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Bonnieux, Bonnieux & Bonnieux

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While perusing a map I noticed Bonnieux, Gare de Bonnieux and Bonnieux Pont Julien.

They all look far enough apart to be separate places. I doubt it.

In fact, further research resulted in me finding that Bonnieux is on one bus line while the other two are on another.

Can somebody please enlighten me?

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    Bonnieux is the town. Gare de Bonnieux is the Bonnieux train station (though I don't think there is one any more, just a restaurant...but I could be mistaken). Bonnieux Pont Julien is a Roman bridge in the town.

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    Thanks,

    I notice that Bonnieux is listed in Fodors guide as "the most impressive of the Luberon's hilltop villages".

    Can I assume this is because of the town and not the Roman Bridge?

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    Stu,

    You're bringing up a whole other topic.

    Gordes and/or Roussillon and where they fit relative to Bonnieux.

    We will be travelling around using public transportation so I have to plan carefully.

    Also, my wife suffers from motion sickness and that has to be factored in. However, last year when we spent 10 days in Tuscany she fortified herself and did well.

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    The village of Bonnieux sits on a hillside, a couple of miles from the main road that runs west/east through the Luberon valley. The river and the old rail line (that's now a bike trail) basically run parallel to the road. The Pont Julien crosses the river, also several miles below the village of Bonnieux. The countryside below the village (vineyards, orchards, farms) is technically part of Bonnieux.

    Myer, Gordes is on the other side of that valley, on the side of another low mountain. And Roussillon sits on a hilltop in the middle of the valley.

    It sounds like you've found the bus schedule. I think the couple of buses that run are mainly to get kids to school or local people to appointments in the bigger towns. It's going to be really really difficult to tour this area by public transportation. You really can't get between the small villages by bus. There is a bus stop down near the main road (and the old gare), but no bus that runs from there up to the village. It would be a long hike (and uphill near the end) from the bus stop near the gare up to the village. This area is actually quite popular for hiking and biking trips.

    Any possibility you could have a car?

    Kathy

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    Kathy you're making me reconsider though I don't want to go that way yet.

    Let's look at two sides of this.

    We've been to europe many times. I've never rented a car. Until our last trip (Tuscany - based in Florence) we travelled exclusively by train (wife has motion issues). For the last trip she fortified herself and di fine so some of the travelling was by bus.

    Also, I've never driven a stick shift. So there are issues here.

    I'm slowly thinking of a car for 3 days but don't really want to investigate further yet.

    = = = = =
    Back to the bus.

    For Bennieux there are 3 stops: Gare de Bennieux and Bennieux Pont Julien on Line 15.1 (Avignon to Apt) which I guess are well below the willage and a hike up.

    The 3rd stop appears to be Bennieux the village (or I hope so) on line 15.2.

    Can anyone confirm this. I'm sure somebody else has done this.

    For Gordes and/or Roussillon the stops appear to be in the village though I can't be sure.

    Anybody done this?

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    Rent a car - really this in a "no-brainer" IMO. There are many, many others places to explore by car there. Rent an automatic if you can't drive a stick.

    Pont Julien is very far away from Bonnieux - and I believe the train station is not that close also. As you are doing, make SURE the bus stops are in the village - not 5 K away with a uphill climb to the village.

    Here is a driving itinerary I wrote for visiting the Luberon. It is part of my 27 page Cote d'Azur & Provence itinerary. I did not mention it to you earlier because you'll need a car to do it properly. If you want the full itinerary, e-mail me at StuDudley@aol.com & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail. I've sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors. Do so soon - we leave for Paris in 2 weeks.

    Visiting the villages in the Luberon
    If you stay in Gordes*, start by visiting this wonderful perched village. You should park in the large lot (pay about 3E) down below the town (steep walk up). Explore this village thoroughly – not just the areas directly around the Chateau. There is an ATM in town on the side of the chateau where the outdoor cafés are located. On Tuesday morning there is an outdoor market in Gordes. It’s a little touristy, but quite good. There is a GR (walking route) that goes through this village and it passes by the lower sections of Gordes. Try to pick it up & follow it down hill. The route is marked by red & white stripes, usually painted on the sides of buildings. As you face the Chateau with your back to the main entrance to town (the steep hill), there are several shops on your right (look for a Pharmacy) and follow one of these streets down to where it passes a church. The road turns right just past this church (there is a GR mark where it turns right). (If you go straight past the church, where is a wonderful panoramic view - look for the “Point de Vue” sign). If you follow the GR down hill (after you have turned right past the church) you will see an old medieval wash basin (lavoir) and also get a close-up view of how they built these perched villages on top of rock outcroppings. It’s about a 10 minute walk from the center of Gordes down to this wash basin. There is a nice shaded area near the basins where you can relax & enjoy the surroundings. This is a very interesting walk.

    After Gordes, head to Oppede le Vieux*. Leave Gordes towards les Imberts. At Les Imberts, veer to the left just past a gas station. Then take a left opposite the “Exit” sign to Les Imberts. Go over a small bridge and past vineyards & a lavender field. At an intersection, keep going straight towards the N100 and the Luberon Mountain range. At the N100, take a right and then immediately turn left & go under the railroad tracks. Follow the signs to Oppede les Vieux. There is a town of Oppede which is not “le Vieux” (old). It’s a pretty drive getting there from Gordes. Part of the drive strangely passes through a parking lot. As you approach Oppede le Vieux, get the cameras ready.

    After Oppede, head towards Menerbes* (another pretty drive getting there). Explore Menerbes. If you have read Peter Mayle’s book, you’ll know that this is where he lived. Many people just drive through Menerbes – we did the first couple of times we visited. It’s actually a great town to explore on foot. Some of the most interesting areas are on back streets & even on some dirt streets. There are many artisans scattered throughout the village.




    After Menerbes, head to Lacoste. Although the “main road” to Lacoste (D109) will take you up on a plateau & directly into Lacoste from the west, I prefer the road south of Lacoste (D103 towards Bonnieux then the D3) that passes through some pretty countryside with vineyards & cherry orchards (bypassing Lacoste). As I said, there is no wrong road in this area - if you have the time, take every one. Both Lacoste & Bonnieux are perched villages – staring at each other over a valley. The settings of both are quite spectacular. The best view of Lacoste is from the D3 just west of where it intersects the D109. Take the D109 into Lacoste & drive up into the village, but turn around at the Mairie parking lot & retrace your route (heading to Bonnieux). This will afford you good views of Bonnieux. One unfortunate situation is that you really can’t get good views of both Lacoste & Bonnieux at the same time of day because of the sun’s position. We usually view Lacoste on our morning drives and Bonnieux in the evening just prior to dinner.

    Explore Bonnieux*. Walk up the narrow R Mairie (see the green Michelin Guide) to the Terrasse to get a wonderful panoramic view of the area. Walk down R Voltaire & peek into the antique shop to see a very interesting interior.

    Drive through Bonnieux & head toward Lourmarin on the D36 & look behind you to see another great view of Bonnieux – more picture taking. When you get to the D943, head north toward Apt.

    An optional stop is at the Fort de Buoux (look for signs just after the turn onto D943) which was a refuge for the Waldensians and then destroyed by Louis XIV. Pick up the English guide & walk around the Fort. A bit of climbing is involved, but I found the fort more interesting than I expected and the views from the top were great. There are usually a lot of rock climbers in this area.

    Find Saignon on your map & drive there on the D232 from Bonnieux. There are some pretty lavender fields on each side of the road as you approach Saignon. There is a picturesque view of the village from this road too. Explore Saignon thoroughly on foot – there are only a few shops in town and 3-4 simple restaurants. The main square in town is very picturesque – covered with plane trees, a beautiful fountain, lavoire (washbasin), and an ivy covered building. On one side of this main square, the Auberge du Presbytere would be a lovely spot for lunch.

    Take the D48 to Apt. There’s another lovely view of Saignon from this road and another lavender field. Notice the rock formations west of this road. This Saignon/Apt excursion will add about 45 minutes to your touring, and the outskirts of Apt and some of the urban sprawl are not what you want to experience. However, Saignon is quite lovely & it’s in a pretty setting and the lavender fields make a wonderful experience (in early summer when the lavender is in bloom). If the lavender fields are not in bloom & you need to save some time, then skip this excursion. Instead of heading to Saignon after Bonnieux, take the D149 north to the N100. There is actually a very pretty lavender field with a view of Lacoste in the background along this road. My wife has taken several pictures of this scene.

    Head to Roussillon* and explore this village (map in the green guide). You will have to park below the village & walk up. There are a lot of shops in Roussillon and they are open on Sunday (never been there on a Monday). This is a good place for lunch and, although the cafes might seem a little touristy, it’s a fun spot if you happen on a sunny day. Visit the ochre fields close by, but do not wear white shoes, white sox, or touch your face with your hands. The ochre color is hard to get out. Don’t try to drive through Roussillon – my wife got stuck on our last visit & she was mad at me for hours for insisting that she drive through Roussillon.

    After Roussillon, take the D104 to Goult and explore this town. Check out the restaurant I recommended (Bartavelle). Wander through this town that is a bit off the main tourist itinerary. Find the Chateau & walk the streets around it. Like Gordes, notice how the Chateau engages the rock outcropping it is sitting on. There is an area near a windmill with some wonderful views looking south. There is another great viewpoint marked “panorama” – look for the signs at the windmill end of the village, towards the chateau. If I had to live in one of these pretty towns in the Luberon, this is where it would be.

    After Goult, drive through St Pentaleon, and then back to Gordes.

    If you have seen pictures of an Abbey with large Lavender fields in the foreground, that’s Senanque Abbey** just outside of Gordes. This scene is actually on the cover of my Michelin Green Guide. The drive there from Gordes is beautiful and the setting is lovely. However, in ’10, there was no lavender directly in front of the Abbey - the tour guide said they were re-planting the lavender, but I didn’t see anything but weeds. It might take a few years for the lavender to look anything like the pictures on the postcards. There are some other pretty lavender fields close to the Abbey – only the field directly in front is being re-planted. The only way you can visit the interior of the Abbey is on a guided tour. The tour takes anywhere from 1 to 1 ¼ hours, and it is only offered in French. The tour can be a bit tedious if you don’t understand French. The Abbey opens up in the morning between 9:45 & 10. The first tour in June ’10 was at 10:10 and the next tour and last one of the morning. was at 10:30. The first tour in the morning is the best time to visit Senanque because it is less crowded then, the sun is in the best position of the day to shine on the lavender and “front” of the Abbey, and it will be much cooler at 10 than at 2:30 PM. There were only about 10 visitors at the Abbey when we arrived at 9:30 (and took pictures of the Abbey & lavender/weeds) but it was “mobbed” when we left at 11:30.

    I’m not a fan of Fountaine de Vaucluse, although it’s “rated” quite high. I’ve never seen the fountaine because I’ve never been there in the spring when the fountaine gushes. The town is way too touristy for me, but the walk along the tree-shaded Sorgue river is very nice if you can do it at a time when there are not many tourists around (in the AM). Regardless, there is one touristy shop after another on the side of the road/walk opposite the river.

    Stu Dudley

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    Myer, I spend a couple months a year in this area, and I would really encourage you to keep an open mind about a car, even if you have to pay extra for an automatic. The bus schedule is extremely limited, as you know. And some buses don't run every day. You'll have so much more flexibility with a car and will be able to see and do so much more on your own schedule.

    Another option would be to do a village to village hiking or biking trip, where the hiking and biking becomes a big part of your experience.

    For anyone else who wants to look at the bus routes in the Vaucluse and offer some help on this, you can open a PDF from this site: http://www.sudest-mobilites.fr/informations_reseaux.php?IDReseaux=2

    On Ligne 15.2, the stop called "Bonnieux - Poste" is up in the village at the post office. It looks like this bus then goes part way down the hill to the crossroads of the road that goes between the Pont Julien and Lacoste and turns up to Lacoste, then takes the lovely back road to Menerbes, Oppede etc. and onto Cavaillon.

    The buses that stop at the Pont Julien and Goult/Gare de Bonnieux run along the D900 (old N100 road), far from the village. I expect that the walk from either of these stops up to the village would take you an hour and a half at a good pace, maybe more. There's a trail from the Pont Julien so you wouldn't have to walk on the busy twisty road.

    By the way, you can walk from Bonnieux to Lacoste in about 90 minutes on small footpaths and back roads, really a nice walk... I can send you hiking notes if you're interested. The last part, taking you up into the village of Lacoste, is steep.

    Where are you planning to base for your time in the Luberon? It sounds like you've done quite a bit of research. What's your plan at this point?

    Kathy

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    Kathy,

    Thanks for the help.

    At this point the plan is to fly into Marseille and immediately bus to Aix (we were in Cannes, Nice and Monte carlo years ago) . We'll have the rest (from about 4PM) of that day and all of the next day in Aix. At this point we're planning on sleeping in Aix 2 nights and leave for our main base, Avignon the next morning. So we'd be in Aix Day 0 (arrival) and Day 1.

    That may change and have us leave for Avignon late in the day of Day 1. Haven't decided yet.

    We'll be based in Avisgon 7 days leaving for Paris late in the afternoon of the 7th day.

    Then spend 3 days in Paris (been three times before years ago).

    So. . .
    Day 0 and Day 1 in Aix
    Day 2 - Day 8 based in Avignon
    Day 9 - Day 11 Paris
    Day 12 return home

    I'd like to not rush in Aix so the temptation to sleep there 2 nights. Since we probably won't want to spend more than 2 days in Avignon there's a temptation to leave for Avignon late on Day 1 so as to be able to daytrip the next day to spread out the Avignon days and not have too many consecutive daytrips.

    That's the reasoning behind not knowing when to leave Aix.

    Of course, if we were to rent a car for 3 days that would bunch 3 days of daytrips together.

    At this point we have hotels booked in all three places.

    A year ago (June 2010) we spent 10 days based in Florence and did very well with mostly trains and some buses. Two of our daytrips were actually over-nighters. In addition to the remainder of the arrival day we spent 3 full days in Florence. That made it easy to spread out the daytrips.

    Provence is proving to be more of a challenge. Partly because we would want to be in Avignon no more than 2 days and partly because the bus schedules appear to be quite sparse.

    Back to Bonnieux. I never planned on walking from the Gare or Pont Julien up to the village. If Poste wasn't in the village that would nix that place.

    Some of the other places appear to be much easier to get to. So if we do decide on a car I would split things up appropriately. I've planned many trips before and they've all worked out.

    This one just has a few more challenges.

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    www.kemwel.com

    Call & ask about discounts - like an AAA discount.

    Pick the car up at the Avignon TGV station for the largest supply of cars. If you choose to rent an automatic, call the day before to make sure that they have one with your name on it.

    Why wouldn't you rent it for the entire time you'll be in Avignon? Rental for 6 days won't be much more than 3 days - and it will give you the most flexibility.

    Stu Dudley

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    Myer,

    If you are just interested in a day's touring around the Luberon villages (not nearly enough, but it would give you a taste for things), I am betting for the price of a one-day rental of an automatic car, you could hire a guide/driver to take you around. Something to consider...

    -Kevin

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    Myer, you'll have a great trip whatever you decide to do.

    You might think of staying longer in Aix. Two nights would be fine to "see Aix," but Aix has great public transportation and if you don't have a car, it would be a great base for visiting other areas.

    Building off of Kevin's idea...

    A less-expensive option to a private guide/driver would be a one-day minivan tour of the Luberon with a small group. You could do this from a base in either Aix or Avignon.

    Here are some options:

    From Avignon: http://www.provencetours-avignon.com/en/

    From Aix: http://en.aixenprovencetourism.com/aix-excursions.htm

    Kathy

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    Hi Meyer,

    I've taken those mini-van tours that operate next to the tourist office In Aix and enjoyed them very much. It is easier than renting a car although of course you don't have the same freedom.
    They make stops for photos etc. and you get to see the villages and countryside with no hassle.
    Have also used public transit to travel to a particular village and while it is less expensive for sure you have the problem of co-ordinating when you arrive and when you leave. Sometimes I found that I had to spend longer in a village than I wanted. (Standing at a bus stop in the rain is no fun.)
    I have been to the Pont du Gard twice and hope to go a third time next summer. I was lucky enough to be driven there by a friend who lives in Montpellier. Of all the wonderful things I have seen in the south of France it is probably the most memorable. (Arles runs a close second.) Reading your posts about your upcoming trip has spurred me on to make some plans for my own trip in 2012. Thanks.

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    Before I decide how to do it I'd like to prioritize some of the villages/sights.

    Since we'll be in Provence the 2nd week of June I'm thinking of totally skiping things lavender: Senaque Abbey and the Lavender Museum. Wasn't keen on them to start with.

    Of the following villages I like to pioritize and drop a few.

    Our style is to wander through the streets, drop into a few stores, see the sights and enjoy the views. I'm an amateur photographer so satisfying that would be good.

    While we do spend some time in museums, we're not really museum goers.

    A full sitdown lunch is not important. Just a quick snack is fine.

    The villages on my list to prioritize are (alpha):

    Bonnieux
    Gordes
    Lacoste
    Lourmarin
    Oppede le Vieux
    Roussilon
    Saignon

    Thanks for the help in doing this.

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    All of those are quite nice. Visiting the inside of Gordes won't take a lot of time, unless you follow the walking itinerary in my Provence guide & walk down to the Lavoire & back. Oppede & Lacoste won't consume much time - except for parking near Lacoste. I would visit Goult instead of Lacoste. Also consider l'Isle sur la Sorgue and Pernes - both are pretty close to the Luberon and more interesting than Lacoste, IMO. Lourmarin is on the "other" side of the mountain from the others on your list - but worth a visit.

    Stu Dudley

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    Well, I haven't progressed much in the way of renting a car. my wife is very much against it.

    Taking a bus to Gordes, roussillon won't work.

    Bonnieux and lacoste are possible though a long bus drive.

    I've looked into a few of the tours available.

    Most of the planned tours include the Abbey and the Lavender Museum which are of lesser interest to me.

    I don't like the idea of going to 5-6 towns/villages in a day in addition to Abbey and museum. It seems to me 10 minutes in each place isn't what I have in mind. Also, visiting so many places that we'll never be able to remember which is which isn't what we'd like.

    Also, what seems to be importent to them is allowing time for lunch. We much prefer and quick snack or better yet take with a snack or buy in a town and relax in a park and have a picnic for a little while.

    One tour company also offers custom tours that are private. It's not that important that there be only two of us plus a driver. Four would be ok. But the real advantage is that I can determine which places we see and for how long.

    All of the various tour options range in price (for two of us) from 110E to 210E. The 210E would be for a private tour of about 7 hours to Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux and Lacoste.

    I think more than 4 places in a day might be overload. I also think 7 hours for this from Avignon might be an hour or so too long. That long lunch of course is in there again but I'll shorten it.

    I'd like suggestionms for which villages should be included, excluded and/or added.

    I think all of the other places on my list of interest can easily be reached by train/bus;
    Aix (stayING THERE FOR A DAY OR TWO)
    Avignon (based there)
    Arles (train)
    L'isle-sur-la_Sorges (train) maybe then to Carpentras(?) by bus
    Saint-Remy (bus) + Les Baux (bus sat or sun)
    Uzes and stop for a few hours at Pont du garde - this day could be a challenge but haven't looked into it enough
    Orange (train) haven't looked into this yet
    Montpellier (maybe) and/or Aigues Mortes (maybe)
    Nimes (train) not sure we want to go there
    Cavaillon, Tarascon -haven't looked into this yet.

    Any opinions would be much appreciated.

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