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One month in France for a food and wine adventure

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I am very lucky to get a month-long sabbatical from work, and I choose to spend it in France, since I've always been a francophile and I love French food and wine. I will be in France from late October to late November, and since this was a spur of the moment decision and I just got my air tickets booked, I have a long way to go for planning! I do plan on doing lots of research on specific restaurants, but would appreciate some input on where to stay, etc. before I start booking hotels. I definitely want to plan my whole trip around food and wine, with sightseeing as just my secondary agenda.

Here's my tentative itinerary:

Oct 21-Nov4: Paris
Planning on getting an apartment in the Montparnasse area. I will be staying with my sis (who loves French food/culture but has never been to France before) on the first week and my friend on the second week who's been to France multiple times. I've never stayed in this area before but I heard there is a good farmers market, shopping, and nice neighborhood restaurants. Basically the point of these first 2 weeks would be to "live like a Parisian", visit local restaurants as well as buying bread/cheeses/meats/produce at local markets to bring back to the apartment. I also want to hit one 3-michelin star restaurant and perhaps another 1-2 star one. Will do a couple day trips to Reims for champagne, and perhaps the Loire valley (is Bourgogne too far for a day trip?)

Nov 4-7: London
Will save this for the UK forum!

Nov 7-14: Nice, Marseille, and Rhone
I plan to take an Easyjet flight to Nice from London on Nov 7, and stay there by myself for a day. I want to try some authentic Nicoise cuisine (including Nicoise salad) and just walking around the city. The next day I will meet my husband in Marseille and we will stay in the area from Nov 8-11. Would like to get some bouillabaisse and other provencal cuisine. We may want to do one fancy dinner in Marseille. Then we will rent a car and drive to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, want to stay in a small inn/B&B in the village from Nov11-14. We plan on visiting some wineries in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas areas, since we love Southern Rhone wines.

Nov 14-18: Bordeaux and Dordogne
The hubby and I will drive from the Rhone Region to here (any notable stops along the way?) Thinking about staying in a b&b-type place in the village of Saint-Emilion, which is centrally located between Bordeaux and Dordogne. We plan on visiting wineries in the Saint-Emilion area, with a day trip to Medoc to check out the big left-bank Bordeaux houses. Also planning a second day trip to Dordogne for some duck, foie gras, and truffles (are black winter truffles in season?). Is Saint-Emilion a good choice or are there other towns we should consider visiting (maybe stay a couple days in the Medoc area?).

Nov 18-21: Back to Paris
Will return our rental car in Bordeaux and take the train back to Paris. I realize I am spending a disproportionate amount of time in Paris as opposed to other parts of France, but I don't think I would get tired of the city even after a month (or a year)! This time I'm planning staying with my husband in the Latin quarter since he wants a vibrant neighborhood w/ lots of nightlife. We will probably have one last fancy meal in the city on our last night before we leave.

Any opinions or advice on my trip, including recommendations for lodging, wineries, restaurants, patisseries, fromageries, boulangeries, and local markets are very much appreciated.

Thanks,
Arlene

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  1. Oh my goodness, me oh my. I cannot digest this and spit back a reply.
    For Paris - some parameters, likes/dislikes, price points, types/styles/regions, places that sound good from prior threads asking similar questions.
    We'll try to help but right now I'm drowning.

    26 Replies
    1. re: John Talbott

      Yeah, I'm really quite overwhelmed right now since there's so much to plan in such a short time. I've started but I still need to comb through tons of threads for the areas we are visiting (Paris, Marseille, Rhone, Bordeaux) to get specifics on which restaurants/wineries to visit in those areas.

      For now though I'm looking for more general advice, such as which villages to stay in the Rhone and Bordeaux areas, how much time to spend in each of the areas, is Montparnasse a good neighborhood to stay for a couple of weeks, etc. Is there something I'm missing that's a must-do for a food/wine lover while I'm in the country?

      Everything's still flexible right now since I haven't booked any lodging, car rentals, or train tickets yet, the only thing I have booked is the air passage to/from France.

      1. re: arlenemae

        We have a lot of tourist info, including lodging, but mods will remove all threads not related to food.
        How about if you turn your focus back to food and divide your post into several posts based on a different region, let us know what you think of the recent threads on those regions, what you find promising or suited to you, what not. You will get more pertinent replies that way. Thanx for helping us help you.

        You should decide on exactly where to stay before we get into the details of recommendations for every region, esp reginos as sprawling as the Rhone.
        In the past I remember one poster wanted us to give info on all the ingredients and restos in all the regions, so that he can decide where to go. He did not seem to want to understand what a colossal job it is for us, and how most of the info won't be used by him any way.
        Thanks.

        1. re: Parigi

          I'm not really looking for specific hotel/lodging recommendations, rather more like areas to stay to maximize my food and wine experience and tradeoffs between staying in one area vs. another and whether the length of time I've decided to stay at each place is enough. I'd rather plan my itinerary around the food/wine and get advice on my itinerary planning on this thread, and start specific threads for restaurants/wineries once I've decided and booked my lodging. My main request for this thread is for opinions on my current itinerary and if I should tweak some parts of it, before I finish making all my plans.

          There are guidebooks that tell most tourists where to stay based on ambiance/convenience/etc. but most of those are not catered towards foodies. I'm looking for advice from fellow foodies and draw on their experiences in these areas...I am getting advice from some of my friends who have similar preferences/tastes as me, but the chowhound pool is much larger. :)

          1. re: Parigi

            Maybe I just need to be more specific in my questions as supposed to just getting open input on my itinerary. My specific questions are:

            - What is the food scene like in Montparnasse? Are there good bakeries, cheese shops, pastry shops widely available within walking distance or do I have to take the metro? If you had 2 weeks in Paris, is the Montparnasse region a good bet? We are looking for more of a residential neighborhood where actual Parisians live as opposed to where all the tourists are.
            - What I've seen before out of the Latin quarter of Paris is very touristy...are there any non-touristy restaurants/shops here?
            - What's a better choice for a wine day trip, Burgundy (farther but I really enjoy both their reds/whites) or Loire (closer but I'm less familiar w/ the wines in this area)?
            - We are planning on spending 3 nights in Marseille and 3 nights in Chateauneuf-du-Pape...are there any villages/areas in Provence you would recommend over these?
            - We are planning on spending 4-5 days in the Bordeaux region...is this too much? Too little?
            - Is there a specific food/wine region that is particularly good to visit in late October/November?

            Thanks all for the replies...I didn't mean to be so general but I guess at this point I still haven't done all my research and am overwhelmed by all the planning.

            1. re: arlenemae

              I will reply part of the Paris questions:

              " What is the food scene like in Montparnasse? Are there good bakeries, cheese shops, pastry shops widely available within walking distance"

              Where are you in Montparnasse? Montparnasse is quite central. All central places in Paris have good bakeries, cheese shops, pastry shops widely available within within 15 minute walk.
              So the answer is yes.

              "or do I have to take the metro?"

              no, unless you want to explore other markets.

              "If you had 2 weeks in Paris, is the Montparnasse region a good bet?"

              Yes

              "We are looking for more of a residential neighborhood where actual Parisians live as opposed to where all the tourists are."
              - What I've seen before out of the Latin quarter of Paris is very touristy.."

              Part of it is very touristy. Part of Montparnasse is touristy too. at least in the Latin Quarter you don't see the eye sore of Tour Montparnasse.
              Much of Latin quarter, as the rest Paris, is residential.

              Did you think the Jardin des Plantes, the Arène de Lutèce, the Mosquée de Paris touristy? They are all in the Latin Quarter. I am trying to make certain what you mean by touristy is the same thing as what I mean by touristy. I don't consider those places touristy, even though tourists go there. I consider Ile de la Cité, Place du Tertre and Champs-Elysése touristy.

              "are there any non-touristy restaurants/shops here?"

              Here? You mean Latin Quarter? Montparnasse? Yes. Yes.
              Example: Dans Les Landes is walkable from Latin Quarter. There is always a majority of French diners there. It has foreigners too. It is hip and cosmopolitan. I would not call it touristy.
              Terroir Parisien, another good resto near the Latin Quarter. It is a fave of this board, so do expect fellow English- speaking visitors like yourself.

              Touristy for me means bad food bad service offered by restauranteurs who don't care that you ever come back. Touristy does not mean there are English-speakers in the restaurant. Many good restos have their share of English-speaking diners. After all, you are English-speaking, asking an English-speaking board for recommendations. Obviously you are not asking us where you will surely not run into us. :-)

              Please start separate threads on Burgundy, Dordogne, etc.

              1. re: Parigi

                Thanks for the clear and concise responses! I am much more encouraged to stay in the Latin Quarter for my last few days of the trip..."hip and cosmopolitan" is the vibe the my hubby is looking for, and we are hoping to find some great bars and great eats while we're there. I guess I still had this image in my head of the first time we went to Paris and there were all these restaurants right next to each other with prix-fixe menus and people up front calling all the tourists to come in...glad to know it's not all like that, maybe we just need to spend more time in the area. At least it will be good to stay in 2 different neighborhoods.

                Will post on the other parts of France in separate threads once I figure out exactly where we want to go. Would appreciate any further feedback on my post below regarding the michelin-starred places where I added my budget and taste preferences. I'm so used to planning trips so early that I feel really behind since this trip will be in less than 2 months, and I'm worried all the high-end places will be all booked up.

                1. re: arlenemae

                  You might also want to open up your search to the 10th or 11th for the second part of your Paris stay. Definitely meets the hip and cosmopolitan vibe requirement, and home to MANY great restaurants, bistros and bars. Since your staying in Montparnasse for the first part it would give you a whole new experience of the city, and it is far, far from the tourist places that you describe above. I love the Menilmontant/Oberkampf area - lots of great bars. And although I'm probably older than most of my fellow bar-hoppers, I have never felt out of place there.

                  We've also split our time between Paris and other places in France. (Our next trip is Burgundy/Paris). Have been to Nice and love it. Try the search bar for Nice and see if you can get a feel for some places, and then follow Pairigi's always sage advice and post separate threads for each area...you will get better info that way. What I would give to have a whole month! Enjoy...

              2. re: arlenemae

                We have an apartment in Montparnasse just south of the Cimetiere off the commercial r. Daguerre. The immediate neighborhood is residential but it is bordered by large commercial streets so it does not feel isolated. It is an easy walk to the 5e 6e and 7e. The metro and buses take us to central Paris in no time.
                Like every neighborhood in Paris, it has its boulangeries, patisseries, cheese shops, butchers, produce and seafood stands, wine shops, etc. for all your food needs. Many are on the semi pedestrianized r Daguerre; two excellent boulangeries (also many bad ones): Moisan and d'Antan; Dominique Saibron for pastries. There are two nearby markets, Montrouge (one of the best and most expensive butcher, Hugo Desnoyer is across the street on r. Boulard) and Edgar Quinet that operate on alternate days; also the organic Raspail in the 6e on Sundays. Also a nearby Monoprix. We hardly shop outside of the neighborhood.
                As for places to eat: many but very few excellent ones in the immediate neighborhood. La Cerisaie and La Cagouille are probably the two best. Lots of good creperies on rue de Montparnasse. The Blvd and the nearby rue de la Gaite has loads of places to eat but we hardly go there.
                Cafe scenes: there are couple of neighborhood cafes on Daguerre and tons on the commercial rue de la Gaite and of course Blvd Montparnasse. We've been here for a number of years but still can't get into either scene. We still prefer the Marais where our previous apartment was. That is one great neighborhood for cafes and food shopping. Hope the above helps.

                1. re: PBSF

                  Thanks sistereurope! I haven't considered the 10th/11th before since I don't know anyone who's stayed in that area but I will now! Thanks for the tip...I wasn't sure to do area-specific posts since I really wanted to weigh the different areas against each other and the amount of time I spent in each one.

                  Thanks PBSF for the Montparnasse recommendations. I was initially looking at 5th/6th but 14th was more affordable and I was really intrigued by Rue Daguerre and Raspail. Really appreciate the neighborhood tips from someone who has lived there (lemme know if you ever need recommendations in the SF Bay Area and California wine country!) Will look into the Marais area as well...doing lots of apartment-hunting at airbnb and VRBO right now.

                  1. re: arlenemae

                    Each year, we spend about 2 months in Paris; our 'home' is in the SF Bay area.
                    You can live like a Parisian regardless the neighborhood. We are two old fogies, therefore, quiet part of 14e fits us fine. But if this was my first stay in an apartment, I would rather be more in the center, especially the 3e, 4e, maybe part of the 5e and 7e, 10e. 11e. There is just more happening; a simple spur of the moment stroll is more interesting.
                    As for choosing a 3 star Michelin restaurant, it is one of the most difficult decision because the monetary outlay and expectation are so great. There is always intense debate. In term of food, L'Ambrosie, Arpege and Pierre Gagnaire are probably the best in Paris each with their own distinct cooking style. Pacaud at L'Ambroisie is probably the most conservative in the nouvelle cuisine mode, Passard at Arpege is the most austere and P Gagnaire is the most modern. As for ambience, L'Ambrosie is chandeliers, tapestry and somewhat old world service. L'Arpege is like a small jewel-box but informal for a 3-star. P Gagnaire is simple modern; there is a feeling of expansiveness with tables far apart. The service is formal but not overly serious. That does not mean they run the best restaurant. All the 3 stars serve serve excellent food, therefore, my advice is to take other factors such as cooking style, ambience, service into consideration. Rather than listening this one is the best or that is, read up on what each has to offer, then choose the one that fits what you are looking for. For example, the food at Guy Savoy might not be on par with L'Ambrosie or the interior compare to Le Meurice, but for many, it offers the best and most fun experience.
                    Base on your list of places you like in SF Bay Area and Spain, you have a board taste in food; La Folie, Fleur de Lys, FL, Manresa (my favorite splurge), Crenne, throw in Comerc24 and la Terraza in Spain, that is an eclectic mix, therefore, it is difficult to pin down what you are looking for.

                    1. re: PBSF

                      Thanks for the tips...good to hear from someone with a Bay Area perspective. I think for the 3-star I'm looking for something ultra-modern with lots of variety and creativity. I guess to illustrate my most recent Bay Area dining experiences I actually vastly preferred Atelier Crenn, which I felt was more creative and took more risks to Saison (which had 2 michelin stars and was more expensive), which had more straightforward but still excellently prepared food. From your description P. Gagnaire looks like it will meet what I am looking for.

                      I wish I could also go to L'Ambrosie as well since it seems like a good contrast w/ the old world style but not sure if my budget will allow for 2 3-star meals.

                      1. re: arlenemae

                        If your favorite is Dominique Crenn's restaurant, then P Gagnaire is probably the best choice among all the 3 stars. From my single dinner early on at Crenn, she is more presentation oriented than Gagnaire. Each course is presented as one unified picture where there as Gagnaire is much more contrast in texture and taste. Her style is more toward what the modern Spanish chefs are doing, ie Mugaritz.
                        Many 3 star offer a prix fixed lunch at about 1/3 the cost of their tasting menu/a la carte. There are some limitations but it offer very good value and a chance to eat at the restaurants without the astronomical cost. For dinner, your budget of 500$ per person is about the minimum for most of them.

                        1. re: PBSF

                          "your budget of 500$ per person is about the minimum for most of them."

                          IMHO, it is better to go to a less expensive restaurant, and to have an ampler budget there, than to go to a more expensive and max out your budget on just the basic menu, leaving no room for a glass of bubblies before, or an extrao order of foie gras during, or a glass of mandarine impériale afterwards. A wholy luxury experience should mean a more leisurely attitude throughout the meal, and should not be about fearfully recalculating the budget at every course, right?
                          :-)

                          1. re: Parigi

                            I agree, nothing worst than being all dressed up sitting in the most luxurious chair with silver carts everywhere, the most charming captain, sexiest serving staff, the champagne cart in front of you and have to count euros. Been there before; just increase the budget.

                            1. re: PBSF

                              Wow, I guess I underestimated the costs at these places...thanks for the tips! I definitely don't want to be counting every euro on my big blowout meal. I haven't really spent more than that on other 3-stars I've been to in the US but I guess the exchange rate puts us at a disadvantage.

                              I really want to try just one 3-star meal in Paris (and enjoy it thoroughly) so I guess I'll have to up my budget! :)

                              1. re: arlenemae

                                There is the exchange rates but it is supplies and demand in Paris. Tasting menus are at around 300 euros and more at Arpege. A la carte is only slightly less expensive. A glass of champagne is around 25 euro. Coffee at 8; add up fast. One can eat cheaper in most of the 3 stars outside of Paris.

                                1. re: PBSF

                                  Keep in mind as well the extremely high tax rate on meals and tips to all the staff who serve you.

                                  1. re: patricia Fieldsteel

                                    It is not the custom in France to tip all the staff who serve you. While tipping habits in starred restaurants maybe a bit different to other places, it should still not add significantly to the cost of the meal - either rounding up the bill, or leaving a maximum of 5% on top is sufficient.

                                    1. re: Theresa

                                      "keep in mind the extremely high tax rate on meals"

                                      The tax is already included in the indicated price. It is not added on on top of the indicated price, like the sales tax in some other countries.
                                      If your tasting menu is 80 euro, you pay 80 euro (and whatever else you order). You are not sprung a VAT afterwards. The VAT is already in the 80 euro sum.
                                      However, if during a lovely meal you like to do math, by all means satisfy your curiosity by figuring out the incorporated VAT. :-)

                                      If the restaurant has a sommelier, we leave a tip for the waitstaff as Theresa explains, and we tip the sommelier separately. That's about it.

                2. re: arlenemae

                  Chateauneuf is a nice place but not far away is the charming town of Uzes that has a stunning market in the towns main square. I would reccommend Le Table Julien (a 10 minute drive from town) and perhaps a picnic at the Pont du Garde which is a great site.

                  1. re: arlenemae

                    Parisians live in Paris--there's no one spot to call "real Paris." For Montparnasse, it depends on where in Montparnasse, ditto anywhere else. Your questions are a little too broad. As for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, 3 days is more than overkill--it's ridiculous. It's a tiny village. The wine harvest will be over and you can drink the wine anywhere. Do you really like Châteauneuf-du-Papes to the exclusion of all other wines or do you want to taste other wines of the region, many to my mind far better. It all depends on taste. Stay in Avignon and make side trips. If you can narrow down what you want and are looking for, it would be much easier to help.

              3. re: John Talbott

                I guess I can start with my high-end restaurant requirements. I've never been to a high-end restaurant in France since it's been many years since I've last been so I am really looking forward to this.

                - I would like to have two meals in a 1-2 star Michelin, traditional French restaurant. I am looking for ambiance, consistency, and just great execution of traditional French dishes (with a modern twist is ok, but not looking for anything overly modern). I'm considering visiting La Tour D'Argent partly because of history but the reviews have been hit-or-miss. Also considered L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, but I've been to the Las Vegas one and enjoyed it and I'm wondering if it's too similar. Le Cinq has plenty of good mentions in these boards so that's one of my options so far. A great cheese cart is a plus. Prefer to spend <$300/pp including wine. My benchmark for a good 1-star experience would be La Folie and Fleur de Lys in San Francisco.
                - For the one 3-star meal, I prefer to spend up to $500/pp. At this price point I am already assuming excellent food, service, and ambiance, and I am looking for be wowed and dazzled. Variety, creative techniques including molecular gastronomy, plays on textures and temperatures are all welcomed. So far the places that have done this for me have been the French Laundry, Manresa, and Atelier Crenn in the SF Bay Area, and I've also enjoyed La Terraza and Comerc24 in Spain. Right now I am looking at L'Arpege, L'Ambroisie, and Pierre Gagniere since those seem to have great recommendations on this board.

                For mid-range to low end, looking for cute, non-touristy neighborhood restaurants where I can have a great steak frites, duck confit, or coq au vin and a decent but reasonably priced bottle of wine. Budget would be up to around $75/pp. Preferably in the Montparnasse neighborhood where I'll be spending most of my time, though recommendations in the 5th/6th would be great too since I'll be spending a couple of days there at the end of my trip. Also looking for markets and places to find good bread, cheese, and charcuterie to eat back at the apartment.

                For Nice/Marseille/Rhone/Bordeaux/Dordogne, looking mainly for regional specialties, prefer to stay under $50-70/pp.

                1. re: arlenemae

                  Avoid Paris for your three-star meal. Le Petit Nice in Marseille would easily fit in your budget, for example.

                  1. re: arlenemae

                    My husband and I were in Paris in July and dined at both La Cinq (tasting menu for dinner) and Joel Rubuchon (Saint Germain) (a la carte for lunch). We were largely underwhelmed by dinner at La Cinq, while the service was impeccable, and the dining room gorgeous, we didn't feel like all of the courses were really up to scratch, and there was nothing really mind blowing about any of the food. Joel Rubuchon on the other hand was absolutely spectacular - a really wonderful meal, great service and just about every dish was ectasy. I would go back there in a heartbeat and highly recommend it. Have a lovely time in France!

                    1. re: AussieBeth

                      it's not top end in teh sense of Tout d'Aregent, Joel Robuchon, et al, but I like Chez Georges at 1, rue du Mail for a Parisian bistro/ restaurant of the old style with superb food. Not Pierre Gagnaire, but still superb. If you really want tops, go to Taillevant.

                  2. re: John Talbott

                    I totally agree with John Talbott. Also, remember you will not be able to eat high-end gourmet food every single day, twice a day or you will become very sick. No one in France eats like that!

                  3. Bourgogne is too far for a day trip, but Chablis -- which is part of Bourgogne -- is not. And perhaps you could do a weekend in Bourgogne? Beaune would be a great place for a weekend and there are excellent restaurants there (not to mention the wine ;).)

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Thanks for the tip...the more I think about it Loire is looking a lot better to me (and it's closer too). Hopefully I will learn more about Loire wines since I'm not as familiar with them as I am the other regions.

                    2. Quite a trip! I won't comment on the Paris parts as there are far better qualified Chow Hounds than I for that.
                      Nice is nice, but you might want to look at Antibes as an alternative. Less 'city' like than Nice.

                      Marseille is good. Look at the recommendations here for the bouillabaisse. For a hotel you might try the Adagio Marseille Republique. We stayed there earlier this summer. Very nice clean room, not expensive and easy walking distance to the port. Friendly, helpful staff.

                      Driving from the Rhone (you don't mention how far North you'll be) You'll pass fairly near Belcastel where you can eat at Le Vieux Pont and stay in their hotel. Rated one of the most beautiful villages in France. After that I'd explore the Logis de France chain for hotels. There are lots of them, all independant, not expensive & very French. If they brag about their restaurant then you can be sure it will be excellent.
                      You will probably be too early for truffles unless the fall is wetter than usual. Check out Lalbenque & see when the markets start. Going to their truffle market is a real experience. Duck is plentiful throughout the region. You might want to veer a bit South & explore some of the wineries along the river Lot. Cahor wines can be fantastic & the small city of Cahors is well worth a visit.
                      Being a country type I'd spend less time in Paris, but that's just my prejudice.

                      1. <Then we will rent a car and drive to Chateauneuf-du-Pape, want to stay in a small inn/B&B in the village from Nov11-14. We plan on visiting some wineries in the Chateauneuf-du-Pape and Gigondas areas, since we love Southern Rhone wines. >

                        I also love Southern Rhone wines, but can't imagine actually staying in CduP for more than maybe ONE night. It's a tiny hamlet, and although the town center is filled with tasting rooms, the actual wineries are scattered hither and yon in the area. You will need appointments to actually visit the wineries.

                        I would stay in Avignon (probably my favorite city in Provence) and do day trips to CduP and Gigondas. A great winery to visit is in the St. Remy-de Provence area, Mas du Gourgonnier.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: ChefJune

                          I fully agree with ChefJuen as I'd already said in my earlier post. CduP is not a particularly interesting village for starters, anyhow. In fact, compared to all the others, I find it not all that attractive. You will want to visit not only Gigondas, but also, Vacqueras, Sablet, Seguret (be sure to drive up into the Dentelles from there), Cairanne and Rasteau. Parking in Avignon is impossible, so be sure to chose a place that has its own parking or a special arrangement with a garage. Otherwise, stay outside Avignon and make trips into the centre ville inside the walls.
                          I live in Nyons in the Drôme, just north of Vaison-la-Romaine and quite close to Gigondas, Cairanne, CduP and Avignon. You should also be sure to buy and taste the olive oil--first cold-pressed virgin--of Nyons. I'd recommend Moulin Dozol-Autrand or Moulin Ramade--anything but the Nyons co-operative's oil which is inferior. This was the first AOC olive oil in France and I think--I might have a slight bias--by far the best. Also the olives and tapenade. Most high-end and even the better restaurants will emphasize they serve Nyons oil and olives.

                          1. re: patricia Fieldsteel

                            In Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, there is a superb wine bar on teh Rue de la Republique called Caveau de la Tour de l'Isle. There is also a small place to eat and order cheese and small snacks. I would highly recommend it. It's a superb place for purchasing wine and getting advice as well. It is open on Sundays. Also don;t miss the old Provençal fabric shop near the train station. Even if you buy nothing--it's pricey--it's worth the trip just to see the overwhelming inside of the shop.
                            If you want to purchase food for a pinic, there's an outdoor Sunday food market accompanying the brocante that has everything from cheese, sausages and bread to rotisserie chickens and the other obvious produce always sold at outdoor markets.

                            1. re: patricia Fieldsteel

                              Thanks for the tips...I didn't realize that there wouldn't be that much to see in the town of CduP itself. This is definitely the type of information I was looking for when I started this thread.

                              One of the main reasons we didn't want to stay in Avignon in the first place is because we will have our rental car, and we are afraid that there wouldn't be any parking. Also, I would have visited a few large cities the prior weeks before (Paris, London, Nice, Marseille) that I would prefer to stay in the country in a small village for a while. Are there any villages that you would recommend outside Avignon that have good access to the wineries in Chateauneuf-du-pape, Gigondas, and others in the Southern Rhone?

                              In Bordeaux we are staying in Saint-Emilion which seemed a perfect balance of having a village w/ stuff to do (and restaurants to go to) yet does not have the big city atmosphere. Is there a place in the Rhone where I can get a similar type of experience (yet still be convenient to go to the wineries)?

                              1. re: arlenemae

                                Have you thought about a ferme auberge for your stay in the Rhone? We've stayed at the Mas des Vertes Rives, in http://www.mas-des-vertes-rives.com/-..., in Chateauneuf-de-Gadagne outside of Avignon. It's a lovely farm surrounded by grapevines with really good rustic cuisine - the breakfasts are to die for too. The owners are super nice, and it's close to all the places you want to visit. You could spend the days exploring the wines of the region then head back to the farm for dinner...or, it's not that far a drive from Avignon if you want more variety. It was one of our favorite experiences and would give you a nice mix of city-country.

                                1. re: sistereurope

                                  I strongly second the ferme-auberge Vertes Vives, lovely farm, great hearty food, with ingredients from the farm.

                                  Avignon is a pleasant town, and convenient, if one depends on the train. If one has a car, there are nicer towns to stay.

                                  Besides Châteauneuf de Gadagne above, Uzès, which was mentioned upthread, is a very pretty town and a good base, andn is near Châteauneuf du Pape.

                                  Another of my fave towns, for such a short stay, is Arles, which itself is beautiful and has great Roman ruins and quite a concentration of good-quality eateries, from excellent markets and traiteurs to Rabanel's temple. You can use the searh function to find many resto recommendations on Arles.

                                  The Drome region, also mentioned above, is a breathtaking place, and is often described as "like Provence before Provence became, well, Provence". :-) My fave village there is Grignan.

                                  Your plan allocates a very short stay in Dordogne. As much as I love Paris, I would give Dordogne a couple more days at least.

                                  You also mentioned about leaning toward the Loire, believing the Loire is nearer (Paris, I suppose). Hmm, the Loire is much more sprawling than one thinks.
                                  A greatLoire daytrip destination is the beautiful wine-growing village Sancerre.
                                  The royal castles are too far apart. If you are targeting them, you really need to stay at least 2 nights, entaliing much driving. And one easily gets the royal castle indigestion. My maximum is 3.

                                  The Yonne (ex: Vezelay) or the Côte d'Or area (ex: Beaune) of Burgundy is another beautiful area that makes a good base. Especially around the Beaune vineyard area, there are many excellent restaurants, much mentioned on this board. That part of Burgundy is also the convenient mid-point between Paris and the Drome-Provence area.

                                  1. re: Parigi

                                    Thanks all...I actually did book Mas des vertes rives after seeing all the rave reviews! I just really got intrigued by the idea of eating at a farm, and their November menu looked great (pig parts...yum). We are stopping by for lunch on our way from Provence to Chateauneuf-du-Pape. It had the added bonus of being open all year, unlike most of the ferme-auberges I looked at in the Dordogne.

                                    I was looking at other, possibly more picturesque towns but in the end we just decided to stay with our original booking at CdP since it was the most convenient to all the wineries we were planning on visiting (less than an hour to all the wineries on our radar) and it was only for a couple of days (doubt we will spend much time in thetown itself). There are so many places I would like to visit, including spending more time in the Dordogne. I think the main focus of these last two weeks will defintiely be the wine though, so most of our itineraries are planned around that. We were only going to do a couple days in Bordeaux wine region, but then we found out that there was a Margaux festival while we were there so we decided to spend more time in the area. I'm hoping to get a good overview of these regions in this trip so next time I can spend a more extended time in a single area.

                                    I thought a month would be enough but it's really not...I wish I had a year!

                                2. re: arlenemae

                                  Thank you! You are right about parking in Avignon--a nightmare. While I don;t know of any places to stay, Sablet is a lovely village. Pierre Salinger's (yes, THE Pierre Salinger) runs a superb gîte in Le Thor and has made a museum of his life there as well.

                                  1. re: arlenemae

                                    There are all sorts of small hotels, inns, and B&Bs in the Rhone Valley, including in the Luberons, within easy driving distance of CdP, Avignon and other destinations. We stayed at Les Carmes in Le Thor last year and had a lovely time. (NB this is not the Salinger inn.)

                                    See also this thread, http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/759348, which is not exclusively devoted to that region but includes many good suggestions.

                                    1. re: arlenemae

                                      Fwiw, Avignon is a small town. Especially if you stay (as we prefer) in the Old Town. It's very walkable.

                                      I've never stayed in Gigondas, but that would be a better place to stay than CduP.

                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                        Easy to visit Avignon but nicer to stay outside. If you us them as a base to tour from Gigondas is nice as are many of the little villages. My recommendation is to work out the best restaurants then choose the village - most are small and only have a few options so you need to consider evening driving.

                                3. Have you consider cutting down a couple of days i.e. a day each from a couple areas/cities i.e. Rhone, Bordeaux or Drodogne and spend 2 days in Lyon? It is considered by some to be the gastronomic capital of france and has a lovely old town, river and aquduct :D

                                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyon#Gas...

                                  They have dined at some of Paul Boucouse bistros and also dined at Trois Gros, one of the restaurant in Rhone where they are now 3rd generation and father/uncle plus current owner Michel have held 3* for 40 plus years.

                                  http://www.troisgros.fr/english/leres...

                                  My friends drove there from Lyon for lunch but they said they would have loved to do a stay overnight at the hotel onsite.

                                  http://www.troisgros.fr/english/leres...