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Vexed by Provence itnerary planning. Help please.

Vexed by Provence itnerary planning. Help please.

Old Aug 27th, 2022, 07:11 PM
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Vexed by Provence itnerary planning. Help please.

Hello Fodorites,

I've spent many hours researching and pouring over guidebooks on Provence and the Cote d'Azure and am feeling pretty overwhelmed in how to coordinate our itinerary. This is our first trip to France. The plan is to fly into Paris, arriving 8:15am on Sept. 25th and then train to Provence for 8 nights (Sept. 25th - Oct. 2nd). Train to Avignon leaves Paris at 11:45 from Gard du Lyon and arrives 15:19 (I figured a little over 3 hours is enough time to get through customs and transport to Gard de Lyon from CDG - we're not checking bags). We would pick up car rental in Avignon, returning it in Avignon before taking train back to Paris on the evening of Oct. 3rd. Then three nights in Paris to close out the trip.

My tentative itinerary was something like this:
  • Arrive in Avignon Centre from Paris on Sunday, Sept. 25th. Pick up rental car in Avignon, check into hotel, then explore Avignon late afternoon on foot.
  • 4-5 nights in Avignon or Villeneuve-les-Avignon. I also found a couple of places in Uzes that fit the bill for what we're looking for of staying in a quiet and charming, old-world setting. I figured this would be a great base for visiting Arles, Pont du Gard, Baux-de-Provence, Orange, visiting small villages and markets in the Luberon area, day-trip to Marseille and Aix.
  • On the way from Avignon to Vence, visit and hike in Parc National du Calanques and take a scenic drive along the coast.
  • 2-3 nights in Vence. Found a B&B near there that looked perfect for us and is removed from the business of the Riviera, but close enough where we can explore. One thing that is giving me pause is I do not want to be doing a lot of driving in congested traffic along the busy riviera (i.e. St. Tropez-Cannes-Nice) and then trying to find parking in these places.
  • 1-2 nights in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie. Visit Saturday Market in Riez. I thought this might be a good base for exploring Gorges du Verdon and visit Parc National du Mercantour on our way from Vence for some hiking.
  • Final day (Oct. 3rd), drive from Moustiers back to Avignon, drop rental car, and take evening train to Paris.
None of this is set in stone, and we've also considered doing Moustiers second, and ending in Vence. I'm also considering just scrapping the Cote d'Azur entirely and focusing on Provence with using just 1-2 bases to explore. I'm open to choosing different towns or villages altogether to base ourselves (looked at Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt, Rousillon, and Venasque). We definitely want to spend at least 2-3 nights in a small quaint village, and researching Moustiers, it seemed like "the one." However, Moustiers is pretty far-flung from the rest of Provence and thought just 1-2 nights there would seem appropriate for our interests in the area. There's so many beautiful villages and towns that it's very difficult to choose. Ideally looking to base in a small village at a B&B or hotel that is "Provencial" and exudes that old-world delight (did I just describe almost every small village in Provence?).

As far as the French Riviera, Vence seemed to hit the mark with the beautiful quaint small village. We're not as interested in spending time in the ritzy hustle and bustle of Cannes, Monaco and such, but it would be interesting just to pass through and see it on our way elsewhere. We're more outdoor explorers, so finding some hiking trails in Calanque and elsewhere, scenic drives, and ocean vistas with some stops in scenic villages to explore on foot is more our vibe.

One thing I'm a bit unsure of is the best way and place to pick-up and drop the rental car. It seems like from my research that you arrive in Avignon by train on Sunday, Sept. 25th at the Avignon Centre, but then need to pick up the rental car at Avignon TGV station. Is this an issue? Will I have any problems with it being closed on Sunday? I suppose worst case scenario we pick up the rental car on Monday or Tuesday morning instead (maybe Monday would be ideal for a day trip via train to Marseille).

Second, in terms of dining out, are there dress requirements for dining out in Provence? I'm not expecting we will be eating at the higher end places much (if at all). What is considered the norm? We're packing light, so we weren't sure if the dress is more formal or more casual to dressy casual at most places.

Thanks for any feedback, ideas, or suggestions!

Jason
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Old Aug 28th, 2022, 04:39 AM
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There are no dress requirements for dining out in Provence, esp not in casual places. Maybe if it was a Michelin star place you'd dress up a bit but again its not a requirement.
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Old Aug 28th, 2022, 05:20 AM
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Pick up the car the next day, or the day after. You will be exhausted after your flight and train journey. Even a short drive in a strange car in a strange place when jet lagged could be dangerous. One less day to pay for, one less parking place to find too.
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Old Aug 28th, 2022, 05:20 AM
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That transit to Gare de Lyon (note spelling) seems reasonable. Your TGV train will arrive at the Avignon station on the edge of the city, not the old station (and old, slow train line) in the centre. There's a quick shuttle to the town gates. Save a day's rental by going back to pick up the car next morning.

Train to Marseille is a good idea. The Marseille Provence airport does have some international service so you might fly home from there, although probably with a connection, but still saving time over heading to Paris by land for departure. For that matter, if all you want to see is the south, fly into Marseille too. Lots of car rental agencies around the airport, which is well outside the city.

Avignon has a luscious market, opening mornings except Monday. The city tourist agency is quite helpful.

https://avignon-tourisme.com/en/

https://www.marseille.aeroport.fr/




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Old Aug 28th, 2022, 09:38 AM
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No useful advice, but I do like your use of ‘vexed.’
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Old Aug 28th, 2022, 02:10 PM
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I too would not drive on your first day in Avignon. Would either stay one night in Paris so you would not have to worry about any connection issues (flying is less reliable these days) or spend the first night in Avignon. There are multiple hotels near the Avignon train station ( Not the Eurostar stop)
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Old Aug 28th, 2022, 04:46 PM
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We stayed in Villanueve- Avignon, a mistake. Every day we had to drive through busy Avignon to explore villages.
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