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Advice on Nice and Provence itinerary 10D/11N late July

Hi all -

First time poster but long time reader/researcher of the forum! Thanks in advance and any suggestions would be appreciated!

This is my husband and my first time in France and we are flying [7/25/19] into Paris for a quick couple of days since it's cheaper to fly into Paris and focusing most of the trip in French Riviera and Provence. We will be spending 10D/11N in French Riviera and Provence from Saturday 7/27/19 to Tuesday 8/6/19.

My husband and I are in our 30s and want to experience a lot of this region so we want to be active but want to balance that out so that we enjoy and appreciate what we're seeing.

I wanted to know if anyone had some suggestions on whether our itinerary is too much of the same or what cities to cut out or how to better organize the routes:

We are not huge on museums and are more for ruins/sites and walking around a town and eating/snacking to get the local feel of a town. We want variety of sites! We will be renting a car in Provence but not in French Riviera.

7/27/2019 - Arrive by TGV in Nice by 5pm / Nice and dinner in Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]
7/28/2019 - Eze / Monaco and dinner in Monaco [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]
7/29/2019 - Villefranche-sur-mar / Cap Ferret / dinner in Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]

7/30/2019 - Arrive by train from Nice to Nimes by 11am / explore Nimes and pick up car in Nimes / drive to Pont du Gard / Uzes / explore and dinner in Saint Remy [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]
7/31/2019 - Orange / Châteauneuf-du-Pape / explore Avignon and dinner in Avignon [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]
8/1/2019 - Arles and dinner in Arles [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]
8/2/2019 - Cooking class outside of Saint Remy / explore Les Baux and dinner in Les Baux / come back and walk around Saint Remy after dinner [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]

8/3/2019 - Arles market / Côtes du Rhône wine road / explore Crestet and Crestet lunch / explore Gigondas and dinner in Gigondas? [OVERNIGHT NEAR VAISON LA ROMAINE]
8/4/2019 - L'Isle-sur-la-sorgue market / Roussillon / Gordes / Sault lavender fields to Vaison / dinner at Vaison La Romaine [OVERNIGHT NEAR VAISON LA ROMAINE]

8/5/2019 - Explore Vaison La Romaine / Return car in Aix en Provence / explore and dinner at Aix en Provence [OVERNIGHT IN AIX EN PROVENCE]
8/6/2019 - Leave Aix en Provence by 8am to fly out of Marseilles by 11am.

Lodging and car rental is booked, but cities can definitely be removed or switched around still!
Thank you!!

Posted by
395 posts

To improve your chances of best viewing of lavender, even in the high region of Sault, I'd consider moving this leg forward in your itinerary. The 8/4 day is pretty late in the itinerary (generally, however, it is OK. I'm not certain how the season is evolving up in that region). It also may be more efficient to hit the things in the North all at once versus going back and forth to Arles/St Remy and Orange and Gigondas/Vaison la Romaine.

In your Nice leg, reserve some time once morning to hit the market and go to the top of Castle Hill -- perhaps before heading to Eze and Monaco.

Posted by
42 posts

That’s an ambitious itinerary. We just came back from two weeks in Provence, saw most of the places on your list but not in such a short time. My main advice would be to recognize that it takes a lot longer to get from one place to another by car than you think. Except for the A7 which is comparable to an interstate in the U.S., the roads are circuitous and come in three sizes: Narrow, really narrow, and you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me narrow. Even on the “just narrow” ones the max speed limit is 80-90 kph, which works out to 50-55 mph but you can’t go that fast most of the time because of slowing down for curves, oncoming traffic, and roundabouts. Others will be 50 or even 30 kph. We stayed in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and one afternoon we decided to visit Fontaine de Vaucluse which is about 7 km away. It took 20 minutes to get there. That’s just how it is — even if you don’t get lost, which you will, even with good GPS. I think 8/3 through 8/5 on your schedule are going to be some pretty long hauls.

I will also note that if you want to do the Sunday market in Isle (which is well worth a full morning) you might consider staying there on Saturday night. Traffic and parking are very difficult there on Sunday mornings. (There is a smaller market there on Thursday btw.)

All that said we adored Provence and can’t recommend it highly enough.

Posted by
139 posts

My husband and I just got back from two weeks in France and I agree the with poster that said you have a very ambitious itinerary in Provence. We spent a week in St Remy and found that to be a great, central location to visit most of the places on your list. I don’t think it took us longer than 60 minutes to get to most of those places from St Remy. We got lucky with our rental car as it had GPS in it and it was very good. We really never got lost. A couple of times we had a small issue with the roundabouts and sometimes missed our exit. After a while we just drove around the roundabout again until we were sure which exit to take :). The roundabouts took some getting used to. There are LOTS of them but once we realized that, they seem to be a very good way to control the flow of traffic.

I also had a very long list of towns I thought we would get to see but in reality we were able to leisurely see only 2-3 towns in each day. Anymore than that and I would have felt very rushed. The market on Wednesday morning in St Remy was great! We stayed in a airBNB right in the center of town. The market was literally steps from our villa and we were blown away by it! That changed our planned itinerary right off on the first day! My suggestion to you would be to be flexible. Research and plan to see a lot knowing that you may need to scale back. You probably can’t see it all in the time you have but you will definitely enjoy what you see! Provence is amazing!!

Posted by
1183 posts

Give yourself time to visit the museum at Pont du Gard. I only gave myself an hour and I didn't get to see enough. I thought it was fascinating. Not only did it exhibit how the Pont du Gard was built but also the whole plumbing and water system in a Roman city. Did you know that the Romans set up their own water utility company and charged the residents for water? There is even a hot water tank on display and lead pipes with the utilitiy's name stamped on it.

While in Les Baux consider getting tickets to http://www.carrieres-lumieres.com/en I'd never heard of it until we went and it was one of the hilites of the trip, the images are shown on the walls inside a limestone quarry. It's just down the hill from Les Baux.

Posted by
5845 posts

I wonder why you plan to have dinner in Monaco instead of Nice? A few hours in Monaco was more than enough for us. Nice has great restaurants.
Outside of St-Remy is the asylum of St-Paul where Vincent Van Gogh was a patient and painted prolifically. You mentioned that you like seeing ruins and there are some Roman ruins nearby, across from St-Paul.

Posted by
42 posts

I echo Kathy: after two attempts to visit three villages in a day, we decided two was plenty. In my opinion visiting Provence is about getting in touch with the pace of life, not racing from town to town to see “sights.” My two cents.

Posted by
773 posts

We (me, spouse and adult child) just returned from 8 nights in Provence, staying in similar locations to you. Here are some notes.

We stayed for four nights just outside the downtown area of Saint Remy, at the wonder Sous les Figuiers. We loved being able to walk to a cafe for wine in the evening and coffee in the morning.

Spouse and I had visited Orange on a previous trip, but after seeing a Rick Steves video, we voted for Nimes instead on this trip. We much preferred the ruins and sights in Nimes over the theatre in Orange. Also, being able to compare the amphitheatre in Nimes and Arles was interesting as well. Other places: Aix (arrival day), plus a little time in Saint Remy; Arles; Les Baux; Avignon; Nimes. We visited the Abbey of Montmajour, Glanum, the Antiquities, and the asylum where Van Gogh stayed as well; I really liked visiting the asylum, much more than I thought I would. We must be the only people who don't really like the Luberon, which we visited previously, so we did not visit that part of Provence on this trip.

We did not get GPS in our car, we simply used Google maps on our phones. Having a paper map also helped, as there was often more than one way to get somewhere, and sometimes we simply wanted to take a different route. On the driving, note that the drunk-driving laws in France are more strict than in the U.S., so if you plan to have dinner then drive home, the driver will need to be very careful about alcohol intake. Also, having dinner in Arles then driving to Saint Remy is ok, but that's more driving in the dark than I would want to do.

After Saint Remy, we stayed outside the small town of Beaumes de Venise, at a B&B that's also a vineyard. It was gorgeous and nice, but I think for us, foodies who love wine, staying in Gigondas may have been better. From this location, we visited Pont du Gard, Chauvet II (Google it), Vaison la Romaine, drove around the area, and made many visits to vineyards and caves. I had considered staying in Vaison, but decided it against it as it was the northern-most point of the places we wanted to see.

I'm happy to provide restaurant recommendations if you're looking for any.

Posted by
236 posts

We also just returned from 10 nights in the same areas and did many of the same things, and I agree with others that your plans are very ambitious. Your Nimes arrival day is one example--I think you have time for Pont du Gard and one more activity.

Rousillon and Gordes were packed when we went there. We never did find parking in Gordes, even at 6pm.

Posted by
6 posts

hi all -

Thank you all for your replies and suggestions, i will look into everyone's suggestions. As for the itinerary, we updated to take out Avignon and Orange and Châteauneuf-du-Pape since we're not huge wine drinkers. We're also not going to go out of our way to Arles market and instead will do Saint Remy market and L'isle-sur-la-sorgue antique market! I know some days seemed packed (7/30 and our time in Nice) but I'm open to seeing how we feel when we're there and we can skip whatever at that point.

7/27/2019 - Arrive by TGV in Nice by 5pm / Nice and dinner in Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]

7/28/2019 - Nice / Eze / Monaco and dinner in Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]

7/29/2019 - Villefranche-sur-mar / Cap Ferrat / dinner in Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]

7/30/2019 - Arrive by train from Nice to Nimes by 11am / explore Nimes and pick up car in Nimes / Pont du Gard / Uzes for dinner [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]

7/31/2019 - Saint Remy market / Les Baux and dinner in Les Baux [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]

8/1/2019 - Explore Arles and lunch in Arles and explore Saint Remy and dinner in Saint Remy [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]

8/2/2019 - Crestet / Gigondas / dinner by Rick Steve Cotes due Rhone drive in a winery [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]

8/3/2019 - Sault lavender fields to Vaison / explore and dinner by Vaison La Romaine [OVERNIGHT IN L'ISLE-SUR-LA-SORGUE]

8/4/2019 - L'Isle-sur-la-sorgue market / Gordes / dinner in Roussillon [OVERNIGHT IN L'ISLE-SUR-LA-SORGUE]

8/5/2019 - Return car in Aix en Provence / explore and dinner at Aix en Provence [OVERNIGHT IN AIX EN PROVENCE]

8/6/2019 - Leave Aix en Provence by 8am to fly out of Marseilles by 11am.

Now my next decision is whether we should shorten our Saint Remy hotel/lodging to two or three nights (7/30/19 - 8/1/19 or 8/2/19) and stay by Vaison La Romaine from either 8/1/19 or 8/2/19 - 8/3/19? Since we're doing the northern area those few days, i'm not sure how bad the drive is from Vaison area back to our hotel in Saint Remy at night? Currently, we have 4 nights in Saint Remy from 7/30/19 - 8/3/19)

Does this itinerary seem less ambitious and make more sense?

Posted by
569 posts

lmoon, where are you staying in St. Remy? We have been there several times for day visits, and we love it. We might be planning a trip with friends to Provence for next year, and I am thinking we will spend 4 or 5 nights in St. Remy.

BTW, I prefer the Thursday market at Ile Sur la Sorque. We have been on Thursday and Sunday, and the crowds were awful on Sunday. It took us forever to find a parking place on Sunday, and it was not enjoyable trying to force our way through the crowds. I know the Thursday market is smaller, but there certainly were plenty of wares and goods to look at. We bought several beautiful ceramics. My son-in-law, who is French, came with us on Sunday, and he vowed never to return on Sunday.

Posted by
6 posts

We will be staying at La Maison de Line by Saint Remy and i will update you after our trip how i liked it! They have been super responsive via emails thus far!

Thanks for the tip on the market but we will be staying over in L'Isle-sur-la-sorgue Saturday night so hopefully we don't have to worry about parking and we can hit up the markets early.

Any insight on whether we should do 2 nights in Saint Remy and 2 nights in Vaison La Romaine and 2 nights in L'Isle-sur-la-sorgue or 4 nights in Saint Remy and 2 nights in L'Isle-sur-la-sorgue looking at our itinerary?

Posted by
48 posts

You can get a combination ticket for the Chateau Le Baux de Provence and the luminaries when you purchase your ticket for the chateau. Just came back from there today. I believe the combo ticket is 16.50€.

Posted by
139 posts

@kmkwoo. We just got back from a week in St Remy. We found it to be a wonderful location to explore Provence. We stayed in this property and I would highly recommend it! Probably the nicest airbnb / homeaway property that we have stayed in! I wasn’t able to copy the link but google « maison plein coeur St Remy » on homeaway and you should find it. It was spectacular! I would also recommend the restaurant right across the street from us...La Cuisine des Anges. We ate there two nights because it was so good!

Posted by
1533 posts

La Maison de Line<<

EXCELLENT choice! we stayed there 5 nights last Sept - it was wonderful, the grounds are gorgeous, our cottage was roomy, cool and comfy, we had our own private terrace/kitchen, etc. Parking is secure and easy in/out for day trips- that pool is to die for and we didn't really think we'd use it- turns out we were there during a heat wave, so it was like heaven to jump into it every day after our day trips. You'll be less than 10 min to center of St Remy on foot.

I agree with others that you've probably got a bit too much on each day. It was really hot when we were there so we ended up dropping a few things each day- did less "towns" than we thought we could- takes longer to get to/from than you might think
We liked both the St Remy Wed market and the Arles Sat market- (we stayed in Arles for 2 nights)

Yes- do visit the museum at Pont Du Gard- very well done.

Monaco- blecch- a few hours was enough.

Loved Nice- we did a really fun food tour with this company, more food than a usual food tour- we were stuffed!
https://www.foodtoursofnice.com

Posted by
569 posts

lmoon, thank you for the name of the hotel you will be staying at in St. Remy!

Kathy thank you, too, for the name of the place you stayed at in St. Remy and for the the restaurant recommendation!

Posted by
6 posts

@ChristineH - thanks for the helpful pointers! now i'm really excited about our lodging! Is my updated itinerary still too ambitious?
I'm going to book that food tour!

Thanks kathy for the restaurant rec! We will definitely check it out!

So excited to fly out in one month-ish!

Posted by
1533 posts

I'm going to book that food tour!<<

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did, consider yourself lucky if you get Allie as a guide- she was fantastic.
TBH I don't see where you really have time for it- your Nice days are already quite full! If I remember right tour ended at about 2 pm.
I guess you could go to Villefranch after that but you have hardly spent time actually IN Nice so far. As I said we really liked Nice and did not even visit any museums.

7/30 is still too full. Nimes deserves a few hours and Pont du Gard deserves a few hours- plus the time needed to get car, drive to PdG etc. Don't see time for Uzes at all. Plus you still have to drive back to St-Remy to check in- Rome2rio says 48 min from Uzes to St-Remy- but I'd give it more like 75 min.

Have you determined where to leave your luggage while you visit Nimes?
Be careful of your luggage when you park at Pont du Gard- make sure it us all well hidden before you park and do not access the trunk once parked! We purposely saved Pont Du Gard for a day when we did not have luggage with us to avoid this issue.

We don't like to drive at night anywhere so have a nice lunch in whatever town we are visiting (if we don't picnic instead) and prefer to be near "home" for dinner. Keep in mind "dinner" is late in France. You can certainly find something to eat earlier but most nicer restaurants won't even open til 7 or later for dinner.

We ate at this place in St-Remy twice we liked it so much. They don't have a website
https://www.seeprovence.com/restaurants/la-fontaine-restaurant-saint-remy-de-provence-668976

Departure day - I am assuming that is NOT an international flight out of Marseilles? Either way I'd be a bit nervous and would leave Aix earlier. (unless that is a direct train to airport-?)

Posted by
6 posts

Alrite, i think this is my time in Nice parred down -

I took out Uzes and Monaco for next time to make room for Nice itself and to not rush on 7/30.
Sadly, I don't think i can fit in the Nice food tour as i should probably leave time to explore Nice freely and not do a tour.

Between Nimes and Uzes, i should keep Nimes, correct? Considering the other places we are going to (Saint Remy, Arles, Les Baux, L'Isle sur la sorgue, Luberon towns, Cotes due Rhone towns such as Vaison La Romaine and Gigondas, and Aix en Provence)?

7/27/2019 - Arrive by TGV in Nice by 5pm / Nice and dinner in Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]

7/28/2019 - Eze / Explore Nice and Nice sunset [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]

7/29/2019 - Beaulieu sur Mer walk to St Jean Cap Ferrat walk to Villefranche-sur-mar and explore [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]

7/30/2019 - Arrive by train from Nice to Nimes by 11am / explore Nimes and pick up car in Nimes / Pont du Gard / Saint Remy for dinner [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]

Thanks for the heads up on luggage car safety!

Posted by
6 posts

hi all -

We just got back from our France trip and wanted to update on our actual itinerary/timeline to give other readers a view on what we were able to actually fit in realistically, etc. Thanks for everyone else on your tips and notes! We pretty much stuck to your original itinerary except for in Nice, instead of doing all these day trips I had thought we could do, we thought it was best to just spend those two days exploring Nice itself! We also cut out Uzes, Arles, Rousillon, and Crestet [but added in Avignon] but didn't feel like we missed out! It would have been nice to hit up Arles if we had an extra day but we can do it next trip!

7/27/2019 - Arrive by TGV in Nice by 5pm / Nice and dinner in Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]
7/28/2019 - Explore Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]
7/29/2019 - Explore Nice [OVERNIGHT IN NICE]
7/30/2019 - Arrive by train from Nice to Nimes by 11am / explore Nimes and pick up car in Nimes [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]
7/31/2019 - Saint Remy market / Wine Tasting at a Vineyard / Pont du Gard / Saint Remy for dinner [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]
8/1/2019 - L'Isle-sur-la-sorgue market / Gordes [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]
8/2/2019 - Eygalières market / Les Baux Carrières de Lumières show and Dead City explore / Saint Remy for dinner [OVERNIGHT NEAR SAINT REMY]
8/3/2019 - Saint Remy explore / Sault lavender fields [OVERNIGHT IN SABLET]
8/4/2019 - Gigondas / Vaison La Romaine / dinner by RS Cotes due Rhone drive [OVERNIGHT IN SABLET]
8/5/2019 - Avignon / Return car in Aix en Provence / explore and dinner at Aix en Provence [OVERNIGHT IN AIX EN PROVENCE]
8/6/2019 - Leave Aix en Provence by 8:30am to fly out of Marseilles by 11:30am.

Some of our favorite towns and highlights listed in order:

1) Les Baux (the Carrières de Lumières show was AMAZING)
2) Gordes
3) Saint Remy (great market and cute town)
4) Aix en Provence (a little touristy but very lively)
5) Nimes and Pont du Gard (really cool history)
6) Finding Lavender fields in Aug!
7) Wine tour at a vineyard
8) Nice (Nice markets were nice) (most touristy of all)
9) Gigondas view
10) L'Isle-sur-la-sorgue water wheels