My wife and I are planning a trip in late May starting in the Riviera and ending in Barcelona. We'll be renting a car when we leave Nice and have allocated five nights to Provence with the current plan being to spend the first three in Aix followed by two in Nimes. After reading comments on other threads, I'm having second thoughts about Aix if we're hoping for the best provencal experience. The original plan was to use it as a launch for the Luberon but I've read some who seem to suggest "why bother". I've found a nice apartment in Lauris with a terrace and great view. Any thoughts?
Go with the new plan.
There's nothing wrong with Aix, but it's a bear getting in and out of especially if you're staying inside that one-way ring road with a million names and trying to head north. Figure at least an hour to get across the Durance and the same to get back - - plus whatever it takes to and from where you're actually going in the Luberon.
There's nothing wrong with Apt if you want something a little bigger than Lauris.
An hour to get out of Aix turns into two hours for a round trip so I decided it wasn't the best option for touring the Luberon. Instead, we have reservations for a nice apartment in Lacoste with a view of Bonnieux. What's realistic for day trips? I'm considering the following:
day 1: Gordes (market day), L'Isle (w/ Fontaine de Vaucluse?), and Roussillon
day 2: Rick's Best of the Cotes du Rhone villages and Vaison
The following day we'll move to a new home base in Nimes and I planned to do Saint Remy and Arles along the way. I'm hoping that somewhat adequately covers Provence southeast of Nimes so that we can take care of the Pont du Gard, Orange, and Uzes in the last two days of our five in Provence.
When you are in Lacoste, if you get a chance, eat outside at Cafe De France. The view is incredible.
Gordes is a beautiful and visiting on market day (Tuesday) makes it even more fun. Visiting Roussillon on the same day is very doable.
If you have the time and like markets, go to L'isle sur-la-Sorgue for their Sunday market. It is huge. We love L'isle sur-la-Sorgue and have stayed there for the past 4 years. Try to get there early, because parking can be tricky. L'isle sur-la-Sorgue also has a smaller market on Thursday.
We have stayed in Joucas at least four different trips. It is centrally located, near Gordes but without the crowds. You can easily drive to all of the towns listed in the other emails.
We love Le Jas de Joucas hotel which is about a mile outside Joucas itself. You can go into Joucas for a bit of grocery shopping at the tiny store and have lunch across the street. As you dine, you can look across the valley and just enjoy!
Since you will be driving from Nice, you can use the A-8. Leave the highway and go around Aix to D-556 and across to Pertuis. Follow the D-943 towards Apt but then follow other smaller roads towards Bonnieux and then towards Gordes.
It is so fun to drive the small roads and see the scenery. I would never leave if it was possible!
We liked Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and the area around it (done as a daytrip) so much that we are returning for a longer stay this year. FdV has a really good Musee d'Histoire 1939 - 1945. Nearby Pernes-les-Fontaines is another delightful village to explore.