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French Alps/Tour de France/Provence itinerary planning

I am an independent, 37 year old guy planning a solo trip to France in July. My goals are to experience the Alps in summer (having had a blast skiing there in '02 and vowing to return in warmer weather)...watch some mountain stages of the Tour de France...and see Provence. Here's my preliminary itinerary; I welcome your suggestions and feedback. Thanks

Day 1: fly into Lyon. Stay over there, or possibly take the train that afternoon to either Aix en Provence or Avignon.
Days 2-5: Split time between Aix, Avignon... hit the major attractions including maybe renting a bike to get to more remote attractions like les Baux and Pont de Gard (with assistance of trains/buses as necessary). Should I consider staying in another town to avoid some crowds and save money? Is Marseille worth including for a day trip or overnight?
Day 6: 1 night in Grenoble (or another place not far from there with good train service the next morning to Bourg St Maurice. Annecy? Chambery? Somewhere smaller and less overrun with ugly Americans?)
Day 7-10: Take train to Bourg St Maurice and bus to Val-d'Isere. Spend 4 days there, doing a little hiking, maybe renting a bike, and most importantly watch the Tour ascend to its finish at Tignes and then start 2 days later ascend out of Val-d'Isere. I think optimal way to watch would be to be on a switchback for 1 or both of the climbs. How accessible without a car would you say these hilly parts of the road are from Val-d'Isere if that is my base? Is there a better place in that region to stay over and maximize watching tour and also having some fun in the Alps?
Day 11: Stay over in either Lyon or Geneva, wherever I choose to fly home from on Day 12.

Thanks all! --Jeff

Posted by
4125 posts

I admire this itinerary, the goals of which surely are more than just seeing some of the Alps, since you spend 5 days in Provence.

I suggest flying into Marseilles and spending your first night in Provence; save Lyon for the end. Marseilles is a feasible day trip from Aix.

Provence is not flat, but depending on where you are based and what kind of shape you are in you could probably use a bike to visit Les Baux and the Pont du Gard. Arles might be a good base for those trips. You can also visit these sites by a combination of rail and bus.

You'd want to rent a decent bike and not the decrepit one-speeds available at some train stations. Best to reserve in advance.

Directly accessible by rail are Arles, Nimes, Avignon, Orange & Marseilles. A good map will help you to flesh things out. I hope this helps.

Posted by
6 posts

I have booked my flights! I fly into Lyon and home from Geneva because that's the cheapest thing available.
I can get good trains to my destination in the Alps from Chambery, so I will spend 1 night there.
I arrive Lyon 3 days before I want to wind up in Chambery. With 3 days/3 nights, should I venture south to Provence or stay closer to the Rhone Alps region and see more of it? Anyone have experience with Valence/Ardeche area? (could it be less crowded than Provence in July?) If I do go to Provence for 3 days, where's the best town to use as a base (proximity to TGV is a consideration due to limited time)?

Thanks all.