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Where to Stay in Southern France?

My daughter and her husband plan on spending a week with my wife and myself in France this summer (mid-June) We are trying to decide where to stay. We will probably rent a car to do some day-tripping to nearby villages. It would be ideal if we could rent a small villa with a pool. (We can spend up to $450/night) Right now I'm looking at Antibes but really don't know the area.
Once we decide on the area, we'll need to find the right place to stay.
Any suggestions with either?

Posted by
27349 posts

We could use some additional information. What sort of sights and activities interest you? That area is known for art museums, hillside and hilltop historic villages, nice coastal walks (but sometimes with rough footing), gardens, etc. Traffic can be bad, so you'll want to choose an area with a lot of close-by things of interest to your group.

Keep in mind that for covering appreciable distances, the train would probably be faster, but I suspect you're unlikely to find a villa within walking distance of a train station.

Posted by
162 posts

My only comparable experience was staying at an agriturismo in southern Tuscany and exploring the nearby hill towns by car. But you're right. I'm sure this will be busier which will appeal to my daughter and her husband. They love the more active city life (shopping, eating at fine restaurants). But my wife and I especially enjoy the quieter small town experience. That's why we were thinking of renting a quiet, comfortable place just outside a larger more active town. I was assuming it would be something that they could drive to but maybe not.

Posted by
27349 posts

Nice is the transportation hub of the Riviera. There's rail service to coastal cities in both directions from Nice. It most definitely doesn't have a small-town vibe, but a place that's convenient to Nice by bus or rail would expand the list of practical destinations for day-trips. If you stay in one of the hill towns, you'd be more dependent on the car. I have read (no personal experience) that traffic along the coastal road east of Nice is heavier than on the middle and upper corniches. I'm sure we have people on the forum who have driving experience and can give first-hand information.

I only visited Antibes for the day but really liked it. I looked at the map to refresh my memory and found the town surrounded by attractive destinations: Vallauris (where Picasso did his ceramics work), Biot (Leger Museum and glass), Cannes, Mougins, St-Paul-de-Vence, Vence... The hill town of Tourrettes-sur-Loup was highly recommended to me by a local as a relatively untouristy spot, but I didn't have time to go there. I imagine it would be much easier with a car.

Do keep in mind that finding a place to park a car can be quite difficult. For some destinations it may be more convenient to take a bus.

Posted by
189 posts

We rented a house in Isle sur la sorgue a few years ago and visited the hill towns, canoed the river going into sur la sorgue, day tripped to AIX and other towns. We were there two weeks and found plenty to do. If you want to rent a house for a week now is the time to do it. The gite rental season for 2018 has just opened and the popular places will get taken. I just rented a gite in the Dordogne next year.

First decide the area that you want to visit and then look for a rental house. I don't remember how much we paid for the sur la sorgue house but it was very nice, 3 BR, 1 bath with a private pool. To give you an idea the Dordogne house we just rented is 2 BR, 2 Bath and is about $600/week. We've been there before and love the the people that own it. The Provence properties will be more expensive.

Posted by
162 posts

I've been looking through VRBO and am more confused than ever. Since there are four of us (two couples), we can afford up to $400/night which opens it up to even more possibilities.
We know we want someplace near the French Riviera but can't decide on a nice apartment within easy walking distance to either the beach or the town or, a villa/house with a pool outside of town. I'm fairly sure we will want to rent a car, at least some of the time, so we can explore the surrounding areas.

My wife and I like to explore while my daughter and her husband like fine dining and laying on the beach or pool.

How bad is the traffic really? How about parking in town or near the beach? If that's a major issue then we better look for a place where we can walk.

Posted by
27349 posts

I suspect that you'll need to tell us the names of the towns you are currently considering in order to receive reasonably useful information. You could also try Googling "parking Cannes", etc.

I took a bus from Nice to St-Paul-de-Vence and on to Vence and didn't notice significant traffic outside Nice. Similarly, I took a bus from the coast up to Biot and observed no delays. Both trips were in May, so I cannot speak to conditions in June (a considerably busier month, based on what I was told). Traffic along the coastal road through Nice itself can get extremely heavy. I was told that it is somewhat unpredictable. I had a very long bus trip from the Museum of Asian Art out by the airport back into town.

Posted by
695 posts

Mid June is before the worst of the holiday traffic begins, but it can be pretty thick at times. Parking can be expensive, especially in the cities. If you choose a city apartment, take the train or bus to the other seaside towns and then rent a car to explore inland. I would concentrate on these main areas below, as they are central in the main part of the Cote d'Azur.

In terms of location, Antibes and Juan Les Pins probably have the best sandy beaches (other than ones that you can drive/hike to). The Old Town of Antibes is charming while Juan Les Pins has some lively beach clubs (a change in licensing will supposedly open up more non-private beaches on the main beach next season). As you get further away, you'll need the car, and the traffic along that coastal route can be thick.

Vence and St Paul de Vence are inland but here you'll find some open space and possibly some pools -- in particular in the outskirts. Down the valley and along the ridge just below SPdV are some nice rentals and yet the main highway and Nice are within relatively easy reach by car.

In Nice, the residential neighborhoods of Mt. Boron and Cimiez may have some villas or apartment complexes with pools and free parking. But, it's a drive or a bus ride into town -- or in the case of Mt Boron, a walk down a hill to the Port. If you don't want to rent a car, the Old Town or the Carre d'Or are the prime areas within Nice. The beach is pebbly but the transport and in-city activities numerous. There are car rental shops right downtown.

In nearby Villefrance-sur-mer, there are apartments and villas up the hill, away from the cute little old town along the waterfront. There are also some in town, but parking and pools are not possible (better to take the bus/train) Things can get very packed in town, however. You will have some great views from the properties higher up the hill, and there is a nice beach. Nearby is Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where you might fit some villas.

Besides VRBO you should search TripAdvisor Rentals/Flipkey/Abritel, Booking.com and the sites of the local holiday rental management companies (e.g. YNA, Nice Pebbles, Riviera Experience, Antibes Rentals to name a few). Not all of the properties are listed on VRBO and AirBnB, as there is a large set of professional managed properties for the holiday rental market.

Posted by
244 posts

We stay in St.Remy for 8 days. Did an AirBNB in the town center. Easy to get in and out of town and explore the region. Highly recommend.

Posted by
12172 posts

I think of Southern France as Provence and the Riviera as it's own destination. It looks like you want the Riviera. The water will be quite cold in June, it doesn't warm up until later in the summer.

All of the beach towns are on the train line, so it's really easy to get up and down the coast for daytrips.

My favorite is Antibes. It has the nicest sand beaches, medieval wall and castle defenses, a medieval center with nice cafes around a market square and a really nice marina. The sand on the beach is the whitest and softest in the area.

Juan les Pens is a twenty minute walk from Antibes and has it's own small sand beaches. The sand is a little coarser and tan (but still sand). There is no old center or marina but there are restaurants.

Just west of Juan les Pens is a strip of nice looking beaches but no famous names.

Cannes has coarse brown sand with lots of cafes, private areas along the beach. The town is decent with an older area at one end.

Nice is a fairly large city but still pretty. As I recall the beach is small pebbles. There will be plenty of things to see and do.

Villefranche is a smaller port town with no beach but will have cafes.

Monaco has no real beach either. The only activity that interested me was the Aquarium/Oceanography Museum. Most people want to see the casino, palace and marina.

Menton was recommended to me as a nice family town/beach. The beach was pebbles. It catered to a families and was non-touristy.

Posted by
695 posts

There is indeed a beach at Villefrance-Sur-Mer, to the east of the port, right near the train station, although it is not large and is very large-grained sand. The beaches in and around Juan-les-Pins are actually quite long and with fine sand, and are several times the size of sandy ones near Antibes (if narrow), on the opposite side of Cap d'Antibes (running the length of the gulf/bay). They are, however, mostly fee-based clubs. A large change has come to the region this year and a number of the private concessions have been eliminated for next season. We will see how that changes things, as 17 are being taken down and some replaced.

The June water temp will vary on the year -- it can be as cold as the upper 60s but more typically is in the low 70s.

Posted by
5354 posts

We rented a villa in Valbonne this August, it had three bedrooms although two of them were children's bedrooms with child beds so it wouldn't be suitable for you and it had it's own private pool. It was in a gated community with a communal pool, tennis courts etc. We rented a car although there was a bus stop just outside the gates which went to Nice. There were a number of houses within the area that were also rented out.

Valbonne itself is a quiet town and there are a number of other old towns scattered around, most with very good dining on offer. We drove to Nice a couple of times and found parking quite easily in dedicated underground car parks. The roads in Nice during August were busy but nothing too horrendous. Driving on the main roads around Nice, Monaco etc is a challenge due to the aggressive nature of the local drivers, expect lots of speeding, tailgating and horn honking.

I'm certainly glad we opted for a villa with a pool because it was very hot this August, almost too much effort for a gentle stroll around a town square for lunch so we were grateful to be able to come back to the villa, strip off and dive into the pool.

Having looked through AirBnB, Homeaway prior to settling on our chosen villa there were many options available. For your price range you should be able to secure one with a pool and I strongly recommend that you do.

Posted by
162 posts

Thanks for all the great suggestions. We still haven't reserved anything yet but we are leaning toward a nice apartment right in the old town of Antibes. Since we will be there the last week of June (or 1st week of July), it shouldn't be quite as hot as August so we probably won't have as strong of a need for a pool and we will definitely look for AC.
We may not even get a car. It sounds like the train/bus services between the coastal towns works well.
I've heard people mention using Uber in the area. Does it work well there?