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Avoiding the Crowds in Southern France/Provence

My friend and booked our flights to and from Paris with plans to spend a few days there and then head south to Provence. It seems, however, that the dates we choose are the worst--two weeks in the second half of July. How do we make the best of it, in terms of the hordes? It would be nice to spend some time on the beaches--my friend would like three days--but I don't want to be among crowds the whole time. Are there any beaches that aren't super crowded in July? We thought it would be best to rent one place as a home base, in a village not too far from the Mediterranean coast, and to rent a car. I understand from other postings here that it's best to take the train down from Paris and rent a car in Avignon. But I've also heard that it's best to make your car rental arrangements in the US first. Is that true? The biggest concern I have is to avoid feeling trapped and overheated with the crowds. My friend like the urban scene more than I do, while I prefer villages and slow experiences, and so we need to find compromises without getting stuck in traffic and crammed conditions. Any tips would be appreciated.

Posted by
18 posts

Also, I'm wondering if we should look into switching our return flights from Paris into Marseilles, if that will cost us much?

Posted by
4125 posts

Great sights unavoidably draw crowds. You can, however, arrive early or late to especially popular places, or plan a strategic retreat to a quiet spot afterwards. Remember the 90-10 rule: 90 percent of the tourists will be in 10 percent of the places. A car will help you find places where humanity is less thick. Also, a nap in the heat of the day can be rejuvinating.

If beaches are really important to you, consider heading west of Provence. The beaches are nicer and the crowds will at least comprise fewer Americans. Provence itself is really a pretty dry region, though there are places to swim. You might want to find a rental near one of these or with a pool.

Were I in your position I would certainly investigate changing my return ticket. There's nothing wrong with the TGV ride back to Paris, but why lose a day?

Posted by
16 posts

We are doing a southbound river cruise in the middle of June and our ending transfer from the boat is to Marseille. This is a group tour and transfers are included so rather than have a lot more added expense we're flying out of MRS. However, we couldn't get a direct flight back to Dulles and have to opt for Marseille to CDG to Dulles. It did increase the cost of our ticket a bit. If you opt to go MRS to CDG you should allow no less than 2 hours between your landing and takeoff at CGD. This gives you (and hopefully your luggage) time to make the connecting flight if you don't leave from the same terminal.

Sounds like you've got a great trip planned. Have fun.

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks for the advice. I did look into flying back from Marseilles, but the airlines charges $200 per ticket to make any change, and then another $125 each. But perhaps a flight from MRS to DGD would work better. I'll look into that. What airlines is that flight on for you?

Posted by
18 posts

Thanks for the advice, both of you. I did look into flying back from Marseilles, but the airlines charges $200 per ticket to make any change, and then another $125 each. But perhaps a flight from MRS to CGD would work better. I'll look into that. What airlines is that flight on for you?

Posted by
16 posts

We're flying the entire trip on Air France. My husband wanted me to experience AF and they had non-stop service to Dulles.