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7 nights in Provence- where to home base?

We'll be spending about a week in Provence next May (out of our 2 week vacation) and want to rent a house or apartment in small town for about 7 nights. Right now I'm thinking Vaison de Romaine, but am open to other suggestions. We may spend a night in Avignon when we arrive from Barcelona or before heading to Paris.

Here's what we've liked or not from our two trips to Italy which may assist in recommendation or confirmation that Vaison de Romaine might be the right choice.

  • We rented a farmhouse outside of Cortona, Italy for a week several years ago. We were too far outside of town and had to drive to Cortona for dinner or do anything. While there were a couple wine shops in Cortona, the immediate area did not have a lot of wineries. However, it was centrally situated for day trip exploration by car to Siena, Montalpulciano (we loved), and Chianti region and train to Florence.

  • Last trip to Italy, we spent 3 nights in Montalcino and abosuletely loved it. Stay at a hotel, and spent a day in town just wandering, cafe hopping, and wine tasting at a few of the Enotecas. We really enjoyed driving the country side and visiting a couple of wineries. Wish we stayed more than 3 nights.

  • Our last trip to Italy ended in Sorento. We stayed up the hill at a hotel overlooking the bay, but still within easy walking distance to all the restaurants and shops of Sorrento. 5 nights was perfect, but if we had a couple more days, we would have just relaxed a bit more.

  • Our preference is small towns (above) over cities (Rome, Florence, etc). We are into good wine, so that's one reason Vaison de Romaine sounds like a good home base. But we'd want to see Pont du Gard and many other sights in Provenance as day trips. Maximum time limit in a car for day tripping is 2 hours. Much more than that and we get the feeling we spent too much time in a car. If we spent 7 nights, we'd probably do our day trips 4 days, and just hang out and enjoy the other two days.

Look forward to anyone's suggestions.

Posted by
3545 posts

Arles is a gd base or nearby.
Many fine restaurants, farmers mrket, roman arena and all around a great french town.
Lots of villages are a short drive away.

Posted by
10337 posts

The car will give you great flexibility for visiting rural locations.
With a car there are many home base locations to consider, including Gigondas or Vaison la Romaine.
Other rural locations popular with travelers here are: St. Remy, Rousillon, and Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

About Arles, we enjoyed Arles and have homebased from there. But one thing I learned is: if you're sleeping in the historic section, consider that it's not car friendly. Overnight parking is problematic. If you stay there with a car, you probably want to select lodging that provides or facilitates secure overnight parking. We did and I was glad.

You probably don't want to use the car to visit Avignon, or Nimes. Those are best gotten to by train and then explored by walking, or a combination of walking and bus.

Posted by
10337 posts

You mentioned Provence wine. Some wine critics are not especially impressed by Provencal wines, especially rosés.
Les Baux de Provence is a full-bodied red wine that has received good marks from the experts, I think it's in the spectacular medieval hilltop village of the same name. I don't know if there are accommodations there.

Posted by
351 posts

Hmmm. I'm no wine connoisseur but I found the rose wines in Provence to be particularly delicious. Light, but full of flavor.

Posted by
1005 posts

Vaison is a good choice, since it's slightly larger than some of the other villages mentioned above and in the heart of the Cotes du Rhone region. You should also consider St-Remy, which like Vaison is a good-sized town. It's a bit more central to the Provence sights than Vaison is--but farther away from the best wine country. I wouldn't do Arles or Avignon if you don't want to stay in a city. If you REALLY want to get away from it all, consider renting an apartment at Le Mas Perreal, not far from Roussillon. I stayed there in May and fell in love with the location--they have vineyards on their property.

Posted by
3696 posts

St remy would be a perfect choice and easy to drive in and out of. Arles can be a headache with your car depending on your hotel.
We visited some wonderful wineries in the area. However I am not a wine snob so maybe I have lower standards. The ambience and scenery only added to the experience.

Posted by
177 posts

Check out Goult. Centrally located, close to the major east/west road, a quiet village with several nice Airbnb homes.

Posted by
7124 posts

I think if you have a car and are looking for a farmhouse then a great spot is the area surrounding Tarascon. It has good road links north to Avignon, south to Arles, east to St Remy and west to Nimes. Enjoy.

Posted by
1525 posts

Thanks for the great suggestions. Gives me a lot to look into, lots of potential home bases, and a bit more research on wine. I normally would turn my nose up on rose wines, but we acquired a bottle of rose in Montalcino that was fabulous. I'll have to look through our pile of Wine Spectators for articles and information on Provencal wines. I think I remember reading that wines further north were more full bodied reads. While we love wine, this is our first trip to France (excluding 24 hours in Paris 8 years ago) and I'm really excited to see all the historic sites in the area.

I'm sure there will be many more questions to come.....

Posted by
541 posts

The snobbery on rosés are mostly a North American thing, not a French thing. I have no idea why. Where wine is concerned, I defer to the French. But being from Ground Zero of beer Mecca (Pliny for you non-believers!) you will also be at GZ for rosés. Chateauneuf du Pape is also close by. Awesome wines as the price dictates in this hemisphere. We spent a week in Arles. We chose it because of the fact we could day trip and go home and walk to dinner at a good restaurant. I found that a harder combo than Tuscany. It didn't feel big but just know where to park. St. Remy was almost shuttered when we went in a mid spring but it looked like it would be beautiful in season and there is enough around it to keep you busy for a down day.

P.S. I'm no wine expert!

Posted by
5470 posts

Read Peter Mayle's book A Year in Province. He talks about the wine, the pastis and of course the food!

Pam

Posted by
10337 posts

The subject of Provence rosés has come up. Here's one expert's opinion on Provence rosé, quoted from his book, French Wines, by Robert Joseph:

"Provence's famous rosé is a relatively modern invention, and most of it is deserving of the contempt with which it is treated. If you want to enjoy wines that really exploit the full potential of this glorious region [Provence], head for appellations like Bandol, Cassis, Palette, and Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence, and the village of Les Baux-de-Provence, within that last appellation." [emphasis added]

Posted by
1525 posts

I found a couple great feature articles in Wine spectator on Cotes Du Rhone. But i think the only way my husband and I will be able to confirm which village will be the best home base, is to start trying Cote du Rhone Wines to see what we like..

Posted by
2244 posts

We find that wines are really a hit or miss proposition. We really enjoyed the chilled Rose's at Bouchons in Lyon, just excellent. But bad wine is certainly not hard to find.

Posted by
541 posts

Here's a good article on the current thought of rosés:

http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/may/17/a-good-year-for-the-roses

I just got back from 10 days on a French beach and by far the most popular drink with the French was Whispering Angel rosé. Every sun lounger had a silver bucket and a bottle of pink wine next to it. I think the old stigma is a little dated. They aren't what they were a few years ago. It doesn't mean you have to all the sudden like it but a revisit every once in awhile isn't a bad thing either. I keep trying the new world stuff and am actually warming up to it. If you can make it down to Cassis, do a little research before you head into town and schedule winery visits. We had no luck once we got there. I think if we did it the day prior we would have been fine.

Posted by
2244 posts

+1 Leslie, that sounds like a great vacation. And I agree with you, Rose's are a bona fide category that warrant a little respect!
Some interesting info from the Wiki, and then perhaps we'll get back to the OP…

A rosé (from French rosé; also known as rosado in Portugal and Spanish-speaking countries and rosato in Italy) is a type of wine that incorporates some of the color from the grape skins, but not enough to qualify it as a red wine. It may be the oldest known type of wine, as it is the most straightforward to make with the skin contact method. The pink color can range from a pale "onion"-skin orange to a vivid near-purple, depending on the grape varieties used and winemaking techniques. There are three major ways to produce rosé wine: skin contact, saignée and blending. Rosé wines can be made still, semi-sparkling or sparkling and with a wide range of sweetness levels from bone-dry Provençal rosé to sweet White Zinfandels and blushes. Rosé wines are made from a wide variety of grapes and can be found all around the globe.

Posted by
1525 posts

I like that this post has drifted to the topic of wine.

My husband and I spent the day in San Francisco, and stopped in a wine shop specifically to look for Cotes du Rhone wines. We purchased two bottles, both reasonably priced at around $20 per bottle. I'm drinking a glass wine right now from Vacqueryras and it's yummy. The other bottle is from Gigondas. Both villages are about 20 minutes from Vaison la Romaine, so I'm really leaning toward home basing there. We have been so immersed in California wines, that I'm excited to learn more about Cotes du Rhone wines.