Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur Travel Answers

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4 day itinerary?

by shmoomoo Online Now Mar 27, 2013 at 9:08 PM

We are a group of 4 young women and would love to explore the arts and culture of this region. We are planning to spend 4 days here, and then hop a train to Italy for another 4 days. Where would you recommend as the best "hub" to see a lot of this region in 4 days? We are having such a hard time deciding where to stay in France that we might spend our whole 8 days here and forget Italy!

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21 Answers
  • ATLC's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by ATLC Online Now Mar 27, 2013 at 10:36 PM

    If you are travelling there in July then the arts festival in Avignon (world-renowned) is a must-see experience: http://www.festival-avignon.com/en/

    Van Gogh lived in Arles. Perfume is made in Grasse.
    Your trip could also be themed around Roman remains: Pont du Gard, the arena's in Nimes and Orange...etc.

    I think France is best explored by car. Backroads, small villages... are you planning to rent one? With the excellent Michelin maps of the region and the trusted (well, I do, anyway) green Michelin guide of the region you can't go wrong. For an idea, visit the website: travel.michelin.com/web/dest...

    You could indeed forget Italy ;-) Enjoy!

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  • Robmj's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by Robmj Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    Avignon and the festival is certainly an idea, I would also consider basing in Nice, many folk have mixed feelings about Nice, but a great base along the Cote d'Azur as it gives you access to the medieval towns of Eze which have great cultural sights and into Monaco etc, you could also then access northern Italy and the likes of Portifino.

    Enjoy, its an amazing cultural feast wherever you base yourself.

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  • Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by DiariesOfAnExplorer Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 2:13 AM

    Last August I had a trip of Provence / Cote D'Azur and my base was close to Cannes, the Etap Hotel of Mouans Sartoux. From that point it's easy to visit Antibes, Nice, Saint Tropez, Saint Paul de Vence, go to islands like Isle Marguerite. Provence is not that far...you can visit Arles, Colorado de Provence, Porquerolles, Cassis, Vallauris, Grand Canyon de Verdon.

    Strongly recommended to rent a car to visit faster these places! :-)

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by gwened Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 4:04 AM

    best hub for public transport is Nice, then Avignon, and Marseille. However that is a big area for four days even by car. You are best to concentrate on one department base on your interests that I dont know yet...
    see the tourist office and choose the ones you like, come back to the forum for update details
    http://www.tourismepaca.fr/
    the link for the region tourism
    hope it helps

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  • Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by jeanfinney Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 6:05 AM

    My vote is for - well, for one, forget Italy, eight days is short - Avignon, the festival is incredible, unforgettable, do not miss it! well you might want to stay elsewhere, but nearby - say Arles, which is beautiful - Yes, do rent a car, divided by 4 it is quite affordable, and will give you a great deal of liberty to explore the countryside- Nice and Cannes in the summer will be a total zoo, crowded, crazy, not recommended - Avignon is crowded a bit too, but with art, things are going on in the street all the time, you hardly even have to buy a ticket to see theatre! A lot of the theatre experience requires good French but there are dance and music performances, street performers, and a wonderful festive but cultivated ambiance. And with a car you can escape, say, up to the Mercantor park, extraordinary!

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  • Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by shmoomoo Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 6:55 AM

    That art festival sounds fantastic! We haven't picked definite travel dates yet, but were leaning towards early June to avoid sweltering heat and too many tourists. Is there anything we should know of that is happening in June?
    We are definitely considering pushing back our trip to early July for this festival! Is it a good or bad idea to be in France for Bastille Day?
    We would like to travel mostly by train/bus but we would also consider renting a car, but we worry about the traffic, parking, and getting lost! What is the driving situation like?

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by gwened Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 7:10 AM

    National Day in France or Bastille day to others, is a major holiday but very interesting parades and fireworks along with memorial services so it depends on your interests.

    renting a car is the best way to travel as far as I know, but you have four days for a large region suggest concentrate on one area to see and enjoy it more, unless you just want to be there. June is better as July we start our summer vacations trips thru august and its very hectic all over France. but then again its your choice.

    over large inter department areas the train is better as the bus is not yet conceived for out of department really. Different companies handle each department(department = state=province depends from you are from).

    June and early Julyl can be ok weather wise, the temps rises end july to august. The Art Festival is nice indeed.
    in June in the the paca region you have a festival june 6-9 jazz in Entraigues, here is link
    jazzentraiguesfestival.wifeo...

    The train for schedules is the TER PACA, and unless booking the TGV no need to reserve in advance, ter-sncf.com/Regions/paca/Fr...
    again the PACA tourist site given in my first reply will help you narrow down what you like and what we have available; hope it helps

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  • Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by jeanfinney Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    There are not many festivals in early June, although it will be cooler and less crowded, and in some cases a bit cheaper high but not ultra high season rates - it is a nice time of year to be in the Midi but if your interest is festivals, July and August are the thing - RESERVE EARLY if you decide to do that - Believe me, if you love this form of culture, it is worth it - For going between towns, the train is ok, and there are some local buses - However for really seeing a lot of wonderful things, I do recommend a car - Driving is ok, the French do do a few things differently, like tailgating to indicate they want to pass - VT members can help you with that - However often the roads are pretty wide and the cars small, so just giving some room on the left can work - I wouldn't worry about it - there are four of you to help navigate - Driving in towns is, of course, like driving in towns everywhere, and if you come in the high season, they will be crowded - A real problem might be parking - especially around Avignon (certainly not within the walls, during the festival) - Maybe planning a few city days without a car and a few country days with a car might be - well, a plan - So here is an idea: forget Italy, for a start. Plan four days in Avignon, Arles, Aix, where you can travel by train between them, explore them on foot once there (they are small) - then four days with a car exploring the countryside, staying a bit out of town somewhere - ??? Now, from Saturday to Saturday there are a quazillion vacation rentals, you rent by the week, just google and prepare a lot of time looking - You could find a place near, say, Avignon, have a place of your own for a week which is delightful, then explore around - That too is a really good plan, and sharing the costs by 4 makes it as or more reasonable than hotels and constant restaurants.

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by gwened Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 8:27 AM

    "We are having such a hard time deciding where to stay in France that we might spend our whole 8 days here and forget Italy!"

    I just saw others said forget Italy and was wondering, now I read your line above and i agree, for 8 days will give you more time to explore the countryside by car and PACA at that time is sublime. Can't be wrong.
    two good brokers to see prices are
    www.autoeurope.com
    www.kemwel.com
    they deal with all majors car rental companies and have provide great service for over 23 years that I know them.
    cheers

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by Beausoleil Online Now Mar 28, 2013 at 9:08 AM

    I'll agree with the others that you should spend the entire time in Provence. It is so large you can only get an overview in 8 days. The car would make it easier to budget your time since you could set your own schedule. The roads are excellent so no problem there.

    Avignon is pretty far west in Provence. In addition to all the good ideas above, think about two bases, one near Avignon (perhaps St. Remy-de,-Provence) and then move east nearer to Nice (perhaps Vence, Cagnes or even Nice). This would give you a chance to explore a wider area. Check the web sites for both areas and see what you think.

    When you find places of interest, type the town into the VT search window above to see what members have already written. You'll find photos, reviews, restaurants, accommodations and external web links to help you.

    You can also click on the names of people who answer you here and go to their Travel Pages on the area. It's a great resource on VT and also lots of fun.

    Enjoy Provence.

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  • Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by shmoomoo Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Thank you for all of this feedback! We are now thinking of trying to extend our trip by 2 days, and hopefully will spend some time based near Nice and some time based in or near Avignon. Near Nice, we would like to stay where there are great beaches, but have heard that the beaches in Nice are not so great? We would still love to spend most of our days and nights out and about in the City without having to worry about getting lost driving back after dark. Where would you recommend as the best place to stay in the Nice area? We were thinking Antibes or Cannes might be better than staying in Nice itself? How do Vence or Canges compare as suggested above?

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by gwened Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 1:12 PM

    Nice beaches are pebble stones beaches, great for sun tanning in the right time, or just be by the sea. Going about town you dont need a car in Nice, all is by the vieux nice area to massena. Antibes is nice smaller, Cannes is classy, like the film festival, Vence is nice inland as well as canges; the best for transport and central to all is Nice.
    Even by car is easy to get out from Nice and see all around it.

    you can type those towns here in destinations and see what posters like us have to say,and then choose the best one best on your interests.
    hope it helps

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by Beausoleil Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 1:50 PM

    If you are looking for sand on the beach (we do), Nice is not nice. They are pebble or stone beaches. You need beach shoes and a fairly sturdy mat or chair (rentable there). However, if you go west toward Juan les Pins or Antibes, there are lovely sand beaches. That's where we go swimming and it's much more comfortable for us. We've always found parking but we go early in the morning. If you go later, check parking before you go.

    Antibes and the general area is pretty central for getting around, but if you want a good location near Nice and easy to get out, think about Cagnes where the road turns up to St. Paul de Vence and Vence. After our first trip, we avoided Antibes and we stay up the mountain either at Vence or our favorite, near Tourrettes-sur-Loup in the country. We can get down to Nice easily but we can also get out and around easily; no city traffic at any time of day or night, yet there are plenty of things to do and you can walk around if you stay in Vence or Cagnes. Look them up here and on Google Maps and see what you think.

    Where you stay depends a lot on what you want to see and do. We live fairly near a beach so we decided after the first trip that we didn't want to spend time at the beach since we could do that at home. However, we don't have perched villages and perfume factories at home . . . ;^)

    Also be aware that traffic can be fierce in the Antibes area during spring, summer and early Fall . . . even nice winter days. We avoid the beach road as much as possible unless actually going to the beach. Get a good map or a GPS and learn how to program it around the traffic. Ours has a traffic alert system on it which is lovely.

    You could stay right in Nice. It's a beautiful city with good public transportation. We leave our car at the hotel and take the bus. Just be sure your hotel has parking.

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  • ATLC's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by ATLC Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    I remember when I spent a month in a tiny village Nages-et-Solorgues (near Nimes) that we would go to the beach at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer with our little daughter. That was a sandy beach. It's between Marseille and Montpellier.

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by Beausoleil Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 3:01 PM

    ATLC, that is a wonderful beach and the parking there is free. We've also seen flamingoes on the etang opposite the ocean. Lovely.

    However, it's almost a 3 hour drive from Nice. It might be manageable from St. Remy de Provence or Avignon, more like an hour.

    If you go, stop in Arles on the way (not to be missed) and there is a wonderful bird sanctuary just above Stes. Maries de la Mer. It's the Parc Ornithologique and there are trails through it. We've been a different times of year and it is always wonderful.

    Morning at the Arles market, have a hike in the park, visit the beach and eat dinner at one of the cute restaurants in Stes. Maries and you'll have a wonderful day. Good idea, ATLC.

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  • ATLC's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by ATLC Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 3:13 PM

    Yes, I know beausoleil, but the poster is asking for an itinerary and so they will be travelling around. It might well fit into the route :-)
    I remember those flamingoes well.

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by Beausoleil Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    Well, it would be an excellent way to visit the beach and avoid the nasty traffic around Antibes and Juan les Pins. ;^)

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by gwened Online Now Mar 29, 2013 at 3:48 PM

    yes its a bit off Nice, but with a car all is possible. if you learn like the locals and avoid peak periods you can drive fairly well there too. Take the peak of the wednesdays or saturdays when most rentals end or begin, and leave ealry in the morning for the beach, you should be alright , doing it here for years. for sandy white beaches, the best ones closer are  Juan les Pins and Cannes. Also, good beaches are Saint Jean Cap Ferrat about 11 kms from Nice direction monaco, here you have a beach my kids love to the east of the port with parking near it plage de la Paloma not far from the road chemin Saint Hospice. Also, Villefranche, you have a beach plage de sable de Passable with views over the bay, you can leave your car not far and parking is free

    just to name a few, there are many nice white sandy beaches away from Nice. Cheers

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  • Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by shmoomoo Online Now Mar 30, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    As heartbreaking as it is to have to choose between the Nice area and Avignon area, we've decided that we definitely want to go to Italy as well as France so we must decide. We've added 2 days on to our trip, but even still it doesn't seem like we will be able to see both areas! Any votes for one over the other in late June/early July? The Avignon festival sounds lovely but it's not a deciding factor for us since we won't get to see too much of it!

    We will probably rent a car after all of your helpful advice, but do you have any experience with driving a rented car from Nice to Florence? Just how expensive is that with the additional drop-off fee? Would it wind up cheaper to take the train from Nice to Ventimiglia and rent a car from there? We figure that would be a lot more comfortable than the long train ride, and without traffic is only about 5 hours according to google maps, and we could stop in a few places along the way...particularly the Cinque Terre.

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  • gwened's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by gwened Online Now Mar 31, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    very easy drive,and Nice is better for transport and location for your intended use. no diff in general from nice to ventimiglia just if there is any specials; try the independant brokers who deal with all majors car rentals and doing it for years; i started using them 23 yrs ago!
    www.auoteurope.com
    www.kemwel.com
    and do compare with stand along companies.
    the www.viamichelin.com route planner will get you there on main roads,if you drive a car back home, you will be fine here,no different and the roads are well posted. I drive all the time and in many countries,its easy.
    cheers

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    Re: 4 day itinerary?

    by Beausoleil Online Now Mar 31, 2013 at 11:27 AM

    We've driven from Nice to Florence many times since we stay south of Florence. It's an easy drive and yes, there are tolls. You can get the exact toll for your route at viaMichelin.com. It's a handy site to bookmark for all your travels. http://www.viamichelin.com/

    We can't help you with the drop-off fee because that will vary from company to company.

    The only way you could avoid that fee is to rent in France, train to Florence and then rent in Italy. You'd have to check train fares and compare to drop-off fees to see which cost less. Unless there's a fairly large difference, do whichever seems most convenient. It is a vacation and sometimes (even for me) convenience trumps cost.

    Have a good trip.

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