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Provence - January 2009

Sydney, Australia
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Provence - January 2009

Hi There

We are planning on heading to Provence for 5 nights in mid January 2009. We haven't been to Provence before so looking for tips!

We plan to get the train from Paris, but we are happy to hire a car if necessary once we arrive.

We are open to where we stay in Provence, but would perhaps like to stay somewhere not too busy. Perhaps in a house/cottage/apartment as opposed to a hotel. Somewhere suitable to do day trips to other places would be great though.

Also, after our stay in Provence, we are heading to Florence, Italy, so any suggestions about the best way to get there from the south of France would be fantastic.

Many thanks

Poppy

Imperia, Italy
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for Italian Riviera
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1. Re: Provence - January 2009

Getting to Florence from the South of France requires a long train journey - for example usually at least eight hours from Nice, with at least one change of train. For all possible journeys see http://reiseauskunft.bahn.de/bin/query.exe/en or http://www.trenitalia.it/en/index.html, for a few selected journeys see www.voyages-sncf.com/leisure/fr/launch/home/ Timetables are not yet available for after December 13 2008, so enter an earlier date.

If you are intending to visit Venice or Rome while you are in Italy, you might consider flying Marseille-Venice with myair, or Nice-Rome with blu-express or Alitalia/Air France, and then proceeding to Florence afterwards.

Sydney, Australia
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2. Re: Provence - January 2009

Hi Poppy

How many of you will there be?

We have stayed in Provence twice, first for a week at Uzes, a charming market town from which we took day trips to other sights such as Avignon, the Carmargue, Pont du Gard, Nimes etc. So you need a car.

This year we spent a week in L'Isle sur la Sorgue which was superb, but you really must have a car.This charming town is built on the waters of the Sorgue river which pour through the city in rivulets and streams. Once they turned watermills and some wheels are still there, but it is most noted now for its antiques markets and the general markets held twice a week. From there we again visited sites we had seen before and some new ones. We saw Fontaine de Vaucluse which is the magical source of the Sorgue river, Senaque abbey, Gordes, Rousillion.

You can see some of the places on our website www.nickbooth.id.au or on my travel blog www.lynnbooth.blogspot.com

Both our accommodations required a week long booking but I am sure you can find others. Both towns and Avignon which is much bigger, are recommended but parking is a bit of a problem in Avignon.Our place in L'isle was superb but it was three bedroom and expensive for just a couple. Sometimes it is worth booking the week and leaving early just to get a nice place.

Try to stay right in town. The freedom to walk through the town at night or any time you like is priceless, rather than being stuck out on a farm somewhere.However, be careful about what will be open for you to visit. It will be very cold and lots of things may be closed. Check guide books.

We drove the reverse way on the autostrada from Lucca to St Paul de Vence to Uzes. Took two days using the autostrada to St P then the Route Napoleon (much slower) to Uzes. Both times arrived mid afternoon. If you stayed on the autostrada you could do it in one very long day (hey, you are an Australian and used to long distances)Microsoft autoroute estimates about 7 hours.

Driving in Florence is a nightmare. Consider a village just outside and then catch a bus into Florence, or travel by train to Florence itself.

There are trains from Avignon but 11-14 hours travel with at least one, more likely two changes.

Doing it one way by car incurs a penalty for wrong country drop off so would be expensive unless you drop back into France to leave it.

Looks like the best bet is to hire a car for Provence then train it to Florence.

Feel free to make contact through Trip Advisor messages if you want more info. Take your woollies and have a great time.

provence
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for Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur
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3. Re: Provence - January 2009

Do bear in mind that January is deep winter in Provence and it will be cold.

If the Mistral is blowing (and there is a very good chance it will) the sky will be a perfect blue but it will be even colder.

Many of the smaler villages will feel "shut" as restaurants and non essential shops close out of season.

I would choose a larger town and stay in a hotel rather than have the problem of hiring a gite out of season - you will also be warmer.

I would consider having two or three nights in Avignon and the balance of your stay in Arles or Aix en Provence.

A car is essential to get the most out of the area.

All offer a good base to explore the area as well as providing a variety of restaurants to eat in in the evening.

Parking is not a real problem as they all have secure covered parking.

Have a great trip

provence
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4. Re: Provence - January 2009

PS Uzes is often referred to as the Tuscany of Provence - as you are heading to Florence you may want to give this town a miss - even though it is very prety.

Paris, France
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5. Re: Provence - January 2009

While I generally strongly recommend one rent a car while visiting Provence, you may have presented the one scenario under which I might not.

From Avignon, there is really nowhere in Provence you cannot reach by bus. Very limited frequency of service is the drawback and reason why renting a car is advised, particularly for those with limited vacation time. However, for visiting in the dead of winter, I am not sure how much traveling about you will really want to do. Temperatures will be at their lowest, the wind at its strongest, available daylight at its shortest, and may touristic activities will be suspended until spring. You might want to split your time between a base in Avignon and either Aix-en-Provence or Arles. Among these cities, rail travel is frequent and inexpensive. The activity of the cities could keep one occupied during the otherwise distasteful weather conditions and keeping everything close at hand could make moving about much more agreeable.

By keeping near the cities, you could still visit the highlights: Pont du Gard, St. Remy, or maybe Nimes but Provence in winter should be approached with careful considerations.

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6. Re: Provence - January 2009

Make sure that you get the current Michelin Red guide ASAP. It will provide you with closure dates for restaurants and hotels too which will be important since you will be travelling in the dead of winter.

I agree with boucheboy that access to a car is essential if you are going to make the most of your trip. While many places are closed in the off season, there are others that continue to cater to the locals. Hopefully, you will choose to visit some of the smaller towns and villages that are the essence of Provence rather than just zipping from large city to large city via public transportation.

AlpillesGal

gold coast
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7. Re: Provence - January 2009

We stayed in a lovely place called Le Hameau just outside the walled city of st. paul de vence. Do yourself a favour and look up there website as the place was one of the nicest we stayed in on our 3 month tour of Europe. The walled city of st. paul de vence is so amazingly beautiful you feel you are in another world.

We did all out travelling by Eurail pass and it was just like being on a guided tour. Felt we saw the best of everything.

we travelled from Nice to Venice in one day but it was so fantastic just watching all the different scenery we didnt mind the long trip.

Going along the coastline by train, hugging the side of the beach and seeing all the different colourful umbrellas was magical.

gold coast
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8. Re: Provence - January 2009

forgot to say when in Florence make sure you do the hop on hop off tour. the buses stop at many locations around the town and have two routes.

We paid I think around 18 euro for the pass and witht the two routes it took around 4 hours.

The best and most wonderful part of the tour was to Fiesole just above the town of Florence. the views are amazing.

enjoy

Sydney, Australia
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9. Re: Provence - January 2009

Thank you everyone for all your advice. Definitely food for thought and will help with our planning.

many, many thanks!

Poppy

Los Angeles
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10. Re: Provence - January 2009

Do you feel like St. Remy would make a good base as well. Or will most of the town be shut down?