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Suggestions of places to visit West of Nice, France

Hello, I am looking to travel to the south of France, but I'm not really interested in Monaco or Nice. I would like to stay along the southern coast & was hoping that you could help me choose some quintessential French towns with history, character, architecture and art.
Any suggestions?

Posted by
8700 posts

For the area around Nice, either of the two towns I mentioned in previous posts would make a good base: Antibes or Villefranche-sur-Mer. For guidebooks I recommend both the Rick Steves Provence & the French Riviera and the Lonely Planet Provence & the Cote d'Azur. The LP book is bigger and more complete than Rick's.

Posted by
68 posts

Thank you, Tim. We have basic French, myself and daughter from high school classes, and Rosette Stone. Will that be enough?

Posted by
201 posts

If you are travelling by car, there are lots of interesting places to visit west of Nice. Avignon is a lovely town. The old town is a walled city. It has the Pope's Palace from the 15th century which we really enjoyed. There are a number of hill towns you can visit in the Luberon area that are wonderful to visit. We especially enjoyed Roussillon located on the edge of a red cliff which is an old ochre quarry which you can walk into. There are other hill towns in Provence that are nice. If you can get a bit farther west, there is Carcassone which is another walled city that is beautiful. Arles has a coloseum you can visit from Roman times.

Posted by
68 posts

Thank you for the wealth of locations that I can look into. I'll start searching those locations today. Should I have a car rental for the area, or is it well serviced by buses & trains? Additional Notes:
I would look west all the way to Spain. I am looking for the place to be safe and possibly a nice location for retirement as well.

Posted by
8700 posts

Since art and architecture are on your priority list, then you really cannot avoid at least visiting Nice. Outside of Paris, Nice and the surrounding area have the best art museums in France. Examples: Chagall and Matisse museums in Nice, Picasso museum in Antibes, Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, and Leger museum in Biot. The Orthodox cathedral in Nice is said to be the best of its kind outside of Russia. You'll enjoy wandering through Vieux Nice (the old city). There are some perched hilltop villages nearby that you can reach by bus. I suggest that you stay in Antibes. Besides the Picasso museum, it has a walled old town, an outdoor market, and a sandy beach. It's 30 minutes west of Nice by train.

Posted by
1320 posts

To Tim's good list, I'd add the Renoir house in Cagnes sur Mer.

Posted by
1178 posts

Vaison la Romane, norh of Avingon is excellent...stay in the old town. Great weekly market as well. Montepellier, on the coast is a good choice Alos, Caux = small small village in the grape vineyards near Penzas. The BEST B&B you will ever find - The Stone House Inn...check its website. Near the coast as wel.

Posted by
68 posts

I cannot be more thankful for the wealth of information - these places sound beautiful.
I suppose Nice is to be put on the list - thank you very much for the suggestions. If there is another town that I should look into please let me know - it can be East of Nice, if it is a must. I will be looking into them all asap. So, would be okay to travel to this area and be able to rely on buses and trains? I'd like to avoid a rental car, unless any of you suggest it for part of the trip.

Posted by
8700 posts

Another good place to stay that is smaller than Antibes is Villefranche-sur-Mer. It's 7 minutes east of Nice by train and not much longer by bus. Around Nice you easily can get along without a car. You can travel along the coast by either train or bus. To visit villages in the hills you will need to take a bus.

Posted by
1320 posts

I have stayed in Vaison la Romaine, Arles, Carpentras, Lourmarin, Nice, and Villefranche sur Mer and loved them all. My favorite is Vaison la Romaine, if I had to choose one. It's hard to go wrong. If you have a car, I would put Nice and Arles on the bottom of your list. I haven't stayed in Cassis but loved it as a day trip.

Posted by
68 posts

Thank you. I am glad to know that I am not enslaved to a rental car. Any good books, other than Rick's (I have the Best of Europe & Europe Through the Back Door)
that you can recommend for a South of France trip? Also, are there many flights from the states into Nice, so I can avoid flying into Paris? Is English well spoken in the south as well?

Posted by
68 posts

I found flights into Nice. Which of the towns would make a good base? Would 2 towns be enough to base the trip out of?

Posted by
8700 posts

You're welcome, Carly. If you know basic French, you'll do fine. I bought a copy of the Rick Steves French phrasebook to supplement my basic French and liked it. It includes words and phrases especially helpful to travelers.

Posted by
33294 posts

Carly If you are looking for retirement locations I would suggest you give each place enough time. You'll want to meet other ex-pats and locals and do proper due diligence. You net is spread pretty wide. Can you narrow it at all before you go, maybe by corresponance with other ex-pats in each location?

Posted by
68 posts

I checked the Stone House Inn, but they are only open June - September. We are planning to go in May and come back the 2nd week of June Are there any other suggestions for places to stay? Thank you

Posted by
68 posts

Any advice on good accomodations would be appreciated. Right now, looking to visit: Cagnes-sur-Mer Roussillon Antibes Carcassone Arles Montpellier Vaison la Romaine
Nice Is 3 weeks enough time to really 'see' this area without rushing it? We could push to four if we needed to.

Posted by
68 posts

and: Villefranche-sur-Mer Is this post getting too long that I should start a new one for accomodation suggestions? Thank you

Posted by
975 posts

With respect, I seriously suggest you buy and read and write in ( star the good stuff that appeals, cross out the stuff you rule out) the guidebooks mentioned by Tim above. ASAP.
Once you have read descriptions and then checked online rates and availability, you'll know a lot more about how much you are willing to pay. What's most important to one person about a hotel/B& B/apt room is not to another. Such a nice area that I was checking airfares to the area this morning, Carly! Sounds like a really good trip.

Posted by
68 posts

You're right, Melissa.
I'm on my way to the bookstore now for more detailed travel books on the area, as Tim suggested. You have all been so gracious with information in this post. Thank you so very much.

Posted by
3821 posts

I think Melissa's suggestion "to star the good stuff that appeals, cross out the stuff you rule out in the guidebooks mentioned by Tim" is a good one. The Lonely Planet guidebook Tim suggested is a great one, and also the Rick Steves Provence is excellent. Also, you need to have a map of that area of France, and look at it to connect all the towns you will be visiting. Then, make a list of where you THINK you might be day by day. Then you can begin to make your hotel and B&B reservations, using information in the guidebooks and found online. You are correct that one or two locations MIGHT be sufficient, and all the rest day trips. You will have to get further into your planning to know this. I would start with that. 1. The book(s), 2. The map, 3. The list or rough itinerary. Then you will be ready to start making reservations. Lucky you! This looks like it's going to be one terrific trip!

Posted by
68 posts

Great suggestions. Everyone has been extremely helpful!

Posted by
1178 posts

Get a copy of the book "A Year In Provance" or the movie version...both are good!!

Posted by
5 posts

If you have not settled on an itinerary already, we would retire in Collioure. It is a few miles from Spain, right on the Med. Beautiful area. Picasso, Matisse, Dufy and others all called it home for a while. Great food and lovely, friendly people. We stayed at Hotel les Templiers last June. Great location and a picture of the owner with Picasso graces the downstairs bar/reception desk. We are terribly jealous of your trip and possible retirement plans. Bon Voyage!

Posted by
345 posts

We have stayed in the Luberon section of Provence several different times. We like the Gordes-Joucas-Murs area. It is easy to drive to Apt or Avignon from there. Using this area as a base allows you to drive to other areas in the Luberon very easily. We avoid staying in Roussillon because of all the people. While it is lovely to visit, there are too many tourists for us. We stay across the valley in Joucas. There are several nice hotels in Joucas. There are many markets to visit depending on the different days. We have gone to markets in Gordes, Bedoin, Roussillon and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We have stayed in Nice twice and did enjoy it but we really like the relaxed and quiet area in the Luberon. Good luck with your choices!

Posted by
1320 posts

In Vaison la Romaine, I loved the Hotel le Beffroi. Vaison is one of my favorite towns in Provence. I can also recommend the Hotel le Royal in Nice and the Hotel Darse in Villefranche sur Mer.