Provence itinerary help

Old Feb 1st, 2012, 07:08 AM
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Provence itinerary help

Staying a week in a gite near Sault and arriving first for overnight in Avignon after 5 nights in Paris in September.
Our first time in Provence and thanks to all the great TRs and individual replies on Fodors from experts, we are ready to plan day trips. I have Stududley's document as well (thanks Stu!)
Before heading to gite, we thought to visit Avignon and stay overnight.
We think to visit Avignon upon arrival and maybe head to Pont du Gard on same day before overnight.
question: visit Nimes or Arles following day with rental car before going to Sault??

We like history and art, and the Roman sites look interesting, but don't know if we should try to see both places...
See Nimes/Uzes
And then drive a long day from Sault to Arles/Les Baux different day?
We plan to have relaxed pace once at the gite and do day trips around the area as well as visit various towns(Bonnieux, Gordes, etc)
We ultimately drive to Nice for a few days before flying home.

We can either drive Gorges du Verdun way from Sault or head south and briefly see Cassis along way?

Thoughts please?!
Merci!
Thoughts??
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 09:47 AM
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I don't know why you chose a gite in Sault when you want to do so many things so far away, even west of the Rhone.

It really depends on your interests as to whether Arles or Nimes would be preferable. If it were me, I'd visit Arles rather than Nimes (on that day before driving to Sault). Then I would not be driving from Sault to all these places in the West for day trips, not Arles or Nimes or Uzes. There are so many places to see closer to Sault that if you didn't want to see that area, I think you should have stayed closer to Arles or wherever you really want to be. Sault is close to the Drome, Vaucluse areas, even Gigondas, Mt Ventoux, the Dentelles, as well as the Luberon. If you want Roman ruins, go to Orange.

I wouldn't go to Cassis on the way to Nice, too much trouble for that place. It's a nice day trip if you are staying in that area, but not worth all that IMO.
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 10:41 AM
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thank you Christina!
I do know location of Sault , and yes, we plan to mainly see the Vaucluse, Dentelles, and Luberon
However, we thought to see the ruins in Nimes and perhaps Arles.
By looking/reading blogs/books/TRs, still can't tell which is best to visit before heading to Sault: one or both???
Charm of Van Gogh's area sounded nice plus visit les Baux, but didn't want to miss Nimes if spectacular ruins. We loved Roman ruins in Italy when we visited.
Is it possible to visit Arles when we first arrive in Avignon and the next day see Arles before driving to our gite.
A long day, but doable?
other people's thoughts who have seen both Nimes/Arles??
thank you for your advice!
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 11:42 AM
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I'm not a big fan of Nimes (visited it 4 times) - I think Arles is more charming and also has Roman ruins.

I agree with Christina - we've stayed in a Gite for 8 weeks that is 30 mins closer than Sault to Uzes, Arles, St Remy, Les Baux, & Nimes. A drive to these sites is too far for us - and it is not a very scenic drive either - especially around the Avignon sprawl or on the Autoroute.

Before heading to the Gite, I would stay in Ales the first night (not sure how many nights you have before gite check-in). Visit Arles on arrival day and in the evening. Next day visit St Remy & Les Baux - then head to the gite around 2:30PM for check-in at 4. If you want to visit Avignon, do it as a day-trip from Sault.

BTW, Vaucluse is not a "place". It is the name of the Department that includes Avignon, Carpentras, Vaison, Orange, the Luberon Valley (Gordes, Roussillon, etc), the Dentelles/Rhone winegrowing region, and Sault.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 01:56 PM
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The gorges of Verdon are startling, but they are a good distance away from the bases you are proposing. Also a steep challenge to those with vertigo.

A small hint, based on making the same slip myself: Verdon is the correct spelling. Verdun is the World War One battlefield.
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 02:31 PM
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To echo StuDudley, Nimes is a bit intense and city-like. The driving is stressful. Strolling the central city is kind of nice, but it is more a modern, upscale shop scene than Arles. Arles is more low-key, with plenty more rare nooks and aspects to explore. Arles is more atmospheric and each sight and site gives rare impressions.
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 02:54 PM
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I'm no fan of Nîmes, either, but it might be because every time I've gone there (3-4 times), the colosseum has been swathed in scaffolding or closed because some rock band was getting ready to perform there. The one time it was open, they were staging a taureau piscine event, which was pretty funny but I didn't get to check out the architecture much.

OTOH, I do like Arles, a lot. Lovely squares, very provençal feeling, good eats, and a host of museums and sites. Nice big market, too.
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 04:53 PM
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IMO, if you have visited the Grand Canyon in the US - the Gorges du Verdon will be a big disappointment.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 05:20 PM
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Thank you all!!!
Terrific advice!
Arles it is
Yes, Stu: have been to Grand canyon many times
So.....
When we drive south to Nice, follow southern route:
Would you suggest visiting Cassis on way down briefly or even visit Arles then?
Would like to break up drive by visiting someplace for a couple of hours.
Christina said Cassis not worth the trouble: we will be in Nice for a few days , so would others agree to skip short stop there?
We leave on a Friday to get to Nice before sunset and ditch car
Opinions please?! Thanks again so much!
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Old Feb 1st, 2012, 09:41 PM
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It's late here in the San Francisco area.

We've driven east from Provence to the Nice region many times. I'll give you some ideas of interesting routes to take tomorrow. In the mean time, read my itinerary for my suggested route from Nice/St Paul to Provence & do the route in reverse.

I agree with Christina - I would not visit Cassis - especially if your final destination is Nice - too much of the "same thing"

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 07:08 AM
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Thank you so much all of you!!!
Arles it is vs Nimes

We are 1 hr 10 minutes from gite to Avignon and do want to see Pont du Gard and Uzes as well as Avignon.
Stu: you suggest skipping this and doing as day trip later in the week.i had thought to eliminate doing that due to driving into Avignon not great, so I had read here.

We arrive on a Friday and had not planned on Arles' market Saturday, which would make driving out tricky and change Arles experience, or am I wrong?
We plan on market in Bedoin on Monday and perhaps Vaison on a drive Tuesday ( no interest in antiques at l'isle's huge Sunday one)

With this info, would you still suggest Arles on arrival or possibly do on way southeast to Nice?

BTW: le Calendal hotel in Arles all booked. If you still suggest Arles overnight, which hotel recommended as we need to be able to drive out easily due to Saturday market?
Thanks again!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 07:17 AM
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 07:31 AM
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Thanks dfourh!
Anyone suggest hotel in Arles, other than le Calendal: reviews on TA quite mixed for all??

Other replies to my fine tuning questions please.....?!
Thanks as always!!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 02:32 PM
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I would visit Avignon as a day trip from Sault. Driving into Avignon is really not that difficult - it is just quite ugly until you get to the old town. There are many parking lots just outside toe town walls. We usually park at the village train station.

IMO, the Tuesday market in Vaison is not that great. The Wed market in Sault is better.

Regarding getting to Nice.

Here is the route I would take that is quite picturesque, through some less-traveled “corners” of Provence with cute villages, and a drive through gorges that we think are more interesting than the Gorges du Verdon. You will need Michelin Map # 334 to follow this route, and the Michelin Green Guide for the French Alps would be helpful. The stars (*,**,***) indicate the rating given to the site in the Green Guide

1. From Sault, head east on the D950 through Banon then to Forcalquier*, then the D13/N96 to Manosque*. If you leave Sault at 9am, you should get to Manosque around 10:30. Remember shops close for lunch around noon & don’t re-open until about 2pm. Look up Manosque in the Green Guide and follow the walking itinerary of the town that is described in the guide. You will pass Forcalquier, which is also an interesting town – but I think Manosque is better & you will need to conserve time. Budget about ¾ hr in Manosque.

2. Leave Manosque heading east on the D907, then the D82 to D952 through Riez to Moustiers Ste Marie**. If you are doing this route in late June or July, you should see some lavender along the way. Moustiers is a charming and very picturesque perched village which is world famous for its pottery. You will probably take many pictures. If you leave Manosque at 11:15, you should get to Moustiers around 12:15 – when shops will be closed for lunch. It is an interesting town to explore even if the shops are closed. You’ll see lots of Moustiers pottery on display in the store windows. Have lunch in Moustiers. Budget about 1 hr in Moustiers without lunch.

3. Leave Moustiers heading southeast then east on the D952 past the Gorges du Verdon*** and then toward Castellane*. I’m not a big fan of Castellane - it has good “bones”, but a little too tacky/touristy for us. I would not stop. Head north on the D955 then the N202 east to Entrevaux* and get your cameras out. Entrevaux is a remarkable site in a very scenic valley. Read about it and see the picture in the Michelin Green Guide for the French Alps. In my Provence/Cote d’Azur itinerary, read about Entrevaux and how to drive up & back the mountain south of the village to get the best views of Entrevaux. You will pass next to the Gite where we stayed for a week and admired these views. Park in the lot just south of the village & explore Entrevaux on foot (only way you can). If you leave Moustiers at 1:30 you should get to Entrevaux around 3pm. Budget about 1 hr for Entrevaux. You are 1 ¼ hrs away from Nice.

4. Now let's visit the gorges. Read about the Gorges du Daluis** and the Gorges du Cians*** in both the Green Guide and my Provence/Cote d/Azur itinerary. Head west from Entrevaux and then north on the D902/D2202 (same road changes its name when it changes departments) through the Gorges du Daluis. At Guillaumes, head east on the D28, then at Beuil, south on the D28 through the Gorges du Cians, to Touet. This loop will take about 1 ½ hrs (without stops), so if you leave Entrevaux at 3 you should complete this loop at 4:30. Add about ½ hr for pictures. You are 1 hr from Nice.

5. After visiting the gorges, take the very scenic N202 all the way to Nice.

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 08:50 PM
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Wow Stu!!!
Fantastic detailed drive to Nice!!!! Will follow exactly and once back from trip, we will post. TR to help others hopefully ....
Any hotel in Arles you recommend? le Callendal booked
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 09:43 PM
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We stay in Gites while in France. I don't have much hotel info. You will only be in Arles for 1 night - don't get too "hung up" about a hotel. Anyplace will do - find some place listed in the Michelin Red Guide - www.viamichelin.com

Stu Dudley
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Old Feb 3rd, 2012, 06:03 AM
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Hi SDsunflower,

I wanted to let you know that I actually stopped in Cassis on my way from Aix-en-Provence to Villefranche-sur-Mer (next town over from Nice) years ago on my last trip to Provence. We thought it was such a lovely town, we thought we'd like to stay there the next time we visit (though we're not, we want to be further along the coast). It's a small town, but we enjoyed having lunch on the waterfront and then we took a boat tour to see the Calanques. It was a great way to break up the drive.

This trip we'll be driving from Saint-Remy to Saint-Tropez and I hope to stop in Cassis again so I can show my children the Calanques. I know Saint-Remy and Aix are nowhere near Sault, so your situation is different from ours, but I just wanted to let you know, maybe for another trip, that I thought Cassis was a really nice place to spend an afternoon.

I'm sure, based on your requirements, that StuDudley's drive makes much more sense.

We stayed in Arles on that trip as well. It was 10 years ago so a lot may have changed but we really liked Hotel du Forum.

http://www.hotelduforum.com/

We walked to everything we wanted to see in Arles, and they had a pool which was a nice place to relax after a day of sightseeing. Of course, you probably won't use the pool if you're only there for 1 night, but it was enjoyable for us. It was not fancy but it was clean, spacious and convenient. I would stay there again without hesitation. It's rated fairly highly (#5 of 52) on tripadvisor so I'm sure you could see more recent reviews there.

Good luck!
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Old Feb 3rd, 2012, 12:48 PM
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thank you Stu and cboris!!
I am booking and planning and will get back to the forum once I finetune and if I need all your thoughts....
terrific help!!!!
greatly appreciate it!!
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Old Feb 4th, 2012, 09:40 AM
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Stu: I mapped out your route Sault to Nice
6+ hours driving , but is it all windy roads???
Or is that only in Gorges?
Should we stop at Vence along way ??
Which map: 100 or 300 series??
Thanks!!
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Old Feb 4th, 2012, 01:25 PM
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It is about 5 1/2 hrs if you do not visit the gorges, and another 1 1/2 hrs if you do.

Use map Michelin 334

The roads are a little winding around the Gorges du Verdon for 35K. The gorges Daluis and Cians are not winding - but narrow at places and a switchback or two. The 20K road between gorges from Guillaumes to Beuil is a little winding.

If you want to visit Vence or St Paul de Vence, keep the car an extra days while in Nice & visit it as a day trip. We've rented a gite near Vence for 4 weeks (2 trips).

Stu Dudley
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