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5-6 days South of France (Provence/Riviera) itinerary help!

Hi,

My partner and I are planning to travel to Paris and the south of France from September 23-October 4, 2024. We will be spending 4 nights in Paris, then taking the TGV train south, spending 6 nights in Provence and the Riviera, and then flying back to the US from Nice.

I think we would like to spend the first 4 nights in Provence and the final two in Nice (possible side trips to Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Eze, or Monaco). My partner has never been to Europe before so we would like a mix of historic/culturally vibrant cities, small towns, and natural sights. We prefer to use public transportation when we travel, so we would like to get a car for 1-2 of those nights in Provence at most.

The ideas I have been playing around with for places to stay include some combination of Avignon, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Gordes, or Roussillon, with at least one night in Arles being the only requirement. What would your best recommendations be for where to stay/what to see based on these conditions?

Posted by
6670 posts

Seems like Arles would be your best bet since you'll be there at least one night, just make it more nights. You could take the TGV to Avignon and get a car there, about an hour's drive from Arles, or change at Avignon to a local train to Arles, where you could get the car. Arles is very interesting itself, and close to the Pont du Gard, Nimes, St-Remy, the Camargue, and other worthwhile places (my Roman bias is showing). Your visit might coincide with the grape harvest, though you don't want to be driving if you're tasting.

Trains and buses work in Provence, but a car gives you much more flexibility in your limited time. You could drop it where you got it, or somewhere along the way (Aix?) to Nice, and take the train from there.

Posted by
7067 posts

I would indeed use Arles as a base for your Provence nights, and just keep a car the whole time. You won't need it every day, but since you'll need it to get from Avignon TGV to Arles, you might as well keep it. Unless you take a train to Arles itself, but that is slower - there is a convenient direct train from Paris, though.
You can easily reach the Luberon on a day trip from Arles by car; places are close to each other.
And you can return the car in Avignon TGV, or even drive to Nice airport (faster) to return the car.

Posted by
2 posts

after looking at these comments and the Rick Steves Provence/Riviera guide I think I've come up with a couple of options:

option 1:
Saturday 28 Sep, train from Paris to Avignon, explore Avignon and pick up car, spend night in Avignon
Sunday 29 Sep, drive to Arles via the Luberon (or via Pont du Gard and Uzes), spend night in Arles
Monday 30 Sep, explore Arles, spend night in Arles
Tuesday 1 Oct, drive back to Avignon, return car, train to Marseille, spend night in Marseille
Wednesday 2 Oct, train to Nice in the early afternoon, spend night in Nice
Thursday 3 Oct, all day in Nice, spend night in Nice
Friday 4 Oct, fly back to the US from Nice

option 2:
Saturday 28 Sep, train from Paris to Nimes, pick up car in Nimes, drive to Pont du Gard, spend night in Nimes or Uzes
Sunday 29 Sep, return to Nimes, return car, train to Arles, spend night in Arles
Monday 30 Sep, explore Arles, spend night in Arles
Tuesday 1 Oct, train from Arles to Marseille, spend night in Marseille
Wednesday 2 Oct, train to Nice in the early afternoon, spend night in Nice
Thursday 3 Oct, all day in Nice, spend night in Nice
Friday 4 Oct, fly back to the US from Nice

Would appreciate any insight as to which itinerary is best, or any suggestions on how these can be adjusted. I'm trying to avoid long drives or days with lots of time spent in the car (we'd strongly prefer to be on foot or on a train) and definitely not trying to get stuck with a drop charge for a one-way car rental (I have researched this option, and it is prohibitively expensive).