Spurn Paris for La Rochelle + Provence?
i am about to embark on a post-graduation tour of Europe. As I am traveling alone for most of September and October, I have complete freedom of letting cuisine and food be a central focus of my travel decisions.
As such, I find myself in a bit of quandary regarding France.
From a monetary stand-point I can only afford one of the following options:
1. Go to Paris for 2-3 weeks and seek out the best food experiences coupled with sight-seeing
2. Visit La Rochelle & Provence (S. Remy + Avignon) with the same foodie focus of course.
Given the budgetary restriction I feel I would not be able to do Paris justice as well as La Rochelle.
FWIW, I adore all seafood in all preparations and the thought of being strung out in the land of shellfish and bouillabasse is appealing. The sights of Paris can always be covered in a 2 days pass through I think.
So, what are your thoughts? Is Paris worth a visit if budget is a concern? (keeping accomadation costs in mind)
Well, La Rochelle is a great place, but I might start a bit further North up in Normandy. You can eat your way down the coast to Bordeaux then head inland. There's great eating around Toulouse as well as in the city.
Then South and along the coast heading East. Montpelier is a great city. I wouldn't spend a lot of time along the Provincial coast as its expensive. Bandol area is nice though.
Then up the Rhone valley heading North. Great wines & great food.
I'd finish with a few days in Paris. By that time you'll have discovered that you don't have to spend a fortune to get an excellent meal.
Use the Logis de France as a guide for hotels. They're normally reasonably priced & if the guide makes note of the food at a hotel you can bet that it will be excellent.
If you can afford it rent a car so you can wander the countryside.
Thanks for the reply. I am coming in from San Sebastian (via Barcelona) and headed to either Parma or Munich (Oktoberfest!) from Provence, so the south-eastern heading may work well as I make my way to Aix-en-Provence et al.
As for Paris, I am keeping 12 days open at the end of my trip (post-bologna) for any place that catches my fancy or that I hear of.
Any tips on selecting restaurants if one were just walking around. For example, in Buenos Aires, the best places I found were ones where they spoke little English and had badly translated menus if any
For Provence, Arles is a much better eating town and base than St Rémy or Avignon. Arles has a big concentration of good eateries, much more so than St Rémy or Aix or Avignon. And from there you can visit the other towns by train or bus.
Btw, do you have a car, or are you relying on public transport? This point also determines where you can use as a base.
Thanks for the suggestion re: Arles. It hadn't popped up on my research thus far.
I will not have a car and am planning on using the bus & train systems.
How about if I go from Barcelona to Arles to La Rochelle/I'le de Rea to Paris and then head down to Parma, Bologna and Rome?
I don't plan on a 'base' per say.
"How about if I go from Barcelona to Arles to La Rochelle/I'le de Rea to Paris and then head down to Parma, Bologna and Rome?"
Too big a zigzag, esp without a car. Very time-consuming.
A hop that links up good eats spots and your destinations and makes more sense geographically would be: San Sé, Ciboure/St Jean de Luz (itself with great eats, from which you can go to the wonderful Bayonne market and Biarritz by train/bus), then La Rochelle.
However, La Rochelle is on the western tip of France, very far from Italy however you look at it.
Or you can eat your way to Brittany, then take an overnight train from Paris to an Italian destination…
Or for an Italy-bound trip from Spain, Arles plus a Riviera town as bases would make much more sense. Nice and Antibes are nice towns, have good eats and are a train hub.
I would say any of the larger cities in Provence, e.g., Arles, Avignon, Aix, will all have a large variety of restaurants and food.The winner hands down in this area, though, is Marseille. It can also be a lot cheaper than the touristed cities of Provence. It's more of a real place.
Re/Paris: I would have to say that a first trip to France makes a stay in Paris imperative It is the star and no car is required, and, although it can be expensive, being a diverse place there are lots of budget oriented activities, lodging and restaurants available.
I have decided on the following:
I think I will get the west coast on my way to Paris. Then get Provence on the way back from Rome to Barcelona (departure point)
I am looking forward to the unlisted, untested places and going to let my nose guide me!
Which towns have good markets? I prefer eating at markets and places around them. (saving the 'starred' for when I have money later in life)
My trip is starting and ending in Barcelona and I cannot wait for La Boqueria!
Similarly for a 'seafood tower' (nod to Bourdain) somewhere in Brittany.
I plan on keeping a travel blog once I start. I'll be sure to link it here. The trip officially starts in NYC with Yakitori in LES, so this is gonna be the trip to remember!
Any recommendations for the Provencal towns that serve a good bouillabasse (a checklist item if you will)
Arles has a very nice market nearly every morning.
From there you can make Marseille a day trip. I can't think of any other place for bouillabiasse except Marseille (chez Fonfon). However if you want to go to the unlisted, untested places…
Which reminds me: This is a point about Barcelona and not about France. Mercat Santat Caterina is a much better market than the Boqueria.
O and there is a nice ferry across the Med between Barcelona and Rome (the port of Civitavecchia).
Parigi, you are a god-send!
I despise boring forms of travel, so thanks a million for the ferry info.
As for the Boqueria, it's more of a 'whats the big deal' trip. I fully intend on going to every market. I typically just walk around towns all day, when traveling.
I don't generally seek recommendations for their own sake. more often than not, it gives me an idea of where to 'put myself' such that good food is close by. However, seafood stews (b.basse, cioppino, crawfish boils et al) are an obsession with me and nothing depresses me more than bad versions of those dishes.