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Jan 29th, 2016, 11:40 PM
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Looks like a great trip in the making for the Wombats!

I haven't anything useful to add to your Itinerary, but thought I'd just say how useful I found my Paqme raincoat (they do kids stuff too). Weighs nothing, takes no room - Melbourne company.

Also super - UniQlo's heattech range of unders. Well worth a look as they do a lot more than the excellent lightweight down jackets. Forgive me if you already know all this or are kitted out - but my Darwin friends were grateful when they went to Germany for a month at Christmas.

Hope you have a fabulous time!
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