Paris and Provence
This itinerary includes Paris, the sparkling gem of France, and her relaxed and beautiful country cousin to the south, the region of Provence.
Combining a trip to Paris and Provence gives you an excellent blend of big city style with a taste of rural French life. Begin your trip in Paris and dazzle yourself with fabulous monuments, world-famous museums, and a thriving café culture, then head south to submerge yourself in fields of lavender, epic Roman ruins, and village markets under cherry trees.
Note: Having a car in Provence will give you the best access to small villages, but many larger towns have rail stations and most tour companies offer a Provence tour as well.
Find your favorite museum moment in Paris, whether it is the Mona Lisa in the Louvre, Monet’s water lilies at the Musee d’Orsay, or a funky sculpture at the Dali museum. Take photos from a gargoyle’s eye view on top of Notre Dame Cathedral. Sip wine or espresso at a sidewalk café and watching Paris swirl around you. Get lost and then found in the Metro, the Parisian subway. The Eiffel Tower. Explore the gigantic papal palace at Avignon. Swim underneath the Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard. Eat dessert at Van Gogh’s café in Arles. Shop for your picnic lunch at one of the many village street markets. Dance in the streets of the university town of Aix. Crème brulée.
Starting point: Paris
Ending point: Paris or Nice (it is actually quicker to take the high-speed train from Provence back to Paris than it is to travel over to Nice, on the French Riviera. But you may just want to add this slice of France to your trip as well, if you like beaches and beautiful people)
Time Frame: 7-14 days +/-
Paris: Stay in the Latin Quarter for inexpensive, centrally located hostels.
Around Paris: If your trip is longer, take a day or two and visit Versailles, Monet’s gardens at Giverny, the Champagne region, or the magnificent cathedral of Chartres, all easy day trips from Paris.
Provence: The TGV is the high-speed train that runs from Paris to Avignon. From here Provence is easy and fun to explore by car, with well-marked signage and heaps of villages to explore. Arles is most charming town in which to base yourself, although larger Aix-en-Provence has more nightlife, and Avignon has the best shopping. Discover the Pont du Gard aqueduct, do not miss the immense cliff-top castle ruins of Les Baux de Provence, and visit the mysterious Isle de la Sorgue, the antique town of Fountaine de Vaucluse, the Roman theatre at Orange, and the hillside villages of Gordes, Roussillon, and Bonnieux.
TGV train ticket + car rental (best)
France rail pass (will take you to the major towns of Provence and on to the French Riviera)