Provence- 5 nights- need help!

Oct 14th, 2006, 02:03 PM
  #1  
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Provence- 5 nights- need help!

Hi
I am planning 5 nights in Provence with my wife. Landing in Marseille on 10/25 and leaving on 10/30.
I need assistance on travel route by car: where to visit? where to stay (budget)? need also recommendation for a place to stay 2 straight nights for easy walkaround in the town.

Thank you

Danny
danbenet is offline  
Oct 14th, 2006, 02:37 PM
  #2  
 
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Depends on what you're interested in - small villages or cities ? Interested in fine dining ? antiques ? Roman ruins ?
Outdoor activities ?

Here's an idea of what you can visit in a few days - staying in someplace like Arles or St. Rémy:
Day One:
Drive to the Pont du Gard in the morning. This is about a 45 minute drive from St Rémy. Afterwards, drive another 15 minutes to Uzès. This is a charming town with a wonderful pedestrian center and many interesting shops, especially for pottery.
There is also a beautiful medieval garden which is open for visits.
Market day is Saturday - all day.
Restaurant recommendation for lunch:

Les Fontaines
Charming small restaurant in the center of town. Tiny indoor patio area among the ruined walls. Good eclectic mix of food... sometimes a Moroccan tahjine, sometimes provençal.
6, rue Entre les Tours Tel: 04 66 22 41 20

After lunch return to St Rémy via Tarascon - you might wish to visit the castle on the Rhône.
If you haven't dallied too long, the end of the day is the perfect time to visit Les Baux, just on the south side of the Alpilles from St.Rémy. The tour buses have left and it's a delightful time to wander the coblestone streets and visit.

Day Two:

Make a circuit of the Lubéron villages. From St. Rémy drive to Gordes (about 45 minutes), and then visit the Abbaye de Senanque. If you're planning to be here the end of June or July, the Abbaye will be surrounded by blooming lavender fields.
I don't really recommend spending long in Gordes - for one you have to pay to park and the village is much more spectacular viewed from afar.

From Gordes or l'Abbaye, drive to Roussillon (about 20 minutes). Roussillon is built on red and yellow ochre cliffs and is home to many artists and galleries. It's a beautiful small village and the climb to the top is very interesting. There's a great pottery shop at the top that also sells packaged ochres, if you are an artist or have the urge to begin painting.

Near the clock tower there's a charming small outdoor restaurant called La Treille, which has good food at a reasonable price.

From Roussillon drive to Bonnieux through the vineyards. This is another perched village and the climb to the top is steep. If you've had enough climbing, I suggest going on Lacoste, home of the Marquis de Sade's château. It was purchased a couple of years ago by Pierre Cardin, but I think parts of it are still open to the public.

From Lacoste you can drive to Menerbes (you can park at the top of the village) where there are some charming shops and views. Or you can continue along to Oppede le Vieux, one of my favorites Not completely "redone" it's a small village with a ruined church and château (now closed) that is charming.

This is a full day.



Day Three:
If you're interested in the Camargue (the natural wildlife preserve - famous for the wild Camarguais horses, bulls and rice fields) I highly suggest a visit to Aigues Mortes.
South of Arles, it's a little over an hour's drive from St Remy.

A walled city, departure point for the crusades, it's one of my favorite places in the area. It hasn't really caught on with foreign tourists yet, although do I see more and more every year.

Famous for salt, you can see the mountains of it from the ramparts.

Returning from Aigues Mortes, you might want to visit Arles. The Roman coliseum and theater in town are well preserved and used today. There is also a Roman necropolis just on the edge of town and within walking distance from the center.
It's also a place that Van Gogh painted extensively, and the Tourist Office has a booklet (in English ) that gives various walking tours that are very interesting.

It's about a 30 minute drive back to St Rémy from Arles.

Day Four:

If you're interested in seeing some of the coast, I highly recommend a drive of about an hour and half to Cassis. A small fishing village right on the Med, it's got a great beach and you can take a boat ride to visit the "calanques"... inlets with small beaches at the foot of the cliffs not accessible by car.

Recommendation for lunch - overlooking the water:

Le Grand Large

Just off the port, with a large terrace overlooking the beach and the sea. Excellent seafood during the season. In summer bouillabaisse is often on the menu (without having to request it in advance) Off season, call the evening before if you would like this specialty. The fried calamari is excellent, as is the fresh fish.
Tel: 04 42 01 81 00

If you're not interested in driving that far I could suggest, especially if it's a Sunday, driving to l'Isle sur la Sorgue which has a fabulous market and antiques market that day. The village is spread out along the banks of the Sorgue river and there are big water wheels dotted along the town. Little shops and winding streets make it a more relaxing day.

And, of course, visit St. Rémy, home of Nostradamus. The St Paul de Mausole just outside of town, is the institution where Van Gogh spent time and painted a lot. There is a walk that has panels showing the paintings he did while there - and some of the views are basically unchanged today. Just next door is Glanum - the ruins of a Roman town built on the ruins of a Phoenician village. It's quite fascinating to visit.
Market day in St Rémy is Wednesday and the town is very busy that day.

Patricia
PBProvence is offline  
Oct 14th, 2006, 02:40 PM
  #3  
 
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Hotels... don't know what you consider budget, but here are a few:
ST. REMY

B&B - l'Amandiere - Hôtel l'amandière - Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
About 2 kms outside of the town center. With pool and lovely gardens

Mas des Carassins - www.hoteldescarassins.com

Restored 19th C Mas (farmhouse) with lovely gardens. Pool

ARLES
D'Arlatan - www.hotel-arlatan.fr

14th & 15th C former residence, with beautiful antique furnishings, near the Forum.
AC, Pool
PBProvence is offline  
Oct 14th, 2006, 03:41 PM
  #4  
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Dear Patricia

Thank you for your reply. We are traveling in a week and a half (10/25/06). What about Avignon and Aix en Provence?

Thanks

Danny
danbenet is offline  
Oct 15th, 2006, 02:23 AM
  #5  
 
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Aix is nice for a day trip - and a visit to Cezanne's atelier, just outside of the center. However, it's a city with lots of traffic and parking is difficult.

Avignon is also a city, and aside from a visit to the Pope's Palace (which isn't all that interesting), I don't find much to recommend it. (Maybe because I live nearby and only go in and out to do errands.) The main problem with Avignon at the moment is that they're digging up and doing all kinds of roadworks and driving and parking is truly a nightmare.
If you're in the area on a Saturday, there is a fun antique market on Saturday mornings in Villeneuve lez Avignon - just across the river from Avignon.

Patricia
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Oct 15th, 2006, 02:38 AM
  #6  
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Dear Patricia

For the period we are traveling( end of OCT.) is it wise to visit Verdon?
How do you see the 5 days/nights landing and returning from Marseille?

Thanks

Danny
danbenet is offline  
Oct 15th, 2006, 11:28 AM
  #7  
TC
 
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Our Provence Holiday: late September 2003

Arrive Marseilles airport
Car from AutoEurope. Excellent company. Easy to work with over Internet. Highly recommend by Fodorites. Good price on auto with full insurance coverage. It was very nice not to worry about bumps or scrapes having the insurance. We had a Peugeot 404 which was large enough for four or five people with a very nice trunk size for luggage. It was the max size for getting through many village streets though. If possible, take a smaller car.

First two nights:
B&B near Cassis - in Geminos - Mas de Coupier, $70Euros.
http://www.guideweb.com/provence/bb/coupier/indexa.html
We wanted to be near Cassis and also near Marseille. This B&B is in an area above (north) of Cassis. It is in a small country village. It was a beautiful setting and the hostess was very warm and welcoming. The breakfasts were a delight in her kitchen. The accommodations we had (La Cricque) consisted of two rooms with queen beds and one room with bunk beds and a large shared bath with shower and tub. We had a private entrance. There are other rooms with private baths. Our only fault with this B&B is that its somewhat difficult to find - especially at night. Our first dinner was in a small cafe in Geminos recommended by our hostess. It was very good.

We spent a beautiful day in Cassis - an absolute must. It is a setting so lovely we thought we'd wandered onto a movie set. We had a great lunch, a short boat ride among the Calanques and some good shopping. It would be a wonderful place to spend more time, especially if the weather were warm. I would have loved to go to one of the many beaches along the water for swimming or picnic.

Our second dinner was in Marseille at Chez Fonfon, 140 Vallon-des-Auffes. The dining room looks out on the most beautiful little harbor where every morning fresh fish come in from the local fishing boats. Again - it looks like a movie set it is so perfect. This is not, however, one of the tourist spots and the food was fab. The restaurant is known for its bouillabaisse and was recommended to us by a local. It is not expensive, but is pretty and one could dress up a bit if you wanted. We were very casual and no one minded.

On to Vaison-la-Romaine for two nights at L'Eveche
http://avignon-et-provence.com/eveche/gb/index.html

The drive to Vaison was easy and not too long. We had plenty of time to stop along the way. We lunched in Orange and toured the Roman Amphi Theater there. It is very interesting and normally I'm not into that sort of thing, but this is worth the stop.

We all loved Vaison and agreed that L'Eveche was our favorite place. I think we would all go back and stay longer. The B&B is in the "high town" - the old village on a hilltop overlooking the "new" village of Vaison. The 16 century stone buildings have been purchased and renovated into the most beautiful homes. It is truly like stepping back in time. The hosts at L'Eveche, Aude & Jean-Loup Verdier are superb, the rooms are "to die for" (their web site really doesn't do justice to the beauty), the copious breakfasts were delicious and taken on the terrace overlooking the valley and Mt. Ventoux in the distance. We had the two large rooms at the top; Verte Jade 88Euros and Solanium 95Euros - with its own little balcony where we sat and star gazed at night.
Two dinners recommended by our hosts:
Brin d'Olivier, 4 rue Ventoux, local cooking in a charming garden setting.
L'auberge de la Barbarelle (near the hospital), excellent food and wine.
Jean-Loup mapped a great "back roads" drive through wine country for us from Vaison to Gordes. The scenery was spectacular with winaries all along the way.

After two nights we moved on to Gordes. We stayed at Mas de la Beaume - $110Euros.
http://www.labeaume.com/page1anglais.html
This is a spectacular B&B done in the most traditional style. It has been featured in many decorating magazines. Although we were disappointed with the city of Gordes - WAY too touristy, we loved the B&B and felt it was worth the stop. We had two superb dinners. We especially loved Chez Gouin near Coustellet. They do one dinner each night and you eat whatever the special is. It was wonderful not to pour over a long French menu. The wine cellar is open and you go down and make your own selection for dinner. The multi course meal was excellent. The olives are the best in Provence.
The second night we ate in the village of Gordes at Le Clos de Gustave. Both were recommended by our hostess. Both were excellent choices. Neither overly expensive.

Our final stay was three nights in Avignon at Villa Agape, $100 Euros
http://avignon-et-provence.com/bb/vi.../gb/tarifs.htm
This is an amazing private home right in the heart of Old Avignon. You won't believe the place. Madame Michelle is an excellent hostess and speaks perfect English. Here home is something right from the pages of Architecture Digest. The web site has beautiful photos and they are not exaggerated. The one drawback is the sharing of the WC in the central hall, however this is being changed in November this year and both rooms with then have a WC as well as the pretty baths.
Three dinners in Avignon:
Chez Floriane (I think this is the name) right down the street from the house was good on a rainy night.
On Sunday, when everything is closed, we found Cafe de Artiste near the Hotel d'Europe. Small, cozy, great goat cheese salad and fish soup.
Our final night was at La Fourchette. One of the best restaurants in Avignon - great food, small room, excellent service and not all that expensive. So glad we made a reservation.

We loved the whole trip. We ate lunches each day in whatever small town we were in - St. Remy, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Orange and had great food and wine everywhere. It would have been lovely to see the fields of lavender in bloom or the sunflowers, but this was the wrong time of year.

Things we learned, which you may already know:
-streets are really narrow in the small towns.
-you can go around a traffic circle as many times as it takes to figure out which exit you need.
-everything closes from 12noon to 3pm for lunch.
-dinner is a four hour affair - and worth it.

I found all my B&B choices on a web site called Avignon and Provence. I used the "hotels by map" feature to find accommodations along the route we wanted. We chose this particular route for the variation in setting -seaside, mountain, hill village, small country villages and larger city. We were happy with all although I think there are better choices than Gordes - maybe Uzes, Roussillon or Bonnieux. If you don't want to be in a city as large as Avignon, St. Remy was a beautiful village nearby.
http://avignon-et-provence.com/avi/gb/pres/p1.htm

I hope this helps with your planning.
TC is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 01:40 AM
  #8  
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DearTC

Thanks for your reply. What do you think about the Verdon at the end of October? worth visiting?

Regards

Danny
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Oct 16th, 2006, 09:56 AM
  #9  
TC
 
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Danny, I have not seen the Verdon so can not truthfully give you a good response. You would need to decide if this is the type of sight you are seeking. For us, we want to see the villages, eat & drink, and visit with local people. Within that process, we do see a lot of beautiful country. Having said that, it doesn't seem that the Verdon is too far off the beaten path (maybe 2-3 hours drive from Aix) so you could spend one of your five days going there if you like. In my opinion, 5 days isn't a lot of time. You will spend 2 of those days arriving and departing. That leaves three days for ???? Personally, I would pick one beautiful central spot and stay there the entire time with a plan for day trips around to smaller villages. Otherwise, you will feel as though you've done nothing but pack and drive, pack and drive, pack and drive. Provence is a place to be at leisure. I don't think you will enjoy the holiday if you are spending all your time trying to get from place to place. We were quite often lost while driving, but with no time constraints, we didn't mind.

If I were doing our trip over again, with only five nights, I would pick up the car at the Marseille airport and drive straight to Vaison. Its an easy drive and there is plenty to see along the way. I would spend two nights at L'Eveche and see the wine country around there with a stop in Orange. I might then spend one night in Gordes on the way back to Avignon for the final two nights. In this way, you would have a taste of three very different types of places - a medevial village, a hilltop village, and a city with lots of "country" in between.

Hope this helps.
TC is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 10:52 AM
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Danny,

With so much to see in a short visit, I don't think I'd suggest a trip to the Gorges de Verdon at the end of October.
It would be an extremely long day, and the weather could be iffy there by then.

Patricia
PBProvence is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 11:33 AM
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I'm just back from a week in St. Remy, and Patricia's itinerary looks pretty spot-on.

We stayed at L'Amandiere and loved it - the people that run it are fantastic, the rooms are clean (although there seems to be a big difference in size betweens some of them), and breakfasts are hearty (including pate if you get up early enough before it's all gone), bread, croissants, orange juice etc. It's only a 10-15 minute walk into town, perfect for working off dinner.

Our favs. in the area were our driving tour of the small villages (essentially Patricia's day two), the ruins of the castle at Les Baux, the arena in Arles, and the drive to Aigues Mortes (although the one between St. Remy and Les Baux is fun - very very twisty), and finally market day in Isle Sur la Sorgue - a beautiful little village built over, around, and through a river. The market is apparently one of the biggest in Provence.

We weren't overly impressed with Avignon, although that may have been partly due to parking at the train station and walking through town to get to the Papal Palace. There was a TON of roadwork being done, and there seemed to be a LOT of homeless people about. We had planned on staying for dinner, but decided that we felt uncomfortable enough after dark to just leave. On the other hand, the tour of the palace was good, with an extensive audio guide (if you do go for a day-trip, try to park in the "Palace du Papes" parking lot, it's directly beside the palace, none of the walking around the dodgy areas of Avignon.

After much sampling, we found the best olive oil in the area to be "Castelas", and our favorite wine from Provence was "Mas Sainte Berth" - both on the way out to Les Baux.
BikerScott is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 12:06 PM
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The Grand Canyon of France is a beautiful drive but since you have only five nights, I'd skip it because it is 13 miles but a very slow 13 miles.
There are too many charming villages to see, so I would also avoid Avignon but you should go where you really want. I find it hard to avoid anyplace, I love it all.
TC, I was alone one year and stayed the night at the Hotel Europe, only because the TGV at that time left from just outside the wall. I lunched at the Café des Artistes. The Mistral hit and I thought all that glass would come crashing on me!! I stayed in Villeneuve the other nights and it is aa good flea market there.
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 01:31 PM
  #13  
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Dear All

I have 5 net days. Arriving 9 AM on first day and leaving early on 6th day.

Thanks

Danny
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Oct 16th, 2006, 02:02 PM
  #14  
TC
 
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Danny, You have a LOT of good information here. I think at this point you have to make some choices and book something. Your time is running out for gathering information and making reservations. You may find that the choices are made for you if there is no availability at the last minute.

All of Provence is beautiful and amazing. Anywhere would be lovely.
TC is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 02:11 PM
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Danny,

Enjoy your trip ! So far the weather here is holding and the days have been sunny and warm - but the nights are quite chilly so bring something warm.

BikerScott:

Castelas is one of my favorite oils as well, along with the oil from Mas des Barres. Did you taste their oil ? If you went there to sample, you passed my house (also an old olive oil mill)...

Patricia

PBProvence is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 03:24 PM
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Patricia-

Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to try Mas des Barres. We'd had the Castelas at lunch at Baumaniere and enjoyed it so much that we stopped at the mill the next day (interesting story at Baumaniere - we got a tour of the kitchen by the executive chef, a tour of the wine cellar by the head sommielier where we saw a bottle of wine from 1883, and met the owner).
We'll have to try the Mas des Barres on our next trip...
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Oct 25th, 2006, 12:14 PM
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Oct 25th, 2006, 02:23 PM
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Side note to the Castelas olive oil - I was in a local specialty shop here in Vancouver and found a bottle of Castelas! Unfortunately, they were asking $60 CDN for it (about €42), which is a little much. I guess we'll just have to make another trip when we run out of the oil we bought (cause $2000 on flights makes more sense to me than $60 on a bottle of olive oil at the store - at least with the flight, we'd be in France).
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Oct 25th, 2006, 02:49 PM
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BikerScott:

Better make that trip early in the year for the oil.... the harvest wasn't going to be great and the hail storm we had last Friday has wiped out even more of the olives here in the valley, so there isn't going to be a lot of oil next year !

Patricia
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Nov 14th, 2006, 11:16 AM
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