Provence Itinerary Help, Please!

Mar 27th, 2008, 05:53 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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Provence Itinerary Help, Please!

I am starting to put together a Provence/Barcelona trip for June of 2009. We are two couples in our 60’s, traveling together. I have been laboring over how best to make use of our two weeks. I have Stu’s itinerary (Thank you very much!) and I have done lots of reading on this board. I have some guide books and I was lucky enough to find Map #527 at Barnes and Noble! I know I will need more detailed ones once we are in France.

So, here is a brief outline of my latest rendition…….

1. Fly from US to Marseilles. Assuming we will be very tired, I am somewhat thinking about taking the bus from the airport to Aix rather than renting a car right away. Stay two nights in Aix. Third morning, get a rental car and drive to Cassis before heading up to the Luberon.

2. Four nights in the Luberon area –Bonnieux or Gordes area. Follow Stu’s advice for drives and sightseeing.

3. Three nights in St. Remy. Visit Pont du Gard, Uzes, Les Baux, etc. etc.

4. Drive to Montpellier, return the car and take the Talgo Train at 5 pm to Barcelona. Arrive there around 9:45 pm. Stay for four or five.nights.

Does this make sense? I cannot envision us making the morning Talgo train. Too early to get us moving…..

Where would we rent the car in the only option the train station area to find the car rental places? Or maybe we should just get the car from the get-go………???

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated! Our friends are coming to KS from SC to visit us mid-April, and I would like to have an idea of how this is all going to pan out. I am the one who is addicted to Fodor’s and the rest of the group likes it that way!

Thanks for any help and suggestions!

kansas is offline  
Mar 27th, 2008, 07:31 PM
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Hello Rosemary:

We were in Provence in June 2006. I am no expert but I can tell you that I like the most detailed maps I can find and I really suggest you get them before you leave. They are sometimes difficult to find once you get to France - have to find the right store, etc.

Become familiar with the areas you will be visiting, maybe even highlight the routes. I do not have #527 but I see it is a regional map which for me is good for an overview but I like the local Michelin maps designated with 300 - more detail.

I used the Michelin 332 Drome Vaucluse the most for driving around Bonnieux, St. Remy, Stu's lavender route. Here is a link to a site that sells the Michelin Maps. I'm sure you can find them elsewhere but they have a nice spotting map to determine what you will need.

I see Amazon has them too.

We landed in Marseilles on a Ryan air flight from Germany so not sure if that would be the same airport you are landing at. We rented a car and drove to St. Remy without too much difficulty (got started in the wrong direction but got turned around). My husband thought driving in France was easier than he expected. Aix is a big city and was a little more difficult for us.

Ronda is offline  
Mar 28th, 2008, 12:07 AM
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I think taking the Navette from Marseilles airport to Aix could be a good bet, particularly if you do not need a car for those first couple of days.It is 7.8E per person and then of course the taxi which I thought was very expensive, 10E for a five minute ride.

You can pay for the bus trip on the bus don't worry about queuing for a ticket at the booth.

I am sure there are many places you can pick a car up in Aix. There is a great place to buy maps at the top of Cours Mirabeau near the fountain, on the left hand side facing the fountain. There were stacks of maps on display outside the shop which is a stationery shop from memory. I found some very detailed maps, better than the ones I had bought here in Aus. to take with me.

Good luck with the planning
schnauzer is offline  
Mar 28th, 2008, 12:44 AM
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When you say you want to rent a car in Aix in the train station area, I'd check if that is Aix TGV or the downtown train station of Aix. The latter is in walking distance from the city center/ Cours Mirabeau, while Aix TGV is halfway between Aix and Marseille Provence Airport.

I would check the different Aix downtown rental car locations (e.g. on ) with to see which one is situated near your hotel.
Cowboy1968 is offline  
Mar 28th, 2008, 06:59 AM
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We stayed in Aix before doing a driving trip based farther north. I bought a detailed Michelin map at a biggish bookstore in Aix. This bookstore had quite a large selection of Michelin maps. Can't remember where it is but, since there's a university in Aix, there are bookstores.

Secondly, we walked from our hotel near the Cours Mirabeau to a rental car place, I think on the Cours Gambetta. Then went back to the hotel, picked up the luggage, and found it surprising easy to get out of town.
Mimar is offline  
Mar 28th, 2008, 07:46 AM
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Your itinerary is great. I agree - rent the car in Aix rather than in Marseilles. I found Aix very easy to drive out of, but not particularly easy to drive into.

In Aix, I can recommend Hotel Le Manoir. In St. Remy, I highly recommend the Mas des Carassins. Reserve now for your June 2009 visit. Although perhaps a bit over-hyped, St. Remy is nice enough and makes a great base for visiting Arles, Les Baux, Avignon, Nimes, and the Pont du Gard. Good restaurants in St. Remy also.

I am not familiar with the Talgo train from Montpellier to Barcelona. But an alternative might be dropping off the car in Nimes (after a visit to the Pont du Gard and Nimes itself), taking the train to Carcassonne for an overnight stop, and then taking the train from Carcassonne to Barcelona the next morning. I thought Carcassonne was great in the evening and in the morning - worth a slight detour for you.

Have a great time planning your trip!
robertino is offline  
Mar 28th, 2008, 09:28 AM
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I think it's pretty good but don't understand the Montpellier stop.

There are lots of places to rent a car in Aix, but if you are in Aix, some place central in the city would be most convenient. there are car rental places on the main streets leading off from the place dce la Liberation, but probably ave Victor Hugo would be most convenient (Hertz is there). Cours Gambetta is a lot farther away. There are some on bd de la Republique, also. Of course there are some near the train station, even in town, so that would definitely work and be easy to find (Avis is there). There are more at the TGV station, but that's out of town a bit. Europcar is at 55 bd de la Republique, but that's farther than where Hertz in the other direction.

AS for Montpellier, if you aren't spending any time there, why go there to drop your car off? I think Nimes would actually be easier, it's kind of a zoo getting to/from the Montpellier train station in terms of streets and traffic (it was torn up a long time, not sure about now, around there). I think Nimes is easier to drive in.
Christina is offline  
Mar 28th, 2008, 05:48 PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions! Ronda, I know the value of the small scaled maps! We tried Normandy last summer without them, and quickly learned the error of our ways!

Schnauzer -thanks for the bus info. I think that is what we will do. And Cowboy and Mimar, that is what I needed to know - that there ARE car rental places in the town of Aix itself. Good to know.

Robertino - I will certainly look into your Carcassonne suggestion. Also, the two hotels you mentioned are both on my short list! I did not know one could (and should!) reserve so far in advance! I did realize, of course, that it must be done fairly early due to the small size and popularity of some of these places.

And Christine, the reason for Montpellier - We need to go to Barcelona after Provence. I thought that taking the Talgo Train to Barcelona would be our best bet. It is the only train (I think) that goes non-stop between France and Spain. Seemed to be the easiest way to get to Barcelona for us. Evidently the track gauges are different between the two countries and this particular train is able to travel on both kinds of tracks...
of course, I knew nothing about such a train until I began researching this trip on this wonderful Fodor's Travel Talk. But, if we take Robertino's advice and go to Carcassonne, we would not have to worry about the difficulties of getting the car back to Montpellier.

I know I will have lots more questions as we keep putting this trip together. Thanks again, for all the advice. This board is the BEST!


kansas is offline  
Apr 6th, 2008, 05:01 PM
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Hi we just returned from Provence and Spain(Barcelona,Valencia,Madrid). We used St. Remy as a base for touring the hill towns. Loved Gordes,Roussillon, Les Baux, Chateau neuf de pape. We took a GPS unit with us that was invaluable. The Market in Arles was great on Sat Morning and the St. Remy market on Wed A.M. was good too. We took a side trip to Carcassonne on our way to Spain. Unfortunately it was raining but the castle and walled city is exceptional although very touristy. The via Michelin web site has a very useful tool on calculating tolls and noting where the Photo radar is in France. They point things out like radar camera at mile marker 101 and it was accurate. All the drivers go like bats out of hell and then you notice them all obeying the speed limits where the photo radar is. We booked our car through auto europe for a very good price.
weasel is offline  
Apr 8th, 2008, 04:46 PM
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Thanks for the info. I saw one of your responses on the Spain site. The apartment you rented - looks great...but I did want to ask about the stairs. Was it difficult to get your luggage up the stairs? And I also see it is a pedestrian street. How far do you need to carry your belongings to get to the apartment? We each usually travel with a carry-on and a large rolling tote. Thanks for your help!
kansas is offline  
Apr 9th, 2008, 02:33 PM
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Hi, My husband and I also travel with a rolling suitcase and carry on each. We had the taxi drop us off in front of Paddy's bar in the Placa del Palau. From there we walked about 1 1/2 short blocks, about 100 feet or so total to the appartment about 5 min walk. The Apartment had 4 stairs just inside the door and then a elevator to the first floor. I wouldn't want to carry my luggage up or down in these buildings because the stairways are so narrow( and my luggage weighed a ton with all my husbands wine in it). Since you are 2 couples I noticed when doing my research that there were 2 bedroom apts available as well. You might want to try as well. The best part is the location. Santa Maria del mar church is 2 blocks away, Picasso Museum 1 1/2 blocks away. Cal Pep restaurant around the corner, Also Taller de Tapas and many other great restaurants with in 5 blocks along Argenteria. Metro Barceloneta is just on other side of Placa del Palau and there are always Taxis around the Placa. Does the Talgo train go to the Estacion de Franca? If so this is about a 15 min walk from the Apartment. We spent a week in St Remy before Barcelona. I think you should spend 7 nights in either Gordes or St Remy and use this as a base for touring the region instead of splitting it up. It only took us 35 min to drive from St. Remy to Gordes and Roussilion. We had a GPS unit and this was priceless for negotiating through the little towns.
weasel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2008, 02:41 PM
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Ditto on buying the maps ahead of time. We had a terrible time in Provence finding anything but the large regional map.

Now, you mentioned Normandy without detailed maps. I only have the 513. Does this mean I need to buy the separate map for D-Day beaches? I have directions from a book about which exits lead to which beaches, etc. If I print out via.Michelin directions will that be enough?
hopingtotravel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2008, 07:21 PM
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Weasel, thanks for the answer. I will definitely look into the apartments. My husband can eat no gluten, so it is often easier to fix some of our own meals.

Hoping to Travel: I see that I still have Michelin Map 303 Local for Calvados and Manche. This was a great map. Luckily, we found a good book store in Honfleur that had a lot of good maps. You may do fine with what you already have. Believe me, I am no expert on this topic!
kansas is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 05:46 PM
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Hi kansas. Last night I was missing Barcelona. Went on google earth. It was very cool I could pin point the apartment,the Placa del palau, Santa Maria church,train station ect. Also most the restaurants are shown by name. It gives you a very good over view of walking distances. I wish I had done this before I went. Have fun There are a few small grocery stores within 1-2 blocks of apartment Also Santa Caterina Market is 10 min walk away. The apartment had a coffee maker,kettle toaster basic pots and pans, small oven and 2 burner stove. no micro, small fridge ironing board, safe, washing machine. Also 2 laundrymats close by, something we never saw after Barcelona.
weasel is offline  
Apr 11th, 2008, 06:51 PM
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I just want to add that I have always found it MUCH easier to get the detailed maps once I am in France. Every decent-size French supermarket has them, as do every kiosk and bookstore and maison de la presse. I wouldn't panic about not getting hold of them in advance.
StCirq is online now  
May 31st, 2008, 01:10 PM
Join Date: May 2008
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Hi kansas--Could you share "Stu's itinerary"? I'm planning the very same trip in September '08 for my daughter & myself, but just the opposite: starting in Barcelona, where my son will be studying his fall quarter of his Junior year, and venturing to the Provence area. Thanks!
Texqueen is offline  
May 31st, 2008, 06:26 PM
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Hi, Texqueen! I was surprised to see this at the top again!

Anyway, in a later post, I had mentioned I was having trouble making this itinerary work. I have since settled on flying in and out of Barcelona. Stay in Barcelona for 6 nights, then rent a car and drive to St. Remy, then the Luberon area. Drive back to Barcelona and fly home. Seems to make the most sense for us.

I do not have Stu's itinerary saved. I printed it out and deleted it. He has since mentioned that he has even updated the one I have. He may be gone now - or is leaving very soon for another 6 week trip to Europe. Someone here probably can help you out with this. Or, if you put his name in the search box, you may come up with his e-mail address, and you can just send him a note and he will forward it to you.

I hope you will post a trip report when you get back! Have a great trip!
kansas is offline  

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