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QUESTION: Hello Terry

Am planning a trip in early February 2013 with my husband to celebrate my birthday and Valentine's day in France. Been in Paris several times for work but 1st for my husband. I am charting out my travel plans and wondering if you could share with me your professional opinion. Budget and travel plans are flexible.

Day 1 - Paris - Museums, museums, museums, shows? (Plan to buy museum passes)
Day 2 - Paris - More museums I suppose (your suggestions are most welcomed)
Day 3 - Paris - Shopping/Historical sights/ruins
Day 4 - Paris - Others?
Day 5 - Check out of Paris, rent a car to drive to Loire Valley, Provence etc. Check in hotel in???

Need to know:
1.  Where to go to first in terms of direction/flow of trip as we would like to be able to end up in Nice where we will fly home from Nice Airport.
2. Where we should spend the night in those areas or at least worth staying over?
3. What should we be visiting when traveling to these places?
4. Anything else I should know/consider? To drive or not to drive, train?
5. Should i drop off car in my last location before Monaco/Nice or drop off car in Monaco or Nice since parking is a pain there?

Day 6 - ??
Day 7 - ??
Day 8 - ?? - Monaco/Nice
Day 9 - Nice
Day 10 - Nice
Day 11 - Au Revoir

We love food, wine and champagne. We love the countryside and go to places where it's less travelled & less touristy. In Paris, no choice we'd need to do the touristy thing as most museums are there. We prefer to stay in historic B&B's, private apartments etc. Budget is flexible. Travel plans are flexible. I've checked out VRBO and have found some very nice places in the Latin Quarter in Paris. We don't mind hiring a personal guide as well but need advice on for what purpose as museums are all self discovery unless there are many other historical sights that a guide is of most help.

My main concern is how we can travel from one point to another outside of Paris and where we should go first, stay and what's to see in those areas, best local foods, wine, sights and how we will end up in Nice to fly home. Though I can take an map and start pinning down the locations, it would be best to hear from the expert and minimize any mistakes ;-)

Thank you in advance for your invaluable insights and suggestion on our itinerary.

Teri from Malaysia

ANSWER: Hi . . . Teri from Malaysia!

I really like your first name.  Kind of like mine, a little.  Glad to know you are flexible on budget and timing, plus you having been there previously.  That ALL helps.  February is not an ideal month for weather and nature, but you can make it work.  Happy to see you have checked out VRBO.  Make sure the Paris apartment location is close, somewhat, to a Metro station and the good subway lines for getting around Paris in a fast, fun, efficient way.  

Paris is romantic because it is so charming with lots of character and visual sights to see and do.  Walking around is part of that beauty to soak up, experience and enjoy.  Some times of the year, however, are better than others.   Be prepared in February for your weather being a little iffy at times.  Have a "Plan B" ready in the event the weather limits your original plans for that day.

The roads are good in France, BUT, it is not ideal to be driving inside Paris and its massive suburbs.  Personally, I would suggest having a base in Paris and maybe go out and back by fast one-hour TGV rail trip to the Loire as a one or two day trip.  Train out, get your car, then drop it, coming back to your base in Paris.  Then, I would take the fast TGV train down from Paris to Avignon in only two hours and 40 minutes.  Then get a rental car there in Provence, do that great area before heading towards Nice and your flight back.  That saves lots of time and logistical challenges.  If you do as much driving as you are considering , that equals lots of "windshield time" versus being able to travel quicker with less wasted time.   

Below are some of my notes on the many, many options for Paris, the Loire and Provence.  Sorry if it's too much info.    Not sure you'll want to spend too much time in Nice and Monaco for this time of the year.  Read my notes and reasons cited below.  

Some of the key museums are closed for one day of the week in Paris and you need to work out that timing correctly.  

Reactions to these various ideas and options????  Look forward to hearing back from you with more details and specifics for you like, rate highest to do, etc., etc.  Tell me more!!  

Does this start to help a little? What are your needs for added information?  Be happy to provide additional info and answer other questions after learning more from you.  Be sure to complete the evaluation section so that our "bosses" on this volunteer service know we are working hard to make inquiring minds as happy as possible. ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio


FAST FACTS:   Paris is 2.1 million people in the main heart of the city.   There are 10.9 million in the metropolitan Paris area or 18% of the total for all of France.   The Metro has 124 miles of track with 368 stations.

36 million tourists visit Paris yearly, with 60% of them from abroad.   Paris has two main airports, Orly and DeGaulle, handling over 70 million customers.

WHAT MAKES PARIS GREAT/UNIQUE:   With style and sophistication, Paris is correctly proud of its cultural achievements over the centuries.   This confidence is expressed in Parisian life, including its architecture from ancient structures to controversy over Hausmann's bold late 1800's master plan and more recent modern developments.
Paris has taken bold decisions, including the Lourve with is now well-accepted glass pyramid by I. M. Pei.

Although at the heart of Europe, Paris is very individualistic and intuitive.   The city has attracted great writers artists and thinkers.   Historically, it has been a city of unrest, rebellion and revolution (an idea they helped finance in America and that lead to the sharp-edged 1789 removal of the Royal family).   Paris has a special style and soul.   It is a high-flying mix of architecture, fashion, history, idiosyncrasy, style, texture, color and atmosphere.   Paris is romantic, distinctive!

(Some times might have been adjusted slightly since this was put together a couple of years ago; plus there can always be strikes, budget shortages, etc. that affect scheduled openings in France.)

1. LOUVRE (closed Tuesday, open 9-6, Monday and Wednesday until 9:45 p.m.) with Cafe Louvre on site for lunch or dinner (and break or rest), plus food court area with wide mix of different items. This museums’s encyclopedic coverage is divided into seven departments covering ancient times to middle of 19th century; Pyramid entrance designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1989; very big and can spend four days there and still not see everything; Denon (south) Wing on first floor has many of the key European paintings; Richelieu (north) Wing opened in 1993 and has large, covered sculpture courtyard in its middle; Sully Wing (east) has mostly Egyptian and other antiquities.  Over eight million visited the Louvre in 2006.  It’s very popular! From this website (, you can get more detailed information about its collection exhibits, facilities, etc.

2. NOTRE DAME AND PALAIS DE JUSTICE on island of Seine River at site of Paris' start; Notre Dame completed during the 1163-1345 period, tours 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; famous southern Rose Windows, climb up 380 steps of the tower for the best views of the city; Sunday night 5:30 p.m. organ concerts; famous Rose stained glass windows; Sainte Chapelle near Palais de Justice is 700 years old with outstanding stained glass windows; La Conciergerie is prison where many, including Marie Antoinette were held prior to being guillotined, is well-light at night with its unique architecture, functioned as prison from 1391 to 1914.  Cathedral is open every day of the year from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm (7:15 pm on Saturdays and Sundays).  Web site: PRIORITY

3. MUSEE D'ORSAY (door-say) (closed Monday, open 10-6, except Thursday 10 am-9:45 pm), covers 1848-1914 period and is especially great for Impressionist art.  It is a former railway station and hotel with an excellent cafe in museum (doing lunch in this spectacular dining room is a nice way to break up the visit, re-charge and get nice food service).  This dining area is a magnificent space defined by enormous windows, lighted by crystal chandeliers with gilded decoration bringing out the radiance of the sculpted ceilings.   Thursday night is perfect for walk from museum west toward Assemblee Nationale and cross Seine River bridge towards Place de la Concorde seeing all of the building lighted and then looking back towards Eiffel Tower; Place de la Concorde was designed in 1775. From this website (, you can get more detailed information. PRIORITY

4. EIFFEL TOWER, (985' tall, 3rd floor at 305', built for 1889 Universal Exhibition). The vistas are magnificent and breathtaking from the topmost platform, especially one hour before sunset. Built in commemoration of the centenary of the French Revolution, weighing 7,000 tons, it was the world's tallest building until 1930. Nearly demolished in 1909 at the expiration of its 20-year lease, the Tower gained new utility as a perch for broadcast antennae and was saved. The Eiffel Tower is open every day all year long,
from 9:30 am to 11:00 pm, January 1 to June 12 and September 1 to December 31
- from 9:00 am to midnight, June 13 to August 31. Web site:

5. SEINE BOAT TRIP (can board at Pont Neuf), great views of famous Paris sights, especially at night as major buildings are lighted. From this website (www., you can get more detailed information on one of the companies offering these trips.

6. CHAMPS-ELYSEES and ARC DE TRIOMPHE, started 1806 to celebrate Napoleon's early victories, completed in 1836, 165' high and is the world's largest triumphal arch. It is at the center of a star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues, including the Champs Elysées. The Arc de Triomphe offers a vista seen the length of the Champs Elysées from the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries Gardens and from the Obélisque de Luxor in the Place de la Concorde.  Since 1920, the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier has been sheltered underneath the arch and this site has an eternal flame for World War I & II fallen soldiers.  There are stairs climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe with great views over the city from this vantage point.   Website:

7. MONTMARTRE/BASILIQUE DU SACRE-COEUR (church started being built in 1875 on one of highest points in Paris, dedicated in 1910); dome is second highest point in Paris, took 35 years to build with public conscription, great views at dawn and dusk plus from dome area over city, area made famous by artist Toulouse Lautrec, cubism born there; do direct Metro here, nearest station is Anvers or Pigalle. With its narrow cobblestone streets, gardens, steep steps and view over the city, this area is the emblem of romantic Paris.  This church was mainly dedicated in the memory of those thousands who died in the uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-71.  Two dining options to consider in this area are: La Cremaillere on the famous Place du Tertre, where artists and intellectuals would meet. Just before World War I many artists such as Picassso, Modigliani, Utrillo and Apollinaire lived nearby. +33 1 4606 5859,, Open Hours: 9a-12:30a M-Su.  Au Lapin Agile gives a flavor of Montmartre as it was at the turn of the century when it was a favorite of local artists and intellectuals. Open Tuesday to Sunday 9pm to 2am. 22, Rue Saules, 75018 Paris, +33 1 46 06 85 87,

8. LUXEMBOURG PALAIS and Gardens, built in 17th century for Marie de Medici, now houses French Senate, food available in gardens, great place for picnics. This 25-hectare green oasis on Paris' fashionable Left Bank has formal gardens populated with many statues (including one of Sainte-Gèneviève, patron saint of Paris), fountains and beautiful flowers.

9. SAINT GERMAIN MARKET, open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m., open air, various food and meat items, near apartment; many galleries, cafes and antiques shops in area; rue de Buci street market.

10. ST. SULPICE CHURCH, second largest church in Paris, block from our apartment, famous for its organ and DeLacroix paintings, took 134 years to build, open 7:30 7:30.

11. LE MARAIS Area, NE of Hotel de Ville/City Hall, has Musee Picasso (structure built in 1659, opened in 1985 to settle his estate, open Wednesday-Monday 9:15 5:15) and Musee Carnavalet (built in 1540, two adjoining mansions with decorative arts from the various periods in Paris history), older area starting around metro St Paul station, has Jewish section in area with special foods and historic areas.  It has the super great park and architecture of the Place des Vogue area. The Place des Vosges was the prototype for the residential squares of European cities that were to come. What was new about the Place Royale in 1612 was that the house fronts were all built to the same design, of red brick with strips of stone over vaulted arcades that stand on square pillars. Cardinal Richelieu had an equestrian bronze of Louis XIII placed in the center of this charming park. Nearby is Brasserie Bofinger, one of the oldest and classiest places to dine (  It has a gorgeous domed stained-glass ceiling over the main dining room.

12. MUSEE RODIN, has nice scale in both the interior exhibit area as an old mansion, plus the gardens with the outdoor sculpture, at Varenne Metro stop next to Hotel des Invaldes, has third largest private garden in Paris, originally built in 1730, Rodin used as his studio from 1908 until his death in 1917, open Tuesday Sunday 10-5:45.

13. PALAIS-ROYAL, former home of Cardinal Richelieu who died there in 1642, old houses, restaurants, teas rooms and shops border the formal gardens on three sides, near Louvre.

14. POMPIDOU CENTER or Beaubourg Museum, opened in 1977, closed Tuesday; mostly post 1918 art work; duct-work and steel framing on outside. From this website (, you can get more detailed information.

15. PARIS OPERA HOUSE/OPERA GARNIER, opened 1875; 2nd Empire style, see its grand staircase and foyer, 2156 seats, large stage area, current home of Paris Ballet.  Wonderful place to do a tour.  It was just recently re-done for many of the key reception rooms with all of the great gold trim, etc. Spectacular to see! A model for many auditoriums around the world, this fine piece of design was constructed in the time of Napoleon III as part of Haussmann's city development scheme. Charles Garnier submitted the winning design and construction lasted from 1860 to 1875. Enjoy the marble Grand Staircase, the red and gold auditorium, the ceiling by Chagall and an 8 ton crystal chandelier. From this website (, you can get more detailed information.

16. MUSEE DE L'ORANGERIE de Tuileries, impressionism collection, including Monet's work; closed Tuesday, open 9:45-5:15 p.m. ( It has unveiled a fresh look, with its 19th- and 20th-century works relocated underground, and Claude Monet's famed Nymphéas displayed as the artist intended them to be: lit by sunlight, in large oval galleries that recall the shape of the garden ponds on his Giverny estate.

17. MUSEE MARMOTTAN, open most every day (except Jan. 1, May 1 & Dec. 25) 11 am-6 pm, with its excellent impressionist art, including Monet works. From this website (, you can get more detailed information.  At 2, rue Louis-Boilly, this Museum possesses the world's largest collection of works by Claude Monet. It has a very complete and representative group of works of theses artistic movements, including more than three hundred paintings, pastels, watercolors and sculptures of the Impressionists and Post-impressionists super-stars.

18. HOTEL LES INVALIDES, Napoleon' s tomb, 643 foot dome, built in 1676 by Sun King, Louis XIV, for old soldiers, many disabled, open 10-5:45.

19. ILE SAINT LOUIS is one of the most charming little areas in all of Paris. So nice to stroll up its main street as you walk towards Notre Dame and other key highlights. Famed Berthillon ice cream: The only true Berthillon can be found at 31, rue St Louis-en-l'Ile, where it was born. This delicious ice cream has rich colors and equally intense flavors. It comes in myriad flavors, but the rum raisin, dark chocolate (chocolat noir) and mango (mangue) flavors are incredible. This is divine dessert territory.  Lots of Boutique shopping and dining places line this street in the heart of Paris.  Try Brasserie Ile St-Louis, 55 quai de Bourbon, 1er (tel. 01/43/54-02-59), that Frommers calls the last independent brasserie in Paris.  They note: “Far from the polished restaurants that masquerade as true brasseries, this one has as its heart old Paris.”

VERSAILLES: By suburban subway/train (RER-C5 line, from St-Michel, every 15 minutes) or train (30 minutes) from Saint Lazare; started being built in 1660's for Sun King Louis XIV (during 1661 to 1715 period, involved 32,000 to 45,000 workers) in French classical architectural style; conceived as a world unto itself as seat of government, permanent residence of the royal family and the cream of nobility, was previously modest hunting lodge in swampy area; palace highlight is 236-foot long Hall of Mirrors where the treaty was signed ending WWI; a three-year restoration of this spectacular Hall of Mirrors was just completed in June 2007; through 2020, they are completing a $455 million project to upgrade Versailles with cleanings, new roofs, other restorations, etc.; this property has 700 rooms, 2,153 windows, 352 chimneys and 28 acres of roof; in the huge garden areas are Grand Canal, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Hameau used by Marie Antoinette; town population of 100,000; possible bus tour or car drive options out to Versailles; open 9:45-5, park open sunrise to sunset; tour palace first and gardens later (closed Monday). From this website (, you can get more detailed information.

PARIS METRO/SUBWAY: Great, great system! Probably best to buy packets of ten tickets, rather than a multi-day, three or five day pass. There are fourteen different subway lines, plus the four different suburban RER rail options. It is important to know which line or lines you want to use, IN ADVANCE, and the name of the end station for your direction so that you go down the right set of stairs to be on the correct side of the tracks. It's not as simple as New York City with uptown or downtown! But it offers totally great, fast, frequent service. Very clean and nice!  Single tickets (1.60 Euros) may be purchased at the counters each time, but the better value is a carnet of 10 (11.40 Euros), which will also save you waiting in line. For all day use, for adults (there is a cheaper children’s daily pass), the pass cost in euros is for one day (8.80), two days (14.4), three days (19.6), or five days (28.3).  Compared to London, the daily pass might not be the best value.  It depends on your needs.  WEBSITE for maps and other info/details:

PARIS MUSEUM PASS: Strongly suggest getting the Paris Museum Pass for access to 60 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region. Multiple visits to the same museums are possible and there is no waiting in line. You get:
* Entry into more than 60 Paris museums and monuments inside and outside Paris, including Arc de Triomphe, Pantheon, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Musee National du Chateau de Versailles, Musee National Picasso, Pompidou Center, Musee Roding, Chateau de Rambouillet, Basilique Saint-Denis, Chateau de Chantilly, Fontainebleau, etc.
* Multiple visits to the same museums or monuments at no extra charge
* Validities: 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days
* No admission charge, no waiting in line
Paris Museum Pass, 2-Day Pass 32 Euro
Paris Museum Pass, 4-Day Pass 48 Euro
Paris Museum Pass, 6-Day Pass 64 Euro
You can get the Paris Museum Pass at the Paris Tourist Office, and in its reception offices in Paris train stations, and the Eiffel Tower or at over 60 museums and monuments concerned.
More info:

GIVERNY  is best known as Claude Monet's garden and home, sitting on the "right Bank" of the River Seine. The village lies 80km or 50 miles northwest of Paris on the border between the province of Normandy and the Île-de-France. Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny while looking out the train window. He moved there, renting a house and in 1890, he saved enough money to buy the house and land.  He created the spectacular gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings, such as his water lily and Japanese bridge paintings, were of his garden in Giverny. This pond and bridge are actually separated by a roadway between this scenic feature and the main house/gardens. There is an under the road connector linking these two parts of this wonderful site.  Monet lived in Giverny from 1883 until his death in 1926. He is buried in the village cemetery. Monet's house and gardens were opened to public visit in 1980 It is open April 1-October 31, Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Monday.  You reach Giverney by taking the train from to Vernon. You can get more info about this area and its options from As per, two of the best rail connections to Vernon (Giverney's nearby town) are from St Lazare station at 8:20 am or 12:20 pm arriving in 46 minutes.  There are some other rail options, but they would involve changing trains at Mantes and this would take more time in getting to Vernon/Giverney.

South of Paris grand palaces and gardens:

FONTAINEBLEAU is one of the largest French royal chateaus.  It is located 34.5 miles south of Paris. The palace is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The city of Fontainebleau has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, began to transform Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur, as an alternative to empty Versailles, with its Bourbon connotations. Napoleon hosted Pope Pius VII there in 1804, when he came to consecrate the emperor, and again in 1812–1814, when he was Napoleon's prisoner. With modifications of the château's structure, including the cobblestone entrance wide enough for his carriage, Napoleon helped make the château the place that visitors see today. At Fontainebleau Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814. Fontainebleau was also the setting of the Second Empire court of his nephew Napoleon III.
Their website, but only in French:

VAUX-LE-VICOMTE, a baroque French chateau located near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris, was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister.
This grand estate was the most influential work and most elaborate and grand house built in Europe in the mid-17th century.  Architect Louis Le Vau and landscape architect André le Nôtre worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of a new order: the magnificent manner that is associated with the "Louis XIV style" involving a system of collective work, which could be applied to the structure, its interiors and works of art and the creation of an entire landscape. The garden's use of a baroque axis that extends to infinity is an example of this style. The château was lavish, refined, and dazzling to behold, but these characteristics proved tragic to its owner. The King had Fouquet arrested shortly after the famous party  on 17 August 1661, with Molière's play 'Les Fâcheux.  The celebration had been too impressive and the finance minister's home too luxurious. The King seized Vaux Le Vicomte, had his minister jailed and had its team of artists design what would be a much larger . . . the palace and gardens of Versailles!  
For more info:

For Paris and nearby bus/coach tours, look at:

For private, personal tours, check with
Or, her website of


EXCELLENT PARIS WEBSITES, including hotels, apartments:

For hotels, you can try:

For high quality, budget-priced accommodations in Paris, try:
for discounted rates at quality-level two-star hotels; and
for low-cost studio apartments.


In each town and for many of the better villages, they will have a local tourism office.  You can use to search for that tourism office.  As example in the cute and historic town of Chinon (west of Tours in the Loire), you can do this Google search with these key words: "Chinon tourist office France" and it will yield this result for their local office:
Go to that site (or for whichever town you are seeking) and then you can contact them (probably by e-mail)  for the dates you are seek, type of accommodations, etc.   Some will have detailed info on the options there, etc.


This is the major chateau and castle country southwest of Paris.  It is easy to reach during the a day-trip from Paris taking the quick and comfortable TGV Express train to the Tours suburban station of the St Pierre on the edge of town.  Then pick up your reserved rental car.  See and enjoy the area.  Then drop your car off in the evening, returning back to Paris in only an hour without having to battle the big city traffic.  This  area peaked in power in the mid 1400's to 1700's period; Joan of Arc helped win battle at Orleans in 1429 that spurred power of French monarch to unify the country and drive out the English; Blois has population of 50,000; Tours has population of 130,000 with half-timbered houses on Place Plumeneau; priority for lunch or dinner at Chateau de Beaulieu (4 1/2 miles SW of Tours, 18th Century country estate, phone 47-53 20-26); among the top chateaus to see (all rated as three stars by Michelin Guide) that we have seen and loved are:

Azay-le-Rideau, 15 miles SW of Tours, built between 1518 and 1527 with Gothic elements combined with early Renaissance decoration set in wooded area surrounded by water on River Indre, "a romantic pleasure palace", exterior unaltered over centuries, open 9:30-6, night lumiere program during summer; called by Balzac as "multifaceted diamond set in the Indre";  PRIORITY

Chenonceau, 14 miles SE of Tours, built starting in 1513, structure stretches across waters of Cher River, early home for King Henri II's mistress; developed later by Catherine de Medici and five successor women associated with royal families, "a romantic pleasure palace", open 9:00-7 pm March 16th to September 15th, closes a little earlier late fall through winter, see first since it is closest to train station, avoid crowds and opens at 9 a.m., has one million visitors a year, and with the exception of Versailles, is the most visited castle in France; lunch or dinner at L'Orangerie on grounds.  SUPER PRIORITY

Cheverney, eight miles SE of Blois, privately held by family with lavish interior furnishings, rich tapestries, hunt tradition, built between 1604 and 1634, open 9:15 noon and 2:15-6:30 p.m.; kennel feeding time of 5 p.m., except 3 p.m. for Tuesdays and weekends. PRIORITY  

These other two are also rated as "three stars" by Michelin:

Villandry, 12 miles west of Tours, gardens are key focus, open 9-6 for chateau, last great Renaissance chateau built in Loire Valley;  Super wonderful gardens with many water features and other unique attractions!

Chambord, ten miles east of Blois, with curved exterior towers, double curved interior staircase and Italian influence, largest in Loire Valley with 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, begun in 1523, can rent horses here to ride in nearby woods, downside: few furnishing on interior and big to see in short visit; royalty of this period did not keep their furnishings at each location, they moved rugs, tapestries, furnishings, etc. as they shifted from location to location; open daily 9:30-11:45 a.m. and 2-4:45 p.m.  Chambord is at a little distance from some of the other locations.  Large, but a little cold because it is not as well furnished and lacks some of the comfort and charm seen with other chateaus.  Their website:

Local tourism office/site:


Why do people love Provence?  It is a region having a love affair with the land, earth and environment.  The landscape is lush and verdant.  Open-air markets have baskets of fresh herbs, fruits, flowers, fabrics, etc.  The colorful spirit of the Mediterranean fills the air.  Provence is nature at its purest.  The sky is a piercing shade of blue.  Fields are abundant and the air is clear.  The climate ensures that spring, summer and fall yield magnificent and varied harvests.  Throughout France, Provence is known for the best of everything natural.  People in the area take great pride in these natural traditions for what they grow and how it is prepared in each village and every kitchen.

LOCATION: Provence has at its southern edge the famed Cote d’Azur with its wonderful coastline along the Mediterranean Sea.  Generally Provence is consider the area east of the Rhone River with the Alps being the eastern border.  Provence enjoys a southern sun that shines 320 days yearly, giving the region blue skies and mild temperatures year round.  It is most picturesque in the spring with its flowering trees and shrubs.  Summer offers local markets full of fresh harvests.  Mid July is when the lavender field are in full bloom, filling the country air with a soothing fragrance.  The Mistral winds can bring icy temperatures on bright sunny days. Getting lost can be fun in Provence.  You can stumble across a charming village, history abbey or great tree-lined roadway.

AVIGNON is "one of the great art cities of France".  Its old part of town has the Papal Palace, seat of Popes 1309-1377, street musicians perform near palace; art museum in Place du Palais open Wednesday through Monday, population of 87,000, town is on Rhone River. Once the religious, political and financial capital, Avignon is today a cultural capital and plays host annually in July to the largest festival of live theatre in the world. It has some of the best example of Gothic architecture in Europe.

AIX-EN-PROVENCE (population of 143,000) with Cezanne's studio on the road to Entremont; university town founded 122 B.C. as first Roman settlement in Gaul, near thermal springs, dining at Gu et Fils. An elegant and beautiful town, the visitor will enjoy discovering its ‘thousand fountains’ as he or she roams through its labyrinth of narrow streets. Aix-en-Provence is also renowned worldwide for its unique classical music festival.

Car travel to such nearby areas as ARLES, highest priority area city with Roman ruins, including 20,000 seat arena where bull fights are held in the summer; founded 49 B.C. by Julius Caesar, population of 52,000, Van Gogh's former home. Tarascon has its 15th century castle. LES BAUX is a very neat medieval village with great views that has no major population now, but tourist flock to soak up its history and great views. You should dine right near there at L'Oustau de Beaumaniere for ONE OF THE BEST MEALS YOU CAN HAVE IN FRANCE (lunch is more affordable).

This website gives some excellent info on the area, plus this excellent Michelin two-star rated dining place: 

NIMES was settled 121 B.C. and has a population of 140,000. Around the time of Julius Caesar, Nimes was a bustling city on the strategic Via Domitia linking Rome to Iberia/Spain. Nimes's arena, temple and nearby aqueduct are among the best-preserved in all of the former empire. Cars are banished from the compact old city dotted with other ruins, enhancing the feel of yesteryear. The Maison Carre is an almost impossibly pristine Roman temple.

ST. REMY has its Roman ruins, a population of 9000 and is the setting of world-famous literature.  Saint-Remy is one of the most representative of Provençal towns and allows the visitor to appreciate the true charm of this oft-celebrated region of the country. It comes as no surprise that Saint Remy, like Cannes or Saint Tropez, is a destination for many well-known personalities.  This Gallo-Roman village is on the plains 20 km south of Avignon. Residents more recent than the Romans include Dr. Schweitzer, Dr. Nostradamus and Van Gogh. The picturesque, old village is protected by the circular 14th-century wall which is lined by its protective circle of buildings.  Its dolphin fountain is located in the shaded square in front of a 16th century old convent.  This is a busy, active village, with a good selection of restaurants and hotels for the traveller. Among the shops are a few with some regional pottery, including some beautiful sunflower plates influenced by Van Gogh.  The road between St. Remy and the autoroute (at Cavaillon, 17 km to the east) is a scenic drive out of the past: the road is lined by plane trees.

PONT DU GARD (Roman aqueduct/bridge) to the west of Avignon is a must see with its well-preserved history and beautiful setting. Saturday AM market at Uzes near Pont du Gard can be totally charming and wonderful.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape translates as "New Castle of the Pope" and is entwined with papal history. When in 1308, Pope Clement V, former Archbishop of Bordeaux, relocated the papacy to the city of Avignon, future "Avignon Popes" did much to promote wine growing, especially the viticulture in the  5–10 km north of Avignon area close to the banks of the Rhône River.  The blend is usually predominantly Grenache for this area. Wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. has promoted the wines of Châteauneuf and helped inflate their populartiry and price.  A 2007 New York Times story noted: “A good Châteauneuf-du-Pape is first and foremost a wine-lover's wine. Other wines can give you gloss and symmetry, the sort of good looks that are obvious even if you aren't much of a wine drinker. But Châteauneuf does not lend itself to smoothness and polish.”

Try good Provence website of:

Try Avignon’s official tourism office:

For St. Remy:

COASTAL SUGGESTION: The old village of Eze, along the coast between Nice and Monaco, hangs up in the mountains above the water and crowds. It's wonderful to visit. Great, great views! Totally charming! Have lunch or dinner there at one of the two great eating places and feel like you're sitting on the edge of paradise!  We ate at the Château Eza.  Its website:   At 1,407 feet above the Mediterranean, Eze offers commanding views of cliffs, sea, sprawling estates and off-shore islands. The village's narrow streets or more really paths among the buildings lead to the Jardin Exotique  It is a maze of paths flanked by mammoth flowering plants and spiky cactuses.  For about $3, you can walk up to the best view on the French Riviera. On a clear day, you can see Corsica!  It does not get much better than Eze.  Their tourism office:

CONGESTION, TRAFFIC WARNINGS: Be properly warned that Nice, Cannes, Monaco, etc. can and will be extremely crowded during their peak tourism periods.  Lots and lots of people (both residents and visitors), too many cars, too few highways and limited land between the mountains and sea to hold all comfortably and easily.  The movies have made these large cities seem attractive and appealing.  Do not Cary Grant and Grace Kelly seem to be having fun there?  So glamorous and exciting?!  For movies, they make it seem so wonderful.  If you are rich and in the “best, right” areas, it can seem and be wonderful.  BUT, that congestion might be a turn-off.  It depends on what are you expecting, seeking and willing to pay for to hang with the rich and avoid the mobs in these famed areas.

We have had excellent success with
Their phone toll-free is 1-888-223-5555 (North America only).
There are also rail-auto plan options through
Avis has lots and lots of location around France and Europe.
Don’t assume one price will be the THE PRICE, best price.  Make an advanced booking at a good price, but keep check back as different specials will come up, especially in these fast-changing economic times.

Use this website to get any detailed maps you need. Scroll to the bottom of the page and follow the directions with your details on where are coming from and going to. It will give both graphic maps and written point-by-point driving instructions. You can also look lower on the page for other options such as a shorter route in miles that might take more time and be more "scenic".

RAIL SCHEDULES: You can go to this website
and check all of the various train options, timings and costs on rail travel within Europe through the "schedules" option on their web page.  For some routings, such as Avignon to Barcelona or Nice to Rome, it will not yield results.  You will be need to break it out into separate routings such as Nice to Genoa, then Genoa to Rome.  Great, very useful site!

WEATHER/BEACHES FOR THIS AREA?  It is NOT always hot and perfect beach weather during all months of the year in this region, especially in the November to April period.  Also, the beaches are not all perfect, nice and sandy, gently sloped, etc., as some have experienced in Florida, the Carolinas, California, etc.  The movie images paint a perfect picture!  BUT, in many areas for some months, the beaches can be rocky and the weather mostly in the 50's and 60's.  Sunny, probably.  Windy, maybe.  Not trying to be negative, just realistic!  Timing in this area is important!  Movie-like expectations must be matched with reality and your timing for visits in this area.  Also some of the best beaches in a few peak areas are reserved for private hotel or resort use only.  Not all of the best beaches are open to the general public.

DINING:  Assuming you're not looking for the high-end, pricy places, the great news is that most any place will be very good to great to excellent. It's hard to have a bad meal in France!! The secret is to do some asking where you are staying and/or of others you meet there for their local suggestions. Then apply the eyeball test! If it looks touristy and the people sitting there (or the staff) are bored and uninterested, then that place probably should be avoided. If it looks like there are locals there and/or they are enjoying it, then it will probably be very good. Or maybe even better!

Here's a good "balancing suggestion" for saving your dining budget. Grab your lunch at one of the many bakeries/boulangerie/patisserie shops. Most are very cute and wonderful. Great breads! Get a sandwich, pastry, drink. Maybe some cheese. Other nice fresh things. Maybe spend only $4-5-6 a person. Eat in a park area or bench in Paris or the country side. Like a little picnic! Saves money and time during a busy day. Allows a little more budget for dinner in the evening.

FINAL KEY POINT: Read up, in advance, with such books (maybe from your library) as Eyewitness France (great maps and pictures) . . . or the Michelin Green books . . . to help you target what you most want to see and enjoy to fit your needs and taste. Don't wait until you get there to decide what you want to do. And be flexible. There could be strikes, rain, etc. that will require you to be able to adjust quickly to take advantage of your best available options each day.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks for the advice. Really helps me to put my perspective in place. It is good advice not to drive around to much but instead take the train in and out of Paris on day or overnight trips. It looks like I may have to stay for at least 60 days not just to see but enjoy all these places you've listed out ;-) 10 days is just barely enough to cover Paris alone when one needs at least 2 days in the Lourve itself - that is if one enjoys art.

I shall share with you once I have a more concrete travel plans as I do have the weather to contend with. We may postpone our trip to April. Like I said, everything is flexible with us.


P/S: Yes, our names ROCK!

Hi . . . again . . . Teri from Malaysia!

Appreciate your follow-up.  Glad you are narrowing your focus, considering your many priorities, etc.  YES, lots of great options in Paris and France.  

Let me know any added questions and needs.  Happy to look over your more polished plan and make any suggestions that are helpful.  

ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio


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Terry Casey


Most experienced for Paris, Loire Valley, Provence, Dordogne, Alsace, Burgundy, Normandy and Reims/Champagne Country. Terry likes helping travelers get trip "flow and pacing" right so your adventure is neither . . . a bore, NOR a blur! Make sure your timing works, fitting your interests, tastes, personal experiences and needs. Terry has planned and done great trips to the Baltics, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Ireland, England, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Norway, Turkey and Switzerland, plus South America and Cuba. Did wonderful April, 2007, week in Paris, summer 2008 southern England trip, summer 2010 fjords/North Cape, Norway coast, etc. Has visited twenty=two different countries in Europe. You can check out our Norway coast/fjords adventure with lots of great pictures from last summer at: This live/blog has gotten nearly 52,000 views. For Villefranche, ports in Italy and along the the Croatian coast, you can check this live/blog. We are now at 42,762 views here. France is great, but these other parts of the Europe are wonderful, too!!!


There is much post 9-11-2001 worry about travel to Europe, but all reports and experiences say things are fine, with proper care and planning. From wide travels in many parts of Europe in 2005- 2008, my personal experiences are that things are good there and reasonably behaving Americans are treated well. See, enjoy the world and experience its great diversity! I have visited 20 countries in Europe and know that there's lots there to see and do. PROVIDE KEY BACKGROUND INFORMATION with QUESTION: To help me answer your questions better, please provide some info on your past France/Europe travel experiences, ages, general budget range, personal travel style/interests, number in your party, what you most want to enjoy and see, etc.

Ohio State University grad

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