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3 days in Provence without a car: which place to use as a base?

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Apr 15th, 2006, 12:41 PM
  #1
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3 days in Provence without a car: which place to use as a base?

We will be spending a few days in the Riviera and taking a train to________. Which city/town
has the best bus/taxi and train service to places of interest? Any hotel suggestions this base? (I wanted to stay St Remy but H is now saying he does not want to drive.) Thanks.
PS This will be in late Sept.
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Apr 15th, 2006, 12:52 PM
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I'll be watching the responses you get. My husband and I will be in France for 3 weeks in September and he's very skeptical of renting a car. Hope you get some good advice that I can benefit from!
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Apr 15th, 2006, 12:56 PM
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My favorite places in Provence can best be accessed by car.

There is train service to the big cities - Aix, Arles, Nimes, Orange, and Avignon, plus very limited service to l'Isle sur la Sorgue. Bus service is also limited. For 3 days, your itinerary is going to be dictated by the train/bus schedules. A taxi (hired car) would work, but would obviously be expensive.

Avignon would be your best choice for a base.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 15th, 2006, 12:58 PM
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mkdiebold

What do you mean by "skeptical"?

Stu Dudley
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Apr 15th, 2006, 01:06 PM
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I did three wonderful weeks without a car. Avignon!!!
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Apr 15th, 2006, 02:46 PM
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The first time we went to southern France, we did not have a car. We first stayed in Nice and went to Villefrance sur Mer, Eze, St. Paul, and Vence all by train or bus. I followed many of Rick Steves suggestions on using transportation. It does take a little more time.

We then moved onto Arles and arrived there on a Saturday when the market was in progress (get there early as it ends about 1). We stayed at Hotel Calendal and enjoyed it but I have seen other recommendations on this board that looked interesting. I wouldn't stay in Arles for more than 2 nights without a car.

RS does say that you can book bus excursions to Pont du Gard and Les Baux, Luberson villages, and Camargue, or Lavender filds through the TI office. I can remember standing on the wall near the river and looking up river and seeing some type of boat excursions but never found out what they were. Wondering if they perhaps went to Pont de Gard.

I'm not saying that this was the best itinerary, just what we did. RS is very basic and does have how to directions for using trains, etc. I would suggest you get his Provence book or France book and supplement with other guides such as Michelin. I check guidebooks out from the library before purchasing to make sure I like them and they suit my needs.

For our trip in June we are renting a car and driving around Provence because I feel I missed so much by not having a car last time. I really don't think that driving around the Luberon and Cotes du Rhone will be that difficult. I am imagining that this area is going to be similar to Napa Valley with small roads. I would think in late September the area would be less crowded but ask Stu.

I have purchased the Michelin map of Provence and am in the process of highlighting routes we will be taking.

Stu has been a great help to me in planning our trip and I have found his advice to be right on the money.
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Apr 15th, 2006, 02:56 PM
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mk, tell your husband you can't see the beautiful small villages without a small car. To see village life is to see the real Provence.
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Apr 15th, 2006, 02:57 PM
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If non-driving New Yorkers can rent a car and spend two weeks driving around Provence, anyone can. Granted we rented an automatic car, but otherwise, the roads are well marked, signs are in English. Along with a good map (Michelin), driving is easy. Just loved the traffic circles. I'd do it again in a New York minute.
 
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Apr 15th, 2006, 07:49 PM
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Thanks for the advice. My H wants to avoid drop off and pick up hassles, trying to find parking spaces and driving at night (again, late Sept. trip).
Are there any rental agencies in St. Remy or other villages? Is it generally tough to find parking? Thanks!
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Apr 16th, 2006, 10:22 AM
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Hassles on picking up & returning????? I've never experienced that, and we usually do both of those 3-4 times every year in Europe. If you ever plan to return to Europe - you might as well get your feet wet now. Are you from the US and do you rent cars in the US??. It's not much different in France. You could take the train from Nice to either the Aix TGV or Avignon TGV stations. The Aix station is way out of town in the boonies with nothing there but the train station and car rental places. The Avignon TGV station is also outside of town and it's a very modern complex and picking up & returning cars is a breeze. St Remy is only 30 mins away by car from the Avignon TGV station. There is absolutly no problems driving into St Remy & parking the car.

Don't think there is a rental agency in St Remy - it's a smaller town than you may think. It's close enought to Arles, Nimes, & Avignon so that it would not be advantageous for any firm to have one there.

Do you drive at night in the US (if that's where you are from). If you base in St Remy, there really is not any reason to be out at dark - there are plenty of restaurants in town to keep you well fed for a week, and you will most likely finish all your daytime touring by dark.

I can't imaging seeing the best of Provence without a car - especially if this is an active but short trip.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 16th, 2006, 10:26 AM
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Driving in Provence is a piece of cake. Lots of traffic circles. If you are not sure which road to take out of it - keep driving around it until you are sure. The small villages and out of the way places are so incredible. Don't worry - just remember to bring your driver's license!
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Apr 16th, 2006, 11:31 AM
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There are no hassles in picking up and dropping off. Driving is easy. YOu will miss a great deal of the charm of Provence by not driving.
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Apr 16th, 2006, 11:50 AM
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Don't be concerned about driving in France; it's not more difficult than anywhere else and will save you a good deal of time, not to mention going places on your schedule rather than on the train's or bus's.
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Apr 16th, 2006, 11:57 AM
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I just returned today from France. (I'll post trip report soon.) We took the train from Paris to Avignon, and had our car in less than 20 minutes. We had reserved a manual shift, but at last minute asked for an automatic. For three days it was an additional $75, and well worth it, as we each only recently had had a 1 hour lesson.
We loved our little Citroen 3 (brand new), the traffic circles, and how the French actually PASS in the passing lane. Driving was so much easier than driving to new places in NJ. We only got lost once. I'd gladly trade driving in France for driving in NJ. Also, we drove about 250 km and we only filled up once, at the end, and it cost 27euro (for a 1/2 tank).

beth
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Apr 16th, 2006, 12:12 PM
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Since you have already expressed a desire not to drive, I would say Avignon or Arles as a base. It depends on what part of Provence you want to concerntrate in.
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Apr 16th, 2006, 12:33 PM
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The OP specified the Riviera, in which case Nice is the logical choice--easy bus and train access to nearby sights.
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Apr 16th, 2006, 01:14 PM
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Not exactly. They are starting in the Riviera and then want to go to Provence.
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Apr 16th, 2006, 01:18 PM
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The only issue with driving that can be a problem and an expense is parking. Many of the streets have meters where payment has to be made, ticket taken and placed in window for traffic officer to check. Other's have regular meters for coins and the meter ticks down. There are hours when coins aren't necessary - lunch time between 12N-2pm and then after 6pm - this varies depending on where you're staying. And you'd better move the car before 7am or 8am next morning or find your car booted or towed, depending on which town. Many hotels have on-site free parking, others do not... and some hotels charge for parking; this can be as much as $20/$25 night.

While the train service along the Riviera (Cote d'Azur) is great and you'll be able to visit most places, you do miss out on some of the charming hill towns. The alternative would be to take a taxis to/from the train station for these small towns.

Your decision to make.
 
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Apr 27th, 2006, 12:04 AM
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i am 30 years old and am travelling through France alone for the first time. I am intending to spend 6 days in the Provence area on my way between Barcelona and Venice. I would prefer not to hire a car but take day tours with a group. I would like to go to Grasse and do a tour of a lavender farm as well as get some village time. any advice would be great as i am finding it a bit hard to decide where to base myself. thanks - ps i will be there late july/august
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Apr 27th, 2006, 04:39 AM
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One of the things we liked the most in Provence was our drives to the villages. Lovely scenery on the way and you get to control your own day.

Hello - we stayed in St Remy which allowed us to walk to dinner at night from our hotel/inn. So no night driving. No hassles at all with drop off/pick up - not different from here. There is really very little difference driving in this area than there is driving here. Roads well marked as well. We went to Gordes, Rousillion, La Coste and never had trouble parking. This was in May of 2005.

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