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December, Luberon and Nice

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
After endless research, we have decided to spend the last 10 days of our 3.5 months away in 2 familiar spots. The Luberon (about 3 days) and Nice (6-7). We have Dec 10-Dec 20th. We have been to both these wonderful spots before. Originally we thought we'd like to go somewhere new but we loved our 5 weeks in Nice, March 2013 and of course, adore the area around Bonnieux. We've never been in December. As our time is limited, we won't be doing an apartment rental. Hopefully there are b&bs open at that time of year. I think there is a lovely one in Bonnieux.

We'd also like to see http://carrieres-lumieres.com/ in Les Baux. It seems pretty far from both Bonnieux and Nice. I don't want to devote 1 of our 3 days in Bonnieux to driving. Wondering if it is better to go from Nice as we will have longer there? I don't think it is en route. Suggestions?

Also wondering if better to fly into Nice and drive to Bonnieux then return rental at Nice airport. I realise Marseilles is closer but we would still have to get to Nice. I don't think there is a train between Marseilles and
Nice. Haven't checked recently but I think I have in the past and there isn't one.

Kathy, if you read this, will you be in Bonnieux Dec 10-13 or are you in Morrocco or.....
 

Chris

500+ Posts
I think I would fly into Marseilles, get the rental car and go to the Luberon and Les Baux (Les Baux is about an hour west of Apt), then drive to Nice (about 2.5 hours east of Apt) and fly out from there. Or if you won't need a car in Nice, drop the car in Aix and take the train to Nice.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
I think I would fly into Marseilles, get the rental car and go to the Luberon and Les Baux (Les Baux is about an hour west of Apt), then drive to Nice (about 2.5 hours east of Apt) and fly out from there. Or if you won't need a car in Nice, drop the car in Aix and take the train to Nice.
Yes, Chris, we are planning to fly out of Nice. We won't need the car there or if we do, will only rent for 1 or 2 days. I'm going to check the difference in price to pick car up in Marseilles and drop in Nice. I definitely don't want to go into Aix and take train. We will have luggage from 4 month away, I think it will be too awkward to take the train.

The more I think about it, I think pick up car in Marseilles and drop it off in Nice is best option

One of the possibilities I'm going to look into is if we overnight at LHR before flying back home is if can leave our luggage at hotel for 1o days. Mmm has anyone done something like that.
 

Chris

500+ Posts
It would be great if you could leave the excess luggage at LHR or ship it home because it won't be fun to haul it around Provence no matter which way you go.

I've never encountered additional fees for dropping off in a different location as long as it is all in France.
 

Roz

500+ Posts
We have stayed a week in Aix and a week in Nice in December. Both had a lot going on, but farther out into the Luberon country a lot of things were closed. We ate lunch at L'Arome in Bonnieux and were the only people in the place. We were also disappointed that the year we were there the church at the top of Bonnieux was closed for repairs so we didn't get to see the Christmas creche that we had heard was very special.

While staying in Aix, we went to Les Baux, where we had never been. It was a bitter cold and windy December day, and I have never been so throughly chilled in my life (we didn't really have warm enough clothes). At least we had it all to ourselves! I don't think the Lumieres were being shown then. But do dress warmly if you go!

We did love Nice in December -- so many Christmas festivities going on.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
On recent trips we have been charged for different pickup and dropoff car rental locations in France. About 90 Euro I think. This is a new charge (booking through AutoEurope.co.uk).

I have left luggage at hotels several times. I have even shipped a bag from the Cotswolds to a London hotel and had them hold it for a week for me (while we went somewhere else). I don't think you should take all your luggage on this France trip, especially since you are returning to London to fly home. If your hotel by the airport won't do it, look into companies in the airport that store bags. I think Excess Baggage does this - I looked into it once - but it was a bit expensive. Let us know what you find out.

Roz makes a very good point. I think the Luberon shuts down in the winter. I will email Kathy and get her to give us her thoughts. Aix might be a better alternative. If you were traveling light, you could take the train from Aix to Nice as Chris suggested.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Oh dear, I had changed my mind and decided to stay in Apt for 10 days at La Madronne apartments. Thinking about it, I realised that 3 days here and 4 days there is not our style. Also staying in a hotel for 3 days is about 1 day too many. I love Nice but as we spent 5 weeks there a year ago March, I thought that maybe I could do a pass. And the Apt place is inexpensive. I'm thinking we would be happier staying in 1 place and doing day trips.
I know Kathy has spent many Decembers in the Luberon but then she has a special connection to the area.

As far as Aix goes. Neither of us likes it. We'd take Nice over Aix. it just doesn't appeal. Avignon even less.

Pauline, I checked out the cost of storing baggage. Woah! Very expensive. Definitely not worth it. I don't think we'll have that much and will need the heavier items as winter. We also won't store our computers soo. we'll see but leaving stuffat an airport hotel is sounding good to me.

Now we just have to figure out where we're going to go for those 10 days. Roz , you've put the scare into me. Maybe it will be Nice again.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
This trip is still a long way off so you don't have to decide yet. I go through this trip planning turmoil too - where to go? I think if you spent 5 weeks in Nice recently, you shouldn't go back to Nice unless it is really the place you love the most. What about Paris? Or somewhere else along the Cote d'Azur? Or Spain?

Nice to have so many choices!
 

Roz

500+ Posts
Interesting that you don't like Aix, Lisa. Mike and I loved it there. What time of year were you there, and what did you dislike about it? I have heard comments from people who stayed there in the summer that they found it way too crowded and frenetic.

Both times we stayed in Aix it was pretty far off season. The first time was a week in December, and then the second time was just for a few days in early November. We had a car and made some nice day trips, as well as enjoying the holiday season in Aix. Here is a photo album of our December week there. We loved the little apartment where we stayed (La Charmeuse).

We have also only been to Nice in December, and I do love that city, too. We are planning to go back for a week this October, and I hope we like it as much that time of year. Here is a photo album from our time there right around Christmas.

You might also contact Kevin Widrow from Slow Trav to see what he thinks about the Luberon in December.
 

Kathy

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
We have been in the Luberon (Bonnieux) four times now in December. Last year we were there for about four weeks and this year we'll be there for about four weeks too, though we're going to Morocco for six days during our stay. (Lisa, we'll be in Bonnieux-- I think-- from December 4 until December 15 before we go to Morocco and would love to see you!)

Our situation is different because we've spent so much time there and have friends in the area. (In 2012 we were mostly focused on setting up our new apartment.) We really enjoy this time of year very much and keep quite busy. There is still a lot of activity in the larger places like Aix, Avignon, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Aix and Avignon both have Christmas markets and special santon fairs. Lourmarin had a wonderful Christmas market last year and our village of Bonnieux has a creche festival, highlighted by the wonderful creche in the church. Some of the bigger wineries have special activities. Last year we went to Vaison on market day and drove back through Sault... a good December day. It's true that the smaller villages are much more quiet and the schedules for restaurants can be unpredictable. There can be some beautiful days... we've done some hiking and even had lunch outside.

We like Apt a lot and spend time there. They have beautiful holiday lights since a major international lighting company is located there. You'd find it active in December. There was someone from SlowTrav who stayed there maybe for two weeks in December a few years ago and they seemed to enjoy their stay.

According to the Carrieres de Lumieres website, they are open in December (close on January 4 to set up their new show), from 10 am to 6 pm. It's about an hour's drive from Bonnieux. You could tie this into a visit to St. Remy, which I'm sure would be active.

Hope this helps... I'd be glad to answer any questions and would love to get together if you end up staying nearby.

Kathy
 

Kevin Widrow

10+ Posts
I'm not sure it's 100% accurate to say that the Luberon "shuts down" in December. Writing this in the summer, one could be forgiven for thinking that the only folks in the area are either tourists with perma-smiles on their faces or folks from northern Europe down to enjoy their second homes and looking as if they've just figured out what sunshine is !

But, in fact, there are actually lots of people who live and work in the Luberon year round and so, yes, in fact, there are things to do (places to buy food, a newspaper even an occasional restaurant) open during the winter...

Seriously, though, as Kathy rightly describes, it is certainly quiet around here during the winter months. As a tourist, it might be a great experience OR (for example, if you hit a week of rainy weather) you might want to commit hari-kari.

Not even remotely clear how in the world Aix could be unappealing in comparison to Apt, but then again, different strokes for different folks...

If you liked Nice, perhaps somewhere else along the coast could work for you. There are some wonderful choices: Marseille, Montpellier, Antibes... nothing quite like the winter sun sparkling on the Med.

- Kevin
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
Not even remotely clear how in the world Aix could be unappealing in comparison to Apt, but then again, different strokes for different folks...

If you liked Nice, perhaps somewhere else along the coast could work for you. There are some wonderful choices: Marseille, Montpellier, Antibes... nothing quite like the winter sun sparkling on the Med.

- Kevin
Yikes! I get it. Folks like Aix. we're weird. No, we weren't there at the height of tourist season. I think I really would have committed hari kari then as busy enough. We both found it very frenetic. Of course the plazas are beautiful but most of the cafes and shops we saw seem to cater to the tourist or student trade. We had a hard time finding a rel bakery not a Pauls.

But here is probably the crux of why we don't like Aix. The 2 times we were there was on day trips from our lovely quiet rental in the Luberon. I think we just weren't in the zone for Aix. But it doesn't make me want to go back for 8 days in December.

We aren't that hard to please. I was in Montpellier years ago and loved it and it's a pretty busy place.
Probably if we zoomed into Nice right now for the day, I wouldn't want to return.

FYI, Kevin, we were in Nice in March and I think there were more rainy cold days then sunny ones. But I loved to waunder the neighborhoods away from the razzle dazzle and it is so central to other wonderful spots.

Kevin, thanks for your honesty. Apt on a rainy December day does not appeal especially since we will be coming from 3 months in rainy but beautiful UK.
 
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Roz

500+ Posts
Lisa, I think you are right about the day trip. Our only time in Montpellier was on a day trip and we did not have a good experience. But the weather was bad, and we ate lunch in a cafe where everyone was smoking (this was before the no-smoking law). It seemed to us that the biggest attraction in town was the huge shopping center (which held no appeal for us), but we probably didn't give the city a fair chance. I know a lot of people say Montpellier is a great city, but we would not be inclined to return there based on that one visit.

The apartment (actually a little cottage) where we stayed in Aix, La Charmeuse, was a lovely and quiet spot, away from the busier part of town, but an easy walk to the Cours Mirabeau, It also had free parking, so we could easily make day trips around the area. If you wanted to give Aix a try for part of your getaway, I believe the owner rents for less than a week. Here is the review I wrote for Slow Trav, which includes some info about all the things we did in December.

Also, if you decide to give Aix another try, ask Kevin for suggestions. He clued us in on some great places to go, including a good bakery.

But I will say Nice had better weather. We didn't have rain but it was much colder in Aix. In general I think the weather would be better along the Med.
 

Lisa in Ottawa

500+ Posts
We have been in the Luberon (Bonnieux) four times now in December. Last year we were there for about four weeks and this year we'll be there for about four weeks too, though we're going to Morocco for six days during our stay. (Lisa, we'll be in Bonnieux-- I think-- from December 4 until December 15 before we go to Morocco and would love to see you!)

Our situation is different because we've spent so much time there and have friends in the area. (In 2012 we were mostly focused on setting up our new apartment.) We really enjoy this time of year very much and keep quite busy. There is still a lot of activity in the larger places like Aix, Avignon, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Aix and Avignon both have Christmas markets and special santon fairs. Lourmarin had a wonderful Christmas market last year and our village of Bonnieux has a creche festival, highlighted by the wonderful creche in the church. Some of the bigger wineries have special activities. Last year we went to Vaison on market day and drove back through Sault... a good December day. It's true that the smaller villages are much more quiet and the schedules for restaurants can be unpredictable. There can be some beautiful days... we've done some hiking and even had lunch outside.

We like Apt a lot and spend time there. They have beautiful holiday lights since a major international lighting company is located there. You'd find it active in December. There was someone from SlowTrav who stayed there maybe for two weeks in December a few years ago and they seemed to enjoy their stay.

According to the Carrieres de Lumieres website, they are open in December (close on January 4 to set up their new show), from 10 am to 6 pm. It's about an hour's drive from Bonnieux. You could tie this into a visit to St. Remy, which I'm sure would be active.

Hope this helps... I'd be glad to answer any questions and would love to get together if you end up staying nearby.

Kathy
Alas, Kathy, our visit and the Luberon will have to wait till another year. See my latest in Travel Plans forum. Hope you're enjoying lovely walks.
 

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