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overwhelmed, unsure where to visit

s d
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overwhelmed, unsure where to visit

I never thought I would ever have a chance to visit France in this lifetime, and now the opportunity is here and I can tell you I am completely lost and overwhelmed!

For background, we (husband and I) land in Nice on 23 May, and fly out (from Nice) on 1 June.

We are obligated to stay in Cannes 26 to 28 May, and Nice 29 May (husband’s work – I am tagging onto his trip!).

When not based in Cannes or Nice we plan to hire a car to get places – this will involve driving on the opposite side of the road for us, in a very different time zone.

Of all the things I have read or dreamt of, standout items for the visit include:

- canoeing under the Pont du Gard;

- attending at least some of the Roma pilgrimmage in Sainte-Marie-de-le-Mer;

- checking out a market (I was thinking Apt on May 24),

- attending a course camarguaise (maybe Beaucaire on May 25),

- being invited to join a group playing petanque,

- going to Mass in Latin (sung by monks under beautiful stained glass!),

- driving around the Gorge du Verdon,

- driving around some of the Calanques via the Cassis road (or sea kayaking the Calanques)

- seeing Les Baux (I know, touristy, but as an Australian the idea of a castle is pretty amazing. I was hoping to visit Les Baux at dusk or at night to avoid buses, will we still see most things or is everything locked up?)

- taking the train to Entrevaux (probably May 31 or from Cannes)

- I also hoped to go to the opera in an opera house, and to see a show at a Roman theatre, but I'm fairly certain I have missed out on this

- I should also add that the Cannes Film Festival is still on when we arrive and my gut instinct is to miss this – would anyone disagree with me on this (and why?). This will be the only time I will ever get to this place at this time, and I do love movies, but I really don’t like celebrities or crowds (though there are some actors who I would be willing to share accommodation with if necessary – don’t tell my poor husband!).

Admittedly I am very ambitious when it comes to travelling and absorbing as much as possible.

I would really like some help with working out how I can fit in all of the above (most likely minus the opera / theatre / hunky actor)?? Or, at least, I would love to get an idea on travel and visiting times (i.e. time needed to see a particular place). I have checked out google and viamichelin for travel times, but I’m not certain these times factor in how often the urge takes you to pull over and take a photo, tractors on the road, getting lost etc.

With regards to accommodation, I would probably prefer to change accommodation every night until I get to Cannes as I am a light packer (though I do worry about parking the car with my luggage during the day). My main goal is to stay in villages which are more provincial than touristy. Somewhere the hire car will be safe overnight, where I can walk around at dusk and at night to marvel at stonework and old doors and cobblestones, and where the locals will be accepting of my terrible french. Somewhere I can be french for a day, not just a visitor.

So for those of you with the knowledge, if you had my timeframe and had to choose what to do and where to stay, what would you organize? What would you be unwilling to miss and why?

thanks so much for any posts and for all those who take the time to read half of this over-long message!

Destination Expert
for Provence
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1,978 posts
104 reviews
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1. Re: overwhelmed, unsure where to visit

I can understand your excitement but you will need to be very focused on what you can achieve.

Realistically as you land on 23rd you will have the 24th and 25th and then 30th and 31st May. You are tied to Cannes and Nice which are to the far east of the Provence region and many of your wish list attractions are to the far west of Provence.

A couple of suggestions to help refine your plans. Cannes is not a good place to be during the festival.

I would suggest splitting your visit to western provence for the first two free days and eastern provence for the second two day period. I will limit my comments to western provence as I am no expert on the Cote d'Azur and we avoid the Gorges du Verdon like the plague (can't do heights).

So head west on the autoroute - its fast, easy driving and will get you to the east fast. I might suggest heading to Avignon only because it is a good central location with a variety of hotels some with secure parking.

Apt market on the saturday is a good idea but remember not a lot happens in rural France on a Sunday (except for a good lunch). With this in mind I would suggest the market at La Isle sur la Sorgues on the Sunday. Many regard it as one of the best markets in the region and certainly the town is worth a stroll around. Get there early as parking is a nightmare.

After the market perhaps a drive through the Luberon National Park via Apt and Lourmarin to Aix en Provence and stay the night there as it is on the way back to Cannes - this time take the coast road back to Cannes from there.

On the Saturday Avignon is worth looking around - perhaps take a boat trip with lunch on the Rhone to Arles?

Or as you want to do visit Pont du Gard in the afternoon.

Avoid the Roma pilgrimage - trust me on this.

Above all do not try to do too much. People are probably tired of seeing me write "do less but see more" but it is very true. The magic of Provence is taking time to soak up the atmosphere.

Oh and the French speaking bit. Do use it but remember the Provencial accent is much thicker and it can take time to get your ear in! Only last sunday I asked for a pression (beer) at a local cafe and was presented with an expresso coffee - still trying to work that one out as over the years I have developed a provencial accent.

Good luck with your planning and I am sure you will get more helpful suggestions from the forum.

Edited: 07 May 2014, 16:36
Antibes, France
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8,134 posts
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2. Re: overwhelmed, unsure where to visit

There are over 70 unique perched villages within an hour of the coast (Nice/Cannes).I will mention Peille, Peillon,Saorge,Tourette sur Loup...which are unspoilt not to mention the touristy ones like St Paul de Vence. This will be far more achievable in the few free days at your disposal -a trip to western Provence is really unrealistic,given your Cannes And Nice base. In any event on the motorway there -while fast you will miss everything of interest -motorways are designed to bypass things. Those nearby villages are a good use of a car -you will not need one between Cannes, Nice, Monaco etc on the coast where parking is a problem and there is a great regular train service.

The Gorges du Verdon may be scary if you are a nervous driver.

Lets face it -an ambitious programme often falls by the wayside here as a kind of ennui sets in and you find no desire to do anything than enjoy a good meal and wine at a village restaurant,


Edited: 07 May 2014, 16:53
Le Bugue, France
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14,097 posts
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3. Re: overwhelmed, unsure where to visit

I certainly appreciate your enthusiasm, but this is overambitious. You have essentially 4 days. I would not change venues every night - that's going to take at least a couple of hours a day to achieve, meaning you'd be down to 3 days,essentially. And no,leaving luggage in the car while visiting things is not a good idea. Pick a base and fan out from there.

And some things simply are unrealistic, like being invited to play pétanque. Don't know about the monks and the stained glass, either. Every single other activity you've mentioned - canoeing at the Pont du Gard, visiting a market, kayaking, a course camarguaise, driving around the Gorge du Verdon, visiting Les Baux (it's not the only "castle"), the train ride....will eat up 3-8hours, so you can see you can't possibly do it all. You might be able to fit in 4-5 of these activities with careful geographic planning.

Good luck!

Edited: 07 May 2014, 18:00
4. Re: overwhelmed, unsure where to visit

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