My husband and I are flying into Paris May 8th, staying for 4 nights, and have May 12-16th to explore France. We need to fly to Rome May 17th. We were originally going to take a train to Nice, but I've read many reviews, especially for our first time to Europe that suggests, spending some quieter time in smaller villages instead of 3 big cities. We are open to renting a car, taking a train, whatever would give us a slower pace. Would love to see Verdon Gorge. We are not big museum, or ruins people so that wouldn't drive our decisions, mostly, walking, cafe's, good restaurants and enjoying the charm along the way.
Do you already have your tickets to Rome? If so, from which airport do you depart?
The Verdon Gorge isn't really accessible without a car--and I haven't seen it myself for that very reason. I've read that Moustiers-Ste-Marie is a lovely town, but it's at least a 9-to-11 hour drive from Paris without allowing for any stops at all.
You could save a lot of time by taking the TGV down to a place convenient for renting a car--maybe Avignon? I know not everyone loves Avignon, but I found that if I got off the direct path between the train station and the Palais des Papes, I left most of the other tourists behind. I thoroughly enjoyed my restaurant-hunting forays in the back streets.
Once in Moustiers-Ste-Marie you're about a two-hour drive from the very atmospheric old village of Entrevaux to the east. Going there would get you closer to Nice but farther from Avignon and the fastest train back to Paris.
We don't have our tickets yet, so we can fly from Avignon or Nice, unless there are other options?
We could take the TGV to Avignon, and then we thought we would to rent a car in order to get around. Those towns look lovely, would 2 nights in 2 towns and 1 night in Nice before we leave for Rome work well? Or stay in a base and drive to little towns and than fly to Rome from Nice or Avignon?
Since I've never rented a car in Europe, much less in southern France, I'm going to let others comment on how you might take advantage of the car. I'll just mention that it is generally very easy to travel along the coast, or between the larger places in Provence, by train, but it is not so convenient to visit the small towns away from the coast without a car. Therefore, I'd tend to spend my car-time inland as much as possible. There's no shortage of interesting places to see.
You can use ViaMichelin.com to check out driving times and decide whether you'll spend too much time doubling-back if you stay in just one place. My guess is that staying up around the gorge for all of your first four nights might be somewhat constraining.
The largest airports in that part of France are Nice and Marseille. You can check schedules and fares from each of them to Rome on skyscanner.com. I really have no idea how tricky it will be to navigate to either of those airports. I've never even seen the Marseille airport.
I took the TGV to Avignon and rented a car and spent time in Nice and Avignon. Using them as base camps and driving around.
If you go to Avignon go see the Pont du Gard aquaduct it is a short drive (maybe an hour or so?) outside Avignon and is amazing. My favorite location in France outside of Paris. Not that the Palace of the Pope’s was bad. And it is easy to find parking at the palace as it has an underground lot.
Personally I loved Avignon but I stayed in an old hotel about a block from the town center with all the restaurants on it and about another block from the sq at the popes palace, it was a great place. We ate dinner late in the evening in the town center and just soaked up the feel. Only problem was trying to drive inside the walked town. I would not recommend it, get a hotel near the Pope’s palace (and the easy to get to underground parking) and use it then walk or take the little tram around the town.
Avignon inside the old walls still is very much a midievel city and it drives like one,
But the big underground parking lot you enter from outside the wall and is easy to get to.
The rest of Avignon is a modern city and nothing to write home about but inside the wal is a different story.
Of course we were there in late Sept early oct so your experience may vary.
thanks Douglas. I am so excited we finally made our decision. We are going to TGV from Paris to Avignon, and stay in Le Thor at a wonderful place called Les Carmes Hotel and Spa for 5 nights as our base. We will definately walk around the walled town of Avignon before we pick up our rental car. I really want to see the Verdon Gorge, that is high on my list. We will visit the markets, and enjoy a slower pace after Paris. Then we will drive to Marseille and fly to Rome. Thanks for all your help, this forum has been super helpful and informative.
What a wonderful plan !
Definitely visit Bonnieux and Rousillon and go to the markets !