Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 798: Footloose in Provence & Paris
By Doug Phillips from Canada, Fall 2005
Trip Description: Thirteen days in Provence and four days in Paris, including some wonderful food and wine, a day in Nice, and an unexpected encounter with "Good Year" - September 10-27, 2005
Destinations: Countries - France; Regions/Cities - Paris, Provence
Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Vacation Rentals; Foodie Trip; Shopping; Wine Trip; Independent Travel; 2 People
Page 1 of 16: Introduction and Planning
In May 2004 my Beautiful Wife (BW) and I spent two weeks in Tuscany, see the Tuscan Rambles link under Resources on the right. Like most other travelers we plan to return to Italy, hopefully more than once. However, for our next vacation we decided to explore the south of France in a similar manner (i.e. locate in one place, preferably in a rural area, have a rental car, plan day trips to explore the countryside & experience the Provençal culture as much as possible). Early on my BW decided that she wanted to include Paris in our vacation plans. I had been to Paris twice previously, but not since the early 1970's. We decided to go in September; July and August were out because of the likely very hot weather & almost certain crowds wherever we went.
We had never been to Provence, had no real concept of the size of the area except from maps and had no idea where to stay. From my reading I concluded that the best location for exploring the western & very popular area of Provence was in the Luberon, somewhere in the axis of Avignon, Arles and Aix. I made several inquiries, mostly from sites linked to Slow Travel. There were many possibilities, but eventually we decided on Mas de Briançonceu - see photo, a very rural gîte a few minutes from Mènerbes, the Luberon village made famous by Peter Mayle. While there were no reviews for this particular gîte, there were several positive features including price, location, description and friendly correspondence.
We booked our flight with a newer Canadian airline, ZOOM, which has only been offering flights to England and Paris since early 2004. Because of the price structure, ZOOM flights fill up quickly. We had to adjust our travel plans to accomodate an available return flight from Paris. We booked the gîte for two weeks, intending to leave a day early in order to allow for four nights in Paris. We booked our flights (including an Air France connection to Marseille), our Europcar car rental (which turned out to be a Toyota Corolla), and our Paris accomodations (Relais de Paris Republique) using a travel agent we had worked with previously. We booked the gîte ourselves, which involved an exchange of emails and receiving & returning a contract in the mail. By the end of February 2005, all our air and land arrangements were booked.
Over the next several months I did a lot of reading, monitored the Slow Travel site and eventually initiated a couple of threads, both of which provided much useful information. About a week before we left, I made dinner reservations at five restaurants - three in Provence and two in Paris. I made one reservation by email and four by phone. I planned my phone calls around 6:00pm local time. I figured there would be staff in the restaurant, but it would not be open yet for the evening meal. I also got to practice my dormant and limited French-speaking skills. I actually wrote out a script before I made the phone calls. All went well.
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