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4 or 5 Nights in France after the Loire Valley Tour

We're signed up for the Loire Valley to the South of France tour next spring. The tour ends in Nice on a Friday morning, and we plan to travel to Rome the following Tuesday or Wednesday to enjoy some free time before the Best of South Italy tour starts the following Monday. Yes, we have 10 days between tours!

That leaves us with either 4 or 5 days (and nights) to spend in France. I imagine we will want to spend at least one more night in Nice, but do you have any suggestions for the rest of the time? We love art, history, architecture, food, and most adult beverages (except spirits.) We're not interested in spending time on the beach, or sports, and I find "people watching" to be highly overrated.

We will not have a car, but are comfortable with all forms of public transportation. I speak some French, if that makes a difference to your suggestions. We could stay in Nice and make day trips in the area, or move to another base for part of the time.

Any ideas? Relative ease of getting from wherever we are to Rome will also be a consideration.

Thanks for your help.

Edit to add: If we stay in Nice, does anyone have a hotel recommendation? The tour stays in Mercure Nice Marche Aux Fleurs. Our needs are modest.

Posted by
6380 posts

Jane, this is a good problem to have !

What sites/cities/towns does the South of France portion of the tour have you visiting prior to Nice ?

Posted by
4569 posts

Hi, Kim: The tour spends one day and night in Carcassonne; two nights in Arles, including the Roman Area and Forum, and the Pont du Gard; Le Baux on the way to Nice; then two nights (one day) in Nice. It looks like the only group activity in Nice is a walking tour of the market and Old City. That day has a free afternoon, with suggestions of seeing the Chagall and Matisse Museums.

And you're right; it is a good problem to have!

Posted by
937 posts

Instead of sleeping in Nice, take a direct train to Villefranche-sur-Mer (15-minutes) and sleep there. From Villefranche-sur-Mer you can take a day trip to Monaco-Monte-Carlo (15-minutes).
From Villefranche-sur-Mer, take a train to Monterosso al Mare which is the town that’s furthest north of the Cinque Terre (Italian Riviera) that requires two connections taking 5h 15m. I would spend a minimum of two nights before taking a direct train to Pisa and sleep there two nights. In Pisa I would see the leaning tower and Field of Miracles. The next day take a day trip to Lucca (30-minutes by train) and walk the ramparts and have a nice dinner. Many people will tell you to sleep in Lucca because it’s more scenic, but that requires a train connection.
From Pisa you can take a direct train to Florence (1h). If you sleep in Lucca, it will take longer plus you’ll have to transfer to get to Florence. I would spend four nights in Florence and include a bus ride to Siena for the day (1h 15m). If you go to Florence, buy your Uffizi Gallery tickets two months before you plan on being there. From Florence you can take direct train to Rome (1h 45m).

Posted by
2860 posts

I think another night is Nice would be great so you wouldn’t feel too rushed at the end of your busy tour and try to see two important art venues in one rushed afternoon. What about Italy prior to your southern Italy tour. Are there some sites you haven’t seen in Italy yet or just need more time in the north before you start your tour in Rome. Have you been to some of the beautiful lakes, Lucca, Siena, more time in Florence? So many places it’s hard to decide.

Posted by
203 posts

I don’t have much to add, but I’m looking forward to seeing your recommendations since l will be taking that tour after you. I visited a few of the southern France stops on a trip in high school, but I’m excited to revisit them!

Do you already have tentative plans for some of your extra days in Italy?

Posted by
1231 posts

Jane, when I first started to research my pre- and post-tour to-do’s I thought I’d have more time in Nice. But I decided to go to Venice via Milan instead. Anyway, if you are staying in Nice I found a perfumery in Grasse that’s has a “make your own perfume” workshop. When I first saw it, their website said Saturday’s but now it’s Thursdays so dates may change. https://usines-parfum.fragonard.com/en/

Train to Cannes, then to Grasse or bus from Nice to Grasse.

Grasse also has a clothing museum. https://usines-parfum.fragonard.com/en/museums/the-museum-of-provencal-costumes-and-jewellery/
Kathy

Posted by
137 posts

Intense feelings of serious travel jealousy for your twosome taking 2 spectacular RSTs back-to-back with wicked smaht (and generous) gap days between, Jane. Consider my request for your trip report as in. Wow, but won't you be experiencing exceptional regions of both countries, each with an incredible diversity in scenic terrain; a wonderful focus on water, be it river or sea, and a mouthwatering and delectable cuisine diversity created by people who really know, love and enjoy their food and wine. MaryPat's train suggestions are so helpful in assessing the connections and pacing enroute to Rome and for me, I'm aware of the inherent + time-consuming aspect of checking in/out of accommodations when traveling to multiple stops. I vote for at least one more night at the Mercure Nice Marche Aux Fleurs. Yes, it may be more lovely than you need/want to spend your money on (hotel is SUPER - wonderfully run, absolutely ticks all boxes for a great and hospitable Côte d'Azur visit) but don't you think gaining at least one more full day in such a terrific location as unique and special as Nice is, gives just that much more breathing room to really take in a place on a lengthy and multi-stop itinerary? Say yes and stop and smell the Nice air for at least one more night, I say! :-}

Posted by
7522 posts

Smell the air for all four nights. There's plenty to see and do on the Riviera/ Côte d'Azur, from perched villages, art museums and foundations, mansions with fabulous gardens, even across the border on Friday mornings in Ventimille there's a huge market with clothing vendors who drive up from all over Italy.
I usually stay with family, but once we stayed at the Beau Rivage Hotel. Nice place.

Posted by
4569 posts

Thanks, all. It's interesting that several of you mentioned heading on to Italy. That idea has been tickling my brain for a while. Stan and I have often said that we'd love to go back to Venice at some point, but only if we had at least three days there this time, instead of the day and a half or so we had on the Rick Steves tours we've been on that went there.

I hesitate mainly because we are already planning to extend our Italy stay by about 10 days after the South Italy tour, adding a day or two in Naples, then about 4 or 5 days each in Siena and Bologna. A night or two in Lucca isn't out of the question.

That means a total trip time of 6 weeks or so, possibly more. While that sounds like heaven, we do have obligations here at home. I would love to be in a position to take off for 2 months or more at a time, but although we're much closer to that than we have ever been, we're not there yet.

And I would like to see a bit more of France. Every time we've been to France, we have been enchanted.

As of now, we'll probably either spend the extra days in Nice, and make day trips (or not!), or slip over into Italy, spend a few days in Venice, and work our way down to Rome.

Thanks again to all of you.

Posted by
6380 posts

Ok since you are barely getting to Nice on the trip, definitely stay a day or two more (and as someone mentioned, Villefranche-sur-Mer could be a good alternative).

You can do day trips from Nice, here are ones I have done by public transportation:

St Paul de Vence (by bus): further inland, old artists’ colony, and Maeght Foundation that I think you all would like. Also a chapel for which Matisse did the windows although I wasn’t able to enter.

Bus trips along the corniche to Eze, stop for a visit in this village but it is super expensive and very touristy but also has beautiful views. Then take the bus along to Monaco - I don’t care for Monaco but the views all along are spectacular.

Another day you can take the train to Menton.

Oh one of my favorite things to do down there — Villa Ephrussi. That time I went with someone who had a car, so you may need a taxi after public transportation. If you have read The Hare with the Amber Eyes, it will be even more meaningful.

That also reminds me - see if the Tulsa library has Hilary Spurling’s two-volume biography of Matisse. It will make your visit to the Matisse Museum even richer (and heck all of your time in Nice and down there).

Another Nice-related biography is Simone Veil’s A Life — her family went to Nice for “safety” after the German occupation — but it was in Nice that she was detained and deported.

These are probably all ideas (day trips) that are in Rick’s book, so I don’t guess they are very original, but they are favorites for a reason !

Posted by
937 posts

Jane, if you add additional nights in Nice, sleep in the Vieux Nice (old city) and then fly non-stop to Venice.

Posted by
478 posts

Mary Pat and Jane, I was just looking at this same flight: Nice to Venice. Seems very easy!

Take the Tram from central Nice to the airport (which I think is 1.50 euro.) The flight on EasyJet is at 12:40 p.m. and lands 1:45 p.m. a few days a week. Then, I believe it's a simple water taxi or bus from the Venice Marco Polo Airport to Venice.

Posted by
1822 posts

Hi Jane, after our RS tour we stayed at https://www.hotel-albert-1er.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=mybusiness
We booked an ocean view with a small balcony.

The hotel you end your tour at is very nice and about a 10 minute walk from the train station if you plan on making day trips from Nice. We didn't do much with our extra days after the tour. One day we took the train to Menton and then slowly made our way back to Nice.

If you're looking for a good restaurant in Nice, try https://lu-francalin.fr/, best lasagna I've ever had. We met our tour mates there two nights in a row after the tour ended.

Posted by
4569 posts

Wow, thanks again, everyone.

Kim, the Tulsa library has a Spurling biography of Matisse, but I think it's just one volume: "The Conquest of Color." I rdered it, and I see on Wikipedia that there was indeed an earlier volume, as well as one called "Matisse, the Life," an abridged version of the two earlier books. I'll see if I can find those through some library outreach. Which, by the way, is how I found Simone Veil's book, so it should be headed my way soon.

Allan, thanks for the restaurant recommendation. One of the things I plan to do soon is take another look at your scrapbook from that tour. It touched me in so many ways.

And thanks again to everyone for your recommendations and suggestions. They are all going into the hopper; we'll see what eventually comes out!

Posted by
4569 posts

And I just requested the other books Kim mentioned. Looks like I have some great reading ahead of me!

Posted by
6496 posts

The last time we were in Nice we spent two weeks there. There is easy bus and train transportation for a large variety of day trips. Our favorites were Antibes( via train) and St-Jean Cap Ferrat and the Villa Ephrussi. If you are interested you can visit Monaco, Villefranche, St- Paul de Vence and Vence and many more towns. It is fun being in Nice and it has it’s own cuisine. Lou Pistou serves the local nicoise cuisine. Also the restaurant Flaveur is excellent.
Nice was part of Italy until 1860 and has a distinct personality.
In Nice, visit the Chagall Museum. It was built to showcase each of the paintings displayed there. Also go to the Matisse Museum up the hill.
Your added days could be used so well in Nice and it’s environs. We were in an apartment for those weeks but on an earlier trip we stayed at Hotel Beau Rivage near the water, had it’s own beach area when we stayed there.
Another nearby area you could easily visit is Italy’s Piemonte wine region. We stayed in Alba and visited nearby wine villages. Much less crowded than Tuscany. Not far from Nice.

Posted by
4569 posts

Kim, actually I missed that thread, but I now have it bookmarked. I also now have "The Hare with Amber Eyes" next to my chair, as well as the second volume of the Matisse bio. I've ordered volume one through the system Tulsa Library uses for interlibrary loan. It's not as wide-ranging as the old ILL system, but I can usually find a title I need.

Suki, thanks for your suggestions.

And I'm finally getting around to reading the Nice section in Rick's book. (I know, I know, but life's been pretty complicated recently; I'm finally reaching a point where I can read for fun and pleasure.)

Posted by
6380 posts

Oh you are in for some VERY good reading, Jane! I am envious.

Speaking of which, trying to think now of books to take on my vacation in a couple of weeks' time. Always that fear of picking something that won't be FABULOUS (as leisure time books obviously need to be!!)

Posted by
4569 posts

Kim, I started "The Hare with the Amber Eyes" last night, and I am enchanted. Stan is busy all day tomorrow (a Zoom political meeting. Ugh.), so I'm hoping I can hide in my study or on the porch and just immerse myself in that beautiful book. The writing is sublime.

And, speaking of Stan... He finally chimed in on how to spend the time between the two tours. Usually he's "Whatever you decide is fine," which isn't helpful. Today after dinner I refilled his wine glass, and ran over some of the suggestions our Forum friends had made here. When I mentioned spending a few days in Venice, he came to life. "That would work," he said.

So I'm thinking: one or two extra nights in Nice, three or four nights in Venice, four or five (probably four) nights in Rome before the South Italy tour. It works on paper, and as I mentioned above, we've been promising ourselves several days in Venice on our own for years.

Goodness knows there's plenty of time to schedule, plenty of time to make changes, and who knows how the uptick in Corona cases will affect our plans, but at least now I can start reserving hotels, wine or food tours, and other activities.

For those who asked about how we were planning to spend the pre-tour time in Rome: there are a number of things we haven't seen, that I would like to, including the Baths of Caracalla, the Doria Pamphilj Palace, and the Domus Aurea. We're also thinking of spending a day at Ostia Antica. Throw in a food tour, spend some time just wandering around, catch Pope Francis's Sunday Angelus and that pretty much fills the time.

And I doubt we'll pass up a chance to visit the Borghese Gallery again. Those Bernini sculptures!

Now, to reach out to Allan about the hotel he enjoyed in Venice...

Posted by
1822 posts

Now, to reach out to Allan about the hotel he enjoyed in Venice...

Hotel Mocenigo. https://alpontemocenigo.com/

We originally chose it because of ease of access from the vaporetto, train station and cruise ship terminal. It's about a 10-15 minute walk to St Marks or 30 second walk to the San Stae vaporetto station. We'll stay there again because it's away from the noise of the tourist area. Several neighbourhood restaurants nearby.

We splurged and stayed in a triple superior room because I love having a comfy chair to sit in and read. The room was huge and the bathroom was larger than my hotel room in Paris. The room is shown in the gallery on the website, it's the one with red walls and striped furniture.

Posted by
4569 posts

Thanks, Allan. I tried to message you earlier to ask which type of room you had, because I am finding their website very confusing, at least when I tried to compare rooms. I may just email them directly.

So you anticipated my question. Thank you!

Posted by
4569 posts

I just checked the price of the Marché aux Fleurs for one night after the tour. Ahem. A "classic double" for one night? About $450. And yes, I told them we were on the RS tour.

We'll either find a (much) cheaper hotel, or just head to Venice a day earlier than we had planned. Our Venice hotel is about half that price, for a higher category room. And the flight schedule works better for us. I do want to spend at least one more day in Nice, though.

On the other hand, we're thinking about the My Way France tour for anther year, and it also ends in Nice. We might just delay our Nice exploration until then, and perhaps segue from that tour to the best of Basque Country? 2023, perhaps.

Posted by
4569 posts

OK, I'm checking out the Lafayette, and the Albert 1er.

Posted by
203 posts

Jane, your plans for in between tours sounds great so far! My husband and I spent a week in Rome a few years ago and we really enjoyed Ostia Antica and a food tour in Testaccio. We also visited Borghese Gallery. Since we had visited Rome before we didn’t feel like we had to see some of the big sights again and we enjoyed a more leisurely pace. For that price you mentioned I don’t think I’ll linger in Nice. 😊

Posted by
304 posts

I just checked the price of the Marché aux Fleurs for one night after the tour. Ahem. A "classic double" for one night? About $450. And yes, I told them we were on the RS tour.

A few years ago I was on this tour and wanted to extend our stay at the hotel in Nice. The price seemed high so we booked another hotel. When I was checking out a manager happened to be there and wished me a pleasant journey, asked where I was going next. When I told him I was staying in Nice he asked why I didn't stay at the hotel, so I told him. "Oh", he said, "the price is higher because you have a view room. We assumed you wanted to keep it. If you had asked we could have given you a non-view room for X euros", which happened to be about what I was paying elsewhere.

So if you are interested it wouldn't hurt to ask the hotel if there are any less expensive rooms. Or you could try the hotel website. I looked at https://mercure.accor.com/ and for 1 nite in May the rate was $225

As an aside, we only stayed one more day in Nice and flew home; in retrospect I wish we had stayed longer. There are several places to visit that are just a train ride or bus from Nice, as well as a few museums in town.