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Trip Report Five Weeks in France - September 2015

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Departed Australia at 2:30pm and flew via Singapore to Paris which took 24 hours of flying time and had us into Paris CDG around 7:00am Paris time the following day. Next was a cab ride through horrendous traffic to Gare de Lyon to wait for our train (TGV) to Avignon. The three hour wait there gave us time to make a quick visit to inspect the beautiful Train Bleu restaurant and promise ourselves a meal there next time. Two hours in the fast train and we were in Avignon to pick up a hire car for the last leg of our journey, a half hour drive to St Remy en Provence. What a marathon, 38 hours from home to destination !
Twelve days in St Remy in a very comfortable, well equipped traditional cottage right in the heart of the Old Town stretched out ahead of us so there was plenty of time to unpack, relax and explore the area. Saint Remy Old Town is not very big but a very vibrant tourist destination. It is surrounded by a ring road and has a lot of narrow winding streets with a good mixture of shops cafes, restaurants and two wonderful town squares with big shady trees. We quickly fell in love with Saint Remy, not a hard thing to do as we love France, its people and its lifestyle. Next morning we wandered the streets and then sat outside a small café under some big shady chestnut trees in a wonderful town square and had lemon and sugar crepes with a cool drink. The weather was warmish but a lovely cool breeze was perfect.
We found the much lauded St Remy Wednesday Market very crowded and disappointing and not a patch on the wonderful one we had previously experienced in Annecy a couple of years ago. After the market we walked to the Roman ruins at Glanum, about a twenty minute walk out of town.
During the rest of our stay we visited quite a bit of the surrounding area at a leisurely pace in our hire car.
*Gordes and Roussillon - hilltop villages. Gordes is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France and offers breathtaking views that reminded me of Tuscany. There is an awesome castle and cathedral at the top that seem to come out of a huge rock. Roussillon situated in the Luberon was only a twenty minute drive from Gordes and is wonderful, as soon as you arrive you know it's special. Lots of narrow winding streets but what makes this different is the ochre facades of the houses which vary from light yellow to dark red. The doors and shutters are painted brightly which make this village colourful and beautiful.
* Le Baux and Carriere des Lumieres : Le Baux is a hilltop village 650 metres above the valley floor. The castle ruins are carved into and out of the rock. You wind your way up the hill and there is parking on either side of the road. The earlier you get there the shorter the walk up the hill! The narrow cobbled streets are full of shops and restaurants. Some of the restaurants are very good and pricey, but there is something for everyone here depending on your budget. Very interesting and very touristy.
Once you exit the village there is a set of quite steep stairs that take you down to the road and a further short walk of a kilometre takes you to the entrance of the quarry below where the Carriere des Lumieres light show takes place. The light show, accompanied by wonderful music, is projected pictures on the walls, ceiling, floor and columns, in fact every square inch of the quarry. Wonderful and unique.
* The Pont du Gard is an easy drive from Saint Remy with plenty of parking and a shortish walk to the aqueduct. The Pont du Gard spans a canyon. It is truly remarkable and one of the best Roman ruins I have seen. There is no admittance but the sting came at the boom gates of the parking area, 18 euros please! We drove on to Nimes and arose from the car park into the centre of a huge town square all landscaped and paved. " The Arenes de Nimes " is a part of the central city. It is amazing to think that this wonderful Roman Arena is just sitting there as it was over two thousand years ago. It is brilliantly preserved, a smallish Colosseum but completely intact and still used today. Wandering through the Old Town there were beautifully preserved classic French buildings, clean creamy stone, pale aqua shutters, wrought iron Juliette balconies and big old wooden doors.
* Uzes - We wandered the streets looking at shops and admiring the beauty of these small winding streets. Uzes has one of the best squares that we have seen. It has a large fountain in the middle, cafes and restaurants spill out into the square and the whole square is shaded by plane trees. You must sit at one of these cafes and observe, so we did !
* Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is called the “Venice of Provence” In a dry area like Provence this is an unusual village with the Od Town on an island with the Sorgue river being shallow but extremely clear. After crossing a footbridge we head down some narrow laneways all the time looking at shops and eventually reach the town square. We immediately see Café le France in the town square facing the side entrance of the Cathedral. As per our guide book instructions we sit at Café de France sipping a drink, eating a French pastry watching the world pass us by. The cathedral is really something!
* Lourmarin is not very big but is particularly pretty. Entering the village the road begins to widen at a junction and there are cafes on both sides of the street. We decided to lunch at Café Gaby and get a table for four just near the doorway. We enjoyed our lunch and had a conversation with a friendly English gentleman who now lives here, a nice friendly exchange. A photo was taken. The twist came when got home that evening and we were talking about Peter Mayle’s book and decide to “google” him to get a better picture of his life and background. To my surprise a picture of him came up and Peter Mayle was the English gentleman who we were talking with at Café Gaby!!
Recommended restaurants in St Remy: L' Aile ou la Cusse and Marilyn’s
Photos : http://helsieshaps penings.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/where-in-world-is-st-remy.html
http://helsieshappenings.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/hill-top-villages-gordes-and-roussillon.html
http://helsieshappenings.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/uzes-oozes-charm.html
http://helsieshappenings.blogspot.com.au/2015/09/what-is-it-about-water.html

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