Provence Planning Help

Old Jul 29th, 2015, 09:06 AM
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Provence Planning Help

Hello Fodorites,

I have the wonderful task of figuring out how to fill out my Southern France itinerary, I am a first timer to the region and would love some input! Currently:

8/26-30: Paris
8/30: Paris to Reims/Champagne via Train
8/31: Champagne to Provence via Train, pick up rental car
8/31-9/5 OPEN....we will use 2 of these nights to stay outside of Nimes at a winery East of town(complimentary so we can't add more nights here)
9/5-9/8 Cote D'Azur (likely a Nice base, but will work this out after the Provence portion. We fly out of Nice early on the 8th)

My question is, where to stay for our 3 'extra' nights in Provence as a nice compliment to the Nimes area (remember, we are staying outside of Nimes, not in town)? Since Nimes is the western most point of Provence, and we are ending up in Nice, should our first 2 nights in Provence be spent here before moving somewhere East? Lastly, we are open to time spent further North in the Rhone, but don't want to be running around all over which is why I thought it may be best to spend the full 5 nights in Provence.

Our interests are food, wine and scenery. A day floating down the Gorges du Verdon sounds appealing as well.

Note: I know that only 1 night in Champagne is rushed, we were contemplating it as a day trip from Paris and at least this is better. My husband is in the industry and has a work commitment there.

Merci!
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Old Jul 29th, 2015, 09:18 AM
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okay, I also wouldn't do what you are doing with Reims (I would only do it as a day trip if you are going south afterwards), but you have your reasons. You do realize you are going to have to take the train back to Paris and then transfer to a train to go south? But the entire trip should ony take about 5 hours if you do it with only one transfer.

Other than that, I think your idea makes sense -- if you are in Nimes a couple days and end up in Nice, I also would go somewhere in the middle in-between. Aix en Provence is nice, or somewhere in the Luberon, I suppose.
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 09:26 AM
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Thanks Christina! Yes, unfortunately the short Champagne trip is a must, but am now thinking a day trip would be better - less packing and hotel moves. Also telling myself that a day trip to Champagne is not a problem I should allow myself to be upset about - its a rough life!

We are more interested in a 'small village feel' than a larger town/city - now to decide WHICH small village I have narrowed it down to Vaison la Romaine or the Luberon (Gordes perhaps..), will ask my husband what his day trip "musts" are and then pick the closest location.

Perhaps a stop in Aix for lunch on our way to Nice.
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Old Jul 30th, 2015, 04:12 PM
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We've spent 20 weeks in Provence & 20 weeks on the Cote d'Azur. You have only 7 days to visit both Provence & the Cote (which includes 3 hrs of travel between the 2 areas).

I would certainly not drive to the Gorges du Verdon and float down the river and use up one of your seven days. Better things to see & do than that, IMO. Float down the Russian River instead - if the Bay Area ever gets some rain.

I would stay in the Luberon - like Christina suggested. Menerbes, Roussillon, Bonnieux are other villages to stay close to - but you can easily visit this part of the Luberon from any one of these villages. I would not stay in Lourmarin - too far away. Although we've stayed near Vaison for 10 of our 20 weeks in Provence, I think the Luberon is better for a first-timer.

Do you have my 30+ page Provence/Cote d'Azur itinerary? It describes our favorite villages, scenic drives, markets, 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
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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 11:09 AM
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We have just returned from 3 weeks in France including 8 days in Provence. I'll add a few comments to the replies you already have.
Having traveled extensively over the last 25 years and now working in the industry, I felt that our afternoon kayak down the Gardon River culminating in passing under the Pont Du Gard was just incredible. I wouldn't have swopped that experience for anything. Just memorable. We went on a Saturday, starting at the Uzes market where we collected our picnic and then had a great time on the river, stopping a few times to eat and swim. We finished in Nimes that evening.
We loved Bonnieux in the Luberon and that would be a fabulous place to stay. We found Gordes absolutely oiverrun with tourists and didn't love it that much although it's staggeringly beautiful. We also enjoyed Lormarin although it's a bit further away. Vaison also felt quite far away.
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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 12:40 PM
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travelingdad

Always visit a notoriously crowded place like Gordes early in the morning or very late in the afternoon - when the hoards of day-trippers won't be there.

I learned that 30 years ago. We were in Gordes in mid June last year - arriving at 8:30am. Almost nobody was there. We had a cafe creme & croissants on the main square, and there was only 1 other couple in sight.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 31st, 2015, 01:00 PM
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Nimes is not in Provence but in the Languedoc Roussillon region and is the capital of the Gard, Lourmarin and Bonnieux are good suggestions. As Stu says go early for popular destinations. I stayed several times in St Paul de-Vence and when the day trippers arrived, it had a different atmosphere
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 01:01 AM
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Provence comes from "Provincia Narbonensis" and Nimes once was the capital of this province. Modern administrative borders may it exclude from Provence but historically it is heartland of Provence.

Nimes has the very best Roman remnants in Provence if not in the world. The amphitheatre is almost completely preserved, and Maison Carrée is arguably the best preserved Greek-style temple at all. You will enjoy Nimes which is also a good base for daytrips to Pont du Gard, Arles, Aigues-Mortes, the Camargue, Avignon.

As Stu has said, a base in the upper Provence would make sense.

For the Cote d'Azur part of your trip I would not recommend staying in Nice. There are MUCH more beautiful places in the area. Just look here to see what is possible on the coast:

http://miramar-beachspa.tiara-hotels.com/en/

Or, if you want it a little less expensive:

http://www.hotel-cote-azur.com/
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 01:12 AM
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I copied this from another thread, therefore the odd sorting. But it may be helpful for you. I have ranked the destinations with stars - from zero to three:

Destinations on the Côte d’Azur:
** Cannes - the promenade, the grand hotels, yacht harbour (an hour or two will be sufficient)
*** Nice - the art museums and old town
* Cap Ferrat - Villa Ephrussi Rothschild is an imposing pile of kitsch
*** Monaco - many attractions on a small piece of land and the drive to and from is also ***, do not miss *** La Turbie,
* Menton - not really necessary,
* Ste. Agnes - nice village, but a bit out-of-way, you will find alternatives which are more accessible
* Roquebrune Cap Martin - also not a priority,
** Eze - it is a must to spend ten minutes to walk to the lookout, because it is right on the Moyenne Corniche,
* Haut Cagnes - the olive museum is the main attraction, certainly not a must,
** Biot, because of the Leger Museum a must for lovers of modern art,
* Antibes - a good place to make a base, otherwise a decent Picasso Museum,
* Juan les Pins - a wide sandy beach but nothing else, Vallauris - not on my priority list,
Mougins - a square with a few restaurants,
* Grasse - if you like perfume,
* Gourdon - one of the nicer perched villages,
* Tourettes Sur Loup - another nice village,
* Vence - the Matisse Chapel is the main attraction (a quick visit),
** St. Paul de Vence - stroll throught the village after visiting Fondation Maeght,
*** Fondation Maeght - a must for modern art with a breathtaking sculpture garden designed by Joan Miro,
*** Corniche de l'Esterel - one of the world's most spectacular coastal roads and breathtaking calanques (rocky coves).

Destinations in Provence:
** Aix-en Provence - beautiful medium-sized city,
** Upper Provence: Roussillion because of the ocre canyon, Gordes because of the Bories (stone huts) and Senanque Abbey. Hilltowns of Haut Provence (Cadenet, Lourmarin, Bonnieux, Apt, Rousillion) Vaucluse (Gordes, Joucas, Senanque, Venasque, Crillon le Brave),
* L'isle la Sorgue,
*** Orange - the Roman ruins are spectacular,
*** Avignon - the Papal Palace is the main attraction and also the Old Town,
* Villenueve les Avignon - not necessary,
*** Saint Remy - Les Antiques are quick and easy to visit,
** Les Baux provence - pictureque ruins and a scenic drive,
* Fontvielle - just a windmill,
*** Arles - spectacular Roman ruins,
*** Nimes - the best Roman ruins in Provence,
* Marseilles - a huge city,
* Cassis - a little out of your way, and there are much better Calanques between Cannes and St. Raphael.
*** Pont du Gard - a breathtaking Roman aqueduct,
** Aigues-Mortes - a completely walled medieval city,
** Vaison-la-Romaine - more Roman ruins if you are enthusiatic about them.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 02:27 AM
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Bookmarking
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 06:26 AM
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I don't agree at all with a lot of the stars on that list. St Remy is 3* but Marseille only 1, and Aix only 2? Would would St Remy be so important.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 09:07 AM
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Sorry Christina that your taste is different.

I like St. Remy - the cafés and streets that appear in van Gogh paintings, the beautiful Alpilles, Les Antiques, those gorgeous Roman monuments, Glanum which is like a textbook how towns looked 2,000 years ago.
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Old Aug 1st, 2015, 09:14 AM
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DH and I loved Arles. It would be on my don't miss list for a couple of days as a base. Roussillon also lovely.

My own opinion is that driving in Aix is a bit hectic for a meal stop. Do line up parking beforehand there.
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Old Aug 3rd, 2015, 11:25 AM
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First of all, I must express my huge thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment! Your list's and input are wonderful resources that I am researching as we speak!

Stu: I got my hands on your travel guide and have read it front to back - it is well earmarked and hugely helpful! Point taken that Gorges du Verdon makes zero sense. My heart is now set on staying in the Luberon, but I want to make sure it makes sense logistically taking the 2 below points into consideration:
#1: We will be making a day trip to Cote du Rhone, as we have some can't miss winery visits scheduled. We do not mind long drives, and it sounds like this is a lovely one.
#2: We will eat most of our large meals at lunch time while out and about, but do like to stay within walking distance to some decent cafe's/restaurants for a light dinner or apertif. It sounds like Gordes (perhaps not my first town choice, but the best in town Gite I have found) will fit this bill, but it's hard for me to get a sense of how small these "charming small towns" are.

Travellingdad - I think an afternoon float below the Ponte du Guard sounds divine - it's on the short list
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Old Aug 3rd, 2015, 12:25 PM
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There are several "simple" cafes in Gordes which will satisfy your needs. There are other much better ones within a 10 min drive. Make sure the gite in Gordes is on top of the rock formation, and not down below in the valley. You won't want to walk up to a restaurant in Gordes from down below.

Gordes to Chateauneuf du Pape is less than 1 hr drive

Stu Dudley
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