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Place(s) to stay near small, pretty town(s), preferably in southern France

Place(s) to stay near small, pretty town(s), preferably in southern France

Old Jan 6, 20, 12:50 am
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Question Place(s) to stay near small, pretty town(s), preferably in southern France

Late September/early October this year, my wife and I and a few friends will visit France together. (A couple of us speak decent French; the others, just a smattering.) In addition to a few days in Paris, we'll have about 10 days to spare. We'd like to rent one or two VRBOs/Airbnbs/etc. or stay in one or two small guest houses during that time. I'm seeking recommendations for specific small towns, or even specific Airbnbs or guest houses to stay in. I know it's a big country with lots of options, but to narrow down my search for recommendations a bit:

1. We'd prefer to be in the southern part of the country for the slightly better weather at that time of year, but not on the Mediterranean coast.
2. Ideally, the place(s) would be just outside of town, but within walking distance of it, or in the town itself, and the setting would be pleasant in either event. It would be a nice place to pass the time.
3. The town would ideally have several good restaurants, cafes and shops, be nice to walk around. and spend some time hanging out in, and be in or near a scenic setting. (The opportunity to take long country walks also would be great.) Beyond those basic priorities, the smaller the town the better.
4. The surrounding countryside would be culturally or historically interesting and pretty to explore. If steeped in history and historical sites, great, but not essential.
5. The availability or uber or taxis for exploring the countryside would be great, but we realize that may not be an option. We'll have one or more cars.

I realize that there are so many potential places. But we're not interested in a specific region, per se. We're looking more for a nice place or town or two to hang out and use as a base, whatever the region.

If anyone cares to offer any advice above and beyond what I'm seeking here, it's more than welcome. Thanks.
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Old Jan 6, 20, 6:33 am
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It's been fifteen years since we stayed there, but I see that Chez Bagatelle in Châteauneuf-en-Auxois (Burgundy) is still in business. The town, one of the plus beaux villages de France, is tiny but does have a couple of restaurants. There is a lovely walk in the woods from the edge of town (a few steps from the gîte), where you will discover the ruins of a leper colony. We had a car and took some lovely drives.

I don't know whether other transportation is available, nor whether Mme. Bagatelle speaks English.
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Old Jan 6, 20, 8:21 am
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I would go with one of the small towns along Lake Annecy, like Veyrier-du-Lac or Menthon-Saint Bernard. Ticks all those boxes, and pretty easy to get to- 3.5 hour train ride to Annecy from Paris, then pick up a rental car at the train station and only a 15 minute drive or so.

I was there this summer and the area is wonderful. In late September you should still get highs in the low 70s most days, and the lake might even be warm enough to take a (brief) swim in. Walks up into the mountains or along the lake will be very nice. I found this blog posting that nicely summarizes what is special about the area.

https://www.girlwithasaddlebag.com/2...t-kept-secret/
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Old Jan 7, 20, 4:39 pm
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Thanks very much for these suggestions, folks. I'll check them out. Anyone's further ideas re specific locations or specific properties would also be appreciated.
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Old Jan 7, 20, 4:44 pm
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Depending on your definition of a small town, I'd suggest Aix-en-Provence. If you're not renting a car, it's easily accessible by train. Avignon is also good (with the same tradeoff between size and train service), especially if you're interested in church history.
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Old Jan 7, 20, 4:48 pm
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We have used https://relaischateaux.com/us/ for trips in France previously which may be useful for you
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Old Jan 8, 20, 9:06 am
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you can also consider the south west: Dax, Bayonne, Beziers, Cordes, Arcachon, ile de Ré, etc.
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Old Jan 8, 20, 9:07 am
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I would also point out that Brittany in September is quite nice, especially around Vannes and the Morbihan gulf: Cities like Carnac, Vannes, Quiberon, La Baule are also nice seaside destinations
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Old Jan 8, 20, 9:23 am
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I do not consider Aix-en-Provence a small, pretty town though it has a number of things well worth seeing. Paul Cezanne lived and worked there. We really enjoyed his studio. We also visited Camp des Milles, a powerful and sad experience. It was a major distribution point for people going to concentration camps.
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Old Jan 9, 20, 9:16 am
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Originally Posted by DCJoe1 View Post
I would go with one of the small towns along Lake Annecy, like Veyrier-du-Lac or Menthon-Saint Bernard. Ticks all those boxes, and pretty easy to get to- 3.5 hour train ride to Annecy from Paris, then pick up a rental car at the train station and only a 15 minute drive or so.
That's definitely a pretty area -- at least from a shuttle bus window as Annecy and the lake are along the route from Geneva to a bunch of ski areas in the Vanoise. It's rather close to Geneva too if OP potentially wanted to fly out of there on the way home.

And in that vein, what about Chamonix? May not qualify as "small town" either, but it's very charming with a beautiful setting and I imagine won't be too expensive in the shoulder season. Lots to do there - tram to Aguille du Midi, drive through Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy, etc. Not sure how access is from Paris, but it's maybe an hour or so from Geneva by car.
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Old Jan 9, 20, 12:35 pm
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Originally Posted by ijgordon View Post
That's definitely a pretty area -- at least from a shuttle bus window as Annecy and the lake are along the route from Geneva to a bunch of ski areas in the Vanoise. It's rather close to Geneva too if OP potentially wanted to fly out of there on the way home.
Agreed- the proximity to a major airport is another plus for the area. We flew to Geneva, rented a car from the French sector at the airport (a great tip I read elsewhere), and returned it at the Annecy train station before taking the train to Paris. That worked out great and saved us a bunch of money by picking up/returning the car both in France.
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Old Jan 9, 20, 3:46 pm
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Thanks again for the very useful info, folks. One additional region that's been suggested to me is Dordogne. Is that a good option to consider? If not, why not? And if so, any particular properties or villages that are recommended? (Again, an ideal property would be in a pretty location but walking distance into town for restaurants, shops, etc.)
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Old Jan 11, 20, 12:59 am
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The countryside around Guerande in Brittany is wonderful. Close to Nantes and gateway to the Loire.

It’s in the vicinity of La Baule previously mentioned.
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Old Jan 14, 20, 7:34 pm
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A belated thanks, JClass. It looks like we're indeed settling on Dordogne, if you or anyone else has ideas regarding specific towns or properties there, particularly places to stay that are on the edge of a nice town but from which you can walk into town for restaurants, etc.
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