I see there's a 2 hour, $42, train Paris to Lyon. Is Lyon a good place to start slowing down as we head for Avignon, Arles and Aix? Where might we take a little time on the Rhone? Half day, full day or over night continuing south? Struggling with the on-line sites and my RS Best of France makes little mention of the possibilities by way of the index. We prefer to let others do the driving, so hoping trains, boats and our feet will serve our explorations.
I did an overnight stop in Lyon on my return from Provence and thought it a very underrated city. It's kind of like Paris without the crushing immensity of Paris. It's much more "French!" The Old Town is really charming, with a lot of eclectic shops, bakeries, charcuteries and more. The food scene is out of control! I went armed with a list of top flight places, but couldn't get in to the couple we tried. My travel acquaintance got in the next night however, so you never know. Even just walking down one of the main restaurant drags was an experience. I ended up picking a random place and having one of my best meals in France. Sight-wise, the Roman ruins there are not worth seeing particularly as you'll be heading to Provence. I recommend stopping for at least an evening, and maybe two. I would have traded one my nights in dreary Avignon in a heartbeat.
I agree. Lyon is great for foodies, and the Saturday market is the best I have seen outside of Paris. And Avignon is OK, but there is not much to see after the bridge and palace. But a car an get you up into Beaujolais and around Province easily. Driving in France is very easy.
Lyon is fabulous. Tons to see, do, and eat. If time allows you should spend at least 3 nights there.
Not sure about the index but Rick has a pretty good write-up in his book.
I'm not sure what you are looking for when you say "float time" and "take a little time on the Rhine." If you can be more specific, people can help with this.
I'll just add to the chorus - Lyon is a great place, my second favorite city in France after Paris. You can easily fill several days there. Rick's Lyon chapter in his France book will give you lots of good ideas of how to spend your time there.
Note that the trains from Paris to Lyon and Lyon to Provence start cheap if you buy in advance and can accept non-refundable and non-exchangeable tickets. The prices go up - sometimes WAY up - if you wait until the last minute or need more flexibility. Be sure to book these trains as soon as you know of your plans.
A couple of points addressing your thinking.
1. Lyon is not Provence. It's a long way short.
2. Floating down the Rhone is not a thing as you may he imagining like the Rhine in Germany.
These comments have been very helpful for our planning. Realizing I was looking for something in my RS guide book that simply doesn't actually exist.
Will look closely at his info on Lyon. Sounds intriguing. So much for Avignon.
From Lyon we will travel to make Arles as our home base. Still resisting the car, but will consider a driver. Au revoir.
By float time, I meant we thought there would be a boat on the Rhone to get from "A" south to "B" but alas we will have to head to Germany for that kind of experience. Rhineland, here we come...eventually...