Please sign in to post.

Provence/Luberon— B&B and car rental advice

Hi,

I'm planning a trip to the south of France, starting in Paris and ending in Marseille. I thought of taking a train into Marseille or Aix-en-Provence and from there renting a car to spend a few days in the Luberon, before ending back in Marseille. Does anyone have experiencing renting a car in this area? Would there be much of a price difference renting in Aix vs Marseille vs L'Isle sur la Sorgue, for example? (Or renting in Aix but returning in Marseille...) Specific rental recommendations would also be appreciated.

Also, I'm overwhelmed by reading about the villages in the Luberon. I expect to arrive in the area Monday after lunch and head to Marseille Wednesday morning, so it's not a lot of time. General route recommendations to maximize the time would be great. I'm also wondering what village(s) to spend the night in — I would love to find a small B&B in the area rather than driving back to Aix or another city for the night. Under 100 euros/night would be preferable.

Thanks!

Posted by
279 posts

I did a Google search of rental car agencies near the Marseille St Charles train station. Who know in this time of uncertainty if the information is correct. There appears to be a Thrifty and Eurocar steps away from the station. Personally I would rent in Aix since you’re closer the the Provencial villages (not to mention the traffic and density in Marseille). Why not take a mini-bus tour of the area first. Aix tourist office is a great source of information. Then rent your car and visit the places that look the most enticing to you.
Of course all of this is dependent on how the Covid situation pans out and when you plan to go. Smaller B&B’s might not be open. Good luck. I’ve visited this area many times and it’s a wonderful place to explore.

Posted by
717 posts

A few years ago we flew into Paris and trained to Avignon. It was a wonderful ride and we rented our car at the Avignon train station. For this trip to Provence we stayed the first few nights in Gorde and used it as a base to travel from each day. We then moved to St. Remy de Provence where we stayed a few nights. We felt the locations were perfect. We enjoyed the Saturday market at Aix and then the Sunday antique market at L’ isle de La Sorgue. We were rained out there so we took the opportunity to drive tp Menerbes, Loumarin and Roussillon.......made for a lovely Sunday afternoon. When we were done we took our car back to Avignon and caught the train back to Paris. St. Remy had a great market as well when we were there and we enjoyed walking the town every night after dinner.

Posted by
279 posts

Good idea Jane! I have rented a car in Avignon too. Super easy and right next to the TGV station.

awdur, lived in Uzes for 6 weeks so if you have extra time, it’s a beautiful village and Saturday market day a wonderful experience.

Posted by
1777 posts

Hello awdur, you can take a direct train from Paris to Aix-en-Provence or Marseille (3h 15m) and rent a car at either train station. I would choose Aix-en-Provence over Marseille because it’s a smaller area to maneuver out of since Marseille is bigger and more intimidating. As far as which car rental agency to use, AutoEurope is what I've used in the past and had no issues. A lot of people on this forum recommend it too.
Here’s a link on the Auberon Valley I found on Rick Steves’ website: https://www.ricksteves.com/watch-read-listen/read/articles/hill-towns-of-the-luberon.

Posted by
338 posts

My husband and I spent a month in Aix. We flew into Marseilles from our transatlantic flight into Frankfurt, Germany. We rented our car at the Marseilles Airport and returned it there when we returned home. Very easy. The drive from Marseilles to Aix was quite simple and took only @ an hour. From Aix, we drove the easy day trips to Gordes, Lourmarin (3 times), Ménerbes, Arles, Verdon Gorge, Mont Sainte-Victoire, etc. We also did a day trip into Marseilles. Aix was such an easy small city to walk around, view the fountains, sample many lovely restaurants, etc. Walk to and visit Cezanne's atelier and then walk up the hill where he viewed Mont Sainte-Victoire and painted it from that vantage point. I highly recommend it as a springboard to visit many sites in Provence.

Posted by
1777 posts

After more research on the Luberon Valley, I would instead take a direct train from Paris to Avignon (2h 45m) and rent a car at the train station. Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is the closest village to Avignon (1h). If there was one village I would not miss seeing in the Luberon is Roussillon. You can then drive to Mareseille and drop off your car that'll take about 1h 15m.

Posted by
21041 posts

Your time is very short. You'll really have just (part of?) Monday afternoon and evening and all day on Tuesday. In your shoes, I wouldn't plan to go so far from Paris and use precious minutes dealing with a rental car agency. A day and a half is such a little bit of time in an area like Provence. But then I'm retired and have the freedom to take long trips.

I think the first question is whether you want to hit a Provencal market. If you do, that will affect your driving itinerary, since the number of places with markets on Tuesday is limited, aside from a few urban areas with markets operating six days a week.

I agree with MaryPat about using Avignon rather than Marseille as your gateway to the area. I think it will work out better for you, logistically. Marseille is a big city; driving in and out of it could waste precious time. However, check carefully about the operating hours of the rental car agencies you might use. It has been reported on this forum that quite a lot of them take lunch breaks.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks, everyone. I'll look into AutoEurope in Aix and Avignon.

Acraven, thanks for the warning about car agencies. I know it's a really short time, but perhaps I should have stated upfront that I have to end in Marseille for work purposes (thus justifying the seemingly too-short-to-be-worth-it detour from Paris), but as I've been to Marseille before I wanted to spend my few extra days in the Provençal countryside.

Seems like St. Remy and Roussillon are the villages that shouldn't be missed. Any recommendations for B&Bs in these towns or nearby in the Luberon?

Posted by
717 posts

Le Chateau de Alpilles.......a beautiful restored chateau right outside of St. Remy that we enjoyed eating lunch on the patio.....wish we had looked into staying there but didn’t discover it until we took an afternoon drive.......LOVELY!

Posted by
21041 posts

In that case it makes a lot of sense to make use of that time to see the area you need to pass through.

St-Remy and Roussillon will give you two different experiences, which is good. You could see L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue without too much of a detour, but it's twice the size of St-Remy so certainly not a "village". You might prefer to add on a smaller place. I've been to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and wasn't impressed, but it was a very rainy day, which didn't help. Still, I'd recommend you look elsewhere for a third stop if you think you'll have time for one. Maybe Gordes? I haven't been there but it has been mentioned positively on the forum.

If you go to viamichelin.com to plot your driving route, you can zoom way in and see the most scenic roads outlined in green. That might help you in choosing the nicest countryside to drive through.

Posted by
416 posts

I'm a big fan of picking up rental cars at the airport or train station. Either Avignon or Aix would do nicely. We picked up our car in downtown Nice and dropped it in Avignon. Nice was hair-raising. Avignon wasn't. Traffic in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is pretty congested; it wouldn't be fun trying to get out of there with a rental car. Roussillon is about an hour's drive from Avignon and could be a good, centrally-located base for you depending on the villages you decide to include in your itinerary. Since you're short on time, only one or two other towns are really possible. We liked Bonnieux, Lacoste and Joucas the most, and all easily accessible from Roussillon. For accommodation, I would recommend the Maison des Ocres in Roussillon. It's not a B&B, but the rooms are spacious and well-appointed, breakfast is generous, the price is reasonable and there is a large, free parking lot next to the hotel. It's on the edge of town, but it's an easy walk into the village. For us, eating in Roussillon was not enjoyable. All three of the recommended restaurants in the RS book disappointed either for price or quality of food. I'd check out the TripAdvisor app before making a selection. Enjoy the ambiance of Roussillon, but also be sure to visit Le Sentier des Ocres and the Conservatoire as Ocres. I would visit the Conservatoire first for your crash course in ochre, then finish up at Le Sentier. The light at the end of the day there was gorgeous.

Posted by
2916 posts

Would there be much of a price difference renting in Aix vs Marseille vs L'Isle sur la Sorgue

I don't know about a price difference, but there should be far more cars available in Marseilles, especially at the airport and TGV station.

Posted by
8390 posts

A lot of cars at the Avignon TGV station.

Not a Luberon village, but how about the Roman acqueduct, the Pont du Gard. It's only 24 kilometers outside Avignon on the other side of the Rhone.

Posted by
3 posts

Totally agree with Pont du Gard suggestion. It's quite a sight to behold. Also don't know if this is an issue or not but I have read about people requesting an automatic car from a car rental service and automatics not being available when you go to pick up the car.

Posted by
1993 posts

If you are going to Pont du Gard, stopping in Uzès is essential. Particularly if it is Saturday as the Uzès market is fabulous.

Posted by
16 posts

Wow, thanks for the tip about viamichelin.com! That'll be super helpful. I'm starting to think I might need to allot another day if possible.

Posted by
8390 posts

I'm going to add to Tocard's suggestion. Yes, the Uzès Saturday market is amazing, filling the main square, sprawling through passageways, around other squares, and down the road toward the former train station. In addition, Uzès is also one of the most architecturally interesting towns I know of in France, and very different from Luberon hill towns. So if you want to see both a market and architecture, go late to the market (around 11:30-12) but stay to explore all the nooks, crannies, alleyways afterwards. Or, if markets aren't your thing or you've seen enough in your lifetime, go on Tuesday to Friday or Sunday morning. As for parking on a Saturday, park outside the exterior boulevards or you'll waste your time in a mega-jam.

And no problem getting automatic transmission at a large car pick up location such as the Avignon TVG.

Posted by
2916 posts

I have read about people requesting an automatic car from a car rental service and automatics not being available when you go to pick up the car.

The only time that happened to me in 35 years of travel, the agency had one of their agents drive us out to the Lyon airport to pick up an automatic. I guess it could be a problem if you're picking up in a small city, although in those cases you're normally not given the option for an automatic when you reserve. Also, I guess with the upheaval caused by Covid, it could happen now.

Posted by
925 posts

Hello from another long time traveler.

Getting to Provence may be a life time dream. Your plan gets you to Provence. Seeing, feeling, and enjoying Provence just can't be done with your limited time frame
Years ago an old Mrs. Scott in north of Ireland pretty much refused to let my us stay only one night with her. She insisted we spend more time in the soporific air of Donegal. We did stay two nights and it changed our method of travel. To this day, my wife and I travel slowly, not moving on until we have felt the soporific air of the area's countryside.

Sorry if I am a wet blanket, but stay in Paris and enjoy a baguette sandwich in the Luxembourg Gardens. Have a picnic ( a French word), you will never forget it. Nearby is Rodin's museum and garden filled with his works. It is also good place to get a glass of wine or a croissant. Find your way to the Musee Marmottan Monet and while there take a walk in the Bois Boulogne. Spend an evening in the Marias district and then a walk along the Seine, crossing over at each bridge.

Save Provence for a when you have a week or more. If you make it to France once, you will return.

wayne iNWI

Posted by
1631 posts

I use this site to find a B&B: https://www.chambres-hotes.fr Staying 6 nights in the area of Bonnieux, I loved all of the small, quaint towns. You could easily, with a car, see several in one day. If you enjoy walking and exploring a town, I enjoyed LaCoste. There's a restaurant at the entrance to the town on the top of a hill that gives you a beautiful view of the valley. Roussillon with it's warm, orange hues, is also very different and a delight. Like a previous poster said, check to see what markets, in which town, is taking place that morning. Each town has a different day for their market and the markets are a delight that you don't want to miss. Enjoy!