Provence & the Cote D'Azur in 4 days

Sep 1st, 2010, 11:37 AM
  #1  
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Provence & the Cote D'Azur in 4 days

Hello,

I am traveling to Provence & Cote D'Azur from Sept 16 - Sept 20 with two of my girlfriends (we're all in our late 20's.)
After booking our flights, we realize that 4 days is not nearly enough time to uncover south of France. Which is why I am having a difficult time planning this trip out... Hope you can all help me.

We are arriving Sept 16, Thursday, early afternoon into Nice, and leaving from Marseille on Sept 20, Monday, early afternoon. We will be renting a car as well (dropping it off at Marseille airport when leaving).

I was thinking we can split the days and base 2 days in Nice and 2 days in St. Remy de Provence (this seems to be a Fodorite favorite among Nimes/Arles/Aix/Avignon. (?))

In Nice, we would ideally want to check out the scene and Matisse museum, maybe drive up to Eze and Monaco. Day 2, I was thinking of checking out St. Tropez and beaches at Cannes for few hours and then heading towards St. Remy.
If we base out of St. Remy, how should I go about our itinerary? What is a must?
We're not really looking for a nightlife on either leg but good food, culture and fun.
We wanted to check out the lavendar fields but seems like mid Sept will be too late for that.

Any hotel/restaurant/itinerary suggestions?

I know this is last minute and not long enough in duration... I am hoping to return in few years for definitely more than 4 days!

Thanks!
cherryinnyc is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 12:11 PM
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You really only have `3 1/4 days there.

Choose either Provence or the Cote d'Azur - not both. Keep transit time to a minimum. There are just as many cute little villages to explore in back of Nice as there are in Provence - more than enough to keep you occupied for 3 1/4 days.

You will be there on a Sunday when shops will be closed in most cities & villages - except for the very touristy ones - St Paul de Vence, Gourdon, St Tropez, St Remy (but many shops will be closed on Monday), les Baux, and l'Isle sur la Sorgue (Sunday is market day).

IMO, St Tropez is too far away from Nice for a day trip on such a short visit. Even though you would be there towards the end of the summer season, it still may be too crowded for you mid-day. When we've stayed there (around 5 weeks - including the time you'll be there) we leave St Tropez by 11am & don't return till after 5:30.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 1st, 2010, 12:14 PM
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Shops are open in Gordes & Roussillon in the Luberon on Sundays also.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 1st, 2010, 12:41 PM
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If I were you, I would forget "checking out the beaches" in Cannes for a few hours, or St Tropez. NOt worth your time, you can visit beaches anywhere.

YOu have completely unrealistic ideas, such as your first day you intend to visit Nice, Eze and MOnaco, all the same day. Nice is a large city and has lots to see, one day alone for it would surely be expected (I spent 3-4 days there myself). I don't know how you intend to visit three cities/towns in one day.

As for the time from St Remy, some people visit Les Baux, some the Luberon villages, some Arles, etc. I guess with two days, I'd spend at least one visiting the Luberon villages, a lot of people like that (Gordes, etc.). I don't like St Remy and don't think there is much to see there myself, except there is Van Gogh's asylum, but that doesn't take long to see, really.

I just stayed in Roussillon 3-4 days, there aren't any shops I'd go there to see myself. I like Roussillon, it's beautiful, but there is nothing special about shopping there. It's just a small village.
Christina is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 12:56 PM
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I think even though you don't have enough time-if you want to see a bit of Provence, I would go for it. We are only talking a 2 hour drive.

Here are a couple of thoughts though: If you are in your late 20's I would base in Aix-en-Provence rather than St. Remy since it is a college town and a younger larger place than St. Remy. I think you would enjoy it more. You could always go to St. Remy to just shop or have lunch or dinner.

If you are into modern art make sure you go to the Maeght Foundation in St Paul de Vence outside Nice-one of my favorite places in the area.

I agree with Stu about skipping St Tropez. It is kind of a long trek away from the route and really other than high end shops and little restaurants, not that much to see. Antibes would be a better detour along the road I think if you wanted to get down near the beach. And BTW, the beaches in Nices and Cannes aren't that great-particularly in September which could already be cool-the sand beaches are much farther west and south-all the beaches on the cote de azur are pretty pebbly.

http://www.fondation-maeght.com/
jpie is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 01:17 PM
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>>If you are in your late 20's I would base in Aix-en-Provence rather than St. Remy since it is a college town and a younger larger place than St. Remy.<<

I'm not a fan of basing in Aix & trying to see some of the "top spots" in Provence from there. Aix is too far away from them. You would be adding transit time to your already-too-much-transit-time itinerary. Also, that would place you in Aix on a Sunday, & Monday morning - when all shops are closed. Aix is my wife's favorite shopping town in Provence.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 1st, 2010, 01:35 PM
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Regarding Aix.

I might make sense to spend your first night & most of the next day in Aix, and then head to either Provence or the Cote d'Azur. That way you won't have to drive much the day you arrive.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 1st, 2010, 04:33 PM
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Just getting into and out of St-Tropez could take half a day, let alone visiting the beaches and perhaps seeing the town itself.

I'd suggest spending 2 days in and around Nice, then driving west to stay somewhere near Avignon--or in Avignon itself. The city is fairly lively, and from it you can head east to the Lubéron villages or west to Arles and the marvelous Pont du Gard--or to St-Rémy and the not-to-be-missed Les Baux de Provence.
Underhill is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 04:33 PM
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Aix is in Provence, as is the Côte d'Azur.
Underhill is offline  
Sep 1st, 2010, 05:47 PM
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I'd skip the car. And I'd skip inland Provence. You just don't have enough time. Nice has very good public transportation both east to Villefranche/Cap Ferrat, Eze, Monaco, and Menton, west along the Cote to Antibes and Cannes, and inland via the little Train des Pignes. Not to speak of the bus options.

You could then train to Marseilles for your last day or so.
Mimar is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 10:27 AM
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Thank you all for your input! I honestly value everything you have said and have taken every word into careful consideration.

Since the flights and cars are already booked, we can't really change that, so our option is to split, with Nice coming first.

I took out St. Tropez from the trip. Hopefully my friends won't be so bummed since we're going to Ibiza after this trip.

Thursday - Explore Nice after checking in.

Friday - explore more of Nice. Drive to Eze late afternoon, maybe have dinner there and drive up to Monaco and check out the casinos at night.
(Does anyone have any restaurant suggestions for Eze?)

Saturday - Maybe "drive by" Cannes in the morning. and head to AIX (or Arles). Explore AIX (or Arles) all afternoon and night. I'm still torn on where to go on Saturday.

Sunday - Drive to St. Remy (since Stu mentioned the shops and restaurants are still opened on Sundays at St. Remy).

Monday - Check out Marseille in the morning before flying out.

Let me know your thoughts on whether this sounds more like a feasible plan. I know you're thinking this is probably still too ambitious but (I think) I can do it. After all, I've done Egypt in 2 days and Paris in 3.

And any hotel and restaurant suggestions are welcome. I'm a huge foodie so it's almost as important for me to have a good meal as to sightsee.

But sincerely appreciate all your input!
cherryinnyc is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 11:06 AM
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Driving in & out of Cannes is horrible. Not worth the effort for just a "drive by"

IMO, Aix is a lot more interesting than Arles - and it will involve less driving.

I would certainly not want to drive in & out of both Cannes and Aix on the same day. I can hear the discontent within your car already.

Best meal we've had in the last 4 years in France was at Pierre Reboul in Aix.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 2nd, 2010, 11:18 AM
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cherry, where are you guys coming from? I don't understand the 4 days-- is there any way to extend?
krgystn is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 12:56 PM
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Krgystn - i wish i can extend this trip! i honestly didn't realize how much there was to do and cover. i usually spend 3-4 days top in one place so i thought we can "check" out nice, on our way down to ibiza/barcelona. oh, we're flying from amsterdam.

Stu - we will check out AIX and hopefully the restaurant you just recommended.

I will probably cut Cannes out but my friend is very adamant about St. Tropez... not sure how we could even fit that in there...
cherryinnyc is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 01:03 PM
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Good you are coming from Amsterdam; I was worried you were trying to do southern France from USA in only 4 days.

Good idea to cut Cannes-- there is nothing there if it is not film festival time.
krgystn is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 01:09 PM
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Tell your friend to find her own way to St Tropez. It is horribly crowded mid-day - when you'll be there. Parking is extremely difficult. It will be stop-&-go traffic (mostly stop) from Ste Maxime to St Tropez - and as you leave too. You will be going there on a Saturday - the worst day possible for traffic, crowds, etc. It is their market day on Saturday - so that too adds to the traffic & crowds. St Tropez will be a complete zoo. Avoid it at all costs.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 2nd, 2010, 02:10 PM
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Stu - I just copied what you said and sent it to her saying I'm not driving in that traffic. Thanks!
and I submitted for reservations for that restaurant you just recommended in AIX. Hopefully I'll be able to grab a table there. Looks devine.

Thanks all for helping me narrow down this itinerary. Couldn't have done it without you all. I will have to start booking hotels and restaurants now!

I will give you guys more of an update on this this weekend...
cherryinnyc is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 02:19 PM
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I absolutely love St Tropez when it's a complete zoo, do not avoid it at all costs!

OK, here is my input. Land in Nice see it that day, next day you can do Eze, Cap Ferrat,St Paul de Vance, what ever towns you can fit in and want to see.

Take off the third day for St Tropez. Go early, don't take the scenic route on the coast, it takes forever, take the A8 and drop down by Freju (sp). The traffic shouldn't be as bad in September by St Maxine. Just inch along and you'll be there in an hour! These is always parking at the Lices Lot, you'll see signs for it. If the town is too busy in the morning because of the market, go to the pampallon beach area , pick a club or public beach and hang for the day, have lunch if you want,it's wonderful. Go into town after the beach, the town rocks at all hours, the boats are amazing. You could eat here and spend the night or leave for Aix, which will take a little more than an hour to get to and sleep there. The next day you could see Aix or any town you might want to drive to, ending up in Marseille for the night and plane the next day, or stay in Aix and just head to Marseilles for the flight the next day. I wouldn't waste my time doing a half day in Marseilles, it's too big .
susanna is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 02:49 PM
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Here is my trip report from Nice 2006. It includes a hotel recommendation and restaurants. I hope it's not TMI.

"Our Hotel le Grimaldi (http://www.le-grimaldi.com/) was a short cab ride from the train station. It was 10EUR for myself, my daughter, my gargantuan bag, and her two small ones. We were greeted graciously at the hotel, which immediately struck us as a good find. __

The hotel is actually two Belle Epoque buildings back-to-back. One side is much prettier to enter, as it faces a nice church. The other side is fine, too, but a bit boring. I think the side on rue Grimaldi is the plain one, and the other side on rue Maccarani is prettier.__

The man at the front desk carried my bag to the room, and showed us around. There’s a business center on the ground floor, with free internet use on their two computers, and a free printer to use. (Also wireless in the lobby, I think for a fee.) __

Our room was a ‘classic’, twin-bedded room, which was large enough, had a little balcony, a sparkling tile bath with fluffy bright yellow towels, and nice toiletries. It was 150EUR, plus tax and 10EUR per person if we opted for the hot/cold breakfast buffet. They suggested we check out the buffet (served till 10:30a.m.), and if we were interested the next morning, we could sign on for it. Their deal is that you have to buy it everyday to get the 10EUR rate. Otherwise, per day, it’s 15EUR. __

So the next morning, we were happy to find hot eggs, proscuitto, yoghurts, cereals, cappuccino, assorted croissants, juices, etc. We thought it a good deal and quite convenient, so we enjoyed it each morning.__

For our first dinner, I had brought the name of a restaurant I’d found on Travel Talk, and the front desk agreed it was a good one, a local favorite in old Nice. It’s called Acchiardo, at 38 rue Droite in Vieux Nice. We headed over for their opening at 7p.m., and were very happy with it. Really friendly and attentive service, very quaint and casual atmosphere, with a good menu. I had a steak dinner, which actually included vegetables on the side. My daughter had two different salads. We had bottled water and a half-liter of house red wine. When the bill arrived for 28.50EUR, I thought they’d made a mistake because it was so much less than I’d been accustomed to paying in Venice, Florence and Rome. But, no, it was correct. (We would have maybe eaten there another night, but found out it closes on weekend nights, believe it or not.)__

We walked all over old Nice, then through the pedestian area to the promenade and took that way back to the hotel. It’s such a beautiful walk at night. The Chateau hillside is all lit up, the palm trees are lit, and the waves look so pleasant. It was how we ended each of our Nice nights, with that walk back to the hotel. __

The next day we decided to take the short bus ride on the #81, to visit the Villa and Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild, near Saint Jean Cap Ferrat. (The bus is just 1.30EUR each direction, which you pay in exact change on the bus.) __

It was a nice visit, especially to see the views of the sea down below on both sides of the hillside. I thought the price was a bit steep, at 9.50EUR for an adult, because the Villa isn’t really all that interesting (sorry!), but the gardens are pretty. There’s also a nice little café there, for a light snack or drink or meal, which was a welcome break from all our walking. __

While we were there, a very strong wind came up, which caused quite a bit of white caps in the water below, and chased everyone in from the patio tables. The wind stayed with us for the rest of the day, but wasn’t terribly annoying.__

From the Villa, we did the easy walk down to the port of St. Jean to walk around and check it out. There are nice boats in the little harbor, with cute restaurants and shops. It’s very tiny, so doesn’t take long to walk from end to end of St. Jean. We spent just about an hour and a half there, then caught the #81 back to Nice.__

That evening, we returned to old Nice for dinner. We loved that neighborhood’s little streets, overall atmosphere, and cute shops. We found the Restaurant la Tapenada, 6 rue St. Reparate and had a very nice dinner. It was probably about 60EUR for the two of us, on their fixed price menu, with a bottle of house wine. Very nice little place, with friendly and attentive service. They even let my daughter trade her dessert for a salad. So she had two salads to start, one after the other, and they timed the arrival of our main courses perfectly. We were perfectly happy with our meal there.__

The next day we decided we’d stick to the coast and see Antibes, which is a short 20-minute train ride from Nice. We were glad we’d chosen Antibes, as it’s beautiful. The sea wall makes a nice walk, and the Centre Ville is very charming. __

We wandered its streets, shopped in a tiny clothing boutique, found a little place for omelettes (nothing special, but nice enough), then headed back to Nice by train after about 4 hours total. It was a good choice for a quick day-trip.__

That evening we weren’t very hungry, so opted for the simple Pasta Basta, once again in old Nice. It was a nice meal, although not extraordinary. Good prices and decent service.__

All in all, we were very impressed with Nice and the surrounding area. It’s a very pretty city, with a friendly attitude, sitting on a lovely shore. There are many options for things to do near Nice. We’d considered St. Paul de Vence and Digne, but with the beautiful clear weather, we were drawn to stay at the seaside, and were glad we did."
PeaceOut is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2010, 04:14 PM
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A few comments on susanna's suggestion:

- I'll let the OP decide if she likes a zoo or not
- The drive from Nice to St Tropez is 1 hr 45 mins (according to www.viamichelin.com) with no traffic. I would budget a minimum of 2 hrs 15 mins to 2 hrs 45 mins for a Saturday in mid Sept on market day.
- Parking in St Tropez on the streets or below ground in the Pl Lices parking lot has always been difficult for us - and we never try to do it mid-day on market Saturday. Unless you have a very good map of St Tropez - good luck (lots of one-way streets).
- the route to the plages (Pampalonne) is a major traffic jam too - going & coming. On the return to St Tropez, there are "back door" ways into town - but unless you are familiar with them, you won't find them.
- From St Tropez to Aix, viamichelin says it is 1 hr 45 mins. Again, because of the Saturday traffic, I would budget 2 1/2 hrs.
- I would not go to Aix after and overnight is St Tropez, or go there after spending most of the day in St Tropez & then stay overnight in Aix. Both options put you in Aix on a Sunday when all the shops will be closed (Aix is my wife's favorite shopping town in Provence).

If your friend MUST see St Tropez, I would plan to arrive in St Tropez sometime on Saturday after 5pm & stay overnight there. On Sunday morning, explore St Tropez some more and then head to St Remy around noon or whenever you've had enough of St Tropez. Stay in St Remy Sunday night.

I don't recall when your flight leaves, but I agree with susanna about seeing Marseille - don't. Instead, perhaps make your way to the Marseille airport via the Luberon (Gordes) if you have an afternoon flight. Shops in St Remy & Aix are mostly closed Monday morning.

Stu Dudley
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