Hello dear CHers!
I previously started researching a potential trip to Paris as a brief stopover en route to San Sebastian/Bilbao/Basque County (see thread here: https://www.chowhound.com/post/family...), but we now have the opportunity to take a 10 day winter holiday trip to France. The timing is odd given my DDs' school schedule, so it likely will be 12/24-1/3 (flights departing before Christmas are $1,000 more expensive for the 4 of us). I haven't booked flights or accommodations yet as I'm still working out details.
My family is "unique" in that we plan all our trips around food or food-related experiences (e.g., cooking class, street food tour, browsing public markets, etc.). My girls are 10 and 13 and have adventurous palates (e.g., willing to try most things and happily devour foie gras, roasted bone marrow, escargot, octopus, lengua, and other foods most American kids do not eat). We do not wait in line to see churches, museums, historical ruins, outdoor scenery, etc. Thus, we won't be going to see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Arc de Triomphe, Pont du Gard, etc. We won't object if we happen to drive by en route to a restaurant or food "adventure." We just don't want to go out of our way to stand in line to see a tourist site.
Small tangent: my husband and daughters are worse than me when it comes to this point. When we took my mother-in-law on a vacation to Mexico, she is the type who loves history and seeing the tourist sites (and doesn't prioritize eating and relaxing). Thus, I booked a walking tour that included seeing parts of the old town, visiting the public market, and making stops to a few restaurants along the route to sample traditional food. DH and DDs were unhappy and frankly a bit grouchy as the tour had way too much focus on churches and the history of the town and not enough food. MIL complained that it didn't have enough history and interesting facts. Needless to say, I was annoyed at everyone since no one was happy despite my best efforts to research options and compromise between two very different vacation styles. Lesson learned: MIL no longer travels with us on vacation and I don't book any historical/city tours.
Given my desire to take one nonstop flight rather than get right onto a connection to Lyon or Marseilles after our transatlantic flight, my current plan is to spend 2-3 days in Paris before taking the TGV to Aix-en-Provence. Once there, we can rent a car to visit Avignon, Arles, and maybe some smaller charming villages if they are open during the winter holiday. I have to do more research into which restaurants are closed during the holiday period between Christmas and New Year's.
The other option is to skip Paris and the train and consider connecting to an airport in Lyon, Marseilles, or Nice. I know Lyon is known for its food, but we are very "soft" Californians unaccustomed to real winter (and unprepared--none of us have "real" coats). Highs in the 50s F (10s C) are manageable, but 30s F (2 F or colder) would be too cold for us. Thus, I had thought we would go further South where winter temps are usually milder. Is this the wrong approach? I know Paris will be cold but that's inevitable given the direct flight options from CA (unless we get onto a connecting flight and never leave CDG).
Also, if we're only staying in Paris for 2 nights/3 days, what should we prioritize? I know in my last Paris thread, Parnassien was incredibly helpful with specific neighborhood recs. Should I choose one that is centrally located so we can access markets and restaurants easier? I'd prefer to avoid the noisiest and densest areas if possible.
What else should I be thinking about? Thanks in advance for any feedback or guidance!
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