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Pretour independent travel

We will be in France 9 days prior to joining RS tour group in Paris in mid-late August. Flying in to Nice & plan 2 nights there, then to Provence (Arles) for 3 nights for sight seeing. We will not be driving so using the rail system. We have planned on joining a local small group tour to see most of Provence (Pont du Gard, Gordes, Luberon, Rousillon, etc)& the play by ear how we're going to spend the rest of the time we have there.We're thinking we might even day trip to Marseilles? Then on to Sarlat for 3 nights to explore the Dordogne region (Caves, river)& perhaps day trip to Carcassonne? to see the walled castle (we don't know if this is doable). That leaves 1 extra night to figure out what else we can see. Any suggestions? We've been to Paris 2 other times before so not in a hurry to get there before RS group. I would like to know if this is reasonable/unrealistic. We've never used the rail system for regional travel so please advise how to best utilize it for this trip. Any input from experienced France travelers greatly appreciated.

Posted by
5221 posts

Just a couple of thoughts about Dordogne and Carcassonne:

(1) Trains will serve you poorly if at all to, from, and around Sarlat. Consider renting a car for that part of your trip, or hiring a guide to drive you. The RS France book recommends some, or you could post on this board asking for recommendations if you want to go that way. The Dordogne caves and castles are in or near very small towns without train service. Maybe a local bus itinerary could be put together but it wouldn't be very convenient.

(2) With your limited Dordogne time, consider dropping the Carcassonne day trip. You'll spend most of the day on the road (or, worse, on trains or buses), with maybe a couple of midday hours in the walled city with hordes of others. We liked Carcassonne, spent two nights there, but wouldn't have traded any of our five Dordogne days for it. If you like castles (and what little boy of any age doesn't?) the Dordogne has plenty, plus the caves and beautiful river valley. Assume you will return to see Carcassonne properly on another trip.

Maybe you could spend your one extra night in Carcassonne to have your medieval cake and eat it too. If so, go there from Provence or Marseilles and on to the Dordogne instead of backtracking. Have a great trip.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks for your response - much appreciated! I think we will spend a night in Carcassonne before heading on to Sarlat the following day. Any hotel recommendation? We are eyeing the Hotel Montaigne based on reader reviews & modest cost.