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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durham, NC

    Travel in Provence

    Hi All,

    My wife, daughter and I are planning to go to Barcelona and Provence this coming summer. I've been thinking of taking to the train from Barcelona to Avignon and renting an apartment and a car for a week or so there. We have a pretty long list of things we want to see in the area including Avignon itself, Arles, Orange, Pont Du Gard, Nimes, Aix etc. Has anyone made a trip like this and has any experiences/advice to share? My daughter is particularly interested in Van Gogh and seeing places where he lived and worked.

    Thanks
    Howard

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    Yes, we've been there. We used Arles as our HQ. All the places you mentioned are worth seeing. Also, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is worth a stop. As elsewhere in France, you will have to be on a tour to go inside Beaucastel, Vieux Telegraph or the other well-known chateaux.

    We may hang out in in Aix-en-Provence this spring (pronounced "ex"). Also, I thought the Nimes locals said "Neem-uh" but elsewhere everyone says just "Neem."

    If you want to do something special, ask your concierge -- they are very resourceful and talk to the other concierges. We asked for a "bird guide" to take us to the famous Camargue wetlands. She gives us a blank look, but recovered and produced a young man with a car from a nearby research institute. (BTW, we went in late Oct. after the mosquitos had disappeared.)

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by sagegrouse View Post
    Yes, we've been there. We used Arles as our HQ. All the places you mentioned are worth seeing. Also, Chateauneuf-du-Pape is worth a stop. As elsewhere in France, you will have to be on a tour to go inside Beaucastel, Vieux Telegraph or the other well-known chateaux.
    Did you rent a car or get everywhere by train or tours?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    We took the TGV from Paris to Lyon and rented a car at the station there. You'll want a car to bop around the countryside.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    Quote Originally Posted by sagegrouse View Post
    We took the TGV from Paris to Lyon and rented a car at the station there. You'll want a car to bop around the countryside.
    Also, BTW, my experience renting a car in France is about 50-50. Sometimes OK, sometimes "What was I thinking?"

    The last problematic rental was to take two grandchildren to the Loire Valley after a tour around Paris. I rented in downtown Paris and had trouble with traffic in and out of the city. I also found the toll stations a nightmare (and I pretend to speak French). Should have taken the train to Chartres or a town on the Loire and driven locally.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by sagegrouse View Post
    We took the TGV from Paris to Lyon and rented a car at the station there. You'll want a car to bop around the countryside.
    I agree with renting a car outside of the big city. Paris is rough city center.

    If you are into wine at all not only do the Chatenuef area but see if you can get up to the Cote Rotie area. Beautiful and wine is spectacular.

    We should be in Lyon this summer. Lets hope it happens .

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    French roads are generally well-maintained and driving outside of the Périphérique of Paris is fairly easy. As long as you like traffic circle roundabouts, of course.
    “Bob says run! Bob says run! Bob says run!”

    {good pick-up after handoff}

    “Bob was right! Bob was right! Bob was right!”

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    French roads are generally well-maintained and driving outside of the Périphérique of Paris is fairly easy. As long as you like traffic circle roundabouts, of course.
    I drove in Italy for a week. I'm hoping France is easier but I never drove in Rome and I'm not planning to try Paris either. Of course also I wouldn't want to drive in Manhattan or Boston.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    In Europe you often follow the signs to a city or town and not so much the route numbers. At a circle there may be two exits for the same city, but the better route will have larger letters.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    Quote Originally Posted by howardlander View Post
    I drove in Italy for a week. I'm hoping France is easier but I never drove in Rome and I'm not planning to try Paris either. Of course also I wouldn't want to drive in Manhattan or Boston.
    Yeh, Italy and France are two wholly different roadway experiences. Thankfully, for your next trip!
    “Bob says run! Bob says run! Bob says run!”

    {good pick-up after handoff}

    “Bob was right! Bob was right! Bob was right!”

  12. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by howardlander View Post
    Hi All,

    My wife, daughter and I are planning to go to Barcelona and Provence this coming summer. I've been thinking of taking to the train from Barcelona to Avignon and renting an apartment and a car for a week or so there. We have a pretty long list of things we want to see in the area including Avignon itself, Arles, Orange, Pont Du Gard, Nimes, Aix etc. Has anyone made a trip like this and has any experiences/advice to share? My daughter is particularly interested in Van Gogh and seeing places where he lived and worked.

    Thanks
    Howard
    My wife, two teenage children and I spent several days in Provence in March 2022, but started our trip outside of Nice and ended it in Paris. We went everywhere you listed (except Orange--ran out of time) and also had a day driving around the hill towns of the Luberon, which we would certainly recommend. Our base in Provence was an Airbnb in the town of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, just across the river from the walled town of Avignon itself. I would highly recommend the Airbnb--the hosts were great, and the apartment in a Victorian-era castle had an amazing view of Avignon, which was within walking distance if you're reasonably fit (it is hilly) and the weather is nice. If you search it on Airbnb with the information I've given you, you'll find it.

    I agree with the other posters about driving--it is fairly straightforward when you're outside of the big cities. Rental car experience was great until we got a flat tire. Actually, even that experience was OK until we got home and they tried to charge me for extra days! Long story. The TGV ride from Avignon to Paris Gare de Lyon was excellent.

    As for Van Gogh, I believe Arles has the deepest connection to him, but we were there only a few hours and focused on the Roman ruins. I do believe there are a few sites in Arles dedicated to him, but we didn't see any (other than the outside of the café that was the subject of Starry Night--it was closed for some reason). He also lived in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, but we didn't make it there. If your daughter's really into Van Gogh and you ever spend any time in Paris, take the train to Auvers-sur-Oise, which is where he died. I visited many years ago (when I was at Duke, actually), and the town did an amazing job then of pointing out landmarks he painted with information panels that included copies of his paintings for comparison to the real thing. My guess/hope is that there's even more along those lines now.

    Hope this helps. Happy travel planning!

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