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Southern Spain or Provence/Cote d'Azur: Which one would you choose?

Southern Spain or Provence/Cote d'Azur: Which one would you choose?

Old Apr 1st, 2014, 06:15 PM
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Southern Spain or Provence/Cote d'Azur: Which one would you choose?

Hi all! My boyfriend and I will be celebrating our 10th anniversary in April, 2015, so we're just in the planning stages of a trip to one of these two locations. There are so many interesting things for us in both places that it's tough to decide. We enjoy culture as well as natural beauty. I'd love to hear of personal experiences, places you enjoyed in particular, and those that were a disappointment--and why. ANY info is welcome--thanks!
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Old Apr 1st, 2014, 06:29 PM
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To turn things around, just what are your main interests in visiting either place?
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Old Apr 1st, 2014, 06:34 PM
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What part of the Cote d'Azur or Spain were you thinking, and for how long? You might do better in Spain at the time of year, weather is more reliable, at least in the south of Spain, but the length of your visit makes a difference, and where you're coming from.
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Old Apr 1st, 2014, 06:43 PM
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That's what's so tough. We both love the dry Mediterranean climate for one. We also love strolling in small villages and the countryside. The architecture as well as the food is probably delicious in France and Spain for different reasons. I might be leaning a little in the direction of France because there are more museums of interest for me, Picasso Museum, Fondation Maeght, along with some smaller ones. I hesitate because I've heard a few people say they were really disappointed in Provence, etc. I guess I'd like to know why.
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Old Apr 1st, 2014, 06:47 PM
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WWanderer,

We're coming from Philadelphia and have two weeks for the trip. Even though our anniversary's in March, we've been thinking of putting it off until the end of the month or the beginning of April because of the weather, but we'd also like to go before airfares go up in the spring.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 02:12 AM
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sagan55,

If you click on your own screen name you can see the other posts you have started on this subject, and the responses.

I am sure you already know, there is a Picasso Museum in Barcelona. Whenever you are leaning toward one place or another because of museums, it is always good to contact the museums to double check they are not planning major renovations in the upcoming time period that might mean a key part or all of the museum is closed for the entire time you will be there.

Beginning of April is just as unreliable as most of March. Easter is at the beginning of April next year, I believe, and that will push costs of everything up.

Regarding Provence there are many people who can sense those parts of Provence which have been frozen in place as touristic stage sets and there is very little feeling left of a town that is truly lived in. The culture seems canned for tourist consumption. I think it makes a difference too of people go there during the peak season when the tour buses roll and in and out. But you can dodge most of those issues if you plan carefully.

But other people have been disappointed in Barcelona (the Gaudi doesn't grab everybody and the city is problematic, less fun if you are not a party person), and while its hard to imagine anybody being disappointed in the Alhambra or Cordoba, some people just can't get interested in history or they really don't like sharing space with other tourists. You would have more of an adventure in the countryside of mediterranean Spain because a lot of it is left unexplored by tourists but Spaniards are still living there, making their lives.

If you are go go go types during the day you might find the structure of the Spanish day, especially in rural areas, a bit disappointing, since day trippers get the impression the towns are dead. Spanish towns come to life in the evening, which most daytrippers don't see.

But if you can't put the trip off until after Easter and therefore will be going in March, you could face a lot of unreliable weather in France.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 03:56 AM
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In April may have beach weather in southern Spain - you won;t in the Cote d'Azur. And while I find both places fascinating I would take advantage of the schedule of this trip to do southern Spain - which you do NOT want to do in the summer.
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 05:07 AM
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sandralist,

Thanks for all the info. I'm new to the site and couldn't figure out how to tag this post for both France and Spain, but I read your other response. Thanks.

I know I'm going to get a zillion opinions. My partner and I are in our 40s and don't have tons of money and time to burn. We also have enough interests of our own that we won't be doing someone else's dream trip. I can't believe people actually do this. If there's nothing of interest to you personally, why would you go? To each his own.

The Picasso Museum in Antibes has another artist, Nicholas de Stael, whose work I'd love to see. As far as natural beauty, we'd like to take a boat out to see the calanques near Marseilles, hike/walk in the Luberon, Esterel, etc. We like small to medium-sized towns, no major cities on this trip. We enjoy gardens, which are pretty abundant in both locations, but we would HAVE to wait until mid-April for that to be worthwhile. And we don't care about beaches except for strolling, we don't plan on swimming either.

One of the main reasons I started this post is that my fear is just what you mentioned, that Provence has turned into a theme park. That and crowds drive me nuts, and both can ruin a trip for me. I went to Santorini a few years back, at the end of September, and it was still somewhat crowded but tolerable;I can't imagine the crowds in the summer. And even though it's jaw-droppingly beautiful and I recommend it to anyone just for the setting, it's become a Disneyland. I was there for 6 days, should have only done 3 days. I enjoyed Crete a lot more and I saw actual residents!

As for the Spanish schedule, both of us enjoy that. We've been in Barcelona and Madrid, and took to the routine pretty easily--did some sightseeing in the morning, had a menu del dia around 2-4 pm, and did some more sightseeing, maybe some shopping afterwards when things opened again. We're not night owl,party people plus we're pretty tired from the day's activities, so we grab a light dinner about 8 pm and head back to the hostal (we don't like huge package hotels).

One last thing is that we both like the Moroccan influence, food, architecture, in Southern Spain, and would like to go to Morocco at some point but not for this trip.

I think I'm getting closer to a decision, thanks for helping me hash this out. Where is the best place to fly into Southern Spain?
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 05:10 AM
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Did Provence, Avignon first for a few days, then drove around Provence and the hilltop villages for 6 days 2 years ago, loved it, but it was late October....copped the Mistral in Avignon, freeeeezing....but loved the city, she is a beautiful lady...now off for a month in Spain in mid May - own itinerary and featuring the South - exciting and diverse, sounds like the best option for you....
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 05:12 AM
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Apparently from my research, easter in southern spain is phenomenal, so many festivals and events, spend the money and enjoy something really special....
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 05:13 AM
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sandralist,

One more thing. Thanks for reminding me about Easter--didn't think of that. You're right, it's on April 5th, so I think we'll wait until around the 15th or so.

I haven't been to Europe in a few years and back then the best time to buy your ticket was way in advance, but I've heard that's not such a good idea now. Any thoughts?
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 05:28 AM
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Supermum,

I read your reply after I did the post on Easter. The problem with that is I'm sure hotels and airfare will be at a premium then, plus we're interested in a more laid back, relaxing trip. Call me boring, but the festivals and commotion might be a bit much. I've heard Seville gets pretty crazy around Easter, which brings me to another question. I've also heard that there's a fair number of purse-snatching, pickpockets, in Seville. Is that something to be concerned about or is it pretty much like any city?
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 05:51 AM
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Andalucía/the South of Spain is three thousand years of Phoenician, Roman, Christian, Jewish and Gitano history and culture all around you. http://www.andalucia.com/

And Picasso was from Málaga by the Mediterranean, "Picasso's city of hidden treasures": http://www.theguardian.com/travel/20...-breaks-travel

"Coda - The Andalusian Picasso" by Allen Josephs is highly interesting, first published in the Boston Review in 1980: "Andalucía provides us with the surest approach to Picasso's revolutionary importance. I do not mean to slight other places. His late adolescence in Barcelona and his early maturity in Paris are undeniably important, especially to his intellectual formation, but his sensibility nevertheless remained thoroughly Andalusian. And I do not mean merely his vanity, his dandy's ego, his anarchy, his love for bulls and horses, his donjuanismo, his energetic and fecund longevity, his obsession with death - all Andalusian to a fault. No, what I do mean is that his ability to see was Andalusian". http://www.questia.com/read/9075500/...lusian-culture

The above is the final chapter in Josephs' highly recommendable "White Wall of Spain - The Mysteries of Andalusian Culture": http://www.questia.com/library/12845...lusian-culture

The Picasso museum in Málaga: http://museopicassomalaga.org/
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 06:12 AM
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... and the major airport in Andalucía is the Pablo Ruiz Picasso airport in Málaga.

When it comes to natural beauty, and small towns and villages outside the beaten track, Andalucía has tons to offer. I love the Axarquía region just east of Málaga city: http://www.rusticblue.com/andalucia_...a_axarquia.php

The Alpujarras region, south from Granada down towards the Med: http://www.rusticblue.com/andalucia_...alpujarras.php

The Sierra de Aracena, inland between Sevilla and Huelva, in the heart of jamón country: http://www.rusticblue.com/andalucia_...de_aracena.php
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...de-aracena.cfm
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 08:29 AM
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I noticed you mentioned gardens - the Villa Euphrisi near Nice is just amazing. That whole area would have alot that would seem to interest you, several small museums and I would think it would be spring-ish, not too crowded?

Of couse there are gardens is southern Spain too - at the Alhambra and more. I'm sure either region will be delightful - enjoy!
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 09:40 AM
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When it comes to gardens in Andalucía, you have of course the famous Generalife up at Alhambra mentioned above. But not much beat the gardens of the Reales Alcázares in Sevilla, the largest late-medieval garden in Europe. Spectacular parts of the rich Islamic garden legacy in Andalucía: http://www.gardenvisit.com/garden/ja...ales_alcazares
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErL6jlQaLqI

The Alcázar gardens in Córdoba: http://www.alcazardelosreyescristianos.cordoba.es/?id=3

The Alcazaba gardens in Málaga: http://jeffreygardens.blogspot.no/20...of-malaga.html

I also have a soft spot for Paseo del Parque in Málaga: http://www.andalucia.com/cities/malaga/parks.htm
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 10:38 AM
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Kimhe,

Thanks so much for all the great links; they look like excellent sources. The Rustic Blue site really knows how to draw you in with all those gorgeous photos of the countryside. I figured it was nice,didn't know it was that nice. I wasn't aware of these places, they look to be right up my alley.

I checked flights from where I live, Philadelphia, and to get to Malaga or Nice (if I decide to go to France, probably won't)would take forever and the cost is about the same. If I fly into Madrid I can get a nonstop flight for the same price. I'm thinking then we could take the high speed train to Cordoba. We plan on renting a car for a portion of our stay, but want to try and cut costs by using public transport the rest of the time. How efficient, frequent is their system in Andalucia, if you know?
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 10:40 AM
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Suec,

That's what makes it so tough to decide--both spots are lovely. I'm assuming you've been to Andalucia. How do you compare the costs between the two places?
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 11:26 AM
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Excellent public transport system in all of Andalucía. You know of the high speed AVE train system between Madrid, Córdoba and Sevilla and Málaga (two different lines from Córdoba), and the ALSA bus company is the largest in the region. I travel here all of the time and almost exclusively use public transport. http://www.alsa.es/en/#capa_regional

A couple of tips of wonderful Andalusian towns outside the tourist track:

Antequera some 25 miles North of Málaga city. Known as "the heart of Andalucía" or "the crossroads of Andalucía". Almost right in the middle of the Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada, Málaga rectangle. Here you'll find dolmens (some 5000 years old burial chambers), Roman baths, a Moorish Castle, Gothic churches, Renaissance fountains and Baroque bell towers. Antequera was the first of the Granada emirate towns to fall to the Christians in 1410.
http://www.andaluciacoastandcountry....era-spain.html

I love the terrace in the corner of the peaceful square in front of the Real Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, the first partly Renaissance-style church in Spain (built 1514-1550). Up here it's totally peace and quiet. Next to the recently excavated Roman baths beneath and looking up on the 13th century Moorish alcazaba/fortress. Great views over unique landscapes (the spectacular Torcal limestone mountain etc.). http://www.wild-about-travel.com/201...ing-antequera/

Close by Torcal limestone rock formations. You can drive up here and do several walks, and on a clear day you can see to Morocco:
http://www.andalucia.com/antequera/torcal/home.htm

A tapas tour of Antequera:
http://www.andaluciacoastandcountry.com/tapaspain.html

When in the area, perhaps do the Camino del Rey! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmDhRvvs5Xw

The old spa town Alhama de Granada is further to the east, closer to Granada: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/de...d-of-town.html

Regarding costs, I very much recommend to do as most locals and have your main meal of the day at lunch-time. You'll get an excellent three course lunch with wine or whatever included for some 8-10€ in most local restaurants. I love the typical seafood freidurías that you'll find everywhere, at least in the coastal areas. La Marina in Nerja and La Cueva in Torre del Mar - both a little east of Málaga city - are two of my favourite, no fuss restaurants anywhere.

La Marina: http://www.guideofnerja.com/pages/gu.../marina_en.htm
La Cueva: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restauran...Andalucia.html
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Old Apr 2nd, 2014, 11:47 AM
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Sagan55 - well it's been awhile but it seems in both regions you can go high or go low. I think you can find "menus of the day" in many restaurants. We don't usually choose the highest priced options but local food and wine at reasonable prices. Both places will have a range of hotel options but I do remember it took me awhile to find a hotel in Nice that I liked the location and pricepoint.
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