The movie stars have all gone from Cannes. The race car drivers have sped out of Monte Carlo. After the annual hectic kick-off to its world-renowned summer season, the South of France has finally settled into its mellow period with kids chasing butterflies through the fields of Provence, European travelers lollygagging along the beaches of the Riviera, and people eating raw shrimp at the outdoor restaurants of Nice. With great deals to the South of France from top airlines and travel providers, you too can experience the allure of the Cote d'Azur.
Virgin Vacations (tel. 888/937-8474; www.virgin-vacations.com), the travel arm for Virgin Airways, has air/land specials to Nice for the remainder of the summer into the even quieter (read cheaper) fall season. With a July 20, 2006 purchase deadline, a six night trip with airfare into Nice's international airport, all accommodations, daily breakfast, hotel taxes and airline fuel charges starts at $799 for travel from September 7 to October 31, 2006. During the high season of the summer months with travel good from July 24 to September 6, 2006, the trip costs $1,259. Booking now will decrease the cost to $719 for travel in January to March 2007. Hotels to choose from are centrally located in downtown Nice near the town square and outdoor restaurants lit up at night by a string of lights along thick stone streets of Old Nice. The beaches are a short distance away and the other towns along the coast such as Juan-Les Pins, Cannes, St. Tropez, Bandol, and Monte Carlo, are easily reachable by train.
If you decide to act fast and book the trip for immediate travel or are already in Europe, the Nice Jazz Festival (tel. +33 01 42 89 60 80; www.nicejazzfest.com/njf2.php?lang=gb) takes place from July 19 to 26, 2006. Along with Montreux and the Hague, the Nice music event is considered one of the top three jazz festivals in Europe. Taking place in a 2,000 year old Roman amphitheater, this year's event is headlined by Erykah Badhu, George Clinton, Roy Ayers, pop sensation Kanye West, singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, Joe Jackson, Rickie Lee Jones, Joss Stone, Peter Gabriel and Randy Newman. Events are held daily with two stages going simultaneously. A three-day pass to the event costs $114 with one day tickets costing $50 the gate and $44 bought before the date of attendance. Children under 12 cost $12 and students get in for $35.
Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has a six night Paris-Nice special that includes airfare and accommodations starting at $1,379. Good through August 22, 2006, this trip flies in and out of Paris from Boston or New York (other U.S. departure points are available at an additional cost) and includes round-trip airfare into Nice. Starting September 7, 2006, the trip goes down to $1,149 through October 31, 2006. You can add to this beach/city combination trip with a three day land only tour of Provence. With two nights' hotel accommodations in Avignon, the land-only excursion trip costs $219 if booked before August 6, 2006.
France Vacations (tel. 866/613-5630; www.francevacations.net), Air France's vacation arm, has some amazing specials to Paris and points south. A five night special to Cannes with airfare out of Washington D.C., Philadelphia and other departure points along the United States' east coast starts at $629 per person for double occupancy hotel accommodations. Availability at this price usually lasts through August 31, 2006. Accommodations are at the Cannes Riviera, located near the harbor in downtown Cannes. With 60 comfortable rooms, this boutique hotel has a small property feel. It's also steps away from the beach and convention center and the famous Croisette, or Cannes's beachside promenade. A similar four night trip to Nice or Cannes starts at $569 and a seven day/six night honeymoon trip with a rental car, two dinners, a three day museum pass and bottle of champagne thrown in starts at $1,109.
With air travel on Air Tahiti Nui (tel. 877/824-4846, www.airtahitinui-usa.com), France Vacations is also offering a nine day/seven night special into Paris that can get you down to the South of France and Provence region with a quick trip on a high-speed train. The trip into Paris with accommodations in the City of Light departs on Sundays from November 1 to December 31, 2006 with blackout dates from December 16 to 25, 2006. Prices are per person based on double occupancy travel costing approximately $699. The airline also has a special Paris-Provence trip with four nights in Paris, three nights in Avignon, round-trip airfare out of New York or Los Angeles, half-day sightseeing excursions, discount shopping books, and first class rail tickets from Paris to Avignon. Travel is good for this trip from the second week of September till the end of October. As with all the deals listed above, departure taxes and security fees are additional.
To do the Paris to Provence run yourself, France's rail company (SNCF) has high speed trains to Provence. Tickets for the TGV (tel. +33 8 36 35 35 35; www.voyages-sncf.com/dynamic/_SvHomePage?_DLG=SvHomePage&_CMD=cmdHomepageUK&WB=HP), which runs directly from Paris's Gare de Lyon to Avignon, cost approximately $91one-way or $71 if you book online for an express ticket. The two-hour and forty minute trip travels through the French countryside at top speeds. Ticket prices vary depending on date and time of departure.
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