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Scenic Itinerary Suggestions for 5 Days in Provence, Marseille as our Base

Scenic Itinerary Suggestions for 5 Days in Provence, Marseille as our Base

Apr 11th, 2007, 12:11 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 59
Scenic Itinerary Suggestions for 5 Days in Provence, Marseille as our Base

I've gleaned through a lot of previous posts on Provence and many of them make Marseille sound like a place to be avoided but we have comfortable and free lodging there for 6 nights (June 13-19)so trying to make the most of it.

My best friend and I hope to see/visit/experience:

~1-3 vineyards for tastings
~3-5 historic buildings, ruins, and/or villages
~the horses of the Comargues (sp?)
~An afternoon on a beach
~1-2 fishing villages
~A scenic market

If this sounds a bit vague, let me add that we're photographers and so our focus (no pun intended) will be more on scenic opportunities. We aren't really interested in shopping or anything like that but any recommendations for any particularly beautiful landscapes, driving routes, farmhouses, sunflower fields (we may be too early for lavender) would be very appreciated. And we are willing to stay somewhere else overnight for at least 1 night, possibly 2.

Also should we rent a car and just drive out to different destinations everyday? A lot of people advise against driving in Marseilles but is driving out of the city every morning, probably very early in the morning advisable? We are both from NYC and drive here just fine. Is it really possible to do all these things without a car rental?

Thanks in advance for your suggestions!
Travel_Glutton is offline  
Apr 11th, 2007, 03:30 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
Posts: 2,707
I'm bringing your post back to the top for you...

I've done extensive research for our three week stay in Provence this June - our first visit. On that basis, I'd urge you to get the Michelin 527 Map and a car and drive out of Marseille early each morning, as you suggest. No, I don't think it's "really possible to do all these things without a car rental"!

P.S. Have you come across Stu Dudley's posts here? If not, put his name in the Search Box.
TuckH is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 04:07 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 59
Thanks, Tuck!

I've been reading a lot of Stu's posts and they've been extremely helpful-- but in general (with various Provence posts) there never seems to be any mention of Marseille, except that one should aviod driving through it! So I guess we were having some doubts despite our free place to stay.

We will definitely check out the Michelin map-- thanks agains!
Travel_Glutton is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 05:13 AM
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 3,498
Travel Glutton, I think you'll definitely want a car. I haven't driven in or out of Marseille, but free accommodation might easily outweigh the aggravation of urban traffic. If you have not driven in France before, you might search here and elsewhere on the web for "driving in France". Youíll find lots of good advice about rules of the road, driving style (think assertive but disciplined), and navigation.

A few thoughts on photo opportunities: If you are going to Arles and your interest runs to Romanesque arcading and vaulting, stop by the Cloître St-Trophime. The cloisters are in remarkably good shape and are particularly striking on a sunny day, when you get mesmerizing rhythms of light and shadow. The entrance is to the right of Église St-Trophime.

As you drive west from Arles into the Camargue, you can choose a route that takes you through St-Gilles. Itís worth a stop if you are interested in photographing the fascinating Romanesque statuary on the façade of the 12th century abbey. The statues are worn but striking. The façade faces west, by the way, but if you leave it too late in the day the buildings on the east side of the square will cast a shadow on the church facade. (The rest of the church was butchered over the centuries, and St-Gilles itself is, well, a bit dull.)

You can also find an interesting set of ruins at the Abbaye de Montmajour, just a few kilometres north-east of Arles. Very moody.

I would think you could see Arles, the Camargue, and Montmajour in one dayís drive.

I canít help you too much with the Côte díAzur. Perhaps others will have some suggestions. I would suggest you look at the Michelin Green Guides for Provence and the Côte d'Azur.

AnselmAdorne is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 05:55 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 897
Yes, you will need a car to do most of the things you have mentioned.

The good news is that since you will be leaving Marseille in the morning and returning in the late PM early evening, you will benefit from having a "reverse commute".

Here's some ideas to hit your wishlist -
1) Get to Aix for the market (Tues, Thur, or Sat) - it's about as scenic as you will find. And Aix is one of the few spots easy to do from Marseille by train. Also, in Aix there are some of the most beautiful old buildings "hôtel particuliers" to be found anywhere in Provence.

2) Cassis should do for a fishing village and it's an easy drive over from Marseille.

3) Combine Arles with a visit to the Camargue. Head to Stes-Maries in the Camargue for a decent beach afternoon.

4) A day in the Alpilles for ruins (Glanum) and one or two pretty villages (Eygalieres and Les Baux for example).

5) As long as you have the car - zip up the A7 to the Cote du Rhone Villages (Chneuf, Gigondas, et al).

Well, that should get you started.

By the way, ease of driving in and out of Marseille depends a lot on where in Marseille. It is a huge sprawling city and can be a nightmare to drive across if that's what you will need to be doing.

kevin_widrow is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 06:04 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 3,357
You definitely need a car. There are some spectacular coastal drives with magnificent views..wonderful for your photography interests. Just get a Michelin map for the area and do some planning!!

gracejoan3 is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 06:13 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,228
The following is an interview with writer Peter Mayle who likes Marseille very much! Just thought you'd like to hear a recommendation of your base city.


amwosu is offline  
Apr 12th, 2007, 08:55 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 59
These replies have been invaluable-- thanks so much to everyone.

We feel better about being in Marseille and it seems day-touring will be very feasible... previous posts have already led us to a decent car rental.

We might be too early for lavender but does anyone know if sunflower fields will be plentiful and if so, where we might find them?
Travel_Glutton is offline  

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