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A wild ride around the countryside...need some suggestions on the sprint to CDG from Nice. We'd appreciate suggestions on any other aspects as well.

My wife & I are staying in Paris with friends dropping in here and there. Then we will join another couple and take a wild ride around the countryside as described below. We need some help in three areas for sure and any suggestions beyond these are certainly appreciated: 1) The sprint north is sketchy with doubts as to how to best get from Nice to CDG...stop overnight in Lyon or Dijon and where? 2) Should we take the market tour or the shop tour in Aix? and, 3) Are we missing something we should change our plans over?
The grand plan below shows where we have overnight reservations and places we hope to tour with no eating commitments yet because we know NOTHING about food in these places.
The Plan
May 11th to June 4- Downtown Paris Apt rue du General de Castelnau
June 5-10: Thursday-Tuesday – Paris with side trips to Giverney, Versailles, Chartes.
June 11-12: Wednesday/Thursday—Normandy. Sights: Arromanches D-Day Museum, American Cemetery, and Pointe du Hoc (and Caen World War II Museum, if time allows). (2 nights in Bayeux).
180 miles from CDG Airport to Bayeux on route A13
• Relias Saint-Loup, Bayeux
June 13 Friday—Bayeux Tapestry (This famous 230-foot-long tapestry was created in 1000 AD. It depicts the Norman Invasion/Battle of Hastings) and St. Michelle. Spend night at St. Michelle.
Distance from Bayeux to St. Michelle: 57.06 miles. The approximately estimated travel/road distance can be around 65.62 miles to 71.32 miles
• Chambres d'Hôtes Les Vieilles Digues
• Route du Mont Saint Michel, Beauvoir
June 14: Saturday: Drive through Loire Valley. Spend night in Chateauroux.
Distance from Mt. St. Michele: 195.12 miles. The approximately estimated travel/road distance can be around 224.39 miles to 243.9 miles
• Ace Hotel Chateauroux
Zac de l'EcoParc - Avenue Gustave Eiffel, Déols, FR

June 15: Sunday—Dordogne region, Aquitaine. Stop at WWII ruins at Oradour-sur-Glane and painted prehistoric caves. Stay in a Souillac. (1 night). Dordonge is a hilly region lush with medieval hamlets.
Souillac is 240 K from Chateauroux. 132.83 miles. The approximately estimated travel/road distance can be around 152.75 miles to 166.04 miles
• Le Pavillon Saint-Martin,
• 5 place Saint-Martin, Souillac
June 16: Monday— Head to the Languedoc region, Carcassonne, a perfectly restored medieval town complete with walled fortification. Spend night in Carcassonne
Souillac to Carcassonne is 259 K (2 hours and 20 minutes)
• La Bastide Saint Martin
• Address: Avenue Saint Martin


June 17-20: Tuesday-Friday— Head to Aix en Provence via Montpellier area. Wednesday-Saturday—On to Provence with a stop at the Pont du Gard aqueduct, Roman amphitheater in Arles and Avignon. Spend nights in Aix en Provence.

Carcassone to Montpellier: 1 hour 32
Montpelier to Aix en Provence: 90 minutes
Arles is 57 min.
Arles to Avignon: 44 minutes
Avignon to Aix en Provence: 56 minutes

• Soft Mirabeau
• •30 Place Barthélémy Niollon , 13100 Aix en Provence
• located in the Allées Provençales

Luberon. head to Lourmarin for coffee (sit at a café in Place Ormeau & watch the people go by) - & then go to le Castelas in Sivèrgues for lunch. (See various discussions on Chowhound & be sure to book.) See Saignon, Bonnieux, Roussillon before heading back to Aix for a light dinner. Saturday night (the 21st) will be la Fête de la Musique, so the town should be bustling with music. Recommended restaurants in Aix: le Formal (rue Espariat), le Poivre d'Ane (Place Cardeurs), l'Incontournable (rue de Montigny). Also on Saturday will be Aix's biggest market, which is worth visiting. A nice spot for lunch would be la Fromagerie du Passage (hidden in the Passage Agard just off the Cours Mirabeau).

Thursday: market tour is very recommended on Trip Advisor. See http://www.tastesofprovence.com/
June 21-23 Saturday/Sunday— Depart for the Riviera, possibly in Villefranche-sur-Mer or Nice. (2 nights).
Aix en Provence to Nice: 1 hour 47 minutes
• Nice Excelsior Chateaux & Hotels Collection

June 23: Monday — Head north. Overnight
Distance Nice to Dijon: 6 hour drive.
Distance Nice to Lyon, 4 hours.
June 24: Reims via Verdon Overnight
Dijon to Reims: 2 hours 39 minutes
Lyon to Reims: 4 hours (overnight
)June 25: Wednesday- CDG - Fly home

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  1. First correction of the above...we have a fairly good sense of food opportunities in Paris, and will lay out a plan for that aspect of our trip at a later time. Please comment on places outside of Paris.

    1. La Vieux Logis in Tremlolat is a really exceptional meal in the Dordogne (http://www.relaischateaux.com/vieuxlo...). A bit further west than where you'll be, but worth traveling for.

      1. Just to be clear, your other post said you would be in Aix June 20-21-22, but you seem to have changed your itinerary. I had suggested Sunday (the 22nd) lunch at le Castelas in Sivèrgues because, as far as I know, Sunday is the only day they serve roast pig for lunch. It's a longish, somewhat winding trip back to Aix, so I hesitate to suggest you go there for dinner - but if you're up for the minimum 75 minute ride back to your hotel, you will hopefully be glad you went for that roast pig dinner.

        3 Replies
        1. re: boredough

          Yes. We have had a few changes and I apologize for quoting you without recognition. Don't know about driving that far given all our driving...we'll see.

          1. re: hychka

            From 11 to 25 June, in 13 days you will be in
            - northern Normandy,
            - southern Normandy/Brittany,
            - the Dordogne,
            - Carcassonne,
            -Provence,
            - the Riviera
            - Reims
            Your driving estimate is way too optimistic. You need to find parking space everywhere you go. You have to look at road signs in another language. There may be traffic jams or slow-downs. Every time you change destination, let's say to a nearby destination (many of your destinations aren't) with the smoothest driving and valet parking, it will still take half a day.
            some of your destination changes will take all day. Forget restaurants. You should be asking for recommendations of freeway gas station cafeterias.
            If you love only commute and hate getting out of the car, this itinerary may work. -- Why not throw in Morocco and Belgium too ?
            It is difficult to recommend any place that will work unless it is a drive-in.

            We just came back from 10 days in Nice.
            - Found a socca that totally dethroned René's. If René socca was a 6. Chez Pipo is a 9.
            - Went back to our fave restaurant Flaveur. Only 2 years ago it had a great 38-euro menu that includes 3 courses a a glass of wine. Now the 38-euro menu includes 2 courses and no wine. The quality is just as good, but not better than before, and the execution a bit fussier. Hmm.
            - What is just as good as before if not better are two places, both of which are more for those staying in an apartment: the ravioli (truffle-stuffed and st-Jacques-stuffed) from La Barale, and the anchovy paste from the 83-year-old lady poissonnière on Marché St François.

            1. re: Parigi

              Michelin is your guide - but not the red book you need a large format Michelin road atlas....!

              Agree with Parigi it's a manic itinerary and your timings are badly out - it took me about 6 hours from Carcassonne to Aix as the road is busy with lots of Freight on the road coming up from Spain and North Africa - that said if you can average 110 kmh from Souillac to Carcassone your a braver drive than I.

              And if we assume you are interested in food (as this is Chowhound) you are not going to get the best out of the country.

        2. God, this is a lot of driving - take it from somebody who already does too many insane road trips across France for rugby, food, friends, festivals etc. Up to half your trip will not be on motorways and, to put it no stronger, you may have to adjust to a leisurely pace.
          Looking at just one day, Oradour and the Lascaux caves are two very popular destinations. The former needs 2 to 3 hours (not including a period of reflection) and the queues for entry to the latter should not be discounted. In June expect school tours at both of them.
          Take the morning to see Oradour by all means but then take lunch at the nearby Hotel de al Glane (this is a food site after all) - it won't blow your socks off but you will get ok provincial food at a relaxed pace. It will have taken you at least an hour and a half to get there so relax - you'll have to navigate Limoges traffic twice and Souillac is probably two and half hours driving in good conditions.
          I suspect that those who know other parts of France will give similar advice - lunches in France should not be rushed and you are going to hit places which deserve to be taken at their own pace

          1. I got tired just reading your itinerary, and you will have to check into a hospital, I fear, if you try to achieve it! You have given yourselves a good amount of time to enjoy Paris and environs. I hope you will consider your sanity and pare down the remaining time. If you especially want to spend time in the South of France, I'd suggest training down and renting a car in.... Nice? (choose your city) And spending your time enjoying that area. Leave the rest for another trip(s). Or, there's a lot to see, do and eat in the Dordogne. You could probably spend a couple of weeks there happily.

            1. Yes, the itinerary is tiring. But, to date your words made no other member in my party heed your warnings. (They are all reading this thread and urging me to press on!). So, as a hostage in this situation, I ask for help as to where a poor chowhound may find a decent meal on this wild ride.

              Yes, my Michelin Map has been ordered, thank you!

              And, please! No more with the highway cafeterias or inciting these loonies into extending the ride into Africa!!

              Cooperate and I'll buy when we take a PBM wine tasting tour in May.

              Signed,
              S

              3 Replies
              1. re: hychka

                If you are really intent in storming through the Dordogne and the Lot and missing charming French small town with incredible food, at least re-think seriously about overnighting in Carcassonne. Yes it's a "a perfectly (over) restored medieval town complete with walled fortification" but expect expensive and difficult parking, wall to wall tourists at peak times, tacky over-priced tourist traps out to make their annual income by throwing pre-cooked industrial food at undiscriminating hordes, etc, etc.
                Sure, take a look at Carcassonne (it really looks best from a distance or in winter) but stay somewhere like nearby Mirepoix - book either in the Relais Royal (good if expensive restaurant but there are others) or the Maison des Consuls (authentique and comfortable well restored medieval building without restaurant but they will reserve a table for you locally). Logis de Mirepoix has a nice enclosed terrace in summer - food is not really memorable but there are plenty of authentique choices around here and you will surely eat well as here you are in the authentic "France profonde".
                If you have spent all day in the car (either driving or searching for parking), there is nowhere quite like a small authentic French town to relax and unwind over local food. Abandon the car, these towns were built for pedestrians.
                Good luck - you will need it.

                1. re: kerriar

                  I totally agree. Why make recommendations on places for which the OP will have no time ? His party from hell must have brighter ideas that none, none of us have.

                  1. re: kerriar

                    Thank you for this suggestion. I'll look into it. We have not made a stay over reservation for that night yet and I like your idea.

                2. I'm not sure of the purpose of this long and exhausting road trip. It looks like you will only have time to collect postcards, tick off a name on your map, and have quick meals rather than experience in any meaningful way the places you pass through. France, layered with thousands of years of history and offering a kaleidoscope of scenery and culture is not, I think, a place for those with short attention spans. It deserves more than a glimpse through the window of a rented car. In the end there will be no precious memories, just blurry and jumbled recollections of barely remembered places.

                  It's very very very difficult for any of us to recommend specific restaurants in this frantic gallop through France. The mind just boggles at how you can fit 3-hour gastronomic orgasms into this crazy sightseeing schedule. Good eats are almost always part of a slow smell-the-roses lifestyle.

                  A lot of the places you hope to visit are already covered by previous threads. You can probably quite easily construct a map of pee-and-eat pitstops from these. "Faire une carte de France", it's sometimes better to do it alone.

                  1. Since everyone seems to be landing on poor Mr. Hychka (who's a "friend" of mine) I want to defend his hectic schedule, because it's exactly the sort of thing I do that has come within a whisker of resulting in divorce numerous times.
                    How to fit 3 hour meals into a day with 6 hour drives is a challenge. I cannot wait for his report.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: John Talbott

                      " I want to defend his hectic schedule, because it's exactly the sort of thing I do that has come within a whisker of resulting in divorce numerous times."

                      But why do you want him to get a divorce?

                      1. re: John Talbott

                        So do you have any divorce-inspiring drive-in addresses to share, cher JT ? Or are you just watching?

                        1. re: Parigi

                          "any divorce-inspiring drive-in addresses to share"
                          Maybe the name'll come to me but one time we'd planned to ship our car from Nice to Bercy on the car train when there was (surprise) a strike on SNCF and I made it back in one day with a 3-hour lunch.

                      2. So, as I'm sure you have all been waiting for us to come to our senses, my update will come as no surprise.
                        We have cut this plan back some. Basically we'll be in Paris with side trips. After about three weeks in Paris we'll take the TGV to Bordeax to meet friends, wine taste and enjoy a chateau in the countryside and return to Paris (three days).
                        A little later we will take a five day drive to Bayeux, Mont Saint Michael and return to Paris via Giverny. For the southern and final leg we'll take the TGV to Aix en Provence and rent a car to visit the sights (8.5 days total)returning via TGV from Nice to Paris for a final afternoon in the park and night on the town before flying home the next afternoon. Driving or taking TGV Aix to Nice is still undecided.
                        I have enjoyed reading older and some current Chowhound threads on Bayeux, Aix en Provence and Nice and their surrounds. These have been very helpful although occasionally contradictions of each other. However, I see little to recommend eating near Mont Saint Michael or Giverny. Are these wastelands to plan around or pack picnics for?

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: hychka

                          "I see little to recommend eating near Mont Saint Michael or Giverny. Are these wastelands to plan around or pack picnics for?"
                          Very touristy.
                          Yes, picnic is one way. Pack a picnic, then drive on the strip toward St Malo, pig out with the view of MSM in the distance.
                          One sure way to avoid tourist traps is to dine in a ferme-auberge.
                          I have enjoyed the pré-salé in this ferme-auberge not far from MSF.
                          http://www.lemanoirdeguelle.com/

                          1. re: Parigi

                            My wonderful wife, tolerant as she is, after reading this article by Alexander Lobrano in the dreaded NYT, insists we revisit Giverny and go to the two places he mentioned. Of course we'll go, just like we've gone 20 times before; but they do sound nice and I cannot recall them, indeed I recall best sitting on the Left bank on a hill and having a divine picnic like Parigi. Anyway this may be linkable only for subscribers (I confess I'm one) but
                            http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/09/tra...

                            1. re: John Talbott

                              I was able to read it. Thanks for the link.

                              1. re: John Talbott

                                I'll look forward to hearing what you and your wife think about the Auberge du Prieure Normand. We liked it the one time we ate there.

                            2. re: hychka

                              Re Mont-St-Michel.... there's a very good fête de village with a communal barbecue of salt-meadow lamb at Genêts on the Normandie-side of the bay... usually in June so might coincide with your visit.

                            3. I agree with the recommendations to trim this itinerary down. One important sight in the morning, one in the afternoon, and three hours driving max every day. That way you'll enjoy your time in France.

                              I don't think there's anything in Champagne that merits your doubling back there. Dump your car somewhere south and take the TGV back to Paris.

                              In the Loire valley. “If you’ve seen one chateau, you’ve seen them all” does not quite apply. These are all different - the five best to visit are Angers, Langeais, Chenonceaux, Loches and the gardens only at Villandry.

                              That takes the better part of two days. With extra time you can drive by the rest.

                              In the southwest the Pont Valentré at Cahors, nearby St-Cirq-Lapopie, Albi , and the new Viaduc de Millau are all DON’T MISS.

                              Go to only one prehistoric cave. In France I like Peche Merle at Cabrerets in the Lot, within a stone's throw from St-Cirq-Lapopie. However, the very last painting at Font de Gaume at les-Eyzies is mind-boggling. The reproduction of Lascaux is disappointing. Anyway you can probably visit it online.

                              FYI I used to plan trips like this for a living.

                              6 Replies
                              1. re: collioure

                                See my just prior comments above as we have actually cut the plan drastically, taking the TGV to make up the differences. Would appreciate your thoughts on what is left as we still have some freedom. S

                                1. re: hychka

                                  I could suggest leaving Paris via Giverny and continuing from Normandy on into Brittany which is full of interesting sights and good food. I just love Brittany. I've been there six times and I still haven't quite seen it all.

                                  I sure wouldn't go back to Paris from Bordeaux. I'd head east into the Dordogne and the Lot and down through Albi and Carcassonne (or Millau) to Provence. The southwest is one of the most interesting regions in France.

                                  Did I pound the table for Albi again? I did. It has the best cathedral in all of France, inside and out, plus the Toulouse-Latrec museum and the old bridge, and the whole city is in red brick. It's one of those places I could not visit too many times.

                                  Otherwise from Paris I would surely take the TGV south, but I’d get off in Avignon to spend at least a day or two in the area and then head east toward Nice.

                                  1. re: collioure

                                    On the next trip!
                                    We're locked on the Bordeaux portion of this one. We were planning to go southeast as you suggest, but things just got out of control. We can't see all of France in one trip, even as we are devoting seven weeks to the effort. What started out as a rest for my wife has turned into a very structured seven+ weeks of friends flying in to visit us in Paris (even our busy executive daughter is coming!)and short trips into France with friends away from Paris. We are not sorry in the least as all has promise.
                                    But, I was hoping for some suggestions on our chosen route from you as we do have some latitude with the balance of the trip...just not the Bordeaux portion. Thanks for your comments above as I will remember for next year. S

                                    1. re: hychka

                                      I just made a few suggestions that save time. You've planned three train rides back to Paris.

                                      FYI I only suggested Brittany, I didn't even mention Alsace, Savoie, Burgundy, the Auvergne, or Charentes and the Atlantic coast - all very rewarding regions.

                                      However, in seven weeks I'd surely find a way to at least sample the Southwest. It's unlike any other part of France - unique sights and food. I prefer it to Provence/Cote d'Azur.

                                      BTW my handle here is Collioure. Put that on your list for a future trip too. I live about 15 minutes drive from this magical port. It was love at first sight in 1993.

                                      Yesterday I hiked in the mountains of the sumptuous Vermilion Coast just above Collioure. Drop dead gorgeous. The countryside of France is gorgeous. Consider spending more time there.

                                        1. re: hychka

                                          You mean I succeeded in gettng you off the path beaten by so many Americans from Paris to Provence to Nice?

                                          Well, I'm sure we'd be interested in your itinerary when you get it all shaken down. And I'm glad you won't be getting divorced as a result of it. (Those comments above were just too funny!)

                              2. I agree with those who think Carcassonne is overrated. However, the view of it from the outside is magical (although the restoration is far from true to its original state ...). I think there are better, more scenic places to stay between the Dordogne and Provence (the Haut Languedoc National Park is amazing), but on the other hand, if you do visit Carcassonne, it is better to be there in the evening and overnight when the day trippers have gone.

                                If you do go to the Carcassonne area, the Relais de Chantovent in Minerve is worth a stop for lunch.

                                Other places en route to Provence (perhaps with some minor detours) include:

                                The Auberge des Gorges de Madale, just off the D908 http://aubergedesgorgesdemadale.jimdo... Set, no-choice menu, outrageously good value, very good food, big portions (too big for me ...).

                                Les Marroniers, Lamalou les Bains. Amazing value sert lunches and also serve their cheapest menu in the evenings (around 14 Euro).

                                L'Ocre Rouge, Herepian. Further East on the D908. Very good modern French cuisine. http://www.locrerouge.fr/

                                L'Ortensia in St Gervais sur Mare. Perfect food, stunning views from the dining room. http://www.restaurant-ortensia.com/

                                I have recommended most of these before, and those posts will include restaurants in other places in the Languedoc (such as Sete, Nimes, Arles), so it's worth searching the board for other threads.

                                7 Replies
                                1. re: Theresa

                                  I've now been to Carcassonne at least ten times (I live about two hours away and now take house guests there), and I still remember the magnificent view coming over the ridge from Mazamet 35 years ago.

                                  This is the largest standing medieval city in Europe with its walls intact. I don't think it disappoints anyone.

                                  1. re: collioure

                                    Carcassonne, like Rocamadour, is all view. The inside has nothing but cloned geegaw shops. Nice as to look at from afar.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      The commerical interests on one side and the residences on the other do muck up the interior of the walled city. Nevertheless, the sheer size of the enclosure, the thick walls that date to the Early Middle Ages, the castle and the defensive posts are quite impressive to any first-time visitor. I sure beats Chicago and I still like going there

                                      1. re: collioure

                                        It's a good view and worth seeing. But from a culinary perspective has it got anything of merit - I just remember touristy places serving cassoulet for lunch in the summer heat. Better to visit during the day but stay outside in the countryside.

                                        1. re: PhilD

                                          actually a couple of the cassoulet places do serve up a damned fine cassoulet -- much to our surprise.

                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                            I've had fantastic partridge cassoulet once in Carcassonne, right inside the Cité. Goes to show that there can be great finds even amidst the most touristy environments.

                                    2. re: collioure

                                      We are planning to be in Carcassonne at the end of the month for 3-4 days, and I would really appreciate any recommendations for restaurants in the area, that you could give me. We will have a car, so it does not have to be right in Carcassonne. Would particularly love recommendations for traditional food from the region(and not just cassoulet) and maybe something like a wine bar, where you could get platters of charcuterie and selections of local cheeses for a more casual dinner.

                                      And hoping to get in a day trip to Albi, if possible.

                                      I was just starting to put together a list of possible restaurants, and I have read as much as I could find from past discussions, but happened to see Collioure's comments, and could not resist asking.

                                      Thanks!