I will be traveling in France next May and have 4 nights planned for Provence. I am planning on basing out of St Remy to explore the area. After Provence we will be driving to Annecy. I am wondering if it would be a better idea leave St Remy after 3 nights and go to Aix for the 4th night, or should we stay all 4 in St. Remy and see Aix as a day trip. I am also trying to determine which route to drive to Annecy to maximize scenery and still keep it a one day drive. If we are in Aix for the last night it might lend itself to driving through Grenoble. It’s our first time in the area, so any advice would be most appreciated.
My personal opinion is that I think Aix-en-Provence is more than a bit overrated and is worth perhaps an afternoon's visit, unless you're interested in visiting Cézanne's workshop, then it would take most of a day. However, 4 nights in St. Remy is a bit much too. So, perhaps the best thing would be 3 nights in St. Remy, head to Aix-en-Provence for the afternoon, sleep there, and head on east.
As for your drive, something I suggested to another person interested in the area was to take highway D531 between Villard-de-Lans and Romans-sur-Isère. You'll go through the Gorges de la Bourne. Google it and look for some photos. It's, well, a memorable drive.
Here is one photo that's typical of the route: http://www.france-voyage.com/visuals/photos/bourne-gorges-17786_w1000.jpg
Here's a video of a cyclist trying to navigate a curve: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnKNO615iWM. Not surprisingly, he turned around.
K, thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate the response. You've piqued my interest and I'll check out the drive.
It is simply not worth uprooting yourself from St Remy to spend a night in Aix, especially when it is so close to St Remy.
You probably have your itinerary already setup but I would make sure to spend some time in Arles, Avignon, Les Baux etc..
For me Arles is a must .. I love this city, there's plenty to see and also a great market (I believe it's on Saturday and Wednesday)
I'm going back to Provence this summer and will be spending 4 nights in Arles, I rented a car and will be driving to Avignon/Orange/Les Baux/Sault etc.. Hopefully I will see some Lavender fields as I missed the season the last time I was in Provence.
Have a good trip
We just came back from Provence and spent time in both L'Isle sur la Sorge and St. Remy. This allowed us to eat at a different section of restaurants and tour the towns in each area. While in L'Isle.. we drove to Gordes and Roussilon. We also enjoyed L'Isle sur la Sorgue as well but wished we could have been there on the "big" market day when there are hundreds of antique dealers there. While in St. Remy, we stayed at Villa Glallum, a short 10 minute walk to the city center. We drove to Le Baux and Arles. Highly recommend Arles especially the Saturday market.
I hit L'Isle sur la Sorgue on a Sunday in late May. There were not that many antique stands at the outdoor market--certainly nothing like the number and quality I saw in Nice. Most of the antique dealers were in the market buildings, and those tend to be open for several days over the weekend, not just on Sunday. Based on what I saw, I don't thinkmtourists looking for antiques need to contort their schedules to hit the town on Sunday. It's a big street market that's fun in its own way, but not the only one of those in Provence. Also, the town is a mob scene then and the market stands do a good job of blocking ones view of the architecture. I ended up going back a few days later, and it was easier and more pleasant to wander around without the mobs.
I was in Aix last month for 6 days and would recommend it as very much worthy of a night and day (at least). It doesn't really have many 'big sights', so its appeal is in wandering (and losing yourself) in the cobbled streets and markets and eating and drinking in the many squares. People watching is top notch. I guess if you wanted museums and churches and to drive to your hotel door, then Aix may not be a good choice.
Thanks for the feedback all, I appreciate it!
We rented a home just outside St Remy for a week in May and LOVED it. We will be going back. It's a great central base to explore from and 7 days was not enough....you can easily day trip to Luberon Hill Towns (Rousillon, Isle Sur La Sorgue, Goult etc), Les Baux and the Carrieres de Lumières (best art experience ever), Arles, Avignon, Nimes...all on gorgeous scenic roads . St Remy itself has a lot to offer as well.
You can hit Aix easily (1-1/2 hr) as well but we preferred our time elsewhere (though we did have a killer lunch there). This is a good problem to have..enjoy your planning (Rick's book was invaluable)!
Thanks, I agree about Rick's books. We used it in Italy last year and also found it invaluable. We even ran into Rick in a restaurant in Italy! I haven't booked accommodations for St. Remy, do you have a reccomendation?
What Paul said! Just did the exact same thing two weeks ago. Saint Remy is a BEAUTIFUL base for Provence. I can recommend this Airbnb (which even has A/C and it was 100 F!), five minutes from the town square:
Im renting a house in St.Remy for a week to use as a base. Its close to everything....Ive heard this is what you should do in Provence.
I drove from Arles to Annecy at the end of April and used the freeway for the trip,road tolls were 31 Euro.We stayed in Arles for seven nights and loved the town and day tripped to many towns in Provence including St Remy.We did not stop in Grenoble because we were going fron Annecy to Chamonix for a four night stay.
I am going to the area this September and decided on Arles. I wanted something central enough to venture out and see the area each day. I'd read enough about the difficulty of getting in and around Avignon so I narrowed it to St. Remy or Arles. I decided on Arles primarily because I was able to find better lodging choices.
Aix isn't as big of deal for me. It seems nice but short on the things that interest me most. I'm tentatively planning it as a day stop on the way to my next stay in the Riviera. If I don't manage to visit the places I'm most interested in before my travel day, I'll probably use the time elsewhere and skip Aix this trip.