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Peterdg Jun 15th, 2014 12:10 PM

Need suggestions on Provence itinerary

We are going to Provence and French Riviera for 7 days this October. We've already booked plane ticket from Bangkok to Paris since it was on promotion. I have a draft of my itinerary and I need some suggestions on it. We are considering flying from Paris to Marseille and back to Paris from Nice since it is a lot faster than taking trains then rent a car for traveling in the region so this is my itinerary.

Day 1 : Marseille and Calanque du Sugiton

Day 2 : Aix-en-Provence

Day 3 : Avignon

Day 4 : Gordes and Roussilon

Day 5 : Arles and Les Baux de Provence or Nimes

Day 6 : Moustiers Sainte Marie and Gorges du Verdon

Day 7 : Nice and Eze

Also, there are some questions I'd like to ask:

1. I don't know how much time we should spend in each Luberon villages like Gordes or Roussillon. Can we fit more than 2 villages in a day?

2. What do you like better in your opinion between Les Baux and Nimes/Pont du Gard seeing that we already plan to go to a lot of villages. Is Les Baux worth it?

3. Which town should we use as a base for this itinerary?

Feel free to suggest. Advices are appreciated.

rdouglass7 Jun 15th, 2014 02:15 PM

We used St Remy as a base - midway between Avignon and Arles. The nicest hotel there is Chateau des Alpilles - elegant and low key. St Remy has some interesting roman ruins just outside of the town, on the way to Les Baux, which is an interesting fortified village. You can see both Pont du Gard and Avignon in one day. Arles is about 3/4 of a day. Trying to see a bunch of villages in a short period of time will result in none of them being very memorable. Your proposed itinerary is pretty ambitious, and allow time to get lost driving. We took some time and visited an olive oil business/museum and also a lavender museum.
St Remy is also the birthplace of Nostradamus, and Van Gogh was hospitalized in the mental institution there as well.
As far as how much time to spend in any village, I think either visiting on their market day for a few hours or just getting lunch in the town square will be plenty. We did that in Vence and St Paul de Vence (near Nice) and have great memories doing that.
I've heard Marseille is to be avoided, and Aix is on the way to Nice, and not near the axis of towns I've described above Arles-St Remy-Avignon.
I would go Marseille to St Remy and lodge there, definitely see Arles one day, Avignon and Pont du Gard another, and see how your time goes. Then travel toward Nice, maybe Aix on the way, and stay in Nice. Eze is small and can be toured in a morning. The airport is very close to the city - but Nice is a big and busy place. Sorry if the reply seems a little disorganized - we have visited the area twice and it is very beautiful.

Christina Jun 15th, 2014 02:49 PM

I spent about four days in Marseille and enjoyed it a lot, there is no reason whatsoever to avoid it. It's one of the most eclectic and up-and-coming art centers of France. It has a lot of interesting things to see, and it a nice location on the port. I found it a lot more interesting than St Remy, for example, but it's much larger, of course. It's a good contrast to all the cutesy touristy villages in Provence.

I think Les Baux is definitely worth it has it is unique and a a historic site. You can't compare it to Nimes or Pont du Gard, which is a Roman bridge, but if I had to choose, I think I might have enjoyed my visit to Les Baux more than Pont du Gard. There isn't any one answer, you kiknd of have to decide for yourself based on your own interests. I'm not that interested in Roman ruins, for example, but others are.

I think you could easily see 3 villages in one day as they aren't that big and there isn't much to do there, after all (such as in Gordes). Bonnieux is just a crook in the road practically, for example. And they aren't that far apart. How much time can you spend in them, anyway, puttering around expensive shops. I found Roussillon a little more interesting. Or, you could see something other than these villages, such as an abbayes. For example, you could easily see Gordes, Roussillon and Bonnieux in one day, spending a couple hours in each. You probably don't want to spend a couple hours in Bonnieux, actually. It's smaller and maybe would be good for a lunch stop, but it depends where you are staying as to how much sense that makes on the itinerary. Or maybe Menerbes. If you stay in Roussillon (I stayed there once and really liked it), you could thus go to some village in the morning, maybe have a coffee and look around a bit (say Bonnieux), then go to Gordes for a few hours, and then go back to Roussillon for late afternoon and after dinner there, as you're staying there). Something like that.

I'll be honest, I don't think there is one base that is good for your entire itinerary, I'd probalby stay in two places. Your itinerary just isn't feasible with the 3 larger places n the front, one day each, as they aren't that close to each other. Because if you stay in Marseille, it seems like you'd have to spend 2 days there (one for Marseille and one for Cassis, for example), then move to Aix or AVignon area, then end up more in the Luberon. Just too much for me. I've stayed in Aix and Avignon but always 3-4 days each.

DebitNM Jun 15th, 2014 03:55 PM

We spent 3 days in Marseille in February 2013. It was a very interesting city, and not to be simply written off. Apparently we are not alone -

Peterdg Jun 15th, 2014 11:23 PM

Thank you for all your advices. Sorry I wasn't clear about the base. I meant the base for Luberon villages only.

Peterdg Jun 16th, 2014 07:07 AM

Ok, so now I'm considering taking Nice out of the plan since it seems to be far from other places but I think I might regret not going to Eze. Is Eze really that beautiful? or is there any village with the same atmosphere around Marseille?

Mimar Jun 16th, 2014 07:53 AM

Well, I've been (inadvertently) through and not to Marseille whereas we spent some time in Nice. There's lots to see there and it's a great base for day trips by public transportation, including Eze. And Nice is a beautiful city, with curvy Belle Epoque architecture, a lazy sensual vibe, a lot of Italian influence and its own Nizzese cuisine. Worth at least a couple of days.

If you're arriving directly from Bangkok via Paris, won't you be tired and jet-lagged? It's better then to take a day or two to recover before you start driving.

In fact this whole area, inland Provence in particular, is known for its easy-living lifestyle, You're sort of missing the point if you rush around ticking off boxes from your touristic checklist. So I'd cut down the itinerary and spend some time enjoying the Provencal lifestyle.

DebitNM Jun 16th, 2014 08:16 AM

Cassis for a day is delightful, close to Marseille.

Bill_H Jun 16th, 2014 08:39 AM

<b>"Sorry I wasn't clear about the base. I meant the base for Luberon villages only."</b>

I agree with rdouglass7 that St. Remy is a good base for a short visit. We stayed at a less luxe hotel on the ring road. Short drives to many interesting areas, and a nice little town to relax in when you get back.

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