Heading to France and we need help! :-)

Mar 22nd, 2009, 05:34 PM
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Heading to France and we need help! :-)

We are heading out soon for our wonderful French adventure, and I am turning to Fodorites once again for help. We are a mid-50’s couple, interested in wine, history, photography, cooking, art museums. This is what we have put together so far:

Day 1 Flights (points)
Days 2,3: Nice - Le Meridien (points)
Days 4-10: Montauroux, rented house: http://tinyurl.com/czn944
Days 15-20: Barge Cruise, L’Impressioniste, Canal de Bourgogne, Central Burgundy
Day 21: Dijon, Sofitel Dijon
Days 22-29: Paris, Hotel Westminster Opera
Days 29-30: Paris, Hotel George V (our BIG splurge)
Day 31: Flight

1.) While in Montauroux, we want to visit a perfume factory in Grasse– but I read where tours are not given? Any input about this will be greatly appreciated.
2.) Any recommendations on not-to-miss-sights in the Nice/Cote D’Azur area?
3.) We were thinking of staying in a Chateau somewhere between Avignon and Lyon or Dijon before our barge cruise. Does anyone have any recommendations? And again – not-to-be-missed sights? One that I read about is Chateau des Fines Roches – any info? Other suggestions? We could perhaps stay at 2 different Chateaus or inns as we make our way to Dijon.
4.) We’ll be renting a car when we get to Nice; and dropping it off in Dijon before the barge cruise. Any recommendations on car rental companies? Will we have any problems because we’re not returning it to the same place from which we rented it?
5.) While in Paris, we would like to take a cooking class or 2 – any suggestions?

We are getting so excited for this trip – any thoughts, comments, suggestions will be greatly appreciated! A little worried about maneuvering the train & metro - english website links would be great! Does the metro work the same way the Boston "T" works?

Also - is anyone going to be in Paris in early May - thinking a GTG would be fun! (Leely - if you see this - I think I saw that you're going to be in Paris in May?)

cynstalker is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2009, 05:43 PM
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According to the Fragonard web site they still give tours. I took one years ago and it was interesting. I think you'll have to wait for a group to gather for a tour in English but in May there shouldn't be a problem.

adrienne is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2009, 05:55 PM
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If you want to know if the Paris Metro works the same as the T, you should tell folks who don't live in Boston how the T works.

Anyway...the Metro is so simple. When you look at a Metro map:
find the station you want to go to.

follow the map line to the end to get the name of the last stop so if you're on line 1, there will be two ends - Chateau de Vincennes in the east and La Defense in the west.
Ex: If you're traveling from Odeon to Jussieu you will follow the metro sign that says "direction Chateau de Vincennes."

when you transfer between stations you will do the same thing so if you are transferring at Jussieu and going to Place Monge you will look for the sign that says "direction Villejuif-Louis Aragon."

The signs are all written on the Metro walls (blue signs).

adrienne is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2009, 07:41 PM
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Oh Cyn, too bad--I'll be in Paris the end of May. I was hoping we could meet and swap stories! Your itinerary sounds long and lovely, as usual, and I hope you have a great time. I have long wanted to visit Burgundy and was contemplating a day trip to Dijon or Auxerre or ??? during this upcoming holiday but I don't think I'll have the days so I will have to live vicariously through you. Take lots of photos.

Re: the Metro. I find everything in Paris a little confusing at first and then I get the hang of it. The Metro is fairly straightforward, as the poster above has noted. But yes, do keep in mind the name of the station at the end of the line in the direction you're headed. Makes things easier.

There are a couple of May Fodorite GTGs being planned; one I believe is at the beginning of the month, so keep your eye out.
Leely2 is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2009, 07:50 PM
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Oh, forgot to mention re:

4.) We’ll be renting a car when we get to Nice; and dropping it off in Dijon before the barge cruise. Any recommendations on car rental companies? Will we have any problems because we’re not returning it to the same place from which we rented it?

I rented from Nova Car Hire (novacarhire.com) in 2007; they had the best rates out of the companies I had seen recommended here for my dates and locations. Picked up in Limoges, dropped off in Brive la Gaillarde, no problems whatsoever.
Leely2 is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2009, 07:56 PM
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Cyn - I live in Boston, and I've been to Paris a few times, so I guess I can help compare the 2.

You shouldn't have much trouble with the Paris Metro. Instead of signs saying "Inbound" and "Outbound" on the T, in Paris, the lines tell you the last stop of each line. And the lines are named after with NUMBERS.

So let's say you're at South Station and need to get to Kendall. You'll look for Line # and you want Direction Alewife.

For line transfer you look for "correspondence". So, it's crucial you know the last stop of the line in the direction you'll need.

After multiple trips to Paris, I find myself preferring the Paris buses over the metro. The buses are easy to figure out, and much more scenic than the metro.

If you go to ratp.fr, there is an Interactive Map which you can play with - you can choose Metro lines, or Bus lines...
yk is offline  
Mar 22nd, 2009, 08:00 PM
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Sounds like a great itinerary.

Don't worry about the Metro. It's easy to use, and like everyone above said, just look at the last stop to follow the signs to your trains.

One pointer though: on some trains the doors don't open automatically at the stops. You have to open them yourself. So when you get on a train, watch what others do at the next stop. (You don't want to become the French version of Charlie on the MTA!).
cw is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2009, 07:27 AM
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adrienne: thanks for the link to fragonard - just what I was looking for. I had thought about explaining Boston's "T", but I was already so long-winded, I was afraid I would bore everybody to tears! Your explanation was great - it sounds very much like the T. Thank you.

leely: darn! I was hoping we might cross paths. Ah well - another time. And ME, take lots of photos? Lol - of course! And my companion is also very interested in photography, so between us... yikes! Thanks for the car rental sight - I emailed them for a quote. Glad to hear it should be no problem dropping off the car in a different location.

yk: So the metro's line # corresponds to the T's colors? I'm glad to hear that - when looking at the metro maps I was trying to determine the different colors and thinking to myself I'll never figure out the different blues! This makes much more sense. We do plan to use the bus; although neither one of us has ever ridden buses before, so we may get some scenic, long rides...

cw: thanks for that pointer - I would never have realized that I need to open the doors myself! Yes, I can hear the lyrics now... Cyn toujours sur le metro...

Thanks everyone for taking the time to help - really appreciate it! More info?
cynstalker is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2009, 08:27 AM
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Cyn - when in Paris, what you want to concentrate on is the Line #; not the color because of the various shades of green and blue. If you want to take a bus, study the Bus map on the interactive map available on RATP.FR.
yk is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2009, 11:27 AM
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Try Sixt.com for the car rental; it's a major European agency with very good prices and service.

For days 11-14, why not explore some of Burgundy? There's a great deal to see and enjoy.

In Grasse, visit the new International Perfume Museum and try to get on one of the tours. The scent garden on the top floor is especially interesting, but all the displays are first rate--lots of beautiful containers from ancient times to modern. If time allows, go to the fine Provençal museum, down the street from the Fragonard building. I don't mean the Fragonard museum, which is smaller and less interesting.
One warning: if you visit the perfume museum, note that the gift shop closes at noon sharp! Fragonard has a nice shop with very helpful saleswomen, and there's a larger shop on the street leading away from the underground car park.
Underhill is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2009, 11:58 AM
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Hi cynstalker - looks like a great trip. When will you be in Nice? I'm leaving for E. France Mar 31st, and will be in Nice the first week of April. Would be fun to meet you!

For Paris look into the Mobilis pass - it will get you on both the Metro and the bus as many times as you like in one day, but is not advertised on the English language section of http://ratp.fr/ because they want you to buy the more expensive Paris pass. Ther are a couple of bus routes along the Seine which make for good sightseeing.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2009, 12:29 PM
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When in Nice try to get up to St. Paul de Vence to visit the Maeght galleries. Uniquely beautiful setting.......Wanna do a little splurge for lunch, Colombe d'or is in town also....delightful expeience. Enjoy your trip..sounds like a good one. (Whle at George V, tell the desk not to hold my reservation..lol).

stu t.
tower is offline  
Mar 24th, 2009, 02:55 PM
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yk:thank you; glad I understood correctly. And that ratp site is very helpful!

underhill thanks for the additional car rental site - the novacarhire was unable to help. We'll be seeing a little of Burgundy when we do the barge cruise. Do you have a favorite inn/chateau in that area that you particularly like? We're thinking of 2 nights near-or-north of Avignon, then 2 nights near Lyon; but we're still looking for accommodation recommendations. Thanks for the information on the perfume museum - and the warning about the noon closure of the shop - that could have been very disappointing!

thursdaysd: email me at: cynstalker11 @ verizon . net and we'll talk about the dates - from what I could see in your posts, it looks like there could be a couple times that we cross paths - it would be so much fun to connect! Be sure to put fodors in the reference or I may delete it. And thanks for the Mobile pass tip.

tower: St Paul de Vence looks lovely - thanks for the suggestion. We'll probably do a trip there from the house in Montauroux - it appears to be about 40k from there.

Is anyone familiar with cooknwithclass in Paris?

Thanks everyone for your help - this board makes trip planning so much fun!

cynstalker is offline  
Mar 25th, 2009, 02:51 PM
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Hi cyn - I sent you an email, but maybe your spam filter ate it. You can email me through my website - www.wilhelmswords.com, click on webms at the bottom of the page.
thursdaysd is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 11:25 AM
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sorry thursdaysd - real life intruded on trip planning. Harumpf! ( ) at any rate - I just answered you.

cynstalker is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 11:39 AM
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I can't help with cooking classes in Paris, but my mom and I took one in Nice in October with Rosa Jackson (I found her name here on Fodors). I don't have her website site with me right now, but I also believe she may be able to help with contacts for cooking classes in Paris. If you google her name I'm sure her website will come up. She runs a cooking school out of her Nice apartment and we did a one day market tour/cooking lesson. Not cheap, but it was loads of fun.

I did a trip report back in October of my 3 week trip to France which includes details about the all the restaurants we went to including Paris and Nice...you may want to click on my screen name and check it out. The report is kind of lengthy, but you can probably pick out the Paris and Nice information pretty easily.

I grew up outside NYC and rode the subway there all the time and found once I got my bearings in Paris the Metro was pretty easy to navigate.

Have a great time!
LowCountryIslander is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 12:16 PM
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We stayed at the Chateau des Fines Roches outside of Chateauneuf du Pape quite a few years ago and enjoyed it. The setting is lovely and the food was excellent. However, the current reviews on tripadvisor.com would discourage me from staying there again.
Marija is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 12:30 PM
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There are some Monday cooking classes at Christian Constant's Violon d'Ingres. The one I have for May is on the 4th. If interested let me know and I will tell yhou how to get in contact.

gracejoan3 is offline  
Mar 26th, 2009, 01:05 PM
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A château-hotel that we like in Burgundy is the Château d'Igé; it's in lower Burgundy and is the real thing. Good restaurant, too, and a pleasant garden. A big advantage is that the château isn't far off the autoroute.

One of our favorite places to stay is the perched village of Le Poët-Laval, between Montélimar and Dieulefit. The village was once a stronghold of the Knights of Malta and has been lovingly restored by the Morin family, who added a small hotel and restaurant. There's a beautiful pool with Roman tile and a view out to the mountains. At night the feel is magical, as there are usually few lights other than the stars above the valley. If you have time to visit Dieulefit, do so: it's a charming small town with several good shops. The area is known for its yellow pottery, and about an hour south will take you to the olive town of Nyons. Pay a visit to the olive cooperative to buy olive oil, soap, and other olive products to tuck into your suitcases.
Underhill is offline  
Mar 27th, 2009, 04:56 PM
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The Paris Metro is the simplest one that I have been on. I had no trouble, and I do not know French very well. Not sure about Boston, but the Paris Metro is easier to get around than the New York City subway.
KL467 is offline  

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