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May 26, 2009 10:27 AM

First trip to France - destinations suggestions please...

We are going to be in Italy the second week of September based in the Le Marche region. After that week we would like to spend a week in France en route to the UK. We have never explored France before and would like to do it from a foodie perspective but don't know where to start. Neither of us has to see Paris either, at least on this trip. We are toying with the idea of flying somewhere into south eastern France, renting a car and driving around the region, staying in different locations each night and then flying from the same airport to the UK. The only reason we've picked south eastern France is because my husband loves the Alps but we have no idea what sort of food region it is like. Another possibility is to do a one way car rental and meander up to Paris, drop the car, maybe spend a night in Paris and then continue onto the UK. Finally, we could rent a flat somewhere and just enjoy living in one spot for a week going to local markets. We are fairly adventurous with a map and not afraid to try new things. Any suggestions or advice are greatly appreciated. Thanks.

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  1. The southeast has the Riviera and Haute Provence, both of which offer many wonderful possibilities for great food, along with beautiful scenery and charming medieval towns. You could fly into and out of Nice, and do a loop with a few days in 2 or 3 towns. Moustiers Ste. Marie is a stunning town at one end of the Gorge du Verdon, which is a great base for exploring Haute Provence. It has several excellent restaurants. I would suggest a day trip from there to Barcelonette, a fascinating mountain town with some pretty good but not fabulous places to eat. On the Riviera, we stayed in Vence, which is just a few miles inland from Nice. It is a good base with several fine restaurants in town.

    2 Replies
    1. re: rrems

      Thank you for that information and I've been exploring a bit looking at options. I see there is an Alain Ducasse hotel which seems to be foodie oriented which is something we appreciate wherever we stay. Which other restaurants do you recommend in the area?

      1. re: Island Girl

        The hotel we stayed at in Moustiers was Le Relais. We had a beautiful large room with a magnificent panoramic view, and it was very inexpensive. You can walk to some great restaurants, and the hotel provides parking or you can just park on the street. La Bastide de Moustiers is owned by Ducasse. It is outside the town, and we went there for dinner one evening. It was a disappointment, though more recent reports on CH indicate improvement. The problem with all of Ducasse's establishments is that a chef change can cause a major change for better or worse. If you are not staying at La Bastide, you can't make a dinner reservation until the day of, but it seems that they normally have openings and we had no problem getting in. We also dined at another Ducasse restaurant, the Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle, and it was quite good. The chef who was there at the time had formerly worked at La Bastide. It is a good idea to find out who the current chefs are and read recent reviews. The other restaurants where we dined in Moustiers were Les Santons and La Treille Muscate. Le Relais also has a restaurant, and our breakfasts there were very good. If we had another day there, we would have tried it for dinner.

    2. We stayed at a B & B in Provence called Les Trois Figuiers after seeing it written up in a French foodie magazine. We weren't disappointed. Since its been a while (2000), I just googled it, and there aren't many online reviews, but what I did find is positive. It's near the small charming towns of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Bonnieux, and not far from Avignon if I recall. Bonnieux can also be a nice base--have stayed at the Clos du Buis there and love Le Fournil for eating just a stone's throw away. Neither of these B & Bs is super expensive.