Impulse decisions - now what?

Old May 15th, 2022, 03:01 PM
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Impulse decisions - now what?

So, I was having dinner with some friends last night and someone brought up the point that airfares were likely to skyrocket with fuel prices being so high. I made the only rational decision I could - I went home and started looking at airfares, saw a relatively inexpensive direct flight to Paris... and apparently in 5 months I will back in Europe for the first time in 5 and a half years. .

This has created a dilemma (admittedly, a fairly happy one), I will be in Europe for 14 days (not counting travel to/from Europe) and I have no itinerary and no real plan. My initial thoughts were:

1. Two (possibly three ) nights in Paris - I have been to Paris before, but I always feel safer in making connecting travel plans that assume the flight to Paris will not be on time. Also, there are any number of things I would be happy to see again.
2. 5 nights in Avignon
3. 6 nights in Nice (or somewhere Nice adjacent with good access to the public transportation system for day trips)
4. 1 night in Paris (the flight back is in the morning)

My questions at the moment are:
1. Mid-late October in Provence without a car. How feasible is visiting there so late in the season, (I know the lack of a car will limit me in some ways, but are the limitations imposed by not having a car so great to make it not worth going there).
2. My understanding is the off season can be pretty quiet in Southern France. Where does the second half of October fit, i.e. still within shoulder season with most things are still open, or into the off season, with more limited options.
3. Is there a good candidate for a smaller (but still public transport convenient) place to stay around Nice?

Any guidance you can provide would be appreciated.

PS It is kind of exciting to be planning again, particularly since there is nothing fixed other than the flights. I have the beginnings of a plan, but as long as I am back at CDG 15 days after I arrive, I could do ANYTHING!

Glen
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Old May 15th, 2022, 03:29 PM
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Well, I for one congratulate you on your excellent, impulsive response. 😎👍 just go for it.

I leave it to others to recommend a small village near Nice, but can say that we spent a week in an apartment in Nice itself and took trains and buses all around very easily. The Villa Ephrissi de Rothschild, Villa Kerylos, St Paul de Venice and the Foundation Maeght, the Chagall museum right in Nice - so much to do.

Life is short, have a blast!
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Old May 15th, 2022, 09:08 PM
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I have to admit that I get totally bored with the Mediterranean coast off season. Have you ever seen Lille, Strasbourg, Nancy, Metz in the autumn? All of those cities are less than two hours from Paris by train.
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Old May 16th, 2022, 07:24 AM
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I had been leaning South for climate related reasons, but my travel in France has been limited to Paris, Bordeaux, Carcassonne and Toulouse (well, and St. Jean Pied de Porte), so going East is another option to consider.

Thanks!
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Old May 16th, 2022, 07:32 AM
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While the south usually has better weather, it is interesting to note that it was colder and wetter in the south last winter while the north sailed along with dry and mild weather. Of course this is less likely in the autumn, but generally the weather can be quite fine in the north until November. Just the fact that collective heating is generally not authorized until November 1st can provide a clue to conditions. You're not planning of spending time on the beach, I hope. Frankly, I love the autumn colors in the Vosges (but you do not plan to drive, so okay.)
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Old May 16th, 2022, 07:38 AM
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My experience is that France in October, even mid or late October, is great, and along with mid to late September is my favorite time to be in France. I especially enjoyed seeing the grape vineyards turn orange and gold in the south. And, I have always felt the advantages of traveling in the fall far outweighed the disadvantages. Not having a car can be problematic in Provence, but if you base in a relatively large city, like Avignon, I believe you can take day trips to the surrounding areas either using local buses or tours. We've always rented a car and stayed in St. Remy, near Avignon. Kerouac recommended several cities in the north, among them Strasbourg Though we've been there a few times, never in the autumn. I would think, though, it would also be an excellent base for part of your trip. Of course, you should expect some rain and chilly weather wherever you decide to go, north or south.
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Old May 16th, 2022, 08:09 AM
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seeing grapes in the vines in October or mid October must be getting pretty rare nowadays, we see most of the southern harvest in by the end of August and only late harvests in the north coming in October or November (say Alsace), but for sure those vines that have not had their leaves taken off to ease the harvest will be colour changing.

I tend towards the north in the spring and autumn, once away from the tourist hot spots in the south the place seems to close up, as you get beyond September and little villages I know well will not have many people on the street until Christmas festivals begin. Remember there are also some lovely rivers and canals to walk beside, or hire a bike and get out on quiet country roads/canal sides or defunct railway lines.

Avignon, use trains, buses, feet or even go walking with donkeys (though really that is further west). Avignon to Arles for example. For the Camargue (interesting times for bird watchers as northern birds settle prior to flying to Africa) then a guide is th best idea.
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Old May 16th, 2022, 08:17 AM
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You are correct, bilbo. The grape harvests in most recent years have been almost a month earlier than in the past.
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Old May 16th, 2022, 03:22 PM
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No, I am definitely not a beach person. I figured Nice to have somewhat warmer temperatures (in October, the average is 20-21 degrees, which is pretty much right in my comfort sweet spot. However, in looking North, Strasbourg is only 4-5 degrees colder, which is manageable.

I am still thinking to get down to Nice. I have heard good things about the public transportation infrastructure, and think I should be able see a fair bit while I am there.
However, while Avignon is still an option, I am thinking somewhere East as a base might work as well. If I stay in, let us say Strasbourg, for a 4-5 days, I could fly to Nice or take a train to Nice, stopping for a couple of nights in Lyons (haven't been, and it would break up what would otherwise a very long train ride). Another virtue of this plan, is that because Strasbourg is less than 2 hours from Paris by train (and my flight lands in Paris at 8:00 AM ish) I could probably dispense with the stop in Paris at the beginning of the trip. I may very end spending a couple of days in Paris anyway, but I could add those at the end of the trip and thus save myself one checking into/out of a hotel.

Ok, off to research how I might allocate my time in the Strasbourg area and determine the best option for where to stay in Nice. Once I fleshed out the draft itineraries for both the Avignon and Strasbourg, I will be a position to make a more informed decision .
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Old May 17th, 2022, 04:29 AM
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The bicycle, bus and train network around Avignon should give you plenty of options for day trips.

Lyon has the advantage of so many indoor attractions (provided you like food and museums) that inclement weather need not stop you from having fun.
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Old May 17th, 2022, 04:37 AM
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Bordeaux has good public transport, good bike paths and a massive shopping area ( largest in Europe they claim)
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Old May 17th, 2022, 05:05 AM
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I am not a fan of Nice or Avignon, so anywhere else you choose would be an upgrade. As I and others have remarked already on Fodors, Aix is so pretty and fascinating itself. Also, any decent sized place in France will have an active tourist office to help you in advance or on the spot. Limoges, for example, has a free program of greeters who can take you around and they organize excursions. You can start by contacting the tourist office by email. Public trains and buses aren't the only way to get around.

I can't say I know what the situation is with covid, so you'll have to ask specifically.

Le Puy-en-Velay is one of my favorite destinations in France/Europe, and I could spend a lot of time there. Really, there are so many interesting touristic towns in France. It's easy to spend a few days in any of them.

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Old May 17th, 2022, 05:35 AM
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I am a fan of Le Puy-en-Velay as well.
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Old May 17th, 2022, 06:34 AM
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I guess I'd say you might want to talk about what you want to do rather than focusing on where you want to do it. Walks and hikes? Museums and cultural sites? Food? Cycling? Photography?

Alsace can be beautiful in the autumn, as could Savoy, with snow creeping down the mountainsides, perhaps viewed from someplace like Annecy. I've spent some time in late autumn/winter in Aigues-Mortes at the edge of the Camargue; pretty sleepy then but the weight of history is over the top. Photographer's paradise. White horses and flamingos.

But that's me - what do you like to do?

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Old May 17th, 2022, 07:38 AM
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Originally Posted by glenmd View Post
I had been leaning South for climate related reasons, but my travel in France has been limited to Paris, Bordeaux, Carcassonne and Toulouse (well, and St. Jean Pied de Porte), so going East is another option to consider.

Thanks!
We have spent extended times off season in both Bordeaux and Toulouse. and both we were great-not necessarily sunny and warm, but both definitely not "snow and cold" type winter weather.

Given the places you have already visited, you might consider taking the TGV from Paris to Strasbourg since it is only 1h45 minutes and then take the TGV from there, if you like train travel, to either (or both) Dijon and Lyon, both lovely cities. The train is about 2h15 from Strasbourg to Dijon and then just under an hour and a half to Lyon. If you are a foodie, Lyon is an amazing town for food! From there the train passes down through Avignon to Nice in about 4h30. You may not want to explore all those places in the limited time you have, but they are all great options. IMO, if you want to explore Provence, it is tough without a car, but you could also be pretty happy just spending time in either Aix-en-Provence or Avignon for some days, maybe taking day tours to some of the other village.
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Old May 18th, 2022, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
I guess I'd say you might want to talk about what you want to do rather than focusing on where you want to do it. Walks and hikes? Museums and cultural sites? Food? Cycling? Photography?

Alsace can be beautiful in the autumn, as could Savoy, with snow creeping down the mountainsides, perhaps viewed from someplace like Annecy. I've spent some time in late autumn/winter in Aigues-Mortes at the edge of the Camargue; pretty sleepy then but the weight of history is over the top. Photographer's paradise. White horses and flamingos.

But that's me - what do you like to do?
That's a valid point. See how long it has been since I travelled, I can't even compose a reasonable question.

My primary interests are
1. History & Architecture
2. Art - mostly pre-impressionist, but the lack of interest in modern art comes with some pretty big exceptions: Monet, pointillism (no big deal if you never heard of it, I don't think it ever really caught on), plus one of the main reasons I want to get to NIce is the Chagall Museum.
3.. Scenery and nature- this is a tricky one for me. I used to love to hike/walk long distances but in recent years balance/nobility issues have significantly compromised my ability to walk any distance further than 2-3 km (and any kind of uneven trail surface is just an accident waiting to happen). For example, as far as I can see, the shuttle bus from Verdun out to the various WW1 sites stops running at the end of September. In the old days, I would have taken a taxi to the furthest site out and walked back to Verdun, That 14 km walk is no long within my capabilities.


Thanks for all the feedback folks. The head East to Alsace (my initial look at Alsace definitely grabbed my interest) and then turn South is still the current plan, but thanks to the suggestions I have other ideas floating around in my head.
Anyway, I think I need to step back, and go cover to cover through a guidebook for France and see if I can't come up with a list of top priority things I want to see/do and work it out from there. I doubt I will be looking to book places to stay until mid-June or so, so I have some time.

I'll be back.
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Old May 18th, 2022, 02:22 PM
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I think there are some pointillist works in the Kröller-Müller museum in the Hoge Veluwe in the Netherlands. Away from your mark, but a worthwhile museum.

Lavandula
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Old May 18th, 2022, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by lavandula View Post
I think there are some pointillist works in the Kröller-Müller museum in the Hoge Veluwe in the Netherlands. Away from your mark, but a worthwhile museum.

Lavandula
Probably not this trip, but good to know all the same.

Though, I could head West, pick up the Normandy D-day sites and Bayeaux and Mont. St Michel, then head North to Hoge Veluwe and then turn east and add a new country (Luxembourg) to my visited list... no, that way lies madness. Between 2009 and 2017, I spent about 7 months visiting Europe, and there is still so much I haven't seen.
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Old May 18th, 2022, 10:18 PM
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Originally Posted by glenmd View Post
Probably not this trip, but good to know all the same.

Though, I could head West, pick up the Normandy D-day sites and Bayeaux and Mont. St Michel, then head North to Hoge Veluwe and then turn east and add a new country (Luxembourg) to my visited list... no, that way lies madness. Between 2009 and 2017, I spent about 7 months visiting Europe, and there is still so much I haven't seen.
Hm, it's a bit ambitious, probably a lot of driving. With limited time perhaps stick to your original plan. The museum will still be there for your next trip. I have a print of Before Noon by Theo van Rysselberghe which I bought there about 35 years ago. It hung in my parents' house for a long time, but now it's mine and I haven't got the right location for it yet. Good luck in your journey-planning!

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Old May 18th, 2022, 11:50 PM
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If ever you were to base yourself in Metz for a few days, it is the central point of the MetroLor TER commuter train line with Luxembourg to the north and Nancy to the south, both no more than half an hour away. And it's very easy to continue to Strasbourg from either Nancy or Metz (which has the Metz Pompidou Center next to the train station).
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