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Southern France....17days Paris to Provenc/Co'te d Azur

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I've posted on this topic twice, again a big gratefulness ThankYou to all that have contributed in guiding me with your travel experiences which have been so very much appreciated. This feedback as well as all the informative postings and Stu's data report on the subject matter of Provence has supported me in revising this trip multiple times. Alas I'm stuck, procrastination is holding me back from making the best choice here relating to the first best base. I wish I was closer to finalizing this leg of my amazing journey thru this beautiful area of France.

I am solo traveling Sept 3- 19 to France. Flying onto Puglia, Italy Sept 19-27. Then flying onto Barcelona,Spain Sept 27-Oct 2. Then back to USA Oct 2 am.

The Paris base,Latin Quarter all set with 2 day trips, arrive early am Sept 3 - and depart on Sept 8 am TGV to Avignon.

I've read so much here now I'm challenged at this point where to do first of 2 bases for Provence/Co'te d Azur, too many choices. Prefer easy access in/out locals without traffic/parking big issues, ie like parking/walking a mile with carryon luggage bag.
Intention is to have two bases for touring this area. I'd like to have a central Provence area base then the second base to be Nice. I'm concerned about the challenges I've read about parking/traffic and would prefer locals that avoid these issues however remoteness to activities is not appealing to me given my limited time visiting.

The areas/some but not all sites I'd like to visit include Uzes, Pont du Gard,Avignon,Gorde,Rousillon(some other Luberon villages),St. Remy,Aix-en-Provence,Nimes,Arles and if possible a peak at the white horses and pink flamingos of the Camarugue. I'm not a big shopper but I do like markets with food and flowers. I mostly enjoy meeting and photographing people and the beautiful vistas,architecture,nature,art,history,and wine/food tasting experiences. Again I will have car rental for my first base in this area. The big cities I've read here have some draw back. The small towns are appealing but then I've read concerns re;limited choices re;evening low key socializing over food/drink.(solo traveler) I've been provided with some suggestions for first base but not sure... Villa Velleron,St. Remy. Luberon Area, but where it's huge to me. Les Baux . Menieres its small with limited accomadations /evening restaurant choices but central to all above point of interest areas. I've also considered doing self drive tours with all inclusive but not sure about those ,seems too contrived and may be not so cost effective. I've got travel issues as yawl can read.

I will be in Southern France a total of 11nocs/10 days.
Splitting time:
First base/ Provence centrally, 7nocs/6.5 days,Sept 8, afternoon until Sept 15 am.
Second base/ Nice 4nocs,3.5 days,Sept 15 afternoon until Sept 19 depart 12:30p for Puglia,Italy.



2. Any suggestions on how to approach tour days so not zigzagging all around and back tracking?

3.Any resources for a specific B&B,apt, inn or reasonable hotel?..appears rates are around $175-250/noc, I'll be traveling for >month so any cost savings so much appreciated, I am by no means fussy but clean,comfortable n safe would be a plus. :) ??

4. Do I spend the afternoon and one noc in Avignon to experience that area , before I pic up the car rental the following am and tour west. ( Uzes/Pont du Gard )then head to base late afternoon? Then next early am head from base to tour east of Avignon area ie , Rousillon etc? Or do I just get car rental move on and come back to Avignon another day?

5. When it's time to depart first base area onto second base area (Nice), what's best/cost effective/time efficient approach; either drop car back to TGV STATION car rental then train to Nice and use the public transport to see Cannes,Monaco,etc. in French Riviera. Then rent another car for 2 days to tour Antibes,(ie,Villefrance,Eze,St.Paul).??
Depending on where my first base ends up being then .....Drive from there straight to Nice 2-3 hrs which obviously means keeping car ???

6.My second base currently will be in Nice to experience some of the French Riviera. ( Sept 15 late afternoon until Sept 19 mid day. Any recommendations on where to stay in Nice? And or should I stay outside of Nice?

7. Since my total touring time in Nice will be less than 3.5 days, what's the best sequence to experience this area.. So I'm not zigzagging all around?

8. Any other suggestions,resources or tips so much appreciated?

Again as always , I appreciate as well as ThankYou for your time in regards to your response to any part of this travel inquiry, which I eagerly await. :)

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    This chambre d'hote in St. Saturnin les Apt would be perfect. The village is small, charming and not many visitors. There is a Tuesday market. Easy to get to all the places you want to see and within reasonable driving distance for day trip to even the farthest reaches.

    The hosts/owners are lovely people and one of their traditions is to do aperitifs at dusk at the pool with guests.

    Be sure to check out the "LOCAL" and "REGION" tabs.

    Local - within half an hours drive of St. Sat:

    Saint Saturnin Les Apt - Explore the village, known for its unspoilt authenticity, fountains and doors. Climb the ramparts to the ruined chateau, where there are wonderful views over the valley.

    Apt - On Saturday it holds one of the largest markets in Provence, but do go back another day and wander through the streets where there are good shops and an impressive Cathedral. Note most shops and banks closed on Mondays.

    Roussillon - A must do! Pretty colour washed village houses that have used the pigment found in the ochre. Walk to the viewing platform at the top.

    Goult - A popular village with the equally popular Café de Poste, walk through the back streets to the ancient windmill.

    Bonnieux - quaint perched village made famous by Peter Mayle with
    great views over the valley to the North.

    Lacoste - Not related to the clothing label! Between Menerbes and
    Bonnieux this village has two famous residents to name but a few. The first -- the Marquis de Sade lived in the chateau in the 18th Century, this, like many of the houses that line the cobbled street is now owned by the fashion designer Pierre Cardin.

    Oppede Le Vieux - A very charming village built into the hillside of the Luberon where time has stood still. Lose yourself as you wander through the gardens to reach the village, don’t miss the top part, which has been abandoned.

    Menerbes - It may be small, but it is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. It is evident that this was an up market village, for the rich with its wonderful buildings and views over the valley towards Mont Ventoux.

    Gordes - as featured in "A Good Year," this famous perched village is always popular. Don’t miss the viewing platform for your photograph.

    Abbaye de Senanque - dating to 1150, Monks still live here, famous for its calendar photo with the Lavender.

    Coustellet - The Sunday morning market is one of the best, local
    seasonal produce with a relaxed atmosphere.

    Saignon - Charming perched village also home to several celebrities, explore the rocher at the top of the village where there are outstanding views.

    St Martin de Castillon- unspoilt Perched village, very quiet, good
    pizzeria for lunch.

    Colorado Provencal - Walk amongst the ochre and see the incredible
    natural formations and colours. Perhaps even BETTER than Roussilon!

    Isle sur la Sorgue - the Venice of Provence! Also famous for its antique shops and market on Sundays and holidays.

    La Fontaine de Vaucluse - A popular touristy town, on the river where you can hire canoes. The source is one of the deepest in the world!

    Banon - Famous for it’s goats cheese, this pretty village also has a renowned book shop ‘Le Bleuet’ selling English and French books.

    Simiane La Rotonde -Famous for it’s lavender this charming perched
    village will capture your heart . Great potter there too for some beautiful pieces to take home at great price!

    Sault - The drive to this perched village is spectacular, as are the views on Mont Ventoux, which stands some 1912 metres. The area has endless lavender fields, which are at their best early July.

    Mont Ventoux - The peak is covered in white granite giving a snow
    covered impression, which it is from late October until Spring time. Views for miles, the last Ski station before the Mediterranean and the home of one of the most grueling stages of the Tour de France

    Lourmarin - A very pretty village on the south side of the Luberon , Friday market is very popular.

    Bigger Towns & Cities within an hour

    Avignon - Another must do, explore this walled city with the Palais de Pape, Pont St Benezet, Les Halles and great boutique shops.

    Aix en Provence - A busy chic city, with over 100 fountains, home to Cezanne, and the Cours Mirabeau , a mansion lined avenue framed by a canopy of plane trees where the wealthy promenade whilst you sit back and watch in one of the many cafes.

    Manosque - The drive is superb, and when there an attractive and busy town, the L’Occitane ‘outlet’ store is close by.

    Forcalquier - The drive to this town passing through Cereste, is just part of the pleasure, it has a large market on Monday with an artisanal section.

    St Remy de Provence - A must! Tree line boulevards, pretty back streets,delightful shops and restaurants. Nostradamus was born here, and Van Gogh painted.

    Glanum - Dating to 6BC these Roman ruins are some of the oldest
    classical buildings in France, abandoned in the 3rd century. The oldest and smallest triumphal arch dates to 20BC.

    Les Baux de Provence - Popular and picturesque village topped by a
    ruined chateau with views over Olive orchards and vineyards towards the Camargue.

    Gorge de Nesque - Cutting through the Mont Ventoux to the North &
    Plateau de Vaucluse to the South take the D942 from Sault. The road falls from 620 M to 300 M. The village of Venasque is also worth a stop, then take the D4 back to Murs and into the Luberon valley.

    Within Two hours drive

    Marseilles - The biggest city outside Paris, park by the Vieux port, and walk around this vibrant city taking in the shops on the Canebiere and do walk up to the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, which over looks the Port. Many new things in the past year or 2.

    Cassis - In it self a pretty fishing port also boasting some of the most dramatic scenery in the French Riviera with dazzling white cliffs, the highest sea cliffs in Europe, plunging into turquoise waters. Take a boat to the Calanques. After take the route des Cretes. A word of warning to anyone suffering from vertigo, the Route des Cretes is high and every turn brings a new unbelievable view. The stunning scenery is something that one will never forget and once your vacation is over, your dreams are full of the beauty of Provence!

    Pont du Gard - built by the Roman Empire in the middle of the first
    century to allow the aqua duct of Nimes to cross the Gard river. Standing 50M high the bridge is both a technical and artistic masterpiece. One of France’s top 5 tourist attractions and a world heritage site.

    Uzes - A large and popular town, with a large Saturday market, it has many pretty streets and a central square and is certainly worth visiting, perhaps combining with a visit to the Pont dud Gard.

    Arles - The Roman capital of Provence, this lively city of Arts, once home to Van Gogh, features a splendid Amphitheatre and Necropolis of Les Alyscamps.

    The Camargue - If you are looking to see Salmon Pink Flamingos &
    black bulls this is the place! On the flatbeds of the Camargue explore the flat rice beds and salt dunes.

    Nimes - Steeped in history this wonderful town has an impressive
    amphitheatre, the best preserved in France, dating to 70AD, the adjoining Maison Carree was built in in 19BC and is one of the best preserved Roman temples anywhere. By contrast built in 1986 and designed by Norman Foster is the Carre d’art.

    Cotes de Rhone - Wine brings many people to France. So explore one of the greatest areas in the world. Villages you should include, Beaumes de Venice renowned for its sweet Muscat. The scenery includes the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains, Gigondas & Vacqueras and of course Chateauneuf de Pape.

    Gorges du Verdon-This is the deepest, longest & wildest canyon in
    Europe! Stretching 21kms and in places 800m deep and is the second
    deepest gorge in the world after the Grand Canyon. It was only explored for the first time in 1905!

    Vaison La Romaine - A roman town divided the river Ouveze, cross the 2000 year old bridge , visit the amphitheatre, used for the summer arts festival held in July and climb the maze of twisting cobbled streets to reach the 13th century chateau.

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    ThankYou again DebitNM... St Remy base for week and dropping rental TGV . Train to Nice.. To chill and do little site seeing by local train... Also found tentative condo apt 2 sts back from beach...if limited avail on beach ...if any recos for that area also interested.

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