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Please help with Provence/Riviera itinerary!

Please help with Provence/Riviera itinerary!

Apr 6th, 2009, 12:18 PM
  #1  
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Please help with Provence/Riviera itinerary!

My husband and I are taking a 10 day trip to Provence and the French Riviera at the end of May. We've been to Paris, Normandy, and the Loire Valley, but it is our first time in the south of France. I have been spending hours reading travel guides and looking through all of the great posts by other Fodorites! It seems like there is just so much to see, and we are really having a hard time deciding on our itinerary! So far, we have a very preliminary itinerary that I would love some feedback on. Here's what we're thinking:

Thurs: Arrive Nice, explore Nice, sleep Nice
Friday: Head to St. Remy (stopping to visit Aix en Provence on the way); explore St. Remy; sleep St. Remy ;
Saturday: Spend day exploring Avignon; sleep in St. Remy
Sunday: Day trip to Pont du Gard and either Nimes or Uzes; sleep in St. Remy
Monday: Drive up to Cote du Rhone area; tour wineries and some towns; stay in Vaison la Romaine or other small town in area;
Tuesday: Drive back down to Arles; explore Arles; sleep Arles
Wednesday: Arles market; go to Les Baux in late afternoon; sleep Arles
Thursday: Head back to Riviera (stopping in St. Trope/Cannes); sleep in Nice
Friday: Relax in Nice; maybe head to Monaco; sleep in Nice
Saturday: Fly home.

Some things that we've been struggling with:
Is this too little time in the Riviera? Should we stay in Nice for another day on the front end of the trip?
Is St. Remy a good base for a few days? We were torn between staying in St. Remy and Avignon.
Any must sees that we are leaving out?

Thanks in advance for all your thoughts and suggestions!
Gilhawk is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 01:14 PM
  #2  
 
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>>Thurs: Arrive Nice, explore Nice, sleep Nice
Friday: Head to St. Remy (stopping to visit Aix en Provence on the way); explore St. Remy; sleep St. Remy ;
Saturday: Spend day exploring Avignon; sleep in St. Remy
Sunday: Day trip to Pont du Gard and either Nimes or Uzes; sleep in St. Remy<,

Shops in Uzes & Nimes will be closed on Sunday. Why not visit the wonderful farmers/antique/craft market in l'Isle sur la Sorgue, and then visit the Luberon villages of Gordes & Roussillon (shops are open on Sun in these two villages)

>>Monday: Drive up to Cote du Rhone area; tour wineries and some towns; stay in Vaison la Romaine or other small town in area;
Tuesday: Drive back down to Arles; explore Arles; sleep Arles
Wednesday: Arles market; go to Les Baux in late afternoon; sleep Arles<<

I would just stay in St Remy the entire time & explore Arles from there. Arles is almost right next door to St Remy. Also, I don't think visiting Arles will take as much time as you have allocated for it. I sure wouldn't sleep in both St Remy and Arles - they're too close to each other. Instead, if you want to sleep in 2 different locations, I would choose ST Remy, and the Luberon (Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux). I would not sleep in 3 different locations, out of the 6 nights you're in Provence

It seems that you plan to visit Nice, Aix, Avignon, Nimes/Uzes, Arles, & Cannes. Thats a lot of large cities for such a short stay. I don't see any small villages or scenic countryside drives in your itinerary. You also don't have any plans to visit the Luberon - which is a "must see", IMO.

>>Thursday: Head back to Riviera (stopping in St. Trope/Cannes); sleep in Nice<<

That's too much for a single day. Finding a parking place & parking in these towns will take some doing. St Tropez is best in the early morning before the day-trippers arrive. I would just visit St Tropez and skip Cannes. I would visit Cannes from Nice by train on your last day in Nice if you get bored with Nice (which I doubt). You might visit in St Paul de Vence in the later afternoon after visiting St Tropez in the early morning (have lunch at la Ponche in St Tropez - reserve ahead).

>Friday: Relax in Nice; maybe head to Monaco; sleep in Nice
Saturday: Fly home.

Some things that we've been struggling with:
Is this too little time in the Riviera? Should we stay in Nice for another day on the front end of the trip?<<

When you arrive on Thurdsay, I would head straight to Aix & stay there your first night, instead if just 1 night in Nice. It's about a 1 1/2 hr drive from the Nice airport to Aix, and another 15 mins to park. This will gain you about half a day. Then spend 3 nights in Nice at the end of your trip.


>>Is St. Remy a good base for a few days? We were torn between staying in St. Remy and Avignon.<<

I would stay in St Remy & the Luberon the entire time while in Provence. Moving to Vaison then back to Arles won't really gain you anything, and will perhaps cost you another 1/2 day.

>>Any must sees that we are leaving out?<<,

Yes - The Luberon

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 01:33 PM
  #3  
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Stu, Thank you so much for your suggestions! It is really making me rethink our plans. I now have some follow-up questions based on your response:

- We were planning on not staying in St. Remy the whole time just in case it was too sleepy of a town. Are there many good restaurants and things to do in the evening (shops open, etc)? We're in our early 30s and currently live in a city, so we'd like some things to do in the evening.
- If we did decide to stay in St. Remy the whole time, could we do Luberon from there or is it too far?
- The reason we were thinking of staying 1 night in Vaison was because we planned to do some wineries and towns in the Cote du Rhone area and thought it might be too far to drive back to St. Remy after a long day of driving around the area. Thoughts?

Thanks!!
Gilhawk is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 01:52 PM
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I live in a big city and like the liveliness of cities, also, and would find staying in St Remy a big snooze. It is a very small town, you know, although there are expensive restaurants and shops there because for some reason it is popular with some wealthy people (like Princess Caroline of Monaco). I really like Avignon, find it very lively and fun in the evening. So to each his own, I know some people love St Remy, I'm just not one of them. At least I wouldn't want to stay there three nights.

It is easier if you have a car, though, I agree with that. You can drive to the Luberon from St Remy in one day, it's not that far.
Christina is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 01:58 PM
  #5  
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Christina, thanks for your input. If you were picking a city to stay in, would you choose Avignon or Arles?
Gilhawk is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 02:08 PM
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>>- We were planning on not staying in St. Remy the whole time just in case it was too sleepy of a town. Are there many good restaurants and things to do in the evening (shops open, etc)? We're in our early 30s and currently live in a city, so we'd like some things to do in the evening.<<

There are lots & lots of reataurants in St Remy - more than in Vaison or Arles. Lots of cafes also. Shops stay open till 7 or 8. If you live in a large city - it might seem a little sleepy after 10PM. Only Nice, Aix, & Avignon will be more lively at that hour, however.


>>- If we did decide to stay in St. Remy the whole time, could we do Luberon from there or is it too far?<<

You could visit the Luberon from St Remy - only about 45 mins away

>>- The reason we were thinking of staying 1 night in Vaison was because we planned to do some wineries and towns in the Cote du Rhone area and thought it might be too far to drive back to St. Remy after a long day of driving around the area. Thoughts?<<

If you visit Vaison in the middle of your Provence stay, that will force 2 additional hotel changes - which will cost you about a half day.

A lot depends on what you mean by "doing" some wineries. There are several places where you can do some tasting. If you want a tour, however, that's a different thing. You don't just drop in like you might in the Napa/Sonoma valley & hook up with the next tour. You need to reserve in advance - sometimes several days in advance. Also, wineries close for lunch - so it's a morning or afternoon tour. If you want a tour or two, and visit the area & villages - I would plan on staying overnight & allocate 1 1/2 days for this. If you just want to do some tasting, I would taste at the 'cave" in Gigonday (many, many different wines available for tasting), or plan a trip to Chateauneuf du Pape where you can visit a shop & taste their specific offerings. The Gigondas cave would consume much less time. If you only taste, it would be a single day-trip. Drive through Carpentras to Malaucene (about 1 1/4 hrs from St Remy), then visit Crestet and Vaison (remembering that shops close for lunch). Then circle counter-clockwise around the Dentelles to the cute village of Seguret & explore (about 1 hr). Then head through the vineyards to Gigondas & visit the cave in the center of town for tasting. Then off through Vacqueyras, and then Beaumes de Venise for some sweet wine tasting. This is a very scenic drive. Then it's about 1 hr back to St Remy.

Do you have my 27 page Provence & Cote d'Azur itinerary? I've sent it (free) to over 500 Fodors & aol people. If you want a copy, e-mail me at [email protected]

Stu Dudley
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Apr 6th, 2009, 02:18 PM
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BTW, I live in/near San Francisco - don't know whether you call that a large city or not.

I would not stay in Avignon the entire time - a little difficult to get in & out and you also have to pass through some pretty ugly urban sprawl to get to your destinations (except for the Pont & Uzes). The ugly urban sprawl is not what I want to experience in Provence. If you stay in Aix 1 night & Nice 3 nights - you'll have lots of nightime stuff going on. Aix is a university city - so lots of activity. I've only visited Arles once at night in July, and it didn't seem much more active than St Remy. Also, of you look at a map and put a red dot next to all the places you want to visit - Arles will be off in the lower-left corner of these dots - meaning more driving for you.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 6th, 2009, 03:51 PM
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I too find St. Remy underwhelming, worth of a visit but otherwise contrived and tourist oriented.

As for a base I like to stay in one place and find central Avignon ideal. The problem of parking can be managed quite easily by using the garage under the courtyard in front of the Palais des Papes. The entrance in near the river on the city's north side and shares an entrance with the Mercure hotel. If when you enter you drive upward and park on the top level, you can exit within 100 feet walking distance from the Place de l'Horlodge basically in the center town. What really draws me to Avignon is its central location, the excellent restaurants, interesting cafés, and the array of different shops.
Sarastro is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 03:57 PM
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By all means spend an extra day in Nice at the beginning of your trip, which will give you some time to relax before heaidng out on your travels. The St-Rémy area is very pleasant and good for relaxing after a hard day's sightseeing, as opposed to staying in either Arles or Avignon. Vaison-la-Romaine is certainly good for an overnight after heading north to visit the wine region beginning with Beaumes de Venise. After exploring Vaison in the morning you can head up to the town of Nyons, known for its appellation-controlée olives; there's an excellent cooperative for shopping.
Underhill is offline  
Apr 6th, 2009, 05:24 PM
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St Remy

Yep - it's a little touristy & contrived, but if I put my first-timer hat on & try to remember when I was in my early 30s, I would be quite happy with St Remy.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 6th, 2009, 05:30 PM
  #11  
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Thanks everyone for your thoughts. Looks like there really is a difference of opinion as to where a good base is and whether its worth it to move around. We're really struggling with this one, and I guess we'll just have to give it some more thought!
Gilhawk is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 04:16 AM
  #12  
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Okay, after much thought and agonizing, we've revised our itinerary based on some of your suggestions. Stu, thanks so much for sending along your itinerary - it is amazing! So, here's what we're thinking. We've really changed it alot. Please critique away!

Thurs: Arrive Nice; explore Nice; stay Nice;
Friday: Drive to Gordes; explore Gordes/Rousillon; sleep Gordes;
Sat: Drive to wine region - explore Seguret, le Crestet, Suzette, Gigondas; head back to Gordes to sleep;
Sun: Leave Gordes; visit Ilse sur la Sorgue for Sunday market; head to St. Remy; sleep St. Remy
Mon: Visit Avignon; sleep St. Remy
Tues: Visit Pont du Gard/Uzes - sleep St. Remy;
Wed: Visit Arles (Wed. market) - sleep St. Remy;
Thurs: Back to Riviera; stop in Cannes; sleep Nice
Fri: Relax in Nice for last day
Sat: Fly home.

Thoughts?
- We were still debating whether to stay in three different places - Avignon (to experience more of a city), St. Remy, and Gordes, just to get a feel for different things. But, we decided that its probably best to just base in two towns. Agree?
- Also, I know some people thought it was a bad idea to just stay in Nice for one night at the beginning of the trip, but we think that will be good for us to just get our legs back under us for the first day and night before heading off to explore.

Thanks!
Gilhawk is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 06:18 AM
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In my opinion Aix-en-Provence is the most interesting city and a much nicer place to stay at than St. Remy (nothing to see and extremely touristy) also much cleaner than Avignon and Arles and their market is fantastic!
nuggi is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 06:29 AM
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Everybody has a slightly different point of view. I didn't like Avignon that well and agree with Stu that it's not a good place to daytrip from. I love Aix, but it's not so centrally located for daytripping to the sights the OP is interested in. St. Remy is a good base for daytrips and has a good selection of restaurants.
Mimar is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 06:58 AM
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I agree that St Remy is a better base for the sights most of us want to see. The Van Gogh connection is worth the stop alone--be sure to visit St Paul de Mausole where he stayed and was so productive. Les Baux and Glanum are just a few minutes away and St Remy itself has an excellent chocolate shop--Joel Durand and olive tasting store. You can't do everything in your alotted time but you will enjoy all the time you do have. Have fun. Paul
macanimals is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 07:34 AM
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Like others have said, Aix is great but not centrally located for visiting the sites you've mentioned.

Avignon will be a little dead Monday morning because many shops will be closed. You could visit the Palais of the Popes in the morning, or switch with Tuesdays & visit the Pont in the am and Uzes in the afternon after shops open around 2:30.

I wouldn't stop in Cannes on the way to Nice. If you want to stop anywhere, stop in Aix - Thurs is their market day. Visit Cannes by train from Nice on Friday if you run out of things to do in Nice. Perhaps have dinner there.

Stu Dudley
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Apr 8th, 2009, 07:51 AM
  #17  
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Thanks everyone. Stu, I like your idea of visiting Aix on the way back instead of Cannes. So, do you think the revised itinerary is an improvement over the original? As I said, we're still wondering if it is a mistake to not stay in Avignon, and whether we should add that as a third place to stay. Also, do you think these days are doable or do we have too much planned? Also, anything we left out?
Gilhawk is offline  
Apr 8th, 2009, 08:00 AM
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Your itinerary is fine, but add Les Baux either Monday or Wed. You won't have any trouble doing all the stuff on it. IMO, neither Arles or Avignon will take an entire day for most people.

I would not stay in three places that are so close together. You'll get your "city fix" in Nice.

Stu Dudley
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