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4 weeks in France

Hi Everyone,

My boyfriend and I are planning a trip to Europe this fall. Right now, we are planning on spending roughly 4 weeks in France from September 4th - October 1st.

Here is our itinerary so far:

September 4th - 16: Paris
September 16th - 18th: Lyon
September 18th - 25th: Annecy
September 25th - October 1st: Chamonix or Cote d'Azur or Provence

We are debating where to stay our last week in France. Our original plan was to stay in Chamonix and hike. Last summer we took a trip to Switzerland and the alps were amazing. However, we are wondering if we should try something different because we spent two weeks in the Swiss Alps last year.

I have heard amazing things about Cote d'Azur and Provence. Any suggestions on where to stay in these regions? Ideally, we would rent a car for daytrips and stay in a smaller town. I want to stray away from staying in the bigger more expensive and touristy towns. Is there a huge difference between staying in Cote d'Azur vs Provence? Lastly, will the weather still be nice that late in September (for both all three places)? Thanks!

Posted by
1340 posts

May I ask what it is you're doing Annecy to stay so long? To me Lyon merits a longer stay than Annecy

Posted by
7066 posts

Unless you are visiting family/friends or the like, I would cut Annecy to no more than 4 nights (and 3 would do). It is beautiful but there isn't that much to do.
This, combined with perhaps 1 night taken away from Paris, would let you visit both Provence and Cote d Azur in 10-11 days total. September is a great time to go.

Posted by
3 posts

We decided on a week in Annecy because we're going to be in Europe for almost three months. My boyfriend will also have to be available for work in the evenings. Due to these two things we decided we want to stay at least 1 week in each place and our big travel days between cities are on the weekends. Since we're away from home for so long we figured it would be good to not move around too much, since that can get tiring over the long term. I have thought about adding a day to Lyon. I have heard its a cool place with great food.

I have thought about spending 10-11 days in Provence and Cote d'Azur, but I don't think my boyfriend wants to move around that much. He is viewing this trip more as a "working nomad" trip rather than a vacation. Maybe we should save that for a separate trip that's more for vacation? I am just torn because I those regions look so charming and beautiful!

Posted by
27407 posts

Lyon is a large city with a lot of varied sights. You are proposing to go there for just one full day and a few hours on the day you arrive from Paris--unless you plan a late departure to Annecy. Lyon is worth a lot more time than you are giving it. Interesting as it is, it would be a good place for a longer stay.

Annecy is beautiful, and with luck your timing will protect from the swarms of tourists I encountered there in June 2017. But I struggle to imagine spending six full days there.

Along the Riviera a great deal can be accomplished by train. The regional-train line runs along the coast, stopping at essentially every town down at beach level except for St. Tropez. A car is not helpful in seeing the coastal towns--quite the contrary. Parking will probably be frustrating, time-consuming and expensive. Sone of the small hill towns can be reached fairly easily (if not super quickly) by bus; those include Eze-Village, St-Paul-de-Vence and Vence. Buses tend to fan out from Nice, though there are exceptions.

There are different opinions about the best place to stay along the Riviera. As an art fan, I favor Nice, which has at least six art museums. Logistically, it's hard to beat. Others prefer the feel of a smaller town, and Villefranche-sur-Mer and Antibes both have adherents.

Unless your trip is so late that you encounter low-season rates, I suspect you'll find room rates in Nice more reasonable than in the favorite smaller towns. Nice has a lot of hotels, so it's a competitive market. However, I have only researched rates in Nice, not in places like Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Antibes.

There are certainly a lot of places you can visit in Provence without a car--Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorge, St-Remy-de-Provence, Nimes and Orange among them. But it's not so easy (and sometimes impossible) to get to the tiny villages you may have read about without a car, unless you want to sign up for one-day bus tours. Once a decision is made to rent a car (note that rates have been very high this year, so best to check), the selection of a base comes down to considering the driving time to all the places you hope to see. Aix-en-Provence is an outlier to the east, so wouldn't usually be recommended. Quite a few people on the forum like to stay in St-Remy, which is small enough that it doesn't have a train station, just bus service from places like Arles and Avignon. You can use ViaMichelin.com to get estimated driving times.

The Riviera and Provence are different experiences. I'd say the Riviera has more art while Provence has more Roman ruins. There's more open space in Provence. For me (a non-renter of cars in Europe) a major difference lies in how much easier it is to visit the near-coastal part of the Riviera without a car. But that's not going to be an issue for you.

For weather data I mostly go to the website timeanddate.com. It shows actual, historical, day-by-day weather data for most places of any size. Here are Annecy's weather statistics for September 2012. To get a sense of how much rain might be expected, I use the climate chart included in most cities' Wikipedia entries. Those charts usually also show monthly average hours of sunlight.

Since you mentioned being in Europe for "almost three months", I want to be sure you are aware of the 90-day limit in the group of countries constituting the Schengen zone. If you're spending some time in the UK, Ireland or the southern and eastern Balkans, you will be fine. If your entire trip will have you in the western part of continental Europe, you need to be very careful not to go over the 90-day limit. Both your arrival day and departure day count. Exceeding 90 days may well get you a substantial fine and result in being banned for years.

Posted by
10391 posts

Sorry, but I haven’t read everyone’s responses. I’m getting ready to leave Nice and don’t have much time. We’ve been here 5 nights. I definitely would not want a car here in the Riviera, and I don’t mind driving in Europe. Public transportation is good. Before we arrived here we were in Lyon for 4 nights and ran out of time to see everything we wanted. If you want to stay in a smaller place and have a car to explore I would recommend Provence over the Riviera.

Posted by
7066 posts

Ok, so this is not a vacation in the traditional sense.
Then sure, why not spend a week in Annecy!
And I would pick Nice over Provence, because visiting Provence requires a lot of moving around for day trips, even though distances are not long.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for all the advice everyone! We decided to stay somewhere in Cote d'Azur :)