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11 Days Provence with 6 year old child

Hi,

I am having the hardest time making up my mind on the itinerary and thought a conversation might stimulate ideas. This is my first time in 17 years of travel that I have posted to a forum!

We will use a car and maybe even bus/train both. We fly from the US to Rome on the 13th and will buy a flight to Nice or Marseille on March 13 or 14 (depending on availability) and will fly out of Nice on March 25th. I am trying to minimize time in the car/train and moving around, or at least balance it as best possible. We also like mid range to upper range places to stay for amenities, heaters, (pool access in cold weather), breakfast, possible traditional or unique arrangements of some kind.

I know it will still be cold/rainy, no flowers, some smaller towns may be still closing down early. My 6 year old is high energy and stimulus seeking, but also needs downtime.

I used to want to go to eat, drink, and flower my way through Provence. Now I can do none, since the flowers will not be in bloom and the 6 year old will not abide the eat/drink routine/move around I prefer since she eats at 5pm and is asleep by 7pm. So I am doing the 11 day trip around her needs and mine for quality time in a lovely area.

Kiddo is not likely interested in aquaducts (thats more for my husband who may be joining us) she is interested in active art classes, or engaging shows.

Some questions I have: I love how the idea of a couple of down days in Camargue sounds beautiful, interesting, etc. But fear it will be too cold and isolated to acclimate from the US travels. Some say best to stay in bigger cities in low travel periods to access food, amenities at odd hours. (kid sometimes wakes at 5am so cartoons or dvds are helpful!)

Luberon is just an hour from Les Baux, should I not bother to spend a night or two in the area?
Is it better to stay closer to Avignon or in Avignon since its March, rather than Les Baux de Provence? Walking around shops, bakeries, eateries, and small towns sounds a lot more relaxing than larger city. Access to nature and playgrounds and even indoor places for kids to play would be nice.

We could:
3 nights Nice
1 night transition from Nice to Vence and sleep in Gorges du Verdon
2 nights Luberon for Sat/Sun to catch the lovely Sunday market.
2 nights Avignon/Les Baux area
2 nights Arles/Camargue area
1 Antibes for night before flight of Nice.

Or we could:
Fly into Marseille and move to
3 nights Arles/Camargue area
2 nights Luberon to get Sat/Sun market
3 nights Les Baux de Provence & Avignon area
3 nights Nice before flying home.

Sights in Provence area specific I think might be nice to see:
1 day checking out nature in Camargue -gypsies, flamingoes, horses, beach, monastaries and salt
1 day arles for roman ruins
1/2 day pont du gard - roman ruins
1/2 day belleclaire for working farm experience
1 day for les baux/st remy for history of nostradamus/ van gogh, small towns
2 nights to explore small towns of luberon for me, such as gordes for views, market, food, and pottery
1/2 day in avignon for popes place and famous bridge, carousal

The first itinerary adds the french grand canyon, more pottery, perfume, etc. but takes away from time in avignon/les baux area.
Nice is just a good base for kids and plenty to do there, though I have already seen it. The above 8 days in provence is meant to be slow moving as many people spend all day doing these things over less time. I also wanted to spend more time in Camargue bc it sounds really cool and hope it wont be disappointing and only worth a day tour. Kind of a risk sleeping in such an isolated place rather than basing in Arles and day tripping it.

And I guess like many before me, it is a problem of getting the base just right. Any thoughts?

Posted by
2311 posts

Unless you have an extremely precocious 6 yo on your hands, I don’t see anything that will really hold her interest. Sounds nice for you, but not a small child. 12 yo and up, yes, 6 yo, no. This from someone with three grown children who traveled with them a lot when they were young. If you want to visit France, have the child enjoy the trip, minimize transfers (which can be trying with luggage and a child) why not spend time in Paris and Disney?

Posted by
6 posts

Well, she is precocious to be sure, being moderately gifted. But we just got back from Disney and Paris from last Fall (with our 18 year old niece) ;-) She does not need Disney all the time and has already seen disney in two US states, one in Hong Kong and one in Paris (she loves the dragon under the castle!). And at 6 she has already been to 12 countries. She mostly just wants to be with family. The only thing I am concerned about (bc we can bring an ipad) is keeping her couped up in a car or room too long. She did ok driving around in Ireland though better with shorter trips. We stayed in bed and breakfasts and were saved with cable tv kids shows since not a lot of running around space at the B&B (too cold outside and often tired from day trips).

And my hope was to do one outting a day and mostly spend the rest of the day being together and eating, cooking, playing and setting things up like it would be at home. Like a visit to the playground, museum, park in the afternoon and a picnic lunch, and a morning doing activities, art, playing. so all the touristy things just replace the routine we have at home in some ways. And taking a morning walk in a small French town is a little bit cooler than our morning neighborhood walks :-) I am not one to generally drag her to a bunch a places she doesnt want to see, though I do get in what I can for myself :-)

Posted by
1143 posts

I'm sorry, why bring the 6-year-old?

But staying inside the walls at Avignon could work. There's a carousel, and a park up the hill with a little play area. But March? Ouch.

The town is easy to walk around in, but I'm not sure what else would be interesting to the child, except for gelatto and cookie shops.

Posted by
6 posts

heh ya'll are surprising me greatly ;0)

We are bringing her bc we have no family she can stay with and we love to travel. And March, bc tickets were cheaper! I have wanted to visit for 15 years so I will take it over not seeing Provence at all! Sometimes we get hotels with kids clubs (high stimulation and structure helps) if we can find them. Not finding a lot in Provence that will be open.

But the world is our best classroom for geography, world history, civilizations, global thinking. She is already excited about seeing the famous Avignon bridge (she is in a French immersion school since 3) so we can sing the song and dance. And what kid does not like running around and picnicing in nature with those she loves the most? We look for faeries and bugs and tumble over rock and hill. And we both could eat french bread, pan de chocolates, croissants, madelines, cheese for 3 meals a day.

She speaks more french than I do and even tried it out in Paris with a taxi driver. Paris had lots of parks with kids activities and was nice that way, but the countryside is free and open parks really :-)

Posted by
1143 posts

Somehow I missed the bridge song . . . but I went to the bridge.

She may like the Hist-O-Pad hand-held guide at the Palais des Papes. Pretty cool.

Pont du Gard has a children's section at the museum--I enjoyed it.

I didn't see much on Nostradamus except for a plaque on his birth house in St. Remy.

She can run around the ruins of Glanum.

Posted by
372 posts

HI -
Perhaps somewhere on the Riviera or between that and Provence. For:

--beach time sounds good (but pick a sandy one...Nice is stony)
--boat rides - In cassis you can ride and see the calanques, but I'm guessing there are plenty of coastal boat rides to choose from
--hiking
--there's this Oceanographic (aquarium like) in Monaco
--with a couple of Roman ruins and other museums mixed in

Trains are great because you can take walks to the Cafe. There's room to move around for kids (and adults)
Every city has a park/playground you can hit up for a breather for everyone.

Have fun! Breathe! Enjoy!

Posted by
6 posts

Barbra,

oh squee, the song, is sticky for the brain :-))

https://youtu.be/ZJfP9TiLoZA or the kids version
https://youtu.be/uJKfxtYAt0s

I had read there are sometimes medieval demonstrations in Les Baux but may conflict with Luberon area market or not be open. Someone said their kids had a really great time at an interactive farm in Belleclaire (sorry if I got name wrong) 'Le vieux mas' http://vieux-mas.com but not sure yet if its open and of course if it rains. But running around small villages in general can be fun in spurts for youngins (specially since mine is non stop)

Thank you so much for your suggestions!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you Shawn! I have left beaches kind of out and optional in case of weather as it is sometimes colder on the water front! I love the Monaco idea!

Posted by
1143 posts

The FNAC on rue Republique in Avignon has a bookstore upstairs with what looks like a decent kids section.

Posted by
16769 posts

In March I believe you are at risk or encountering the mistral in Provence.

I have no experience traveling with children, but will mention that Menton (way east from Nice, near the Italian border), is supposedly the warmest place on the Riviera. It has a picturesque historic district and two good hillside gardens, though I doubt that the latter would appeal particularly to your daughter.

I got near the Carmargue but not really to the Camargue last year. My impression from the little I read about it is that it is mostly about the animals you might see, and I think your daughter would enjoy that aspect of it if March is a good time. My experience from other trips is that marshes can be a bit underwhelming visually when compared with dramatic mountains and rocky beaches.

I imagine your daughter will enjoy the liveliness of the markets if the weather's not too cold/wet.

Train transportation along the Riviera to the coastal towns is very convenient.

I definitely prefer the 3-2-3-3 itinerary. Fewer than three nights at a hotel really bugs me.

Posted by
1143 posts

When doesn't the mistral blow down there?

Blew like hell in late October and all through November (not every single day, but most).

Posted by
16769 posts

I was mistral-free as I traveled east to west across southern France in May and June.

Posted by
1700 posts

OP: cannot help much just want to back you up
My wife and I take our Daughter everywhere we go and wouldn't think of going and leaving her behind

She will be 5 this summer when we will be visiting some of the same towns as in your plan ; my main thing was to make sure where we were staying had a pool ; knowing she can and will do the to her boring touristy stuff with us if a swimming in the pool reward waits for her at the end of the day. In March that is not an option I imagine so combined with the lack of you being able to see the flowers in bloom does seem like the best idea would be for you to postpone your trip until this summer or a future summer.
Assuming that is not an option though, maybe some fo this will help:

Similarly our daughter is a good traveler.
I always make sure I have a solution for unlimited data for her Ipad and let her watch videos and movies more on vacation than when at home. For Europe I like those pocket wifi hotspot rentals. They get great reception most everywhere and allow for you to run multiple devices on them. There may be some cheaper ways to get data for 2 weeks, but I like the convenience.

We will be staying in Las Baux a short time and a couple of things there I think our daughter will enjoy we plan on doing other than exploring the old ruins/castle is
Carrières de Lumières (they have a show that starts for the year March 2nd I believe)
Very close to Las Baux

I really wanted to see a French version of a bull fight with her in the Arles Arena but I cannot find a schedule for 2018 anywhere or at least not in English so unclear if that is a summer or off season thing. For your dates that might be an option though (Bull is not harmed)

Las Baux the village being car free has a nice advantage when you have a little one that wants to run around a little, we are staying at Le Prince Noir which I am really looking forward to. it may be the only place to sleep that is actually in the tiny town.

Camargue didn't seem that interesting to me and my initially impression would our daughter would definitely not like it.
I could be missing something though, and as stated have not been. At her age seeing a wild animal is not very exciting to her, she doesn't grasp the difference between one in a zoo or on a farm vs out in the wild like we adults might appreciate.

With your child in tow I would recommend fewer check in / check outs, they seem to enjoy the familiarity of a place rather than constantly moving about. Likely means more driving for your day trips but with an Ipad in the backseat at least our daughter is quite content for an hour drive or two.

I am sure most every town will have a playground for kids.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you everyone for the great thoughts and considerations. I had forgotten about the mistral winds. I think what I might do is just be flexible in adjusting our plans for the weather if we need to and I am thinking it might be fun to stay around Les Baux de Provence and just base and do whatever we feel like.

Thanks again!