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Advice on itinerary for Provence-Alps-Côte d’Azur region

I'd appreciate help with planning our itinerary for 10 days arriving in Nice, and leaving from Marseilles. We live in Valencia, Spain, and I'll be traveling with my 10 year old son, primarily by train, but we'll have a car for the last few days. We want a good balance of the beaches/coast and some inland small towns. Museums and historical attractions are not that important for us, rather we want to experience the joie de vie of the French lifestyle. We're active and like hiking, swimming, etc, so hope to work some of that into our vacation too. Airbnb or smaller Inns and lodging suggestions welcome too.

Here's what I have so far:

Day 1 - VLC - Nice (n1/3) (ALPES MARITIMES)
arriving at lodging very late @23:00

?? Considering staying in Old Town/Vieux Nice. Open to other suggestions too.

Day 2 - Nice daytrips (n2/3)
+ Eze, Monaco, Cap d’Ail beach, Eze-sur-Mer, Cap-Ferrat, Villefrance-sur-Mer

?? My gut feeling is to skip Monaco, as I'm not interested in the Casino or shopping. But at the same time, it is so close and I wonder if I will regret skipping it.

Day 3 -Nice daytrips (n3/3)
+ Cap-Ferrat, Villefranche-sur-Mer, St Paul de Vence
+ Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, Cap-Ferrat?

Day 4 - Nice daytrips to Juan-Les-Pins (n1)
+ Nice - Juan-le-Pins train (d0:33)
+ Antibes, Cap d'Antibes, Les Bois des Lutins (tree park), Cannes
+ Hiking on the peninsula, swimming

?? Considering staying 2 nights in Juan-les-Pins, and if so, thinking of a day trip to Cannes by train.

Day 5 - Juan-Les-Pins daytrips to Fréjus/Le Muy ending in St Tropez (n1/2)
+ Juan-les-Pins 12:42 - 13:52 Fréjus train (d0:55)
+ Train stops at Cannes, Théoule-sur-Mer on way to Fréjus/Le Muy (ALPES MARITIMES - VAR)
+ Fréjus/Le Muy to St. Tropez in bus/taxi (d1:15)

?? Getting to St Tropez is difficult/impossible by train, as far as I can tell.

Day 6 - St. Tropez (n2/2)
+ relax/beach day

?? If we stay in Juan-les-Pins for an extra day, we'd either stay only one night in St Tropez, or stay one less day in Arles. For some reason, I have this idea that I will like St Tropez...

Day 7 - St. Tropez to Arles (n1/3) (VAR - BOUCHES-DU-RHONE)
+ Rent car, from St Tropez go to Bandol (d1:30), then to Cassis (d0:30), then to Aix en Provence (d0:45), on the way to Arles (d1:10)
+ Enjoy the drive to Cassis, Bandol and the coast between Marseilles and Cassis (fjords)
+ Drink Bandol wine
+ Snorkeling at Parc National des Calanques (calanques - narrow inlets framed by steep, limestone cliffs)?

Day 8 - Arles to daytrips (n1/3) (BOUCHES-DU-RHONE - GARD)
+ Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue
+ daytrip to Nimes (pronounced Neem)? https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/finding-nemo-in-nimes

Day 9 - 10 Arles (n2/3)
+ Day trip to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. from Arles (d1:20) for market morning.
The best of all market worlds may rest in the picturesque town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, where, on Sunday mornings, a brilliant food marché tangles with an active flea market and a good selection of antiques. I like to sip a coffee at a sidewalk table at Café de France and enjoy the carnival-like scene.
Finish the day with 1-2 more of these options:
+ Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Avignon (d0:42)
+ Isle-sur-la-Sorgue to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (d0:42)
+ Avignon to Châteauneuf-du-Pape (d0:30)
+ Avignon to Arles (d0:20)
+ Châteauneuf-du-Pape to Arles (d1:10) via Nimes

?? Ideas for what to do in this area?

Day 10 Arles (n3/3)
+ supplies for picnic for the canoe trip, bring dry clothes and towels
+ Day trip canoe/kayak on the Gardon River, Pont St Nicolas to Pont du Gard (€45)
+ Afternoon and dinner in Nimes? or...
+ Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue
+ Turn in rental car, or keep and turn in at airport the next day?

Day 11 - Arles to Marseilles
+ Arles to MRS airport by train (d1:11)
+ Arles to MRS airport by car (d0:55) + time to return rental car

I would love any feedback and suggestions!

Thanks!!

Posted by
17017 posts

I've been in SE France sinde May 1 and can comment on a few of your plans.

The Nice tourist office has brochures on some of the areas you plan to visit; take a list with you. I used the office in the free-standing building on the plaza in front of the main rail station.

Although I opted to skip Monaco myself, I've read good things about the prince's car collection and the Jardin Exotique right here on this board. I believe the Oceanography Museum is also quite good, but expensive. If you decide to see it, you might check into the Riviera Pass sold by the T.O. It might possibly pay off.

The train mostly runs to places along the coast. For the towns higher up (like Eze), you'll need to take a bus for at least part of the trip.

You can walk around Cap Ferrat, Cap d'Antibes and Cap Martin. Nearly all the mansions along the coast have high walls you can't see over, but the Mediterranean views are there for you. The paths are partly paved and partly sort of rocky, so they're not places for sandals. On average I may have covered just 2 mph because of the uneven surface. Take water and a snack if you haven't just had a good meal. And don't forget sunscreen. With tge limited time you have available, I suggestvtsking the full walkcaround just one of the peninsulas.

Vilka Ephrussi has very nice gardens. Will those and the furnishings interest you and your son? I wonder whether the Vilka Kerylos, a copy of an ancient Greek villa, might be a better choice. It's closer to the Beaulieu-sur-Mer train station. The Nice T.O. probablybhas brochures on both.

The Vurux Port area in Nice is very attractive, but Rick recommends stsying in one of the newer areas, I think to increase the odds of having working a/c, etc.

Villefranche is sttractive but small. The old section is a bit of a walk from the train station I haven't been to either Eze or Eze-sur-Mer. St.-Paul-de-Vence is also small. And very popular. It would probably help if you went there first thing in the morning. There are buses from Nice.

I enjoyed my day-trip to Antibes. The old town was less overrun than I was expecting.

Cassis has a pretty little harbor but is very touristy. To me, the reason to go there is to take a boat trip through the Calanques. Otherwise, I'd skip it (you have lots of other cute small coastal towns). Do some research on how to gain access to the Calanques for swimming.

I very much enjoyed Aix-en-Provence. It's a lovely city, though I suppose it has only two really significant sights. One is the Granet Museum (art), which may not interest you. The Camp des Milles memorial site is an impressive effort to explain the history of that transit camp, from which thousands of French citizens and refugees were shipped to Nazi death camps. There's an English-language audio guide that takes about 2 hours (including a couple of films), but that doesn't provide time for reading the informational displays, most of which have been translated into English.

I haven't yet progressed beyond Marseille, but I think canoeing under the Pont du Gard sounds like a fine idea.

Posted by
17017 posts

I've been in SE France sinde May 1 and can comment on a few of your plans.

The Nice tourist office has brochures on some of the areas you plan to visit; take a list with you. I used the office in the free-standing building on the plaza in front of the main rail station.

Although I opted to skip Monaco myself, I've read good things about the prince's car collection and the Jardin Exotique right here on this board. I believe the Oceanography Museum is also quite good, but expensive. If you decide to see it, you might check into the Riviera Pass sold by the T.O. It might possibly pay off.

The train mostly runs to places along the coast. For the towns higher up (like Eze), you'll need to take a bus for at least part of the trip.

You can walk around Cap Ferrat, Cap d'Antibes and Cap Martin. Nearly all the mansions along the coast have high walls you can't see over, but the Mediterranean views are there for you. The paths are partly paved and partly sort of rocky, so they're not places for sandals. On average I may have covered just 2 mph because of the uneven surface. Take water and a snack if you haven't just had a good meal. And don't forget sunscreen. With tge limited time you have available, I suggestvtsking the full walkcaround just one of the peninsulas.

Vilka Ephrussi has very nice gardens. Will those and the furnishings interest you and your son? I wonder whether the Vilka Kerylos, a copy of an ancient Greek villa, might be a better choice. It's closer to the Beaulieu-sur-Mer train station. The Nice T.O. probablybhas brochures on both.

The Vurux Port area in Nice is very attractive, but Rick recommends stsying in one of the newer areas, I think to increase the odds of having working a/c, etc.

Villefranche is sttractive but small. The old section is a bit of a walk from the train station I haven't been to either Eze or Eze-sur-Mer. St.-Paul-de-Vence is also small. And very popular. It would probably help if you went there first thing in the morning. There are buses from Nice.

I enjoyed my day-trip to Antibes. The old town was less overrun than I was expecting.

Cassis has a pretty little harbor but is very touristy. To me, the reason to go there is to take a boat trip through the Calanques. Otherwise, I'd skip it (you have lots of other cute small coastal towns). Do some research on how to gain access to the Calanques for swimming.

I very much enjoyed Aix-en-Provence. It's a lovely city, though I suppose it has only two really significant sights. One is the Granet Museum (art), which may not interest you. The Camp des Milles memorial site is an impressive effort to explain the history of that transit camp, from which thousands of French citizens and refugees were shipped to Nazi death camps. There's an English-language audio guide that takes about 2 hours (including a couple of films), but that doesn't provide time for reading the informational displays, most of which have been translated into English.

I haven't yet progressed beyond Marseille, but I think canoeing under the Pont du Gard sounds like a fine idea.