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Can we stay in one place or not to see Western Provence?

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Feb 9th, 2012, 11:36 AM
  #1
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Can we stay in one place or not to see Western Provence?

My husband and I are going to Paris for a week in June then on to Provence. We are in our mid 50's, have travelled a lot (not our first trip to France), and enjoy the culture, food, wine, drives to villages, and antiquities.

We will take the TGV to Avignon for 1 night then going a self guided bike tour for 2 nights\3 days from Avignon to St Remy to Arles back to Avignon. We will then have 5 days left when we will rent a car and our priorities are Pont du Gard, Cote du Rhones ( at least Chateauneuf du Pape but would ideally like to do the wine route and maybe Orange for antiquties) and a Luberon town.

Sounds like a lot and we are slow travellers! I'm thinking that Arles may be a good base for day trips to these areas or should we just move on to Uzes for 1 night, Vaison La Romaine for 2 nights then possibly Rousillion for 2 nights? Lots of hotel changes for us but may be best plan? All replies welcome and very much appreciated. I need help!
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Feb 9th, 2012, 12:11 PM
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Why would you go back to Arles if you had already visited it on your bike trip? It really isn't centrally located to the other places you want to visit - especially the Cote du Rhone stuff.

The "ideal" location would be someplace north of Avignon away from the ugly Avignon sprawl, and south of Orange & its sprawl. Perhaps look for somelece close to Chateauneuf du Papes or Roquemaure.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 9th, 2012, 12:24 PM
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We stayed in Vaison-la-Romaine. It was OK. We then moved down to St-Remy-de-Provence. It was great. If returning, we would base ourselves there.
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Feb 9th, 2012, 12:36 PM
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Good point Stu, thanks. Is there a particular town\village that you would suggest? We live in the country so when travelling we like to stay in a small town or village within easy walking distance to restaurants, etc. And thanks twoflower but we will also have seen St Remy on our bike trip. Much appreciate your help, planning the itinerary is always the most challenging task for me of trip planning!
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Feb 9th, 2012, 12:48 PM
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I would suggest Pernes-les-Fontaines, that's where I stay in that area and it's a perfect location. But you can't walk to restaurants that I know of, I don't think there are any hotels in the village itself, they are in the immediate surrounding countryside. And this wasn't a super small village. That isn't unusual, a lot of villages don't have hotels in them and the B&Bs aren't there, either (usually). You can drive into town in a few minutes for dinner.

Now you can do that in Roussillon, I have stayed there several nights and they do have several hotels right in the town where you can walk to things. I stayed in one, actually. But even if you can find a hotel like that, it may not be the most desirable choice in the area compared to all the others where you can't walk to restaurants. And the nice inns or places with private car parks, etc, aren't in the center of towns. Some of those don't even have parking (I almost stayed at a hotel in the middle of Bonnieux last year but changed my mind and am glad I did, there was no parking).


This is where I stay in Pernes-les-Fontaines just north of the town but not in it http://www.hotel-lhermitage.com/

But Pernes really is a good location for what you want.
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Feb 9th, 2012, 01:04 PM
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Bonnieux and Lourmarin are places with good restaurants.
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Feb 9th, 2012, 01:28 PM
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Are you planning to bike over Les Alpilles to St-Rémy? I hope you're in super shape!
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Feb 9th, 2012, 02:15 PM
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Thanks for all the replys. We really do like to stay within walking distance of restaurants although I know that often the nicest hotels are outside of town. We stayed outside of town in Cefalu last year and really didn't like to drive to restaurants. Mostly because we like to drink wine and not have to worry about driving and because we already live in the country and have to drive everywhere.

I understand that the bike trip is not arduous and is considered easy but we are in pretty good shape!

Would Bonnieux be easy driving distance to Cote du Rhones area? I'll look at Mappy but often the distances don't take into account traffic, etc. Loumarin is enticing but I understand a little difficult to drive in and out of?
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Feb 9th, 2012, 02:36 PM
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Hi L,

We stayed at http://www.hotel-en-provence.com/uk/index.php and found it a very good base for daytripping.

Details at http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-in-europe.cfm

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Feb 9th, 2012, 03:09 PM
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I think Bonnieux and especially Lourmarin would be way to far away from the Pont du Gard and the Cote du Rhone winegrowing villages around Seguret, Gigondas, Vacqueyras, etc to visit as a reasonable day-trip.

You are really limiting yourself if you want to stay in a village with enough restaurants to dine at for 5 nights & also be centrally located. St Remy, Uzes, l'Isle sur la Sorgue, Carpentras, and Vaison are all medium sized towns with enough restaurants - but each is too far away for 1 or 2 of the sites you want to visit. Perhaps Carpentras would be your best bet - the Pont du Gard/Uzes being perhaps 3/4 to 1 hr away through ugly Avignon sprawl, and the Luberon 3/4 to 1 hr away also. Carpentras is close to Orange, Cote du Rhone, Chatneauneuf du Papes/Beaucastel.

Stu Dudley

We stay in Gites while in France, so I don't have many hotel recs (we've spent 18 weeks in Provence).

Stu Dudley
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Feb 9th, 2012, 03:27 PM
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Thanks Ira for the lovely hotel recommendation, I have contacted them for availablitiy. And thanks Stu for your recommendations; what would you suggest is the best itinterary given our interests? What if we went to the Cote du Rhones area via the Pont du Gard?
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Feb 9th, 2012, 03:35 PM
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Lily, I agree with Stu that Carpentras is pretty central to all you want to see. We stayed outside of Carpentras in Caromb so don't have recommendations for hotel.
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Feb 9th, 2012, 05:02 PM
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We've also stayed in Caromb and used it as a home base for
biking and winery exploring. I wouldn't want to stay in
Carpentras - I think it's an unattractive town with terrible
traffic.
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Feb 9th, 2012, 05:27 PM
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>>what would you suggest is the best itinterary given our interests?<<

To offer some suggestions, I would need to know where specifically you will be staying for 5 nights, and what day of the week after the bike trip you will start this portion of your visit (shops in cities/towns are closed on Sun, market days, etc).

Note that Ira's suggestion is very close to where you will be spending your time on your bike trip, and also may not have enough restaurants within walking distance for 5 dinners. The hotel does not have a restaurant. It is well located for visiting Avignon, St Remy, and Arles - but you will visit these places on your bike trip. I would want to be north of Avignon - not south.

Do you have my 27 page Provence & Cote d'Azur itinerary? I've sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors & aol. E-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 9th, 2012, 05:48 PM
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Also

Where do you stay the final night of your bike trip - Arles??

What time of year will you be visiting Provence - Lavender season

Do you have any interests in scenic drives through lavender fields, remote areas, "cute little non-touristy villages"

Stu Dudley
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Feb 9th, 2012, 05:50 PM
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Thanks Judy and immimi for your responses re Carpentras and Caromb. Thanks Stu, I'll email you. We start our bike trip on Friday June 15th from Avignon to St Remy, then St Remy to Arles on Saturday, then back to Avignon on Sunday. We then have from Monday until Saturday to stay in Provence and on the second Saturday we will take the TGV back to Paris. Pont du Gard is a must see for my husband and we both would like to tour some wineries in Cotes du Rhone. Anything else would be a bonus but time is limited. Thanks so much everyone again for any recommendations you can provide.
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Feb 9th, 2012, 06:09 PM
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I agree that the Carpentras area is the best central location for what you have listed.

I have a different take on that city itself than what I see from other posters. It is not a beautiful city in the classic touristy sense. It is a working class enclave and it is not a rich (looking) area. However, if you park your car and go into the old town center, for example, it is a wonderful slice of French living. It is France - where the people work and live and get by day to day. And just like the USA it is not all pretty to look at from a distance. It is not a tourist trap, gussied up for the visitors like some of the more famous destinations.

But it is central to many of the local attractions and places you mentioned - and not that bad a place to explore all on its own. Don't be afraid to be near there - the location is perfect and I assume you will be getting around by car by then anyway.

Read Stu's chronicles - they will get you to the pretty places fast enough...
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Feb 10th, 2012, 05:58 AM
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Thanks JoeCal, Carpentras does sound like a good base. And Stu, we do love scenic drives.
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Feb 10th, 2012, 10:58 AM
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Monday - Visit the Pont du Gard in the morning. Don't forget the interesting museum there. There is a cafeteria nHad a few emergencies this morning.

Here is a suggested itinerary:

Sunday June 17th - arrive back in Avignon from your bike trip.

Monday – visit the Pont du Gard first thing in the morning. Don’t forget the museum there if your hubby is really interested in the Pont. There is a cafeteria near the museum for lunch. Then head out for Uzes. Shops will likely be closed in the morning - so don't visit Uzes first. You could have lunch at the wonderful Place Aux Herbs in Uzes. Shops won't open till around 2:30PM or later. After Uzes, head to Carpentras, but just outside of the Pont du Gard pay a quick visit to Castillon du Gard. It is a small village that won't consume much time. There is view of the Pont du Gard from the church near where you will probably park. The view of the Pont might be better in the morning (position of the sun), so you may want to visit Castillion before the Pont.

There is no scenic way to get to Carpentras from the Pont. Perhaps the best is to take the A9 north towards Orange. When you pay for the peage at the toll both near Orange, do a U-turn and immediately get on the A7 peage towards Cavaillon to the south. Get off at exit #22 - which will be the first exit, & find your way to Carpentras.

Tuesday. Before you leave home, make a reservation for a tour at Beaucastel near Chateauneuf du Pape. See the itinerary I think I sent you for their phone number. However, a friend told me last year that they were no longer giving tours. Anyway, see if you can latch on to a tour & tasting at some noted winery in Chateauneuf du Pape. Visiting wineries in France is not like visiting wineries in the Calif wine country. You don't just walk in & wait for the next tour. If you go to the town of Chateauneuf du Pape, there are lots of tasting rooms which are quite formal - and there is some "pressure" to purchase wine. Plan your day around whenever you have reservations for a tour. After or before the tour, visit some of the famous wine villages in the Cote du Rhone/Dentelles region - Beaumes de Venise, Vacqueyras, Gigondas, and especially Seguret. This entire area is quite scenic & loaded with vineyards. Read my itinerary for details. For a special treat, visit a winery in the Dentelles – it’s quite serene & scenic. Great place for a picnic lunch. Domaine St Amant http://www.domainesaintamant.com .

Wednesday. Head out early & visit the lovely Luberon Valley & its villages. Start in Gordes (before the tourist hoards arrive). Tuesday is Gordes market day - but I would not visit it then. See my itinerary for a suggested driving/visiting route and spend the day in the Luberon. To get to Gordes from Carpentras, take the eastern route through Pernes & l'Isle sur la Sorgue - do not take the D31 where the "signs" will try & take you.

Thursday. Now, a scenic drive to try & see some lavender in bloom. It will probably be too early to see lavender blooming, but this route is quite picturesque. See my "lavender route" in the itinerary. The lavender route starts in Gordes, but instead you will need to head to Sault from Carpentras. If you have the time, drive through the scenic Gorges de la Nesque to Sault. You can also get to Sault on the faster D1. Follow the route in my itinerary & visit Sault, Montbrun (view from road only), and especially Simiane la Rotonde. Then return via Aurel/Montbrun and take the D41 from Montbrun west. This road will change to the D5 when it crosses the Drome/Vaucluse boundry. Find Brantes just to the south of this road and pay a visit. This is a gem of a village – explore thoroughly. Then back on the D5 heading west & visit Vaison la Romaine. Then another lovely drive back to Carpentras.
If you have time, visit le Barroux. See my itinerary for suggestions about Vaison.

Friday. Market day in Carpentras. This is my favorite market. Start at 9am & spend a couple of hours there. After the market, head south to Pernes les Fontaines, pick up a map of the village with two walking tours of the “fountaines” (see my itinerary) and visit this “non-touristy” village. After Perenes, visit Venasque in a real pretty area.

Sat. Head home.

Stu Dudley
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Feb 10th, 2012, 11:07 AM
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I can't thank you enough Stu for this valuable info. Sounds like an ideal plan for us. Much apprecitated and I will be sure to report back following the trip although I may well have a thousand more questions before we go. Thanks again.
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