Car travel in Provence

Any tips on driving in Provence? Is it as steep in parts as the Cinque Terra? I drive a manual ok, just curious how difficult it might be to navigate parts.

Posted by Mike
Columbia, MO, USA
249 posts

We spent 10 days in Provence-had no trouble with the grades and a stickshift (I didn't drive in CT so I can't compare the roads). Narrow road on the Gorges du Verdon circular but not too steep (we were on the north side and went counter-clockwise on D23), and we were on the inside when near the edge. We drove in the Luberon hill towns and did the wine trail through Gigondas near Vaison-la-Romaine without issue; send p.m. if you're staying in old section of Vaison-can be tricky but with advanced planning no problem. Only problem: if you get a flat tire in Saint-Pons-de-Thomieres on the main road on market day there is no room to pull over to change the tire (and if you can't figure out how to remove the hubcap it really gets testy. :) But we survived.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11415 posts

Provence is a very large place. Some bits are quite flat. Some not. Some very steep. Mostly not. They certainly can do narrow at world class level. You've never lived until you have driven on a Saturday through Villefranche-sur-Mer to to far end of the beach. Both mirrors in, mostly stopped, no more than the width of a piece of paper between the car and the seawall and the car and other cars both parked and coming the other way.

Posted by Diane
1183 posts

Or driven out of Avignon's Palais des Papes car park without scrapping the side of your rental car... ;-)

Posted by Irv
Beverly Hills, MI
469 posts

I have driven in both places, and Provence is no worse than the CT. The only problem in Provence is not getting lost. There are three things you need. 1)A GPS with a European map card. Take your own and know how to use it before you need it. 2)Good large scale maps of the region to give you the broader picture than you can get from the screen on a GPS. 3)A good sense of humor. Remember, "If you can't take a joke,don't sign on for the cruise." We were in Provence in the fall of 2011 based out of Lourmarin for 3 days and would happily do it again. Enjoy!

Posted by Darren
Boulder, CO, USA
662 posts

Hi Evelyn, Driving is Provence isn't that bad, really. It's not the steep so much as the narrow. And some of the roads in the Luberon are REALLY narrow. But, you'll likely be in some tiny EuroRental that is equally narrow, so it will help out. The other thing to plan for in Provence is getting lost, which you will. But hey, that's part of the fun, so embrace it.
The first time that I was in provence, my wife was holding the Michelin map trying navigate when it became readily apparent that she could not effectively read a map. Early on, we laughed about it and just found our way back (it's tough for me to pull over to read the map, since shoulders are often vineyards ;-) ). Once she figured out how to read a map, it was better. We've since been back with a GPS and it is almost foolproof (although not all roads on your GPS match the terrain. Just keep driving and your GPS will eventually match up). Go with an open mind and a slow speed when oncoming traffic arrives, and you'll have a great time!

Posted by Nancy
Corvallis OR
1901 posts

Evelyn, I drove in Provence for 6 days this past summer and had no problems with steep roads or curvy roads or narrow roads. You just have to go slow when passing other cars - take your time and all will be well. By the way I am so not into technology and you can do just fine without a GPS. I recommend a good Michelin map of Provence. I was alone and had no navigator so sometimes had to wait until I found a safe place to stop and look at map and I had to backtrack a couple of times to get on the right road. I only got lost once and ended up in a town I hadn't planned on visiting but it was wonderful. I travel alone most of the time and getting lost once or twice is a given for me but I don't tend to schedule my days to the minute so always have time to get lost and find interesting places and things to do. I loved, loved, loved Provence!
I've never been to CT so can't compare.

Posted by Susan
Atlanta, Ga, USA
1532 posts

We found that driving in Provence was easy with roads not as steep/narrow as those in the Dordogne. The challenge was parking in some of the towns. We drove for an hour to find parking in Arles. Rousillon has a small car park so best to get there early in the morning. We tried to book hotels that provided parking. Turned in the rental car in Avignon and would not have wanted to drive in that city.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7805 posts

Finding parking is another good reason to bring a good GPS. After you put in your destination find a point of interest, near destination, parking. The GPS should take you straight to a convenient public parking lot. I opt for a safe, convenient, and easy place to park over driving around looking for a space where I won't have to pay. I always choose both manual transmission and a diesel engine. A small manual diesel rental gets unbelievable gas mileage.