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Itinerary for France without Paris or Normandy

We will be going to France in September or October for about 2 weeks. We are interested in beautiful scenery, charming villages, art and architecture and history. We will probably fly into Geneva and out of Nice andm will rent a car for part of the trip. Is the following a good itinerary? 2 nights Lyon 3 nights Sarlat 3 nights Carcassonne 3 night St Remy
3 nights Nice There are 2 couples and one person would do more and the other less travelling. We don't want to miss anything we will regret. We appreciate any suggestions

Posted by
813 posts

There's a hotel network called: http://www.chateauxhotels.com
They are right up your alley, charming hotels in cute villages. By looking at where some of the hotels are may perk your interest in some of the villages and help clarify your trip.

Posted by
8293 posts

Amy, are you determined to spend 3 nights in Carcassonne? It seems 2 nights too many to me. I would add a night to Lyon and maybe another in Provence were it me.

Posted by
11 posts

I thought we might visit the coast one day in the Carcasonne area. But if you think there isn't much there i will reconsider. Do you think it should just be a stop on the way to Provence?

Posted by
9110 posts

Norma must really love Carcassonne. I'd make it a long lunch stop and be done with it. The only reason to spend the night would be if you were arriving late and wanted to miss the throngs. Sarlat to Sete (an interesting little coastal town, but not much in the way of a beach) is only about four hours on the freeway (which takes you along the Carcassonne bypass). If you take the back roads through Figeac and Albi, then cut back to the freeway at Toulouse, it makes the drive something like six hours - - a full day with a couple of hour stop in three places, but a very fulfilling one. From Sete to St Remy less than two hours, a bit more than two hours if you take the back roads through Aigues-Mortes and Arles, which would be my choice (but would miss Pont du Gard unless you cut north back to the freeway after A-M).

Posted by
8293 posts

Ed, you always make me chuckle. I don't at all love Carcassonne, actually, but since it was on Amy's list I suggested the one night. But you are right (as usual) and a few hours in the place would suffice. Or none at all for that matter. Easy for me to say since I have been there a couple of times but when you read the guide books it would seem you MUST see Carcassonne, absolutely unmissable. Some times the guide books are full of hooey.

Posted by
3696 posts

I would stay longer in St. Remy and do day trips to all the wonderful villages that are close...not so much moving around and its a great place to come home to. 3 days in Nice would be too much for me. I also loved the beach town of St. Maximes. Right on the mediterranean and just large enough to be really fun.
Have a great time!

Posted by
57 posts

Amy, I saw nothing of your planning to visit any of the charming hilltowns of Provence. Loumarin ,Gordes, Bonnieux for example. And Arles is worth an afternoon, Aix is a bit touristy but may be worth a visit too. Glad to see someone who doesn't put Paris right at the top of the list for a change. I'm glad I went to Paris, but really don't care if I go back anytime soon.

Posted by
11 posts

I really appreciate everyone's advice. I will stay longer in Provence. I wanted to stay in Nice because we want to dump the car and take public transportaton or private transport. I also want to go to the art museums in the area, Eze, and maybe Monaco, and the beach. We had a great time last year in Marbella, Spain so i don't mind the crowds.
Is Nice OK or would you avoid it. st. maxime's sounds nice but i am worried about getting around.

Posted by
403 posts

Amy: Opinions are mixed on Nice, as is probably true of just about every spot on earth. My wife and I love it, and I think it makes a wonderful base for seeing the coast. It is an italian-flavored city, with wood-fired ovens baking pizza everywhere. Nice has Fenocchio's, one of the finest gelaterias I have ever encountered; my wife still longs for a cup of lavender and rose gelati. You can easily get to any destination on the coast itself by frequent local trains, and Eze and the other hilltowns are easily accessed by bus from Nice. I agree with the posters who suggested that you spend less time in Carcassone and more in Provence...you don't want to see the South of France and not see the Pont du Gard, and when you add up that, Avignon, the little towns of the Luberon, Arles, Aix, Nimes...wow, a lot to see and do. Really, you could spend the entire time in Provence with ease...you are in for one of the great experiences of your life.

Posted by
4125 posts

O poor maligned Carcassonne. I think the overnight thing is best if it works logistically, which it often does. But not more than a night. Definitely more time in Provence and also in the Dordogne. I'd skip Nice altogether and if you do you can fly into Toulouse and out of Lyon (or de Gaulle with direct train from Lyon). In its place more time in Provence and Dordogne, maybe a night in Mediterranean Coulliore with a stop at genuine Cathar ruins in the Haut Corbieres As you can see, you will certainly miss things that you will regret, but the trick is to have a fabulous time and I'll bet you will.

Posted by
1986 posts

Carcassonne is a delightful little walled town. interesting to wander around- but lunch and an overnight will do it for you. Sarlat is similar, unless you are using it as a base I would only spend one day and night. There are many other small towns and villages in the area. this is one part of france where the scenery is the thing, and i would drive and stop where i see something interesting, with one night in any village that appeals. And if its really appealing, stay another night.
I enjoyed Rocomador, Albi, Cordes, but there are many little hotels and one horse villages we found worthy of some time

Posted by
3696 posts

When I was there a few years ago we found a sort of outdoor multimedia experience out in the countryside near St. Remy... it was a visual experience of music and images of old Venice that were projected on the walls inside an old limesteone quarry. A 30 minute stop and it was amazing... you just walk through (not a tour)...and then on to the next amazing adventure that southern France has to offer.I can't remember what it was called but any of the locals would know what you are looking for. Eze is amazing and I would not give up on Nice...it all is wonderful...I just would not give it 3 days, especialy when the rest of France awaits you. I loved St. Maximes and all the towns everyone else mentioned, plus Rousillion. Also the Abbey de Seneague. I am a photographer and have traveled there a lot...you can see my photos of this area on my website at terrykathrynlawrence.com. Just to let you know what you are in for.

Posted by
11 posts

I reaaly appreciate all of the grat advice. Just to clarify, the places i have mentioned staying are only bases from which to see the surrounding area. None of us like to pack and unpack everyday. Are these good bases or would you suggest others?
Keeping in mind that our must-see place is Provence, are we missing out by not including Bordeaux, the Loire Valley or the Alps (chamonix, etc)? By the way we are not visiting Paris and Normandy because our friends have been there before and we are going next year.

Posted by
4125 posts

Re "missing out" - It's really a question of what you miss by not visiting destination A (e.g. Nice, Loire, Chamonix) versus what you miss by not spending more time at Destination B (e.g. Provence, Dordogne). It's a judgment call, and you can't see it all by definition. You could easily spend a week in Provence; if that is the priority you might even want to. It's hard enough to plan a good trip, harder still with 4 people, without freighting it down with lots of "must sees" and "see it alls." I urge you all to think in terms of "best trip" instead. By the way, if people have different priorities, is there a way to honor that? Start together, split up for a few days, then rendezvous in Provence or other destination? Or just share a rental in Provence for a week, otherwise separate?

Posted by
1986 posts

I am a wine "enthusiast" and have visited Bordeaux area a number of times for its wine experience. However, compared with other places you could go- it is not very scenic. So I would suggest that you skip it in favor of your other choices. Loire chateaux however are an experience, but again it doesnt fit in with your current itinerary- do them on your next trip

Posted by
9110 posts

I like Bordeaux; I could spend a month with fifty miles and never get bored; I care nothing about wine. So what? Your plan probably includes going no further west than Les Eyzies or Perigueux if you're spending a few nights in Sarlat. Put on the darn brakes. You've got a rough outline of a really good plan. Stick with it. Don't go adding tangents to Bordeaux and the Loire since it will screw up your time. Add things along or close to your basic track.

Posted by
3696 posts

Char... thank you. I will write that down. I am terrible about writing down details. I just write down my impressions and take pictures (I am a photographer) Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience and an artistic vision...I would like to meet the person who thought of it. We had no idea what it was, so you can only imagine the surprise. Amy... Try not to miss it.

Posted by
11 posts

One last thing, has anyone been to the Gorges du Tarn. It looks really nice. If so how accessible is it and how long does it take to get there from Sarlat. The images in Le Baux sound amazing. Thank you.

Posted by
194 posts

Terry, you were talking about Cathedrale d'Images near Les Baux. Such a cool relief in July! In Sept or Oct, be sure to wear a jacket. I thought it was an amazing feat to get all the images in the quarry; my husband, on the other hand, thought the limestone quarry itself was more interesting. I guess everyone has their own ideas. Amy, do NOT miss Les Baux. We were the last ones in before they closed for the day and had the entire place to ourselves.

Posted by
194 posts

Went to the Cathedrale d'Images site and this is what it says: "Due to a court ruling, CATHEDRALE D'IMAGES is evicted.
We are sorry but there will be no future shows." Wish it wasn't so...

Posted by
4125 posts

Amy, if you want to visit the Gorges du Tarn I would not do so as a daytrip from Sarlat. Instead either add as a detour between Carcassonne and Provence (for a short visit), or else swap it for Carcassonne and spend the night in the region (for a longer visit).

Posted by
1437 posts

I think that you have a good sense of the regions that you want to visit. I will add my voice to Ed and Norma's excellent advice - one night for Carcassonne is more than enough... I would add nights to Provence (and maybe one en route to Provence), and keep the 3 nights in Nice (I'm a big fan of the area, for the sheer amount of stuff there is to do and the ease of getting around without a car). My only recommendation would be to maybe book places to stay outside of, but near, all the centers that you mentioned, during the time that you have the rental car - more pleasant for a start. Ed mentioned Sète, which would make a very pleasant stop en route after Carcassonne. Coincidentally, I had just bookmarked this article that was published yesterday: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/the-perfect-break/8342532/Sete-France-the-perfect-break.html