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Recommendations (and places to avoid) for Paris, Provence, and Cote d'Azur

I just returned from a 3 1/2 week trip to Paris, Provence and the Cote d'Azur and want to share some recommendations as well as places to avoid...

Restaurant - Chez Gabrielle 7 Rue de l'Étoile, 75017 Paris, France - this was the best place we ate at in Paris. We were the only tourists in there. Excellent food and good prices and our server had wonderful tips and recommendations for us as we proceeded on our trip south. Very small, make a reservation otherwise you won't be able to get in.
Guide - Thierry Collegia - We did the Rise of Napoleon walking tour and it was wonderful. I learned a lot and came away with a new perspective on Napoleon, plus saw sites that I would not have otherwise seen. I am looking forward to returning and taking his French Revolution tour.

Restaurant - Le Criquet - This is a RS recommendation and a good one. Don't miss the La Brouillade, it's amazing.

Wine Tour - Wine Uncovered (Olivier Hickman) - We did a Cote du Rhone wine tour with Olivier, he picked us up at our AirBnB flat in St. Remy and took us to 4 stops in Vacqueyras, Gigondas, Rasteau, and Chateauneuf-du-Pape as well as an excellent place for lunch in between stops 2 and 3. He's extremely knowledgeable, personable, and every winery was wonderful.
Restaurant - La Cuisine des Anges - Excellent food at good prices and great selection of local wines
Wine Shop - Vins, Champagnes, Etc. - Great little wine shop that specializes in local Alpilles wines at really excellent prices, the owner is fantastic with great recommendations

Restaurant - La Trinquette - this was recommended to us by a gentleman we met in Gordes and it was one of the best dining experiences we've had. It's off the main drag so a little harder to fine, but worth seeking out.

Hot Air Balloon - Montgolfiere Vol-Terre - AVOID THIS PLACE LIKE THE PLAGUE!! This is a recommendation in the RS guidebook and so completely disappointing. Terrible communication, slow to respond to email or no response at all. Required full payment via credit card with reservation up front. Day before our reservation, it was cancelled for "technical reasons." Weather was beautiful with no wind so I don't know what the real reasoning was. Now I am struggling to get a refund of the 450 euros paid. They are telling me they can't refund to my credit card and I must email them my bank account information. I am filing a dispute through my credit card company. Extremely unprofessional business.

Chambre d'Hote - Mas du Loup - charming bed and breakfast, big rooms, huge breakfast, and very friendly owner Julie.

Hotel - Le Jardin d'Emile - excellent location and charming rooms, spring for the sea view room with terrace, you won't regret it. Skip the hotel breakfast tho.

Guide - Ally - We did the afternoon walking food tour through old town and it was fantastic. So much food! Great way to learn about the area and try local specialties and wine.
Restaurant - Lou Pistou - I'm still dreaming about the violette artichokes I had here. Make a reservation as the place is small.

Restaurant - Lou Bantry - Cuisine Nissarde certified, great location on harbor, the fresh seafood was the best we had.

Posted by
2931 posts

I love Chez Gabrielle and when I find a person who likes a place that I like, I get very happy and willing to try other places that they suggest. So, I thank you for this very helpful list.

Posted by
8516 posts

Re the balloon ride refund: I'm not surprised as credit card services for the French are archaic, unwieldy, and impossible. We have French bank accounts and one tiny-value card we avoid using. Many transactions are by bank transfer but the US doesn't participate in the same way. It's very different from the smooth service we have with our US cards, which we prefer to use here in France. So, if you can have the funds transfered to your bank or to a currency account you set up with a company like Wise or Money Corp, that would work but probably cost you a tiny bit. But with the € cheaper now, that might cover the cost of the charge. Your recourse could indeed be the nuclear option, a charge back in order to get the full value as currency fluctuates.

Posted by
8034 posts

We also loved Lou Pistou in Nice. Glad you found it. Thanks for such a detailed report.

Posted by
21334 posts

In addition to Bets's comment, I've seen quite a few other positive reports on the forum about Wise (formerly TransferWise). Generally folks were using it to send money to Europe at a much lower cost than what a US bank would charge, but I imagine the fees are also reasonable for inbound transfers.

Posted by
3083 posts

Thanks for the comprehensive recommendations.

Sorry to hear about the balloon debacle. People often misuse the chargeback option, but it sounds like you are using it very appropriately. You tried to solve the problem with the merchant. The merchant would only offer you a refund through a wire to your bank account (concerns of giving out personal financial info and of incoming wire charge from your bank). The chargeback options seems very reasonable.

Don't forget to give feedback to RS on the guidebook recommendation:

Posted by
8516 posts

Here’s a bit more detail.
Europeans are used to sharing the IBAN and account numbers and that’s how they pay rent, utilities, insurance, taxes. Germany doesn’t even issue checks. You should ask your bank if they would charge you for an incoming wire. Also, be sure your bank gives you a good rate—which they usually don’t.

Second, you can call the Money Corp 800- number and ask them how it would work to receive funds. I have sent money, but use money brokers only for large important purchases. It’s very difficult to reach a human at Wise.

As for refunds, I have no trouble getting refunds for small amounts to my US cards at Monoprix. But I still suspect that a small merchant could get dinged for a 450€ refund he owes, which is his responsibility.
Finally, use the charge back. Keep everything in writing for proof of his failure to provide service.

Posted by
2449 posts

Thank you for posting so many good recommendations. Sorry about the hot air balloon debacle. I would be surprised if your credit card company didn't take your side.

If you are a veteran wine estate visitor and you have seen more than your fair share of wine-making cellars, I will tailor the tour accordingly. Now that is a man after my heart!

Posted by
91 posts

Thanks so much @Bets for the explanation. I've already submitted to my credit card company (Chase) along with documentation of emails, payment receipt, and confirmation of reservation. They've responded that they are reviewing and will get back to me. I have a Sapphire Preferred card through Chase which includes a fairly generous purchase protection policy as a cardholder benefit so they should be able to assist me (fingers crossed).

So glad you all find benefit in the referrals, I like throwing business their way as much as possible. I heard from multiple people about the difficulties of this past year and how glad they are to see tourists coming back.

Posted by
5160 posts

Bookmarking! Thank you for the recommendations. We'll be in Paris and Nice next year, so I'm making notes.

Posted by
5648 posts

With some additional info, here’s another “thumbs up” for Restaurant Lou Pistou in Nice. It was run by a couple (he in the kitchen, she waiting tables) for years, and was bought by a team of two men in just the last few years. I’m following them now on facebook, as they announce special happenings at the restaurant.

In June 2001, we’d just stumbled into town, and a big, staged event was coming up that evening downtown, drawing a huge crowd. It appeared we couldn’t get in for dinner anywhere. Stopping in at random at the original Lou Pistou, they set up a 2-top table and squeezed us in with their packed house. Incomparable hospitality, great food, and unforgettable. Strolling in Nice 15 years later at night, I amazingly walked right to their door, as if I knew their location like the back of my hand. I hadn’t expected to eat there then, and that was the day they were closed. Went back 2 nights later, and while the interior had been redesigned over the years, the same couple were still hard at work. We bought 3 jars of their homemade jams, in addition to a great dinner.

Two years later, the young men had taken the place over, and while the menu was a bit different, and it was clearly a different restaurant but with the same name and location, it remained a great place to eat in Nice. I’ll be back next time I’m in Nice!

Posted by
683 posts

We too had a wonderful meal at Lou Pistou. Yes, I remember how tiny it was inside and I was so glad we made. reservation!

Also in Nice, we had an excellent meal at Bistrot Chaud Vin, in case anyone is looking for another great place.