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Suggestions for Nice, Provence, Annecy, Chamonix

Suggestions for Nice, Provence, Annecy, Chamonix

Old Apr 6th, 2017, 06:48 AM
  #1  
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Suggestions for Nice, Provence, Annecy, Chamonix

My family (parents, younger sister, husband) and I are going to France in June (last week of June). Usually we take a tour package, this will be the first time we travel on our own. My husband and I are use to travel on our own, stay in bnb, taking the metro, etc, but not my parents. They prefer to have everything taken care of, so they don't have to worry about a thing.
Our itinerary are as follow:
1st day: arrive in Nice in the afternoon. We plan to pick up rental car at the airport, drop luggages at the hotel, drive to Monaco. We will be staying in Nice for the night.
2nd day: drive around Nice and Cannes, head to Provence (Gordes) in the afternoon.
3rd day: lavender field in Abbaye de Senanque, Sault, Plateau du Valensole (I saw some photos of Valensole during sunset and I thought it's stunning). In the mean time visit L’isle sur la sorgue, Apt, Manosque if time permits.
4th day: Camargue national park, carrieres de lumieres. Then head to Annecy.
5th day: explore Annecy, head to Chamonix in the afternoon.
6th day: Chamonix
7th day: Chamonix
8th day: drive to Paris, with some stops at Beaune and Dijon, return rental car at Orly.
We will spend 2 days in Paris afterwards before heading home.

1. I read that I can expect an hour wait to pick up car at Nice airport on summer weekend. Is this applied to during my time of travel? I figured picking up car at the airport will be the more convenient way rather than taking taxi to city center to car rental. There will be 5 of us, plus our luggage, so we'll have to take 2 taxis.
2. We plan to rent BMW 5 touring (or similar) from sixt, since my friend recommends it as cheaper car rental compared to the others, and it is the only car matched our need being automatic, fit 5 person and big luggage capacity. Is it going to be stand out and inviting to the thieves?
3. I read that Cavaillon market sells really good cantaloupe melon. Is the melon only sold at Cavaillon, or available (that as good) in other cities, such as Gordes.
4. Is it hard to find car park in those cities during our time of travel?
5. Do we need a car to drive around Annecy, or better to stay at a hotel with car park and walk around the city?

This will be our first time driving in foreign country, and I read that France has so many traffic regulations, that I get anxious. We haven't booked the car and hotel yet, any suggestions regarding hotel, places to eat, itinerary, drive routes to take, will be very much appreciated. Thank you!
mellisaphie is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2017, 07:21 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,435
Mellisaphie--June is high season, so plan accordingly for parking all over.

In particular, I would take the train to Monaco on your first day rather than attempt to drive to Monaco and back. Monaco had one of the worst parking situations that I can remember, and if I had to do it over, I would take the train.

We didn't park in Nice proper (we stayed in a smaller village east of Nice), but suspect parking there would be problematic as well. So I suggest taking a cab to your hotel from the airport and dropping your baggage, then pick up the car the next day in Nice itself.

5. You don't need a car in Annecy--it's pretty compact and easy walking. So, depending on where your hotel is in relation to the old part of Annecy, leave the car at the hotel.

Can't advise you on the rest as I haven't visited the other places you mention.

Bon voyage!
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2017, 07:31 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,521
If you are arriving on a night flight you should not drive the day you arrive.

You are allowing no time for Nice or the many attractions nearby. I doubt you want to drive IN Nice, which in any case has good public transport.

Have you checked drive times on viamichelin? Chamonix via Beaune and Dijon to Orly is nearly seven hours non-stop.
thursdaysd is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2017, 08:01 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 15,176
>>1st day: arrive in Nice in the afternoon. We plan to pick up rental car at the airport, drop luggages at the hotel, drive to Monaco. We will be staying in Nice for the night.>3rd day: lavender field in Abbaye de Senanque, Sault, Plateau du Valensole (I saw some photos of Valensole during sunset and I thought it's stunning). In the mean time visit L’isle sur la sorgue, Apt, Manosque if time permits.>4th day: Camargue national park, carrieres de lumieres. Then head to Annecy.

This is an "in the car" vacation. If you drive, your parents in the back seat won't see much of France.

>>5th day: explore Annecy, head to Chamonix in the afternoon.
6th day: Chamonix
7th day: Chamonix>8th day: drive to Paris, with some stops at Beaune and Dijon, return rental car at Orly>We will spend 2 days in Paris afterwards before heading home.>1. I read that I can expect an hour wait to pick up car at Nice airport on summer weekend. Is this applied to during my time of travel? I figured picking up car at the airport will be the more convenient way rather than taking taxi to city center to car rental. There will be 5 of us, plus our luggage, so we'll have to take 2 taxis.>2. We plan to rent BMW 5 touring (or similar) from sixt, since my friend recommends it as cheaper car rental compared to the others, and it is the only car matched our need being automatic, fit 5 person and big luggage capacity. Is it going to be stand out and inviting to the thieves?>3. I read that Cavaillon market sells really good cantaloupe melon. Is the melon only sold at Cavaillon, or available (that as good) in other cities, such as Gordes.>4. Is it hard to find car park in those cities during our time of travel?>5. Do we need a car to drive around Annecy, or better to stay at a hotel with car park and walk around the city?>This will be our first time driving in foreign country, and I read that France has so many traffic regulations, that I get anxious. We haven't booked the car and hotel yet, any suggestions regarding hotel, places to eat, itinerary, drive routes to take, will be very much appreciated. Thank you!

See above

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 6th, 2017, 09:05 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
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Nice is IN Provence, the eastern part of that vast region. Gordes is in the western part.

Cavaillon melon is wonderful, but there are other fine varieties as well. Just inquire at a local market: outdoor or in. The sellers really know their produce. Charentais is our favorite.
Underhill is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2017, 05:51 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2004
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Here is something I posted last summer about the weather in the Mt Blanc area.

Several times each year, people on Fodors plan short trips to visit the Mt Blanc area, and inquire about the "normal" weather in the region, and whether they will be able to see & enjoy Mt Blanc - or will it be covered in clouds. The responses (guesses, usually) are normally vague.

We just returned from a week's stay in a Gite close to Mt Blanc, on a hillside in the village of Domancy - within the Sallanches Basin. Domancy is about a 25 min drive west of Chamonix. We've stayed in 65 gites in different regions in France, and this one was perhaps the best gite we've stayed in so far. Probably the most comfortable and certainly the best views. The Gite had floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides with spectacular views of the Sallanches Basin and a "postcard" view of Mt Blanc - when it wasn't covered in clouds. On Thursday this week (July 21) a stage of the Tour de France goes through Domancy on a time-trial leg of the race. The TdF will be in the region on July 22 & 23 also.

https://www.gites-de-france.com/loca...74G103018.html

This trip was our fourth visit to the Alps, for a total of 5 1/2 weeks. It's our observation from prior trips that the weather is normally less cloudy in the morning than in the evening.

Here is what we experienced:

Saturday July 9 - we arrived around 4PM and Mt Blanc was visible - with a few clouds covering the face. We checked the weather forecast on the internet, and it was expected to be mostly sunny on Sunday, partly cloudy on Monday - with a thunderstorm in the evening. Tuesday through Thursday were to be mostly cloudy with rain & thunderstorms. We decided it might be best to take some "lifts" in the area on Sunday & Monday - before the rains started.

Sunday July 10. We left our Gite early and took the 8:40 departure on the Tramway to Mont Blanc from the St Gervais station (10 mins from our gite). This is a normal mountain train that goes to the Nid d'Aigle. We had good views of Mt Blanc with just a few clouds. The entire trip (with a 1 hr "look-around" at Nid d'Aigle) took 3 hours. When we returned to our gite around 1:30PM, Mt Blanc was perfectly clear with no clouds at all. We took lots if pictures from the gite.

About 4PM we took the Mont d'Arbois cable car from St Gervais up to Mt Arbois. Mt Blanc was completely covered in clouds as were most of the high peaks around the Sallanches basin.

The temperatures were in the low 90s F in Domancy today. We dined outside on our deck at the gite - admiring what we could see of Mt Blanc (very little).

Monday July 10. The weather looked pretty good - so we left our Gite at 8:15am and were on the Le Brevent lift in Chamonix at 8:45. The weather was excellent - good visibility, but a few clouds "running by" to make the pictures more dramatic. We had a hot chocolate at the cafe on top, and then lasagne and wine for lunch at 11:30. We spent around 2 1/2 hrs wandering around Le Brevent. By the time we departed, Mt Blanc and the other peaks in the area were almost 100% hidden behind clouds.

This night we had dinner in Chamonix and Mt Blanc was mostly hidden in clouds. As we returned home from dinner - it was raining heavily.

Tuesday July 12. Rain all day. We rarely saw Mt Blanc. By 6PM, there were many low clouds and we could not see Mt Blanc at all, nor any of the peaks in the Sallanches basin around us.

Wednesday July 13. Very low clouds & fog. We could not see Mt Blanc, the other peaks, and even St Gervais. Rain started around 3PM, and it was 55 F for a high in Domancy.

Thursday July 14. Extremely foggy with low clouds in the AM - lower than yesterday. You would not even know that you were in the Alps. Very poor visibility. Rain at 1PM. Low fog lifted a little - but we never saw Mt Blanc. High temps in Chamonix today was 44F. Tomorrow's forecast is to be somewhat better.

Friday July 15. Weather looked OK, so we got an early start and drove through Chamonix (temp 41F) to Argentiere and took the Aiguille des Grands Montets lift. It had snowed sometime in the past 2-3 days and the temperature at the top of the lift was minus 8C, and there was 13CM of fresh show. We were cold - but the views were spectacular. Mt Blanc was mostly clear with a few clouds for dramatic effect. We spent around 2 1/2 hrs engaged with this lift - having lunch at the mid-level stop - where it was somewhat warmer.

Starting around noon - Mt Blanc was in & out of clouds. When we got back to our gite in the early afternoon - Mt Blanc was entirely hidden in clouds.

Saturday July 16. Mt Blanc weather was perfect - the morning we departed (naturally). The weather forecast for the following week called for perfect sunny weather - and warmer. For the upcoming Tour de France.

In summary, we were there for around 6 1/2 days and had three half-days where we could see & enjoy Mt Blanc and four days which we could not.

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 6th, 2017, 06:11 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 9,618
I seriously hope all of you really, really, really love sitting in a car.
Sassafrass is offline  
Old Apr 6th, 2017, 11:52 PM
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Day 1 is possible, but unlikely. By the time you park your car in Monaco you'll have time for dinner before returning to Nice.
Day 2; driving around Nice and Cannes, and then to Gordes?
You cannot drive around Nice. The most interesting part is the old town, where you cannot drive. You could drive over the Croissette in Cannes before going back to the motorway to continue to Gordes, but Cannes is notoriously hard to get in and out of, you will spend most of your time on the Boulevard Carnot.

So you are just in Nice for the one night? I suggest you stay in Nice after you arrive, walk through town, have a nice dinner. Next morning spend some more time in Nice before leaving for Gordes, which is a 3 hour drive on the motorway (much more if you take the scenic route). Forget about Monaco and Cannes.

No car is going to be comfortable for 5 adults for the amount of driving you will do. You will need to take only a small suitcase or bag each; 5 large suitcases + handluggage will not fit even in a BMW touring.

Chamonix to Paris can be done in one day on the motorway stopping only for short periods. Not if you want to include Beaune and Dijon.

Driving in France is easy, just make sure you watch the speed limits, which can change often; for example closer to cities it will go down to 110 or 90. When there is air polution, it will go from 130 to 110 as indicated by signs on the motorway. At roadworks be very careful to stick to the limit that is posted; you WILL get fined otherwise.

Seriously Mellisaphie, write down this itinerary with driving times (and add 20% to the times given by Google Maps), including where you will spend the night and what you want to see. It is very rushed, with most time spend in your car. For some reason you spend more time in Chamonix than on the entire Cote d'Azur; are you going hiking, mountain climbing? Chamonix itself is not particularly interesting.
Tulips is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2017, 09:24 AM
  #9  
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Thank you everyone for the inputs.

Thank you Tulips. We will bring 2-3 large suitcases and 2 handluggage, hope they will fit into the touring. We plan to take Aiguille du Midi and Le Brevent in Chamonix, but now I'm thinking maybe we should just skip Chamonix.

Thank you StuDudley for the detailed information. Taking the train from Annecy to Paris is the better option than driving to Orly. But now I'm thinking to skip Chamonix.


If we skip Chamonix, the new itinerary will be:
1st day: arrive in Nice. Go to Monaco
2nd day: explore Nice and Cannes, possibly Eze or nearby villages
3rd day: explore Nice, pick up rental car in the city, go to Plateau du Valensole at sunset. Will stay in Gordes until the sixth day
4th day: lavender fields in Luberon
5th day: Camargue national park, carrieres de lumieres
6th day: drive to Annecy in the morning, return rental car. Spend the night in Annecy
7th day: take train to Paris

What do you guys think?

I know we can cross Annecy off the list as well, taking train from Aix en Provence to Paris would be more time and cost efficient, but I'm really intrigued by the small town charm and want to see it in person. Is it worth it?
Thank you.
mellisaphie is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2017, 10:11 AM
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I would skip Annecy altogether. Take the 2 3/4 hr TGV from the Avignon TGV station back to Paris.

We've visited Annecy several times - just last year was our latest visit. About 10 years ago we spent 2 weeks in a gite in Talloires "Old Annecy" is smaller than you may think. It's a 1 hr visit visit if you don't do any shopping, no museums, and no cafe sitting. We spent most of our time there driving through the Alps. But after a 4 hr drive from Gordes, you may not want to get into the car real soon. For only a 1 nighter - I would skip Annecy & spend your time in Provence. You may not want to leave the Luberon.

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 7th, 2017, 10:17 AM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
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I noticed that you are new to Fodors. My wife & I have vacationed for 20 weeks along the Cote d'Azur & 20 weeks in Provence. I developed a 32 page itinerary that describes our favorite villages, scenic drives, lavender fields, restaurants, markets, etc. It also has a section on Provence fabrics. I've sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail. Specify that you want the Cote d/Azur/Provence itinerary. I have others too.

Stu Dudley
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Old Apr 7th, 2017, 10:29 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 27,867
My 2 cents:

Monaco is a waste of time.

Mt Blanc - I live at 6000 ft. I got altitude sickness going up to Mt Blanc. I would be concerned for you and your parents. It was awful.

I would not stay in Gordes, much better places that aren't crawling with tourists. It is also late to make reservations, especially there. www.masperreal.com is wonderful.

Gites are usually 1 week minimum; with arrivals usually on Saturdays.

Cavaillon melons are delish and are available everywhere.
DebitNM is offline  
Old Apr 7th, 2017, 10:42 AM
  #13  
 
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Get StuDudley's itinerary, study it, map out an itinerary that works with at most one or two destinations per day. Realize that parking in the summer will be very difficult.

General impression — your itinerary has too much driving, not enough *experiencing*


examples: Day 1 — Driving to Monaco the afternoon you arrive, then driving back to Nice to spend the night make no sense. Monaco is kinda artificial. A casino, a touristy palace, and lots of high end shopping, but ... why? You won't have enough time to make it worthwhile. Instead, spend the afternoon walking around Nice (where you already are). Tour the vielle ville, walk on the promenade along the beach, breathe the sea air.

Day 2 — Why not drive to Cannes in the morning, see the market, maybe walk on that beach, before heading to Gordes in the afternoon.

You've allocated 3 nights to Chamonix — out of proportion to the rest of your trip, but you've given yourself enough time. But ... why not leave your car at the train station in Chamonix and take the TGV to Paris.


If you parents enjoy packaged tours (which at the minimum have well thought-out itineraries, tour guides, and all accommodations and transfers included), they are NOT going to enjoy this itinerary. My advice: either find a packaged tour of the Cote d'Azur and Provence or find a TA with expertise in southern France.
travelhorizons is offline  
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