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12 days: Paris, Riveria, Provence, Barcelona

Hi, my boyfriend and I will be traveling in the beginning of June, buying plane tickets into Paris and out of Barcelona. I have been to Paris before but he has not. We had thought of spending 3 days/2 nights in Paris, going to the French Riveria spending an unknown amount of time there, going somewhere in Provence (also unknown time) and then onto Barcelona for 2-3 days. We have 12 total days.... We are definitely going by train as neither of us can drives stick shift car and we want to relax.

What town should we stay in both The French Riveria and Provence that is a good place to be in itself and central to taking day trips (without a car)? Given our 2-3 days in each place what are the musts? I read Nice and Avignon or Arles as central locales but wanted more opinions.

Posted by
8674 posts

When I plan I do it by how many nights I have in a place. If you stay somewhere for 2 nights, you really only have one full day, and potentially 2 partial days. How many nights will you be in Europe?

Without a car in Provence I would stay in Avignon, Arles or Aix-en-Provence. Depending on how long you will be in Provence will dictate whether you will have time to go to other towns. I stayed in Arles, at Hotel Regence. It was reasonably priced and near the train station.

I haven't been to the Riviera, so I'll let others weigh in there.

Posted by
28 posts

Thanks Andrea.

Here is my itinerary ideas so far:
Day 1: arrive in Paris 10:40am do Louvre and Eiffel Tower and more
Day 2: Paris - Versailles and more
Day 3: Paris - Orsay and more -> train to Nice?
Day 4: Nice - Chagall museum?
Day 5: Monaco?
Day 6: Cannes? -> train to Arles
Day 7: Arles - Les Baux and the caves with lights
Day 8: Arles - Pont du Gard and Nimes?
Day 9: Train to Barcelona -> Museums
Day 10: la Sangria Familia and Parc Guell
Day 11: more Barcelona?
Day 12: fly home

Thoughts? What am I missing?

Posted by
8269 posts

What you are missing, unfortunately, is time. I have two types of suggestion to make.

Here is the first type--Day 1: arriving at 10:40 won't put you into Paris before 1:30 or 2:00, tired and jet lagged. You could leave the Louvre for another time, just see the Eiffel Tower and enjoy being in Paris the first day. In fact, it will be more time efficient with such a limited schedule to get onto one of the English-speaking tours of the Louvre, offered by the Louvre guides on a day you are more awake.
Day 3: Paris-Nice is six hours, plus time to get to and from the stations, so it's hard to fit that in after a day of the Musee d'Orsay and more. A partial remedy is flying Paris to Nice--preferably out of Orly instead of CDG. The flight is one hour, but count three hours with travel to and from the airport, check in, etc. Day 6: Nice to Arles is four hours, which doesn't blow your whole day. I'd stick to the Nice area before going to Arles. Cannes is famous for the film festival, but that's about where interest ends. Day 9: Arles to Barcelona is about six hours, a lot of your day blown. You could fly Vueling Airlines direct Marseille to Barcelona in an hour, plus airport transfer and waiting time.

Second type of suggestion-- with such a short amount of time, I'd leave Nice, an area I know well and love, or Barcelona for another trip, but add time on to your other stops, particularly Paris. You aren't allowing enough time for Paris and are going to be so cooked doing all you've planned there, while adjusting to the time change. Fewer stops but more time to enjoy each place will be more satisfying.

Posted by
4125 posts

Three of these destinations in 12 days (really 10, though, isn't it? Because Day 1 = jet lag settle in and Day 12 = Fly home) would be a lot. Four would be really untenable. So do heed Bets's advice about Nice. Maybe about Barcelona too, if you haven't bought those tickets.

Note on Paris: You have zero full days in Paris. That's just nuts. If you don't care for Paris there are plenty of other places. For that matter you could make Nice > Avignon > Barcelona work pretty well.

The most central location, as in transit hub, for Rhone Valley Provence is Avignon, but Arles has more charm and is nearly as good. (Better for some destinations.)

Posted by
8674 posts

I agree with the others that you are trying to do too much in a short time. There is no way you can count having 3 days/2 nights in Paris as you mentioned. You will have a partial jet lagged day, a full day that you will spend most of outside of Paris, and another partial day. Have you considered what you will do with your luggage when your plan is to do activities before departing for your next location? Not all train stations have lockers or a left luggage facility. If you have your hotel hold the bags for you then you need to factor in the time it will take to retrieve them.

If you already have your airline tickets I would cut Nice out and spend more time in Paris. If you haven't purchased them yet you could still do as I suggested, or skip Paris and fly into Nice. Or skip Barcelona, fly into Paris and out of Nice. If you don't eliminate something you will be spending most of your time trying to get from one place to another. That will get old really fast.

Posted by
497 posts

I agree with the other posters on this one. This is a bit too aggressive an itinerary, and particularly the Riveria sounds like the grab. I also go exclusively by public transportation and in researching a similar itinerary I can tell you this makes things a little more challenging in France. You should probably make the choice of Provence or Riviera. The TGV train gets you from Paris to Avignon in three hours. Avignon has great transportation connections, and you could easily choose a number of quick side trips (Orange/Arles/Nimes/Isle Sur La Gorge) depending on how you feel when you get there. I would also recommend more time in Paris. I had three full days last year, and Wished I had more time. Follow the RS advice, "Assume you will return." Bon chance!

Posted by
3283 posts

I agree with everyone who has told you that, in general, your itinerary is way too aggressive. However, I'll zero in on one spot that you should really reconsider; and that is the Riviera. What is the attraction of Monaco and Cannes? Monaco is a playground for the ultra-rich. Casinos are the draw, and you can't even get in for a look without meeting their dress codes. Cannes has a world famous film festival. Otherwise, it's just a very touristy beach town. While I really like Nice, I advise that for this trip you skip it and add the Riviera days to Provence. And by the way, the church you want to see in Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia. Sangria is a drink.

Posted by
3726 posts

I also agree with the others. Having done, what you wish to do, with 3 nights in Paris on my first trip.

I would caution you against (Sobbing) Versailles. Just takes too much time to do it properly.

Or take the days from the Riveria, and divide them among 2 of the remaining locations.

4 nites Paris

Train to Avignon 3H43m. Train to Arles 17min.

3 nites Arles

Train-Barcelona. 4H26m. or Train to Marseilles. 33 min, Plane-Barcellona 1 hr. train to city. 19mi.

4 nites Barcelona

The plane and train are about equal in time, considering connections and wait times,

I would look at prices to decide.

Posted by
9 posts

I have to strongly agree with everyone else. On our first trip to Europe (1984) we had 3 weeks and every other night were changing hotels and cointries. It was nuts and we were exhausted. After that time, we spend 5-7 days in one place, take day trips on the trains and relax and enjoys ourselves. But if you do go to the coast, Monaco is a great, but expensive, place to see. And in Barcelona, we saw a performance at th the Music Hall, which is gloriously beautiful. The last time in Paris, we took a cooking class at Cooking with Class. They have classes in English and it was great fun. Also, a concert at One of the churches is lovely. It is much easier and more fulfilling to spend time in one place and get to know the locals a little bit....while that is more difficult in Paris ( think NY city) it can still be done. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
117 posts

We hit, for us, four big cities in 10 days, and did so comfortably. So I'm not quite as averse to a busy schedule of sightseeing, as long as it follows some sort of logical path. That said, our trip was probably at a much quicker pace than it seems most on here would be willing to attempt -- no doubt because of experience, and I respect that very much. And while I'm not against it, going forward with your timeframe, I would pick your top three destinations, and stick to it.

With that in mind, I think Gerri's suggested itinerary is ideal. Although I would consider looking into flying to maximize time. Then, re-examine your goals and make a list of your "must-see" sights and try to string them together in a logical order, and definitely do not try to cram too much into that first day. But don't take it too easy either. Hit the streets, stay out as long as you can and get a good night's sleep that first night.

Have to say, I'm a tad jealous. My daughter's art teacher is taking her art history class (including my daughter) on a trip this summer following what roughly amounts to Gerri's itinerary. So cool!

Happy travels!