Help Planning Provence Trip?

Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 04:19 PM
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annieladd
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Help Planning Provence Trip?

In September, we arrive Sat., leave Sat. in Robion, a small town not far from Avignon. The following week we'll be in Paris (questions about Paris later). I am listing a very preliminary itinerary. It's our 1st trip to France, so we're hoping to get nice combination of ancient sites, museums, restaurants, and natural beauty. Any suggestions on the itinerary itself as well as sights, restaurants, shops, markets, etc. would be greatly appreciated.

Day 1- Avignon, St. Remy, Les Baux (We plan to have lunch at L'Oustau de la Baumaniere)

Day 2- (or first nice day) Fast Road to Monte Carlo, come back by the Sea.

Day 3- Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Orange, Vaison-La-Romaine, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Gordes (I'd also like to see Le Barroux, L'Isle-la-Sorgue, Roussillion, Bonnieux)

Day 4- Arles, Nimes

Day 5- Salon-de Provence, Aix-en-Provence (I'd also like to see Cassis, are the Calenques a must see?)

Day 6 Pont du Gard, Aigues Mortes

Please give me any advice. Thanks, Annie
 
Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 05:55 PM
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dln
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Annieladd, I'll be interested to hear what experienced Provence travellers have to say about your itinerary. My husband and I are making our first trip to Provence as well.

Like you, I wanted to see everything (my first list was similar to yours) but I changed my mind and scaled back dramatically after doing some research on www.mappy.com. Have you looked at that site? It gives directions, gas expenses, travelling times and tolls for any itinerary you plug in. When I saw that we'd be spending our vacation on the road and burning a hole in our wallets filling up the tank, I changed my mind about how far and how many village we could take in each day! I think you might come to a similar conclusion if you do the same. Your itinerary looks overly ambitious, though not having visited Provence myself, I know you'll want opinions other than mine.
 
Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 06:23 PM
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First of all, when you are in Avignon, you can do most things but day 2 you are going to Monte Carlo, Shoot, you than go back to the area you were first at, that wastes alot of time.
First oustau is marvelous!
Chateauneuf-du=Pape, lunching at the ChaTeau Fines Roches was lovely(if allergic to cats, you may not like it as I did) Vaison-La-Romaine, we stopped at the 'Bellfroi"and the terrace has a great view of the city below,
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 06:39 PM
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The fontaine de Vaucluce has a paper making factory you can tour and a wonderful small Jewish Museum and have lunch at Chez Philip overlooking the falls to try the local crayfish.
Le Barroux, I suggest lunch(because of the view) at the Les gerraniams.
Li'sle I like the restaurant Jardin de Qui and great shops like Michael Behiem(sp?) who has written many books. Orange for the ancient amphitheatre. but not a great town IMO. Salon-de- Provence is dismal compared to other towns. I don't care how many posters say Gordes, Roussillon, Les Baux are crowded, I love those old towns. Pont de Guard, Aigues Mortes, I love the Camargue. Have lunch in A.M. at the "Camargue" you may be entertained by gypsie kings. Bonnieux, is a favorite of mine as is Lourmarin, that i return to every year for personal preferences.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2004, 07:30 PM
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Your itinerary is just a bit ambitious, as quite a lot of driving will be involved. For example, the coast road just between St-Tropez and Le Lavandou can take a good 2 hours; it's only 2 lanes, and there's usually quite a lot of traffic. If you come back as far as St-Tropez on the autoroute you would have time to visit Cassis on your way but probably not the calanques.

Be sure to see Les Baux BEFORE you have lunch! Otherwise you'll feel more like a nap than sightseeing.

You might consider omitting the Vontaine de Vaucluse, as by September the water level will be quite low; it's in the spring that the sight is remarkable.

Unless you want to be in the car a lot of the time on day 3, you need to cut back on your itinerary--do either the area of Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine or the Isle sur la Sorge and the Lubéron villages. Trying to do both will leave you exhausted.

You could actually add something to day 6--that might be the day to see Nimes instead of combining it with Arles.



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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 12:23 AM
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Hi
We returned from Provence in June so here are some comments.
I was very keen to go to Les Baux and it loked fabulous as we approached it. We found the reality very different - heaving with visitors even though we visited early and out of school holiday time. Overpriced tourist traps, restored to within an inch of it's life etc etc. We didn't linger. I know many people will disagree, but it wasn't for us.
On the other hand, immediately outside Remy are the most marvellous roman remains. It's a site called Glaunum (think I have spelt that right) had hardly any visitors, and had all the atmosphere and interest that we found Les Baux lacked. We spent ages wandering around.
Pont du Gard is magnificent. You can no longer walk along the top of the bridge itself (you could a few years ago) but it's still stunning.
Uzes is near to the Pont (about 10/15 minutes drive) and is a lovely town, well worth a visit. The Place aux Herbes in the centre of Uzes is shady and cool with some lovely restaurants - we used to eat here in the evening watching the world go by. It is also the location for the Wednesday morning market, where the whole place comes alive.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 02:21 AM
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Annie -

You are trying to do way too much, in my opinion. Things are going to whirl by and leave you in a daze. In any case, once you are here, you will quickly see for yourself what works and what doesn't.

By the way, one of the best boulangeries in Provence is in Robion. It is along the D2 and you will know it because when you walk in there is a huge pile of food that they are invariably tossing into the oven. Also, if you are at all a carnivore, go to the restaurant Chez Gouin just nearby in Coustellet. They have a butcher shop in front and the meat dishes are awesome...

-Kevin
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 04:25 AM
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You're trying to do too much in too short a time. Since you'll be staying near Avignon, realize that on Day-1, the Avignon tour will take most of the morning. If you plan on lunch at Beaumanier, suggest you drive to Les Baux, tour and have lunch, then stop in St. Remy on the return.

Day-2 to Monte Carlo - not a good idea. The drive can easily be 3 to 3-1/2 hrs on the Peage (autoroute) and then by taking the coastal road on return you'll be tempted to stop at various towns along the way - you'll be positively exhausted by the time you get to your hotel, late! If you really want to see Monte Carlo you should arrange to drive the next to last day in late afternoon, overnight, enjoy MC and towns around there to Nice, and pick up flight or train from Nice back to Paris.

Day-3 - Chat. du Pape, Orange, Vaison and Le Barroux are good for a day. The other towns or Gordes, Font. Vaucluse L'Isle, Roussilion Bonnieux on another day (day-4)

Day-4 - You should do Arles and Aigues Mortes together.

Pont du Gard, Nimes and Uzes can be done on a day.

As to Salon de Provence and Aix, these can be done on a day heading to Monte Carlo.

Basically you're trying to fit 7 or 8 days into 6 and this is not ideal. You'll be spending more time getting to/from and not seeing much of anything. Besides the fact that you're going back and forth - Get the Michelin orange #526 map and you'll see how you're zig-zagging across the area. I would rethink your itinerary.

You're not alone in wanting to see everything, but more often than not, without sufficient time - you're going to have to make a return visit to do it right.
 
Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 05:31 AM
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We are headed to Provence for a second trip in September. When we visited Provence 3 years ago, we spent 5 days on the Cote d'Azur and 6 days west in Provence, and we felt rushed- that's why we're going back! We barely saw half of what you want to see. I agree with the the ohers that your plans are a bit over ambitious, and you will spend too much time in the car traveling from place to place. People go at different paces, but even so, your proposed pace feels like racing to me.

If you only have the week, I'd suggest you pick one area to explore. Monte Carlo and the Cote d"Azur, which is 2-3 hours away, ay the least, require lots of time, so maybe you can put that off to the next trip. Even so, you should plan on lots of driving- the roads through the Luberon and Vaucluse are narrow and slow. For example, the drive from Vaison to Avignon is an hour. We drove from Fontvielle( next to Arles) to the Camargue and that took over an hour- it looks close on the map, but still, it was a bit of a drive.

We love to walk through the old cities and villages- they are beautiful, and often, there is lots to see. We loved the Camargue, with the beautiful grasses, flamingos and storks, and the wild hourse and bulls- we spent a full day there, having dinner in Aigues Mortes ( which actually was, for us, a disappointment).

What surprised us on our first trip to France many years ago was how long French meals take. Imagine a "fancy" American meal with several courses. I love that, but it takes getting used to. A French lunch or dinner can take 2 hours or more, and leave you quite sluggish afterwards. You can always have picnic lunches, as many of the French do, by stopping in the morning at local shops.

We'll be there in September as well- this time, we've allowed 8 days for this part of the vacation, and we're not headed to the Cote D'Azur.

Godd luck and have a great trip.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 06:58 AM
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Another thing to consider is that in Provence many sightseeing attractions--and quite a few small shops and even grocery stores--may be closed from noon until 2:00 p.m. (or even longer). It took us a while to realize that our best bet was just to stop and have a leisurely lunch and recharge our batteries.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 08:17 AM
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I'd like to add a brief endorsement/clarification to cigalechanta's reply mentioning the "wonderful small Jewish Museum" in Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. I visited this town a few years ago with my daughter during a trip to Provence. Since we had only 1 week, we limited our visit to the Vaucluse, visiting the area around Carpentras and the Luberon. The museum is outstanding, and is actually named
Musee de la Resistance (Museum of the Resistance), and has interactive exhibits about the collaborative Vichy Government during WWII, Marshall Petain, and a section on artists who refused to collaborate with the Germans. There are recreated scenes of household life in the "non-occupied" portion of France detailing the chilling effects of collaboration, and more. Collaboration is still a controversial subject with the French. On the bright side, this part of France was a center of resistance (hence the Museum's name), and this is covered as well. It does not take more than an hour to see the exhibits, and the museum is very new and modern. The sad thing for me was that the morning we were there, there were hundreds of French schoolchildren in the town to see the waterfalls, but not a single one at the museum. In fact, my daughter and I were the only visitors. When I mentioned this fact to the woman at the visitors' desk, she gave me a wry look and
said indeed she wished more people would
experience the museum.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 11:08 AM
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Here is my report from our recent trip:
http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=2

In general, I would warn you that while those little villages may look close, driving time is often longer than you expect. At the same time, some towns imho only warrant a quick stop i.e. Gordes.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 12:24 PM
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annieladd,

I agree with others, Monte Carlo is too far. You can get your seaside fix at Cassis and/or a seaside village with access from La Camargue.

Spend one day visiting Chateauneuf-du-Pape and another whole day in the Luberon.

Arles market days are Wed. & Sat. The big maket at L'Isle Sur la Sorgue is Sunday.

Where are you staying in Robion?

JoeG
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 03:19 PM
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annieladd
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Thank you all for the advice. I'll do my best to scale things down, I do want to be able to relax and enjoy the trip. We'll be staying at Villa Luberon (www.rentavilla.com) if anyone has ever been there, I'd love to hear your comments. It sounds like the day to Monte Carlo is probably not the best idea. I HAVE to see the Sea, though, so I guess we'll see it from Cassis. I'll move some things around, and I may be back with other questions. I'd love to know any other restaurants or shopping you suggest, and again, any comments anyone might have about the house itself. Thanks again.
 
Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 04:21 PM
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.........As Underhill has suggested, the
water may be very low at the F de V -
and it's rather unprepossessing when
it's not full.

With apologies to cigalechanta, I must
tell you I had the most disgusting meal
at Les Geraniums in Le Barroux - the
worst meal I've ever had in France! The
setting is nice but not the food (or
at least IMHO). They seem to be catering to the visitors from Belgium,
and believe me, the meal was phlemish!

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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 04:25 PM
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No apologies, notice I said "because of the view" (and so little in the area.)
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 10:51 PM
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Llamalady -

that's a good one. thanks for the laugh!
-Kevin
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Old Aug 3rd, 2004, 11:25 PM
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I believe the St. Remy market is on Wednesday, so if possible, try to visit St. Remy on that day - it's a lot of fun.

I would definitely repeat what others have said about trying to fit in too much and grouping sites by locality.

We've found Les Baux to be uncrowded at the very end of the day - quiet and peaceful. Try to arrive as the tour buses are leaving; it will also be easier to find parking at that time.

Avignon is worth a visit, and the cathedral is important, but we enjoyed St. Remy and Arles much more. I found Arles more compact, and found the ancient sites more interesting.

Your day 3 is (without me actually looking at a map) all over the place. We spent one day of our trip to Provence from St. Remy, heading east on the prettiest roads we could find, through Cavaillon, Oppede-la-vieux (very charming and not overly restored), Lacoste, Menerbes, Bonnieux, Roussillion, and lastly Gordes, and it took us all day.

I liked Glanum too, but I'm more interested than most in ancient history. It takes some imagination to picture how it must have looked.

The Pont du Gard is amazing; even my blase husband was impressed!
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