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May 28, 2013 06:51 AM

Where as my 3rd France home base?

I am coming to France from Toronto with my partner for about 2 weeks, and want to see a variety of cities that are food focused but can only stay in 3 cities. We are on no particular budget.
We are for sure staying in Paris for 4-5 nights, then SOMEWHERE for 4-5 nights, then Nice for 2 nights.
So I am finishing up my research on Paris and Nice and will be back with questions soon on those, but my immediate question is where would make the most sense to stay as a middle home base considering the following:
-we will have a car to travel
-we would like to see:
Loire valley*
Rhone valley*
Strasbourg *
- the city we stay in should be the one w the best access to some of these cities AND a lot of great restaurants for dinner (since we usually will want to eat wherever we stay at night time so we aren't driving home too late)

Thank you so much in advance!


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  1. Hi Abbey,

    We recently faced a similar decision (10 days in France last month) and investigated spending time in Lyon as the ‘happy medium’. I note that most of the areas are wine regions, so I’m ‘assuming’ you intend to imbibe. Which raises the issue of possibly driving ‘home’ after the meal. Driving in cities is tricky (even with a GPS), so, to jump to the conclusion, we ended up driving a circular route from/to Lyon, staying at a new place almost every night, so we didn’t have to drive (too far) . That also meant we could take the train from Paris to/from Lyon and shorten the car rental period.

    On a previous trip to the Loire we stayed centrally and, because we had to drive home after each meal, we found we couldn’t really relax completely over dinner, which detracted from the trip.

    Of course, if you plan to rent an apartment and cook for yourself, then the above doesn’t apply (except for the driving in cities bit).

    I have visited, and stayed in, all of your proposed areas (except Provence – which you could probably do from Nice anyway) and most have attractions that are worth seeing/doing. I place Bordeaux FAR at the bottom. Mostly industrial and although the top wines are justly famed, you won’t be able to visit (or afford) them without strong contacts. Also it’s the weakest area for food.

    How important is ‘sightseeing’? The villages of Alsace and the Loire chateaux are spectacular – but scattered. Burgundy & Rhone are much more food destinations, but e.g. Beaune is very small and may not be worth 5 days.
    If you want 3 star dining then Rhone and Burgundy are both excellent choices. In planning our trip I think I discovered that 15 different 3* Michelin places are within a 4-hour drive from Lyon – not that I recommend sticking to those – there are multiple local places also. However, the odd 3* is worth it!

    I’ll add more after other people chime in and I can assess what balance of food & tourism (and fine dining) you’re looking for.

    1 Reply
    1. re: estufarian

      Beaune may be small, but there is easily 5 days worth of sightseeing, wine tasting and dining to be had in the area. However, if you wish to taste at Burgundy wineries, you need to set that up ahead of time through your local wine merchant, who can hook you up with distributors and importers.

      Lyon is a wonderful food city -- not so much for wine itself, but nearby to Beaujolais, the Maconnais, and the upper Rhone Valley. Some of the finest dining in the world is to be had in that region. There are more 3* restaurants in that region than anywhere in France outside Paris, and the prices are much more friendly.

    2. I'm prejudiced about such matters, but I couldn't suggest a better place than Marseille--great access to the rest of Provence, wonderful choice of restaurants, and . . . Marseille 2013: European Capital of Culture!

      1. Two good suggestions so far, but I'd add Toulouse as a third option.
        Lots of good restaurants & stuff to do. Car not needed in the city, but plenty of sights to visit within easy driving distance.
        As an alternative you might consider a smaller city like Albi or Montpelier. Both very interesting with a selection of good restaurants.
        Finally, consider a week in a gite. There's much to be said for shopping at the markets & doing your own cooking as well as trying the more rural restaurants.

        1. I have to question, how well traveled are either of you in France? Makes a big difference in my recommendation.

          From Paris, head to Caen. Embrace the butter, cheese, and seafood of Normandy. Quick trip to Mont Ste. Michel for lamb and more seafood. A slow drive up the Loire valley for world famous wines, liquors, castles and chateaus. I have taken this trip 4 times by car and have enjoyed it every time. Always something new to experience. The knowlegeable Hounds of France can direct you to current worthy establishments.

          If your prime purpose is the gustatorial side of France, your best bet is Lyon. Start at the traditional Bouchons and advance north or south for great wines and fantastic food. This is a target rich environment. Plenty of Michelin stars to add to your list.

          And don't underestimate the regional public transportation to get you to and from vinyards and restaurants without the dangers of alcohol dehanced driving.

          Which region of France do I personally prefer? Whichever one I am in at the moment.

          1. What time of the year is your trip?