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Help me choose a base for 4 nights in Provence

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We're arriving in Nice at 8:30 AM on a Monday(late Sept) after an overnight flight from JFK. We want to stay in Nice for 2 nights, then head west.

We want to see Marseilles(maybe just a 1/2 to 3/4 day visit), Aix, Arles, Nimes(including Pont du Gard), then leave on Saturday by midday for Paris(maybe from Avignon?)

We need to choose a hotel in Nice that will allow us to hit our high points, and offer the ability to stroll interesting areas in between museums and in the evening. Our budget is about $200/night with some flexibility for a special place.

We need to choose a base for the next 4 nights, and decide if a car is desirable. We will plan to take the TGV to Paris on Saturday--should we leave from Avignon or Marseilles?

I know this is a very short trip, and we have intentionally chosen the city visits to see mainly art, architecture and historic sites. Please help me pick a possible place to stay and a practical order to follow in seeing these cities.

I know that the small villages are to many the most appealing part of Provence, but we will save that approach for next time.

Thanks for your help and suggestions,

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