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2 Months in France, Jan-March --Where to avoid & general advice

Hi! I am planning a 2 month trip to France Jan - March 2017, and was just hoping for any advice on "towns to avoid". I've been to France several times, mostly Provence, Cote d'Azur, Paris, and Lille but I'm finding it hard to get a good feel for the many towns and cities in France.

The plan is to either rent one house for the whole 2 months, or split my time between two regions--the first likely being Provence/Cote d'Azur. My only true requirements for a base are:
- Safe
- Walkable
- Friendly

Ideally, there would also be a train station in the town, but if there is a perfect and affordable location without a train I can always rent a car.

I'll be with two children (6 y/o and <1), and am just looking for a friendly village to become a temporary part of. My French is terrible, but I am able to communicate adequately (and am hoping will improve greatly after 2 months!). I think I have a million more questions, but really am just hoping someone might be able to help me determine which cities/towns to AVOID, based on the safe/friendly/walkable criteria.

Thanks in advance!!!

Posted by
131 posts

I'd be inclined to stay where the weather is more mild.

You might take a look at and see if there are any properties that you like and work from there. That's how some friends ended up staying in Cotignac last summer for 7 weeks. Here's where they stayed:

It's a lovely little village, that appears to remain fairly active in the winter too. You would need a car if you chose to stay there.

Posted by
6171 posts

Except for some of the Paris suburbs, I doubt if there's any town or city in France that wouldn't be safe for you and your children. Smaller towns would certainly be safe, and walkable as well. French people can be very friendly when treated politely. As you know from your previous visits, it's a more formal culture than ours. Your efforts to speak some French, and use of common polite phrases (bonjour, s'il vous plait, merci, etc.) will go a long way. The children will be natural ice-breakers and conversation-starters. As your visit extends, your (and the 6-year-old's) French will improve and people will appreciate that.

Since tourism as such doesn't seem to be your real purpose, you may prefer a place that's off the beaten tourist track. On the other hand, you may want a place where English is spoken widely enough that you can communicate with at least some of your neighbors. That's not as clear a trade-off as it might seem -- lots of French people, especially younger ones, speak enough English for you and they to communicate. Some of them may not feel their English is adequate until they hear your French! ;-)

A few years ago my wife and I spent a week in a town called St-Aignan-sur-Cher, in the Loire valley. Though it's in the heart of the chateau country, it doesn't have much to draw tourists-- a fine Romanesque church and a chateau that isn't open to visitors. We used it as a base for exploring the area and found it pleasant and friendly (though I wouldn't recommend the apartment we rented, especially for kids). There must be hundreds of towns equally suitable for your purposes, but you might want to check it out on Google Earth. One asset is that the Zoo Parc de Beauval is a short drive away (there's probably also a bus), considered one of the best zoos in Europe. The Noyers station, just across the river, has connections to Paris.

But really, given your criteria it would be hard to go wrong. Your children will thank you for this experience. Good luck!

Posted by
14208 posts


First of all, I'll say this: after 2 full months your French will improve, you can bet on it, even if you see your French as "modest" right now. You use it constantly (forget about any language issues you may what), you can't help but become faster with it.

I can't say where to avoid except for the suburbs as suggested above, basically stay clear of them unless you're driving through. Villages are ok. The towns/cities I mostly have a feel for after experience and spending time there are Amiens, Arras, and Fontainebleau as regards to their being walk able, safe, and totally within my so-called comfort zone. Arras is well served by the TGV and regional TER trains, the rental car office is to left of the train station as you exit the station. The tourist office/agency and post office are located a few mins from the station, in front of the main gate leading into the centre ville, and close to each other. Can't say much about Lille, was only there a couple of times as day trips.

Posted by
1014 posts

We spent 2 weeks in Nice and enjoyed it. Short bus trips to many interesting small villages that surround Nice. I am not sure about staying there in the Winter though. Maybe some else who lives there or has been there during the winter can chime in about the weather, climate, etc. Just be careful around the train station and the metro stops. Pickpockets prowl the area. Otherwise, I felt safe everywhere else.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all so much for the great information, it really helped me in the search (and just calming nerves :))

Looking forward to our 2 months in France next year, picked a great teeny little village about 20 minutes train ride from Nimes. Should be perfect! Thank you all again!!!!

Posted by
5158 posts

Just wondering... What's the name of this, "teeny little village", where you've decided to stay in?

Posted by
3 posts

Brignon, between Nimes and Arles. Population of <1000 at last count, but easily accessible via train, playground for the 6 year old, and even a nice local primary school! I've spoken to the gite owner, and she is lovely and says the town is excited :)