Where to use as a base?

Old Mar 14th, 2021, 10:34 AM
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Where to use as a base?

planning To visit early May next year. The flight is to Nice but I would like to be in provence. We will be for six full days with a car and with children. I wonder what is the best base village for us. I would like to be at the following:
- aix-en-provence
- Rousillion including the trail path with color stones
- Maybe: The Village Des Automates
- Maybe: isle-sur la sorgue
- from there will drive for one night to pont du galetas,moustiers-sainte-marie,
Lac de Sainte-Croix.(or better a day trip?). I prefer not to do the long drive along verdon cliffs but those places looks as the highlights to me.
- Maybe: Vence on the way
- a short scenic drive near the beaches
- half day in Monaco before the flight back from Nice

what do you recommend as a base for around 2-3 nights.

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Old Mar 16th, 2021, 08:48 PM
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Sounds like a lovely trip. Others more familiar with Provence can give you better thoughts. I am planning my first trip there so donít have any first-hand advice to give you.

For what itís worth, we are basing in Aix. We want a large, vibrant town with a train station, museums, cafes, shopping, multiple markets and hiking nearby.

We donít have young children so I canít comment on what might be in Aix for kids. I believe there is a carousel, parks, and Cezanneís old studio is in walking distance if they are interested.

Iím not sure you can edit or not, but it might be helpful to put Provence in your title or tag France.
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Old Mar 17th, 2021, 12:20 AM
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Easy choice: St. Remy
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Old Mar 17th, 2021, 02:18 AM
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We stayed in Aix and St Remy on a trip to that part of France and visited quite a few small villages from St Remy. Once in Aix, we parked the car and didn't want to move it. Driving in Aix is the absolute worst. St Remy was lovely, great market there too. Aix is bigger, grander and lovely but not good for driving in and out each day to villages.

There are websites that list which day each village has their market and we tried to visit on that day. The whole town was much livelier and of course, great shopping.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 10:26 AM
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I agree that Aix makes a difficult base. It takes a while to get and out and the ring road traffic can be thicker. If you arriving from overseas, you might plan spending one night closer to the coast before heading out. If not, you can actually stay one night in Moustiers by taking the scenic route to western provence. St. Remy is great but a bit further west than the other sites on your list like the Verdon Gorge and Roussillon. You could also try Lourmarin, north of Aix. You'll have to cross a range of hills/low mountains to get to the Luberon valley. Bonnieux could be a good choice in the valley or Roussillon itself.
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Old Mar 20th, 2021, 02:17 PM
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My wife & I have spent 23 weeks vacationing in Provence, and 21 weeks along the Cote d'Azur. We stay in Gites (self catering houses), or Apts in Nice & St Tropez.

I advise people against basing in Aix if you want to visit the sites most people want to visit. It is our favorite city in Provence - but the major sites are elsewhere. And as others have suggested - getting in & out is difficult. I suggest that you get the Michelin 116 map of Provence, get a colored magic marker, and highlight all the places you want to visit. Most of them will be much closer to St Remy. Personally, I prefer the Luberon over St Remy.

I am not a fan of Monaco - too much concrete, noise, congestion, and glitz. Unless , of course, that's what you are seeking.

Attached is my 35 page Provence & Cote d'Azur itinerary.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 07:16 AM
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Am finishing up a 3 day stay in Aix. Had also stayed in Rousillon for 4 days.

Have to say that Cours Mirabeau was kind of underwhelming. Some trees give a lot of shade but some of them are quite small. They limit vehicle traffic but in some ways the mopeds and scooters are more annoying, noisy. You also have people riding those standup scooters -- the electric ones at least aren't noisy but those things are tearing down the street so beware.

You walk a couple of blocks away and Aix is more charming with some nice squares, churches. The Place de Hotel de Ville is nice, with the tall gate, which I believe commemorations a US liberation.

I did take one day trip to Cassis and it does take awhile to get to the Autoroutes out of Aix.

Rousillon was better for visits to the other villages. Also went to St. Remy and Les Baux while basing in Rousillon.

Aix is like a gateway to Luberon for people wanting to do just day tours to Luberon villages. But I partly chose it because I will be flying out of MRS.

The real discovery for me was the Calanques National Park, of which Cassis is only one part. Something to consider for a repeat visit. I met some park rangers up on the Fallaise, which are the tall cliffs overlooking the Baie de Cassis from the eastern side. I didn't even have time to get to the Peninsula nor did I get to the boat tours of the calanches.

Park rangers said 3 million visitors and the number of visitors are going up even through the pandemic.

Guess it would be a reason to explore Marseille, or at least the rocky coast near it.
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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 07:24 AM
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Marseille is fabulous and would be my choice, but of course not with a car.
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Old Jul 12th, 2021, 07:53 AM
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We relied on two very great van tours when we based in Aix. Otherwise, we took a bus to Marseille and, with a short walk to its Gare, traveled to Nimes. It was cheaper than Aix train. We also visited Marseille itself by bus. I agree that the charming part of Aix is not Mirabeau! Driving its ring road successfully is probably a factor of your city driving experience.

Here's my TR ("Provence Sandwich"; scroll down to Saturday, Sept. 6 to start the Aix section: Trip Report: A Provence Sandwich

Looking forward to reading how it all goes.

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Old Jul 14th, 2021, 08:02 AM
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For the specific places you have indicated, I would base myself in Lourmarin, a small, charming village about half way between Roussillon and Aix. From there you can also easily visit l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Cassis. For Vence and Monaco, you can do one on the way from Nice and one on the way back. To me, the best short, scenic, coastal drive is l'Esterel, between St-Raphael and Mandelieu-la-Napoule, with lots of coves and beautiful beaches nestled in amongst the towering red cliffs . Absolutely stunning! May will be the perfect time to see these without the summer crowds. Have fun!

Last edited by russ_in_LA; Jul 14th, 2021 at 08:10 AM.
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Old Jul 14th, 2021, 10:13 AM
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I am not a fan of St Remy but wouldn't choose it anyway as it doesn't seem central to what you want to do at all. I would think some place in the Luberon would be better. I've only been through Lourmarin, it may be fine, I would thinking some place in-between Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and Roussillon. I've stayed several days in the latter and that was a very convenient location.

I've driven in Aix several times and don't find it particularly difficult myself, not at all. It has nice big major roads leading into it from the highway to the Rotonde and out (bd du Roi Rene, etc), I never had a reason to try to drive into the very heart of the Old Town center or anything, no tourist would have to (as a visitor, if you are staying there, I wouldn't stay in the interior as a base, though), but driving into/out of Aix was pretty easy, I just parked near the library/gare routiŤre where there is a big garage (parking Mťjanes).

I suppose you want to find some holiday rental with children, not sure how many.

I did stay in this place just outside Aix once and loved it. I had a car, it has a fantastic restaurant also. It is right on a national road so was a good location for day trips.


In addition to a great restaurant, it has a nice outdoor area and air conditioning. If you only had 1-2 smaller children, their suites would work. It's not cheap now, it was actually fairly reasonable when I first stayed there but it hadn't been open that long, that's probably why. It has a pool, also.
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Old Jul 14th, 2021, 10:50 AM
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Just to clarify, in our situation, there was a garage either on-site or just next door to the hotel. It required a left turning from the fast lane of the downtown ring road. The first time anyone drove it would be nerve-wracking.
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