K.R. asks from Dallas, TX on January 20, 2012
Summer Vacation in France- Help!
I just answered a question about a Honeymoon and realized I could use some help myself.
Through my job I won a $1200 travel voucher, that cannot be used on airfare but towards anything else. I've always wanted to go to France so I figure, I might as well use that money on my hotels/rental car, then purchase food and airfare myself (with SO).
I had been saving up to go to France so this $1200 is really helpful, and probably made it so I can actually go this year, instead of just continuing to save and go next year.
We are looking at going sometime maybe mid-June (when the lavendar fields bloom) and we are looking to go to Provence.
Has anyone ever been to that area in France? Can you give me any help with hotels? Vineyards? Beaches? Cool history stuff?
Any kind of help would be great!
B.C. answers from Los Angeles on January 20, 2012
I was there a long time ago, but one of the things I remember was the Louve (see the Mona Lisa), Notre Dame, The Eifel tower, the market along the Seine River. All of those things are in Paris.
There are river cruises in France which will be interesting. The beaches at Nice are a definate thing to see because of how famous they are. If you get to Nice, the country of Monaco is just a hop skip and a jump away.
Be sure to go to the bakeries and try the pastries. Wonderful stuff! I would skip the restaurants in favor of the pastery shops and bakeries.
The one BIG negative about France I remember was the arrogance of the french people. They knew english, but would refuse to speak it or answer our questions or requests for help because we didn't speak french. They would indicate they didn't speak english, until you wanted to buy something and then their english was impeccable. (I graduated from high school in Germany) I have helped several German tourists on vacation here, and was glad to do so. The French were very UNhelpful.
In Germany, inorder to graduate high school (when I was there) you had to be fluent in three or four languages. All european countries were similar, so the educated french knew english.
Study french for the next few months and make 3X5 cards with key words or phrases so you can recognise and speak some French.
I hope you have a wonderful time!!! Good luck to you and yours.
2 moms found this helpful
C.O. answers from Washington DC on January 20, 2012
Keep in mind that June is HIGH tourist time. France doesn't have air conditioners and if it's warm in June - it can smell bad. Sorry- just the truth.
Talk to a travel agency about deals to travel the coast. So you can see more than just one area. There are a lot of tours you can take.
I would NOT miss Paris though - it's a SPECTACULAR city - seriously - I could spend a week there. My husband lived in France for 4 years, just outside of Paris. I lived in Belgium and Germany and traveled to France frequently.
HAVE A BLAST!!
1 mom found this helpful
S.N. answers from Minneapolis on January 20, 2012
I too recommend going on what is called the 'shoulder season' you'll get much better rates, things will be less crowded, etc. Talk to a travel agent about it.
I've only been to Paris and I too would say try to at least spend 2 days there. It is beautiful. I'm not much of a tour person but we did the Paris of Lights tour (I think that's what it is called) you drive around at night to all the sites. It was breathtaking!! And trust me ... I had to be talked into doing something like that!
Spend a day walking the city and probably skip the Louvre as the lines are HORRIBLE.
One tip I always give people is to go into a book store and find the travel section where they have books re: what to do in every city. Find a city that you know well (maybe one on Dallas) and read what they recommend to do in Dallas... if it's what you like to do in Dallas then find that author/publisher's book on France and you'll most likely find a lot of great things to do.
I know Boston really well and when I did that once, several of the books were telling people to go to this really seedy... but up and coming section of Boston. No thank you! So I just stayed clear of that publisher/author when I was looking in the Italy section. I know different people write each country, etc. but if you're gong in blind this is at least a little bit of help!
1 mom found this helpful
K.W. answers from Seattle on January 20, 2012
I agree with A.S. I loved Arles! I also really liked the Languedoc-Rousillon area more than Provence (although Provence was beautiful). It's still in the south (warm in the summer), but is slightly less crowded and more rustic. The wines are terrific too.
Fly into Paris and take the TGV to the south (Montpelier or Avignon or Aix, I don't remember where the TGV makes stops). (After spending a couple of days in Paris, of course.)
If you'll be somewhere for a couple of days or more, check out vacation rentals on vrbo.com. You can generally find a small apartment to rent for less than a hotel room.
Visit a market in one of the smaller towns (generally held outside once or twice a week). And make sure to buy a roast chicken (poulet-roti) at a market if you see one. They are amazingly delicious (better than any chicken I've ever eaten in the US)!
Eat a very nice lunch at a grand restaurant instead of dinner. You'll save money and still have a spectacular meal.
If possible, I would suggest traveling in mid-September. Summer is crowded with tourists and the locals flee for all of August.
And I found that the French are not as arrogant and difficult as some folks say. I think it's more in how you approach them. If you make some effort to be polite and say something in French (even just Bonjour), it will go a long way. Also, when you enter a retail establishment, say "Bonjour madame" or "Bonjour monsieur" instead of staying silent. It's bad manners not to do so.
As a caveat, you might meet some less polite Parisians if you're there in the height of summer. That city is pounded by tourists, and some of the proprietors can get a little testy.
One last thought. Get several books (including Rick Steve's) and read, read, read. If you have a special interest (food, wine, art, architecture), find a book geared towards that interest and shape your trip around that. First, one of the most fun things about traveling is the planning and anticipation. Second, you'll probably get more out of your travels by doing this.
Finally. Bon Voyage!
S.T. answers from Dallas on January 21, 2012
I've been to France a lot and studied there one summer. If you have your heart set on Provence in June, it really will be crowded, but it's still Provence! One alternate suggestion would be to stay in the neighboring Languedoc region, using Montpellier as a home base. It's a large university town with a charming central square by the opera house. The places you would like to see in Provence, like Arles, Aix-en-Provence, or Carcassonne are not too far away by car, and you can get to the beaches too (seems like we went to a place called Palavas when I was in college there). Carcassonne is a walled city, very cool to see. Arles has the ruins someone else mentioned. Aigues-Mortes is a medieval city with ruins, too. And it's an important wine region, so you can get your vineyards, too.
Hope this helps.
T.S. answers from San Francisco on January 20, 2012
I haven't been to Provence but I have been to Paris (just last year) and I can tell you it is fantastic! The people were wonderful and it was so easy to get around.
Get yourself a pocket size French phrase book, it will help with signs and menus, etc. The one I had came with a CD and I drove around listening to that CD for about a month, I felt like it helped me get used to the sound of the language (not that you NEED that as many people speak English, especially in the tourist spots like hotels and cafes.)
I would also suggest you go BEFORE June if at all possible, it's very busy during the summer. Not only is it more crowded but you will pay more for everything.
Have a wonderful trip, BON VOYAGE!!!
A.S. answers from Chicago on January 20, 2012
I traveled alone to Provence a few years ago. I started in Paris, took the TGV (fast train) to Aix-en-Provence, using that as my base. I rented a car and took day trips to Arles and Avignon. You really need to spend some time in Paris, and I would highly recommend those three cities in Provence. Aix is a small city and very charming. I fell in love with Arles. It is lovely and very small, but there are so many great sites, including ruins and site related to Van Gogh (this is where was living when he cut off his ear, also where most of the Sunflower paintings were created). My recollection is that Avignon is bigger and busier than Aix. There was a second papacy in Avignon for a while, so the papal palace is the major site in Avignon. Even in these slightly bigger cities, very few people spoke English. I knew very, very basic French and found that I made an effort to speak in broken French, the person would answer in English (if they could speak English). I didn't make it to any wineries. These cities are pretty inland. If you want beach, you should head to the coastal cities like Nice, Monaco, etc.
We really rely on Frommer's for travel and, in Europe, Rick Steeves is a must!
J.W. answers from Dallas on January 21, 2012
I agree with the person who suggested using Montpellier as a base -- I've done that trip and it was amazing. Avignon's papal palace is spectacular, and you can get some nice buys from artists selling their wares in the nearby square, where there is an ornate carousel (or was when I was there, anyway). Nimes' coliseum is an interesting tour, and at some times of the year there are bullfights (if you can stomach that; I was not sad to miss it). I loved the walled medieval city of Aigues-Mortes on the coast; in addition to history, it has good restaurants and nice little boutiques. My one regret is that I didn't make it to Carcassonne, which was a little farther away from my base and I was outvoted by my travel companions. There is a lovely medieval city high on a mountain, with cobblestone streets and wonderful views across the valley -- I can't remember its name exactly but it was something like Bays de Provence.