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Thread: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

  1. #1
    Bart -my real name- is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Alexandria, VA Posts: 5,273

    Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Hey folks -
    Long time, no talk. Tragically, I have no SBH trips planned but I'm looking to take trip to the Mother Ship.

    My daughter is doing a semester abroad in Lugano, Switzerland and part of the program allows them to take a week to ten day trips wherever they want to travel. I'm going to join her on one of her breaks and we want hit up the Cote d'Azur and Provence. The problem is, I've never been there and have no idea what to hit, what to skip and where all the cool stuff is!! I have the Lonely Planet guide book for Provence and Cote d'Azur, but damn near everything in it sounds great!!!

    I'd like to do the coast as well as inland/the countryside. I'll be over there in late March/early April which I think is too early for beach lounging, but maybe good for outdoor lunches near the beach? I'll probably have around a week to travel.

    The current plan is to start in Nice and work our way west to Marseille and then up to Aix-en-Provence and then over to Arles to vibe on the Van Gogh scene. I'd like to do some physical stuff (as simple as a walk on the beach, to hikes along cliffs or through some naturals areas), some long lunches and dinners (not Michelin 3 Star meals, but more mom and pop places or quaint little seaside joints.....think more La Gloriette vs. L'Esprit), see some local culture/art museums and mostly interact with the people (stroll the streets, hit some shops, see the country side, etc). My tastes run more bohemian than opulent and swanky.

    The questions I have are:

    1) How much time should I spend along the coast? (I realize I can easily spend a week in Nice! but I'd like to hit the highlights and see as much variety as possible without being on a go go go whirlwind)
    2) Are there any coastal cities/towns that I MUST see or MUST skip? (As in see Cannes but skip San Tropez, or spend more time in Nice than Marseille)
    2a) Should I visit Monaco? How long should I budget?
    3) If it happens to be unseasonably warm is there a certain area (like a sheltered cove) where the water may be warmer and wind may be less so swimming may be possible?
    4) Is it best to have a home base and do day trips along the coast or travel west to east?
    5) Should I get a car or just rely on public transportation (for the coastal segments)?
    6) Restaurant and museum advice is always welcome (for instance I was just listening to a podcast on Cote d'Azur and the host was talking about Nice, i think, and her advice was, "if you only have time for one museum, skip the Matisse museum and visit the Chagall museum"

    One for Cassidian -

    7) Should I plan to visit/stay in Cassis!?!?!

    Away from the coast:

    8) What cities/villages should I hit? I read that Aix has a boho vibe which appeals to me. And back to aforementioned podcast, the host was surprised that the guest (a recent traveler to the area didn't visit Eze)
    9) Is it worth a trip to Arles for Van Gogh? I *think* some things should be blooming in late March(?)
    10) Are there any great driving routes that will take us through countryside, through some small villages? Your basic scenic route!
    11) I imagine a car is required for what I'm discussing?

    Any other suggestions for off the beaten track sites of activities would be appreciated.....Like a great cooking class, or great little restaurant that you'd pass right by if you didn't know better, any local dishes or specialties (think Manu's tomato tarte at Santa Fe. RIP)

    Sorry to bombard you all with so many questions, but the France forum has been a little too quiet lately, and I'm just trying pump things up a bit!

  2. #2
    amyb is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2008 Glen Cove,L. I., NY Posts: 25,812

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    all sounds good. I loved the walk to the top of Eze, Avignon so much more than a bridge, streets of Arles and now I think the restoration of the amphitheater and Roman ruins is completed Just things I thought of right away. Grasse, Antibes, oh so much!!
    Remember Yesterday, Dream About Tomorrow, But Live Today.

  3. #3
    PeterLynn is offline
    SBH Member Joined: Mar 2014 Houston Posts: 332

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Also thinking of a Provence trip another year or so away. Am reading some good books on the region by Peter Mayle. A bit dated by publication, but probably not by Provence standards.

    The first is "A year in Provence" - https://www.amazon.com/Year-Provence...9212478&sr=8-1. Gives a sense of the people and the pace of small hill towns inland. The sequel is good so far, but repeats somewhat.

    I really enjoyed another of his "Provence A-Z" - https://www.amazon.com/Provence-Z-Fr...212785&sr=8-17. Covers regional topics, from A to Z. Enjoyable, but also factual. Will re-read with notebook in hand.

  4. #4
    Bart -my real name- is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Alexandria, VA Posts: 5,273

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Thanks to both of you!!!!

  5. #5
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 912

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Oh my, you need far more days than the number you have for that area along the coast just Monaco to St Tropez if you were to go that far & or up to Avignon. Scale back is my recommendation & make return visits, yes, plural. For any beaches, sand will be a rarity, think pebbles to rocks, not flip flops or barefoot. I would choose 1 place to stay for either the entire # of days, think wheel & spokes for your sightseeing or split between 2 places, same idea. Monaco is lovely, 1 full day is all you need for the palace, the aquarium, some shopping & lovely lunch. Twice there but years ago with the Monaco Tourism Bureau during the celebration of the principality with flags flying, magnificent window displays of Prince Ranier, Princess Grace etc, flowers galore, spectacular fireworks from the top of 1 of THE hotels by the harbour. Eze yes, on a Windstar cruise we took a couple of buses to go to St Paul de Vence, charming village & the Maight museum, perhaps snag a lunch reservation at Colombe ? That's only 2 places, now I must get out to pick daffodils at the Upick where I live in SC near Hilton Head before the predicted 30 degree mornings visit us. Good reading !

  6. #6
    amyb is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Apr 2008 Glen Cove,L. I., NY Posts: 25,812

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Colombe d’or and Paul Bocuse were my favorite lunch stops on that trip.we drove from Cannes to Lyon and back to Paris.
    Remember Yesterday, Dream About Tomorrow, But Live Today.

  7. #7
    stbartshopper is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 8,693

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Reservations are needed far in advance throughout the area you mentioned. For us Eze and Positano are must stops. If you haven’t done it, the ruins from the volcano eruption in Pompeo are well worth your time. We like St. Tropez over Cannes. Aix is fun and parts are ‘quirky’ to use your word. With limited time, we suggest you pass up Nice. If you are going to drive the coast there, it can be challenging with all of the big tour buses on the narrow, winding roads and the driver doesn’t get to see much. You might splurge on a driver. Monte Carlo is interesting but the other locales to us are more interesting. Even though it is touristy, Capri is worth a trip over if time permits.

  8. #8
    Bart -my real name- is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Alexandria, VA Posts: 5,273

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Thanks Nancy, Amy and Hopper! This is exactly the type of advice I was looking for!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by NancySC View Post
    Oh my, you need far more days than the number you have for that area along the coast just Monaco to St Tropez if you were to go that far & or up to Avignon. Scale back is my recommendation
    Nancy - does your advice still hold if actual beach/water time is not in the cards? I'm assuming there we be no real beach time....chair, book, sun tan lotion, etc. I think it will be too early in the season for any of that, so do you think that would allow me to see more and travel further? Or is there enough to see and do without basking in the sun for hours?

    Hopper - is there a city that you would recommend if we skipped Nice?

  9. #9
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 912

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Quote Originally Posted by amyb View Post
    Colombe d’or and Paul Bocuse were my favorite lunch stops on that trip.we drove from Cannes to Lyon and back to Paris.
    Lucky to get in, no time & no reservation for us, but such a sweet village, think I misspelled Maeght before. Oops on me !
    And I picked 50 daffodils earlier today, great excercise just not ez walking in the ruts made by tractor tires & on the watch for ants & any reptiles while picking & counting along the way, yesterday 80 today 55. That was a great picture of the Star ship !

  10. #10
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 912

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Quote Originally Posted by stbartshopper View Post
    Reservations are needed far in advance throughout the area you mentioned. For us Eze and Positano are must stops. If you haven’t done it, the ruins from the volcano eruption in Pompeo are well worth your time. We like St. Tropez over Cannes. Aix is fun and parts are ‘quirky’ to use your word. With limited time, we suggest you pass up Nice. If you are going to drive the coast there, it can be challenging with all of the big tour buses on the narrow, winding roads and the driver doesn’t get to see much. You might splurge on a driver. Monte Carlo is interesting but the other locales to us are more interesting. Even though it is touristy, Capri is worth a trip over if time permits.

    Hopper, did you mean Pompeii rather than the Att'y General ? or is there only one 'i' ? will you PM me your email, we're doing a cruise in Oct. that includes Sorrento, Capri & Positano, can I pick your brain ? In Nice having lunch by the market I still remember seeing the bride & groom going into a nearby building for their ceremony, and residents & visitors going crazy about a soccer game that Italy won, and having dinner at a beachside restaurant the evening of the day we got off of the Windsurf & the seeing it sail out again during our dinner so I have fond memories of our time in Nice !

  11. #11
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 912

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Quote Originally Posted by Bart -my real name- View Post
    Thanks Nancy, Amy and Hopper! This is exactly the type of advice I was looking for!!!



    Nancy - does your advice still hold if actual beach/water time is not in the cards? I'm assuming there we be no real beach time....chair, book, sun tan lotion, etc. I think it will be too early in the season for any of that, so do you think that would allow me to see more and travel further? Or is there enough to see and do without basking in the sun for hours?

    Hopper - is there a city that you would recommend if we skipped Nice?
    Bart...beach I would skip to see/do other more important things unless you must dip toes in the Mediterranean...
    I have a book that I wrote date in when purchased...11/16/02 France's Best-Loved Driving Tours...Frommer's Fourth Edition...The South of France has 4 different tours/routes with itinerary for each tour, # if days for each, town by town with km/mi for going town to town...I hope this is still in publication, it's the guide you need to make decisions about what to do, where to go in the time you have alotted. I am not a big museum person nor is my husband so you'll have to decide. For Arles we were on a riverboat trip & had most of the day there...it was a holiday so was very crowded with locals from near & far plus the couple river boats, horseback riders in native costumes & finery, our local, but of German heritage guide was surprised that places were closed...check for holidays that fall during your travel time, can make big difference. Do get a driver as said before so that both of you can enjoy your time together & where you go. You can't see it all in one trip, do more research as to where to go in the limited time you have, make a list of most important, but leave wiggle time to leave some things to chance..within reason. Lots of info online from many sources. Look at tourism offices for the towns/places that you think will interest you & your daughter...lucky to be in Lugano, lovely little city on the water. Good luck, & start planning, spring is when schools have vacations as you know & they travel too so you may see groups from all over Europe..school kids, all ages. Oh flowers bloom yes that time of year...keep asking questions, will answer !

  12. #12
    Bart -my real name- is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Alexandria, VA Posts: 5,273

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Thanks Nancy!! I just ordered the 8 edition from 2011.

  13. #13
    stbartshopper is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 8,693

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Nancy- yes Pompeii not the Atty General! LOL!
    Bart- Nice to Beaulieu sur Mer is about a 20 minute drive. Stay at la Reserve de Beaulieu but you will need a little dress up for dinner there. You can drive into Nice if you want.
    https://www.reservebeaulieu.com
    I also suggest one or two nights at le Club de Cavaliere, which is right on the beach and about two hours drive from Nice. We drove into St. Tropez while staying at Cavaliere so we had both city and peacefulness of the beach
    https://www.clubdecavaliere.com/en/
    Dining at le Chateau de la Chèvre d'Or- again dressy and stuffy- I think three Michelin stars now. Amy mentioned EZE which is the City worth visiting and the location of the restaurant.
    and in Positano, Italy, which I know you didn't ask about Bart, our favorite place to stay is Il San Pietro
    http://www.ilsanpietro.it/en/index.php
    Warning- all of these places require advance reservations both for the hotels and their restaurants even if you are staying there.- sometimes a year ahead of time.
    Good luck and Bon Voyage to all.

  14. #14
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 912

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Quote Originally Posted by Bart -my real name- View Post
    Thanks Nancy!! I just ordered the 8 edition from 2011.
    Great, think it will help you alot, but you also might look for a travel consultant who specializes in this area. And Hopper's ideas are good ones...

  15. #15
    NancySC is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Sep 2017 Posts: 912

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Quote Originally Posted by stbartshopper View Post
    Nancy- yes Pompeii not the Atty General! LOL!
    Bart- Nice to Beaulieu sur Mer is about a 20 minute drive. Stay at la Reserve de Beaulieu but you will need a little dress up for dinner there. You can drive into Nice if you want.
    https://www.reservebeaulieu.com
    I also suggest one or two nights at le Club de Cavaliere, which is right on the beach and about two hours drive from Nice. We drove into St. Tropez while staying at Cavaliere so we had both city and peacefulness of the beach
    https://www.clubdecavaliere.com/en/
    Dining at le Chateau de la Chèvre d'Or- again dressy and stuffy- I think three Michelin stars now. Amy mentioned EZE which is the City worth visiting and the location of the restaurant.
    and in Positano, Italy, which I know you didn't ask about Bart, our favorite place to stay is Il San Pietro
    http://www.ilsanpietro.it/en/index.php
    Warning- all of these places require advance reservations both for the hotels and their restaurants even if you are staying there.- sometimes a year ahead of time.
    Good luck and Bon Voyage to all.

    NancySC & Doug are going to Positano, not Bart, he doesn't have time to go there too ! We'll be on a cruise in fall.

  16. #16
    Bart -my real name- is offline
    SBH Insider Joined: Nov 2009 Alexandria, VA Posts: 5,273

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    Thanks Hopper! Great stuff.....and this little adventure is wide open. My plan was to spend a couple days with her in Lugano while she still has class. After that she and her friends will be spending 3 days in Greece (I'm not invited!). When they're in Greece, I was planning on hitting Milan and then working my way back north and west toward Nice, etc. That said, I just looked up Positano and I think that is a little too far out of the way for this trip!

    But thanks again for the tips!

  17. #17
    stbartshopper is online now
    SBH Insider Joined: Dec 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.A. Posts: 8,693

    Re: Advice Needed: Cote d'Azur and Provence

    You are welcome Bart.

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