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Aug/Sep - 2 weeks in France

I'm planning a trip for the end of August/beginning of September to France. I was in Paris over a decade ago, but haven't been elsewhere in France. My husband and I will be flying in on a Saturday and leaving on a Saturday. I've allotted the following amounts of time to each region:

  • Cote d'Azur (5 nights) - stay in Villefrance and visit Monaco, Nice, Eze, Cap Ferrat, and Grasse
  • Provence (4 nights) - stay 1 night in Marseille and 3 nights in Avignon and visit Cassis, Arles, Cotes du Rhone area, Roussillon, Les Baux, Pont du Gard, Uzes, Nimes
  • Paris (5 nights)

My husband has now brought up that he'd like to see Carcassonne and some of the other Cathar sights, such as Albi, on the trip, which I know is geographically not very close to anything else we are seeing. We also didn't plan on renting a car, and for the locations in Provence we were going to rely on 1/2 day minibus tours to see most of the sights. I've looked at the suggested minimum days per region in the Rick Steves France book, and it looks like we could technically fit some more in, but I was hoping to hear from people who have done a similar itinerary. I don't know whether it would be better to save Provence for another time, and put Carcasonne/Albi in between Paris and the French Riviera, or to try and fit it all in, and take away a day from the French Riviera and Paris? And is a car needed?

Additionally, around this time of year, would you suggest going from north to south or the opposite? I feel like the weather would be nicer starting in Paris and going to the south of France, and that the crowds would be lighter as well. We aren't sure yet whether the dates will be 8/24-9/7 or 8/31-9/14.

Posted by
257 posts

Hmm... Difficult dilemma. Let's try to fit all in.
You could remove one night on the Riviera and skip Grasse.
Also skip Marseille and Cassis, staying at Avignon 4 nights.
And from Avignon, with that spare Riviera night you could overnight in Carcassonne. Train takes less than 3 hours each way.
You could even spend technically 5 nights in Avignon and make Carcassonne a long day trip, this is no worse than D-day beaches day trips from Paris, but I would not recommend it.
As for Albi... Out of the way and awkward without a car alas.

As a side note you are listing too many day trips in Avignon and the Riviera, you'll have to choose.

Posted by
12843 posts

There are a lot more interesting places in southern France than you can fit into a 2-week vacation. I suggest that, rather than zipping hither and thither, spending insufficient time at most destinations, you think of this as the first of two (or more) trips to that corner of France. Slow down the pace a bit and trim the geographical expanse to be covered.

I liked both Albi and big brother Toulouse, but that area can be extremely hot in the summer and gets no sea breezes. On the positive side, public transportation worked fine for me. It also got me to Montpellier, Sete, Pezenas, Narbonne, Ceret and Collioure.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for your answers - they are very helpful. I definitely can see now that the time in Provence is a bit "overstuffed", so I have some adjustments to make. I think I've been able to convince my husband that Carcassonne and Albi can be left for next time, and possibly combined with Barcelona.

Posted by
766 posts

When in Avignon, don't miss the collection at the Petit Palais--at the end of the promenade in front of the Palais des Papes. No one else would tell you about it.

Posted by
10997 posts

I don't think you're attempting the impossible.

I'd fly into Paris, spend a couple nights staying in or very near the Marais district, then fly to Avignon and rent a car. If I had to narrow you're choices, I'd skip Les Baux (incredibly hot that time of year) and anything east of there (too much driving). Nimes, Pont du Gard, Avignon, Arles and up toward Orange and Vaison la Romaine would be plenty to explore without wearing yourselves out.

From there drive to the Riviera with maybe a day stop at something east of Les Baux (like Aix?) on the way. If you have your heart set on Les Baux, explore the town but avoid the shade-less castle (you would be miserable).

I explored the Riviera and believe Antibes is the best place to stay (runners up would be Villefranche and Juan les Pins). It's a beautiful little place with a marina, medieval ramparts, a nice cafe area, one of the top art galleries and the nicest white sand beaches all in a walkable package. Drop the car right away and use the local train to get up and down the coast to see other sights.

Afterwards, the train takes about 15 minutes and drops you about a mile from Nice airport. Fly to Paris to finish out your trip (again stay in the Marais) and fly home.

Air France flights in France use Orly, an easier option than CDG, and cost roughly 50 one way.