We will be spending a week in the Provence area in late July. We thought we'd rent a car (suggestions on best starting location?) and stop when we want. Are we crazy not to have hotels/b & b/gite reserved ahead of time, for July? Any suggestions for "must see" locations would be appreciated. It will be our first trip to the Provence region. Thank you!
It's a peak tourist month, including Europeans heading south. Do you speak French? Will you have internet capability such as a Wifi tablet or smartphone? Are you ready for the stress and time spent trying to find shelter when many places will be full? Rather than stopping where you want, you may have to stay wherever you can find last-minute accommodations. But you have to answer those questions for yourself.
Yes, you are.
Traveling without reservations is really a shoulder-season strategy. It's how I usually roll, but in July, and in Provence for goodness sakes, I would get all my ducks in line before I left.
Depending on what you want to do, it is not too early to make those plans. Really. (And if you do you will have a blast.)
Well, you would crazy if you did it and then complained or was surprised when you waste a lot of time trying to find lodging or end up having to stay in inconvenient or overpriced places. It's only crazy if you think that this is somehow going to make the overall trip be easier and better. Speaking sadly from experience, going from place to place in France in the summer looking or calling 15 places for a room gets really old really fast, but on the other hand, both incidents taught me a lot about traveling, planning and dealing with problems.
Well we have travelled in July without reservations . The thing is.. you will find a room, but it will be off the highway in some chain hotel with no character. Easy enough to do with a rental car.. but not great if you want to stay in a small town and enjoy a few days in a nice locale.
If you decide to do this plan on starting to look for a room by early afternoon. And plan on having to drive into places to walk around and enjoy the town centers.
Personally I don't recommend if for enjoying an area.. but its find for transiting through an area.
I agree with Pat...my husband and I used to travel frequently in summer in France without reservations. Give up any notion you may have of driving down a beautiful country road, seeing a lovely inn, walking in, and being able to get a reservation. It just doesn't work like that in France. You really need a reservation if you want to have any control of where you stay and the quality. We had mixed results...sometimes we would end up in a nice place but in an undesireable room (facing a wall, next to a machine shop, etc.) because that's all they had left and nobody else wanted it. Sometimes all we could find was a true dive with all sorts of weird circumstances. We would occasionally find a tourist office that would make a call or point us in the right direction but that was rare and consumed a lot of time.
Maybe you should try a mix? In the bigger towns and cities maybe try to wing-it? You'll have more options. If you're going to smaller or more out-of-the-way places definitely have a reservation - there's nothing worse than driving all over the place for a few hours looking for somewhere to stay and getting stressed out that you won't find anything.
As far as the must sees...definitely go to Avignon - if you can be there on July 14 for Bastille Day it's spectacular! See the lavendar fields at the Abbey of Senanque. Arles is interesting with it's Van Gogh connections and beautiful Roman amphitheater. Just driving around from village to village, stopping at farms selling honey and other items, is a joy!