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What area of France - need a quick crash course!

What area of France - need a quick crash course!

Jan 5th, 2009, 06:22 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2003
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What area of France - need a quick crash course!

We just found good fares from Fl to London for next month and have pretty much decided to take our grandaughter during her spring break. She will be graduating from college later this spring.
We'll probably leave on Feb. 25 or 26 and the 3 of us will spend 5 nights in London. She's a theater arts major, so we think she'll be thrilled.
But we hate to just spend 5 nights in Europe, after paying the fare to get there, so hubby and I are thinking of letting her fly back to Miami (direct flight) and continuing on our own for another 8 or 10 days to France. Our money and our years left to take such trips are waning,so we'd like to make the most of it! We're trying to take each of our grandchildren on a special trip, but I'm not sure we'll make it. Our bodies might, but our purses will be sorely tested.

We've been to Paris and love it, but we've never been outside of the city, except to Versaille.
With so little time to prepare, I need all the suggestions I can get. We love to travel by train, so would like to maximize that. We're not entirely against renting a car once we get to a smaller town, but wouldn't want to drive where it's a problem parking or "scary" driving!
We will probably fly back home from CDG, and I guess we'll take the Eurostar from London to France, if that's the easiest and most economical.
We love scenic vistas, hilltowns, market days, history, and wine. We love seeing anyplace we've never been before. We're no frills, can stay in the simplest of accomodations as long as we have a private bathroom.

It will be early March, so the weather will be awful, but can you suggest one or two bases that we might enjoy during this time?

I have Rick Steves' France 2006 book here and have just started looking through it. I have no clue where to start.

Help please?
Hagan is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 06:50 PM
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What you like sounds most like Provence to me. Once you get to Paris via the Eurostar you can transfer to the Gare de Lyon and take the TGV south to Avignon or Aix-en-Provence and spend a day exploring one of those cities. Then you can rent a car and begin your explorations. I'd suggest getting the Michelin Green Guide to Provence, which lays out suggested itineraries as well as giving a good deal of information about individual points of interest.

With a car you can go up to the wine region around Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and spend a happy day visiting tasting rooms. You can head over to Arles to see the Roman arena, to the Pont du Gard (that Roman aqueduct is a do-not-miss sight), to the citadel and fabulous view at Les Baux.

Then you can do the hill villages of the Lubéron to complete your journey. With 8 to 10 days you'll be able to see many of the major sights without pushing yourselves to exhaustion.

The weather in March will probably be cool, but you ought to have a fair number of sunny days.
Underhill is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 07:13 PM
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Underhill, thanks for your suggestions. Would you recommend staying in one place and doing daytrips in this area?
Hagan is offline  
Jan 5th, 2009, 08:21 PM
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I'd also recommend the Karen Brown B&B guides. We used them in France and Italy to find lovely places to stay with dinner available. We found the other travellers were excited to share their experiences and give tips on what we might do the next day, and the food was always fantastic. With my limited vocabulary, I wouldn't have known how to order some of the things we ate.

Have a wonderful trip!
dh896 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 12:58 PM
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I'd suggest staying at two different places: one in the Lubéron for 1-3 days, the remainder perhaps around St-Rémy or Uzès.
Underhill is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 02:14 PM
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Hi ...

My suggestion would be somewhere like the Loire valley ... lots of wine making, small french villages, fantastic chateaus and castles - about two hours south of Paris - direct from CDG to Tours on TGV.

There is Angers, Samuar, etc etc. Hire bikes & cycle, walk ....

At that time of year, you could also most likely find a gite to rent for a week or so ...

The weather in Loire will be cold ... but should be ok - my parents live there & before now we have been sunbathing at the end of March - as the loire valley has a micro climate.

isplumm1 is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 02:20 PM
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I've been to the Loire valley many times in February and March, and to me it's just really bleak.

I would either take the TGV to Avignon and explore Provence (with a car) for another 5 days or go with a full-out winter theme and head to the Alps.

Have you bought the tickets yet? Because if you haven't, consider doing an open-jaw flight so you don't have to get yourselves back to London.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 02:28 PM
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I heartily agree about the Loire Valley...it's not the best area for scenic vistas, hill towns (being mostly flat), and interesting markets. Châteaux, yes, and good cycling--but nothing like the variety of Provence.
Underhill is offline  
Jan 6th, 2009, 03:32 PM
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I agree with Underhill. Along with the Dordogne, Provence is our favorite region in France. We spend 2 months each year vacationing in different areas in France, and returning to some of our favorites. We never get bored with provence (or the Dordogne). I also agree with Underhill about splitting the time between the Luberon & St Remy.

I have a 27+ page itinerary about Provence, which describes our favorite villages, markets, wineries, driving routes, etc. e-mail me at [email protected] if you want a copy.

We love Chateaux - but after visitng them in the Loire, the "scenery" there is not as interesting as other regions in France.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Jan 6th, 2009, 03:44 PM
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You may be able to eat out on some days. The weather is very radical in March but as long as the Mistral doesn't hit you will be ok. Be sure to rent a SMALL car as village streets are very narrow plus parking is easier to find with a small car. I suggest St Remy as a base to see the area in the Alpilles
and Arles, Uzes(technically not in Provence), Pont du Gard and if you don't like driving much stay in the Luberon for a few days to visit that area. But a car is necessary to see most of the villages and the Perche villages.
cigalechanta is offline  
Jan 7th, 2009, 06:42 AM
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Another suggestion: since you're not so enthusiastic about driving, how about flying to Nice and spending your time on the Cote d'Azur? Nice is a great transportation hub for trains and buses along the coast and back into the hills to the north. The weather should be reasonably good, certainly better than farther north.

Nice is very different than Paris, has a lazy, sensual vibe. Must be the curvy Belle-Epoque architecture as well as the Italian influence.

If you decide on Nice, we can make suggestions for daytrips.
Mimar is online now  
Jan 7th, 2009, 08:00 AM
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Hi H,

Since you could end up with bad weather, I suggest cities rather than countryside.

I would go to Provence and stay in Arles, Avignon or Nimes.

There are good train connections among the three, as well as to Lyon, Aix-en-Provence and Paris.

ira is offline  
Jan 7th, 2009, 10:06 AM
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Provence: Luberon
caroltis is offline  
Jan 8th, 2009, 02:35 PM
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Consider staying in Avignon and taking the train to Arles, Aix-en-Provence, and Nice. All three cities have plenty to see inside when the weather is bad outside.
Underhill is offline  

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