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Homebase in Provence?

My wife and I are planning a trip to southern France in spring 2014. I'm hoping for some input on where to stay in Provence. We'll have a car and will be coming from Nice via Aix-en-Provence. While in Provence, we plan to take day trips to visit hill towns of the Luberon, Pont du Gard, St. Remy, and perhaps Orange and the Cotes du Rhone. My wife prefers to stay in one location rather than staying in multiple places for only 1 or 2 nights. I'm leaning toward Nimes as it seems a bit less touristy and the Roman ruins seem to be among the best in the region. Even if we stayed in Nimes, we would visit Arles for the Musée de l'Arles Antique. What would argue in favor of staying in Arles or Avignon? Any arguments that I could present to my wife for single night stays would also be appreciated.

Posted by
3680 posts

I'm going to side with your wife on this one. The area is easily traveled as day trips from any of the towns you mentioned.

We stayed in Aix for 8 nights and did our side trips from there with our rental car. We chose Aix over all the other options (Uzes was in the final 2) I found because we wanted to be in a larger town, we liked the apartment rental there best and because the location suited our interest in going both east and west to explore. The area is pretty compact and the driving lovely (with one exception below).

The advantage of staying in one place is that you can rent an apartment or little house and ease out. You shop the local grocery stores and markets and make some of your own meals and move at your own pace. No constant checking in and out. No specific breakfast hours requirement. You park your car in one basic location and take it out only when you want to. No having to find parking over and over again in different locations.

We rented from Holly Poitier (http://www.provencesejour.com/index.html) and our Aix Mirabeau apartment was great. She also has a house in the Luberon. I found many other good places in the area and you should have less trouble doing that than I did because you're going in the spring instead of summer.

Be sure to check the weather for when you are going. It may not be as sunny and warm as you might hope. That could be a good thing if you get a cozy place with a fireplace.

Now to that driving exception. We hit the worst traffic we have EVER experienced in Arles. We were coming from the Camargue and going to the Pont du Gard. We may have just taken the wrong route, but it was the most direct one. It was mid-afternoon and it was volume. We saw no wreck or construction that we could blame.

Posted by
4125 posts

The only advantage of dividing your stay, I think, is that you get to experience late night and early morning in two venues.

It's just not worth it, in my opinion.

As for Arles and Avignon versus Nimes: Since you ask for arguments, I will note that either are more centrally located for the sights you want to see. Of the two I prefer the scale and charm of Arles.

But again this is ultimately not compelling. If you both like Nimes you should stay there. Your farthest day trip will be to the Luberon, about 90 minutes each way.

I will make a pitch, since you have wheels, for staying someplace smaller, such as St Remy or Uzes. There are many lovely towns and it makes the car logistics easier. But the smaller cities (such as Nimes) are good choices too.

Posted by
837 posts

Of the three mentioned so far, Arles and Nimes are both at the SW corner of the areas you wish to cover. Nimes at least is on the N/S artery. Avignon is better located with the one disadvantage of being a larger city to negotiate in and out of. We stayed a week in Castillon du Gard to cover the area you are suggesting. Worked very well, except that there are no places to eat in that town. The closest restaurants are in Uzes. Uzes is a poor choice as a base as it is a good drive to the highway and on the far west of the area you want to see.