Provence Base

Old Mar 11th, 2019, 08:57 AM
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Provence Base

A friend and I are spending a week in Provence after being in Paris for 8 days. A local contact recommended that we stay in Aix-en Provence as our base. I am now wondering if that is the best choice. We want to visit Arles and probably Avignon. Probably Cassis. No doubt Marseilles. We may need the small town ambience, but I wonder if we will be making our day trips unecessarily problematic. It looks like Marseilles might be a better choice for day trip connections. We prefer not to drive.
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Old Mar 11th, 2019, 09:02 AM
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Arles or Avignon would IMO make better bases for more easy day trips and Avignon and Arles and Pont du Gard and Les Bauix, etc. Actually maybe base in two difference places - Aix is a wonderful city as in Marseille and easy trips to Cassis, etc. Trains - book TGV to your base city at www.sncf.oui or www.trainline.com - same fares but many say easier to use. www.seat61.com has a wealth of info on booking your own discounted tickets - general info BETS-European Rail Experts and www.ricksteves.com.
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Old Mar 11th, 2019, 10:02 AM
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Aix is not a good base. It's a great city - but not centrally located enough to visit the places most people want to visit - especially your list of places (except Marseille).

If you want to base in a big city - Avignon would be your best bet. But I discourage visitors from basing there because you'll need to drive through ugly urban sprawl on your day trips, in every direction except west. This sprawl is not what you want to remember about Provence. Also, parking is a challenge. Arles is OK - but like Aix, it is somewhat in a "corner" of Provence. But still a better base than Aix.

If you want to stay in a smaller city with easy in & out access, lots restaurants, shops, cafes, English spoken, and other tourists - stay in St Remy.

If you would rather be in the countryside surrounded by vineyards, lavender fields, and fewer tourists - stay in the Luberon near Gordes, Menerbes, Roussillon, or Bonnieux. But you may have to drive to dinner.

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 11th, 2019, 10:44 AM
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I agree with Stu, Aix is a lovely town but not very well located for exploring Provence. Last June we spent 12 nights at Sarrians, about 20 minutes east of Avignon. A perfect base IMO, we visited Sault and the Luberon lavender fields, Roussillon, Gordes, St Remy de Provence, Isle sur la Sorgue, etc. And of course Avignon and lots of wineries in Châteauneuf du Pape, Gigongas, Vacqueras, etc!

We didn’t have time to go west towards Arles, Uzes, etc, but that’s for a subsequent trip. We did make a rather long day trip to the Camargue though.

If your interest is in the Côtes du Rhône area and the Provence hinterland I would strongly suggest a base further northeast of Aix, closer to but not actually in Avignon. If you’re staying a longer period maybe two bases, one in/near Marseille and the other further up north? I also recommend you email Stu for his itineraries in the Provence region, it gave us loads of ideas for our visit.
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Old Mar 11th, 2019, 10:55 AM
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>> If your interest is in the Côtes du Rhône area and the Provence hinterland I would strongly suggest a base further northeast of Aix, closer to but not actually in Avignon. <<

I think you may mean northwest of Aix.

>>> I also recommend you email Stu for his itineraries in the Provence region, it gave us loads of ideas for our visit.<<

My wife & I have vacationed for 43 weeks in the Cote d'Azur & Provence. I developed a 35 page itinerary that describes our favorite villages, scenic drives, restaurants, sites, farmer's markets, etc. I've sent this itinerary to over 3,000 people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach one to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 11th, 2019, 11:37 AM
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DH and I based in Aix and I will agree that day trips from there are not as convenient. We loved our Aix hotel and the ambiance of its area. That being said, we took a bus to Marseille and trained from there. And, we ended up taking 2 van tours since we didn't wish to drive.

We "sandwiched" Aix between two visits in Paris: Trip Report: A Provence Sandwich
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Old Mar 11th, 2019, 11:42 AM
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Originally Posted by StuDudley View Post
>> If your interest is in the Côtes du Rhône area and the Provence hinterland I would strongly suggest a base further northeast of Aix, closer to but not actually in Avignon. <<

I think you may mean northwest of Aix.

Stu Dudley
Absolutely, my apologies!
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Old Mar 12th, 2019, 10:10 AM
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We used Avignon as our base and were pleased. Side trips we took were:

1. Day trip to Arles by train...very convenient from the central station in Avignon, which was a 1-min walk from from our hotel.
2. Van trip (Viator) to Nimes, Uzes and Pont du Garde...picked us up at our hotel.
3. Overnight to Roussillon by rental car with a bunch of stops in both direction. We had to get to the TGV station -- which is not in town -- to pick up the car and the connecting train between the TGV station and the central station was on strike when we returned...but the trip was great, and we didn't really have to drive in bad city traffic very much before getting into the open space. NOTE: Uber worked well between the two train stations.
4. Day trip by TGV to Marseilles Very fast by TGV.

ssander
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Old Mar 12th, 2019, 01:29 PM
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Yup Aix was about the nicest town around but Avignon and Arles are also super sweet as larger towns - be sure to visit both if not staying in them- especially Avingnon's Palace of the Popes, one of the most awesome old edifices in Europe and just some real neat old areas - but the city is very busy so with car I may park at the Avignon-TGV station and take the shuttle train in.
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Old Mar 12th, 2019, 01:43 PM
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>> very busy so with car I may park at the Avignon-TGV station and take the shuttle train in. <<

We park in the covered garage at the Avignon Centre train station, and walk into town.

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 12th, 2019, 02:35 PM
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Sounds better and the in-town station is just inside the town walls so easy access I would suppose.
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Old Mar 12th, 2019, 03:19 PM
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We were very happy with our base in the tiny village of Paradou adjacent to another charming village, Maussane-les-Alpilles. Maussane has several great restaurants, boulangeries, grocery shop, boutiques, vibrant market - it was such a perfect choice of a base for us convenient to explore beautiful villages of the Luberon, Saint Rémy-de-Provence, Arles, Aix, Isle-Sur-La Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Le Baux, Pont du Gard, Avignon.. We also visited Nimes, but did not like it and continued to Uzes, which is such a charmer!

We also drove to Chateauneuf du Pape for wine tasting and nice dinner. And we even made it to Marseille... Seems like very busy eight days but we were not in a rush at all and actually managed to relax and even hike in Fontaine de Vaucluse.
So the bottom line is that I highly recommend Maussane as a base - take a look at it!
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Old Mar 12th, 2019, 03:53 PM
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>> the in-town station is just inside the town walls <<

Just outside the town walls.

Stu Dudley
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Old Mar 13th, 2019, 01:02 AM
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<<<1. Day trip to Arles by train...very convenient from the central station in Avignon, which was a 1-min walk from from our hotel. >>>

Sorry, typo...the Hotel Regina, where we stayed was a ten-minute walk to the central station...only minutes from everything else. We really liked the hotel...great location, great accommodations and amazing breakfast...but it is on the main street, Rue de la Republique, which some might not like.

The town within the walls is actually not very big and very walk-able...almost everything of historical interest is less than a 15-min walk. And, as stated earlier, there are many other towns within an hour or 90 minutes by train or car...great for day-trips.

ssander
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Old Mar 14th, 2019, 12:50 PM
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Bonjour Idell,
Below is our most recent trip report. It may have some answers to your question.
I am done. The end.

Trip Report: Provencal Echo
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Old Mar 15th, 2019, 04:22 AM
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>> Just outside the town walls. <<

Yep, Stu...just across the street from the wall...and the little CityZen République Minibus stops just inside the wall and goes all the way [only one-way, unfortunately] to the upper end of R. Republique.

...and I urge the OP to contact you to get your very informative info on Provence. We found it extremely helpful for our visit in 2017.

One more thing: The Calvet Museum was an amazing unexpected treat in Avignon...not to be missed. Some of the most interesting Egyptian artifacts I've ever seen.

ssander
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Old Mar 15th, 2019, 07:14 AM
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I agree, Maussane is a lovely little spot and very convenient for touring.
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Old Mar 15th, 2019, 09:36 AM
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Actually, it was StCirq who had approved my choice of Maussane-les-Alpilles for our Western Provence trip (not on Fodor’s, on Trip Advisor), so my thanks go to her again for her stamp of approval - it was a perfect base for us.
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