Provence help - choice of two areas

Aug 6th, 2015, 03:34 AM
Original Poster
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Provence help - choice of two areas

Hi there,

We are a family with a 3yo and 6yo who will be travelling to France for a month in May/June 2016. This will be our second trip to Provence having previously spent time in the Luberon region.

Whilst most of our month-long itinerary has been decided upon, we have become stuck trying to decide between two areas where we would spend 1 week.

Area 1 - staying in Le Barroux or Beaumes de Venise in the Mt Ventoux / Dentelles de Mont Mirail area
Area 2 - staying around Les Baux de Provence in the Alpilles area

For those with any knowledge of these areas - which would you say would have more to offer a family with children (would like to spend time soaking up the atmosphere in local villages, sampling some nice restaurants/wine, doing some walking - but breaking it up periodically with something of interest for the children).

If you've got this far and can offer any guidance it would be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.
andie80 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2015, 06:13 AM
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We've spent 8 weeks vacationing in the Mt Ventoux area, and 2 weeks in the Les Baux/St Remy region. So - I guess you can tell which area we prefer. However, we've spent over 3 1/2 years total vacationing in France (so we're not newbies) and now we prefer the regions that are less touristy.

There will be more American tourists in the Les Baux/St Remy area. This can be a plus or a minus for you. I think there will be more stuff the kids would like in the Les Baux region. Both areas have castles. There is one in Le Barroux, & of course in les Baux too. The Les Baux area is quite arid - Mt Ventoux is more lush because of all the vineyards & forests in the region. Mt Ventoux/Bedoin is a haven for bicyclists - but your kids might be too young for that. Both regions have many local farmers markets. Bedoin on Mondays and a huge Carpentras market on Friday in the Mt Ventoux area. Markets in St Remy, and Arles. l'Isle sur la Sorgue's huge Sunday market is equal distance between both areas.

My wive & I have spent 20 weeks vacationing in Provence. I see you are new to Fodors. I've developed a 31 page itinerary for Provence/Cote d'Azur that describes our favorite villages, scenic drives, markets, sites, restaurants, etc. I've sent it 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
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 6th, 2015, 09:06 AM
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Perso we prefer the region of Baume de Venise.
Quieter imho. Or maybe more wine

But it has been a long time we haven't been to les Baux, or Nimes.

But you can't be much wrong in these areas.
pariswat is offline  
Aug 6th, 2015, 09:11 AM
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I prefer the northern area, also, although I can't speak to the kids' issue as I'm not sure they'd be any different in that regard. I just find the area and the terrain much more interesting to the north. I don't find the area around Les Baux that exciting, either, I guess.
Christina is offline  
Aug 7th, 2015, 05:29 AM
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Thank you for your replies

We were leaning towards the north - Mt Ventoux region and I think your replies have solidified that. Particularly when you say the landscape is of more visual interest - this is something I found it hard to gauge in my research, most of what I read focused on the attractions in the area but gave no feel as to the landscape.

I think you're right, in either region (or indeed in most of France) we can't go wrong, and I think our kids will just be happy exploring with us.

I'm now just waiting on the earlybird airfares to be released here in Australia so I can lock in our holiday. It's been 5 years since our last trip to France and I can't wait to return. Thanks again.
andie80 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2015, 05:51 AM
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Actually, the landscape immediately around Les Baux is extremely interesting. Lots of unusual rock formations. The landscape close to Mt Ventoux is just more "lush/green".

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Aug 7th, 2015, 06:19 AM
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Stu is abolutely right. The Alpilles mountain chain around Les Baux is very scenic. For a base to visit Arles, Avignon, Les Antiques, Les Baux, Avignon, Nimes, Pont de Gard, the Camargue, Aigues-Mortes and beaches, Les Baux would be better than Le Barroux which is not centrally located.

However, the Dentelles de Mont Mirail are also very scenic and, of course, you will drive up and down the Ventoux. Let's check criteria for the alternative locations:

- Access to attractions in Provence: 3 points (out of 3) for Les Baux, 1 for Le Barroux.
- Scenery: 3 points for both locations.
- Quietness: 3 points for Le Barroux, 2-3 for Les Baux (depending on the exact location of your accomodation).
- Touristic infrastructure: 2 points for Les Baux, 1 point for Le Barroux.
- Price for accomodation: 1 point for Les Baux, 3 points for Le Barroux.

In sum, both locations are good. Personally, I would decide on the quality of accomodation (and always take a vacation rental with a pool). Because Les Baux is so attractive, there are some VERY expensive hotels and restaurants in the area. Le Barroux will be considerably cheaper.
traveller1959 is offline  
Aug 7th, 2015, 06:42 AM
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Thanks once again for your replies.

Yes you are quite right we have a choice of a few lovely accommodation options around Le Barroux which are well within budget, however only one or two near Les Baux which are bordering on being outside our budget. Considering we have two noisy children we find a villa rental the most convenient and stress-free however it sometimes isn't the cheapest option. Luckily all rentals have a pool - a nice way to cool off after sight-seeing I imagine.

After the week in mention we will be moving to a rental outside Aix-en-Provence (and then off to the Cote d'Azur) and I'm wondering if we'll appreciate being in a slightly quieter area (Le Barroux) prior to this.

Traveller1959 your rating system is most helpful and gives me some points to consider.

Thanks again
andie80 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2015, 09:03 AM
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First let me declare my undying love for the Haut Vaucluse. I've been there a number of times and prefer it to any other part of Provence for sheer beauty. I also think the gorgeous Le Barroux is one of the underappreciated gems of the area, but it's very sleepty. I've yet to bump into another tourist there, and I'm not sure I've ever seen a local there either.

I do also want to point out that on a practical level it might not be the best choice as a base. It has essentially no services, no restaurants, etc., meaning that you'll have to get in your car to buy or do anything. The town is close to Malaucene, which has many restaurants and services--but you won't be able to run out for croissants in the morning or get a quick dinner right in town. Beaumes de Venise is a bit larger and has more of a commercial core.

That said, I prefer the Ventoux, with its wonderful drives (e.g., the D90 between Malaucene and Beaumes de Venise) and views, to les Alpilles. I find St. Remy too crowded and touristy and Les Baux isn't a real, functioning place. Perhaps look at Maussane if you want to be in that area?
frenchaucoeur is offline  
Aug 8th, 2015, 09:48 AM
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I wouldn't call the ruins at Les Baux a castle, by any means. the structure was originally a fortress, and there's not all that much left of it. I sure wouldn't want young kids playing up there; it's dangerous.
Underhill is offline  
Aug 8th, 2015, 10:09 AM
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There are several restaurants in Le Barroux.
1994 is offline  
Aug 8th, 2015, 11:31 AM
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I think both areas are excellent, and have been to both a number of times while based in Avignon with a car. But if you are on a budget, go for the cheapest area.

I made a photo report driving up to the top of Mont Ventoux a few years ago:

Frankly, I would like to laze around the area a bit.
kerouac is online now  
Aug 9th, 2015, 05:39 AM
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Another point to consider:

Look on a map or better on Google Earth to identify the exact location of the villa. If the description names a town, the villa is not necessarily IN town, it may be 10 km away but just on the administrative territory. This is especially true for Les Baux which is not a proper town at all, just a ruined (and very picturesque) village. So the villas are somewhere in the area around Les Baux.

Especially with children, it is the microlocation what counts. It there a busy road next to the villa which might be a hazard? Is the villa located in a neighbourhood or is it in the middle of a wilderness? Is there a bakery in walking distance or do you have to drive to get your bread and croissants in the morning?

My advice: Simply choose the best villa. You can't be wrong with both regions. You will be driving a lot in Provence anyway. Scenic drives are part of the experience.
traveller1959 is offline  
Aug 9th, 2015, 09:09 AM
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The Alpilles is my favorite area.
cigalechanta is offline  
Aug 9th, 2015, 10:28 PM
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At the margin, the area aropund Les Baux would offer more kid-oriented stuff than around Les Dentelles. Both areas are very pretty as others have said.

But I'm with "traveller1959" on this one - really important will be the micro area around your villa and especially ease of getting to a village. Wouldn't want to have to constantly get two young ones in and out of a car for every little thing and plus one of the true joys of living the good life is walking into a village for shopping !

Also, especially in June, you might want to think about a pool.

- Kevin
kevin_widrow is offline  
Aug 11th, 2015, 05:53 AM
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Thanks for your considered replies, it is much appreciated.

Staying near a quieter village is not a problem for us (our previous journey to Provence was a house approximately 3km from Saignon and it suited us well) - as long as we are within say 3km from a village which contains a boulangerie and 1/2 restaurants we are happy. Interesting and visually appealing landscape in the surrounding area is of importance for walks/rides.

I think the houses we are considering around Beaumes de Venise / Le Barroux / Crillon le Brave and Bedoin offer better value with our budget and also tick a lot of the boxes mentioned above and in your helpful posts.

Before I completely rule out the Alpilles area - there are a few lovely looking, and within budget, rentals on the outskirts of Saint Remy. Would this area perhaps be worth a look - I am wondering if being a bigger town if the outskirts/surrounding area is more built-up/commercial (I could be way off). I understand it would be a lot busier - but we could offset with some quieter rentals further along in our holiday.

Thanks again
andie80 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2015, 06:08 AM
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St Remy is a pretty small town and has not much industry. The outskirts may be pretty rural. North of St Remy, there is flat agricultural country, not very scenic. South of St. Remy are the mountains. Again, it is a matter of micro-location. Try to find the houses on a satellite map (e.g. Google Earth).

In any case, the region around Le Barroux is much quieter than the region around St Remy - you may consider this an advantage or a disadvantage.
traveller1959 is offline  
Aug 11th, 2015, 06:09 AM
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The outskirts of St Remy aren't that great - IMO.

We've stayed within a 15 min walk of Bedoin for 8 weeks. Fabulous Monday morning farmer's market, good grocery right in town, lot of boulangeries, several restaurants/cafes (but none that I would call "great"), several places to rent bikes, pizza shops, etc. Major cafe scene.

I don't think there are many shops in Crillon la Brave. Maybe 1 boulangerie and an expensive hotel/restaurant and one other less expensive one. Plus it is up on a bluff & you would have to drive there. I would not want to use Crillon as my "base" town. It is quite scenic, however.

Stu Dudley
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