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Multiple city dining suggestions needed

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We are going to France for two and half weeks and looking for dining suggestions in several cities. Staying in Honfleur, Bayeux, Amboise, Sarlat, Carcasonne, Arles, Nice, Lyon and finally Paris.

We want a special occasion restaurant for dinner in Lyon and lots of moderate meals in the other cities. Looking for regional specialties and charming atmosphere. Also a bit concerned about the ability to accommodate a food allergy to cow's milk. Any and all suggestions welcome.

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  1. Chenonceaux is only a 15 minute drive from Amboise. Le Bon Laboreur is definitely worh the drive. Chateau de Rochecotte near Langeais is about an hour's drive. Maybe a lunch stop? In Carcasonne I would recommend Le Comte Roger. It's right in the middle of the old town, but does not attract the tour bus groups. The food is fabulous, prices moderate.

    1. Nice circular tour, but NOT in 21/2 weeks. 8 stops in the time are about 4-5 too many.

      If I were you I'd reconsider. Choose the places you most want to see & spend the time to see them properly. Much of France's charm lies outside the cities.

      As to dining suggestions you won't go wrong if you use the Logis de France affiliated places & look for those that are noted for their food. Just Google Logis de France. There is an English version of the site. More up market is the Relais du Silence association. Haven't gone wrong using their members in 20+ years of staying

      3 Replies
      1. re: Yank

        "If I were you I'd reconsider. Choose the places you most want to see & spend the time to see them properly. Much of France's charm lies outside the cities."

        Totally agree. If the OP maintains this itinerary, he will be obliged by time and space to lunch everyday in those freeway cafeterarias - not to mention spending most of his vacation on the freeway which looks like any other freeway in the world but with more tailgaters - and that is a fate worse than death.

        1. re: Parigi

          Totally agree with Yank and Parigi each of these cities worth a trip by themselves. At least 3 or 4 days, would really reconsider my itinerary.
          Le bon Laboureur and le Chateau is a great place in Chenonceaux and the castle is so incredible.
          Enjoy your trip!

        2. re: Yank

          And another step up to the Relais & Châteaux group for some really special options. I agree with Yank & Parigi that you are going to spend too much time packing, unpacking, & driving. My first suggestion would be to lop off Nice from your itinerary - the old town has its charms, but to me the city is far too built up, and even ugly in the immediate surrounding areas. Plus it will take you too far out of the way from the rest of your trip. If you make it to Arles, go to Atelier Jean-Luc Rabanel for a great dinner.

        3. I agree with the other posters that you have way too many places, spread too far apart, to really enjoy any of them. If you were to focus on three or four, and do day trips from each to get to know each region, you will be more relaxed and get to see some places rather than just driving from one to another. Maybe start in the Loire valley, then head to the southwest, then to Provence and back to Paris via Lyon. Even this is an ambitious itinerary, but if you are determined to see several regions, it will give you a nice overview of each and allow for future visits to those you like best. There are innumerable towns, villages, chateaus, churches, and other sights to visit, and so much great food to try, that you really need to concentrate more on exploring a few areas than on cramming in the whole of France in 17 days.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rrems

            I would "streamline" the trip as follows:
            Divide France into 2 parts: east and west. It has a huge mountain range in the middle. Going north-south is much easier than going east-west in the middle of France, although one can't see this point so well on a map.
            Therefore with only 2.5 weeks, bearing in mind those places that the OP focus on, I would choose either Loire-Dordogne-Lot, or Burgundy-Provence. This way one spends most of the holiday enjoying and not driving.
            Food-wise I would vote for Dordogne-Lot over the other places.
            In terms of beauty, one is just comparing A's and A minuses.

            1. re: Parigi

              After I posted I was thinking more about this and came to the same conclusion as you, though I would include the Loire in either itinerary. I would also plan on dumping the car at Avignon or Toulouse and returning to Paris via high-speed train (assuming they will be beginning and ending in Paris).

          2. I agree with the gist of the other comments. Re Yank's rec of "the Logis de France affiliated places" -- yes, that can be a general indication of good regional cooking, but we also agree that you do have to "look for those that are noted for their food." We've done that for years by cross-checking those listings with Michelin -- and on our last two trips, we've been relying mostly on Michelin to begin with. More than one proprietor has stressd to us that the Logis listing requires that the restaurant (or hotel) "pay to play." This means that some good places that won't pay are excluded, and it also makes us question the objectivity of listings. I'd be curious to learn more about this from those better informed than I am . . . .

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jake Dear

              I've not heard of the 'pay to play', but in any case We've never had a bad meal where the food was rated as excellent. The Logis are by no means the be all & end all, but they are pretty reliable especially for someone who is not all that familiar with France. Michelin is far more comprehensive, but doesn't offer nearly as much information.
              Relais du Silence & Relais et Chateaus are increasingly up market. Depends upon your budget & tolerance for being adventurous. I've been visiting France for nearly 50 years & have lived here full time for the past 10 & still find that exploring with little advance detailed planning is the most fun.(outside July & August) Rarely to we strike out & often find hidden gems.
              As to regions just go to the ones that most strike your fancy, they're all nice even the massif central!

            2. Not sure how fancy you want your special occasion restaurant in Lyon. My personal choice would probably be Brasserie Leon de Lyon, because the welcome is so warm, and the food is so good. But if you want a really fancy dinner at affordable prices, I might drive or cab out to Ecully to the Institut Paul Bocuse. It's in a castle, and the dining room is GORGEOUS and the food is sublime. Never mind that it is prepared mainly by the students at the school, it's supervised and "cheffed" by the instructors. and the price is reasonable.

              Of course, there is always Bocuse's restaurant itself, although the reviews on that place have been very mixed for years.

              1. Based on your input and some research, we decided to skip Nice and Lyon and spend some more time in Dordogne and Provence. This now puts us in Arles for our special occasion meal. Budget is very high if warranted. I have no problem with expensive if there is value and a memorable experience attached.

                My itineraries are often aggressive as I visit each country as if I'll never return, but know what is worth spending more time on in future trips. I'm an American so it's hard to get large chunks of vacation time. Also, we are going in the off-season. Does much close or shutter then?

                6 Replies
                1. re: lisaf

                  depends upon when in the off-season. Lots of places close in the dead of winter in Provence.

                  1. re: ChefJune

                    Late November-mid December. Pre-Christmas.

                    1. re: lisaf

                      I think most of Provence places will still be open then, but I ould be sure to telephone ahead to be sure. I've been in Avignon in December and everything was super-festive, with a big holiday bazaar in the town square, and reataurants festively decorated. And if you are there in December, don't miss the Christmas decorations at Notre Dame in Paris!

                      1. re: lisaf

                        Good decision to pare down that trip. If you are taking up rrems suggestion to leave from Avignon via TGV, you may still be able to buy tickets on line (www.voyages-sncf.com) - a block of tickets are severely discounted 3 months in advance. Avignon to the Gare de Lyon(Paris) is 2 hrs 45 mins and a pleasure. Just note that Avignon has a regular train station as well as a TGV station when booking your ticket and arranging for your car drop-off. And book a table at Atelier Jean-Luc Rabanel as soon as possible.

                    2. re: lisaf

                      In Arles, consider Restaurant Lou Marques, in the Jules Cesar hotel. This was the site of my first real "gastronomic" meal in France, many years ago - so it holds very special memories for me - but I've been back since then and still think it is a lovely special-occasion place. Not super-fancy or over-the-top by any means, but elegant and comfortable.

                      1. re: lisaf

                        I have the impression that lots of places in the Lot/Dordogne area close in the winter as well.