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In Nice In December

In Nice In December

Postby Shannon » Sun Apr 13, 2014 10:59 am

Hi, congratulations on a great website. I am a 29 year old Indian, living in Dubai. Me and my wife are visiting France for twelve days in beginning December. We have divided our trip between Paris and Nice. We are in Nice for four days. We are interested in making day trips to places close by - while my wife is very keen on Monte Carlo and Monaco, I would like to see more of the countryside and the not-so-famous places. Do you think travelling inland on a train is a good idea? We havent been able to decide on our itenerary for those four days, so far. We are hoping you would help us with that. Some other information that may be relevant - 1. We dont drive

2. we will be staying in Nice

3. we are travelling from Paris on a morning train, and travelling out of Nice on an overnight sleeper

Looking forward to your reply,

Atri
Shannon
 
Posts: 15
Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:48 am

In Nice In December

Postby Rendell » Sun Apr 13, 2014 11:42 am

Hi . . . Atri!

You have lots of great options for Paris and southern France in December. Clearly, however, there are some "conflicts" and "balances" between what you and your wife each view as priorities along the coast versus what can be seen and done in Provence. As per my notes and tips below, December is not the perfect weather period for Nice, Monaco, Cannes, etc.  What were you expecting for this area?  What is of most interest to her or you in this area?  Beach? Gambling?  Museums?  Shopping?  History? Culture?  TELL ME MORE!

Since you do not drive, being able to enjoy all of the best sites and sights in Provence is much, much harder.  The bus service is marginal at best in most parts of France.  The train service is great, but mostly from major cities such as Paris to larger cities.  To reach many of the Provence sites and villages, a car is your best and most time efficient way to do it.  There might be some "tour bus" types of options from Nice.  From Nice, the distance to do day-trips to towns such as Nimes, Avignon, etc. is a fairly long ride there and back in only one day.  It can be done, but it makes for a long, tiring day covering a fairly decent distance. You can travel inland by to train to such places as Avignon and Aix.  BUT, you would be most limited to the mainly options in those larger cities. Are you flying out of Paris at the end of your trip?  An overnight train might be an option, but you might also want to look at flying out of the Nice airport direct to deGaulle airport.  Many don't sleep well on an overnight train. The train from Nice will take you to main Paris and then you will need to change stations in order to then take a train out to the airport.  Your return to the airport might not be as easy as what it seems on paper.  That's why I would look at the air options, also. Does this start to help a little? What are your reactions and 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

PROVENCE: WHY IT IS A GREAT PLACE?  ITS WONDERFUL OPTIONS: 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. KEY PROVENCE LOCATIONS: 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 125,000) 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'Outau de Beaumaniere for ONE OF THE BEST MEALS YOU CAN HAVE IN FRANCE(lunch is more affordable).  

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 his 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; Saturday AM market at Uzes near Pont du Gard can be totally charming and wonderful. Try good Provence website of:

www.provencebeyond.com

Try Avignon’s official tourism office: www.avignon-et-provence.com

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! 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. 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.

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.

RAIL SCHEDULES: You can go to this website

www.raileurope.com

and check all of the various train options, timings and costs on rail travel within Europe through the "schedules" option on the left side of their web page. Great, very useful site!

KEY PARIS HIGHLIGHTS/FACTS/OVERVIEW: 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 sophisticaion, 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!

MAJOR PARIS HIGHLIGHTS/OPTIONS:

(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, plus food court area with wide mix of different items; encyclopedic coverage 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.

PRIORITY

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. PRIORITY

3. Musee d'Orsay(door-say)(closed Monday, open 10-6, except Thursday 10 am-9:45 pm), covers 1848-1914 period, especially great for Impressionist art; former railway station and hotel; excellent cafe in museum(doing lunch in this great dining room is a nice way to break up the visit and re-charge); on Thursday night 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. PRIORITY

4. Eiffel Tower,(985' tall, 3rd floor at 305', built for 1889 Universal Exhibition).

5. Seine boat trip(board at Pont Neuf), great views of famous Paris sights, especially at night as major buildings are lighted.

6. Champs-Elysees(bargain with painters for pictures) and Arc de Triomphe, started 1806 to celebrate Napoleon's early victories, completed in 1836, 165' high.

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.

8. Luxembourg Palais and Gardens, built in 17th century for Marie de Medici, now houses French Senate, sculptures and fountains adorn extensive gardens, food available in gardens, great place for picnics, across street from apartment. 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 statio;, 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.

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.

15. Paris Opera House, opened 1875; 2nd Empire style, see grand staircase and foyer, 2200 seats, large stage area, current home of Paris Ballet.

16. Musee de l'Orangerie de Tuileries, impressionism collection, including Monet's work; closed Tuesday, open 9:45-5:15 p.m.

17. Musee Marmottan, open Tuesday-Sunday 10-5:30, excellent impressionist art, including Monet works.

18. Hotel les Invalides, Napoleon' s tomb, 643 foot dome, built in 1676 by Sun King 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.

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).

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 thirteen different subway lines, plus the 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(1.40 Euros) may be purchased at the counters each time, but the better value is a carnet of 10(10.70 Euros), which will also save you waiting in line.   WEBSITE for maps and other info/details: http://www.ratp.info/touristes/index.php?langue=en

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 30 Euro Paris Museum Pass, 4-Day Pass 45 Euro

Paris Museum Pass, 6-Day Pass 60 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:

www.parismuseumpass.fr

For Paris and nearby tours, look at: www.pariscityrama.com/en

EXCELLENT PARIS WEBSITES:

www.paris.org

www.travel-in-paris.com

www.paris-touristoffice.com

EXCELLENT PARIS WEBSITES, including hotels, apartments:

www.paris.org

www.travel-in-paris.com

www.paris-touristoffice.com

www.parisbandb.com

www.chezvous.com

www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/europe

www.parislogue.com

For hotels, you can try:

www.tripadvisor.com

www.hotels.com  
Rendell
 
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