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Provence - Just starting to think about it

Provence - Just starting to think about it

Sep 29th, 2010, 10:37 AM
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Provence - Just starting to think about it

Our style is that we travel by train. Until our trip to Tuscany this past June buses were a no no. However, my wife used all the tricks and survived without getting sick. We have never rented a car in Europe and expect this would continue.

This trip would be in the last half of June.

Our style is to try and stay in one or two (or three) bases, see them and do day trips from those bases. (from Florence we were on day trips 6 of 10 days with two actual overnighters).

We are not museum goers though we had a great visit to the Academia and also went to the Bargello (past on the Uffizi as we'd been there twice previously years ago and wanted to keep it light). We are not church goers although a few famous ones thrown in could work.

Essentially, we wander around towns enjoying what's there and the views. And my wife will pop into stores and markets when ever.

We'll most likely fly into Nice if it fits and probably return from Milan (connection back from Nice probably doesn't work). If that's the case we might stay in Milan a couple of days and do a few daytrips from there (Verona, etc).

The length of the trip would probably be about 7-8 days in Provence and maybe 3 in Milan. Number of days could be somewhat flerxible.

Given all this I'd appreciate suggested itineraries.

In my reading so far Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Marseille (?), Avignon, Orange, St Remy, Nimes all look interesting.

From Cannes Antibes, St Paul de Vence and Eze as well.

We were in Nice, Cannes and Monaco once before and could either take or leave that area. Depends on how we fill up the rest of the time.

Thanks in advance.
Myer is online now  
Sep 29th, 2010, 11:02 AM
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I think your mentions for Provence are okay, but I'd cross off St Remy, it is not accessible by train. I don't find Marseille that great, but of course you can stay there easily (and do a day trip to Cassis, for example). I liked Orange but it's a bit farther north than the other places, I'd scratch it off considering your time frame, I just wouldn't put it at the top. You can stay in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue with a train station. But you hvae plenty of other places with train stations, also and only 7-8 days, so in that time, I might pick two places to stay, and you can easily visit the others by day trips. I didn't like Antibes much but you can, of course, visit it easily by train. I remember one guidebook claimed the Picasso museum there was a "must see" and I think it was one of the worst museums I've ever visited. What a waste of time and money.
Christina is offline  
Sep 29th, 2010, 01:06 PM
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Why no car??? Hard to get to the pretty lavender fields without one. Also, difficult to take scenic drives into the pre-Alps/Nice Hinterland, or visit the many small remote villages.

I'm not a big fan of Merseille, Nimes, or Orange. As Christine mentioned, it is difficult to get to St Remy & les Baux without a car.

I would fly to CDG and take the short (3 hr) TGV from there to Avignon.

Why take the time to go to Milan for only a 7 day visit?? Just stick to Provence/Cote d'Azur, or Milan area & Lake district.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Sep 29th, 2010, 04:17 PM
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We like trains, too, but to really get into Provence you need a car and a GPS. We were there last week, staying in tiny Vaugines and visiting other nearby villages that are inaccessible by train and poorly served even by bus. Unforgettable scenery during a drive to Vaugines from Bonneiux, which is itself stunning.

As for train, we took the TGV from Paris to Dijon because our first stop was in Burgundy. Later the slow train from Perpignan to Barcelona.
Eurocentric is offline  
Sep 29th, 2010, 08:16 PM
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One could easily spend several weeks exploring western Provence.

For only a portion of that time, there is plenty to discover in Arles (and possible the Camargue from here), Nimes (which I do like), Pont du Gare, Uzès, Avignon, Ile-sur-la-Sorgue, and Aix-en-Provence. For these locations, you do not need a car.

If you really wanted to include St. Rémy (very over rated in my opinion) and Les Baux as well as the Luberon and the Alpilles a car is a must.

How you approach transportation is really a function of what you want to see and where you want to go.
Sarastro is online now  
Sep 30th, 2010, 05:42 AM
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I think St Remy is way over-rated also, which is why it wouldn't be any loss to cross it off. I'm sure you can get to Les Baux by some touring company, it's a main tourist site. Staying in a city will give you those options (tourist offices always have company brochures who do that), such as Avignon for sure, probably Arles.

The OP didn't say he even wanted to tour the Luberon or Alpilles, so I think he can certainly do what he wants for a vacation. I've been in Provence without a car, I"ve stayed in Avignon and Aix at different times. There are lots of day tour possibilities from Aix, also (buses).

There are even some day tours to the small villages in the Luberon (don't see the Alpilles themselves as any place you'd put as a must-see on this schedule when you've never been to Provence) by bus, although I agree that kind of thing might be better by car yourself. But it's not impossible. If the OP mainly wants to see the places mentioned (which are way too numerous to begin with for the time frame), a car isn't necessary at all.
Christina is offline  
Sep 30th, 2010, 06:47 AM
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The OP's trip is 7-8 days and maybe 3 in Milan. Also, several people have offered opinions that perhaps Marseille & Orange would not be a spot for a first-time trip (maybe visit the Ampitheater in Orange - but that's all). I suggest that he drop Milan & just concentrate on Provence - where 10 days would allow you to visit it somewhat thoroughly (with a bit of the Gard (Uzes, Pont, etc). I sure would not want to be without a car for this period. There are soooooo many isolated & wonderful spots you can only really get to by car - Brantes, Vaugines (as mentiioned), Lavender fields around Sault, Eygalieres, villages in the Luberon - upper & lower, Tete des Buisses lookout, Mt Ventoux, Montbrun, Simiane la Rotonde, Gorges de la Nesque, Gigondas, Seguret, Crestet, Buis les Baronnies, Nyons, Crillon la Brave, Gorges de l'Ardeche, Aven d'Orgnac cave, the Baronnies mountains (beautiful), Grignan- village & Chateau, ...lots, lots more too. I doubt that there is any public transportation to more than 1/8 of the above mentioned places - and even then you'll have to rely on "their" schedule - not yours.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Sep 30th, 2010, 03:37 PM
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Thanks for the responses so far.

I'm always amused when somebody states one of their rules and then a responder will write "I don't agree with your rule and now that your rule doesn't exist anymore I think you should do.....".

I'm hoping to use air miles for this trip.

I could skip Milan or just go there for the return because it works better than Nice coming back.

We could spend 10 days in Provence and work that out.

With the suggestions above I'll try to formulate a plan.

We were in Tuscany in June and planned a trip very different from our previous trips. We were based in Florence for 10 days and were on daytrips for 6 of them. Our daytrips consisted of 2 overnighters even though we kept our base hotel. All we took with was a small backpack. We had a great time. Do I want to do the same? Maybe. Maybe not.

One base would be great. Two would be ok.

I'll see the travel times between places and most likely get back with more specific questions.

Thanks so far.
Myer is online now  
Sep 30th, 2010, 05:15 PM
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If you are considering renting a car, my 27 page Cote d'Azur & Provence itinerary might be helpful. I've sent it to over 2,000 people on aol & Fodors (raally). E-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Oct 1st, 2010, 04:50 AM
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I'm surprised to hear St Remy considered overrated; I've read so much about its charm. Is that the overrated part? It was recommended to me as a base to see the area so, since I will have a car, I guess I don't have to spend a whole lot of time there. What about the Wed. market? Is it worth a look? I was planning to be there on a Wed. in October.
madlemma is offline  
Oct 1st, 2010, 05:38 AM
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St-Rémy isn't THAT much better or even different from any number of towns in Provence. It just gets LOTS of American traffic and has become somewhat iconic because of it. I can take it or leave it. The Wednesday market is yes, worth a look, but again, it's not any better than any number of other markets. The location is good for getting around the Bouches-du-Rhône. Traffic can be horrible.

To the OP, I understand your frustration at posters who want you to change the "rules." But you state unequivocally that you only take trains when traveling and then say you want to visit an area that isn't at all conducive to train travel. So you see the problem. All of us who have traveled extensively in Provence by car cannot imagine having to be limited to those few places accessible by train. Such a trip is possible, but we can't help but think how restricted it would be.
StCirq is online now  
Oct 1st, 2010, 06:42 AM
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Try to visit Pals if time permits...a delight.
moonrise is offline  
Oct 1st, 2010, 06:46 AM
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As StCirq stated, St Remy is OK - but for the same size, look, & feel - we prefer Uzes. St Remy can get mobbed mid-day. Streets are not even cobblestoned. Traffic along the D99 can remind you of med-sized cities in the US at rush hour. A little too much ugly commerce on the D99 - especially west of St Remy. Also, I don't think it is in one of the most scenic areas in Provence - except for the Alpillies south of St Remy. No lavender fields, but there are sunflower fields that seem to come & go. The area is pretty flat, except for the Alpillies. If you prefer an Americanized France with lots of shops & cafes, an interesting market, and close to some of the major sites - they you would probably like to stay in St Remy.

When we retired early in '99 so we could travel more, the first region we wanted to explore was Provence. In June '99 we rented a gite near Gordes for two weeks and another near St Remy for two weeks. In Sept that same year we rented an apt in St Tropez for 2 weeks and a gite near Vaison for 2 weeks. In '03 we rented the same gite near Gordes for 2 weeks and a place near Uzes for 1 week. In 04 we rented the same place near Uzes for 1 week. In '05, we rented a place near Vaison/Bedoin for 2 weeks, and rented it again for 4 weeks in 07. We were there for 2 weeks this year too. As you can tell (if you are following this) we've returned to every area - except St Remy. We've gone there for a few day-trips from the other areas, but we've never spent days there. If I put my first-timer hat on - I think I would love St Remy. After 18 weeks in St Remy & other regions in Provence - we prefer to stay elsewhere.

Ditto StCirq's comments about trains & cars

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is online now  
Oct 1st, 2010, 06:52 AM
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Have you looked at flights out of Marseilles or Lyon? Milan is a ways away from Provence.

St. Remy is a nice town and makes a very good base for day trips by car. But that doesn't apply to you. Aix I really liked, but as a base there aren't a lot of popular sights close by for daytripping.

Avignon would make a good base. It's centrally located and has good transportation options.

Re: the Cote d'Azur. Even if you've been there before, Nice is an excellent transportation hub. Buses east to Eze and west to St. Paul de Vence. Or, if your wife wants to avoid the bus, train to Eze-Bord-de-Mer and climb up to Eze. There are many other options. Look up the active thread about all the many possible daytrips from Nice.
Mimar is online now  
Oct 1st, 2010, 10:58 AM
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"Streets are not eve cobblestoned." And there's something wrong with that??? Cobbles are no fun to walk on, especially in the rain.
Underhill is offline  
Oct 1st, 2010, 11:09 AM
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At the time I started this thread ("Just Starting to Think About") I thought Milan was the closest airport that I could use my air miles. Once there I figured we'd do a few daytrips.

Now that I've looked a bit more, Marseille and Nice would also work. Marseille would probably be best.

The problem of course, is that when you don't jump on a date as soon as it's available booking with air miles becomes a problem (3 trips taken this year, one two Europe and two within the US were without air miles).

I have something on hold for 5 days but it's not great and maybe I should try for this in Sept instead of june.

However, I really like to travel when the days are longest and driest. So a few decisions to make.

This would put us in Provence for the entire 10-12 days (excluding travel).

I have been looking into the towns/cities suggested.

Avignon really looks like the best place for a base using mostly train travel.
Myer is online now  
Oct 1st, 2010, 12:57 PM
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Cobblestones are more "scenic" than asphalt - but, like you say, terror on the feet. My wife really can't walk on them at all without lots of pain.

Stu Dudley
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