Travel Trips

BEST TIMES TO VISIT

In general, mid-spring to mid-fall includes the best times to head to Provence. If you want to see the vast fields of sunflowers in bloom, then late June, early July is a great time to be in the region. The lavender fields are at their peak in July and early August.
July also brings music festivals in Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Orange (opera), Juan-les-Pins (jazz) and Toulon (dance).
Then of course, there is the Cannes Film Festival in May. Celebrity sightings anyone?

September is a great time as well. Most of the tourists have left, the weather is usually good. You can catch the last of the bullfights. There is a yacht show in Cannes.

The climate in Provence is fairly moderate, with temperatures typically ranging from 50 degrees to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. It can get into the 90’s in mid-summer and a Mistral (winds) can cause temperatures to quickly drop from a pleasant 75 degrees to a windy 50 degrees.

Getting there

Air Travel
Most flights from the US go through Paris. There are a very few flights from the US to Nice, most of these go through JFK. Either route you travel, there most likely will be a connecting flight. Unless you are already in NY!
There are also flights from other European cities into Nice or Marseille. Be sure to check the local airlines like Easy Jet and Air Liberte, as well as Air France. There are a few flights into the Avignon airport.
From London, check Ryanair.
When considering the smaller, regional airlines, be sure to check luggage restrictions. Some only allow one piece of luggage with a lower than normal weight limit. Also, these airlines may not be located in the major airports.

Train travel
The TGV (fast) train leaves frequently from Paris Gare Lyon arriving in Avignon station in about 2 ½ hours. There are also trains from Gare Lyon to Aix-en-Provence and Marseille. If your plans do not include a stay in Paris, there is a train from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Avignon and Marseille. There is a connection through Marseille to Aix-en-Provence. If you have spent any time in Paris, this is a great way to have a couple of hours for a nap or decompress while enjoying the countryside. If you chose train travel, check the French train company SNCF. Dealing directly with this company versus using Rail Europe can save significant amounts of money. The challenge is that much of their website is in French. If you are not fluent in French, contact your old French teacher or wait until your reach France to purchase your ticket. Most hotel concierges in Paris can help you. There are also SNCF stores, with English speaking clerks, located across Paris.

Food
It is hard to find a bad meal in Provence. There are many cafés and restaurants in each town. Breakfast is typically a croissant or pain chocolate with coffee or espresso. Lunch is often the larger meal of the day, but cafés will have salads and other lighter fare on the menu. Try the Salad Nicoise or omelet with frites for a local specialty. Seafood is always a great treat in the area. Try the famous bouillabaisse (fish soup).
Like most Europeans, the French do not start dinner until 7:30-8pm. Meals typically last longer than in the US. Patrons linger over a glass of wine or cup of espresso. Your waiter won’t bring you the check unless you ask. Be sure to ask for l’addition, French for bill.

Tipping
Most meals are service comprised, which means the tip is included. If service has been exceptional, you may want to include a few euros. Other tipping, for taxis, housekeeping, etc., is similar to the US.

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