Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Visiting Provence for first time - few questions

Visiting Provence for first time - few questions

Dec 20th, 2013, 02:33 PM
  #1  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
Visiting Provence for first time - few questions

Hi all,

I am booking a trip to Provence on behalf of my parents, and I just had a few questions, mostly to assure me of the planning being OK so far. The trip is planned for June (20-27).

Their plan is to travel down for Paris on the TGV, and stay one night in Avignon. The following day they will pick up a rental before travelling to Aix en Provence, where they will be staying for the next six nights. (They're in fact just outside Aix en Provence, staying here: http://www.lacharlotte-provence.com/ - which received very good reviews). After that they would return to Aix en Provence to TGV back to Paris.

Thus, they are largely staying in one location. I know other people have mentioned perhaps mixing it up by staying in St Remy or other locations, but as they have a car, is it an issue if they stay in the one place? (The accommodation selected receives excellent reviews.)

My second question is - current plan is to higher a mid-size (Mercedes C class); the other alternative is a VW Golf. But I feel given that they'll be doing a fair bit of driving, the C class will be a bit more comfortable. My only question, which I believe has been satisfied somewhat already by other comments, is whether a C Class is too big for the area? Not having been there, I cannot judge, but I assume it would be OK?

Many thanks for your advice, in advance!

(Also, any other tips in terms of must do, should do, locations, restaurants, etc, would be well appreciated )
THR is offline  
Dec 20th, 2013, 03:47 PM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,793
IMO, Aix is not centrally located to explore most of the "main" sites people usually want to visit in Provence. Just like purchasing a house to live in - the 3 top requirements for a vacation "base" are location, location, and location. The Pont du Gard is 1 3/4 hrs from Aix, while it is 1 hr from St Remy. Uzes is 2 hrs from Aux & 1 hr 10 mins from St Remy. The lavender fields around Sault are 2 1/4 hrs from Aix (mostly all ugly freeway driving) and 1 3/4 hrs from St Remy. I think your parents are going to get a little tired of driving over the winding Combe de Lourmarin or on the A7 freeway to get to most places. We love Aix - but the area immediately around it isn't that exciting, IMO, compared to other locations in Provence. We stay near Gordes, Goult, St Remy, Uzes, Vaison, and Bedoin.

A small car was important 20 years ago - but not so much now. There is often mandatory parking outside of the small villages - so you are not tempted to drive IN to the small villages. We usually get a mini-SUV. We've spent 18 weeks vacationing in Provence, & will be there for 2 weeks next year when your parents will be there.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 20th, 2013, 03:54 PM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,793
I'm not sure whether the AIX place is a "done deal" or not. If you could cancel it, I would stay the first 4 nights in St Remy, and the next 3 nights near Gordes or Vaison. That will give you much less driving. Gordes is 1 1/4 hrs from Aix if you want to visit Aix as a day trip.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 20th, 2013, 04:02 PM
  #4  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
OK, thanks for the car information. We have booked the place but plans can change, probably just lose a small deposit. What would you suggest is a better 'base'?
THR is offline  
Dec 20th, 2013, 04:24 PM
  #5  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
Hmm, I wonder so as not to lose the deposit whether it is worthwhile spending at least a couple of nights in Aix and then spending 5 nights elsewhere... that way they can do an easy day trip to Marseille if they want to.
THR is offline  
Dec 20th, 2013, 05:42 PM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,793
Take the TGV from Paris to Aix and stay there for a day or two. Then spend the remainder of your time in a more central location. If your parents want to stay in a village with lots of shops, restaurants, cafes, and other English speakers - choose St Remy. If they want to stay in a more countryside location surrounded by vineyards & lavender - try the Luberon (Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux, etc). We stay in Gites, so I don't have any B&B recommendations except for Mas Perreal - which is probably already booked for June.

Marseille is not one of my favorite destinations. OK for your 5th visit to Provence - but perhaps not the first.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 20th, 2013, 07:52 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 225
I agree with Stu's recommendations. Aix is lovely for a night or two - visit Cezanne's atelier for example. But there's so much more in & around St Remy: Les Baux and Carriere des Lumieres nearby, a short drive to Arles, Glanum ruins, Van Gogh hospital, a drive north to Chateauneuf du Papes, or L'Isle sur la Sorgue etc etc, as well as the places Stu suggested. After staying in St Remy, they can drive less than half an hour to Avignon, have a look round there for a few hours, then drop off the car at the TGV station and catch the TGV from there back to Paris.
rosemaryoz is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 02:24 PM
  #8  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
Thanks everyone,

I am reconsidering now ... and looking at accommodation around St Remy. As the other accommodation is not available on the first night, and I have paid a deposit, we might look for 5 nights in St Remy, and two nights at Aix. Or otherwise, just forgo the deposit and stay elsewhere in the last two nights.

I will research some of the suggestions in the area, too

Always appreciate Fodorites helpful responses.
THR is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 02:43 PM
  #9  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
Out of interest, do you think it is worthwhile spending the first night in Avignon, or just go to St Remy straight away (picking up the rental)? They will be on the Eurostar to Avignon (via Paris or Lille), so they might be a bit tired; albeit, probably not ridiculously so.
THR is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 03:34 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,793
The Avignon TGV station is between St Remy & Avignon center - only 20-30 mins from St Remy. I would go to St Remy.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 03:39 PM
  #11  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
Great, thanks Stu!
THR is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 04:09 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,793
>> we might look for 5 nights in St Remy, and two nights at Aix<<

Their B&B is not in Aix - it is a bit outside and the drive into Aix can be difficult coming from the northeast of Aix. Viamichelin says it is a 20 min drive from the B&B to the Cours Mirabeau in Aix.

I think one night near Aix is enough. Get to Aix mid-morning on the 26th, look around a bit, have lunch & "people watch" on the Cours Mirabeau at "Deux Garcons", look around some more in the afternoon/evening, then have a nice dinner & return to the B&B.

Too bad they won't be staying IN Aix - making this day more restful by not having to leave Aix for the B&B. If they stayed in Aix, they could return the car a day earlier (saving some money) and then take a bus to the TGV station the next day. Thursday the 27th is market day in Aix. They could leave Aix after visiting the market.

Do you have my 27 page Cote d'Azur/Provence itinerary??? I've e sent it to over 3,000 people on Fodors. If you would like a copy, e-mail me at [email protected] & I'll attach a copy to the reply e-mail.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 04:23 PM
  #13  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
Thanks Stu, I do have your itinerary.

I thought that B&B had quite good reviews; and they didn't necessarily want to stay central there with a car. Basically they want to go to Marseille (their choice), so that seems a bit closer. Also, it does get quite good reviews. They might go to the Luberon from their too.

But it is true - they could stay six nights in St Remy, for example, and then one night in Aix, dropping the car in on that day, then leave Aix in the afternoon to Paris, seeing the market in the morning...

Wish I hadn't booked it now :\
THR is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 09:43 PM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 3
Every corner of Provence has its charms. It is true that the distance from Aix to the northern Luberon and the lavender fields around Sault is a bit far, but it is not certain that the lavender will be in full bloom by the end of June anyway. It depends on how cool the spring and early summer may be.

The place you have booked in Aix looks quite comfortable and there is a great deal to see in southern Provence, including a few things that aren't on every tourists list but are marvelous.

Marseilles is very lively with a great many new restaurants and bars over the last couple of years (look at last year's New York Times "36 Hours in Marseilles" for a list, there's a hot art scene and many traditional tourist draws, like the amazing Notre Dame de la Garde overlooking the Vieux Port. There is the beautiful village of Cassis sur Mer and the unforgettable walk along the Calanque. There is the Parc Naturel Regionale de Camargue with the ponies and flamingos (although the pink clouds may have drifted south and be gone by June), and it is a short drive to Les Baux, St. Remy and the Saint Paul Asylum where Van Gogh painted some of his most famous work. You could easily spend two days just exploring Aix, the Musee Granet has a terrific permanent collection, the Cezanne Atelier, the Vasarely Foundation, etc etc. etc. (And, of course, shopping.)

So your parents could change hotels/B&Bs -- but I'd opt for ease over scurrying around and confidence that there will be much beauty and fun to fill a week in Aix over fear that you might miss something. St. Remy is lovely, but quite crowded with anglophone tourists in August. The grass is not always plus vert on the other side. I'd stay put.

Bonnes vacances!
SydRubin is offline  
Dec 21st, 2013, 10:39 PM
  #15  
THR
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Sep 2012
Posts: 160
Thank you so much SydRubin.

We might look to see if they can spend the full 7 days in/around St Remy. Even if we lose the deposit, that's OK. Otherwise, we'd mix it up between the two.
THR is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2013, 04:50 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 2,672
If you cancel this far ahead, most places will return the deposit. I agree with the others, Aix is not really well located to serve as a base.
mamcalice is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2013, 06:50 AM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,793
I suppose everyone has a different opinion of what a "short drive" is. I usually consider anything less than 30 mins to be a short drive, & I like to see lavender fields, vineyards, sunflowers, mountain gorges, mountain crests, and "cute little villages" along the way. The drive from your gite in St Marc Jaumegard to St Remy/Les Baux is 1 hr 20 mins and practically all autoroute/freeway. The drive to Cassis/Calenques is 1 hr and also almost all autoroute. Driving to Aigues les Morts (Camargue) will take you 2 hrs and quite a bit of Autoroute.

I tell people to get a map of Provence (I use Michelin Map # 113) and use a magic market to put a dot by every site that a "first-timer" with 6 days available might want to visit. That could include:
St Remy & Roman Ruins
Les Baux
Arles
Alpillies mountains
Avignon
Pont du Gard
Uzes
Upper Luberon & perched villages (put a dot near Roussillon)
Pernes les Fountaines
Carpentras (Friday market)
l'Isle sur la Sorgue (Sunday market)
Mt Ventoux
Vaison lo Romaine
Sault & lavender fields & including Montbrun & Simiane la Rotonde)
Gorges de la Nesque
Les Baronnais (put a dot near Buis les Barronais)
Cote du Rhone winegrowing area (put a dot near Seguret)
Lourmarin & southern Luberon
Aix
Orange (maybe)
Marseille

And then determine which "base" will minimize needless driving to most of these places.

Stu Dudley
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2013, 07:21 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 14,793
>>use a magic market<<

magic marker
StuDudley is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2013, 03:21 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 978
To me a perfect week for your parents would be 4 nights at B&B Mas Laurent 2 km from the Provencal town of Uzes (prefer over St Remy) and 3 nights at the B&B Mas Perraul near the village of Saint Saturnin in the Luberon.

Actually 7 nights at either would also be wonderful. We stayed at Mas Laurent in June 2013 and Mas Perreaul in July 2011.

Both are run by wonderful hosts: Deborah and Tim at Mas Laurent and Elizabeth and Kevin at Mas Perraul. Both have fantastic breakfasts (different each day), beautiful rooms, great surroundings, etc. Both are English speaking (Australian, American). Both would provide a support system for your parents in planning their daily activities and dinners.

This year we rented a class C Mercedes from Avis via Costco. It is the medium size and was quite comfortable for Provence.

http://masperreal.com/index.html

http://www.maslaurent.com/en/

https://www.google.com/search?q=lube...w=1216&bih=539

https://www.google.com/search?q=uzes...w=1216&bih=539
dugi_otok is offline  
Dec 22nd, 2013, 11:22 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Posts: 36
Hi THR,
I live in St. Remy and plan vacations in Provence for clients from all over the world. If I can help you choose and book a hotel in St. Remy, I'd be happy to. I know them all well. I've noticed hotels are filling up early this year so I'd book soon to get the best choice of rooms. It's lovely that you're doing this for your parents and I'm sure they'll have a wonderful time!
JulieMautner is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:45 AM.