French Riviera and Bordeaux

Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 02:13 PM
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French Riviera and Bordeaux

My husband and I are traveling to the French Riviera the 1st week of July. We would be spending approx 4 nights there , fly to Bordeaux and spend 4 nights there for a wine tour.. Any suggestions from anyone familiar with these areas? We enjoy beaches, night life, fine wine and food. We will be meeting our adult daughter and her boyfriend during our stay in the French Riviera. It appears that Nice offers nice hotels (Le Meridien?) at reasonable rates. We would prefer a view of the Mediterranean while there. Would this be a good location to base ourselves? Can we easily get to Cannes and St. Tropez and other towns from there with a car? Would you recommend more time in either place? Thank you!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 02:33 PM
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French Riviera:

If you enjoy beaches, stay away from Nice - it has the world's ugliest beach, consisting of large grey pebbles. You will find the best combination of beaches, night life, fine wine and food in Cannes.

Bordeaux:

Around Bordeaux, you find fantastic beaches. Pyla sur Mer has Europe's largest dune and an incredible beach. On the other side of the Arcachon Bay, Cap Ferret would be a good location. If you prefer to stay closer to the Médoc, Lacanau and Carcans are places with gorgeous beaches.

For wine tours, I recommend the Médoc with its spectacular chateaux. Unfortunately, you won't find picturesque villages in the Médoc (the wealth went into the Chateaux), but the architecture of Chateau Margaux, Cos d'Estournel, Chateau Lafite and hundred others is impressive.

The other option is St. Emilion which resembles more wine regions which can be found elsewhere. St. Emilion is a typical wine village (however touristy) and you find many small wineries in the vicinity.

IMO, the Médoc is more special than St. Emilion. However, there are few decent hotels in Médoc. Given your interests, I would stay on the beach and do tours into the wine region.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 02:45 PM
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Thank you for the quick response! We will look into Cannes. We don't necessarily need to stay at a beach in Bordeaux because my husband would really like to do the wine tours but it is nice to know they are fantastic near there. Do you think splitting the trip 4 nights/4 nights is well weighted?
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 03:10 PM
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For only 4 days, I wouldn't go to St Tropez in early July - just too much of a time-consuming hassle - although I love St Tropez. You'll find PLENTY of things to do & see around Nice - especially if you include some beach time.

I've never considered the Nice/Cote d'Azur a "fine food" destination - although you can probably get excellent meals if you are willing to pay pretty high prices. I've found much better food values in Burgundy, Beaujolais, Dordogne, Brittany, Loire, Alsace, Languedoc, Provence - actually just about any other region (maybe not the Ardeche or Auvergne). This opinnion, of course, is based on my personal food preferences. When we're staying on the Cote d'Azur, we prefer fun/outside venues where people watching is the main event - not the food. We spend most evenings on the Cours Saleya in Nice watching the "goings-on". I've had some horrible meals there (stinky moules, soggy fries, overcooked fish). Safari on the Cours seems to be better than most, however.

Most of the villages between Menton & Frejus can be visited by train. There is no train station in St Tropez, although I think you can get there by ferry from Nice or maybe Cannes (can't recall which). The hill villages in the Nice Hinterland are best visited by car - if you want to visit several of them on an efficient day-trip (St Paul, Vence, Tourrettes, Gourdon, etc).

Four days is not much time there at all. We've stayed on the Cote 16 weeks and are still discoverning new things to do & see. You can easily fill your 4 days with lots of stuff that does not need a car to get to. I would at least visit Antibes during the day, and Cannes if you really have the desire to go there. Villefranche would be a nice place to take a train to around 7pm, wander in town, and then have dinner looking out at the Med at La Mere Germaine.

I have a 27+ page itinerary for the Cote d'Azur & Provence that I've sent to over 1,000 people on Fodors. E-mail me at [email protected] if you want a copy.

If this was my trip and considering that I'm a big wine enthusiest, I fould do my wine touring in the Cote du Rhone area in Provence. Much prettier region (lavender season in early July), than Bordeaux, IMO.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 03:20 PM
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>>Do you think splitting the trip 4 nights/4 nights is well weighted?
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 03:23 PM
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>>>considering that I'm a big wine enthusiest, I fould do my wine touring in the Cote du Rhone area in Provence. Much prettier region (lavender season in early July), than Bordeaux, IMO
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 03:36 PM
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>>for a true wine enthusiast, Cote du Rhone is no match to Bordeaux!
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 03:50 PM
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I would add a day to the Côte d'Azur and subtract one from Bordeaux. And unless it absolutely has to be Bordeaux wine for the tours, I'd consider some other, closer wine region also. Yes, Arcachon and Cap Ferret and the Dune du Pyla are interesting sites, but after the Côte d'Azur, you'll be underwhelmed with the scenery in the Bordeaux area.
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Old Feb 23rd, 2010, 05:19 PM
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echnaton - how would you spend the "several hours" in Monaco?
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 02:00 AM
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In Monaco:

- I would walk around the rocher, visit the Palace, the Cathedral and the Oceanographic Museum.
- I would drive to Monte-Carlo, have a look at the Casino and the lobby of Hotel de Paris.
- I would visit the Jardin Exotique (cactus garden) and the nearby anthropological museum.

(In fact, I have done all this.)

There are a few more attractions, if you have special interests (a museum of vintage cars, a museum of automats and puppets...).
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 05:33 AM
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We have taken your advice and are now going to split the trip 5 nights/3 nights. Now the hotel choices. Anyone familiar with Le Meridien in Nice or The Palais de la Mediterranee? If we stay in Cannes, we are looking at Hotel Martinez. I've heard the beaches in Cannes are much nicer but the town of Nice is more charming... Thank you!
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 06:15 AM
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 07:35 AM
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Don't know if I would describe Nice as "charming". There are many more things to do & see in Nice than in Cannes, and my wife loves the Belle Epoque architecture there. Old Nice & the Cours Saleya are quite enjoyable (don't visit Old Nice on Mondays - when many stores are closed).

beach:
We've spent perhaps 20 days lying on the beach in Nice at one of the private concessions (Blue Beach, usually). We've spent 2 days lying on the beach in Cannes at a private concessions. We actually enjoy the beach at Nice more than Cannes IF you use the private concessions. Laying directly on the rocks in Nice would not be fun (never tried, however). The private concessions are quite decadent. They either have boardwalks or grass mats so you don't have to walk on the rocks. You rent lounge chairs & umbrellas to lay on. IMO, there is less "dust" from the flat/polished rocks in Nice than from the sand in Cannes.

We always stay at the Windsor in Nice (no views).

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 10:47 AM
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Thanks, echnaton. I assume that each of those Monaco options takes several hours in and of itself? Being the somewhat compulsive overplanner that I am, I am trying to estimate times so we can see the highlights but not feel rushed. I am tentatively thinking a morning in Monaco followed by lunch in Eze but maybe the morning and lunch in Monaco and then simply stopping in Eze on the way back to Nice would be more relaxed?
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 10:57 AM
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We love Nice, as there's so much to do--and there are good public-transport connections to other towns along the coast. If it's a good beach you're after, consider Antibes: it's a pleasant town with good restaurants and beaches, and again there are good connections by train and bus.
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 11:40 AM
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Joan, let me throw in my recommendation for a hotel in Nice - fantastic location (right on the main avenue), beach view (cross the road and your right on the beach.) And, shockingly reasonable to boot. This is part of a chain - so you get a standard of quality assurance, yet it doesn't feel cookie -cutter. Behind the hotel is the daily market that leads to many unique windy alleys and streets filled with nifty stores. (You must, must, must buy the French soap in the small shop behind the hotel - it is simply divine.) The hotel is:
Nice Marche aux Fleurs *** (This is part of the Mercure chain)
91 quai Etats-Unis
Telephone: 33 (0)4 93 85 74 19
e-mail: [email protected]
Nice is lovely, try and get to the Chagall and Matisse museums...bus travel is so cheap - one Euro I think and just about the prettiest bus tickets you've ever seen!
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 12:08 PM
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joanl:

According to international standards, Hotel Martinez is 4.5* and the Meridien 3.5*. But there is a caveat:

Some of the luxury hotels have inexpensive substandard rooms which are meant to accomodate the servants of celebrities. If you book via Expedia or Priceline, there is a chance that you get such a room. In that case, refuse the room and ask for a better one. If necessary, ask twice.

About Nice and Cannes:

Nice is a quite large city. Just behind the beach is the Promenade des Anglais - a very busy road with up to eight lanes. Then comes a row of good hotels and behind that a row of bad hotels. Otherwise, Nice is a proper city: with a pedestrian zone and shopping, with several train stations, roundabouts and with a charming old town with the typical array of delis and boutiques. Nice has some outstanding art museums. Be aware that Nice is not very walkable.

Cannes is a small town. Behind the beach is also a boulevard, the Croisette, but it has just three lanes (at the Martinez), is lined by palm trees and the traffic is more relaxed (you will see quite a few Rolls-Royces and Ferraris there). Cannes has an old town too, a castle (with a museum inside and a splendid view) and the yacht harbour which is lined by street-cafés.

I have already written about the beaches. There are even better beaches on the Cote d'Azur, e.g. Juan-les-Pins. But if you are interested in nightlife and good food, I would recommend Cannes. It is priceless to sit in the bar of the Majestic (arguably the best hotel in Cannes), sip a glass of champagne and watch the people.

There are some good restaurants in Mougins, just in the hinterland of Cannes. Easy to reach by taxi.

I admit that I personally prefer the Esterel coast. I would probably choose this hotel:

http://www.tiara-hotels.com/hotel.as...l=10&idioma=EN

The downside is that you are pretty far from nightlife at the Miramar beach hotel.

kfoster:

I would indeed spend more time in Monaco and eat there. For Eze, 15 minutes will be enough. It's just the view and two or three village lanes which are usually crowded with cruise ship passengers and touristy souvenir shops.

If you want to see charming mountain villages, I would recommend others: St. Paul, albeit touristy too, has more charme, other recommendations are Gourdon or Tourrette-sur-Loup.
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 12:50 PM
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Thanks, echnaton. We had planned to stop at St. Paul between Antibes and Nice. My main interest in Eze was the view - and I heard they had some nice restaurants. I have this nice little fantasy of sitting in a little hill village overlooking the water and drinking champagne. <g> How about somewhere like Roquebrune after Monaco?
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 01:13 PM
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Nice has much more to offer than Cannes if only easy access by public transportation to Monaco, Eze, Villefranche, Antibes, etc.... In July traffic is very slow and unless you take the motorway to drive from Cannes to Monaco you will spend a lot of time in your car.
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Old Feb 24th, 2010, 01:54 PM
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>>Then comes a row of good hotels and behind that a row of bad hotels.
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