Help me decide-Loire Valley or Provence

Jan 26th, 2006, 10:18 AM
  #1  
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Help me decide-Loire Valley or Provence

I am planning a trip for my husband and me for April 8-15 before we start popping out babies (not pregnant yet).
Question One--At this time of year, would you prefer to go to the Loire Valley or Provence after seeing Paris?
Question 2-- would you/could you try to squeeze in a trip to London?

Things to know about us:
--I've been to Paris and Northern Italy before. My husband's never been to Europe.
--We are in our late twenties.
--The only art we care to see is at the Louvre. I don't need to see the Eiffel Tower again. I think 2 to 2 1/2 days in Paris would be enough.
--We are interested in walking around, architecture, beautiful scenery, history, people watching, authenticity, food(!).

So what do you suggest? Thanks for the advice. Beth
miel2384 is offline  
Jan 26th, 2006, 10:21 AM
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Well, the Loire valley and PRovence could hardly be more different, so maybe if you tell us how you picked out those two places it would be easier to help you find the answer.

With such a short time I wouldn't hop over to London. Give yourselves an extra day in Paris - 2.5 days is hardly any time at all.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 26th, 2006, 11:16 AM
  #3  
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Re: why I picked Loire Valley and Provence. Both are "the countryside," are they not? And both areas get a lot of positive feedback on this board. I really don't know the difference, that's why I'm asking.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 11:55 AM
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oh no! does no one have any advice for me??? what else do you need to know?
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Jan 26th, 2006, 12:04 PM
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We have yet to 'do' Provence, but the Loire is easy from Paris. One hour by TGV Paris to Tours & rent a car - you will need a car imho. You can stay in one of the towns or in a chateau in the country. Easy to drive around. Great small towns & villages to visit & of course, wonderful grande chateaux. We stayed for 2 nights at Chateau Chissay & thought that that was just right - many may disagree however.

But I don't think you should try to squeeze London into the mix.

Ian
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Jan 26th, 2006, 12:07 PM
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Neither of us can drive a manual car. Does that matter?
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Jan 26th, 2006, 12:08 PM
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Both areas are very different. Loire valley will be the choice if you want to visit fairytale castles - there are dozens of them within a stretch of 50 miles, and one is more beautiful than the other. However, there is not much else to do in this region. Landscape is green with lazy rivers, nothing spectacular.
Provence is different. Is is a fascinating, arid landscape. There are lots of spectacular buildings from Roman times - amphitheaters, temples etc. The best are in Nimes, Orange, Arles, Vaison-la-romaine and St. Remy. Also there are medieval towns like Les Beaux or the city of Avignon with the Pope's palace (the popes resides some time in Avignon).
You see, Provence has much more diversity than the Loire area. Provence will also be more sunny, however, there can still be cold winds in April.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 12:24 PM
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The first TGV stop in Tours is St Pierre des Corps. There is/was an AVIS rental kiosk on the side of the station. I'm sure that they can get an auto - if you're willing to pay the premium. Check with AVIS or AutoEurope who contract through AVIS.

Ian
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Jan 26th, 2006, 12:31 PM
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I'd chose Provence
--much better weather at that timwe
--Loire is basically only castles otherwise the countryside is ho-hum
--Provence is much prettier with several great towns clustered together in a few mile radius (Avignon, Arles, St Remy, Aix) - some of the most beautiful old towns in Europe
--Loire towns are OK but can'tmatch Provence
---Only reasons to do Loire over Provence would be it'smuch closer to Paris and if you really love castles more than anything else.
---but the key factor could be the oft lousy Loire April weather - lots of rain and can be quite cool - Porvence guaranteeably warm and probably sunny.
---For your criteria go to Provence
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Jan 26th, 2006, 12:39 PM
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Hi there,

Having been to both Provence and the Loire Valley, I would without a doubt pick Provence, especially if you aren't driving a manual car. I'm about your age but don't know how to drive, so I always plan good vacations around trains.

The Loire valley is nice, but there are basically only two main attractions: wine and castles---both of which you would need to make heavy use of a car to appreciate. Provence is also a great wine-region, (Chateauneuf-du-Pape, near Avignon, and is a fun place in which to taste wines), but there is so much more to do. As traveller1959 said, Nimes, Orange, and Avignon are wonderful (Nimes especially--you get see bullfights, amazing Roman ruins, and the France's first ever public park all in one (don't quote me on the public park fact, though. I might be off about that, but it's still very nice). Also, Nimes is an easy 50-minute bus-ride from the Pont du Gard, which somehow impressed me more than many of the Roman ruins in Rome. People also rave about a place called Uzes, which is a bit further east of the Pont du Gard.

However, if what you're simply looking for is "countryside" without needing to rent a car, I might suggest something wholly different. There are ways of doing the area down by Nice in a way that is not glitzy, overly urban, or resort-oriented. I took my mom there on holiday in November. We stayed in a hotel in Nice and every day took the most beautiful day-trips out to the countryside (I had already been to Cannes, Monaco, etc. on another trip, and hated them, so I told her we would be doing something quite different. Other people like them though, and some, such as Beauville, are supposed to be much less snotty and commercial). Something that is incredibly underrated and barely ever mentioned by people or guidebooks is this wonderful little train that connects Nice with these cute town in the Alps just north of Nice. The train is called "Chemin de fer de Provence." Within 45 minutes, you forget that you were ever in a big city. We visited two very cute little medieval villages in one day: Annot and Entrevaux. Entrevaux especially was my favourite, because you can climb up to the top of a citadel for the most beautiful views of mountains and valleys I've ever seen. There were only 5 other tourists there that day! You can also go to small hill villages along the coast, such as St-Paul de Vence or Eze. They aren't "countryside" per se, but they are small and terribly cute, and Eze has the best views, possibly, in the whole world. You can also take the main train line up north for day-trips into Italian countryside.

This was supposed to be just my 2 cents, but I think it ended up being about $5
Felly is offline  
Jan 26th, 2006, 12:41 PM
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I would choose Provence, unless you feel that the Loire valley chateaux are a priority. Provence has a mediterranean feel to it, with delicious food, hilltop villages, towns with charming squares and outdoor cafes, and LOTS of romantic hotels.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 01:04 PM
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Wow, everybody, thank you! I guess it's Provence...
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Jan 26th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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It shouldn't take you more than half a day to master driving a stick shift - well worth it, IMO, for the money you'll save.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 01:21 PM
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My wife & I usually spend 2 months vacationing in France every year. We've spent 23 weeks in Provence, and 1 week in the Loire - and we love chateaux. We're planning on another 4 weeks in Provence in '07. That pretty much tells you which area we prefer. The reasons everyone else gave you are the same reasons we prefer Provence. The Dordogne ain't bad either.

I have a 20+ page itinerary which describes our favorite things in Provence, It has a "Provence Fabric" section and a "markets" section. E-mail me at [email protected] if you want a copy.

Stu Dudley
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Jan 26th, 2006, 03:37 PM
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Provence has much more to offer. Also,in Paris I much prefer the Musee D'Orsay over the Louvre.
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Jan 26th, 2006, 08:55 PM
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my partner and I did provence a few years back. We were in Paris for a few days (to get used to the time) then took the train down to Avignon. We used Avignon as our base. We rented a car (he drove, I handled the map) and drove to quite a few towns, all within an hour or so. We went to Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Les Baux, St Marie, etc. I can get more details if you'd like. We also did a day trip to Cannes. We took the train right back to the airport.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 06:50 AM
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Stuck with stick shift? You can easily rent an automatic car thru major agencies in some locations - costs more but much easier.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 07:31 AM
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I rented an automatic in Paris at a train station to make the drive to Normandy. I would recommend paying the extra $$$ and get the automatic. Avignon is a big city (100,000) so I'm sure they can handle your request with advance notice.

I wouldn't want to learn to drive stick in a country where I am not familiar with the roads, the language and the driving habits of the locals. Just be sure to confirm and reconfirm that you are reserving an automatic. I think it only cost me an extra $100-150 for the week. Spread over seven days it was worth the money not to deal with a stick.

I've tried to drive stick twice-I'm obviously an idiot. I was going to strip the gears before learning both times.
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Jan 27th, 2006, 08:31 AM
  #19  
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Is it possible to do Provence without a car? While I realize you can't get that far off the beaten path this way, can a train take us to the requisite places to see "Provence"?
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Jan 27th, 2006, 09:03 AM
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While you don't absolutely need a car to see the sights in Provence, a car is very useful--it allows you to do what you want when you want and to get out into the smaller villages that aren't necessarily available by public transportation.

I'd pick Provence over the Loire Valley any hour of the day!
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