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Nice to where?

Last summer and December we posted to get info on the South of France since we had not been there. We finally booked for later April, and read and re-read the previous posts and comments. Now we have more questions. There were varying opinions for different regions, and we took it all in consideration. We will arrive in Nice mid-morning, and plan to spend the rest of the day roaming Nice. From there it gets murky.

We thought when we finished Nice we would head to Antibes for a bit, then stop through Cannes before trying to head to Avignon.

We saw that the train to Aix en Provence is around 3 hrs. from Cannes. Is Aix worth a night or should we just move on to Avignon?

We thought we could do some train trips to Nimes, Arles and looking for other recommendations if we base in Avignon. We would prefer to do train and make less than 1 hr. connections. We are not opposed to renting a car if we are going to miss out on must-sees.

Also, while in Nice, is Eze a must-see or an eh? Can you train there?

We thought we would give the Avignon region a week before heading to Paris. We are so open to ideas/suggestions. Many brought up the Luberon Villages but they look a bit out of the way. Perhaps we should have thought it out more before flying into Nice, but it's done, so now we want to make the best of it all with what we have to work with. We really wanted to see Chamonix as well, but it looks way out of the way for this trip.

Appreciate pros/cons on our ideas.

Posted by
21026 posts

The part of Eze you want to see, Eze-le-Village, is a bus ride from Nice. I haven't been there.

The reason to rent a car while in Provence would be to have access to some of the villages that are very hard or even impossible to reach by public transportation, such as those in the Luberon. I was sorry to miss out on the tiny places, but I didn't have a car. I still had a nice visit to the area, seeing Marseille, Cassis, Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, Villeneuve-les-Avignon, St-Remy-de-Provence and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. So there's a lot you can do just by train and bus.

Posted by
1760 posts

Agreed. You won't have any trouble filling a week by public transportation. So many choices, so little time. You could easily enjoy Nice itself for two or three days.

Posted by
1777 posts

French Riviera
Nice – sleep in the Vieux Nice (old town) and visit the Chagall Museum followed by a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais.
Good day trip options from Nice by direct train are: Eze-le-Village (15-minutes) and on your way back to Nice, stop in Villefranche-sur-Mer. Monaco (30-minutes), Cannes (30-minutes) and stop in Antibes on your way back to Nice (15-minutes).
A Good day trip option from Nice by direct bus is Cap Ferrat (15-minutes).
Provence
Avignon – sleep in Avignon.
Good day trip options from the Avignon Centre station by direct train are: Pont du Gard (Nimes station) 30-minutes. Afterwards go to Nimes (30-minutes). Orange (15-minutes) and Arles (30-minutes).
A good day trip option from Avignon by direct bus is Châteauneuf-du-Pape (1h).

Posted by
831 posts

Thanks. This is all very helpful. One question, is Marseille worth the effort or just another big city? I would like to get to Provence after Nice day trips and stay put until leaving for Paris. I understand there his a high speed train from Provence to Paris in 2 hours. Does anyone have any hotel recommendations in Provence? Is there a city center or is any part of town ok? Not sure how big it is. Once arriving in Nice by plane, is it the best choice to stay in or should be go straight to somewhere else?

Posted by
21026 posts

It takes more than a train to get to Eze-le-Village. The train only goes to Eze-sur-Mer.

Provence isn't a city; it's a region--quite a large one, so for hotel recommendations you need to tell us what city or town you want to stay in.

It takes somewhat longer than 2 hours to get to Paris from Provence. Again, it will depend on where you are in Provence. I think Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille would be among the fastest to connect to Paris. The super-fast TGVs don't stop in that many cities. If you stay in a smaller town, you'll have to take a regional train to the nearest big city and wait for the next TGV heading to Paris. That will take extra time.

Posted by
8385 posts

I really don't understand why you are giving the Riviera such little attention. It's worth a week, at least. You have the whole coast from Menton to Cannes to visit. There's much more to it than Nice, and so beautiful. April is heavenly. So "Nice, to where?" Right back to Nice is the answer. I have spent a lot of time on both the Riviera and in Provence.
Just a note: Cannes doesn't have a lot monuments, but is a strolling city, window shopping if you are outfitting your yacht,. and the best seafood at Astoux et Brun https://www.astouxbrun.com/

Provence is nice, flowers will be in bloom in this dry area in late April. You are still likely to run into the strong Mistral winds in April that run down the Rhone valley and put a damper on sightseeing. Hill towns are okay but after a while they begin to resemble. Where to stay: the only reason to stay in Avignon is because it's a transportation hub. Otherwise, it's a small enclosed town, a bit rough and definitely not my favorite. Aix-en-Provence is a much nicer place, a university town. I don't know what the transportation is like from Aix because I always drove when we lived nearby and one of my kids studied at the university in Aix.

Personally, I like Marseille a lot, but you already have plenty to see. Marseille deserves more than a few hours.

Posted by
8385 posts

She meant that it doesn't go to Eze village, only Eze mer. It's a big hike up and then back down between the two.

Posted by
21026 posts

Eze-le-Village is one of those cute hill villages clinging to a steep slope. Trains don't go to places like that. At least normal trains don't.

Posted by
3794 posts

Eze station is 200 metres below the actual village. That's quite the hike on the way up, but the Nietzsche path is lovely on the way down if you don't have knee issues and have sturdy shoes.
The bus (n°82) from Nice to the village is very easy, and gets you to the right elevation.

Posted by
831 posts

You are correct Bets. Meant to say we were looking at Avignon as a base. And sleeping on it, we decided we would give Nice area a few days before heading to Avignon. Should we base in Nice, or do you suggest somewhere else? Stay near the train station?

We definitely like Mary Pat's and ACraven's suggestion of Eze-le-village, Villefranche-sur-Mer and Cannes and Antibes. In looking at the suggestions from Mary Pat, Nimes, Orange and Arles all seem to have the same vibe. We don't want to see just roman ruins if that's fair to say, and we are basing that on google images. We are looking for quaint villages, flowers, wine, markets, food and charm. St. Remy and l'isle-sur-la-sorgue looks charming. Would Avignon be the best base to visit the area? Is it easy to get to without a car or should we rent a car in Avignon for a couple of days? Or would parking be a nightmare in the smaller villages as well as costly hotel parking? We picked Avignon only because it has the fast train to Paris but we aren't opposed to spending the night in one of the places listed above if you all think that would be best. So conflicted!

Also noted two train stations the Gare d'Avignon TGV and the Gare d'Avignon Centre which look like the main two. Which would you say near?

Posted by
3794 posts

Avignon is undoubtedly the best base without a car. There is nothing near Avignon TGV station, and day trips are done from Avignon Centre: you should aim to stay north of that station, inside the city wall. Somewhere around rue de la République is good, for example.

If you are open to renting a car for a few days, then the advice changes: you are better off not staying in Avignon. Somewhere like Saint Remy, l'Isle sur la Sorgue or Villeneuve-lès-Avignon is more convenient and has more small-town charm (beware of suburbia in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, but the old village is charming and often overlooked due to proximity to Avignon). The cost of parking in the villages is nominal, possibly free since you are off-season, and there a big lots outside the villages so it is not an issue outside of the busiest days. Just beware of parking in l'Isle sur la Sorgue on Sundays: with the market, you have to go early.

As for highlights: Orange is indeed mostly about the Roman theater, but Arles is definitely not only about Roman stuff; it also has beautiful churches, some interesting museums, and a very charming, unspoiled cityscape, because this once-major city became a bit of a backwater town with the advent of railways.
Nîmes is a bit of an in-between: it is a bustling city but most key monuments are of Roman origin, with a great new Roman museum too - which I haven't been able to visit yet.

Posted by
21026 posts

The TGV station in Avignon is out of town; you wouldn't want to stay near there, and I don't even know that there are hotels. I believe there are shuttle trains to get you to the in-town station. Avignon is, in general, a convenient base. I spent several days there in 2017 and enjoyed wandering through the older part of the city to find a place to eat. I haven't been able to figure out what it is about Avignon that some people really don't like.

St-Remy-de-Provence has no train station. You can get there by bus from either Arles or Avignon. You really don't need a car to go to St-Remy if you base in either Arles or Avignon.

L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is a charming town. It will be difficult to see much of the charm on market day, because that is one heckuva big market. It's hard to see past all the stalls to the buildings behind them. I like markets, so I was glad to see the one in L'Isle, but I decided to make a second trip on a non-market day so I could appreciate the town. I'd recommend that you make a conscious decision about your timing for that side trip.

I see that they're still (or again) doing some work on the rails between Avignon and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. It appears that your choice is between a 1-hour bus trip or a train to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, which SNCF is telling me is a 57-minute walk from L'Isle. Assuming the bus is reliable (they usually are), getting to L'Isle by bus from Avignon would be manageable if the (currently-listed-for-April) departure time of 9:40 AM works for you. I think driving there on market day would be not the best experience. You'd definitely need to spend some time online, figuring out your parking options. I suspect that traveling to L'Isle via public transportation from a point other than Avignon would be quite the challenge under current conditions.

Posted by
831 posts

Balso, thanks and great info. Know we will have more questions later. WE are torn between training to Avignon, picking up a car and staying in St. Remy vs just staying in Avignon and bussing to the places we can't reach by train. Then I see the Lubneron and think gosh, are we staying the right place or should we go there? But since we can't do it all, and our ultimate goal is to get back to Paris, Avignon region seems to make the most sense. Thanks for clarifying the train stations for us.

Posted by
3303 posts

My opinion: Nice is worth more time than you are allotting.
Orange is skippable. The major sight is the Roman theater. There are plenty of other Roman sights in Provence.
Cannes is skippable. It’s known for its film festival (not in April) and not much else.
I’ve been to Aix a couple of times and didn’t take to it. Others differ.
Nimes is quite interesting. Along with Arles and the Pont du Gard, you can get your fill of Roman antiquities from there.

Posted by
8385 posts

I agree with balso and Rosalyn, and kerouac2, but Marseille is special and needs more time.

If you want villages, why not rent a car when leaving Nice and stay in the villages. Here are some other stops: a stop in Aix (daily market except Monday), you could stop in Cassis ( Friday market), or Sainte-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume (relic skull of Mary Magdalene and Friday market). You will also drive right by the Mont Sainte-Victoire easily recognizable in many Cezanne paintings. If you are going to rent a car, why take a train from Nice? At the end, return the car to the Avignon TGV station, but enjoy your villages and Arles.

Posted by
3794 posts

Bets make a very good point: the drive from Nice is much faster than the train, and very easy on the A8 highway - to make it more scenic, you can drive the coast road from Mandelieu La Napoule to Fréjus, and go back to the highway.

Posted by
831 posts

I agree. We've decided to rent a car. Just didn't know if we should do it in Nice or a little further out.

Does this itinerary sound crazy?
Day 1 Nice
Day 2 Train to Menton (38 min by train) and work our way back to Nice stopping in Eze le Village (train to Eze - is there a bus from the base to the top?, then train through Villefranche-sur-Mer, back to Nice
Day 3 - Nice
Day 4 Either another day in Nice, or next day rent a car and drive to Antibes, then through Cannes (no stopping there) on to Aix 1 hr. 46 min, then to Gordes 58 min.
From Gordes drive to L'Isle sur la Sorgue 21 min.
L'Isle sur la Sorgue drive to St. Remy 36. min.
St. Remy to Avignon 30 min.
Avignon then train to Paris 2 1/2 hrs or so

Keep in mind these are thoughts on places to visit between Nice and Avignon. Of course, there needs to be a night or two in one or two of these places, just trying to figure out where to plug those in. Not doing this in one day. Unrealistic? Better options? If we skip Aix, any other suggestions?

BTW, you guys are awesome in helping with this. Don't know why but no where else I have been has given me this much angst!

Posted by
501 posts

Bus 83 still goes from the Gare at Eze-sur-Mer to Eze le Village. You can easily do Cannes/Antibes by train on Day 3. An easier stop on your way out of the area is St. Paul de Vence, although that makes a great day trip as well.

If you truly like villages, consider basing two nights in St. Remy (if you want easy access to Arles or a day trip up to Nimes/Pont du Gard) or the Luberon Villages. The Luberon villages are pretty close together and you can hit several in one day. Gordes, Menerbes or Bonnieux, Lacoste, Roussillon. It is just at the opening of the season so tourist traffic will be low.

One thing I would not try to do is drive into Marseilles and out for a one day trip.