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Suggestions for Provence

Suggestions for Provence

Old May 1, 18, 12:40 pm
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Suggestions for Provence

We will be staying with friends outside of Avignon for a few days in June, but we arrive at CDG a few days beforehand. Since we've both been to Paris but not really seen much of the south, we were thinking of heading down to Nice or Marseille instead. We arrive at CDG on a Saturday and need to be near Avignon on Wednesday. I had had two ideas:

1. Fly from CDG to Nice, spend a couple days in Nice and then rent a car and drive west to Avignon and Aix before meeting friends.
2. Train from CDG to Aix or Marseille, spend a few days in Marseille and surrounding areas. I figure the strike will hopefully be over by then.

What do people recommend? I realize that the latter half of the week we'll probably be able to explore the area around Avignon (the villa we're staying at is near Vacqueyras) anyway, so I lean towards going to Nice first.

Thanks!
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Old May 1, 18, 4:34 pm
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Originally Posted by gfunkdave View Post
2. Train from CDG to Aix or Marseille, spend a few days in Marseille and surrounding areas. I figure the strike will hopefully be over by then.
I wouldn't count on it.

Originally Posted by gfunkdave View Post
What do people recommend? I realize that the latter half of the week we'll probably be able to explore the area around Avignon (the villa we're staying at is near Vacqueyras) anyway, so I lean towards going to Nice first.
Aix/Marseille if you want to drive as little as possible. All three cities are worth a visit. Aix maybe too similar to Avignon. Marseille/Nice may be good choices. Both are busy, coastal cities which IMO is a contrast to the generally more calmer Provence. You could always do Aix on a day trip on your way from Marseille/Nice to Avignon. Marseille/Nice may also be slightly more gentle re: temperatures.

PS: You could spent months in the south of France and still not discover everything.
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Old May 1, 18, 6:50 pm
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You could go to Orange and visit the town and the Roman amphitheatre ...
You could visit Le Barroux (has a monastery) and have dinner at Gajulea ... terrific family-run restaurant ...
There are quite a few other hill towns around Le Barroux ... each with different market days ...
Wine tasting in and around Gigondas ...
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Old May 20, 18, 12:08 am
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Originally Posted by UAPremExecflyer View Post
You could go to Orange and visit the town and the Roman amphitheatre ...
You could visit Le Barroux (has a monastery) and have dinner at Gajulea ... terrific family-run restaurant ...
There are quite a few other hill towns around Le Barroux ... each with different market days ...
Wine tasting in and around Gigondas ...
The Orange Amphitheater is very well preserved and makes a nice visit. Quite a few wineries in the area if you're into that. Avignon itself is worth spending a couple days just walking around. Many nice small villages in the area to the east of Carpentras. Le Baux de Provence is a nice side trip. The fields of Lavender in the shadow of Mont Ventoux make for postcard-type photos. Pont du Gard and its amazing aqueduct isn't too far away either.
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Old May 20, 18, 10:45 pm
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There's a lot of options in the south of France - the above posters have great suggestions - but as I recall, Marseille itself is not the nicest city to stay for more than a few days. When I lived in France a few years ago, it was the city with the highest crime rate in the country, and I recall it being quite dirty. Nice is much pleasanter and more tourist-friendly. Off the coast of the city is a number of lovely islands you can take a ferry to, including the Chateau d'If, which featured in Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, if you're into that sort of thing. But if you want a nice beach, I don't think Marseille is the place.
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Old May 21, 18, 9:00 am
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Originally Posted by DrRodneyMcKay View Post
There's a lot of options in the south of France - the above posters have great suggestions - but as I recall, Marseille itself is not the nicest city to stay for more than a few days. When I lived in France a few years ago, it was the city with the highest crime rate in the country, and I recall it being quite dirty. Nice is much pleasanter and more tourist-friendly. Off the coast of the city is a number of lovely islands you can take a ferry to, including the Chateau d'If, which featured in Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo, if you're into that sort of thing. But if you want a nice beach, I don't think Marseille is the place.
Marseille has changed a lot in the last few years and is now much more tourist-friendly than it used to be.The crime stats are really an irrelevance as I doubt the OP would have any reason to be anywhere near some of the notorious housing estates in the Northern districts where most of the criminality occurs. There still needs to be some effort to be done on cleanliness, notably around the Cours Julien strip of restaurants, but it is nonetheless noticeably better than it used to be.

As to beaches, if you want sandy beaches, then the Marseille area definitely isn't the place. There is an (artificial) sandy beach in Marseille itself but it is not very exciting. If, however, you are after rocky beaches in beautiful environments such as the Calanques, I think that the Marseille area is a little more demanding in terms of access but beats the beaches on the Nice to Cannes urban stretch hands down (although the coast between Cannes and St-RaphaŽl and the St-Jean Cap Ferrat and Juan-les-Pins promontories are beautiful and have stunning beaches too). For someone who is really into sandy beaches, the Languedoc area has in any event better beaches than the Cote d'Azur as long as one avoids the summer mass migration towards the beaches (but this would apply to the Cote d'Azur too).

It really is difficult to recommend anything specific to the OP as it really is dependent on what he is after.

If the OP has an interest in art, the Nice area is also very good for early to mid-20th century art. If the OP likes wilder landscapes and horse-riding, the Camargue area south of Avignon is also worth considering. Nimes, Montpellier, Gorges de l'Ardeche, etc... all of this is also within a couple of hours of Avignon and can be great too depending on what one is after.

Last edited by NickB; May 21, 18 at 9:05 am
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Old May 21, 18, 2:59 pm
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Originally Posted by NickB View Post
Marseille has changed a lot in the last few years and is now much more tourist-friendly than it used to be.The crime stats are really an irrelevance as I doubt the OP would have any reason to be anywhere near some of the notorious housing estates in the Northern districts where most of the criminality occurs. There still needs to be some effort to be done on cleanliness, notably around the Cours Julien strip of restaurants, but it is nonetheless noticeably better than it used to be.

As to beaches, if you want sandy beaches, then the Marseille area definitely isn't the place. There is an (artificial) sandy beach in Marseille itself but it is not very exciting. If, however, you are after rocky beaches in beautiful environments such as the Calanques, I think that the Marseille area is a little more demanding in terms of access but beats the beaches on the Nice to Cannes urban stretch hands down (although the coast between Cannes and St-RaphaŽl and the St-Jean Cap Ferrat and Juan-les-Pins promontories are beautiful and have stunning beaches too). For someone who is really into sandy beaches, the Languedoc area has in any event better beaches than the Cote d'Azur as long as one avoids the summer mass migration towards the beaches (but this would apply to the Cote d'Azur too).

It really is difficult to recommend anything specific to the OP as it really is dependent on what he is after.

If the OP has an interest in art, the Nice area is also very good for early to mid-20th century art. If the OP likes wilder landscapes and horse-riding, the Camargue area south of Avignon is also worth considering. Nimes, Montpellier, Gorges de l'Ardeche, etc... all of this is also within a couple of hours of Avignon and can be great too depending on what one is after.
I can only agree with NickB on all he said in his post. Marseille has changed a lot + the Mucem really worths a visit.
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Old May 21, 18, 3:16 pm
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IMO Marseille is somewhat off the tourist path and is more of a working city, with the resulting advantages and disadvantages, although the old port area is can feel like a tourist trap. It's also a city that has a reputation for being less safe than most other palaces a visitor is likely to go.

IMO the highpoints would include certainly include Aix and les Baux, plus the coastline east of Marseille including Cassis or Bandol. Going farther east Including Nice) takes you to the Riviera rather than being part of Provence, and there's a long distance (near Toulon) between the nice areas.

Nevertheless, if you decide to make the drive to Nice, I'd suggest going to some of the smaller villages and driving along the courniches. There's train service to some of the larger towns such an Antibes (and Monaco, which is almost on the Italian border). June still isn't the height of the season, but you will need to avoid crowds if you want to brave places like St Tropez.

To avoid AF strike issues, I'd suggest renting a car and taking two days to drive to Avignon, perhaps stopping in a wine village along the way. It's possible to make the drive in one day (and people even do in in the huge traffic jams caused by French "migration" between Paris and the south at the start and end of August), but two days would be more enjoyable and safer after a long flight. It's also possible to use trains, but then it isn't practical to see the smaller places that I consider to be the charm of Provence.
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Old May 22, 18, 6:57 pm
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Originally Posted by MSPeconomist View Post
It's also possible to use trains, but then it isn't practical to see the smaller places that I consider to be the charm of Provence.
There are a number of small, walkable beautiful towns with nice hotels very near the train stations. In most cases it will require a transfer from the TGV to the local RER but it can be done.

Avignon itself is best explored on foot; you could take the 9:48am train out of CDG if that worked out, which is just under 4 hours including a transfer at Lyon. The direct train requires getting to Gare Lyon in the middle of Paris, but takes just 2 hours 40 minutes and runs more often. There is fairly frequent rail service, both RER and TGV, between Avignon and Marseille (they are really quite close). But I think arriving in Avignon 1pm-ish, spending a day there without a car, then renting one the following day for the continuing journey to Les Baux and beyond, could be a reasonable plan.
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Old May 23, 18, 8:18 am
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The unions nicely specified well in advance which days they will be on strike. You can find those days here: https://faq.trainline.eu/article/674...l-strikes-2018

If you are in Avignon, you might also look at Arles and Nimes, both of which are definitely worth a visit for the Roman history and the art, particularly in Arles.
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