This is Part 2 of my trip report. For Part 1 (seven nights in Paris), check out 'Lilaki's Trip Report ' 7 Days in Paris'.
First, a bit about ourselves ' DH and I are in our early 30's from Toronto. We travel quite a bit for work and once or twice a year for fun. This is our second time to Europe; we went as kids ' not sure if that counts! We move pretty quickly and aren't big into lingering at cafés (I know, I know ' no flaming!). We spent September 23 - 30 in Paris and then headed down to Provence for a week after that.
Second, here are some basic pieces of info '
- We rented a cottage called Mas Solige (www.mas-solige.com) just outside of Carpentras on Route de Bedoin. We took a bit of a chance with the gite seeing as there were no reviews on the Mas' website, on Fodors, or on Slowtrav. However, I had found one blogger who had posted about his travels through Provence in 2007 and had stayed at the mas. We communicated by e-mail a few times and he had provided a fairly positive review. Overall, we really enjoyed our stay at the gite. The hosts (Olivier and Corinne) are absolutely wonderful and charming people. They both speak very good English. The gite was well-located for all of the things we wanted to do/see. It was simple, clean, and well-equipped for our needs. The photos on the website are spot on. The gite itself was very spacious ' but storage space was definitely at a premium. We used the daybed to lay out our luggage so there's no way a third person could stay with us at the gite. However, other rooms are available within the Mas Solige if there are more people in your party. I would stay here again if I were visiting this region.
- We rented a car from Europecar via Auto Europe. We requested an automatic and a diesel. We were upgraded to a Mercedes A180.
- We purchased a cellphone from callineurope.com - would highly recommend. They were great to deal with. We never needed the phone but it was nice to have given all the driving we did during our week here.
- I speak conversational French and DH speaks so-so French ' we can muddle our way through fairly well. It's amazing how the skills come right back when you're forced to use the language!
- For reference, we purchased the following items that helped in our trip planning: Fodors Provence 2008 (didn't find this one very useful), Michelin Green Guide Provence (very useful), and Michelin Map # 527 (Provence-Alps-Cote D'Azur). In Paris, I also picked up Michelin Map #332 (Drome-Vacluse). We relied on this map every day during our trip.
- On most days, we had lunch out of our car. We were on the road every day and we had packed a bunch of food with us each morning ' cheese, baguette, pastries, fruits, hard boiled eggs, etc. We are absolute cheese and pastry fiends so it was a treat for us to eat this every day! For dinner, we either picked something up at the supermarche or the local Picards (another treat - I've never had 'tv dinners' like this before!) or we at the table d'hotes with our hosts.
Okay, here goes '
Day 1 - Tuesday
We left our apartment in Paris around 7:30 am. A taxi arrived to pick us up at 7:45 am and took us to Gare de Lyon. I had tried to reserve a taxi through G7 (English speaking) but they were apparently all booked. Who knew?! After calling a few other companies, I finally found a taxi company that either wasn't booked and/or willing to pick us up at 7:45 am. We booked through Taxi Bleus. I had to rely on my French skills completely as the telephone attendant did not understand a lick of English. It was definitely a bit stressful since I did not want to miss our train and I had no way of really knowing that she understood my French!
We arrived at Gare de Lyon with TONS of time to spare (thanks to all the Fodorites who gave me very clear instructions on how to navigate my way through the station). Our TGV was not leaving until 9:16 am. DH wasn't the happiest camper seeing as how we waited over an hour in the station (he was thinking this would have been good sleeping time) but at least we were there and I wasn't stressed about missing our train. The TGV for Avignon was leaving from the 'Blue' area so we did not have to go far at all from where the taxi dropped us off. And as everyone explained, the exact track was listed 20 minutes before departure.
We had seats on the upper deck of the train and had no problems dragging our suitcases up the eight or so stairs from track level. Our seats were very near the luggage area so we could also keep an eye on our bags throughout the trip. Although, I followed some tips from fellow Fodorites and made sure that we had loaded our luggage with the handles away from the aisle. There was no stops between Paris and Avignon so I felt fairly comfortable being separated from my bags (bad experience from traveling through Europe as a kid has left me very paranoid about theft!).
The ride to Avignon was quick and painless. We got off the train in Avignon and walked through the station and over to the rental car area. Avignon was noticeably warmer than cold/rainy Paris! Turns out that got an upgrade ' we were supposed to get a VW Golf (which would have been fine with us) and instead we got a Mercedes A180. This was fun for us since we don't have the A-Class back at home.
Into the car and out of the station we went ' we drove straight to the Mas Solige on the east side of Carpentras to drop off our luggage. The owners were just cleaning up the gite and getting everything ready for us. It was about 2 pm and check in wasn't until 4 pm. We went into the town, visited the tourist office to pick up local maps and pamphlets, and then walked around town a bit. The old town is nothing to write home about but still a nice way to kill some time if you have to. It was still early, so we made our way to a confisserie that specialized in the 'famous' Carpentras berlingots ' not sure I 'get' the hype but it was neat nonetheless. Plus, it made for some easy souvenirs for the relatives we were going to visit in London after Provence.
We made our way over to the Intermarche to pick up groceries for our stay. We love visiting grocery stores when we're on vacation! There is so much to see! We must have spent over an hour here. Back to the cottage, we put away our groceries and then began to unpack our bags. We had a casual dinner at the cottage and headed to bed early. We were pretty tired from our very early start in Paris.
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Lilaki's Trip Report - 7 Days in Provence