Paris to Provence by a Parent of Teens

May 9th, 2019, 06:36 AM
Join Date: Apr 2010
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RubyTwins, loving your TR and especially the teen’s comments, some of which are hilarious... like the one about seeing news types of wildlife, you don’t often see wild boars in an urban setting. They also appear to be considerate of young kids, an admirable trait.

We were in Cassis almost exactly three years back but couldn’t do the Calanques, neither the hike nor the boat tour due to high winds. In fact the road up to the top was closed to vehicular traffic.

Am waiting for the St Remy and the Luberon bit, one of my favourite regions in France. We spent almost two weeks there last June and want to go back again, maybe in 2021...
geetika is online now  
May 9th, 2019, 06:52 AM
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You must have been very close to the boar to be able to determine that it was a she.
kerouac is online now  
May 9th, 2019, 08:19 AM
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Originally Posted by kerouac View Post
You must have been very close to the boar to be able to determine that it was a she.

Up close and personal
RubyTwins is offline  
May 9th, 2019, 10:41 AM
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Great to hear some travel reportage from your teens. Younger, different perspectives are always a welcome change. Please advise them to continue writing about their future travels.
I am done. The yewts.
zebec is online now  
May 11th, 2019, 04:09 PM
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Part 3: St. Remy

Part 3: St. Remy

Our Gite was ready and we headed to meet the owner, a very nice person who speaks no English.
Tip: the new Google Translate App is great in this situation.

This house is very comfortable and if you have kids, they will love the pool but there is also a little garden where you can enjoy your breakfast or afternoon wine. Unfortunately, it was too chilly for us and we couldn’t utilize this wonderful feature. AND having a parking spot in St. Remy I imagine is necessary during the high season. You can walk to town but I won’t lie, it’s not a pretty walk there.

TORRENTIAL rain and we headed to Da Peppe for dinner and my kids were so happy to have lasagna and pizza. My husband and I shared a pie and a salad. Totally fine. The desserts looked obscenely big and since my son is a diabetic we discouraged ordering what appeared to be a barrel of ice cream that could be shared by a family of 6.

Teen Opinion: It was heavy but I liked it a lot. Massive portions and very fresh and good.

Day 8
Started this beautiful sunny day at Glanum right down the street from our place. Although primarily Roman ruins, its first inhabitants were Celto‐Ligurians who arrived here in the seventh or sixth century BCE. Next, the Greeks came and finally the Romans conquered. Across the street, are the “Les Antiques” (a mausoleum and triumphal arch—the oldest in Gaul--which linked Glanum to the main Roman thoroughfare which connected southern France to Italy. We enjoyed the laid back experience of walking around the ruins and I thought the audio guide was pretty good (the Celto-Liguarians were fierce warriors and often kept the heads of their victims in oil to show to visiting friends and family). Overall pretty well preserved.

Teen Opinion: I liked this and I liked hiking up and looking at the overview. It was a beautiful setting. Maybe not so spectacular compared to other ruins. But I liked it.

From there we walked down the road St. Paul de Mausole Asylum, the sanitarium where Vincent Van Gogh committed himself and spent a very productive year painting. Van Gogh lived in two small connected rooms; one was his bedroom, the second his studio. It is a very moving experience (especially to be in his room alone and not with a horde of tourists) and to look out his window. Most of us have family or friends struggling with mental illness and reading the texts and seeing his simple room as it was recreated is poignant. Throughout the beautiful grounds, there are reproductions of Van Gogh’s paintings in front of the view he painted with excerpts from his letters. Very serene with all the Japanese Iris blooming. Highly recommended.

Tip: As a side note, I did read several reports of car thieves in the parking lot stealing luggage so beware.

Headed into St. Remy for a lunch of Crepes at Creperie Lou Planet which was in the Rick Steve’s book. I so appreciate his practical travel tips like where to park but we decided going forward to not always go with his advice and sometimes just use our instinct. It was lovely to sit outside in the quiet shady square in the pouring rain while a homeless man watched us eat. Actually, the restaurant had a cool awning that came out and covered us as the rain increased from pouring to torrential. Although one of my kids was not huge crepes fans they loved the chocolate banana one for dessert and our server was very nice. From there, we were overdue for nap time to wait out the rest of the rain

But first, we popped into La Cave aux Fromages to pick up our evening cheeses. I know there are some Trip Advisor reviews of “disgusting, rude and abrasive customer service,” but we didn’t find that. We did enter with a “Bon Jour Madame” and while we found the service overall in Paris to be much warmer and more forgiving of stumbling tourists than in Provence. She was all business and we found no reason to take it personally. We weren’t trying to make a best friend here, just get some Chabidchou du Poitou. With so many negative reviews, I have to say probably where there is smoke there is fire and so wanted to point out we personally did not experience the wrath of the infamous cheese lady. We also go chocolates at Joel Durand and because of our bad French, we ended up with TWO expensive boxes. The boys really liked le Petit Duc next door and the woman working was so nice with samples, I left a pound or two heavier

Teen Opinion: I really liked the chocolate and banana crepe. I don’t really like a lot of food so that means it must be pretty good.

Late in the day, again after hordes of tourists left, we headed to Les Baux. Although inhabited since 6,000 BC, it was the warrior clan Les Seigneurs des Baux from the middle ages that really went to town at this location waging wars from the fortress and defending from this eagle’s nest. There are some interesting reproductions of weapons (including one just for the ladies to hurl rocks ). There is a superb view from this defensive position. I know they do some medieval re-enactment stuff which perhaps is good. We prefer wandering the ruins after most people leave. We took the recommended scenic drive back to St. Remy and for us, scenic translated into extreme curves and car sickness. I don’t think it was a particularly beautiful ride.

Teen Opinion: This was definitely worth a visit and a highlight. I liked this a lot because we had a lot of freedom to explore and see different ruins and we learned how the weapons worked and you could imagine and piece together what it looked like. I liked the false door--. Great idea.

We read that the Arles Market is very good so we got up early to get a coveted parking spot in Arles. We found on market day, French drivers tend to be incredibly irritable especially in the parking garage. But we got a spot and headed out. My husband is a good driver but maybe he was too methodical in his hunt for a spot when the locals just wanted to get there and get their shopping done. Yes, the food is gorgeous but the rest looked like a very very long Dollar General store (or for those from Brooklyn, the 5th Avenue Street fair). All kinds of crap you may never use. We picked up dinner again: Sausage, bread, tomatoes, and potatoes. It was all delicious. The boys were not thrilled with the market experience. We grabbed some lunch (Paella and pizza) and were about to look at the Roman stadium when a tour bus pulled up disgorging a tour of exhausted-looking tourists and we decided… nope, not today We looked through the fence and that was good enough.

I kind of fell off on the planning part of our trip. I wanted to go to Avignon and see the Palace of the Popes but decided that was probably a trip without teens as they were getting restless. So, although some on this board did not like Carmague, we decided on that for our afternoon trip. I was armed with mosquito repellant but being April, it was not necessary. The Camargue Natural Park includes a UNESCO designated wildlife preserve. And if you love birds, this does not disappoint. There were just a ridiculous amount of birds at Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Grau including the famed flamingos. But before we hit the very groomed trails, we did stop and have our espressos inside the park and watched some Egrets fight ringside. In addition to birds we also so muskrat and yes, another wild boar. This one was not so friendly and I was glad there was water between us and “him.” I wish we had spent more time in this fascinating area of France but I didn’t plan well.

Tip: I think it's true, this could be a nightmare in the summer with mosquitos as I was told this over and over and over.
Teen Opinion: There are a lot of species of birds and the flamingos are spectacular and crazy. And it's pretty amazing to see them swarm and in the wild. But a lot of the birds although different species look exactly the same and so it might be more interesting to an aviary biologist.

We got back to St. Remy at 8:00 and tried to eat out with no reservations and that just wasn’t going to happen. The two places we wanted to go were totally booked. We were lucky to have some leftover food at home and made a quick dinner but I was very disappointed because I had wanted one really good Provencial meal and I did not get it and would not likely get it on our last day, a Sunday.

Tip: Make a reservation!! No kidding. Small town = not that many restaurants.

LAST DAY WHIRLWIND: Luberon Hill Towns

OK here is an example of cramming in way too much in one day.

First up, the market at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and this one did not disappoint. Sure, there was touristy stuff for sale but there were also some nice things: I bought a beautiful tablecloth (not the touristy ones I kept seeing everywhere) and three scarves, some nice soaps and honey as gifts. In fact, we are kicking ourselves that we did not get MORE honey there because it is delicious. Walking along the canals and seeing the waterwheels is really pretty. If it were warmer, I can imagine having lunch overlooking the river. But instead, we had a nice espresso and headed out.

Teen Opinion: This place is really special and I loved it. The market just had the usual stuff but the town and the water wheels I will always remember.

Next up Gourdes which in this case I agree with Rick Steve. Take a picture and leave. But no… we stopped and had lunch. Sure it is beautiful but it felt very much like a stage set of wealthy people’s summer pleasure homes. It just didn’t feel like a real town. And then there are the galleries with bad art. So our lunch was fine but my sons were getting tired of my husband and his photos.

Teen Opinion: Not really worth dropping by. You can get the same view from other places that have something to do besides shop.

Next up Sénanque Abbey built in the 12th century for Cistercian monks. Those monks of noble birth were pretty strict taskmasters for those who were born of humbler beginnings. Today there are still monks living and working at the abbey which is very simple with no frescoes, sculptures, or stained-glass windows but it is quite beautiful and austere (what we saw of it). Because we don’t speak French we were not able to take a tour inside and that was disappointing. But walking the grounds, even without the lavender is really lovely. So it’s a trade-off: no crowds and no lavender or lavender and crowds I guess.

Teen Opinion: I didn’t really care for it. It was interesting to know there are people devoting their lives to god and living in an isolated abbey and maybe not talking. And lonely. Drop by if that interests you.

The manic whirlwind day is not over yet. Next up is Bories Village. Bories is a type of dry stone dwelling that goes back as far back as the Bronze Age. But nobody is really sure how old this particular village is; could be 7th century could be the 15th century. This village made me wish we had visited Versailles to really hammer home the difference to my teens what income inequality has looked like throughout history—this showed how most people lived compared to the .5% of nobility in France that took the lions share of the spoils. It was interesting and my husband took way too many photos and we still had one more stop on our final frenzied day. By now the boys were done but… but we weren’t so….onward….

Teen Opinion: It was interesting to see all the old structures like the pig pens and communal ovens and you could climb around this ancient town with very few restrictions. I recommend it.

Arrived late Sunday afternoon to Roussillon and the light on the ochre and the buildings truly is beautiful and so out came my husband’s camera. It was met with heavy sighs by the teens. Really nothing was open at this point unfortunately and we were all way too tired for a hike along the ochre trail.

Teen Opinion: If you are hungry come a little earlier. The view is the best when everything closes. From one side you can see all the yellow rock and the incredible view. Also, there is crepe stand and it is really slow because they also have to make crepes to supply the restaurant.

So that was our trip. We got up next morning and drove to Marseilles to leave. We dropped the car off and the people were much nicer at Europecar at this location.

Teen 1 Trip Highlights: Walking around Paris and walking along the river and looking at the houseboats. I loved the Venice of France: L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and I enjoyed watching the waves in Cassis.

My Trip Highlights: Going to local stores and markets to get our daily cheese and fresh fruit and vegetables. Saint Chapelle and those beautiful windows. Loved seeing the Manets at Musee D’Orsay and the women impressionists. Provence: Hiking in Cassis and Van Gogh’s little room were all memorable as was Les Baux in the evening. And I liked St. Remy a lot. Great base.

Husband Trip Highlight: Really really like Musee D’Orsay and seeing the Van Gogh exhibit. I liked our location in Paris and thought the shops were great: the cheese shop, the man at the vegetable stand always gave me fresh fruits to try; the Italian shop gave me samples of salamis. Everyone was nice and everything was right there. Provence: I loved Van Gogh’s asylum and Glanum. The hike in Cassis was really beautiful and the small market was my favorite. There were so many great moments.

Teen 2 Trip Highlight: I liked Paris a lot and our location there was a lot of fun. I enjoyed the boat ride in the evening and I really liked Cassis a lot.

Thanks for Reading!!

RubyTwins is offline  
May 11th, 2019, 09:41 PM
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I quite enjoyed reading your report and appreciate the time you took to write it as well as opinions from the other family members. I hope you'll be back.

This may have been an unfortunate turn of phrase: It was lovely to sit outside in the quiet shady square in the pouring rain while a homeless man watched us eat.
kerouac is online now  
May 11th, 2019, 09:46 PM
Join Date: Feb 2015
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Fantastic trip report

Thanks for the report; it was entertaining with the right amount of detail, plus personal touches. I also love your teens' perspectives. Although eating like the locals is ideal, teens sometimes want what is familiar. I remember my parents paying a fortune for Coca-Cola in the 70's at the base of Sacre-Coeur for us and our Parisian-suburbs cousins. It sounds like a lovely trip.
mdinbc is online now  
May 12th, 2019, 02:44 AM
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RubyTwins, we were in Provence last June and one of my most memorable and poignant trips was our visit to St Remy and the asylum where Van Gogh committed himself. The lavender was in bloom with hundreds of butterflies flitting around and the view from the window of his tiny room was tranquil and peaceful, but one could imagine the artist’s tortured and troubled mind, it also took me back to some of his paintings at the Amsterdam museum. We particularly enjoyed the walk from the town to the asylum and seeing the vistas Van Gogh captured on his canvases.

You were lucky to see flamingos in the Camargue, haven’t ever seen them there. My niece and two of her friends were with us, 21-22 year olds, and they loved the Camargue.

Like you we also love the fresh fruits and vegetables in the local markets and usually cook one meal at home. These simple pleasures are what one remembers later on. Thank you so for taking the time to tell us about your travels, especially your sons’ impressions. When and where is your next trip, will be waiting for it...
geetika is online now  
May 12th, 2019, 06:24 AM
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Thanks, everyone.
No trips for a while. College tuition is looming but I can dream about Sicily, can't I?
Geetika we too loved seeing the vistas Van Gogh painted. You would think those little placards would be cheesy but it was interesting to see how he interpreted what is right in front of you and I also loved the tender excerpts from the letters.
Kerouac I was being sarcastic which doesn't always translate well in print.

Sorry about the weird spacing--seems the board is reading an apostrophe as a double space??
RubyTwins is offline  
May 12th, 2019, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by RubyTwins View Post
I am working on Part 2... Got through Cassis so far.... hard to juggle work, kids and wanting to write a trip report.
Sorry, "sneakers"? Ah I looked them up on google. You mean trainers or plimsolls. What a language ;-)

Really good write up, greeting French staff is so important.

Last edited by bilboburgler; May 12th, 2019 at 07:26 AM.
bilboburgler is online now  
May 12th, 2019, 07:44 AM
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Plimsolls? Does anybody really use that term?
kerouac is online now  
May 12th, 2019, 07:48 AM
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Hmmm...Pont de Grau = Pont de Gau.

Not sure what the confusion about bories is. Here in the Dordogne they are simple cone-shaped shepherd's shelters. Maybe something else in Provence?

I never heard of plimsolls!

Nice report, thank you.
StCirq is online now  
May 12th, 2019, 10:24 AM
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Thanks so much for your delightful report. Love the comments from your sons and husband. And so happy you were able to take your hike in Cassis. We were in Provence in April and had cold, rainy and windy days for the most part, but still loved being there.

Interesting, we also had a poor experience with Europcar at the Aix TGV station where we returned our car. We arrived at the car rental return parking lot and had to hunt for one of the designated Europcar numbered spaces.

There was a lengthy walk to the building where we handed the key to the counter agent and told her which space we were in. She left to check the car and was gone around 10 minutes. When she returned, she said the car had been moved and she had had to look for it. Also said there were scratches on the passenger side mirror housing.

My husband then walked back to the car with her to see for himself and take pictures. When they returned, paperwork was signed and we left to catch our train.

After we returned home, a Europcar invoice for 23 euros was emailed saying we had returned the car 8 minutes late and therefore were being charged for an extra day plus the extra day additional driver charge. I contacted AutoEurope and less than 48 hours later received word from them that Europcar had "forwarded their most sincere apologies for the billing error." Thank you, AutoEurope. This is now the third time AutoEurope has solved a problem in our favor.

By the way, we picked up this car at the Avignon TGV station where the agent tried her hardest to upsell us to a more expensive car and scare us into taking their insurance coverages. We always use our Amex card and pay $24.95 for full coverage. We have never had to file a claim before this, and are now waiting for Amex Assurance to settle it.

Also enjoyed your adventures in Paris. The Pompidou Center badly needs brightening up which seems to be in progress. And, it's disappointing to see the Stravinsky Fountain is still dry and undergoing work.
MaineGG is offline  
May 13th, 2019, 04:09 PM
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Good to hear about AutoEurope... I had kind of written them off after the very hard and deceptive upsell at AIx. And yes... that was a long walk to the car!
RubyTwins is offline  
May 13th, 2019, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by RubyTwins View Post
Good to hear about AutoEurope... I had kind of written them off after the very hard and deceptive upsell at AIx. And yes... that was a long walk to the car!

It wan't AutoEuope who upsold you. They are there to help 24/7 and it doesn't sound like you contacted them to solve the issues with EuropCar. That is one of the main reasons we use AE - they can, and usually do, fix things on the spot. Or if it is an overcharge that doesn't show up until later, they usually fix that too.
janisj is online now  
May 13th, 2019, 06:19 PM
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Great report! I really enjoyed hearing your teens chime in. And I bookmarked the apartment in Cassis, it looks lovely.
pgtraveler is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by MaineGG View Post
After we returned home, a Europcar invoice for 23 euros was emailed saying we had returned the car 8 minutes late and therefore were being charged for an extra day plus the extra day additional driver charge. I contacted AutoEurope and less than 48 hours later received word from them that Europcar had "forwarded their most sincere apologies for the billing error." Thank you, AutoEurope. This is now the third time AutoEurope has solved a problem in our favor.
Yes, Autoeurope has excellent customer service when there is a problem. However, I find this Europcar billing incredibly strange. In olden times, I worked in car rental (for Avis, but the other companies played by the same rules), and a return no more than 30 minutes late is not counted. After 31 minutes, an extra hour is counted, and an extra hour costs 1/5 of the daily rate. Same for the second, third, etc. hour. If you are more than 5 hours late, that is when you are charged an extra day. I would be very surprised if the rules had changed. A couple of years ago, I returned a car 20 minutes late in Brazil (lost in Sao Paulo, one of the biggest cities in the world!) and was really worried since I don"t know the Brazilian rules. But even there, there was absolutely no problem.
kerouac is online now  
May 15th, 2019, 03:12 PM
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We picked the car up in Avignon at 09:49. At that time, we inquired whether there was a grace period when returning before a charge was made for being late. They said 30 minutes, then an extra day would be charged. We were at the counter a little after 10:00, so were within the grace period, but apparently the agent didn't note the return time until 10:27, which made us officially 8 minutes late. Don't know if this is just Europcar's policy or if the other companies do the same, but the policy you describe that was in effect in the past seems much more reasonable.
MaineGG is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 04:29 PM
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I have little patience with long-winded trip reports where the writer is talking to himself. Yours, however, kept to the point -- well, many points -- with succinct information rather than just memories. The incisive comments from the junior travellers prove the value of brevity. Thanks.
Southam is offline  
May 17th, 2019, 04:12 PM
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Thank you for writing this trip report. I enjoyed following your adventures. Would you change anything in retrospect?
ToujoursVoyager is offline  

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