Guest Notes for Episode 497: Off-Season Travel Bliss: Provence and Côte d'Azur Explored

Category: Provence

Discussed in this Episode

  • Toulouse
  • Carcassonne
  • La Cité de Carcassonne
  • Avignon
  • Palais des Papes
  • Pont d'Avignon
  • Arles
  • Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
  • Orange
  • Nîmes
  • Pont du Gard
  • Gordes
  • Roussillon
  • Aix Camp des Milles
  • Nice
  • Castle Hill
  • Promenade des Anglais
  • Monaco
  • Eze
  • Eze Village
  • Eze Sur Mer
  • Antibes
  • Villefranche-sur-Mer
  • Menton
  • Fête du Citron
  • Carnaval Parade in Nice

Rank your favorite activities and places on this trip

Medieval city of Carcassonne
Palais des Papes in Avignon
The Roman sites in Arles (crypts, arena, etc)
Glanum in Saint Remy de Provence
Roman theatre in Orange
Arena in Nimes
Pont du Gard at night
Tuesday market in Gordes
Ochre buildings in Roussillon
Camp des Milles outside of Aix
Views of Nice from Castle Hill & enjoying a drink on the Promenade des Anglais
Views in Monaco (but lots of hills!)
Exotic Garden in Eze (even more hills!)
Walking around Antibes
Eating mussels by the water in Villefranche-sur-Mer
Fete du Citron in Menton (but crowded)
Carnaval de Nice

Favorite restaurants

Restaurant Bar à Vin Le 46, Avignon (Є25 main + dessert)
La petite rôtisserie – orange (one of the few places open in February!)
Happy Bowls, Nice (not French but tasty, healthy, open late & right by the train station)
Le Sunset, Nice (nice view and good spot for a snack/drink)
Maison des Pâtes Condamine, Monaco (affordable & delicious pasta)
Peixes, Nice (modern seafood restaurant)
Lilian Bonnefoi, Antibes (incredible brunch)

Favorite Foods

We did a food tour in Nice where we got to try lots of local specialties like pan bagnat, pissaladiere, socca and a sweet pastry with swiss chard. I didn’t love the pissaladiere (too many onions) or socca (not a chickpea fan) but surprisingly enjoyed the swiss chard dessert!

We had some amazing foods on our trip: fresh croissants and baguettes almost every morning, delicious brunch in Antibes, beef carpaccio and mussels, etc. Overall, all of the food we ate was very fresh and you
can tell there’s a priority for quality produce.

One of our favourite meals was picking up a few things from the grocery store and having a little picnic with oils/vinegars we bought in Provence, cheese we bought in Gordes, a baguette from the bakery, and dessert from a patisserie in Nice.

What did you learn about France on this trip?

I’ve never been to the Provence region before so I was really blown away by all of the Roman history. It was very cool to see these Ancient Roman structures, that most people assume are just in Italy, in France and still being used to this day.

Did you make any mistakes on this trip? Is there something you wish you had known before you came?

The trip did feel pretty fast. In my research (which included listening to the podcast!), I kept finding more and more places I wanted to visit. We tried to keep our schedule fairly loose with just a general plan for each day, but there are lots of places we ended up skipping.

Another issue we faced was with closures in the off-season. I did quite a bit of research ahead of time, so knew that certain places, like Carrières des Lumières and Château de Gordes, would be closed. But other places, like restaurants, didn’t have updated hours online. So a few times we showed up to a restaurant only to find that it was closed.Is there something you didn’t like very much and wouldn’t recommend?

I felt the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole in Saint Remy was not worth it. It’s €8 to basically just see the room where Van Gogh stayed (recreated with furniture and a lot of book reports on the wall) and a small garden out back. Because it was February, the garden wasn’t in bloom. My favourite part of the
monastery was actually walking to it as you get to see a bunch of Van Gogh’s prints and the inspiration for them, plus cloisters and a statue of Van Gogh. But all of that is before you pay, so I’d recommend just seeing that and then leaving as there isn’t much else to see.

I’m also torn on the Fete du Citron in Menton. We went on the opening day and it was packed! It was super crowded on the train from Nice and walking amongst the sculptures. The old town was also very busy. We weren’t in town for the parade, but friends of mine went and said the carnival parade in Nice
was much better. So while the citrus sculptures were cool, I’m not sure it’s worth dealing with the crowds.

What tips do you want to share with other visitors? Perhaps something that surprised you?

I’d highly encourage people to visit in the off season! It’s a very different vibe – no beaches and no lavender blooming – but it’s a beautiful time to be in the South of France. Coming from Vancouver, it was a good 5-10 degrees warmer and way sunnier.

In Provence, it felt very quiet in February. The downside was not everything was open. But the upside was we had so many fantastic places all to ourselves. At times we were the only people in these huge arenas, castles, palace rooms, etc.

In Cote d’Azur, it was a little bit busier, especially with the crowds for Carnaval and Fete du Citron. But it didn’t feel overly busy. It just felt lively and made all of the little coastal cities a lot of fun to visit. I don’t think I’d enjoy them with the crowds in summer, so off-season was perfect for me.

Overall was your trip restful or stressful? Did you try to do too much or was it just right?

I think it was right in the middle. We definitely had full days but still made time to slow down – such as long lunches by the water or sleeping in. I think my husband found it to be busy so if I was planning our itinerary again, I would’ve liked to add one day in the middle with no plans or for us each to do our own

How did the podcast and other trip reports help you prepare for your trip?

The podcast was so helpful! I loved hearing from other travellers (as well as Annie and Elyse!) all about France, which got me so excited for our trip. The podcast introduced me to lots of cities in Provence that I wouldn’t have known about. It also convinced me that we definitely need a car for Provence but
definitely don’t want one for the Cote d’Azur. And thanks to the podcast, I knew to take the bus to Eze Village and not the train to Eze-sur-Mer so I didn’t have to walk up the huge hill!

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Category: Provence