Help with Provence itinerary

Jul 16th, 2011, 07:01 AM
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Help with Provence itinerary

We'll be in St Remy for 3 days, 4 nights, arriving October 31st. I'm trying to put together some ideas of possible itineraries each day. I find Provence confusing with all the "departments" and changes from flat to mountainous terrain. For now, I just want to know if these are reasonable. Have I left out something major? Could we do more? Are there some not-to-be-missed places we want to go out of the way to see (or eat!)?

We are history buffs, but that would have applied more if we were headed to Carcassone. That region's history fascinates all of us. In Provence, I think more of charming villages and pastoral landscapes. I want to drive down plane-tree-lined roads!!!! That's not to say the Roman artifacts aren't interesting. I just don't know how much we'll emphasize them.

Our first full day -- Tuesday -- will be Toussaints (All Saints) holiday. That might come into consideration for where to go that day.
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Anyway, here's my broad outline:

---One day drive west about an hour to the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct. Uzes for lunch. Perhaps time to see Les Baux on the way back.

---Heading northeast, we could spend a day doing a loop of Isle Sur la Sorgue, Bonnieux, Gordes, Rousillon and Lourmarin . Don’t know if we could do all. Or more? More research. Farthest out, about an hour from St Remy, is Lourmarin.

---I’d love to do a day in Aix en Provence. Map says it's an hour southeast, autobahn most of the way. I don't know if we could include some other little towns on the way or way back?

---We could go south one day to Les Baux. Then on to Arles. (We could do Les Baux anytime, I think. It's not far from St Remy)

---Then, what about Avignon? We could go there early on departure day, turn in the car and spend the morning. I think our train leaves around 12:30. Perhaps we could put together a picnic for the train ride.

I’m sure I’ve left out something major. So much to consider.

But does this look like the beginnings of a plan????
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Jul 16th, 2011, 07:04 AM
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One more consideration: One of our party is very tall, 6'5". So we'll have a larger than usual car. That might come into play with parking/maneuvering in some of the small villages?
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Jul 16th, 2011, 08:46 AM
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Again, another question: Could we go to Aix and Cote d'Azur on the same day? Perhaps head straight to the coast. Quick visit, maybe lunch, then on to Aix. Stroll along the Cours Mirabeau and maybe even have dinner there. Then drive an hour back to St Remy. Would that be do-able?
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Jul 16th, 2011, 09:15 AM
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No, that really wouldn't be even remotely do-able. You need to look carefully at that map and understand the distances between places. It's way more than an hour back to St-Rémy.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 02:56 PM
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I was afraid of that. Google maps said 1 hr 2min, but my experience has been that these programs underestimate the time. For some reason that seems to go double in France!

How long is the drive St Remy to Aix? Perhaps that entire day needs to be scrapped.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 05:34 PM
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I've found the online Michelin site very helpful in planning driving trips. It's at www.viamichelin.com.

You would find that drive around the Luberon quite exhausting, I think. Vaison la Romaine, to the north, is a very interesting town (and you get a good look at Mount Ventoux). From there you could loop to Orange, which is more like a small city but with a wonderful Roman theater.

You could hit Arles on the way back from Pont du Gard.
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Jul 16th, 2011, 09:19 PM
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We stayed in Saint Remy two years ago. We did the loop Isle Sur la Sorgue, La Fontaine Vaucluse, Bonnieux, Gordes and Senanque Abbey. It was certainly a full day but we did not rush the visit to each place. We had also planned to visit Rouisillon and Lourmarin but did not have time for these.

We did a day trip to Uzes and Pont du Gard visiting the arena in Nimes on the way home.

Don't forget to spend time in Saint Remy as there is a lot to see in the town itself and if you are there on Wednesday you will want to visit its fabulous market. We allowed half a day in the town and half a day at Les Baux.

You will have a great time!!
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Jul 17th, 2011, 01:42 AM
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Huett took the words out of my mouth...uh, keyboard.

You are forgetting St Remy!!!!!

The Wednesday you'll be there, plan on a couple hours at the market, which goes from Pl de la Republique, across the street into the "old town." Then...don't miss the country walk to the asylum where Van Gogh stayed .The tourist info office can show you on a map) pass the small signs with his paintintgs and descriptions. There are few or no cars...an easy, flat walk from a residiential area...and it is easy to imagine Vincent walking/painting there too. The walk takes you to where he stayed...go upstairs to see his room, and then gardens out back.

THen walk back into town via Les Antiques. Spend the rest of theday following your noses through the old town--i didnt even know Nostradamus was born there, til i passed the sign in front of his house! .

Our FAVORITE restaurant in 2 weeks in France was The Brasserie du Commerce on Pl de la Republique. The owner of our gite said they'd recnetly changed chefs and wow...YUMMY!! If htey have the baked pineapple on the dessert menu, it's a "must try"

Also on the road encircling the old town , is Joel Durand for chocolates (he's rather unfriendly, but his staff isn't--get the "alphabet coded" chocolates. OMG!!
and for absolutely scrumptious macarons, go a few doors down to -i think it is called Le To??? It's a little place where the son bakes the macaroons, and Mom sells them from the store.

If you have any time or energy left, this might be a good day to go to Les Baux. But find out the sunset time in early November. We had loads of daylight hours in June...but what time will it get dark in Nov? You DO NOT want to be on those little country roads after dark.

Having just come from the area, i understand your desire to pack in as much as possible. But roads were not fat to drive,some are quiet windy (eg the roadd down to Senanque). Don't underestimate the times of those journeys

Have you been to Paris? I ask b/c if i were doing it over, i'd have skipped Aix. It's a pretty and lively city but i dont quit get the enthusiasm over it. Strolling down the COurs Mirabeau is not like strolling down Blvd St Germain!! Knowing what i do now... going to Paris later in the trip, i could have better spent the day seeing more , eg the loop described by Huett, above.

YOu will not be ther eon a Sunday...but dont let that deter you from gong to l'isle sur la Sorgue, if it is convenient for other plans. It is a "cute" town with little waterways, and an interesting old square near the church and Cafe de France, which erved the biggest bowl of salad I've ever seen (with chicken livers in it!)

Les Baux..we saw it in the evening, near sunset. Hardly anyone else there. We wondered if we'd missed anything,but every "local"person we met assured us it is much nicer after the tour busses have left.

The drive from St Remy to the East we found tedious, at the section where you drive via Cavaillon. It seemed to take a looonnnggg time to get to the Luberon and back from St Remy.

After we went to Aix, we easily combined it with a few Luberon towns (but only a few) on the way back to St Remy We went to Lourmarin (disappointing ) and Cucuron (lovely) .

You will see the roads lined with plane trees as you approach St Remy.
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Jul 17th, 2011, 01:54 AM
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Avignon--i think that is a great idea for your last morning, pre-train.! Avignon is VERY close to St Remy--an easy drive. We ere surprised by how muc hwe enjoyed walking 'round it, through the square, the view of the "le Pont d'Avignon" etc.

Also, it took MORE than one hour from Lourmarin back to St Remy. Add 50% to those google map estimates! One hour google map time= 1.5 hours real time. If it's less...great. That is one of the lessons i learned on this trip: don't underestimate drive times, commuter traffic (yes, that is there too!), winding roads, need for cautious driving, etc. A country drive there was NOT like a leisurely country drive in my home-territory!

As St Cirq said, Cote d'Azur, then Aix, then back to St Remy--NOT!!!

You only have a few days, I cannot emphasize enough to NOT cram in and bite off more than you can chew--you'll get indigestion!!
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Jul 17th, 2011, 02:04 AM
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On the Luberon loop, would it be exhausting if we only did 3 of them? Isle SL, Rousillon, and Lourmarin (or some other combination)? Is terrain the big issue in this area?

Is Aix too far? Should we drop the day there? The map sites say 1 hr drive.

And Avignon? I just don't find much praise for it on these boards. But it would be easy to spend our last morning there. Is there somewhere else we might spend that morning that's not too far from the TGV gare?

This is all just a start, an attempt to get my arms around what is do-able in a day. Are there charming villages/landmarks nearer St Remy we should be considering? And we haven't even begun to consider detours for special restaurants!
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Jul 17th, 2011, 02:26 AM
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I don't recommend calling the motorways of France autobahns. Or are you driving from Germany?
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Jul 17th, 2011, 02:26 AM
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Sorry, my last post was before reading the lastest responses. Perhaps it would be easier to ask what would be a reasonable day trip up in the Isle SL area? I'm very cognizant of how distances seem to stretch out AND that sunset will be early, probably 5pm.

I knew the Cote d'Azur leg was too much. One of our party wants so badly to do it that I threw it in to solicit opinions. I think that's settled now.

If we drop Aix, we could do the west leg one day (the Pont, Uzes, perhaps Les Baux). Another day in the Luberon if we can get an itinerary nailed down. Wednesday in St Remy, market in the morning, other sites in afternoon. And then Avignon the last morning.

That sounds better, doesn't it?
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Jul 17th, 2011, 01:05 PM
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We would appreciate input on the latest iteration of our proposed itinerary.

Mon 10/31...arrive in afternoon. St Remy

Tues (All Saints) thru Thursday:
--one day head west to Pont du Gard, Uzes
--one day in and around St Remy. Maybe drive down to Les Baux
--one day toward Isle Sur la Sorgue, Rousillon...? Need help with this day. How to plan it, i.e. where to start, have lunch, end day to return to St Remy by 5pm sunset.

Friday: Morning in Avignon, catch train to Paris around 12:30.

I can't help always feeling like we can squeeze more in. But I've made that mistake enough times to know to listen to those of you who have been there/done that!
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Jul 17th, 2011, 01:48 PM
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Jeanne, i think your last itin looks great!!

Now that i see you are going to Paris from Avignon,i feel even better about recommending thqt you skip Aix this time.

DON'T try to "squeeze" more in!! Think quality over quantity!!

I think the trick is to get, if you are enticed to see 6 places, what are 2 or 3 that will leave you feeling fulfilled? That's the hard part. We didnt get to Rousillon but wish we had. What about Huett's suggestion?

Not sure if the Abbey at Senanque is wortha special trip if you arent already in the. If you are...there's a hilltop town called Venasque nearby .

the GOOD thing is you are going away from main tourist season and wont be facing hordes of tourists and parking problems at places like Gordes.

For what it is worth, we didnt much care for Lourmarin. Too "santiized"looking. Preferred Cucuron and some other little village (cant recall name) nearby.
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Jul 17th, 2011, 01:54 PM
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the other nice thing about spending the day in St Remy,inclduing taking the "Van Gogh" countryside walk to the Asylum, is that you will get a sense of his life, even if you can't make it to Arles. We'd like to have gone to Arles, but as with you...time just didnt allow, unless we were willing to make ourselves crazy!!!
As for Avignon, focus on the old part of town by the Papal Palace.Great views from there down to the famous bridge . (YOu can walk on it, if that matters, and time allows) There's a street near the Papal Palace that has the trees lining it, cafes, etc. We were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed it all, in a 4 hour period. Discovered a little cute place for lunch off an alley--that kind of thing makes it so much more fun.There is parking around the edges of the old city walls. The train stn is easily reachable. Where is the car rental return?
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Jul 17th, 2011, 03:09 PM
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The car rental is at the TGV station, somewhat out of town. I guess we'll probably keep the car while we tour so we can leave our luggage in it. We would prefer to turn it in and get a ride into town and back. We can ask when we pick up the car whether they would store luggage for the morning.

I'm just at a loss on that Isle SLS day. I know we want to go there. Perhaps two others? Oh, and we might prefer flatter towns. My sister has pretty serious arthritis in her foot and I think all the ups/downs of those steep hill towns might be taking on too much. Any suggestions for where we should try to be mid-day for a special lunch?
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Jul 17th, 2011, 08:34 PM
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According to Rick Steves books (love the detailed anduseful info0 ther is a consigne for left luggage at Avignon Ce ntre-ville RR statin 9the one i am familiar with )but not at the TGV RR station. So yes, good idea to check if you can lv with rental car company that last morning. I get nervous about leaving luggage in parked cars.

Based on what you said, unless you have a gerat interest in Cistercain abbeys,I would not rec Senanque Abbey for your sister, as it is a long walk from the parking area right up to the Abbey.Isle sur la Sorgue is flat.

As for other Provence towns that interest you in the area, you'd have to get on-line or other about parking, if it is on the hilltop or below,etc. Hopefully some of the other more expert FF folks can anser about sepcific towns.
St Remy is flat, so are all the walks around it. For some of the towns, you might drive uphill, but park on top.

At Les Bau, you ahve to walk uphill a bit from theparking, and also witin the villlage.
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Jul 17th, 2011, 08:35 PM
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OMG, the typos! Apologies.
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Jul 18th, 2011, 01:20 AM
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Jeanne,

I'd be happy to advise regarding your "Luberon" day, but perhaps I missed something: are you constrained with mobility issues ? This would change my recommendations conerning which villages to visit...

-Kevin
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Jul 18th, 2011, 04:29 AM
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Thank you, Kevin:

Yes, maybe this is a good place to restate our criteria.
My sister is somewhat constrained...arthritis in one foot. She can climb a hill or stairs. But too much of it in one day brings on the pain. She's very accommodating about it. Insists that, if it holds the rest of us back, she'll just find a nice place to sit while we continue. We're OK with that.

The other considerations: We will have a larger rental car--perhaps Citroen C5 wagon--because my brother-in-law is 6'5". All Saints holiday falls on Tuesday. And sunset will come early--5pm. We are early risers and could be on the road by 8:30. But is that too early for these little towns? I've noticed the French don't seem to "rush" into the day.

Let's assume we could do one "perched" town. I look at Bonnieux, for example, and wonder about the parking and whether it would be a good choice. It looks small enough that it might not wear sister out. But is it a good representation of those types of towns? Would we be satisfied? Other suggestions?

For flat towns, I've identified Isle Sur la Sorgue. Would like to think we might add Bonnieux(?) and perhaps another flatter village.

Thanks for any guidance as to which villages might best fit our requirements!
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