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need help planning October trip to Provence

Philadelphia
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need help planning October trip to Provence

I am just starting to plan a short 4-5 trip to Provence and thought you all could help me out. We will be flying into Nice, and I was thinking of renting a car there and driving to Aix, taking day trips from there. The places I think we'd like to see are Marseilles, Calanques, Arles, maybe Avignon and Pont du Gard. Not sure we can do all of those because we'd like to be able to do things in a relaxed way, enjoying the cafes, food, and wine.

What do you all think are the top places to go? Is Aix a good place to stay? Would it be better to take buses and/or trains rather than a car?

After our time in Provence, we'll be heading to Monaco where I have a meeting.

Thanks!

Edmonton, Canada
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1. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

It sounds doable, however can I suggest that you leave out Marseilles? It's a terrific city, but not as picturesque as the other places that you will be seeing. Arles is about 1 and a half hours from Aix, so you could do a day trip to Pont de Gard and stop for lunch in Arles without it being too hasty.

I would bet on a day to travel to Cassis where the Calanques are. Cassis is a gorgeous little seaside town to have lunch or an early dinner. If you have your heart set on seeing Marseilles, you could drive through it on your way back from Cassis or vice versa. Marseilles is quiet cosmopolitan, I believe it is the second largest city in France, so it's not quite the quaint little town that you will be used to seeing.

You could even take a drive on another day to Avignon. Most places are with 2 hours drive, and if you take a day for each, it will still be leisurely.

provence
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2. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

Why not just explore the area around Nice and save yourself the drive to Aix ?

Philadelphia
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3. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

Thanks for your very helpful comments. Based partly on these suggestions plus some further research (boucheboy, I looked at other comments you posted previously about Aix and Avignon), I'm now thinking of flying into Marseilles instead of Nice and staying in Avignon rather than Aix. Avignon seems like a better home base to visit Cassis, Arles, and Pont du Gard. Then, maybe at the end of our time in Provence, we'll take a train from Avignon to Monaco. This would completely eliminate Nice from our visit, but the other places sound more appealing to me.

Edmonton, Canada
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4. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

Great idea!! 4 - 5 days will be leisurely. Enjoy your trip!

Chicago, IL
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5. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

I'd also suggest skipping Marseille, it's the cultural capital for 2013 so there is a ton of construction and there's a hugeness to it. I love big cities but I didn't love Marseille although I could see the potential, right now it's dirty and grimy and all dug up.

I thought St. Remy was a fabulous base for seeing the area, it's in between a lot of the places you want to see. Once we got to that area of France we spent a day driving some of the hill towns in the Luberon (L'Isle sur la Sorgue, Gordes, Roussilon, Bonnieux); St. Remy, Arles and Les Baux on day 2, Avignon on day 3, Nimes and Pont du Gard on day 4, Aix and Cassis on day 5.

I wouldn't have enjoyed using trains and buses as much as the freedom of having a car, on the other hand we didn't drink at all until we had parked the car for the evening so if you enjoy drinking wine with lunch, that might also be a consideration.

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6. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

I can't drive so always use buses. Some places eg St Remy or l'Isle sur la Sorgue are fairly easy to get to by bus from Avignon. The Luberon villages and the coast are not. So you might consider a car for a couple of days, and look at using a bus for part of the time. The most useful buses for the Avignon area are listed here www.lepilote.com/horaires_ligne/…

Philadelphia
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7. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

Here's our updated plan and we welcome comments and suggestions:

Tuesday morn arrive in Marseilles and take the train directly from Marseilles airport to Avignon.

Tues afternoon - get settled

Weds - explore Avignon on foot.

Thursday - wine tour

Friday - rent car and tour the Luberon villages

Saturday - drive to Camarque/Cassis for the day

Sunday - we need to be in Monte Carlo by late afternoon/evening, so I'm think we'll drive, stopping in Aix on the way.

any suggestions?

Thanks!

Vancouver, Canada
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8. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

Based on what you want to do and see, I think basing yourself in Avignon is a good choice. There is lots to see there and it will allow you fairly easy access to the other things you want to see...as for your itinerary.

It is an hour on the train from Marseille to Avignon. The TGV station is on the outskirts of the city, so you have some choices there. There is a shuttle that will take you to Centre Ville Station, but likely the easiest thing to do would be to take a taxi to where you are staying.

I would flip your Thursday and Friday for one primary reason. There is a wonderful morning market in L'isle sur la Sorgue on Thursday (IMO the best in Provence). L'isle sur la Sorgue is 20 miles east of Avignon and you will go right through it to get further out into the Luberon. Allow at least 2 to 3 hours for the market...it is terrific. In the Luberon, I would suggest Gordes, Roussillon, Bonnieux and the very quiet but cool village of Goult.

For your wine tour, head up to Chateauneuf du Pape, Vayqueras and my personal favourite, Gigondas.

For Saturday Cassis is lovely, but Nimes is a wonderful place as well. Amazing Roman colisseum.

It is a 2.75 hour drive from Avignon to Monaco.

Edited: 03 October 2012, 03:20
Monroe, New Jersey
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9. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

you will LOVE Provence. I did a week there with 3 other friends, rented a car and house in Isle Sur La Sorgue (yes do market- great fun) and roamed. There was no corner, road, town or area we visited that we did not love. hard to go wrong. We did both the Luberon and Rhone wine routes (quickly and wetly - we switched off drivers), had superb meal in St. Remy, had lavendar ice cream, visited cliff towns, old hill towns and Rousillion (all red town). Obviously we did a quick run throug since there's much to see.

All the advice you received is spot on (although we didn't fall in love with Avignon) and if you don't mind taking the suggestions from Rick STeves the travel writer, he sets out Provence visits for 1-7 plus days - car essential - in a fun and doable manner.

Enjoy!

No matter what you do - you'll enjoy, if not fall in love with, this places for all senses and tastes..

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10. Re: need help planning October trip to Provence

I think that, for the most part, your plan is really good - however, I seriously urge you to just pick up a car at the airport on arrival, and retaining it for the duration of your trip - as having a car will allow you to go where you want to go when you want to do so, as opposed to trying to see the region based upon a fixed schedule.

Do keep in mind that there are far fewer flights in and out of Marseille as opposed to Nice, so, you may want to seriously consider flying in and out of Nice.

Although you need to be in Monte Carlo by Sunday evening, please seriously consider checking out the Sunday Market in L'Isle-sur-la-Sougue, as opposed to the market on Thursday - it's simply the best!.

For really good markets on Thursday, if you don't do a formal wine tour, think about checking out either Nyons or Orange.

Edited: 03 October 2012, 05:21