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4 Days in Provence ~ St. Remy Base

We are a family of five (3 adults and two teenagers) and will be based in St. Remy.
We will have a car, which we'll be picking up from Avignon.
I would appreciate any suggestions with regards to our itinerary. We are interested in some of the Roman historic sites (but not too many!). We would also also love to balance it out with pretty villages and lovely scenery.
I'd like to know if our plan is too much or too ambitious.

MONDAY - Pick up car from Avignon and head to our base in St Remy - late afternoon and evening in St. Remy

TUESDAY - Les Baux (we're interested in Carrieres des Lumieres) & Arles

WEDNESDAY - St Remy Market, Pont du Gard, & Nimes

THURSDAY - Avignon (I have read that this seems to need an entire day or at least a half day). I wonder if Avginon is nicer or should we try Uzes?

FRIDAY - 2-3 Luberon/Cotes du Rhone Villages - this is the hard part - deciding on which ones. I have read that Bonnieux,
Gordes, Goult, Roussillon - may be the best.

Thank you so much.

Posted by
2728 posts

Nîmes and Pond du Gard require a full day.

I'm absolutely dumbfounded as to the appeal of markets, always seems to me a poor use of time for visits to Europe. It's people looking at oranges and jam jars for heaven's sake.

Gordes, Goult and Roussillion are about 10 minutes apart and can be visited in a few hours total. Start at 5 pm plenty of daylight to visit all 3 and less crowded.

The lumières thing will be closed, but if you show up at the gate for either Les Baux or Pont du Gard about 5pm you can stay after closing and picnic having either place mostly to yourself.

Posted by
386 posts

We stayed near St Remy and saw similar sights. We thought it was pretty ideally located for day trips. There are many country houses in that area that create choice of accommodation outside the towns if you prefer that. There are a good number of restaurants in the St Remy area. We really loved Carrieres des Lumieres because it was refreshingly different and surprisingly immersive. Glanum is very close to St Remy. The many well-preserved Roman buildings elsewhere in the region kind of bump it from from what would be a B experience elsewhere to a C experience. But we did enjoy Glanum as a sort of late afternoon saunter about the ruins in a pretty setting. We were in Provence in the 2nd week of May and the weather was glorious. There is also a triumphal arch just across the road from Glanum that is a 15 minute experience just sitting in a cleared space. Another unusual activity we did was attending a local bullfight. There are bullfights all over the region occurring with some frequency. We saw it in a very small-sized ring in a little town about 20 minutes from St Remy. The bull is not killed during the fight; the bullfighter(s) is on foot. It is a bit bloody. We just walked in and could sit as close as we wanted. We actually moved a few rows up so that when the bull fighters jumped over the wall to escape from the bull they didn't jump into our laps : ) It was fascinating and intense. I have another post on this forum where I describe how I found the schedule for bullfights in the area on the web. I believe there are also bullfights in the arena at Arles, which are a step up in terms of the level of both bull and bullfighter.

Posted by
479 posts

"Carrieres des Lumieres" - By all means; it was a highlight of our trip.

Of the villages -- all are charming one way or another. Rousillon, however, is unique with its Ochre Trail. It doesn't take long, but is a fascinating and colorful stroll (great photo ops).

If markets stay on your short list, consider Thursday morning in L'Isle sur la Sorgue. It's smaller than the Sunday market (featuring many more antiques), but is still an eyeful with great food and possible souvenir/gift shopping. My wife left more than a few Euros there. Also, Sorgue and its waterwheels are interesting in their own right. http://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/islesorg/islesorg.htm Sorgue appears large on the maps, but all the sites are concentrated in the town center, encircled by a ring road. (Should you go, look at a map (Googlemap/Satellite is very helpful) in advance so you can drive to the free parking off Cours du Portalet (unfortunate street name) on the north side. Even when full, the parking spots turn over regularly -- Sorgue was our base in Provence last year -- and we never had to wait for more than a few minutes to park when it was busy.)

Posted by
2865 posts

We vastly preferred Uzes to Avignon. Avignon's only special attractions are the half-destroyed bridge and the mostly empty former palace of the popes. I'd definitely put Roussillon on my list.

Posted by
183 posts

Thank you all so much for taking the time to share your wonderful tips.

Tom, now that I thought about it, I realize that I fully agree with you about markets and your comment had me smiling. Yes, it would be a poor use of time for us. I wasn't thinking and thought that it's the thing to do, since it's always suggested.
Lumieres will be closed? Oh no. I must go and check.

I'm going to share your replies with the rest of the family soon.

Posted by
2811 posts

I'd definitely choose Uzes over Avignon any day. Pont de Gard doesn't take up much time, but Nimes would, so I think doing both of those plus the St. Remy market in a day is much too much. The St. Remy market is fantastic, and I think visiting French markets is a very good use of one's time. We do it all the time.

Posted by
2728 posts

By closed I mean closed by 5 pm or so, Go earlier for that but sunset at Les Baux is very nice.

Posted by
703 posts

when we stayed there we tried to visit places that were close to each other and did manage to fit in a few in each day. eg: it takes a while to drive to port du gard from st remy ( but well worth it)
while at gordes we visited a few sites, including village des bories ( very interesting/different) and fontaine de vaucluse, to name a few. there is so much to see in a relatively small area, but plan your days
we stayed in st remy but went to the market in l isle sur la sorgue.
yes there are plenty of food stuffs ( as mentioned previously) but its the atmosphere that is worth experiencing, in a very nice town.
if you don't want to spend much time, we viisted gordes on the day of their market and it was much smaller , but with some of the same vendors, so took no time to look around.
you can do some of the places that are close to St Remy in the afternoon. eg van gogh hospital, les baux

hope this helps.

Posted by
386 posts

We attended the market at Eygalieres, which was on Friday mornings a few years ago (and probably still is!). It's a beautiful little town and the market was maybe 3-4 blocks in length. Relaxing and just the right size, not too crowded but plenty to browse.

We also enjoyed Le Baux and Vaison la Romaine. Le Baux was fun with the living history exhibits. The kids had fun firing a mini crossbow. The trebuchet demo was cool. It's very near Carrieres des Lumieres. There is a long steep stairway up to the fortress entrance and steep stairs, almost climbing, to visit some parts of the site.

The museum at Port du Gard is world class and goes into incredible detail about it's construction and the economics of the time. I think we spent 3 hours in total there.

We stayed here, just outside St Remy: Mas de Ravert: Chemin de la Thèze - Route de Saint Rémy 13103 Saint Etienne du Grès Tél. : +33 (0)4 90 49 18 11 The B&B is situated on the road between Saint Rémy de Provence and the small city of Saint Etienne du Grès. It's a comfortable place and the family is very welcoming. We played pool every evening to relax before bed : )

Posted by
177 posts

I can't comment on villages in provence but am researching for my own trip in June. Just wanted to say that some of my fondest memories are of trips to European markets. In 2014, we went to one near Cambridge, England that had been there every weekend for more than 100 years. The town was historic and we tasted all kinds of local meat pies and other foodstuffs. Last year, we visited one in a little town outside Florence, Italy with our cooking class teacher. We loved being the only Americans elbowing our way in between the little old Italian ladies for the best produce. We watched a fishmonger skin an octopus and tasted porchetta and dozens of local cheeses. We bought so many delicious things that allowed us to stop for impromptu sunset picnic dinners the whole next week through Tuscany! Wouldn't miss a market experience in France!

Posted by
396 posts

I rather agree with Tom about markets in France. I can see the appeal if you are self-catering but I usually stay in B&Bs or small hotels that may discourage taking food (other than fruit etc.) into your room. For a picnic when walking I'd rather nip into one of those little shops that sell fruit, nuts, yoghurts & drinks all in one place and call into the nearest baker for a fresh petit pain. Best done before setting off, as they may be closed across the middle of the day.

Having said that, I still wear a light gathered skirt that I bought at a market in Gaillac (tried it first on between the clothes racks!) and a pair of very lightweight handmade sandals (sold by the maker at a market in Forcalquier) to rest my feet from heavier walking shoes on a hot day. She was very patient with my trying on umpteen pairs before I made up my mind.

Posted by
183 posts

Thanks again everyone so much for your helpful replies.
As of now, our approach towards going to the market is to go if we have time and if it won't be an obstacle with regards to anything else we may have planned. We'll play it by ear. We'll go if we can, but I don't think we'll be disappointed if we miss out either. :)