France itinerary

We are planning a 14 day visit to France with our 3 sons (20, 18, 16). I would be so grateful for advice/tweaking/ criticism of our plan. This is a last minute trip so I had to piece it together depending on where I could find accomodations. Arrive CDG July 21 Paris July 21, 22, 23 Drive to Normandy July 24 organized afternoon tour July 24 and overnight in Normandy July 25 drive toward Provence *** are we better off taking train to Normandy and back to Paris in one day and depart from Paris for Provence on July 25th? July 26 and 27 open - thought we would stop one night in Beaune on July 26 based on what others have said July 28, 29 in Luberon July 30th not sure where to stay July 31 -Aug 2 Villefranche Sur Mer Aug 2-4 Roquebrune Aug 4 drive to Nice and fly to CDG Thank you for your help in balancing this. We are not major art or history buffs. Would like to get a good feel for the areas Do we have time to include alpilles , Avignon, Aix en Provence? What makes sense logistically? and should we cut back on Paris or Riviera to have an extra day in Provence? Thank you so much!
Annette

Posted by Marty
Rockville, MD, USA
70 posts

I have the feeling every post will say "spend more time in" and pick a different location. In my case it's Normandy. You will want to see the tapestry and some of the D-Day sights. This can probably be crammed into two full days, so see if you can arrange to spend three nights. We stayed in Bayeux, which is lovely.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2629 posts

This is a busy itinerary but far from an impossible one. Just be aware that you could spend more time in any of these destinations and not be bored. In your place and time constraints I would skip the Riviera in favor of more time elsewhere, but that reflects my personal preferences. In fact I would suggest something like this: Paris 5 nightsNormandy 3 nights (with a car)Train to Provence (about 6 hours but much better than you could do by car)Provence 5 nights (with another car) If you handle jet lag well a variation on the above is to drive to Normandy from the Airport and see Paris second. Avignon is less than 3 hours from Paris by train. There's an early train direct from Province to Charles deGaulle airport that will get you there by 10:30 AM. That's enough time to make an afternoon flight. Alternatively you can arrange to fly home from the international airport in Marseilles. If you don't like this idea because it does not reflect your priorities you should absolutely do differently. But beware of spending a big chunk of your short vacation getting about rather than sightseeing. Have fun!

Posted by annette
Dallas, Tx
30 posts

Thanks all for the great insights. I think going to Normandy before Paris makes great sense. We will be better off with a car in Normandy, n'est ce pas? For Paris and getting to Avignon seems we would be better off without a car and then renting one in Avignon. Then we could eliminate an overnight en route We could also cut back a day in the Riviera. If we have 6 days in Provence and have booked the middle two in a B and B in St Saturnin d'apt (Luberon region) were would it make most sense to stay for the first 2 and last 2 days in Provence. I guess Avignon region first and then Aix-en Provence before driving to coast? I too am concerned about spending to much time driving and not enough where we want to be. With that thought , does anyone have an opinion of whether it makes sense to be in Villefranche Sur Mer (Welcome Hotel) 2 nights and on to Roquebrune (Hotel Victoria)2 nights then fly out of Nice to CDG
Or spend 3 nights in Villefranche (all that was available) and forego Roquebrun, returning to Paris a day earlier than our flight to US. Ideally we could stay put in fewer hotels and B and Bs but given how late i started planning... Thank you again.

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
2600 posts

It is all beautiful, so I am sure you will find plenty to keep you busy no matter where you are. I would definitely do the car in Normandy and Provence, and taking the car from Paris to Avignon makes sense. However, I would not stay in Avignon, nor would I stay in Aix, given all the other wonderful villages and towns nearby. Both are bigger than I expected as well as quite busy. There are a few beach towns on the Riviera that are not as touristy as Villefranche (such as Ste. Maxime) that you could look into. While I loved Normandy and have been there a few times I am not sure I would give up time in the south for another day in that area. I think if you make good use of your time you can see quite a lot in a short amount of time. I would always opt to stay in St. Remy when in Provence... a great base town and my favorite town in Provence.

Posted by annette
Dallas, Tx
30 posts

Thanks for all the great advice! I will try to find a place to stay in Remy. In general would you recommend staying in one area in Provence or spending a few nights in different places. We booked a B and B that seems lovely in St Saturin (Mas Perreal). As it was only available for the middle two nights of our 6 nights in Provence we are left with staying in 3 different areas. Do you seasoned Provence visitors think that is a good thing or a disadvantage? If possible, would we be better off staying 6 nights elsewhere and exploring from one base. It would be a more relaxed trip but I don't have a good sense of distances. Can we explore a wide enough area from one centrally located base? Or do you recommend traveling around? As per the original plan of 2 nights in each of 3 different villages?
Thanks again!

Posted by Adam
Boston
2629 posts

"Do you seasoned Provence visitors think that is a good thing or a disadvantage?" I think that splitting your stay into 3 parts like this is unfortunate, especially with such a large group. It means that a chunk of every other day will be taken up with packing, checking out, checking in, and unpacking. But it is far from impossible, and justifiable if it makes other things possible that are important to you. There is some logic to splitting your time between a single Rhone Valley location and a Luberon village. But things are close enough that you can visit the Luberon as a day trip. Three changes of venue seems excessive to me.

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1054 posts

Annette, I would stay in one location in Provence. The distances are not all that great, you can make day trips. There is no perfect town/village in Provence but many wonderful towns. I would find an accommodation that fits your family and not worry too much about whether it is ideal. I've stayed in several different locations and loved them all. Have you considered renting a house? Try VRBO or France Homestyle. In Villefranche, we liked the Hotel Darse. Haven't been to Roquebrun yet but think it can be done as a day trip from Villefranche or Nice. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by annette
Dallas, Tx
30 posts

Adam, I think you are right. I will try and find one place to accomodate us in Provence. First choice should be somewhere central - would that be in St. Remy vicinity ? Is that the consensus? Grier, I hadn't considered renting a house -romanticized about being served delicious breakfasts in the garden (rather than cooking them!) But this may be the best option given the size of our group. I will investigate and post the tweaked itinerary. Thanks again y'all!!

Posted by Adam
Boston
2629 posts

I think St. Remy makes a fine base. As it happens we once rented an attached house there for a week. But I also think there are many such places. You could even make the case for a small city like Arles, which is bigger and has more going on at night. There are many advantages to renting a house or apartment, however you will have to hustle, and have a bit of luck, to find one on short notice in high season. Also rentals generally run for 7 days from weekend to weekend, which may not fit your plans. To go that route you might resort to an agency such as France: Homestyle, and be a little flexible as to location.

Posted by annette
Dallas, Tx
30 posts

Adam - I feel so much more relaxed and happy about our trip since I have gotten all the help on this site. I have us in Normandy for 2 nights, Paris for 3, Provence for 6, beach for 3. Trains to commute, rental cars in Bayeux and Avignon. Working on finding 1 spot for 6 nights. Less time wasted and less expenive than skipping around to b and bs. VRBO had many choices and I have gotten some replies - from people willing to be flexible and rent Fri for 6 nights. The preliminary emails I sent were for Luberon region. I will try and find something that looks good in St. Remy - that sounds like it would be more central and a better base. My criteria were space, positive reviews, and in walking distance to a village. If I cannot find anything, would you say 6 nights in Luberon or split 3 in Rhone region and 3 in Luberon?
Thanks so much for all the advice on this helpline!

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1054 posts

Annette - We rented a house for a week in Lourmarin and LOVED it. We made many day trips and it was nice to come "home" to a house set in an olive grove. Many houses have pools which at that time of year would be a plus. Loved walking to the bakery each morning for baguettes and croissants. Loved the Friday market in Lourmarin also went to markets in other towns. I think you would love the Luberon. Six days is not too much. Depending on where you stay, you can make a day trip to Cassis where there is a nice beach and great seafood.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2629 posts

Re all in Luberon or some: I think either can work admirably. I guess that if you anticipate spending most of your time seeing the sights of the Rhone valley & delta (e.g. Arles, Avignon, Pont du Gard, Camargue, Les Baux etc.), being in Loumarin will "cost" you about an extra hour per day in the car. That's versus, say, St Remy, assuming one trip out to sightsee and one back. For three days that's three hours less the inconvenience of shifting your base. Pretty much a draw from my point of view, plus it sounds as though you have your heart set on the Luberon. If you think you will want to go see Avignon in the morning and then return to Loumarin and then go see the Pont du Gard in the afternoon, that's two hours per day, a different kettle of bouillabaisse.

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1054 posts

Wherever you choose to stay, it's important to group your day trips to make most efficient use of your time. For example, we visited Isle sur la Sorgue, Gordes, and Roussillon one day; Vaison la Romaine, Seguret, and Gigondas another day; Uzes, Pont du Gard, and St Remy on one day; and Aix en Provence and Cassis another day.

Posted by annette
Dallas, Tx
30 posts

Hi Adam and Grier I feel so lucky to have you both advising me. Our trip would have been a bit of a disaster if I had worked it out on my own. I will see what I come up with. There are many houses on VRBO in Luberon -less in the Rhone area. I guess the owners will be more open to a 6 day rental than a 3 day rental so will try to park ourselves in one spot. From an adult perspective the places with glorious views of the countryside seem ideal. In thinking about it though, for the kids it will be more interesting to be near some places to mosey around and explore in the evenings. also a pool would be nice. I saw houses in Gordes and Ansouis that were so idyllic. I think it will be better to save the beautiful small medieval more remote village stay for a visit without kids. Any thoughts on VRBO versus other agencies? Sounds like you, Grier, had good luck with VRBO. Thanks again -you are so nice to be helping me.
Annette

Posted by Grier
Carmel, IN
1054 posts

Actually we used France Homestyle for our Lourmarin rental but I would not hesitate to use VRBO. Hope you can find one with a pool!