We just completed a 24 day trip to France ending on June 17th. I did a lot of research before leaving using mostly Rick's book and Trip Advisor. Both were great resources. I am happy to say all went well. Great weather, food, sights and all accommodations were excellent. We stayed at the following mixture of Hotels and B&Bs in this order and highly recommend them all.....Hotel Relais Bosquet in Paris, Manoir les Minimes in Amboise, Le Petite Versailles in Beynac (Dordogne), Carcassonne Guesthouse in Carcassonne, Hotel Le Calendal in Arles, L'Ecole Bussionniere near Vaison La Romaine, Hotel de L'Arve in Chamonix, Hotel La Fiancee' du Pirate in Villefranche and the Park Inn at Nice Airport the night before flying home. Each place had it's own character reflecting the local area. All were clean, convenient and comfortable with helpful staff and excellent breakfasts. I recommend them all.
Going in late May to mid June turned out great. Weather was mostly sunny and mild with cool nights and there were literally no crowds anywhere. We walked right into the Louvre and every other place we went to. No lines anywhere. It was a pleasure.
I rented an Octavia sedan from Sixt, who had great rates, when leaving Paris and dropped it off in Nice 18 days later. The total was less than $500. It was a midsize automatic (free upgrade) car that performed very well and was very comfortable for a 2400 mile trip. It has the beeping sensors that alert you when you are close to anything else and that was a nice feature when maneuvering in the many cramped spaces and areas.
I used an inexpensive Garmin 1370T North American and Europe GPS and it performed well about 95% of the time. We had our disagreements and I hated it sometimes but it always seemed to do the job. Roundabouts,(there are a million of them) quick lane changes and steep buildings or mountains would keep it recalculating but it always snapped back. It took patience and some getting used to but it was invaluable in getting around. It looks for the shortest route and sometimes takes you off the beaten path onto small back roads but always gets you there. We saw a lot of great scenery due to this. Gas stations and road tolls (lots of them) also take some getting used to but once again you learn fast.
The food everywhere was exceptional. They take pride and care in the simplest of dishes. Breads and desserts are unreal!!
Eating in France is expensive for Americans but there is value for this. Portions were large, except for meat on baguettes, and we ended up splitting a lot of lunches. Did I mention the bread!!! Food is generally about 30 to 40% more but that always includes gratuity and tax so it probably comes out to about 15 to 20% more. You only tip for something exceptional and it is not expected. Cokes and beer are way, way overpriced but wine is reasonable if you stick to the local wines in a carafe. Un pichet de blanc si vous plais!!!! It was always very good too as they take pride in their local wines. Tap water in a bottle is always free and available at restaurants.
Market Days were amazing. Food, antiques, souvenirs and clothing. No bargains for Americans but interesting local crafts and foods. We went to Nimes just to see the Roman Arena and stumbled upon a 5 day Feria festival and ended up at the Bullfights in that Arena that night. Gory but interesting.
Pont du Gard, Carcassonne, The Chateau of the Loire, The Calanques of Cassis, The castles and caves of the Dordogne, Mount Blanc, Paris, Annecy, The Riviera, The spectacular beauty of Provence, The miles of Vineyards and the beginning of the lavender blooming!!!!! The people were uniformly very friendly and helpful. The trip was amazing and France may well be the most beautiful country in Europe. We absolutely loved it. Feel free to contact me for specific questions. email@example.com