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5 days in Provence, Need help:)

I am taking the Eurostar from London and will arrive in Avignon Sunday at 2 p.m. I want to stay in the Provence area until Friday a.m. I am wondering if I should drive or just take train/bus around. Also, I am basing myself in Cassis and Gordes if driving, Cassis and Avignon if taking public transit. Not sure if this is the right way to go. Want to experience small town culture, therefore I prefer not staying in Avignon. However, do these places shut down early at night? We like to have late dinners/drinks.

My driving itinerary is:
Sunday: Pick up car in Avignon, go to Cassis (1.5 hour)
Monday: Cassis, Calanques
Tuesday: Head 1.5 hour to to Gordes (market day) explore Luberon villages (Rousillon)
Wed: Day trip to Isle la Sorgue, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, maybe Orange
Thursday: Day trip (1 hour) to Saint Remy, Les Baux, Arles
Friday: drop car off, explore Avignon-head to Paris on TGV in afternoon

Train/Bus Itinerary:
Sunday-Continue on Eurostar Train to Marseille, bus to Cassis
Mon: Cassis, Calanques
Tuesday: Head to Avignon (explore in afternoon) maybe visit Aix in provence on the way via bus/train.
Wed:Day trip to Saint Remy, Les Baux, Arles
Thurs: Day trip/Minivan tour of Luberon, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Orange

With Train/Bus, I will not be able to see Isle La Sorgue. Thanks for any and all feedback!

Posted by
784 posts

I would definitely drive. I've done it and it's pretty easy. I also suggest you base yourself somewhere other than Gordes. I love the town, but it is extremely congested, especially on market day. For day-tripping, I think St Remy or Isle la Sorgue would be more central. I stayed in a vacation rental in Maubec, a small village in the Luberon, which worked well for us.

Posted by
7175 posts

You really do need a car if you want to experience Provence as you seem to desire.
If you decide to stick to trains and buses I would do something like this...
TGV to Marseille for 1 night (or head to Aix-en-Provence)
Train to Arles for 3 nights
Train to Nimes/Montpellier
Bus to Les Baux/St Remy
Train to Avignon for 1 night
Orange then TGV to Paris

Posted by
136 posts

Thanks for the replies! Never thought to catch the TGV from Orange! Thanks. Thinking Gordes is a good place to stay (found place right outside it to stay) since there seems to be somewhat of a nightlife ( i could be wrong) but still a small town.

Posted by
49 posts

We recently stayed at a VRBO property (#630978) in L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue and it was an amazing town and house. The town has it's market day on Sunday and I would highly recommend hitting that one, it is huge and offers the benefit of being on flat ground. We weren't that impressed by Gourdes and a market day there would be a nightmare. We were there in late April and EVERYTHING was closed down on Monday (well, there were a couple of places open, but not much), so prepare early for whatever you want for dinner that night (buy at market day?). I agree that you want to get a car, the towns aren't so far apart, but why mess up the trip waiting for public transportation? We loved Roussillon and St. Remy and one of our favorite restaurants was Gus Restaurant on Victor Hugo in St. Remy. Pont Du Gard is definitely worth the drive as well. Enjoy, you'll have a fabulous time.

Posted by
1078 posts

Drive, and there is plenty of nightlife in Avignon and Cassis. Be aware that hiking the Calanques is pretty strenuous and be prepared to bring water, and the parking is limited and expensive(€8 to €10) so you will probably walk to the trails from where you are staying, or, suggest you take a cab-inside Cassis, minimum fare is €7.
Also, the "trails" are pretty dicey in spots so make sure you have the right shoes, like good trainers or light hiking shoes. We were just there in April, and to the end of the one by the marina was a good 2 hours in and out. Also if there is a fire warning, the trails are closed. Do see the Carrieres de Lumieres which is in a underground quarry under Les Baux-it is breathtaking but take a jacket or sweater as it's about a constant 55F inside.
Finally, if driving you might want to stretch and go to Grasse and visit and tour one of the perfume factories, really interesting, but--no discounts!

Posted by
136 posts

Thanks for the tip about Gordes being dead at night, and also for the tip about where to learn about perfume!

I am still torn about where to stay for five nights. I think i definitely want to rent the car and drive from Avignon to Cassis for two nights. Then i am trying to figure out where to stay after there....thinking Roussilon might be better than Gordes? Want to spend at least one day going to villages, wineries in Luberon. So my dilema now is do I just stay in Luberon for the last three nights with a day trip to St. remy, Arles, Les Baux, and another day trip to Isle Sorgue, Chateau du pape (sp?)? Or do I pack up on my last day to stay in St. Remy to visit the surrounding sights (arles, les baux) . Maybe the order of things should be different? Am i doing too much?

Also, is giving Avignon a half day enough to see the sights ? Thanks

Posted by
3696 posts

A number of trips to the area and my favorite base town is St. Remy. It is centrally located and definitely has a lot more going for it than Gordes. All the places you want to visit are within easy driving distance of St. Remy. It has great restaurants, shopping and a market that is great. I went to the market in Gordes and I was not really impressed. However, it is worth a lunch and then drive to the Abbey de Senague.(sp?) Beautiful place. I think Wed. is the market in St. Remy and if you stay there parking will not be a problem, otherwise get there early. I think that is the big market day and there is another one on Sat. with just food.

Posted by
49 posts

I provided the wrong VRBO property number in L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue. It's actually 630978a.

Posted by
136 posts

I am just curious, since many have said St. Remy is a good spot for day trips, I guess I can take day trips from there to Isle la Sorgue & Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and another day to Gordes, Luberon. But I almost feel it is better/closer to stay in Luberon for these two days trips rather than St. Remy since they are east.

Posted by
8 posts

All the towns and sights listed above are worth a visit, but consider how much time you want to spend in a car, wrangling navigation apps and peage (the highway tolls in Provence are frequent, expensive, and don't consistently take our U.S. chip and signature credit cards). We've kept ourselves to two sights per day (e.g, Nimes and Pont du Gard) so as to savor the experience. You could easily lose three hours in a town on market day (but what a delightful way to lose those hours! As I write this we are eating our "Mediterranean diet" of cheese, olives, bread, saucisson, fabulous tapenade, and Bandol wine purchased at this morning's market in Loumarin, while looking at the sun set over the bay at St Cyr sur Mer). Enjoy your visit! Demanding schedules are for the work week, not your holiday😉

Posted by
10349 posts

Two comments: for night life, Aix-en-Provence is a university town with the accompaning night life. It's a thirty minute drive to Cassis from there.
Second, the calanque trail is slippery because the rocks have been polished smooth with useage. You need good footwear. I used a hiking pole there.

Posted by
49 posts

Not sure I'd plan a day to go to L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue and another day to go to Gordes, etal since they are both in the same general area. We found L'isle-sur-la-Sorgue to be very convenient if you want to go both east and west (and north/south). Not sure the same would be true for St. Remy, but may take a little more planning.