Week along the Rhone
Hey, I am planning a trip to France in March and was hoping for some good tips. I will be starting in Charmonix and eventually making my way to Cannes. Can anyone make some good recommendations for stops along the way? We will be trying to do this on the cheap, but I want to make sure we get the full foodie experience. I was thinking Lyon, Valence, Avignon, and Aix-en-Provence. Any suggestions? Are there any small towns along the way that are good stops/replacements for what I have in mind? Worth a stop in Menton?
Also - is it worth ducking into Italy on the way back to Geneva? Torino?
In Aix, I recommend Mitch and Le Poivre d'Ane. They are both small and cozy, somewhat casual, and offer three prix fixe choices at varying price points. We ate at both recently and enjoyed them. We even had a celebrity sighting at Le Poivre. Kathleen Turner was seated at a table next to us.
If you're trying to do this cheaply, Valence is a great place to go. For a quick day trip, this is what I would do - take the train up to Tain l'Hermitage in the morning, walk around the vineyards of Hermitage and have lunch at the Mangevins. The main square also has a great wine shop owned by a very nice Greek gentleman with a great selection of Northern Rhone wines. After lunch, if you're up for some hiking, head back down to Valence and take the bus out to St Peray - hike up to the castle ruins that you'll have seen from across the river. When you get back you'll have worked up an appetite, so go to Le Sept, the brasserie joined to Pic (3 star Michelin restaurant). If you don't want to do the hiking, Valence also has a lovely park that you can enjoy, and the old town is beautiful!
I had Cannes as a "home base" a couple of times when I was there for a combination of work and pleasure. This wasn't during the height of the tourist season, and I found my stay very enjoyable.
I rented an apartment that looked onto the old port and was able to walk everywhere I needed for day to day, used the train for visits to many other towns along the coast, and only use the car for more complicated trips inland.
If you are staying with your relative and have access to a kitchen, the food shopping in Cannes is really enjoyable. The Marche Forville was great, as was the food shopping on many streets nearby. I ate in more than I had planned as a consequence.
IMHO you should skip Cannes (unless you have a specific non-tourist reason to go there - it's not a pretty town, other than the strip along the coast) and stay in Menton, which is lovely. Avignon & Aix are great places to visit, but difficult to park in unless you go to a (costly) parking lot (or if by luck your hotel has parking facilities) . Check the lovely towns of Lourmarin & St Rémy to see if there's any hotel that fits your budget. A charming conveniently located hotel is the Auberge du Parc in Orgon - right off the N7 (but quiet) in between Aix & Avignon. Or the Auberge du Vieux Village in Mallemort, also just off this main road. Both should be relatively inexpensive. On the way back to Geneva, stay in Annecy. You won't regret it!
Agree to all.
Menton and Villefranche make for enchanting bases on that stretch of the Riviera. This year Villefranche may be slightly more interesting what with the re-release of Exile on Main Street…
Public transport along the coast is excellent.
Les Hauts de Cagnes has a curious concentration of good eateries, besides being pretty and intriguing.
If I must choose between Avignon and Arles, hands down Arles, also for its concentration of good eats, plus the fab Roman ruins.
Re the OP's itinerary:
Eh, why Valence?
Near Valence, the villages in Ardèche or in Drome are beautiful. Drome is often described as being a kind of Provence before Provence was discovered.
In Ardèche, I like very much Mas de la Madeleine, a beautiful ferme-auberge serving farm-fresh food on the hill overlooking the medieval village of Largentière.
Reading the OP's itinerary, I suppose the OP has a car and has at least 3 weeks.
If Geneva and Turin are to be added, - why boring Geneva? - then one needs 4 weeks, unless the OP can be beamed from place to place.