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Timing for Provence

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I will be spending a day visiting some of the surrounding towns of Avignon. I want to see St. Remy on market day, Les Baux and also l'sle de la Sorgue. Is that too many stops for one day? What is a fair amount of time that I should plan on spending in each of these towns? I would appreciate any feedback. Thank you.

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    Have you considered the possibility of not planning how long you'll stay? Someone here, many someones, I suspect, will tell you how long a place is good for. But why not consider staying as long as YOU feel like staying in each. Do some reading and decide which you may enjoy most then play it by ear. You could think of it as a relaxing day, rather than a rushed one, and even saving some for the next visit.

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    That's a good idea, play it by ear, just go to the places you definitely want to see first. Les Baux, for example, then see how long you want to be there. I don't cram that much into one day, but I'd expect 2-3 hrs for Les Baux. Is there some special reason you are going to Isle sur la Sorgue, or you just think you want to see it? If the latter, you could easily be there only an hour or two, if you want. If it's not during their market day, you can park a lot closer to the main area, for example. There isn't really much to do there, after all, if you have no specific plans. If it is during their market, it is jam-packed and you may have to park far away (1+ mile or several km) from the center.

    I can't imagine wanting to go to St Remy and Isle sur la Sorgue the same days if both are market days. Too much of a good thing IMO. If you are just going to Isle sur la Sorgue at end of day, that might work (eg, St Remy in morning, Les Baux a couple hours then head to ISle sur la Sorgue.

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    St Remy's market day is Wed and l'Isle sur la Sorgue's is Sunday. So you can't visit both on the same market day.

    IMO, you can visit all three on the same day at a leisurely pace. I would start with St Remy & get there very early for their market. I have a friend who visited us while we were in Provence, and she stated that she wished that she had NOT visited St Remy on market day. The market distracted her from enjoying the town. Many first-timers love St Remy - and a few don't. So it's difficult to suggest how many hours you'll spend there. My first visit to St Remy was so long ago that I don't have any idea of how much time we spent there. Perhaps 45 mins for the market and 1 hr for the town (not including lunch). If anyone in your group is an avid shopper - add 1 hr to St Remy.

    Then visit l'Isle sur la Sorgue & have lunch there. Again - if anyone is an avid shopper - perhaps 3 hrs there (including lunch) is fine. 2 1/2 hrs (including lunch) hrs if nobody is a shopper. I don't recall what hours/days the antique shops are open. If they are open when you'll be there & if you love antiques - add another hour.

    Do Les Baux last to avoid the crowds and the heat.

    Stu Dudley

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    PS - remember the lunch closings. The majority of shops will not be open between 12:30 and 3:00 - so use this period for travel between St Remy & l'Isle sur la Sorgue and also for lunch in either village.

    Stu Dudley

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    I so appreciate all the wonderful responses . I certainly don't want things to be too rushed and I want to take my time to enjoy it all. I am a true foodie and thought the market would be fun. My husband and I will be cooking a dinner with the chef the night before at La Mirande in Avignon. I also thought the half mile Van Gogh walk would be lovely.

    I was interested in Les Baux for the Carrierres des Luminieres. I read about it and it sounded pretty cool. Also the chataueu des Baux de Provence sounded interesting. Those were my two reasons for visiting there. Is it worth it?

    L'isle de la Sorgue was of interest not because of the whole antique thing because I'm not interested in that, but the water mills and pedestrian walks sounded nice.

    Certainly lingering is what I want to do. So I guess that leaves me to request help on prioritizing my itinerary . What is the first NOT TO BE MISSED, then go from there. If I get to do all three, great. If not I want to be super happy in two I do see. So that leaves me with "what is not to be missed?"

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    I would substitute the visit to l'Isle sur la Sorgue with a lazy drive through the Luberon, visiting several hill villages.

    This is from my recently revised Provence itinerary. It's an "all day" drive at best - many will take 2 days to do it. But just get as far as you can till you head back to Avignon or Les Baux. IMO, however, the countryside is the star in this drive. Perhaps skip Gordes & Roussillon because they are always crowded between 11am & 4 pm.

    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 4E) 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 onto Rue d'Eglise (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 without any tourists. This is a very interesting walk.

    After Gordes, head to Oppede le Vieux*. Leave Gordes on the D2 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 D900 and the Luberon Mountain range. At the D900, take a right and then immediately turn left & go under the railroad tracks. Follow the signs to Oppede les Vieux. There is a village of Oppede that you will pass through 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 either of the two roads south of the D109 - the D103 which connects to the D3, or the D3 further south which passes through the hamlet of La Peyriere. My two GPS systems, my current Michelin Map, and my IGN map all conflict with each other regarding which road is the D3 & which is the D103. Both of these roads south of Lacoste (D103 towards Bonnieux then the D3) pass 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.

    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 D900. 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. Pick up a free map/walking itinerary at the tourist office next to a parking lot (there are 2 parking lots). Check out the restaurants I recommended (Bartavelle & Le Carillon). Wander through this town that is a bit off the main tourist itinerary. Find the Chateau & walk along 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. It is marked #5 in the TI map. Market day is Thursday (perhaps summer only). 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.

    Stu Dudley

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    WOW Stu that's some great stuff. I'm overwhelmed lol as non of that was on my radar. This is a first time to Provence so all your tips are greatly appreciated . I feel I need to rethink things as I'm totally confused now . HA. Thank you again for all your detailed info. Kathy

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    I assumed that you already had my 31 page Provence & Cote d'Azur itinerary. I guess not. We've vacationed for 40 weeks in these two areas & I've put together an itinerary that describes our favorite sites, scenic drives, villages, markets, etc. I've sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at StuDudley@aol.com & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail. Do so soon - we leave for 5 weeks in France in a couple of days.

    Stu Dudley

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