posted at 3/1/2010 1:16 PM ESTHi!
Has anyone gone to the French Riviera (honeymoon or not) and could recommend some towns to visit? I found an old post from whatawag about Nice (thanks!!) that is really helpful, and one from Jasmine about Paris (thanks again!!). All the guide books tend to be non-committal about which towns are the best, and it seems like there are 500 little villages and places that are "not to be missed," so I'm in need of some advice! I was looking at Aix-en-Provence, Nice, Marseille, Provence, etc...
Re: French riviera
posted at 3/1/2010 6:36 PM ESTHi there,
I was there once but it was a quick visit. To me, Nice was kind of like any other (dirty) city. However, it did have a cute little "old town" area. Rocky beaches, which hopefully would be mentioned in any books or websites you look at.
Saint-Paul-de-Vance (sp?) was a great little town with a million art galleries. Very charming.
Monaco/Monte Carlo was definitely worth visiting.
Re: French riviera
posted at 3/2/2010 8:21 AM ESTI've only been to Marseille off that list. I've been a few times, but it was some years ago by now; we have family friends there. The beach is lovely, and I still dream about the fougasse (regional bread) from time to time, but I can't endorse it as the best-in-region for a honeymooner.
When I was planning our Italy vacation, I found the Rick Steve guidebook to be much better than the Lonely Planet guide in expressing opinions and prioritizing site seeing options. (e.g. if you have 3 days, spend them in this city. if you have 5, try these two, etc.) I haven't used any of his France guidebooks, but you might check them out. You can get started online:
...it would appear that his suggested itinerary is Nice, Monaco, Antibes, but I would check out the guidebook and see what it says.
I love France; just haven't explored this region much. I'm sure you wil have a blast! good luck with the trip planning!
Re: French riviera
posted at 3/4/2010 11:50 AM ESTDepending on how long you have- if 10 days or more, you will have time to detour in from the coast a little.
Nimes is a short distance in from Marseille. Not my thing, but the huge Roman ruined Colliseum is the biggest and best preserved outside of Rome. Most guys seem to get something out of the info films on the Gladiators, and on the history of the Romans in France, who occupied some Riviera portions for centuries. Maybe a half hour detour. DH will be on this honeymoon, right?
The Alps of the Cote d'Azur are the southernmost, reaching down toward Nice and Monaco. Rugged, but sunny and nice to see.
Go to Grenoble. It is actually under 6 hours on the highway, Marseille to Grenoble (3.5 hrs, under 200 miles) then on to Geneva, Switzerland on Lake Geneva (2 hours more, under 100 miles). Geneva is French speaking Switzerland, and 90% surrounded by France.
The Rhone Valley near the coast, then the 2 other rivers that come together at Grenoble, make for very flat river delta countryside. So old Fortresses, like Bastille Fortress, are on mountainsides towering over the plain city, with Cable cars going up, great sightseeing.
Also, for the 1968 Olympics they upgraded the Grenoble and surrounding towns' transportation and amenities, and kept them up. Odd mix, many town plazas with very old stone fountains and monuments, big old European Stone Houses, what Boston's Louisberg Square wishes it was. Then, the modern city.
Because it is so flat, it is like Central Boston and the Charles River bank areas of Boston and Cambridge. They have made beautiful use of the rivers as parkland.
You can bicycle, walk, or hop a surface bus anywhere to anywhere else, cheap.
See how many bridres you can cross for the views, like going Science Park to the Esplanade to Back Bay and crossing over to MIT, only 2 rivers and a small third.
The city is the size of Boston proper (without Dorchester, Mattapan) plus surrounding areas of the Charles portions of Cambridge to the Fenway and Jamaicaway. Same population.
But where Boston has 7,000 native college, grad school student age pop. and 20,000 who come from elsewhere, in all the colleges, Grenoble has at least 50,000, one quarter of the population.
Many people work there after school. So next to Paris, you will find more things to do attracting 20's - 35 year olds especially, than anywhere.
Mountain sports, including whitewater rafting and hiking, music clubs. Small shops. Not a ritzy shoppers paradise of homogenized brands.
At least 15 to 20 Alps ski or sports mountains within 15 -25 minutes by bus of car on 3 sides of the city. Ski lift and Gondola cars to great ridge and summit views. Provence and the southern Coast are HOT parts of the summer. The ring of mountains around Grenoble are very warm and sunny, but breezy. Actually, 3 different ranges of the Alps meetin a 3/4 circle around Grenoble, with the flat river area going up to meet the Rhone where it exits the Swiss Alps at Geneva.
90 miles/ 2 hours to Geneva Switzerland, if you have time, on Beautiful Lake Geneva.
But if you don't have time, still the mountains around Grenoble are much cheaper than Chamonix and other pricey resorts, and so accessible. Mom says it is like the modern cities portions of Manhattan and Paris up through the late sixties, not old cityish except a few monuments and fortresses, some old Roman walls. But vibrant, people on the streets all the time. Attracts tourists for the mountain sports. I have been there 2x in spring and summer once in winter, and even if you are not a winter sports nut, the way they made everything accessible for the Olympics means fun things to do for a few hours, or days.
Lots of things to watch or do in hiking, riding quiet or fierce whitewater rafts.. Scenery is spectacular. Most ski resorts in summer have restaurants up at the top , accessible by lifts or gondola, with outdoor decks for spectacular views while eating out.
You go by Avignon outside Marseilles. Forgettable unless July, when there is a street festival for like 3 weeks, maybe? The French equivalent of Octoberfest in Bavaria, wine and cheese, breads and pastries, and fruits and brandies from Provence. They have temporary cafes set up in some closed streets. Street acrobats and other European style circus skill acts, not animals, and also music shows. It's fun. My French is execrable, and this was one area where most vacationers were those who were from France, for the festival and other parts of northern Europe, not Americans, English, Japanese or middle eastern.
Aix and Provence area - history. Around Grenoble, several historical museums and such recording the role of the French resistance fighters.
Mostly of Provence is like hot, flat farm land in the US midwest, minus agribusiness. A fine place for a B and B rest, but except for wineries, watching crops grow and barns fall down seems the major occupation.
The housing is like Nebraska and Oklahoma in the 1920's, I swear. Unless there has been a national conversion project, Provence Lacks good plumbing and kitchens. Go to a B and B kitchen, you expect to see a woman with a washtub and cold water pump. Unless a place was built new for tourists. Field mice in the walls, stairs too narrow for double beds wider than 48" or 54" wide, be wary of 2nd floor rooms in genuinely old places. People keep chickens free ranging anywhere you step outside the farmhouses, and more pigs than there are porch dogs in redneck USA. Loose.
Back on the Riviera - Monaco is wonderful, as you have heard.
Re: French riviera
posted at 3/4/2010 1:19 PM ESToh wag--I love Grenoble! Lived there when I was a little girl. It is so beautiful. You are right about the skiing. I learned to ski in that area--stunning. And the hiking is fabulous. It is romanticized in my memory, I'm sure. Haven't returned since I was in my early teens.
Avignon is cool if you are into Catholic/papal history. and if you like the song (sur le pont d'Avignon, l'on y danse..."). :p just kidding about the song part...
Carcassonne is pretty but not worth more than 1-2 days, as I recall.
I also love the Gorges du Tarn and Gorges de la Jonte, and that is slightly off the beaten track for American tourists. Beautiful and peaceful. Sweet little towns and wonderful hiking.
Re: French riviera
posted at 3/4/2010 3:20 PM ESTGrenoble is different.
I recall being so disappointed that the actual bridge at Avignon was a complete wreck, shortly after it was built and since, floods rearranging the piers holding it up.
But twice there for a couple of days, during the post Bastille day national celebrations which were during their annual July Fair. Fun.
I never visited the Tarn River Valley, but saw rock climbing pictures from a friend who was at Gorges de la Jonte. The grey rock was so sculpted by wind and cracks that except there was no orange stone, it reminded me of the stone pillars in Arches National Park.
From a distance they don't look big. Then you see a climber dangling, and realize the monolith they are on is 40-60 feet tall! Arches below, has dessert at the bottom - not a green gorge with water at the bottom!
Still, one of the neat things about the various ranges of the Alps in Southern France, and differing river valleys of France: in a small region they can be as distinctive and different as the Rockies are from the Green Mountains of Vermont. No feeling, just more of the same.