Provence itinerary-please advise

Feb 27th, 2008, 06:22 AM
  #1  
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Provence itinerary-please advise

Hello all! I have spent countless hours on this site reading others posts and trip reports, and have gotten so much from all the reading.

FYI we are two couples traveling together for our 40th birthdays. Our trip will start in Paris, go to the Dordogne, and end in Provence. I wanted to run our tentative plans for our MUCH too short stay in Provence in May to get your thoughts. I am aware it is not enough time in Provence, but we are thinking of it as "just a taste" until we return for a longer stay.
We will be driving from Sarlat on Thursday and plan to leave first thing in the morning, taking the "quickest" route given by via michelin, which says it should take about 5 hours. We hope to arrive at the Pont du Gard around 1pm, tour it, then spend a couple of hours in Uzes. We will then drive to Domaine le Vallon, where we are staying for three nights, arriving late afternoon/early evening. It is just a couple of miles north of Carpentras. I figured that night we could eat dinner someplace close by.

Friday we will go to the market in Carpentras then head up to the villages of the Cotes du Rhone (one of our traveling companions works in the wine business and wants to do some tastings in the area). Hopefully we will be armed with goodies from the market for a picnic lunch. I plan to loosely follow the Rick Steves (blasphemy, I know!) tour of these villages along with Stu Dudleys advice in this area as well. Perhaps dinner at Les Florets in Gigondas?
On Saturday (our last day in France) I would like to drive from our hotel to Roussillon (is a stop at the abbey at Senanque worth a stop since the lavender will not be blooming?)and Gordes. Drive on to lunch at Chez Bru in Eygalieres (our splurge on our last day). After lunch a stop for a few hours in St Remy, then to the hotel to crash.
The next morning we will take the TGV from Avignon at 7:45 arriving at 11:00 at CDG for our flight back to South Carolina at 1:30.
Is this too much? If so what would you revise? Are we crazy to skip Avignon? We will start with 3 days in Paris, so I am leaning towards just seeing smaller villages in Provence due to our very short stay.

Thanks in advance for all your ideas!
Ash39
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Feb 27th, 2008, 06:54 AM
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Since, as you say, this is "just a taste", it's not too much IMO. I think you're right to take in the villages and countryside, missing Avignon. You'll be driving right by the abbey at Senanque, so why not take it in?

You may want to try and see the marvelous new viaduct at Millau on your way from Sarlat. Try to see it from a distance and below it - it's well worth it!
TuckH is offline  
Feb 27th, 2008, 07:23 AM
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Ash39, your itinerary does seem to cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. I hasten to add, though, that my wife and I take a pretty leisurely approach to touring, so others might find your pace ok.

A couple of points to get things started. You asked about stopping off at Abbaye de Sénanque on your way to Roussillon. It is in a deep, secluded valley and is beautiful even when the lavender is not blooming. If you only want to look at it briefly from the outside, it could be a quick diversion from Gordes. If you want to enter the buildings, my recollection is that you have to wait for an escorted tour, and there are only a few of these each day. Take a look at their website, and click on "Visites" for the schedule:
www.senanque.fr

About missing Avignon: I realize we all have different personal tastes, but rural Provence is far more appealing than dreary Avignon, at least to me.

I'm having trouble understanding your last evening. You would return from St Remy to your hotel near Carpentras and then drive back to Avignon TGV very early the next morning for a 7:45 am train? And you have to catch that train in order to get back to the US that afternoon? That feels a bit like brinkmanship to me, but I've been told I'm a bit of a belt and braces guy when it comes to building in time for the unexpected.

Anselm
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Feb 27th, 2008, 07:26 AM
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My husband and I were in Provence last year in May and it was heavenly. Skipping larger cities is wise - our favorite villages were Roussillon, Gordes, Bonnieux, and Les Baux. And market day in Apt was one of our favorite stops. Definitely time your visits for market days if possible - they were such a treat. Even though the lavendar was not in bloom, the Senanque Abbey was lovely and the gift shop is outstanding - you can purchase lavendar honey, soaps, etc. I'd highly recommend a stop.
caroltis is offline  
Feb 27th, 2008, 07:57 AM
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Ash -

Your day with Gordes, Roussillon, Eygalieres and St. Remy sounds like an awful lot. If you do it - get a very early start and take the back country road from Carpentras to Gordes (which takes you right by the Abbey, which as was said, is certainly worht a quick stop, even without the lavender blooming). You might even want to just drive by Gordes (take in the gorgeous view from the road) and spend you time walking around Roussillon (which I certainly prefer for choice). Remember, it's a good 1 hour drive from Roussillon to Eygalieres.

It's quick - but you know that - so enjoy and plot for your return trip !

-Kevin
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Feb 27th, 2008, 08:26 AM
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One thought about the early train -- have you checked on when the rental car agency opens? You might need to make special arrangements to drop off the car.
dedlaw is offline  
Feb 27th, 2008, 08:41 AM
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Thanks for the quick responses guys!

I have checked about the rental car return and it says that even though the agency is closed, they have a "drop box" where we can turn in the keys. I have done that in the states with no problem, and I assume people must do it fairly often from the train stations.
I am nervous about the train to CDG situation, but our hotel is only 20 minutes from the TGV in Avignon and we should have 2 1/2 hours prior to our flight by the time the train arrives. I just hope all the hype about the efficiency of the TGV that I have read is indeed the case for us. The other option was to shorten our time even more and return to Paris a day early, which we decided we did not want to do.
Glad to know that the abbey is worth a stop-it looks so beautiful in pictures!
Keep those suggestions coming-they are priceless!

Ash39
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Feb 27th, 2008, 08:56 AM
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I always tell people that the TGV probably has a better on-time arrival record than a flight from Marseille to CDG does.

The day of departure from CDG, we've taken trains from:
Dijon
Beaune via Dijon
Chambery via Lyon

My FIL has taken trains from:
St Pierre des Corps (Tours)
Rennes

So far, no problems at all

Stu Dudley
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Feb 27th, 2008, 08:59 AM
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Bless you Stu-that makes me rest a little more at ease! Reading your itinerary to Provence made me more comfortable in doing it this way, as I had seen your suggestions for the overnight to Dijon.
Hopefully our luck will be as good as yours!

Ash39
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Feb 27th, 2008, 09:01 AM
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I second visiting Senanque. It is great for photo shooting. And it will cost you not more than a quarter of an hour.

However, I would STRONGLY recommend that you take the TGV departing at 6:11 and arriving at 9:30 (without change).

Arriving at 11:00 will be too late. First, there CAN be a delay due to a zillion reasons. Second, do not forget the security checks for transatlantic flights. And third, CDG is huge and you may need considerable time to reach your terminal from the TGV station. Fourth, to reach the 7:45 you have to arrive in the rush hour. You might miss your train, and that would be real tragical. Better go up early and get some sleep on the train.
traveller1959 is offline  
Feb 27th, 2008, 09:36 AM
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I really liked Avignon, and can't imagine missing such an historical city myself -- but you have your own agenda, and it's already crowded, so there's not a lot you can do. I would pass up some of those villages, markets, etc., but I don't find them that different and we just enjoy different things, obviously.

However, I do agree that I personally would never risk what you are doing for the return flight. It's possible it will work fine, of course, I don't know what I'd put the odds at. But I would never arrive at CDG that late for a transatlantic flight in the first place (only 2.5 hours). YOu do realize it will take you some time to get from the train station to your airline's desk where you check in, as well as you just never know what security and the lines will be like at CDG. But I am not the risk-taker in things like that.

However, I have had a TGV be very late, while they usually are not. One TGV I took from CDG to Avignon departed about 1.5 hours late, as I recall.
Christina is offline  
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