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Recommendations for Towns/Villages to Home Base in Provence

Recommendations for Towns/Villages to Home Base in Provence

Old Sep 27th, 2012, 06:38 AM
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Recommendations for Towns/Villages to Home Base in Provence

Hello! A friend and I (we are in our early 30s) are visiting Paris for a week, then Provence for a week next May. I am looking for recommendations for towns or villages to stay as a home base in Provence? I'm not sure if we should stay at just one or split the week between two home bases? We would like to hike, do vineyards/wine tastings, eat/drink, and go to the beach. We are not interested in the larger towns/cities, but something that not super touristy, but still busy enough that there are restaurants/cafes within the town that we will not have to drive to. We will have a car, but don't want to have to drive to dinner. We are interested in the Luberon and the Côte d'Azur. Villages that have sparked our interest thus far are Vence, La Garde-Freinet, and Cassis, but we are not sure whether these are good home bases. Thanks so much!!!
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Old Sep 27th, 2012, 06:50 AM
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Oops. Lourmarin in the Luberon was another one that had sparked our interest...
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Old Sep 27th, 2012, 07:17 AM
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We have stayed in Lourmarin - it's a perfect base for exploring the region. Lourmarin is a small, somewhat upscale village with lots of dining and lodging options. It's easy to drive in and out of, at the base of the Luberon hills. On the Côte d'Azur, we stayed in Sainte Maxime, a very pretty little family resort town with a nice beach. It's a short drive (or bike ride) from trendy and busy St.Tropez.
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 01:19 AM
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Ste Maxime is convenient for La Garde Freinet and the vineyards beyond the Maures mountains. This area is beautiful for hiking/horseriding and the vineyards are Chateau Verez, St Julien D'Ail & others. Ste Maxime is a busy-ish town with lots of dining options within walking distance and a very nice beach, people were still swimming in the sea last weekend (which was very hot). Ste Maxime also has a good selection of inexpensive hotels. After a week though, I would imagine you need to drive to some other places for dining in the evening, eg the village of Grimaud or Les Issambres, Tourtour (maybe lunch since its a windy road up to TourTour), Lorgues etc - there are so many places to list and many better eating places than Ste Maxime.

Frejus/St Raphael/St Aygulf might also be options to consider.
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 07:26 AM
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Excellent! Thank you so much for the recs. I think we may stay in Lourmarin for our stay in the Luberon. Regarding, Ste. Maxime, it looks beautiful, but I read on the site that there was a fire in 2003 that devastated large areas of the surrounding hills. It said reforestation will take some time. It will have been 10 years so maybe it isn't an issue, but is the area's beauty still impacted?

Also, there are a lot of neat towns between St. Tropez and Cannes it seems (La Garde-Freinet, Ste. Maxime, Frejus). Cassis is the only one I have really liked near Marseille and then Vence near Nice. Does anyone have an opinion on which of these three options on the Côte d'Azur is best? St.Tropez/St. Raphael villages, Cassis, or Vence? Much appreciation for your thoughts!
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 09:20 AM
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Bonnieux in the Luberon would be a good choice.
Cassis is by the water, Vence, inland.
St Tropez is crowded, over-priced and none of the charm of Cassis
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 10:03 AM
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The area between Ste Maxime and La Garde Freinet is very hilly, windy roads and lots of trees, I visit the area regularly and have not noticed any areas that have been devastated by fire. I'm sure a devastated area exists but have no idea where it is, forest fires in the summer are always a hazard. Cassis is very charming, La Garde Freinet is lovely but a bit remote for a base and if you are driving at night, the roads are narrow and not lit.
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 10:07 AM
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We were in Ste. Maxime about 5 years ago, and didn't see any damage at all. We drove thru several towns en route from Ste Maxime to Nice (don't remember the names), Ste Maxime seemed the best overall - beautiful beach, promenade and park (where the locals played boules every evening), good restaurants and shops, relaxed family atmosphere. We biked to St. Tropez from Ste Maxime, and yes St. Tropez is crowded and expensive, but it is quite beautiful, and there is a great beach there also.
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 11:58 AM
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Great! Thanks for the replies. I just looked up Bonnieux and it looks gorgoues! Now, I will have to decide between there or Lourmarin for the Luberon. These decisions are so hard! If anyone has an opinion of one over the other, please share
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 02:48 PM
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For a week you will get a taste of Provence. Stay around St Remy for a few days to visit the Pont du Gard and Uzes or Nimes and of course Arles. And move on near Aix so you can visit the Luberon and be closer to the Cote D'Azur
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 03:02 PM
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When I was there a couple of years ago we drove into Goult and had a good walk around. I really liked the 'feel' of the village and said to myself if I was to go back and stay anywhere it would be in Goult!! It is not one of the main tourist villages but it is really well situated, has cafes etc and a couple of lovely town squares.

Schnauzer
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Old Sep 28th, 2012, 04:39 PM
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I stayed in Lourmarin for 2 weeks and really enjoyed the town. I liked it so much that I am returning soon for another 2 weeks.

Although I enjoyed visiitng Bonnieux, I found Lourmarin more interesting because of the eating choices, shopping, art galleries, and the younger people. It just seemed more hip and had more energy, but still felt historic, and it is certainly very beautiful. Also, parking is easy in Lourmarin.

There is a great guidebook that you should pick up, full of information on the region and day trips-

http://provencebyways.com/byways.htm
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Old Oct 4th, 2012, 04:54 PM
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Thank you everyone for the advice! We decided on Lourmarin for 3 nights, Cannes for 3 nights (we loved Ste. Maxime, but couldn't find a hotel we liked), then 2 nights in Cassis.
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Old May 8th, 2013, 07:53 PM
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bookmarking!
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