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iana Feb 10th, 2015 08:44 PM

Help choosing a base in Provence
I'll be traveling in Provence for 5 days in May, 2015, with a car. We'll arrive from Carcassonne in the morning of the first day and the last day will see us sleeping in Gorges du Verdon in our way to Côte D'Azur, which means we'll get 5 days but only 4 nights in this region. We're thinking about staying in just one base town and I'm not sure which one choose. We're planning to go to: 1) St. Rémy and Les Baux; 2) Avignon and Pont du Gard; 3) Cassis; 4) Aix-en-Provence; 5) Luberon (order yet not defined).
I have read a lot of suggestions but they usually involves towns of northwest/north Provence (Arles, Avignon, St. Remy and Luberon) or just Luberon. We don't want to go to Arles and Nîmes because we have a short stay and we'll have to choose (we went to a trip to Italy last year and saw a lot of roman ruins).
Between Avignon and St. Remy I'd rather stay in St. Remy because it is more scenic and less crowded to park/drive (according to what I read). Our other options are south Luberon (Lourmarin) (thinking it is Luberon and can be easier to drive to our day trips opposed to more central Luberon, like Bonnieux and Gordes) and Aix-en-Provence (we thought we could get faster to Avignon and St. Remy due to the faster roads and be not to far from Luberon and Cassis).

My questions therefore are:
1) should we stay in just one base for 4 nights, like we are considering?
2) which of these towns (St. Rémy, Lourmarin and Aix-en-Provence) would be a better choice to use as a base considering our day trip destinations (St. Remy/Les Baux, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, Cassis and Luberon)?

I would also like to know: if we decide for south Luberon, is it too bad of a choice to stay in a town not so famous or beautiful like Lourmarin and opt for other less known like Puyvert or Lauris, which are close? I mean, would it be like we were "throwing away" the option of staying in Luberon (instead of a more practical town)? Or would it be not a problem (because they are still quaint and beautiful just not so, and quite close to one that it is)?

Thank you in advance.

StuDudley Feb 10th, 2015 09:36 PM

We've spent 20 weeks vacationing in Provence. Here are my opinions:

- Cassis is too far away to visit, if you will be in Provence for only 4 nights. It's a nice coastal town - but the town itself is only a 45 min visit, unless you take a boat to see the Calenques - which will make it an all day event.

- Lourmarin adds some difficulties if you want to visit the "major" sites in Provence

- Aix is our favorite big city in Provence, but is even farther away from the "main sites" than Lourmarin is.

- St Remy vs. a hill town in the northern Luberon.
If you want to stay in a town with lots of restaurants, shops, other Americans - stay in St Remy. If you want a more "beautiful countryside" feel - stay in the Luberon. But you may have to drive to restaurants - unless "simple" dinners or lunches are more your thing.

- If this is your first visit to Provence, I would not stay in a "south" Luberon village like Lauris or Puyvert.

Stu Dudley

JoeCal Feb 10th, 2015 11:30 PM

I think that for 4 nights, you'd be better off staying in one "base". That way you can do day trips in various directions and not pack and unpack and so on. I would recommend asking Stu for a copy of his itineraries which he has given out to many people, myself included. Great on directions, timing, things to see and so on. Or simply look up all his posts on this forum.

I like the small villages like Sablet, Vaison La Romain, and so on. For a little larger city, Carpentras is fairly central to a lot of places to see. Not as overrun with my countrymen either as Stu notes - but not as um....pretty as some other options. (The old town is hidden inside the ring road and is one of my favorite markets). So many great places that I don't think you can go wrong where ever you choose. But be real - in 4 days you can't have it all. Start planning your next trip ASAP.

StuDudley Feb 11th, 2015 06:28 AM

If you would like my Provence/Cote d'Azur itinerary, e-mail me at [email protected] and I'll attach one to the reply e-mail. I have several itineraries, so specify that you want Provence/Cote d'Azur.

Stu Dudley

DebitNM Feb 11th, 2015 06:37 AM

I much prefer a small village that doesn't necessarily attract hordes of tourists; to us St. Saturnin les Apt is perfect location what allows easy day trips to almost everywhere you want to visit.

Sadly, 4 days won't give you too many towns to visit.

See my comments on this thread --

dorkforcemom Feb 11th, 2015 06:47 AM

I agree with the above posters. On our 4 trips to the. Luberon, we choose to stay right outside of St. Saturnin, at Le Mas Perreal. It was ideal for our stay. It was easy driving to visit Gordes, Aix, Bonnieux, Menerbes, St. Remy, Isle sur le Sorgue, Pont du Gard. Also agree with the above posters, you won't be able to visit all the places on your list in 4 days. You'll love Provence!

Christina Feb 11th, 2015 09:53 AM

I think you might want to check a map, you have an unusual description of places and where they are. Arles is hardly in the north of Provence, it isn't even that far from the coast, although it is on the west edge. You could say that about Avignon, that it was northish. St Remy is a little farther north than Arles.

I don't agree that St Remy is more scenic than Avignon, not at all. It is just a lot smaller, that's all.

Lourmarin is too inconvenient. I like Aix but I wouldn't choose it as a central point for sightseeing of all that area. So I guess of your short list St Remy is best, and I would stay just in one place.

iana Feb 11th, 2015 05:43 PM

Thank you all for taking your time to help me.

Christina, my short list was based on posts in internet and suggestions made by friends, I'm open for others! Luberon was the top recommendation and I thought Lourmarin would be more central to all destinies I wanted. Many suggested Avignon and St. Remy and, weighting pros and cons of each that everyone said I thought St. Remy would be best. Aix was a strong suggestion of a friend.

You all made good valid points and, even though not consensual (I didn't expect it, otherwise I would already have an answer!), I think they helped me mature my itinerary. I wasn't considering the Provence region north from L'isle sur la Sorgue and east from Avignon (thank you, JoeCal) and your positions made me give the Loire Valley up this time and spend 2 more days in Provence. I'm not sure what to do with those, though: should I dedicate both of them to Vaucluse or use 1 of them to go to Arles and Nîmes (considering I'll have already one more day in Luberon and another day in Avignon)? I think I have to study a little more (thank you again, Stud, for the material).

But considering we'll have 2 more nights in Provence (making 7 days total), would you suggest 2 bases? I would still want to go see the calanques in Cassis and Aix-en-Provence, but all the rest would be closer together. If so, I think I could choose Aix for 2 nights (Aix and Cassis) and 5 nights in Vaucluse.

Thank you, DebitNM and dorkforcemom, for highlighting St. Saturnin (that list you had in your other post was great, DebitNM!). Together with suggestions from JoeCal, it made me consider this region more strongly as a base option (you sure made it sound better than St. Remy and Avignon for this area).

DebitNM Feb 11th, 2015 06:17 PM

You haven't said what type of accomodations you are looking for -- if you are thinking of staying in a gite, they rent typically Saturday - Saturday, weekly. If you are wanting a B&B, that will allow you to break it up.

I have done it both ways in Europe, weekly [or several weeks] and a few days in a place. We have decided that staying 3 days or less is a real PITA and will not do less than 5 from now -- well, after our trip to Lake District in May :o)

StuDudley Feb 11th, 2015 09:46 PM

>>thank you again, Stud, for the material<<

Only my wife can call me that!!!

Stu Dudley

iana Feb 13th, 2015 04:35 AM

>>thank you again, Stud, for the material<<

>> Only my wife can call me that!!!<<

Oh my gosh, what a blunder!! I'm terribly sorry for that. As you can imagine, english is not my native language and I didn't notice I have misspelled your name and said something else (not nice). Please forgive me.

I'm actually reading your itinerary just now - it is a very good material and also very detailed. I'll probably delay more decisions until I've read it all.

Thanks again, Stu.

Debit, as for the kind of places we are looking for, I was searching in Airbnb. We used it in Italy and liked it very much. I didn't try it too hard for now because I'm still stuck in where exactly to go and where to stay as a base, although I have a much clearer idea now. And I agree with you: better to stay more days than few days if the place asks for it.

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