Please sign in to post.

2.5 week trip plan- open to suggestions and recommendations

Headed to South of France for our 10th wedding anniversary.... leaving on Saturday

The plan is to fly into Paris (its the only place we can fly into direct) then either take a train or fly to Nice.
Stay in Ville Franche sur Mer as a base and visit local towns including:
Menton, Monaco, Vence, Saint Paul du Vence, Grasse, Antibes, Eze, Cap Ferrat. ( too many on this list and need to cut it down to the best few I think). 4 nights.

From Ville Franche Sur Mer will head by train to Cassis. Visit the cliffs/calanques. any suggestions? 2-3 nights

From Cassis head possibly to AIX? OR skip over AIX and head to the luberon village area.
Possibly staying in Goult or Gordes or St. Remy.
I would love to explore this area but it seems the hardest to figure out without renting a car. We could rent a car for a few days but i have heard parking can be hard to find and expensive. I would like to see Roussillon, Gordes, Goult, St.Remy perhaps Baux, Lacoste (open to suggestions) I wonder if I could stay in one village and bicycle or walk to the next one, or a taxi. Possibly find a tour company/ private driver
3 nights. Figuring this part of the agenda out seems the biggest challenge.

From there head to Avignon or Arles as my next base. Visiting Avignon, Arles, Pont du Gord, 4 nights

1 night in Nimes- check out the roman structures etc. 1 night

Head to Carcasonne- its on my husbands list . he read about it as a fortified town and thought it sounded very neat. 1 night

Lastly- Toulouse 1 night before flight back to Paris to catch flight home. (alternatively take train back to Paris stopping for 1 night in bordeaux)

Would love your recommendations on where we should add more nights or a different location we had not included.

THANKS!! cant wait to eat croissants

Posted by
24925 posts

What time of year is this trip?

You will definitely need to prune your wish list quite a bit. For example, keep in mind that two nights in Arles or Avignon would only be one full day and a few hours--really insufficient for those two cities and the Pont du Gard. You haven't mentioned what sort of things you want to see, but the area has lots of markets (often just once a week) and nice, small art museum (Nice has at least six art museums). There are two interesting villas on Cap Ferrat. Menton has two hillside gardens. St-Paul-de-Vence is quite small but has a very good modern-art museum; Vence has a good-sized, relatively non-touristy historic center.

One place that may be easier than you're anticipating is St-Remy-de-Provence. It has no rail service but does have decently frequent buses from both Arles and Avignon. Nonetheless, I suspect that for seeing the Luberon without a car Avignon will be your best base. I believe such buses as do exist depart from Avignon or Cavaillon, and there are a few one-day bus tours offered from Avignon as well. You're right that a bus tour will be the most efficient way to hit multiple small villages in a single day if you are not willing to rent a car--which would be by far the best way to see the villages of the Luberon. Although there are definitely some buses from Cavaillon (with less travel time required), I am doubtful that it is an origin point for bus tours (but haven't checked).

Transportation will be considerably easier to the towns along and near the Riviera. Vence and St-Paul-de-Vence are served by the same bus line from Nice. Eze le Village also has buses. The other places you list have inexpensive rail service; do be careful about your belongings; pickpockets work those trains. Grasse is a place that didn't make it onto my itinerary. Everything I've read suggests it's really only a worthwhile destination for those with a serious interest in perfume.

The website may be of some help to you as a first step in exploring your public-transportation options. It's usually accurate about the existence (or not) of rail and bus service and possibly connection points. You simply cannot trust the detailed information it displays on fares, travel times and frequencies. You need to drill down through the website until you find the name of the bus company you'll be using. There will generally be a link to the company's website, which is where you'll need to go to find accurate schedules. Be careful about both time of year and day of week; schedules can vary.

Rick's guidebook to Provence and the French Riviera has considerably more detail on that part of France than the full-country guidebook. It will be very helpful to someone spending as much time in the area as you are. Do double-check things like bus frequencies and operating hours of sightseeing attractions, especially if yours will not be a summer trip. When I was in the area in May 2015, I noticed that many museums closed one extra day per week outside of high summer, and some closed an additional day per week during shoulder season. And that was before the pandemic.

Posted by
105 posts

the trip is in a few days.
I have the rick steve provence and french riviera guide book. I used it to create the above rough schedule.

I will add more nights to the Arles or Avignon base as per your recommendation. :)
I am not too interested in Nice. it looks like too big of a city for me, so I don't plan to spend much time there, and my husband is not a art lover so there will be very limited art museums in our itinerary. maybe I can sneak in 1 nice smaller one.
I will take Grasse off the list as you recommend.

Posted by
6103 posts

Somewhat disjointed feedback here:

Even without spending much time in Nice, I would aim towards 4 nights in that area rather than 3. Conversely, Cassis is nice for 2 nights but no more; if you worry that Nice is too big then do not go to Marseille or Toulon.
Likewise, Aix can be skipped if you are not city/museum people. Plus, it will make transportation easier (Aix is away from the main train lines).
Avignon is a more convenient base than Arles if you do not have a car; I would stay 4 nights.

However, if you do not want to rent a car, I would minimize my stay in the Lubéron. To my knowledge, Goult is the only Lubéron village with easy access from Avignon by bus (although the bus drops you off 200 feet lower than the village!), and is very charming for a night or two. It is definitely possible to reach Roussillon by bike from there (10 miles round-trip), but I do not know if rental bikes are easy to come by. Or perhaps you could find a tour from Avigno
n? You may find that Gordes also has bus service, however this ends on 30 September and only gets you to Cavaillon, which makes for convoluted travels!

Nîmes is worth the overnight stop, since it is on the way to Carcassonne.
Carcassonne is only worth 1 night in my opinion.

Posted by
105 posts

The luberon area just sounds soo charming from what I have read. I don’t want to miss out on it. (I hope it impresses me with how difficult it seems to be to get to and around) . I have also considered getting a car for a few days so I can explore this area better, but I read on some prior posts on the forum that parking is a nightmare and expensive.

Posted by
105 posts

The second night in carcassone is there to allow for the travel back to Paris. To get back to Paris we will either be heading to Toulouse to fly from there or taking a train through Bordeaux. Maybe we would be better off to stay 1 night in carcassone. Take the train to Bordeaux sleep there and do the rest of the train trip the next day.

Posted by
24925 posts

I can't address the parking situation, never having rented a car anywhere in Europe, but a bus tour for two people will not be cheap--I'd guess roughly 100 euros per person for a full-day tour. And you need to factor in the considerable time you will probably waste in the Luberon if you must depend on public transportation--even assuming it exists. 2-1/2 weeks sounds like a lot, but it is not. You're trying to cover a lot of places in that time, and having a car for a few days will make it much, much easier. One thing I've found when using buses to reach small towns is that all too often I have a choice between getting to a second or third small town that day or having a sit-down lunch. Bus schedules very often force you into choosing one or the other. Are you willing to make that choice, probably more than once, on a shortish trip to France? It's not something I'm happy about, and my trips have been much longer so I have a lot more opportunities for nice French meals.

Posted by
9741 posts

People who live in Carcassonne and Toulouse fly to Paris. It's easier and cheaper.

Why don't you spend the last night or two in Toulouse, la ville rose ( rose-colored city) a wonderful, beautiful, southern city. That would be my choice rather than the train and Bordeaux.

Bring an umbrella. It could be over by the time you travel Nimes to Carcassonne, but there has been a lot rain around Nimes these past few days.

Posted by
6098 posts

I agree with Balso, one night is enough for Carcassonne, especially if you can spend it within the walled city. It would be easy to get from there to Toulouse and fly on to Paris and home. I haven't been to Toulouse but I've never known Bets to be wrong. ;-)

Posted by
82 posts

I would do:

Paris - 2 days, decompress
Train to Lyon - 3-4 days
Train to Arles - 3-4 days
Train to Nice - 3 days
Train to Geneva - 1 day
back to Paris - 2 days

Posted by
105 posts

Thanks for your idea Steve. However I do not think that itinerary matches this trip. We will be focusing this trip on provence and riviera. Appreciate your input tho.

Posted by
105 posts

Thank you dick bets and Balso. We will look into flights from Toulouse and stay 1 night in carcassone.

Seems like my biggest challenge now is trying to explore the Luberon villages that I read about which sound soooo charming. I hope they live up to the images in my head. Any suggestions on how to get that quaint French country vibes out of my trip without complete logistic nightmares?
Should I find different towns. Or should I look into renting a car for a few days and deal with parking challenges in luberon towns ?

Posted by
30 posts

Everything depends on the people involved and the way you like to travel. I personally have become more a "stay in one place for more days" type as I age, whereas we used to do the more point-to-point-to-point travel as we were excited to cover lots of new places. Have you been to France, Paris, or southern France before?
I've always found Nice to be wonderful with a lot of neat things to do and see over multiple days. We've always had a car in that area, but we also took the train when moving around. That stretch from Cannes to Monaco to San Remo, Italy is pretty packed full - in normal times - of tons of stuff to see and do, so a week in a central location (like Antibes or Nice) gives you a good shot at "beach" days, restaurants, museums, hikes, bike rides, or other touristy things. I'd spend a good bit of time in that area, and your thought of Ville Franche sur Mer "as a base" seems reasonable.
We only spent a few days in Arles, but that area had lots going for it to. Again, we had a car and did some side trips, etc., but the Roman stuff and a couple museums were interesting.
I like the suggestion to hit Paris for a couple days to get acclimated and enjoy the city. Of course, as discussed in other threads here, Paris can easily eat up a week or more just hitting some of the low hanging fruit. If you want a bit of city vs country touring, you could easily split your time between just the area around Nice (with a car) and Paris (walking & public transportation). But, when I was in my 20s & 30s, we would have had a dozen destinations in a two week period, so there is never harm in getting out and getting a lot of "tastes" for future return trips :)

Posted by
105 posts

Thanks for your input Tom. We have never been to France but we have been to Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, uk and some others in Europe in between.
We are not interested in visiting Paris and in general we won’t want to see many big cities so even the city of Nice is not high on my list. We are early 30s so moving quickly and hitting many places is ok with us. We also do not usually have a overly detailed itinerary and just go with the flow, with a general idea of how many nights for each place and knowing how to get to the next place. I know this would panic and stress many people knowing we are headed there this coming Saturday and do not yet have a concrete plan.
Thanks for the input

Posted by
9741 posts

As long as Nice is your destination, can you tack on a flight to Nice since you will be at the airport? I usually have it on one itinerary. But, if you buy a separate ticket to Nice, you need to leave at least four hour cushion between flights. You'll be in Nice an hour after take-off. The landing over the bay after coming over the mountains is spectacular. Try for a window seat. One of my favorite flights.

The train is six hours, goes too fast to take in scenery during the first three. The second three are along the coast, so sit on the right, but you might be asleep by then. And you have to go into Paris to catch the train.

Posted by
6103 posts

If you are open to driving, then by all means rent a car in Avignon to explore the Lubéron. Parking is super easy in September-October, and inexpensive (a few euros per day, typically).
If you do so, I would suggest that you pick a single base for both the Avignon-Arles area and the Lubéron: L'Isle sur la Sorgue would be perfect.
And drop the car off in Nîmes (or even Toulouse if you don't mind driving a few hours on the highway).
But act quickly because last minute car rentals get very expensive!

This would give the following route:
- Nice area 4 nights
- Cassis 2 nights
- Isle sur la Sorgue 4-5 nights
- Nîmes 2 nights (adding a night to give you time to see Pont du Gard, easy by bus from Nîmes if you don't keep the car)
- Carcassonne 1 night
- Toulouse 1-2 nights
- Paris 1-2 nights

Nice to Cassis is easy by train but mind that the station in Cassis is 1.5 miles out of town. Unsure about transportation options.
Cassis to Avignon TGV is fairly easy - change trains in Marseille Saint Charles. Driving in the Avignon-Luberon area is easy but slow, average speed is perhaps 30 mph outside the motorway (many villages, some curvy roads).
Nîmes to Carcassonne and Carcassonne to Toulouse are easy and quick by train.

Posted by
105 posts

I found a a place I could rent a e-bike from in Bonnieux. and from there I could go explore several places.

Posted by
22 posts

I have been in Carcassonne for two days. The trains to Nimes have been cancelled because of flooding. Trains between Bordeaux and Marseille have been re-routed to skip Nimes. My train tomorrow was cancelled. I am diverting through Marseille and then to Avignon. So be careful if Nimes by train is on your itinerary in the near future.

Posted by
5319 posts

Don't bother looking at flights from Toulouse to Paris, take the train. It is around 4:20 by direct TGV. If booked in advance, you can get a ticket for less than €50.

And I don't think getting out to the airport, going through all the airport faff and then having to travel from the airport to the city is easier than boarding the train in the city centre and then arrive in the city centre.

I guess the reason people in Toulouse fly to Paris (if Bets is correct) is out of habit, the high speed line to Bordeaux that also cut travel times to Toulouse was only opened a few years ago.

Posted by
9741 posts

That's right the TGV finally goes to Toulouse, one of the last to get high-speed rail. It used to be a long haul to Paris, and since this is the center of the aeronautic industry in France, those who could afford it flew. But, travelinggirl doesn't want to go to cities particularly, so flying to and from CDG makes sense (at least to me :--).

Flooding more info: Although it's drying up and sunny today, the TGV line between Nimes and just east of Montpellier is under repair until the 28th per SNCF website. The local train which uses different tracks, the TER, has a bus connection where its tracks are under repair. Thanks for the heads up.

If you follow balso's suggestion and rent a car, the autoroute between Nimes and Carcassonne is open (though exceptionally it was closed two days this past week during the torrential rains).

Posted by
6103 posts

I was not aware of the flooding; this is definitely an argument in favor of the car!
The drive is easy overall. Parking in Avignon is very easy (aim for the large, free "Parking des Italiens" right on the northeastern edge of town) ; parking in Nîmes is not a problem either (lots of covered garages, they tend to be tight but no problem if your car is not huge) ; I do not know anything about parking in Carcassonne. Traffic around Toulouse is tricky at rush hour, but otherwise the airport is easily accessed - no city driving involved.

Posted by
14036 posts

It has been several years since the last time in Toulouse, went there twice, both times by train from Paris taking the TGV, The first time I had to transfer in Bordeaux , the second time was a straight shot from Paris.

Bottom line....Toulouse is well worth a visit, historically and if your interest is also music.

Posted by
5319 posts

That's right the TGV finally goes to Toulouse, one of the last to get
high-speed rail. It used to be a long haul to Paris, and since this is
the center of the aeronautic industry in France, those who could
afford it flew.

But, it is not a long haul to Paris anymore. And yes, if you're travelling to or from the Airbus plant it makes sense to fly since you are at the airport.

But, travelinggirl doesn't want to go to cities particularly, so
flying to and from CDG makes sense (at least to me :--).

As far as I can tell, travellinggirl mentions spending one night in Toulouse. But if Toulouse is not that important, there is also the possibility of taking the train from Carcassonne to Paris, 5:20 with one change in Narbonne.