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Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

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Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

Hi

We were planning to spend 3-4 four weeks in Paris in a rented apartment purely because this offers a great discounted price and staying in one place generally means less transport costs, etc. However, so many people have said we're mad to travel all the way from Australia and not visit Provence. Maybe... but we are on a budget and having to hire a car in Provence would prove costly.

Perhaps we could base ourselves in a larger village, town or city from which to explore the countryside, preferably via public transport. Or is there somewhere so absolutely incredible that we should reconsider and stay there while hiring a car?

Is there somewhere that is quintessentially 'Provence" and must be seen? We're not as keen on the area surrounding Nice and Canne, preferring green countryside or villages to beaches. Avignon, Arles, or Aix-en-Provence seem to appear frequently but they're larger towns? Having come from Paris would they seem very similar?

Any advice from those who have travelled with two young children (aged 7 and 5) in this region would be very much appreciated! Especially those who did it on public transport.

Thanks!

1. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

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Los Angeles...
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2. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

Responders can be more helpful if you indicate the time of year you will be travelling, thanks.

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3. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

I urge you to seriously consider renting a car for the duration of your stay in Provence, as many of the really wonderful historic sites are not really easily accessible via public transportation - and, using public transportation also means that you have to follow a specific schedule (not what I want to do on vacation...) . Most of the public transportation schedules in the more rural parts of France are primarily designed to take local residents to and from work, so they aren't really of much help for tourists. Also, having a car will allow you to visit several places on a given day, enjoy a mid-day meal at a highly-regarded restaurant, AND wend your way back to your base via the scenic roads ( highlighted in green on the Michelin Maps in the Local Series).

We have based ourselves in Maussane les Alpilles every September since 1995. It is a lovely village which sit just below Les Baux, and is quite close to Arles - we find it to be perfectly situated for exploring the entire region via a series of day-trips.

A week is a really good time to set aside for a first exploration of Provence - keep in mind that virtually ALL properties are rented by the week, with the rental period starting on Saturday.

Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

Really not a lot of similarities between Paris and Avignon, Arles and Aix.

Paris itself has a population of about 2 million. The total urban area is much larger.

The populations of Avignon, Arles and Aix are respectively:

95,000

52,000

140,000

If you elect not to rent a car (It's much more effective to explore Provence with a car) staying in one of these 3 transportation "hubs" would be your best bet.

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5. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

Thank you for your responses! We are considering hiring a car IF we can find accommodation that suits our budget. The tip about rental properties being weekly, commencing on a Saturday, is very helpful. As we have young children I don't imagine we'll be traipsing around ruins as we did pre-kids! We will be travelling at a MUCH slower pace! But it would be nice to spend time relaxing and exploring villages, much of which would be a vast contrast to our life in Australia and so would be of interest to our children. They are learning French at school so they might get to test their vocabulary.

Do you think it might be an idea to arrive in a regional centre and test out the public transport system, then opt to hire a car if we feel the need to explore more? Wouldn't it be enough to discover what the larger towns have to offer? As we have children we won't be wining and dining in the countryside!

Thanks again for your advice - we're starting to realise 3-4 weeks in Paris is too long and the south of France will be more suited to our outdoorsy interests.

Toowoomba, Australia
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6. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

There are a host of places you could visit. Have you looked at the Dordogne? the Aude for Cathar castles ? We love self catering and find it an affordable way to travel. You could do worse than a bottle of wine and some cheese after the kids are in bed. I think having a car opens up a lot more for you - freedom to go where you want, go home when the children are tired, a picnic lunch with some cheese, charcuterie, baguette. Here are some accommodation sites we have used

www.frenchconnections.co.uk/en/accommodation

http://www.homeaway.co.uk/

http://www.gites-de-france.com/

http://www.ownersdirect.co.uk/

You could find the costs are less than Paris for accommodation which could go towards a car. You still have to pay for public transport. It is generally cheaper to pre book your car and the longer you have it the cheaper per day it becomes. When is this trip? If it is slightly out of season you could be surprised what you can find.

Good luck.

Los Angeles...
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7. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

There is a very nice couple who run a place called Residence Les Sources in St Remy de Provence (www.les-sources-saint-remy.com) that rents apartments for less than 7 days and using any available starting day. The apartments are modern and spacious, budget and family friendly. They are all on one level around a big yard.

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8. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

Wonderful suggestions everyone! Much appreciated.

Another question to ask: a friend and her family stayed in an amazing B&B/villa in Grasse - stunning setting from her photos. She and her husband loved it!

I'm wondering whether this might be an appropriate base as the villa is perfect for our accommodation needs (budget AND quality). Any thoughts on this area? The actual location is Châteauneuf-Grasse, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur (copied from the Airbnb website).

California
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9. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

I don't think the Grasse location would suit you, lovely as it is. Grasse lies in eastern Provence in a heavily congested region, and Châteauneuf-du-Grasse is a bit out of the way, up in the mountains--you would really need to have a car. (And, I should add, driving here can be a bit of an adventure, given the narrow, winding roads.) If you're willing to consider the eastern part of Provence, the area near Nice is your best bet for getting around without a car. You can cover quite a lot by way of the train and/or bus, along the coast as well as inland..

Brisbane, Australia
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10. Re: Good base for one week stay (family with two young children)

I have today posted on this forum in answer to another query about staying in Provence with children.

We have recently stayed for the second time at Mas Saint Antoine in Rognonas, a village 10 minutes' drive south of Avignon. We have found this very central for visiting many of the villages in Provence. In much less than an hour you can be in one of several medieval villages. Rognonas is less than a 10 minute drive to the TGV and from there you are only half an hour from Marseilles. From Rognonas it is a very easy drive to Arles and the Carmargue, quite a very different part of Provence. There are markets to be visited every day in surrounding villages. Nearby is the village of Chateaurenard. Tours of the castle ruins are given at 3pm daily. The Mas itself is a 17th century converted farmhouse and the outbuildings have been converted to self-catering apartments (gites), some of which will accommodate 2 adults and 2 children and there is also a fenced swimming pool. Check out their website

www.massaintantoine.com

I would say your best option would be to rent a car in Provence. There is a bus service running from Avignon through Rognonas and on to other villages but it would be rather time consuming. Shop around rental car agencies and I'm sure you will find a small economic car suitable for your needs.

Edited: 05 March 2014, 05:32