Guest Notes for Episode 279: Family Vacation in Provence and the French Alps

Categories: Lyon Area, Provence

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Discussed in this Episode

  • Why Deepa loves France so much [04:44]
  • Young son loves paragliding [08:28]
  • What they loved in Aix-en-Provence [09:27]
  • Restaurant recommendations in Aix [11:56]
  • Calissons d'Aix [12:43]
  • A visit to Cassis [13:30]
  • Bouillabaisse in Cassis [15:42]
  • Plan enough time for the Pont du gard [17:56]
  • Haribo museum and store [19:14]
  • When are the bull fights in Nîmes? [20:50]
  • In Nîmes don't miss La Maison Carrée [21:28]
  • Lavender fields in Sault [22:23]
  • La Garde Adhémar and Parc naturel régional des Baronnies provençales scenic drive and lavender fields [22:30]
  • Vallon Des Lavandes Lavandin and Lavandor [23:51]
  • Sault is a good place to buy lavander souvenirs [24:40]
  • Watch out for opening times at Notre Dame de Sénanque! [24:54]
  • A visit to Annecy [25:30]
  • Airbnb in Annecy: La Perle de la Vielle ville d’Annecy [26:00]
  • Seeing a doctor in Annecy [27:37]
  • Annecy is picture-perfect! [28:47]
  • Coffee truck in Annecy [29:18]
  • How much French do you need to know? [30:15]
  • Paragliding in Annecy [31:07]
  • Boating on the lake in Annecy [32:46]
  • Most beautiful village of Yvoire [34:05]
  • Mer de Glace or Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix? [35:19]
  • Chamonix or Annecy? [36:12]
  • How to behave in France [37:14]
  • Don't pack too much in each day [38:00]
  • Should you pay attention to Yelp in France? [38:34]
  • A few things about Paris and shopping in Le Marais [41:30]
  • How to get the VAT tax back [42:12]
  • How patrons can get rewards automatically on their smartphone [46:08]

14 Days Trip to France!

 

Back story on the trip – Check off my bucket list item of staying for 17 days in France. And, I was able to achieve it with three days in Paris on a prior trip to Europe.

 

Itinerary – 5 days in Paris, 5 days in Provence and 4 days in Annecy from Jul 28th to Aug 11th.

 

Transportation – We flew into Paris from NY, took the TGV to Aix, rented a car for our stay in Aix and Annecy. We dropped off the car at Lyon and took the TGV back to Paris.

 

Idea behind picking cities – As with everyone else, Paris was a must for our family too. I listened to various Podcast episodes to nail down which other cities we wanted to cover and decided on South East region. Cities of Aix and Annecy, each gave us a unique experience. My son loves Paragliding and that was a huge factor why we picked going to Annecy.

 

What I wish we had done differently

  • I wish we had more time in Annecy.
  • I wish I had more time to shop at Le Marais, Paris.
  • I wish I had learnt some French before our trip.

 

Provence

 

We took the TGV from Paris to Aix. It was very convenient and fast. We did not rent the car from the train station but from the city as they had automatic car available there. We took a taxi to our AirBnB from the station.

 

Agenda – We kept Aix as our base, rented a car and took day trips to villages around Aix which worked out perfectly.

 

Day 1 Aix-en-Provence:

 

  • Night Open markets on Cours Mirabeu
  • Cathedrale Saint Sauveur
  • Open market on Mondays in the city center
  • Shopping at boutiques for clothes, hats

 

Aix city center is gorgeous at night with open spaces lit up for outdoor dining. Aix is beautiful and just walking on the streets was so joyful.

 

Restaurant recommendations –

  • Mediterranean at Divan d’ Antioche. We loved the food so much that we ate twice there.
  • French cuisine at Charlotte.

 

Must try –

  • My husband bought Vin a la Myrte from a liquor store and we absolutely loved it.
  • Per recommendation by Elyse, we bought Callisons from night open market and yes, they are delicious.

 

Day 2 Cassis:

 

  • Recommend going on a weekday as it is easier to find parking.
  • Boat tour to Calanques. We did 2 hour tour to all the calanques.

 

Restaurants recommendations –

  • Nino for Bouillabaisse
  • Le Bonaparte. We highly recommend the daily special.

 

Day 3 Nimes, Pont Du Guard, Uzes & Haribo:

 

  • Pont Du Guard was an amazing experience. We spent more time than we had originally planned for and ended up missing the markets at Uzes. Struggled initially to find a place to eat in Uzes since it was past lunch hours but then ended up eating delicious savory crepes at a cafe with our own bottle of wine.

 

  • Haribo – Definitely recommend going into the store and buying some candy especially the strawberry flavor. We did not go for the factory tour.

 

  • Nimes – We only visited the Arena and did the self-guided tour. We really wanted to watch the bull fight but those happen only in the months of June and September.

 

Nimes to us was just another city and we wanted to go back to Aix so didn’t visit any other places in Nimes. We absolutely loved walking on the streets of Aix.

 

Day 4 Sault:

 

  • Le Garde Adhemar – It was our first stop for the day. It was a beautiful little village.

 

  • Drove through Parc Naturel Regional des Baronnies Provencales instead of taking the highway. It was a very scenic drive.

 

  • Lavender Fields – We stopped by a couple of spots to click pictures. We also were lucky to spot an olive grove and snails on bushes, which was an interesting sight for the kids.

 

  • We went to a boutique for Lavender products at Vallon Des Lavandes (slight detour from D164). They host Lavender fields’ tours but there was not one when we arrived. The owner was very nice and very patiently explained to us different types of Lavender. We highly recommend buying oils there, as they were much cheaper and more pure than what you would get in regular stores.

 

  • Notre-dame de Senanque – It was closed when we got there but we could go up close and click a few pictures. Definitely recommend a trip there but check operational hours before you make the trip.

 

We want to go back to Aurel, a beautiful little village we captured in our pictures on one of the lavender fields.

 

We definitely recommend buying lavender honey, lavender oils, Herbs De Provence. We thought Sault was great to buy lavender souvenirs for gifting.

 

Annecy:

 

I left my heart in Annecy. It was like a postcard and no words can express the beauty of the place.

 

Accommodation – We stayed at La Perle de la Vielle ville d’Annecy. The apartment was in Old Town district of Annecy with the view of the river from the window. The open markets on Tuesdays and Fridays were just below the apartment building, which was perfect! The building was 200 years old and yet the apartment was very modern. Yvan, the host was very helpful and welcoming. We highly recommend renting his apartment.

 

Restaurant recommendations –

  • Le Lilas Rose
  • Les Chineurs de la Cuisine
  • Le Pekin for Chinese
  • Le Poivrier – They are open for lunch later than other restaurants.
  • When in Annecy you must drink coffee from the coffee truck “La Boutique” at the open market. I loved their cappuccino.
  • Haven Coffee + kitchen cafe had amazing coffee and brunch. You don’t want to miss this cafe! We ate red velvet pancakes and they were delicious. They sell coffee from “La Boutique” so when there was no open market, we went there to enjoy the coffee we loved.
  • At the open market, a vendor sells delicious ratatouille with couscous outside Le P’tit ZINC restaurant. We felt the vegetables were so very sweet in France. After our trip, I was craving ratatouille one day so found a link for recipes that Annie had shared on Join Us in France facebook group and cooked it for dinner. While it came out okay, it was not anywhere close to the taste of the one we had in France.

 

We enjoyed eating fruits from the open markets, especially the raspberries. We also tried different varieties of cheese suggested on the podcast on Cheese. One of them being Comte that we liked a lot. We even brought some back home.

 

Day 1 Walk around Annecy:

  • Visited the open market
  • My husband and my 10-year-old son went for Paragliding with Kdo Paragliding. The instructors were great and my husband & my son had an incredible experience. The pictures and the video are great souvenirs.
  • Rented a motor boat and swam in the lake. Having done this, we recommend a paddleboat over the motor boat.

 

Day 2 Yvoire:

 

  • Beautiful village by Lake Geneva with spectacular views. Must visit when in Annecy.

 

Day 3 Chamonix:

 

  • We went to see Mer De Glace glacier. Having gone to Jungfraujoch, Switzerland before Chamonix was not as exciting experience as we had hoped for. Perhaps, Auguille du Midi would have been better. If we were to do this trip again, we would skip Chamonix and visit another village instead.

 

Few tips/suggestions:

 

  • Say “Bonjour”, “Aur Revoir” and learn a few words in French. They go a long way.
  • Carry your swimsuits when going to Cassis, Pont Du Guard.
  • Do not try to do too many things. Enjoy each place; its beauty and uniqueness rather than rushing to check off each place from your agenda.
  • Use restroom each time you stop for a meal, coffee, ice cream.
  • Travel light and make room for shopping.
  • Must eat fruits especially raspberries from the open markets.
  • Drink the house wines. They are absolutely delicious!
  • By the end of our trip, we realized not to be too hung up with the ratings on yelp. If you choose French cuisine and the restaurant is buzzing with activity, has locals too, go for it. Our best meals were at restaurants with hardly any reviews on yelp.
  • When you are splitting your stay in a city like we did – stayed 3 nights in Paris at the beginning of the trip and then came back for another 2 nights, pick the same accommodation because then you don’t have to re-learn how to get around from there. We stayed at The Crowne Plaza at Repulique and found it very convenient. It was right next to the metro station and was across bus stop. The Repulique square was fun to be around with events going on most of the time. Le Marais was only 10 minutes by walk.
  • We used the metro or buses in Paris depending on how much time we had to get to the destination. If you want to get somewhere fast, go for metro else choose a bus. We loved travelling around in buses as that gave us the feel of the city and we could enjoy the view. Although, buses can be slow during rush hour and people getting on and off may take the driver’s time asking questions. I must say that the bus drivers were quite patient.
  • You can get your tax return if you shop at one store for over €175. There are exceptions to the rule such as at Gallery Laffayette in Paris where you can combine your expenses at different stores. If you are planning to get the tax return for your shopping, please do the paperwork prior to checking in and getting in the Security line at the airport. You have to get the tax papers stamped at a specific gate before you go through security and immigration. The actual office that handles tax is inside the airport but they want the stamped papers before they can process them. Also, do have all the items you bought handy, as the officers will check them before stamping the papers.
  • Don’t miss shopping at Le Marais!
  • Recommendations for restaurants in Paris –
    • Les p’tites indécises – Their food was amazing especially the tiramisu was to die for.
    • L’As Du Falafel at Le Marais
    • Ya Lamai Thai at Repulique
    • Macarons at Pierre Herme
    • Creme Brulee at Chez Jenny at Republique

 

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Categories: Lyon Area, Provence