Advice on base location and plan for Provence / Avignon

We only have about 2.5 days in the area. I know this won't do the area justice, but it's what we have to work with. :( The general plan is this: - Get into Avignon via TGV around noon - Get a hotel and then spend the rest of the day looking at sights in Avignon - Next day, rent a car and drive through Luberon towns, ending up in Aix-en-Provence, then back to Avignon for the night. - Next day, get to Arles (not sure if we should keep the car or take a bus, advice?) for market day, touring and hopefully attend bullfight at 5:30pm. Return to Avignon for the night - Next day, we fly out of Marseille at 3:30pm so we need to get there, maybe have lunch then to the airport. Would like any advice on whether this is a good plan, any suggestions places to hit in the Luberon, Aix, Arles, etc. And most importantly, if Avignon would make a good base for this and where we should stay in Avignon. - Near the TGV station seems souless, and quite far away from the main old city center, but that is also where the car rental seems to be. - Papal palace area for the character, but is hard to get out to the TGV station for the car.
- Maybe compromise at the Central station at the entrance to the city center?

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

collin, you don't have much time, so I would agree with your choice of Avignon to see Luberon and Arles. Yes, it is convenient to take the TGV. There is a bus from the TGV station to downtown; takes 5 to 10 minutes and is a euro or two. There is a Holiday Inn two blocks from the TGV station. I would come into the TGV station, check into the Holiday Inn, take the bus into Avignon and walk around for the rest of the day. Next morning, pick up the car and drive to the Luberon hills area, park in the hotel parking lot. Drive to Arles for the market. Drive to Marseille and return the car there. By the way, when you drive from the hotel to Luberon, go north, passing Avignon to its west along the river and then go east. Much easier than going east on the south side of the city and easier to find your way back.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5640 posts

Collin, Tomorrow is our monthly Rick Steves Helpline meeting in Sacramento. Maybe you could join us. Several of us have experience in that area and maybe we can help. Look for the meeting announcement for details. You will find the information under the General Europe section and the title includes Sacramento meeting... I hope you can make it!

Posted by Adam
Boston
2923 posts

If you will have a car, by all means reserve a room in a hotel with parking. Have that nailed down before you leave. I think you would be better off staying outside of Avignon, either in Arles or a small town. Both would minimize car hassles. I also think Arles beats Avignon for charm and sights to see, and worth the extra 20 minutes it would add to your Luberon itinerary. (Or, stay in the Luberon or the Sorgue.)

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6888 posts

Collin. Ditto Andrea. Come on by and join us in our meeting. Andrea was in Provence last year. She was in Arles. My wife and I were also there. We were in Avignon. We had a rental car and toured all through Luberon. You are correct that the rental cars are in the TGV station and you are correct that the TGV station is nowhere near most of the hotels. You're at least 4-5km away. The first suggestion is to take a quick regionale train from the TGV station to the Gare d'Avignon station (Central Station). Should be just a couple of Euros. From the Gare d'Avignon station, you are within walking distance of the hotels and major parking for your rental car when you get it. We stayed at the Hotel Le Colbert which is 3 blocks from the train station. The major parking is between the train station and the hotel. Come on by for a cup of coffee. We can tell you a whole lot more with access to websites and pictures. I can show you all of this on internet maps. One hour and you're out of there. Panera's in Natomas. BTOBS

Posted by David
Bellevue, WA, USA
754 posts

from the tgv station walking to the old town is not that far. rent a car is a great idea, there are a lot of small places you can drive to. the local bus system is not very good. with a car you can stay in other towns but without a car for sure avignon as the base, its bus barn and tgv station are handy!

Posted by Collin
Sacramento, CA, USA
12 posts

I'd love to come to the get together but am out of town all day tomorrow (Saturday). We mainly picked Avignon as the base because that's where we get in from the TGV, it seemed central to all the other locations, and we could fit the avignon sightseeing into the half-day. If somebody has a better suggestion for a base that would work, please let me know how to work it out.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5640 posts

I stayed in Arles, which is smaller than Avignon. Last September I stayed at Hotel Regence, which is reasonably priced. My room that slept 3 people (there were only 2 of us) was 63€ per night. There was free parking across the street and the location made it easily walkable to all areas within the walls. We only used the car for day trips to other towns. Sorry you can't make the meeting tomorrow. When is your trip? Maybe you can make it to next months meeting.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6888 posts

Collin, I'm sure that you have seen the train schedules but there are some great 2hr37min TGV runs to Avignon TGV from Paris with no train changes. Actually, they just stop once in Lyon. Great runs. But, once you are there, you can take the local regional train to either Gare d'Avignon or Arles.

Posted by Collin
Sacramento, CA, USA
12 posts

does anybody think it will be hard to drive/park in arles on a day with a bullfight? also, any experiences to share in terms of getting tickets and attending the bullfight? personally, i would love to stay in a place in the luberon but would that be practical given that I get in at noon, look at avignon, get car, drive to luberon and check in? I really have no sense of the scale of these places or the driving distance/time. (since we have a few sacto people here, any comparables?) We depart for the trip on 8/30, so next meetup is before the trip but I'd probably need things nailed down by then.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2923 posts

It's about 30 minutes to Carpentras, an hour and a half to Sault, though you could spend all day enroute if you sightsee. Most of the Luberon would be in between those travel times.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Collin, I reiterate, there is a bus from TGV/Holiday Inn to Avignon. Takes less than 10 minutes. I am sure that there are roads from Arles to the Luberon area. However, the more major roads to make that trip go through Avignon. St. Remy and Les Baux are equidistant from Arles and Avignon. Gordes, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, and Roussillon are much closer to Avignon. Also, should you decide to go north to Orange and the Cote du Rhone area, Avignon is much closer. Avignon is also convenient for Pont du Gard and the much underrated Nimes.

Posted by Maureen
San Francisco
119 posts

You can rent a car at Gare D'Avignon, Central Station, literally right outside the City wall and within walking distance to hotels. Get a hotel near the City wall, you can easily walk to the Papal Palace, we stayed at Bristol Hotel. I loved Arles and Roman Ruins, I would keep the car and drive to Arles, it will give you flexibility with your limited time. I would reserve the car in advance. I liked Ilse sur la Sorgue, cute town with waterways/waterwheels.

Posted by Adam
Boston
2923 posts

I don't understand the concern about finding a hotel near the car-rental office. Maximize sightseeing by staying within the historic center of wherever you are staying, or at least in walking distance. Serendipity strikes when you can just look out your window and walk out your door to be in the charming interesting place you want to be. A car is supposed to set you free, not tie you down. There are car-hire locations at both train stations in Avignon and probably many other places as well. If Avignon is a logistically dicey place to be with a car, be elsewhere. If you have mobility issues it's worth cab fare if lets you have a better trip.