Provence

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Nov 29th, 2004, 04:39 PM
  #1
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Provence

My husband and I are looking to take a trip to France in June 2005. A first trip to France for both of us, however we have traveled through other parts of Europe. We are looking to stay in the Southern part of France, particularly Provence and perhaps St. Remy and/or Avalon (sp?), as they seem to be highly recommended on this board. My questions are...
1- Is this a good time of year to travel there? Is this the high season?
2- Our budget is $3.5-$4K - is this sufficient for a weeks vacation plus airfare from USA?
3 - Are there any vinyards in this region?
4 - Suggestions for bed and breakfasts?
5 - Suggestions for areas to stay - we would enjoy being close enough to the coast to make a day trip and close enough to the alps to also make a day trip.
6 - I've only rented a car in Scotland - most of Europe seems to be easily accessible with public transportation. Is a car rental necessary or preferred in this region?

Our interests are small towns with great restaurants, good food and wine and lots of culture and charm. Museums and history are also of interst to us.

Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated!
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Nov 29th, 2004, 04:59 PM
  #2
 
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1.It is sorta high season but often June is less busy than May (many public holidays) and July. In June, 2003, our host in Provence (near St Tropez) spoke of the week we were there as a "semaine creuse" -- a hollow week -- because there is so little tourist traffic that particular week.

2. If you have to think "budget" you are probably not looking for movie-star treatment and I would therefore say your budget is ample -- we spend about that and have lived pretty opulently on our trips. The coast is the most expensive area, along with the most-frequented areas. Elsewhere, 80 euros for a B&B can get you into some very nice places indeed. Check out the Guides de charme series published by Editions Rivages -- available in English too -- series has hotel book, B&B book and so on....

3. Vineyards? Umm, you might want to rephrase that -- it's asking for snubs on this board. Yes, many vineyards -- not Bordeaux quality but there's lots to see and taste.

4. B&Bs: Check previous threads -- you'll have an "embarras de richesse". I won't bother posting my favourites because you are going to get about 1000 heartfelt recommendations.

5. Luberon is an obvious area to see ("Peter Mayle country"). St. Remi, which leaves me cold, is very popular with others. I prefer to avoid VERY large cities such as Avignon but it too has many partisans on this board. I always recommend the south of the departement of the Drome (Drome Provencale) but that is my personal taste.

Basically I would observe that the Rhone corridor is precisely that -- a corridor into which all industry and commerce is shoe-horned along that heavily travelled river. For tranquillity go a bit east....e.g. areas named above

(Avalon= Avallon? It's in Burgundy, many hours to the north)

6. Car is essential

RE: Museums, history, food, charming towns -- the problem is to choose, not to find them
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Nov 29th, 2004, 05:07 PM
  #3
rex
 
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Some of the answers to your questions are "it depends..."

1. I think that it is a good time of year. High season seems to run from May 15 to October 15, with the highest season perhaps June 15 to September 15 or 30.

2. A lot depends on how well you do in getting that airfare nailed down (and from where in the US?) - - if you get the airfare for $1300, you can vacation in princely fashion; if you spend over $1900, then obviously, you have to make up the difference somewhere.

3. The Rhone valley, from Lyon (which is not in Provence) to Avignon (which is - - is one of the great wine producing regions of the world; some might say it's number three in france (behind Bordeaux and Burgundy); others will argue it's number one.

Here's a good place to get a handle/overview on the vignobles (where grapes are grown) and domaines (where wines are made) - - they're not always one in the same: http://www.frenchwines.com/UK/index_vignobles.html

4. Too many to shake a stick at. See what kinds of place interests you from some of the tons listed here: http://www.bed-breakfast-france.com or here: http://www.eurobandb.com/france or here: http://www.logis-de-france.fr/uk (this is where I would typically start my looking - - but these range all the way from small inns to what you might characterize as a "B&B").

5. There are just too many good answers, ranging all the way from the Var in the east (see previous postings from me on Montauroux, for example) to Avignon, Orange or Aix-en-Provence in the west - - but countless others as well.

6. Highly preferable to rent a car, in my opinion - - though it can make a lot of sense to get a good 2.5 hour nap, taking the train from Paris CDG (airport) to Avignon.

Best wishes,

Rex
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Nov 29th, 2004, 05:24 PM
  #4
pat
 
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Well, all I can tell you is my relatives live in Cadenet, and they always want us to come in June, because the markets and the street festivals all start then. They say July and August are too hot and too crowded. So June is perfect!
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Nov 29th, 2004, 05:32 PM
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Since you seem to have been provided more than you bargained for in some of the earlier responses to your query, I just want to chime in with my $0.02 on question #5.

Staying near the coast in the Provence will mean at least a good half day's car travel to the closest point in the Alps.

Nevertheless, regardless of your distance to the Alps, you've chosen a beautiful area in France to vacation in.
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Nov 29th, 2004, 05:32 PM
  #6
annieladd
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We stayed in a home outside a small town about 30 miles from Avignon, and found it quite well-situated. We were able to make a day trip to the Med. I'm not sure about the Alps.

Others can answer your specific questions, but one thing I would suggest you ask yourself, what kind of area do you want to wake up and return to each day. We stayed in a house in the country, and that was fine for a large group, but if it had just been two couples, we might have enjoyed staying in a town with more evening life to offer (dinner/shopping). For a bit of town life, we loved St. Remy. For a bit more secluded area, we adored the area around Les Baux. With regard to wine, we found ourselves completely surrounded in the lovely wines of the Rhone, Luberon, and Provence. Gigondas, Segueret, Sabelet, Baume de Venice.... mmmmm, I can smell the vineyards now.
 
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Nov 30th, 2004, 08:05 AM
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My wife & I have vacationed for over 10 weeks in Provence recently.
1. Late June/early July is the best time to travel there because the Lavender will be in bloom then - and also the sunflower fields, although they are being replaced by wheat fields. We were in St Remy as late as July 18 and had no trouble with the famous French summer vacation onslaught that occurs from mid July through August. We often made dinner reservations only 0 or 1 days in advance at Michelin restaurants in July.
3. You will be surrounded by vineyards in the Luberon (not near St Remy). Visit Beaucastel in the Chateauneuf du Pape area for an excellent English tour & tasting (reserve ahead). Gigondas has a nice store where you can taste & buy most of the famous labels.
5. Stay in the Luberon - see my earlier post
6. This is a "no brainer" RENT A CAR. Take the TGV from Paris to Avignon or Aix to get to Provence. There are almost no trains in the area. You can't take a scenic drive through the lavender fields if you don't have a car.

I have a 20+ page itinerary for the Cote d'Azur & Provence, which describes my favorite sites, villages, markets, drives, restaurants, etc. E-mail me at [email protected] if you want a copy.

Stu Dudley
San Mateo (San Francisco), Ca
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Nov 30th, 2004, 08:39 AM
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I strongly urge you to get a copy of the Michelin Green Guide to Provence and do some research to find out what you really want to see and have time for. The Guide has recommended itineraries for driving so as to avoid backtracking, and you will find all the information very useful. Another good guide is the Cadogan Guide to the South of France, which has considerable detail on places of interest.

Since you like museums and history, you will want to visit the Musée Arlatan in Arles, which depicts the history and diaplays folk art from Provence. Avignon has several good museums, and Glanum, near St-Rémy, is a Greco-Roman town with a fine small museum. You can also see Roman ruins in Arles, Nîmes, and St-Rémy (a well preserved memorial to the stepsons of Caesar Augustus). Don't miss the awe-inspiring Pont du Gard, the remains of a Roman aqueduct.

A day trip to the French alps would be a problem, given that the main region you want to visit is far south. But you could certainly drive down to Marseille and the village of Cassis to explore a bit of the Mediterranean coast.
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Nov 30th, 2004, 08:52 AM
  #9
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Wow! What a plethora of great information! I have my work cut out for me researching these web sites and books. Thank you all so much for your kind suggestions and recommendations. You have “educated” me quite well on the region. Once I review some of this information, I may post additional questions.
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Nov 30th, 2004, 09:18 AM
  #10
 
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Hi
I'm not nearly so much of an "expert" on Provence as many others on this board, but I think that June is an excellent time to visit. I'd definitely recommend renting a car so you can enjoy the countryside.

We drove down to the northern part of Provence for a day trip from Lyon last June and had a fabulous time driving along the "lavender route" (http://www.routes-lavande.com/), with the purple fields in bloom.

If you are looking for B&B recommendations I can share one with you (it's a place that I've kept to myself until now): it's a gorgeous B&B called "la Barjaquière", in a village called St Pierre de Vassols, between the pretty old town of Carpentras and the Mont Ventoux. About 30 minutes drive from Avignon. I took my mother there for a surprise birthday weekend this year and we absolutely loved it - it's run by a friendly couple and is absolutely oozing with charm, beautifully decorated throughout, with a little indoor swimming pool and an outdoor pool, terrace and garden. (http://avignon-et-provence.com/la-barjaquiere/)
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Nov 30th, 2004, 09:44 AM
  #11
TC
 
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Spent two weeks in September. Was beautiful. Rented a car from AutoEurope. Quite easy to rent and to drive. Spent a few days each in: countryside near Cassis, Vaison-la-Romaine, Gordes and Avignon. Here are the bed and breakfasts we used. All were wonderful and very reasonably priced. The one in Vaison is especially fantastic.

Cassis:
http://www.guideweb.com/provence/bb/coupier/indexa.html

Vaison:
http://eveche.free.fr/uk_index.htm

Gordes:
http://www.labeaume.com/page1anglais.html

Avignon:
http://avignon-et-provence.com/bb/vi.../gb/tarifs.htm


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