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Provence, France in 15 days for a couple

Trip details:

St. Raphael, Cote d'Azur and other parts of Provence, France.


August 30, 2015 through September 13, 2015.


My wife and I, both in our early 70's and in very good health, are staying in St. Raphael, France from 30 August to 6 September.


We are flying into Geneva, Switzerland around August 26, staying there for two night, going onto Lyon, France by rental car for two nights.


From Lyon we will travel south to St. Raphael to be there on August 30.


We will have a car in St. Raphael, but mainly for very local travel.  We plan to use train to explore coastal areas.  We need help in planning our activties for week in Cote d'Azur.  Places of interest are Nice, St. Tropez, perhaps Monaco if reasonable trip.  Narrow gauge train north out of Nice is of interest.  Grand Canyon is of interest.  We enjoy walking in scenic and interesting places, but are beyond hiking that involves much vertical, up or down.   We enjoy historic and ancient architecture/ruins.  We enjoy eating and wine, but with reasonable prices ($75 to $100 for dinner and glass of wine each).


After our stay in St. Raphael we wish to visit places of interest, beauty, and/or historical significance in Provence as we meander north back to Geneva for a September 13 flight back to Boston.  Hill towns are of interest as are Roman era structures, and even bigger towns with interesting centers and sites.  We have not made any arrangements for lodging for this part of our trip.  We're open to back roads (we'll have GPS) as long as they aren't in the mountains with many narrow windy turns.  We need help on planning a nice itinerary.


For lodging we would like to stay in the $150/nt range.  Ideally, we would spend three nights in each of two locations in Provence from which we could take daily auto trips to other locales.  Having a few interesting restaurants closeby is important for dinner.  Close by is within walking distance (preferable) or a five/ten minute drive.


If you have any insights for our short stays in Geneva and Lyon for lodging/restaurants/sight-seeing, we'd love to hear about them.


Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.


Jim and Bev Delaney


Reading, MA, USA


 

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Day by day Itinerary, August 30 - September 6, 2015:
Day 1

On this day, you could take an early train to Antibes from St. Raphael which takes anywhere between 35 and 50 minutes. Here, you could visit the Picasso museum and enjoy a nice walk in the town centre and along the coast (photo below).


After a couple of hours of exploring, take the train to Nice. The ride is just 20 minutes long.

From Nice you could take bus 82 at the Vauban stop all the way up to Eze village. The timings are in the link below. This ride up the hill offers some great views. It is also possible to walk but I'm afraid that would be too strenuous.


Try to make it in time for the 12 o'clock bus so that you could have lunch in Eze and after a few hours of wandering, take the bus back at around 6 or 7 in the evening in order to be in Nice for dinner, unless you want to go straight back to Saint Raphael.

Day 2

You could spend this day taking boat rides to islands and Saint Tropez (photo below).

Since the days would be pretty long, I would suggest taking a trip to the islands off Cannes in the morning in order to visit the Lerins monastery and taste wine there and after lunch heading back and moving towards either St. Tropez or the calanques. St. Tropez is also a celebrity party destination so you might want to spend the evening there, have dinner and drinks before heading back to St. Raphael. If you prefer scenery to the Abbey, then the same company in the link provided below offers other excursions to the calanques or the Porquerolles island.


Day 3

On the third day you could do a day trip to Grasse to visit the perfume museum and then move on to Saint Paul de Vence. If you leave early, you could visit Grasse, have lunch there and spend the afternoon in Saint Paul de Vence and head back to Saint Raphael after dinner. In Grasse visit the old town and the Notre Dame du Puy cathedral along with its bell tower. The tourist office organises 90-minute walking tours. So if they are still available next year, you could join one and then visit the museum on your own. Saint Paul de Vence is a medieval fortified town with its ramparts still intact. It is very popular with tourists, so you should be prepared to share the town with plenty of fellow visitors!

Day 4


Take an early train to Nice and from here you can take the Train des Pignes to Dignes-les-Bains. The timings are in the link below. 



Day 5

On this day you could go to Nice once again by train but this time actually visit the old town, the market (photo of the night market below) and also go up to the chateau in order to get a sweeping view of the city as well as the azure waters of the Mediterranean or Baie des Anges as it's called here. You could spend the day here and after lunch, take the train to Monaco.


In Monaco, there are steep cliffs, lots of expensive cars, huge casinos and an Oceanography museum, if that interests you.

Day 6 

Spend the last day relaxing in Saint Raphael and prepare for the next week of driving around the historical sites of southern France.

Adding the Verdon Gorges is difficult. If you manage to do Antibes, Nice and Eze on the same day (which might be doable but you will be spending less time in each place), you could go to the canyon on Day 5. This would of course mean you would have to skip Monaco. Personally, I would rather see the gorge than Monaco, but it all depends on whether you can squeeze Nice into the Antibes and Eze visit on day 1.
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Second week from September 6th:

For the second week I would suggest splitting your lodging between a town like Avignon and a smaller place like Saint Rémy because Aix-en-Provence is slightly away from most of the sites on your itinerary. Either way here is a suggested itinerary:


Day 1


You could spend the first day exploring Bonnieux in the morning and then Aix-en-Provence and its fountains in the afternoon. Visit Paul Cézanne’s atelier and go to a nearby vineyard if you are interested (although you might get many more opportunities to visit vineyards on your way back to Geneva: http://www.chateau-la-coste.com/visit-us/ If you are going to do this then I suggest driving in order to access Bonnieux more easily.


Day 2


You could spend this day visiting Avignon. The city is best known for its bridge (photo below) and the Pope’s palace. You could do an afternoon visit to Chateauneuf-du-Pape to taste some of the best red wine of the Cotes-du-Rhone region.



Days 3 and 4


You could spend the morning in Arles visiting the Van Gogh museum and cafés. From Avignon to Arles it is possible to take the train, but if you drive or find a minibus tour you might want to consider visiting Arles and the Camargue national park not far from here. It is a wetland where rice is grown and is known for flamingos (photo of a flock in the national park, below) and wild horses.



OR


If you prefer splitting days into driving and taking the train you could club Arles and Nimes into a one day trip using the train, move to Saint Rémy the next day and visit Les Baux-de-Provence (15-20 minutes from St. Rémy by car) and the Camargue in a single day by car. Explore the narrow streets of the hilltop village of Les Baux with great views over the region. There is an old fortress that you could visit as well.


The reason I put Arles and the Camargue together is that Arles is like the gateway to this wetland. If you decide to club Arles and Nimes, in Nimes you can visit the Roman arena, the Maison Carrée (Roman temple) right in the centre of the city and the Jardin de la Fontaine (garden) with the Roman Temple of Diana and a little hillock with a Roman tower called the Tour Magne offering views of the city of Nimes. You could shift base to Saint Rémy de Provence on day 4. It might be a good idea to leave early and drive to the Camargue via Arles (around 2 hours), visit the area for a couple of hours and head to Les Baux-de-Provence for lunch and explore this little village in the afternoon before checking into Saint Rémy.


Day 5


From Saint Rémy, drive to Uzès and visit Pont du Gard. This stunning, well-preserved Roman aqueduct was built to carry water to Nimes. I would suggest carrying some food and wine and having a little picnic by the river in typical French style – baguette, cheese, salad and pastry!


You could also visit the Haribo sweet and candy museum and factory in Uzès. Drive back to Saint Saint Rémy and visit the Roman oppidum of Glanum in the afternoon or do this on the next day.


Day 6


Today you could visit Orange with its Roman Triumphal Arch and Vaison-la-Romaine. You can visit them both in any order stopping in one place for lunch. Vaison-la-Romaine has a Roman area along with an ancient bridge and a hilltop village. Return to Saint Rémy in the evening.


Day 7


Since you would have covered all the main areas, you could drive to a couple more hilltop areas like Gordes or Saignon. Another option would be to add a day to your Saint Raphael leg and do everything as we had planned originally (without hurrying the Nice/Antibes/Eze part) and visiting the Verdon gorge as well and cutting a day off of this second week. What do you think?


The drive from Saint Rémy to Annecy is around 4-5 hours long and most of it along the Cotes du Rhones vineyards so you could see some of the harvesting and do some tasting along the way. Obviously, since you’ll be driving that wouldn’t mean much tasting! If you do visit Annecy it would be nice to walk through the gorgeous old town and take a dip in the lake.


A map the areas that you are part of the itinerary above,


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Ideas for Geneva:

Here are a few things of interest in Geneva:



  1. The Jet d'Eau is a symbol of the city shooting right out of the lake. You could see from anywhere but the Bains des Paquis is recommend since there is a beach there. You could even take a boat ride in the lake.

  2. The Old Town and Saint Peter's Cathedral - the bell tower offers views of the city and there are 157 steps to get to the top. You could walk around the streets of this area.

  3. Rue du Rhone is a shopping street where you can see the finest of Swiss watches in all their splendour!

  4. The Reformation Wall in the Parc des Bastions pays homage to the founders of the Reformation movement like Jean Calvin.

  5. The Palais des Nations is the United Nations headquarters.

  6. Carouge is a Bohemian quarter home to several artists, artisans and craftsmen. 

  7. If you like science, particularly physics, the CERN is located here and there is usually a free exhibition on particle physics.

  8. Apart from these things, there are a few museums like the Modern Art museum housing contemporary artwork.

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Suggestions for Lyon:

Here are a few suggestions for France's gastronomic capital Lyon:



  1. Fourviere Hill - there is a funicular railway to get to the top and from here there sweeping views of the whole city. On the hill visit the Notre-Dame de Fourviere Basilica known for its Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. The ancient theatre of Fourviere is a Roman monument which you would enjoy since you are interested in Roman sites. There is also a Gallo-Roman museum in Lyon.

  2. In the city, visit Vieux Lyon or Old Lyon with its colourful facades and beautiful cathedral. 

  3. The Parc de la Tete d'Or has a lake which provides boating facilities and has a small zoo.

  4. On of the main administrative buildings, the Hotel de Ville is located on a large square with a fountain called Fontaine Bartholdi. 

  5. There is an open air food market calle Marche Saint Antoine where you taste some local specialties. 

  6. A traditional restaurant in Lyon are called a "bouchon" and city is filled with them. They mostly offer good traditional dishes.

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Unable to take trip By Molly S
Replies (+)

Molly S wrote:  

Dear Jim,

Thanks so much for asking me to help plan your trip! unfortunately - and with very bad timing - a few things have come up in the last day or so that mean I'm not going to be able to take on trip planning for the next couple of months. You just caught me before I took my profile down! Many apologies for that. Aashish Gupta will work with you to refund your payment and to help find you another ninja.

Once again, my apologies - and I hope you have a wonderful trip!

PlanMy.Travel Admin wrote:  

Hi Jim,

Apologies for the inconvenience. I can reassign this trip to Prajwal Madhav, also an expert on this region. However, his price for a 6-12 days trip is $30, so if its okay with you, I'll send you an additional payment link for the $18 difference and reassign it to him.

Please let me know and I'll take the next steps accordingly.

Thanks,

Aashish Gupta

Founder, PlanMy.Travel

Jim Delaney wrote:  

Aashish, We're fine with the switch from Molly to Prajwal.  The difference in price is not an issue.  We're not travelling until August of 2015 so we have plenty of time.  Jim 

PlanMy.Travel Admin wrote:  

Thanks. I've sent the additional payment request via Paypal. You must have received the email separately. I'll switch it over to Prajwal as soon as it's made.

Aashish

Jim Delaney wrote:  

Aashish, I just made additional payment via PayPal.  Jim D

PlanMy.Travel Admin wrote:  

Great, thanks. The trip is now assigned to Prajwal. Expect to hear from him soon. Please feel free to write in to support@planmy.travel if you need any further assitance.

Aashish


Getting started By Prajwal Madhav
Replies (+)

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Hi Jim and Bev,

I would be happy to help you plan this. I am travelling at the moment and it will take me three days to get back and have a proper internet connection.

I've read your trip details so I will do some research before writing back. If you're okay with waiting a few days before we get started then we could work together.

Prajwal

Jim Delaney wrote:  

Prajwal, that's fine.  Enjoy the rest of your trip!  Give us a shout out when you return and have had a chance to do your research.  We ourselves are leaving on a two week trip starting Thursday, 16 October 2015.  We should have internet connectivity during our  travels for the most part.  We haven't made any flight or hotel arrangements yet other than the one week in St. Raphael from 30 August 2015 to 6 September 2015.  So we have some flexibility as to when we start and end the trip since we're both retired.  Jim D


AirBnB By Jim Delaney
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Jim Delaney wrote:  

Prajwal, do you have any insight on finding accommodations using AirBnB.  I've been checking what's available in Provence during early September, 2015, and I've been impressed both by the accommodations and the reasonable prices for units that basically are well appointed apartments/houses in great locations.  The reviews on AirBnB for these units have been very positive.  Since I've never used AirBnB, I'd like to hear what you know about it.

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Hi Jim,

 

Thanks, I had a good trip. 

I had planned a trip for a couple who used AirBnB in France (Paris) and they said that they really enjoyed it because it gave them an opportunity to better understand the place and the people. I haven't used it myself but based on the reviews I've got I can say that I recommend it. The other advantage is that it's cheaper than most hotels. 

It's about noon here in India so I will write to you later in the day after work with more information related to all that you mentioned in the first message.

Prajwal

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Hi Jim,

I've done a bit of research about accommodation and places to visit based on your interests. Although I haven't used AirBnB, I have used a similar form of accommodation during my travels and I must say it's the best way to discover a place along with its people, culture and food if you like meeting the locals. The AirBnB website is well organised and I think it is a safe bet since there are reviews and the site itself verifies the authenticity of the photographs that the hosts put up. I have suggested a place and the link is on the Stay page. 

Coming to places to visit - I was wondering whether you were interested in seeing old town centres or commercialised shopping areas. I am asking you this because most of the cities along the Cote d'Azur like Cannes, Nice and Monaco have a main boulevard along the sea with big hotels and shops. Many of them have an old town or quaint village-like areas slightly away from the sea. If you are more interested in the latter, I would recommend staying in a place near the sea around Saint Raphael (similar to what I've suggested) and driving around the area to explore the coast and going to Nice and the other bigger towns by train just to see what it's like. The old town in Nice and the market in Antibes or little towns like Juan les Pins are charming. 

Travelling west from St Raphael you can visit Cannes where unfortunately most of the beaches are private (but there are plenty of other places to explore the beaches from). Inland from Cannes is the town of Grasse which was known for a thriving perfume industry and still has a museum that bears witness to this. Another interesting old town is Mougins and it's also located inland from Cannes. You could decide which one interests you more. 

The next town is Antibes and if you like art, then I recommend a visit to the Musee Picasso in a beautiful building right by the sea. The walk along the coast is great and it is slightly more rustic and less built up with concrete than Nice or Cannes. 

Between Antibes and Nice, away from the coast is a hilltop village called Saint Paul de Vence which is very rustic with its narrow winding streets. To get there you would either have to drive or take the train to Nice and then a bus. 

Then biggest city in the area in Nice. The main road along the sea is called la Promenade des Anglais and is lined with a pebble beach. There is an old town with colourful buildings and a lot of it is in fact Italian art and architecture because this area used to be ruled by the Italians at some point. This is also why you will see many pizzerias in the city. There is a hill with the remains of a 12th-century château razed by Louis XIV with an amazing view of the city and the bay. To reach the park you can walk up montée Lesage, climb the steps at the eastern end of rue Rossetti or take the elevator/lift; per person €1.10; 9am-7pm) under Tour Bellanda.

After Nice the next town of interest is Eze located on a small hill with great views of the Mediterranean and the countryside around it. Eze is accessible by bus from Nice.

Monaco is the next place continuing westwards. Although it is very expensive, if you decide to go there the only things to do are gambling at a casino or visiting the Oceanography museum. Most of Monaco is built along a cliff so it is quite dramatic but it certainly isn't my favourite place in southern France. There is also a fort, a palace and a cathedral there. 

In order to visit the Verdon Gorge, you could go through Fréjus and it's a 2 hour drive from there. The best part is supposed to be between Castellane and Moustiers. It's 45 km long from one place to the other and is an hour's drive without trafiic or stops. Here is a link with different routes:

http://www.marvellous-provence.com/loosepages/miscmaps/VerdonRoutes.jpg

 

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

East of Saint Raphael, you can visit Saint Tropez. The main places of interest are the Old Port (Vieux port) and the Place des Lices which is the main square.

Beyond that there are plenty of gorgeous coves between the limestone cliffs called "Calanques". One of the most beautiful ones is the calanque d'en vau near Cassis (a 2-hour drive from Saint Raphael).

In my previous post I forgot to mention the islands of Sainte Marguerite and particularly Lérins off Cannes. Lérins has an abbey with monks who make a wine called Saint Césaire. 

These are the interesting places to explore in and around your Côte d'Azur base of Saint Raphaël. Take a look and tell me which places you would like to see and we could try and build a day to day itinerary based on that. I will write to you shortly with cities with great Roman monuments between the coast and Lyon/Geneva.


After September 6 By Prajwal Madhav
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Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Hi Jim,

For the second leg of your trip after the coast I would suggest heading west to cities like Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Nîmes, Orange and Avignon which are extremely rich in Roman monuments and art as well. 

Aix-en Provence is a charming city full of fountains and is also famous for being the home of artitst Paul Cézanne whose atelier can be visited. You can visit nearby Château la Coste for a great wine tasting experience.

http://www.chateau-la-coste.com/visit-us/

Other interesting villages and towns around Aix:

Roussillon - located on a small hill and surrounded by sandstone quarries giving it its characteristic red colour.

La plateau de Valensole - known for the beautiful lavendar and wheat plantations all around. It's a great base to explore the countryside from.

Les Baux de Provence, Gordes and Saignon are considered to be amongst the most beautiful villages in France and are all located on hills. 

The main Roman cities:

Arles has a well preserved Roman arena and was also the place where Vincent Van Gogh lived and painted. There is a museum dedicated to him apart from the cafes he liked to go to. 

Nîmes has a Roman arena too and like the one in Arles and unlike the Colosseum in Rome, it is largely intact. In this city there is a garden with an old Roman tower called the Tour Magne. Another Roman monument called la Maison Carrée is one of the best preserved temples in the region. Not far from here and near the town of Uzès (itself a Roman town) is an amazing aqueduct called the Pont du Gard across the Gardon river. The setting is quite spectacular and this is a great day trip from Nîmes. Nîmes being located between Italy and Spain not only has Roman sites but also a lot of Spanish influences. The city hosts a festival called feria de Nîmes in spring and summer (usually in September) with a number of food and drink stalls called bodegas opening up. There are bullfights in the Roman arena. I don't know the dates yet for next year but keep an eye out for it.

Saint Rémy de Provence is a small town with a fortified Roman town called Glanum very close to it. You could visit it on your way to Avignon from Nîmes.

Avignon is a historically significant city since it has a palace called le Palais des Papes which once hosted the Pope who had left Italy. There is a bridge that goes halfway across the river. Both these places are easy to access from each other on foot. It also has a grape harvest festival some time in September but the dates haven't been announced yet for 2015. The Côtes du Rhône wine here is one of the best in France.

From Avignon, you could travel to Orange via Châteauneuf-du-Pape, probably the best wine in this region if you like it red. Orange has a triumphal Roman arch and a Roman theatre. From Orange, you could also visit Vaison-la-Romaine, a medieval town with a 1st century AD bridge leading to the Roman ruins. In fact you have here a unique combination of a hilltop town and Roman ruins. 

These are the most interesting Roman sites in this part of France and they are truly remarkable. From here, after visiting some of the places I've mentioned you could make your way to Geneva and I would recommend stopping at Annecy for its quaint and colourful old town with charming canals. It also has a serene mountain lake (which is artificial but beautiful nevertheless). A swim in the lake is quite refreshing in summer!

 Since you mentioned your interest in wine, apart from from the ones that I've mentioned above try Gigondas for red and Tavel if you like rosé. They are both located in Provence and September is harvest season. If you like sparkling wine, Clairette de Die is the best known in this region.

When you've spent some time going through all this let me know how we should proceed.

Jim Delaney wrote:  

Prajwal, we already have lodging for the week we are in St. Raphael (30Aug15 - 6Sept15).  I like your ideas that you present above.

We most likely would limit our driving to the locale around St. Raphael unless we go inland, away from the dense coastal traffic.  If we do the Verdon Gorge, we'll take a mini-bus tour; the map you provided indicates many hairpin turns.  I've read that taking the coastal train is the best way to go, eliminating the road traffic problem through towns along the way.

As far as what to see along the Cote d'Azur, we would like a mix of old town centers with more commercial areas on the coast that include access to walks along the waterfront and restaurants with water views.

Nice, Eze, and Antibes (Picasso Museum) look like must-sees.  Monaco intrigues us Americans because of the Princess Grace connection, but we could skip it if the reality of a visit bursts the romantic bubble we have in our mind's eye.

Do you think it reasonable to tour Grasse and Saint Paul de Vence be car since they're both away from the coast?

For St. Tropez, supposedly there is a boat between St. Raphael/Frejus and St. Tropez that sounds like a fun way to travel to/from there although including Cassis in a trip in that direction may require a car.

Lastly, the islands off Cannes would be a neat trip; we could take the train to Cannes.

For the second week we will be in southern France (6Sept15 - 13Sept15) we are thinking of spending the whole week in one location, taking day tours or perhaps spending three days in one place and three or four days in a second locations for day tours from that location.  We would prefer to tour on our own by car if the roads, traffic, and finding parking close to places we want to tour on foot aren't too challenging.  Do you have experience driving in the parts of Provence you discuss above?  The alternative to driving ourselves would be to book into guided small group day tours where someone else does the driving and provides descriptions of what we're seeing or will see.  I'm investigating tours our of Arles if we decide to leave the driving to others.  If we do the driving ourselves, I'm thinking staying in two of the hill towns would be neat, especially after seeing the lodging available via AirBnB.  The two towns that look interesting and together offer access to the bigger and smaller towns are St. Remy and Bonnieux.

Hope all this helps in planning.  Jim

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Jim,

You could use this site for boats from St Raphael - http://www.bateauxsaintraphael.com/

They have tours to visit some of the calanques as well although they are not necessarily the ones in Cassis. You could even take a boat directly to the Sainte Marguerite island off Cannes unless you want to see Cannes too.

To visit Antibes, Nice, Cannes (and its islands) and Monaco you could use the train. I suggest going to Grasse and Saint Paul de Vence by car because you could stop en route if you see some places that interest you. I get the Grace Kelly connection with Monaco and if you have some time after Nice or Eze, you could just take a quick train ride there to see what it's all about, especially since it isn't far at all. 

Antibes has a nice waterfront area while Nice has a nice old town. The waterfront in Nice is full of big hotels and restaurants that mostly cater to Russian or British tourists (among others of course) so I'm not entirely sure you would get an authentic eating experience there.

So if we count 7 days for the first leg along the coast we could work on a flexible day to day itinerary.

For the second week, yes I have visited Pont du Gard and Orange by car from Nîmes. I think it's a good idea to stay in two or three different places rather than just one not only to facilitate access to certain places but also to experience the ambience of some of the smaller towns at night (a sky full of stars for example!). We didn't have any trouble driving or finding parking but this was 7 years ago. The French get back to school/work in September so when you're there there shouldn't be many of them travelling. So most of the people on those roads would be other travellers.  If you do find interesting bus tours, go for it. Since it will be the tourist season you should find quite a few options at the tourist office. 

If you've got good AirBnb options that's great. In case you do decide to take the train to some place you could drive to the station and park there. 

Shall we start working on a day to day itinerary for the first part then?

Jim Delaney wrote:  

Prajwal, yes, please plan for the week we will be in St. Raphael.  We definitely want to spend one day taking the narrow-gauge train from Nice to Digne-Les-Bains.  We also would like one day just to relax by the pool and to explore St. Raphael.  That would leave four days for other excursions.  The boat trips from St. Raphael to St. Tropez and/or the islands off Nice seem like a nice relaxing change of pace also.  

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Great. I'll use the itinerary page. I will suggest more or less activities depending on your pace. You could probably alternate between long days visiting things and relaxing days around St. Raphael or the islands. It's just a matter of putting them in a logical day to day plan which you could switch around based on how energetic you are on each day!

Here is a useful link I found on the narrow-gauge train :

http://www.beyond.fr/travel/railpignes.html

It goes to Entrevaux which I wanted to mention earlier but was afraid it was too far out of your itinerary. Luckily though the train goes there as well. 

Jim Delaney wrote:  

Prajwal, your itinerary for our week in St. Raphael is fine.  We like both the variety of experience and the pacing of the days.  I have located a tour bus company in St. Raphael that has reasonably price day excursions to the Verdon Gorges area from St. Raphael.  We'll have to decide if we want to squeeze in a trip to the Gorges also; it may depend if we can combine the areas of interest around Nice into a one day trip like you suggest above.

For our second week, in the interior of Provencal, we're still trying to decide a couple of different things.  First, we have to decide whether to tour on our own by car or to take guided tours.  We like the idea of being on our own, but realistically we are unfamiliar both with the areas being travelled and the French language.  If we decide to take mini-bus tours, we most likely will stay in one or two of the bigger towns or cities in Provencal, most likely Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.  If we decide to tour on our own, the smaller towns like St. Remy and Bonnieux are very appealing.  Did you know French when you toured Provencal?  Was language much of a problem?   

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Hi Jim,

Good to know that you are okay with the itinerary for the first week. Since you'll be there in September when the days are long I think squeezing a few places into a single might be possible. Also, since the other days are not too hectic and hurried you would need to plan to leave and get back late. If you do this you would also have to stick to the bare minimum in Nice but in my opinion you wouldn't be missing much since you have so much variety in your whole trip.

For the second week, you might want to consider the possibility of combining both, staying in a bigger town as well as a smaller one. If, for example, you choose to visit the Pont du Gard by a bus tour and visit Nimes and/or Arles by train you could use Aix-en-Provence as your base. Following this, you could head to St. Remy or Bonnieux and do the vineyards, Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine by car since they are smaller and harder to access by public transport. 

Coming to communication and orientation, I think since distances are short you may not have too much trouble. I did already know French when I visited those places and I lived in Nimes for a year actually. Besides, I visited the place with French friends so even I didn't know French back then I wouldn't have needed it! If it reassures you, a couple of my students (I teach French) visited the area two years ago and they wanted to practise their French but they came back disappointed since most of the people they met were keen on practising English with the tourists! I obviously can't guarantee the same thing in your case but a lot of tourists (especially British) visit this area so people who work in restaurants and other similar establishments even in some of the smaller places know some English. I also remember walking around the countryside near Antibes once and asking a gentleman for directions in French and he replied in English because he was from England and he lived there!

Once you tell me where you've decided to stay and which places to prioritise for your visits, I'll prepare the second week's itinerary.

Jim Delaney wrote:  

Prajwal, I like the idea of splitting the lodging for the second week in the interior of Provence between a bigger town with good train connections and a smaller town closer to other remote places of interest not easily reached by public transportation.  Aix seems like a good choice for the bigger town and St. Remy for the smaller town.  However, we are open to other big/small towns combinations if you think they make more sense for access to places of interest.  Why don't you plan out the second week, figuring on between 6-8 nights total.

We are leaving tomorrow on a two week trip to Tennessee here in the states.  We should have internet connectivity for most of the trip.  However, since we'll be quite busy touring, I may not respond as quickly or at all during the two week period.

Prajwal Madhav wrote:  

Hi Jim,

I hope your trip to Tennessee is going well. I have updated the itineraries page with suggestions for your second week in the south of France. I've included some ideas of places to see in Geneva and Lyon as well.

Prajwal


Saint Raphael:

https://www.airbnb.co.in/rooms/1318769?guests=2&s=htX9


This place in the Saint Raphael area has very good reviews, is very close to the sea, has stunning views and seems like a great place to explore the South of France from. Local restaurants seem to b easily accessible.


One of the reviews said that the road to drive up was a bit steep so you might want to find out more about that. Also, there doesn't seem to be access to the train from the house but I suppose you could drive to the station and take the train from there. 

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