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South of France trip
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minkey



Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Tempe, Arizona; US

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 6:57 pm    Post subject: South of France trip Reply with quote

I am facing a wonderful dilemma: in July we are going to the south of France for our honeymoon. I need to plan some things, and I am a little flummoxed by all the possibilities.

We are flying from NYC to Nice. We will spend 2 nights in Nice, we have a car rented and then we will drive (eventually) to Arcachon on the Atlantic coast, where a friend is renting a house for the month. I am so excited because with the car we can stop wherever we want to explore. Probably we will go along the coast for a bit, and then into Provence.

But, the sum total of my international travel is a trip to Paris a couple years ago. I bet many of you have fabulous tips of places to visit, especially places that won't be too touristy. Towns, bistros, etc. not to be missed? What to pack? Hotels that aren't too commercial?

I will appreciate any tips and anecdotes -- I bet y'all have lots of stories from your travels
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villacollinette



Joined: 07 Dec 2005
Posts: 62
Location: Antibes, France

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. Where to start . . . I'm living in Antibes, about half-way between Cannes and Nice. First off, July will be very hot and dry in this area -- pack your coolest clothes. The whole Mediterranean coast is pretty touristic, unfortunately, but some of the towns are quite lovely in spite of that. And every town will have its little jewels in terms of hotels and places to eat. I think you're best off picking the towns that appeal to you, and then from there it would be easier to advise you.

Personally, I would advise you to take a peek at Antibes (you can get great info on towns with Google or online travel sites), St. Paul de Vence, Peille and Peillon, Mougins, Gourdon, Cassis, Aix-en-Provence and Carcassonne. Beyond those, there must be people who can give you much better advice than I could. If you want any town-specific tips, I'll give you what I have if you just tell me the towns you're interested in.

Good luck with your choices -- you really can't go wrong with this area. It's lovely, the weather should be good, and the tourists don't really peak before August, so you shouldn't be too badly off.
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minkey



Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Tempe, Arizona; US

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 9:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Villacollinette! I do know I definitely want to to Cassis, and now I am adding Antibes to the list. I can't wait to get home and look at the maps (I'm "working" now Twisted Evil )

I do know during our first 2 days, we want to take a day trip to Monaco (speaking of tourists, but, I gotta see it at least a little) and Eze. We wanted to spend a night in Eze, but I am not sure it is worth it to pay so much more. Can you recommend hotels in Nice?

How hot would you say it will be? Does it get over 37c/100f?

I am hoping to travel pretty light, but am wondering, are there many places where I should dress nicer for dinner out? I was thinking of bringing light skirts and sandals, in hopes of being comfy and cool but not sloppy...
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bainst



Joined: 07 Aug 2005
Posts: 151
Location: Baghdad, Iraq

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I went to visit my pen pal a few years back when she was working in Montpeilier. It was a wonderful little town. To me it was everything a French town should be. Cobblestones, cafes, it was just very nice. And not that far from the beach.

Tamar
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bainst



Joined: 07 Aug 2005
Posts: 151
Location: Baghdad, Iraq

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 10:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When I went the last week of May, it was very warm, not uncomfortable. The water was still very cold. However, by July it will probably be pretty hot, and start to get pretty crowded as all of Europe starts to go on holiday and head to the beach. Light skirts and sandals are fine since it's a lot more casual than Paris, but a very nice summer dress and pretty shoes would not go wrong, since it's still France, and the even the babies are chic. Smile

Tamar
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villacollinette



Joined: 07 Dec 2005
Posts: 62
Location: Antibes, France

PostPosted: Mon Apr 24, 2006 11:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Monaco is definitely worth a day trip, and if you're in a car, you might consider going by the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild in St. Jean Cap Ferrat. It's absolutely lovely both inside and out (the gardens are a major draw there).

Eze is really nice, too -- small perched village with nice shops and a lovely garden at the very top of the hill with Roman ruins in the center. It would be quite expensive, and if you have a car, it could easily be covered in half a day. Of course, it's also a great place to splurge, if you're wanting that. But you really don't need to. We have been over and over (with guests) and usually don't even eat there, since it's all pretty much in the very expensive range. But the town and garden definitely merit a stop. Just plan to do it when you're not too jet-lagged -- the streets are all pedestrian and can be pretty steep in places.

It will be hot, but not that hot. Even during the famous heat wave of 2003, it never got that hot here. Being next to the sea, we get a nice sea breeze most of the time, and it rarely gets above 32/33C.

Traveling light is always a good plan in France -- you'll end up schlepping your luggage around and heaving it up and down short flights of stairs and doing things with it you'd never have to do in the states, though having a rental car will help with that (not having to cope with luggage on trains is a real blessing!). And light skirts and sandals sound great, but you will be walking here a lot more than you would be in the states -- parking is usually not that convenient, and you need to walk just to get into the center of town most times. I'd make sure the sandals are comfortable, well-broken-in, and have enough support that you can walk all day and not be crippled the next day. That said, I would avoid the tennis shoes, unless you want to embrace the American Tourist look. We can usually spot those just by their ultra-casual, tennis shoes and backpacks and khaki shorts look. It's just a question of if you care or not. I have found that Europe is more formal than the states, and usually dress up for trips here, and dress down when I'm back in the US.

As far as hotels in Nice, I can't be much help there. It's far enough away that we never have our own guests staying there, and near enough that we never stay there ourselves. There's a really charming, not too expensive place here in Antibes called the Auberge Provencal -- there's a web page if you're interested. And if you already have your car then, there's a beautiful and romantic place that I stayed at on my own wedding night called the Mas Djoliba -- it's more expensive but well worth it. Both of those places appear easily on Google.

For your day-trip into Monaco, I would recommend arriving in the morning, looking around the Oceanographic Museum/Aquarium if that's of interest to you, then seeing the changing of the guard at noon in front of the palace, then lunch in the old town and Princess Grace's tomb in the church after that. That's all pretty central and easy to hit in one go. And that's the way I've done it about ten times with relatives and friends who visit.

Cassis, BTW, is lovely -- an old town, pedestrian center, but all right in front of the port and the boats. If you dive you can go out while you're there quite conveniently.

Hope this helps and let me know if I can answer any other questions!
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minkey



Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Tempe, Arizona; US

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Bainst, thanks -- now I will look up Montpelier. Sounds like my idea of a French town too.

Villacollinette -- I do want to avoid looking too much like the American tourist! Although, sadly, my french is pretty limited so I will be undone the instant I open my mouth. Your tips are fantastic -- I will be looking up those hotels the instant I am home! Also, I think my husband may be interested in diving. Diving in Cassis sounds very fabulous. I am an earthgirl, love to walk forever but no diving. I will be at the cafe with a glass of something!
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lpennin104



Joined: 29 Sep 2004
Posts: 8

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Provence is a huge area. Near the coast I like Nice, especially the old section, St Paul, Vence, Eze and Grasse-the center of perfume making in France. Further inland I think musts are Aix, Avignon, Les Baux, Gordes, Lourmarin and Roussillon. If you love Roman ruins there is Orange, Arles, the Pont du Gard and Uzes, just to name a few places. You will not get to see all that there is and will want to return. Provence is incredible. Last May it was rather chilly so do bring a jacket just in case.
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pimpille



Joined: 18 Nov 2005
Posts: 12
Location: St Drézéry, Languedoc Roussillon, France

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 3:06 pm    Post subject: Montpellier calling Reply with quote

It is a wonderful idea to spend your honeymonn in the south of France !
July will be hot and Provence quite touristy and expensive. However it's worth visiting it : Avignon, Orange, St Remy de Provence, Arles, Aix en Provence...
Languedoc Roussillon is worth visiting too : It less expensive and (a bit less) touristy. Carcassonne, Bages, Sete, Nimes, Uzes, Anduze and Montpellier. I live in the suburb of Montpellier and I know well Southern France (from Toulouse to Marseille) and I can give you tips. Just say more about your tastes !

Having a coffee at la place de la comedie in Montpellier au Café Riche is worth the experience ! : It s the most important meeting point of our town
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David



Joined: 30 Sep 2004
Posts: 1855
Location: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 3:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Pimpille has mentioned all of my favourite places! Uzes and Avignon are musts in my opinion and Carcassonne should not be missed!
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Donna



Joined: 14 Oct 2005
Posts: 827
Location: Oakland, CA

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 4:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I concur with Pimpille and David. I ADORE the Languedoc region. We found Montpellier a delight, Nimes truly beautiful with the Roamn ruins and Sete was our favorite. It is right on the Canal du Midi and just charming. Plus - there is a fabulous beach! Cool And - as this IS C&Z - there were some brilliant seafood restaurants! Sorry I can't recall any names.

The other plus about the Langue d'oc is that there are far fewer American tourists. English and German, yes, but we only bumped into one other American couple! Of course, once the 1st of August hits, all bets are off - Any seaside town will be just absolutely CRAMMED with tourists of every nationality - including buckets of French families.

The last time we were there, we were traveling with our son, who was a teenager at that time. We adapted his travel style which was culture in the morning and the beach in the afternoon! If left on my own, I would be at museums, cathedrales, monuments...all day long. But we so enjoyed spending time NOT being tourists, relaxing and playing. What's a vacation for after all?

Keep us posted on your plans! Laughing
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sumitsen



Joined: 01 Mar 2005
Posts: 10
Location: Mountain View, California

PostPosted: Tue Apr 25, 2006 4:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a wonderful opportunity to visit many interesting and beautiful places! There are so many great places to visit that it may be hard to choose from among them.

I'm not sure if anyone mentioned les Baux de Provence, Avignon or Arles. They are all full of history (Roman and later); my favorite is probably les Baux for its dramatic location and panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. Arles is wonderful to visit on market days when the selection of olives, cheese and bread is incredible. Oh, and don't forget to see the Pont du Gard (ancient Roman aqueduct) if you are in this area.

If you're going to Uzes and Anduze, another must-see is St Guilhem le Desert, a beautiful abbey on the Santiago de Compostella route. The town is very picturesque with the abbey at the end of a long uphill walk along narrow lanes.

Also, as you head west do visit the valley of the Lot and Perigord: St Cirq la Popie (an old town on a cliff), Cahors, Rocamadour and Sarlat la Caneda (capital of foie gras). Sarlat is full of historic buildings and streets to wander through; the itinerary and map provided by the Office of Tourism will take you to all the main sights. Further west, St Emilion and Bergerac are also nice towns to spend a day in.

--Sumit
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simona



Joined: 11 Mar 2005
Posts: 696
Location: israel

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

A hotel de charme, small boutique hotel ,in Nice, not cheap but reasonably priced, is the quite unique HOTEL WINDSOR, just one street off the very center of Nice, very conveniently lovcated ( has parking place). The rooms are decorated with murals or designed by modern artists, breakfast is served in the charming exotic garden, there is a very intimate piano bar, Gym, Hammam, sauna, massage, and a Budha sculpture welcoming you in the lobby. Bo-Bo type (Bohemian Bourgeois).
Tel: 04-93 88 59 35, Fax: 04 93 88 94 57
they probably have by now a mail too, try via internet.
If you like it , ask for a double room Garden side, it's much quiter. we had the "venice mural" room we liked very much, but there are others, some with balconies.
Congratulations for you marriage.
P.S. I'm a guide for many years and know provence very well. So as to be of any use, I need to know how long you intend to travel, if it's a round trip (meaning NYC-NIce- NYC or are you returning from Paris?) so I could suggest an itinerary.
I'm off to Rhodes now for a week, so I'll be able to answer only at the end of next week.
Best

No more war, just travel, meet people , eat well and have a lot of fun!
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minkey



Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Tempe, Arizona; US

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simona, thanks for the tip. I found the website for Hotel Windsor and it looks really nice. (And thanks for your congratulations; married life is going beautifully Very Happy )

We are returning to Nice for the flight home; I suspect we will be totally out of time and will race there from Arcochon. So far, we plan to spend the 2 nights in Nice. Probably we will explore Nice the first day, and then visit Monaco and Eze the next.

Then, well.. we already planned on going sort of along the coast to Cannes, and now we are adding Antibes. I think we will also visit Marseilles / Cassis before turning toward Provence. Oh -- and Toulous-- is that in that area. (Can't find it on the little map I have here.

Luberon, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Avignon and Arles are definitely on the list. I'm glad Orange was mentioned because I wasn't sure, and now Montpelier and Uze are on the list too. I know I will want to stay forever in any of the villages we find. Maybe next time!

What we want is to tool around and stop where we feel like, will we have trouble getting rooms in the villages in Provence, since it is high season for tourism?

Oh, and Donna, I like your son's style -- I hate to return from vacation exhausted!
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minkey



Joined: 30 Oct 2005
Posts: 80
Location: Tempe, Arizona; US

PostPosted: Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh dear, Grasse. I am already forgetting Grasse and it was one of the original priorities. Perfume country must be so beautiful!
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