Nimes, Arles or Avignon?

Old May 26th, 2008, 06:48 AM
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Nimes, Arles or Avignon?

We're going to be in Provence this fall. We visited last Spring and enjoyed Aix en Provence one of the days. This year we're wondering which of the larger towns to visit...we much prefer exploring the smaller villages of the region but want to spend one day checking out at least one of the larger towns. That being said...I'd like opinions from Fodorites on Nimes, Arles, Avignon. Which are your favorites and why - which would you leave off your itinerary and why.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 06:57 AM
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All reachable by train, Avignon is normally the most crowded with the hardest to find parking spaces (one side being taken up by water an all.

Nimes has a splendid selection of roman buildings and is my top of the pops, it just goes on and on, Arles has just the one bigun while Avignon is more of a tourist trap but hey what do others say
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Old May 26th, 2008, 07:19 AM
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We left Nimes off our agenda and spent enjoyable half days in Arles and Avignon - an appropriate amount of time in each IMO. We spent a full day in Aix (including going to Cezanne's atelier). Arles was the easiest to access by car, if that's a consideration. From Arles, that day, we went on to the Camargue, Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer (a big disappointment) and Aigues-Mortes (a pleasure).
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Old May 26th, 2008, 07:34 AM
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Haven't been to Nimes, but we enjoyed Uzes more than Arles or Avignon. What a beautifully preserved medieval town!

I supposed I preferred Arles more than Avignon. Great atmospheric Romanesque cathedral. Lovely square in the center with great cafes for sitting. Really enjoyed the Monastery St. Paul where Van Gogh lived for a while. It has a gorgeous, flower-filled cloister.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 08:19 AM
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Thanks...exactly the type info i wanted. We will have a car so yes, accessibility, parking is an issue...one of the reasons we like to limit our visits to busy towns.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 09:21 AM
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Arles has a number of Roman sites besides the arena: there's the nearby theater and Les Alyscamps, a long, shaded avenue of sarcophagi. The cloisters at the church of St-Trophime should be high on anyone's list, and the Museon Arleton is fascinating. We found Arles much more interesting than Avignon or Nîmes.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 10:46 AM
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If I had to chose between the three, I'd go to Arles. It's smaller than the other two, and, as mentioned by the other posters, has a broad range of interesting sites. I'd add the Cloître St-Trophime to the list, a beautifully restored 12th and 14th century structure. The entrance is just to the right of the main door into the Église St-Trophime.

About parking: at Arles, we approached it from the direction of Avignon and found ample parking on the north side of the city, just outside the old ramparts. The city is small enough that you can walk easily to the arena, the Roman theatre, and St-Trophime. Les Alycamps is a bit more of a hike, but still do-able.

If you do decide to visit Avignon, I'd recommend you keep your car outside of the old city--in other words, don't drive through one of the gates in the old ramparts. There are a lot of public parking lots just outside the ramparts, such as the one in front of the old railway station (not the new TGV station). There is also a great deal of public parking on the west side of the city between the ramparts and the Rhône.

Nîmes is larger than even Avignon. We drove right into the centre of the city and parked in an underground parking lot. It's the kind of structure that makes you glad you rented a small vehicle.

If you do decide to drive to the west side of the Rhône (Nîmes, for example), let me echo Cimbrone's suggestion that you see Uzès. It is a delightful place.

Oh, one other thing: if you travel with the Michelin Green Guide or the Red Guide, you'll find very good maps of cities such as Avignon, Arles, and Nîmes. Public parking lots are clearly marked with a "P" in a little red box. I always look at them before entering an urban area and pick one or two places to park.

Anselm
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Old May 26th, 2008, 10:56 AM
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A good place to park is the church lot above and to the left of the arena as you enter Arles from the direction of St-Rémy.
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Old May 26th, 2008, 11:58 AM
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Anselm...I had no idea Nimes was larger than Avignon - guess i hadn't investigated it that thoroughly.

Again, thanks everyone for all the useful parking information...what sounds so clear ahead of time, tends to get more complicated once you approach the cities looking for parking places. I'm always so relieved to finally get parked and start the stroll into the city centres in both France and Italy!
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Old May 26th, 2008, 12:21 PM
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caroltis, I posted a real clanger! I just went back to my Provence guide and looked up the population of the two cities. When my guide was published in '98, Avignon was 181,000 and Nîmes was only 128,000. They're both probably bigger now, but I had it backwards.

Let me put it this way: N&icirc;mes <i>seemed</i> a lot larger than Avignon, lol.

Next time I'll check before posting.

Anselm, embarrassed
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Old May 26th, 2008, 12:29 PM
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Another vote for Arles, though Lord the traffic there in recent years has been a disaster!
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Old May 26th, 2008, 07:32 PM
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You are forgiven Anselm! Thanks for the info.
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 07:28 AM
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bookmarking
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 07:52 AM
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It would be between Arles and Nimes for me. And the ruins aren't really ruined.

Arles smaller. Outstanding ruins. &quot;In the footsteps of Van Gogh&quot; interesting if you like art.

Nimes larger. Excellent large city but good for walking. Many tree-lined and cafe-lined streets. Outstanding ruins.

I loved them both and would say that size would dictate your choice. Is if fair to say that Arles is more artsy?
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:14 AM
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Bookmarking for a future trip. Thanks for the info.

Robyn &gt;-
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 08:45 AM
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Odd man out-I loved Avignon! I was there for three weeks but stayed In Villeneuve, the satillite town across the Rhone where all you have to do is cross the bridge into Avignon with its medieval towers of the Palais des Popes, the dome of its cathedral, legendary bridge that
ends abruptly at midpoint in the river, the Rocher des Doms, a city park with a view of the Rome and the bridge. Should you choose Arles,
be sure to visit the Musee Arlaten that makes its home in a 16th century palace. It features the Arles life-style over the centuries.
and the Musee Reattu in a beautiful 15th century palace and was once the seat of the Arles Knights of Malta and the home of Reattu, the artist.
artaten
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Old Sep 26th, 2008, 09:08 AM
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If you go to Arles, I highly recommend staying the night at l'Hotel Particulier. (www.hotel-particulier.com) I can honestly say this is one of my all-time favorite places to stay EVER!! It is absolutely gorgeous - you feel like you are staying at a wonderful French chateau owned by friends. The food was delicious and the staff was very friendly. It is easy to walk to the center of town and it was right by the market if you happen to be there on a market day.
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Old Sep 27th, 2008, 09:44 AM
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Just returned from 4 days in Avignon and made a day trip to Arles. Travel was by train so we didn' have your options, but if
there with a car I probably wouldn't stay in Avignon or Arles, but some smaller village. Arles is
definitely more quaint and artsy and
Avignon bigger and too crowded for us. We also had the mistral there so
that changed the atmosphere a bit with the locals talking about how cold it was and it was windy but felt more like a crisp fall day to us. We saw lots of street people and also younger groups with animals,mostly dogs, but there was the man with dog on a leash and cat around his neck and then the man with two dogs and a rabbit. If you are an animal lover it is sad to see. If you stay in Arles you could easily take the about 30 minute train ride into Avignon to avoid the parking problem
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Old Sep 27th, 2008, 09:48 AM
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oops,didn't mean to post that yet!

and just make one or two daytrips.

Happy travels!
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