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Where to fly into for Luberon? Provence itinerary

Bonjour!

I will be travelling to France in May 2023 with my 26 year old daughter. I have been to France before but this will be her first visit. We will have a total of 10 days full days on the ground. I hoped to maximize our limited time by reducing transferring/train rides/etc. as much as possible. Our time is fixed by my daughter's vacation time.

We have decided to end the trip with 5 days in Paris and fly home from there. I thought it would be a nice way to end the trip and hopefully adjust to the time and culture a bit before we get to Paris.

We have more or less settled on the Luberon as the focus of our time in Provence and we will be renting a car to tour around and explore. After reading many posts we have selected Gordes and St Remy de Provence as our 2 bases.

We are not really interested in checking out big cities in the south of France as I think Paris will be enough for my daughter. We were hoping to bike, wine taste, explore markets, etc and prefer to spend more time in one spot than rush around too much. Our main interests are outdoor pursuits, food, wine, practising our French, and some sight seeing (ie ruins look interesting).

To mazimize our time I am trying to figure out best scenario for getting us to Gordes.
The options are as follows:
1. Fly into Paris and train to Avignon where we would spend the night and pick up car the following day. I know many people mention enjoying this. Shortest flight to Paris for us is 12 hours (we are one the west coast of Canada) and we arrive in Paris at 12:50PM. This sounds like it might be a long day!

2. Fly into Marsielles, rent a car at airport and drive straight to Gordes (Google tells me 1 hour and 15 min). We would be arriving in Marsielles at 4:15 PM.
3. Fly into Marsielles, bus to Aix-en-Provence and overnight there with car pick up the following AM.
4. Last possibility would be to fly into Nice and spend 1 full day (2 nights) there, training it to Avignon and picking up rental at train station. I am not keen on this idea as it eats into our time in Provence. But I am open to this possibility if it is worth it for the little glimpse at the Riveria?

At the moment I am leaning towards option 2 or 3 but would love to get feedback or insights. Would a night in Aix or Avignon or Nice be worth it or should we get ourselves to Gordes in the shortest possible time? Would love to know if I am missing anything.
Thanks so much in advance for any and all advice.

Posted by
2984 posts

If you can fly open jaw (multi-city) or one way, fly into and out of Marseille and Paris. If you fly into Marseille sleep there because by the time you get to your hotel it will be evening. You do not want to drive because you will not get much sleep if any.

Posted by
10248 posts

Number 3. It's a short bus ride and a safer choice.

Posted by
6927 posts

Coming from the west coast, definitely number 3. Aix en Provence is a lovely place to spend the evening and the following morning, too - if you don't fall asleep right away when you arrive, that is. For car rental options in Aix, there are a few options in the city, and some more at the TGV train station out of town. The latter is less convenient, but has more rental options. And you could even backtrack to Marseille airport if you find a good deal there, since there are some lower-cost rental companies (avoid Goldcar, though, even booking through a broker).
Number 2 isn't 100% safe after such a long journey.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks for the feedback! I was leaning towards 3 but just wanted to make sure i was mising something obvious.

Posted by
1626 posts

I agree with #3 as well. Aix en Provence is a lovely city with a beautiful Old Town, squares and fountains. Our daughter lived there for several years, and we loved visiting her in Aix. Perhaps you could spend the morning in Aix, have lunch there, and pick up the rental car after lunch and drive to Gordes. Just a thought. And it is the safest option, too.

I don't think #4 is worth it for a "little glimpse at the Riviera". And it puts you further away from Gordes.

Posted by
6927 posts

Let me add that to drive from Aix to Gordes, the route via Lourmarin is much more scenic than the slightly faster autoroute via Cavaillon. The road does get twisty north of Lourmarin, but no problem if you are alert.

Posted by
12172 posts

I'd probably choose Avignon first and Nice second. I haven't flown into Avignon but it's supposed to be the best hub in Provence. I've flown Nice to Paris. It's convenient and cheap on Air France. Nice would add some ocean to your trip, too. I didn't find driving convenient, however, from Provence to the Riviera. It's not impossible but the drive takes longer than you might expect for the distance.

Posted by
7 posts

We've taken the TGV direct from CDG to Avignon. You're there in 3 hrs 15 min. In very comfortable seats.

Posted by
408 posts

If you are sure you want to do Luberon first and Paris second I would fly to Marseilles (there are connecting flights from North America through many European cities such as Amsterdam, London, Brussels, Paris) and a bus or taxi to Aix en Provence, pick up car there the second day. I was all over that area with different friends this summer and me or they have experienced almost all of the above combinations for arrival or departure and I would do that to Marseilles or change around my time and do Paris first, train to Avignon and pick up car there for Luberon second and fly home from Marseilles. Enjoy the planning!

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks everyone! Appreciate all the replies and insights. We have decided to fly into Marseilles, bus to Aix that evening (there seems to be a great bus from the airport), get some sleep and then pick up the car the next morning (at Aix train station as a better selection of cars is available from here). We will then take the scenic drive (thanks baslo for this suggestion) on to Gordes for 3 nights. Then to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence for 3 nights. We will drop off the car at the Avignon train station and jump on the train to Paris for our final 5 nights. It was agonizing narrowing this down and mapping it out but based on all constraints and possibilities this seems like the best possible itinerary.

The flight schedules were such that there are much better flights into Marseilles and out of Paris for our dates (which are fixed due to work constraints). So this determined the order of things. Flying from the west coast of Canada there are a limited selection of good flights (i.e. flights that are not 35 hours!).

I appreciate the feedback to omit Nice. It is very tempting to squeeze as much as possible in but I was really trying to not overdo it and leave time for spontaneity. This will be my daughter's first trip to Europe and I didn't want to give her the impression that visiting Europe is just an endless list of activities that blur together.