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bniemand Sep 15th, 2009 08:48 AM

Need help finalizing itin – St Remy, Arles, Aix
Just 10 more days and I’ll be in Provence! DH and I will be in France for 12 days. Here’s a brief description of our plan:

Sept 25: arrive CDG, take TGV to Avignon, explore Avignon. One night at Le Limas B&B.

Sept 26: explore Avignon in morning; 2:30pm pick-up for Luberon Experience tour

Sept 26 to Oct 3: Luberon Experience tour, we stay in Bonnieux (hotel is Le Clos du Buis) for the whole week, with day trips to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Lacoste, Gordes, Abbaye de Senanque, Sivergues, Chateauneuf du Pape, Orange if time, Apt, Saignon, Roussillon. We don’t normally do group tours but this one sounds perfect and emphasizes Slow Travel which I aspire to but can never seem to manage on my own. Left to my own devices I probably would try to cram in too many towns and change hotels every 2 or 3 nights. DH is excited that someone else is doing the driving and he doesn’t need to worry about having wine with lunch!

Oct 3: 8:30 drop-off in Avignon. We’ll pick up our rental car at the TGV station.

Sat Oct 3, Sun Oct 4 and Mon Oct 5: this is where I need a bit of help. We are staying in St Remy at Le Mas des Carassins. Questions to come below.

Oct 6: very early departure, TGV to Paris, afternoon exploring Paris.

Oct 7: fly home

OK, for Sat Oct 3, Sun Oct 4 and Mon Oct 5 I’m looking for advice on the best way to arrange day trips. From past posts I know that many towns are closed or have limited hours on Sunday and Monday. I have a tentative plan, please feel free to pick it apart and redirect me:

One day, maybe Saturday after car pickup: Abbaye de Montmajour on way to Arles, then Arles (Arenes Roman stadium, St Trophime Cloister & Place de la Republique, Thermes Constantin).

One day, maybe Sunday: explore St Remy (shopping) and Les Baux (Chateau des Baux, Les Antiques and Glanum.) Then maybe try to fit in a visit to Pont du Gard or Uzes?

One day, maybe Monday: Aix (Cathedrale St Sauveur, Eglise de la Madeleine, shopping on Cours Mirabeau and Place d'Albertas.) Then visit Silvacane Abbey and the towns of Loumarin & Ansouis (chateau) if time.

I don’t have a sense for how much time to devote to Arles and Aix, so I'm not sure what (if anything) to add on the days we visit those towns.

Also, one of our favorite movies is French Kiss, and I know the vineyard in the movie, Val Joanis, is near Lourmarin and open daily from 10 to 7pm. Has anyone visited? It would be a sentimental thing for us, but if you visited and thought it was disappointing please let me know.

Basically we like architecture, churches, wandering around old neighborhoods or perched villages, and a bit of shopping for locally made crafts. Every great day includes a relaxing lunch with wine on an outdoor patio with an interesting view be it city or countryside. Not really into museums.

Looking forward as always to your comments!

kevin_widrow Sep 15th, 2009 09:43 AM

A few thoughts:

1) Val Joanis - nice winery to visit. Never saw the movie, but in any case, their wines are excellent and they have a fantastic garden open to the public - though not sure what kind of shape it will be in October.

2) Try to get to Aix on a day other than Monday. It's my favorite city in Provence, but Monday is the one day when shops are mostly closed - makes for a less than ideal ambiance. Better to do your St. Remy/Les Baux/Glanum/Pont du Gard thing on Monday. Aix on Saturday to catch the market in the morning. Arles on Sunday.


StuDudley Sep 15th, 2009 10:06 AM

By your second day in the Luberon - you're gonna wish you had a car. Trust me on this. One week in the Luberon without a car is really going to limit what you can see and when you can see it. What if others on the tour don't want a relaxing lunch like you seem to want. Is the entire tour group going to be assembled so you can get to the Sunday market in l'Isle sur la Sorgue by 8:00 for breakfast by the church - or are others going to want a full breakfast at their hotel before they are rounded up - which will get you to the market when it is too crowded to really enjoy (unless you like massive crowds & taking 4 inch shuffle-steps). This is a region of small villages, beautiful rolling countryside, mountains & canyons (north), and lazy days. You're going to want to explore it on your own - not with a group. I can't imagine a guided tour for this area - really a bad idea, IMO.

Shops are closed in Arles on Sunday - but open in St Remy & Les Baux. Visit cities when shops are open.

Same with Aix - many shops will be closed Monday morning - some will open in the afternoon, which starts around 2:30 or 3.

For us, Arles is a 1/2 day visit & Aix is 1/2 to 3/4 day visit. 3/4 day if you have lunch on the Cours.

While staying in the Luberon, I would also explore the Dentelles region - Vaison, Crestet, Seguret, Cote du Rhone, Mt Ventoux (if clear), Sault area, etc. Also, a fountain walking tour in Pernes would be enjoyable. Carpentras has a great Friday morning market, and Bedoin has a nice Monday morning market.

Still - I can't understand why you would not have a car for 7 days in the Luberon, but have one for 3 days in the St Remy region.

Stu Dudley

StuDudley Sep 15th, 2009 10:09 AM

Added note:

Most of my wife's favorite shops in St Remy are closed on Monday, but open on Sunday.

Stu Dudley

bniemand Sep 15th, 2009 10:28 AM

Thanks Kevin for the helpful info. Glad to hear Val Joanis is worth a visit!

Stu D, I appreciate your input and have read many of your posts about Provence over the years. Thank you for your St Remy, Aix and Arles input. I added the info about where we're going on the Luberon tour only so that people would see all the towns we're already covering, and was not really looking for input on that part of our trip. I'm really just hoping for advice on the post-tour part of our trip...Oct 3 to Oct 5.

If you'd like to read about the tour we're going on, visit this site:
I think their set itinerary sounds wonderful and relaxing and I can't imagine we'd want to rent a car and go off on our own. I'm really looking forward to NOT sitting in the passenger seat with a map spread open saying turn left! turn right! all day. I understand the aversion to tours that most Fodorites have; I'm usually among you. But this tour seems very different and very much what we had in mind for Provence.

cigalechanta Sep 15th, 2009 11:02 AM

Will you be stopping by the goat farm in Sivergues?
I agree with Stu, A car would make your visit much more exciting.
Anyway, let me wish you a bon voyage and have a wonderful time in My earthly paradise

bniemand Sep 15th, 2009 11:45 AM

cigalechanta, the dinner locale on 9/29 is described as a "remote farm inn located a few miles from Sivergues" so maybe it's the goat farm!

Any additional input on the Oct 3 to Oct 5 portion of the trip will be appreciated...

swagman Sep 15th, 2009 12:13 PM

Please note the information centre (ie museum and cinema) is closed on Monday morning. But you can still walk to see the aquaduct.

You should do Pont du Gard and Uzes and perhaps Nimes on the same day. Do Nimes in the morning, then 3-4 hours at the Pont du Gard, arrive at Uzes around mid to late afternoon, most shops will still be opened, explore the old town and have dinner at Le Vieux Cafe d'Aniathazze, great entrecote, we just had that tonight!!



cigalechanta Sep 15th, 2009 12:17 PM

must be, it's an incredible place. I felt like Heidi. We stayed there a few days.
Say Hi To Gianni, tell him the woman who sent him the photo cards of his goats and of him with the his son's troup of pigs.

sandi Sep 15th, 2009 12:19 PM

>>maybe Sunday: explore St Remy (shopping) and Les Baux (Chateau des Baux, Les Antiques and Glanum.) Then maybe try to fit in a visit to Pont du Gard or Uzes?<<

These are in opposite directions. Les Antiques and Glanum right at the end of St. Remy to the South with Les Baux farther south by about 15/miles.

Pont du Gard and Uzes are west of Avignon, so you'd have to drive north to Avignon and make a left turn.

As others, and we're not drivers or vehicle owners being city dwellers, so very glad we rented a car to visit all the areas you mention (we based in St. Remy for most of the time), finally ending out in Languedoc. Best 2/weeks and lost only once - in the vineyards of Chateneuf du Pape - heavenly!

StuDudley Sep 15th, 2009 12:23 PM

The Luberon Valley is much easier than you think to navigate. Actually, it's a joy to get lost there. I sure wouldn't pay those prices; have breakfast, lunch, & dinner with the same group for all but 3 meals; travel on someone else's schedule - just so I can have someone drive me & the rest of the group from Bonnieux to Lacoste (for example) for a 30 min visit - and then that's all for the day. All the villages on the "visit list" are quite small. Visiting them will take most people anywhere from 1/2 hr to 1 1/2 hrs each - if you stop in every shop in town. If you have 6 or so people in a car, are you really going to be able to see the countryside that much??

We obviously travel differently. Nothing wrong with that. However, you might familiarize yourself with how to get to Avignon in case you decide to rent a car on the 3rd day.

Stu Dudley

bniemand Sep 15th, 2009 12:39 PM

We've rented cars on trips to Europe before, and I know how easy it is. I am great with a map and DH is a great driver and we are not afraid of getting lost. There are many reasons we decided on a tour this time, and I sort of feel I'd sound overly defensive if I explained them all. Anyway, at this point I cannot and do not want to cancel the tour, so it's not really a good use of our time to keep writing about it.

Although Stu's advice will remain in the back of my mind and wouldn't it be funny to read the version of my trip report where we bail out on Day 3 and continue independently! :) LOL

So... now that it's been clearly expressed why many of you think a tour is a mistake can any future posters focus on the question I originally asked? Thank you so much!

bniemand Sep 15th, 2009 12:42 PM

Swagman, can you please tell me which town you're referring to in the first paragraph of you post?

macanimals Sep 15th, 2009 01:11 PM

Re: A day that includes Aix, Val Joanis, Lourmarin, Ansouis and Abbeye Silvacane after driving from St Remy area---not possible. The day isn't long enough even if it was the summer solstice but you can pick any of those and have a good time--less so on a Monday. We recently spent a week in Lourmarin and the distances you are contemplating will mount up.

I think Stu has given you a reasonable schedule considering the days of the week you will have to work with. St Remy has a number of sights worth your time and even w/i walking distance of Mas de Carassins (a lovely place we have previously enjoyed). Glanum and the "Van Gogh" asylum as well as the town itself.

And by the way, the tour you are committed to looks great and I'm confident the leaders know what they are doing as I have followed them on message boards etc. for years. I don't do tours but agree this would be one to consider for others. I know that they stop and dine if possible at Sivergues. Have fun. Paul

kevin_widrow Sep 15th, 2009 08:47 PM

Here's an idea:

If you could change your hotel and spend Saturday night in Aix it would give you the following itinerary:

SAT: Aix - catch the market in the morning. Nice lunch on the Cours Mirabeau. Stroll around in the afternoon and do some shopping. Lovely dinner - then "Aix by night".

SUN: over to Arles. Not a bad spot to spend a Sunday despite some shops being closed. You won't see it all in a day, but pick and choose your combo of Roman sites and museums. Lunch at Rabanel's Atelier. Life is good. Visit the Abbey de Montmajour (one of my personal favorites) on the way to St. Remy -

MON: Les Baux/Glanum to start. Then on to Uzès and Pont du Gard to finish.

Doable and not overdone, IMO.


swagman Sep 15th, 2009 11:46 PM

'Please note the information centre (ie museum and cinema) is closed on Monday morning. But you can still walk to see the aquaduct' - Sorry I was referring the Pont du Gard.

'Pont du Gard and Uzes are west of Avignon, so you'd have to drive north to Avignon and make a left turn' - sandi, you can actually get to P du G and Uzes via Tarascon and Beaucaire, no need to head north to Avignon, best to avoid big town traffic there.

macanimals, where is the dining spot at Sivergues?

BTW, it's been pouring all night here at Saint-Remy, summer is truly over!


macanimals Sep 16th, 2009 06:01 AM

Re: Sivergues "dining". Its a goat farm actually and the proprietors put on a spread of cheeses and meats in a rustic picnic style setting--I believe its outside. I did a bit of research and kept it as an option during our last visit in July but never made it. The appeal is the very remote setting and contact with farmers who are in the business of livestock and goat cheese production. Access is from Apt and up into the hills south of there.

swagman Sep 16th, 2009 08:17 AM


I am currently in Saint-Remy and might try this farm experience you mentioned in Sivergues. Do you have the name of the farm or contact details? Also when you say it's from Apt, I assume it's on the D114?

Thanks in advance for the info.


bniemand Sep 16th, 2009 08:46 AM

Thanks everyone, very helpful.

It seems the only day that makes sense to go to Aix is Saturday since shops are closed Sunday and half of Monday. Kevin, your idea of staying there overnight is interesting. But looks like it's just a one hour drive back to St Remy, so I think we'll stick with St Remy to avoid packing and unpacking another time.

So if we pickup our car in Avignon on Saturday at 8:30 we might get to Aix by 10 and catch a bit of the market before lunch on the Cours Mirabeau. macanimals you are right that it doesn't make sense to try to squeeze in Silvacane Abbey or Lourmarin on this day. I'm sure there is plenty to do in Aix to keep us busy til late afternoon.

Sunday is looking like St Remy and Les Baux.

Monday is Arles and Abbaye de Montmajour.

If we can squeeze in other towns, great, but if not I know we'll be back someday!

swagman can you please arrange for the rain to stop before we arrive later next week? :)

kevin_widrow Sep 16th, 2009 09:00 AM

Swag -

The name of the farm is Le Castellas - it's on a dirt road about 1 km past the village of Sivergues. This time of year, I'd suggest trying to make Sunday lunch. Otherwise, for dinner you are more likely than not going to be eating indoors. Not nearly as nice as the view when sitting on the long picnic tables out front.


p.s.: if you have the energy before or after, take a hike up from the farm to the crest of the Luberon (it's about 1/2 hour, though steep and rocky). The views from up there are amazing.

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