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Visiting Provence: which is the best town to stay as a home-base?

Visiting Provence: which is the best town to stay as a home-base?

Old Jul 17th, 2007, 03:18 AM
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Visiting Provence: which is the best town to stay as a home-base?

I will be visiting the Provence region for the first time February/08 - I know, it will be cold, but this is the time I can go on vacation, so...

I need to decide on a place to stay as a home-base, for a week, with easy access to trains/buses for day trips in the region. I will be traveling solo, so would rather not drive if I can help. What places/towns would you consider "must sees" and that I could go by train/bus?

I will be flying into Marseille from Lisbon and taking the train to Paris to catch a flight to London. Would it be a good place to stay? Rent an apartment? Is it easy to get from there to the L'Isle Sur la Sorgue market (BTW, where is Isle Sur la Sorgue?)

Thanks for your help!
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 05:19 AM
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If you wish to travel by train or bus, your best bet is to stay in a larger town like Arles or Avignon, which have train stations.

you can travel by train to few of the villages, as most of the train stations have been closed for years. Isle sur la Sorgue does have a train station - it's east of Avignon.

You can also visit Nimes and Aix-en-Provence. Contacting the tourist offices you can find out if there is bus service to some of the sites like the Pont du Gard, which is worth a visit.
Regular bus service is rather slow.

You would need a car to visit many of the villages like Les Baux, St. Remy, Gordes, Roussillon, etc.

In February, it won't necessarily be freezing here... we sometimes have days when you can dine outside at lunchtime in shirtsleeves.

Patricia

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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 08:39 AM
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Patricia,
Thanks for your sound help! It seems that I will do better by renting a car. I have a Brazilian driver's license; do you know I will need to get an international one for car rental over there?

I found a fairly reasonable apartment to rent in Marseille: would it be too out of the way for visiting other towns around?
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 09:06 AM
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Marseille sounds like a good idea in terms of rail transportation. I think Avignon would be a very good location if you don't have a car, as it's on a main rail line, not too far from lots of things you want to see, and a pleasant city to stay in (I think, some other folks don't like it, but I do). Also, it is a major hub for the local bus lines, also.

A car rental would obviously be best for visiting villages, but you don't have to have one to visit some of those places -- I've been to St Remy by bus, for example, from Avignon. There are buses to Les Baux (from Avignon and Marseille) and Gordes (from Cavaillon).

The buses to Les Baux from Arles/Aix and Marseille (it's the same route, goes between Arles to Les Baux to Salon to Aix to Marseille and back) take about 90 minutes from Marseille to Les Baux.

Buses just take up a lot more time as they may be a lot of stops or the times not that frequent. Even though Isle-Sur-la-Sorgue has a rail station, it isn't on a direct line, so you'd have to transfer to go most places by rail from there, anyway (like at Avignon).

There are quite a few bus tour companies out of Aix and Avignon, it seemed to me, as well as the regular buses. I think those are two major tourist cities, so they would have the most options in that regard; Marseille is probably good for buses, also. You can get info at the tourist offices when you are there if you don't rent a car (although that would work better in that area, that's for sure). If you only want to see some of the larger places, a car wouldn't be necessary (Nimes, Aix, Avignon, Arles, Orange, Vaison-la-Romaine, etc.).

If you don't rent a car, I'd stay in Marseille or Avignon as that is on the rail line to Paris.
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 09:33 AM
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Christina,

Your post is very helpful, thank you so much! I am between Avignon, Arles, and Marseille. Thus far, the best deal I have found is in Marseille, I may even be able to stay for two weeks. Maybe I can take a one week conversation course, and then rent a car and go about exploring the region. I studied French for about 8 years, all through Grade School and Junior High (I went to a school run by nuns of a French order - le Sacré-Coeur de Marie). But then, I went to live in the US and my French got quite rusty... I can read with no problem, but it is difficult to speak and to understand every day conversation (I am best at academic French). I need a good refreshing conversation course!
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 09:57 AM
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Much of the beauty of Provence is to be found in the countryside and the smaller hillside villages thereabouts.

Thus I hope you'll be able to rent a car. And NOT from Marseille, BTW!
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 10:29 AM
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We stayed at a wonderful B&B in L'Isle sur la Sorgue and loved the area so much we canceled reservations in St. Remy.
The website is www.lamaisonsurlasorgue.com
The rooms are spacious and immaculate with a wonderful ambiance.

Frederick and his family are wonderful hosts. He gave us excellent restaurant recommendations and villages to tour.

We were starving by the time we arrived in the afternoon and he served wine and cheese in the garden. The breakfasts were delicious served with a special homemade treat daily.

Two excellent restaurants were Le Jardin du Quai and La petite maison in cucuron.

We loved using L'Isle sur la Sorgue as home base and plan to return.


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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 10:30 AM
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Okay, Tuck, you convinced me. Should I look for places in Avignon instead?
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 10:34 AM
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Plufmud,
La Maison is marvelous, loved it! But the price is a little bit to salty for me. Thanks anyway!
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 10:59 AM
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>Should I look for places in Avignon instead?<

I would not. It's not close enough to the Luberon area (the L'Isle sur la Sorgue vicinity would be a good choice IMO). The only highlight I'd go some distance to visit would be Les Baux and it's definitely worth it!
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 11:30 AM
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I certainly wouldn't base in Marseille. It's not that centrally located if you want to visit Provence & not the Cote d'Azur. Avignon would be my choice if I did not have a car. It's larger than Arles, and much more interesting, IMO.

If I had a car, I'de stay in the Luberon or in the Mt Ventoux/Dentelles region to be close to the beautiful countryside. Avignon has a lot of ugly sprawl, and the countryside around it and all the way to St Remy isn't that scenic, IMO.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 12:34 PM
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I have to disagree with Stu: we much prefer Arles to Avignon.

Has anyone answered the "Where is Isle sur la Sorgue" question? If not, it's just above the western tip of the Lubéron, and it would be fairly close to Avignon.
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 01:37 PM
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Underhill, thanks for the info on L'Isle Sur la Sorgue. I downloaded a map of Provence (from www.france-for-visitors.com) which is quite detailed.

Tuck, I don't think I would enjoy staying in a very small town as I am travelling solo.

Stu, I think I will follow you tip and probably stay in Avignon.

Anybody has any suggestions for inexpensive hotels there? I would rather stay in an apartment, but I have not found any good bargains so far...

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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 01:38 PM
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Underhill,
I did try Arles, but also could not find any reasonably priced hotel for the period I plan to be there (first week of February).
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 02:14 PM
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I much prefer Avignon to Arles, by a long shot. So there you go. Also, Avignon is more central.

I was not crazy about Isle-sur-la-Sorgue myself the day I was there, just didn't think it was that nice in the area where the flea market is on Sunday, which is around the main part of it.

But isn't the real issue where you are going to stay for studying? Maybe I'm not clear on that part, I thought you were going there for some classes for a week. I wouldn't stay in Marseille, either, but it is a place with good transportation options.
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 03:35 PM
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Christina,

No, I was not going to study, I just thought I might to it if I stayed in Marseille (found an inexpensive studio there that I could afford for two weeks).

I will be going to a meeting in London later on in February, so I thought it would be good to take advantage of my free trip to Europe and the fact that I would be on vacation, to relax in the Provence area, which I have yet to visit.
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 03:40 PM
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Here's a map of l'Isle sur la Sorgue

http://antiquite-islesursorgue.com/

I have a 20+ page itinerary for Provence that I've passed out to hundreds of people on Fodors. E-mail me at [email protected] if you want a copy

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 03:48 PM
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>Tuck, I don't think I would enjoy staying in a very small town as I am travelling solo.<

I realize that; yet it seems to me that you have a bit of a dilemma here:

In having a car to see the Luberon countryside, it would not make sense to base in Avignon (or any large town for that matter).

Re-read what Stu had to say. If it's to be Avignon, I'd drop the car idea...
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 04:21 PM
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Tuck,

Got it! If I stay in Avignon, I will not rent the car.

Stu,
Thanks, just sent you an e-mail for the Itinerary for Provence.
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Old Jul 17th, 2007, 06:09 PM
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I was alone, one year, for almost three weeks and I don't drive. Avignon was perfect for me with buses and trains taking me to many of the places I wanted to visit.
I took the train to Isle-sur'-la-sorgue.
There's wonderful restaurant by the station, Jarden du Quai.
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