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8 days in Provence in July -rental car for 5 days and 4 days using public transport.

From Sat 19/7 for 5 days, my husband, 14 year old daughter and I will rent a car. From Thurs 24 to Sat 26, we will use public transport from either Aix or Marseille to Nice and we plan to travel around for the 3 days on public transport.
This is our 1st trip to Provence and Nice. I need help with our stay in Provence and Nice. Your comments including where to stay will be greatly appreciated.

  1. Sat 19/7: Arrive in Nimes around 9 am & collect car. 1 day for Nimes & Arles. Stay the nite in Arles or near Arles.
  2. Sun 20: St Remy's & Avignon. Stay the nite outside Avignon.
  3. Mon 21: Start early for Orange. Then rest of day in Gordes, Senanque Abbey and Roussillin. Where to stay the nite -near Avignon?
  4. Tues 22: Small villages and arrive in Aix en Provence. Stay the nite near Aix.
  5. Wed 23: Possible to drive to Valensole Plateau? Then back to Aix en Provence to stay the nite. Or is it better to get to Marseille and spend the day there. Night in Marseille?
Posted by
4132 posts

Sunny, I think you may be exaggerating the distances between sights in the Rhone Valley area of Provence.

You can stay in the same place for all, for instance Arles or St. Remy, and save a ton of time.

There's really no reason to move every night unless you all really like packing and unpacking.

By the way, most of the sights you list are easy to visit by train, i.e. Nimes, Arles, Avignon, Orange. A car is useful to see the countryside and to visit places served only by bus (Luberon towns, Pont du Garde, St. Remy, Les Baux).

Posted by
11294 posts

I'll just add that Adam is 100% right: for the destinations you want to see, you only need one hotel location. And I would want one day each for Nimes and Arles (each has several important sights).

If you are using Rick Steves books for the trip, be sure to get his Provence And The French Riviera book. It has MUCH more information on this region than his general France book.

Posted by
16894 posts

If you have Rick's Provence book and are estimating drive times with the map on p. 552, note that there are decimal points that may be hard to read, so Aix to Marseille takes a half hour, .5, not 5 hours. Dropping the car in Nice probably won't add to your car rental rate. In the past, I had no trouble navigating into Nice centre and to the train station, which has car rental offices.

Posted by
3696 posts

You can easily drive to these locations and stay in the beautiful town of St. Remy.... lots of great shopping, restaurants and a wonderful market, as well as easy to get in and out of for your days trips.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you everyone for your helpful comments.
I was unwell for several days and therefore, I didn't respond earlier.
Will take note that I should set aside a day each for Nimes & Arles and that I should drop my car off in Nice instead of Marseille.
Can anyone recommend some places in or near St Remy's if I use it as my base?
2nd, is St Tropez worth staying for a day? If so, what hotels can you recommend which are in the budget range?
3rd, I would very much like to see the lavender fields. Which are the best areas/villages for this?
Thank you.

Posted by
396 posts

A few weeks ago my family (four of us) stayed at the Mas de Ravert for four nights, which is just a few kilometers outside St Remy. The prices were reasonable, the family room has plenty of space with a private bedroom for two and in the common area two more twin beds, great breakfast that comes with the room, friendly owner and his wife. The room was very attractive with exposed stone walls and beamed ceiling. My younger daughter prefers homey places and rootedness on vacations. They have dogs and cats to pet, grounds to wander, a pool, ping pong and billiards. It's highly rated on TripAdvisor.

We saw many things in four days, but I think all of us felt these were the highlights:

1) Les Carrières des Lumières, les Baux de Provence
2) Eygalieres market Friday am - a beautiful little town with a jewel box of a market, not far from St Remy
3) We attended a course camarguaise, which is a 'bull game' in which participants try to snatch a ribbon from between a bull's horn. Course camarguaise are held all over the region during the warm months. We attended a local-flavored event in Cabannes with six bulls in a very intimate-sized ring. The bulls live to fight again. Not for the faint of heart due to the possibility of blood/injury but exciting and a unique cultural experience.
4) Château des Baux 'castle'
5) Pont du Gard is extremely impressive

Posted by
123 posts

The Senanque Abbey had beautiful lavender there (that was early June). We also saw plenty of lavender just driving around Provence. Vaison la Romaine and Ilse Sur la Sorgue were two villages we enjoyed in that area.

Posted by
27 posts

Agree that somewhere between Avignon and St. Remy is the most convenient location for Provence. Having a car is very handy, even in Cote d'Azur. You'll have to decide between driving along the coast or through the Gorges du Verdon to Cote d'Azur. I'd pick the Gorges, but both are very scenic. Disagree with Harold in that most of the Provence book is in France 2014, but agree that you should use it instead because it has everything you need and is half the size. Know when and where the weekly markets are - they'll slow you down significantly, (which is nice as long as you're not trying to get to a specific site before it closes or starts raining).

We stayed in Cote d'Rhone, which was very nice, but created much more driving for us overall. Here's what we did on each day:

1) Drove in from Carcassonne, stopping at Nimes for lunch near Maison Carree and a bit of walking around near the Arena. Needed to get to our accommodations and do laundry, so didn't go inside either. Went to Malaucene to do laundry and have dinner, but the dryer was broken. Took our wet laundry to Vaison-la-Romaine and had dinner while it dried.

2) Market day in Bedoin, decided to drive to the top of Mont Ventoux afterwards (bring a jacket!) and then the remainder of the Cote d'Rhone drive. My favorite part was the drive west from Suzette.

3) Orange, Pont du Gard, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, in that order. Thoroughly enjoyed the Theatre Antique in Orange. Pont du Gard was cool - we parked on Rive Droite, which meant more walking but far fewer crowds.

4) Intended to drive directly to Les Baux but it was market day in St. Remy so we stopped there. Big mistake - we spent a lot more time there than expected, and with rain approaching decided to go straight to Arles. Ponied up for the combo ticket and visited the arena, theater, and museum. At this point I was starting to get burned out on Roman structures, but really enjoyed the museum. It was pouring when we were finished at the museum; drove back to Les Baux just as the rain let up, ready for dinner. Went to the ruined city 10 minutes before closing and decided to skip it because we were hungry. Didn't like our choices in Les Baux so went back to St. Remy. Never got to see Glanum.

5) Our day in the Luberon. Drove to St. Saturnin-les-Apt, Rousilliion, Pont Julien, Bonnieux, Menerbes, and Gordes, in that order. Very scenic driving all around. Leaving Gordes, I saw the sign to Senanque and decided to go check it out. Probably the nicest stop, even though the lavender wasn't in full bloom.

6) Drove to Cote d'Azur via Cassis. Took the 3 calanques tour, which I loved, but my teenage boys both panned. Route des Cretes was the highlight. Spent this and the following night in Juan-les-Pins.

7) Drove to Eze-le-Village via the middle cornice, through Monaco and on to Menton. Walked around Menton a bit, then back to Monaco. Stopped at the harbor to take some pictures, and then to Nice via the grand cornice. Had dinner in Vieux Nice. Best part of the day was the driving from Nice to Menton and back. My wife commented that she wished we had booked our room in Villefranche-sur-Mer instead of Juan-les-Pins.

8) Drove the Route Napolean to Moustiers-Saint-Marie via the southern rim of the Gorges du Verdon. Every stop along the way was great. Forgot to get gas in Grasse, and was unsure if we'd make it to Moustiers on a quarter tank (we did, easily - glad we had a diesel).

9) Au Revoir Provence!