Provence and Dordogne

We are just starting to plan a trip to France for the end of April 2014. We've been to Paris, Normandy, and a bit of Brittany. We're thinking of renting a car for 7 - 9 days for southern France before spending 10-14 days in Paris and we're hoping for some advice. 1) We're thinking of flying into Paris and taking the train to Avignon, picking up and returning a rental car there. Is this a logical location? 2) We'd like to spend 3 nights in Arles. Would that be enough time to visit Carcassonne? 3) From there I'm having a hard time deciding where to spend the next 4 - 5 days. Per RS France book, Sarlat looks interesting as does Vaison la Romaine.
We're slow travelers and don't want to be speeding through the area so we'll probably pick just one of these as they're in opposite directions. We'd appreciate any advice or suggestions anyone familiar with these areas may have.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4729 posts

>>1) We're thinking of flying into Paris and taking the train to Avignon, picking up and returning a rental car there. Is this a logical location?<< That's one way. Another way is to fly to Marseille and pick up the car there. Either way you have to change, so you can choose whether you'd prefer to change to a plane or to a train for the last leg. If you do want to train from CDG to Avignon, look into getting this train ticket as part of your transatlantic ticket (Air France will do this). That way, it may not cost much more than flying to Paris (so you save the cost of a separate train ticket) and if your plane is late, they will put you on the next train without extra charge. >>2) We'd like to spend 3 nights in Arles. Would that be enough time to visit Carcassonne?<< That depends on how much else you want to see in the area. I wouldn't prioritize a visit to Carcassone over places like Arles and Nimes, but that's me.

Posted by Adam
2923 posts

I would not recommend visiting Carcassonne as a day trip from Arles, though it is technically possible. It would make a good overnight enroute to the Dordogne, if you have the time to spend there. I wonder from your question if you think these places are closer than they are. If so, spend a little time with a map. You might spend 4 days in Provence (though you could spend more), overnight in Carcassonne, and another 4 in the Dordogne (though you could spend more). That and the trip to Paris and your arrival day would be 12 days.

Posted by Carol
Martinez, CA, USA
765 posts

I think we would have to spend the entire time in Provence or Dordogne. We just have to decide which one. We usually spend more time in an area but we're planning for 23 or so days in France this trip. With 10 - 14 in Paris, it doesn't leave much time. Flying into Marseille and renting a car there is a great idea! Now to decide an itinerary. Thanks for the help.

Posted by Sharon
2725 posts

If you decide on spending your time in Dordogne, think about flying into Bordeaux or Toulouse! We just spent 6 nights in Dordogne and found lots to do - cave art, castles, markets, hiking, canoeing (if our weather had been better,) and great food. We stayed in La Roque-Gageac.

Posted by LaRae
494 posts

Just came back from a week in Dordogne and loved it. So incredibly beautiful. I think 3 days in Arles is to much. Arles is a great daytrip. Bordeaux was fun. If you like to shop, longest shopping street in Europe.

Posted by Nick
Oak Park
89 posts

We have been to all three towns on separate trips. All were wonderful. I would visit Dordogne and stay in Sarlat and then go to Vaison La Romaine. If you really enjoy fine wine, make sure that you go visit some wineries. Arles is also a treasure. You can't go wrong with any choice. you will need a car in Sarlat. visiting all three would be too much. check RS or another tour book and see which towns appeal to you most.

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
954 posts

We started in Paris then train to Bordeaux and drive to Dordogne. Loved the Dordogne and worth as many days (at least three since it is hard to get to)as you can allot to it. Carcassonne was a stop on our way to Provence and after an hour we were ready to move on. Maybe it is different for an overnight but we found it to be one of the most "touristy" places we visited. Provence needs no recommendation as that can be a trip unto itself. I would avoid using multiple modes of transportation on any single day. If your final destination is Provence don't make Paris the end of the flight and add the leg to get you South. Try and figure out how to get to your first hotel without a rental car and save a day of rental. You have some good problems to work out.

Posted by Carol
Martinez, CA, USA
765 posts

Thanks to all for your suggestions. As you might guess they have made the ion more difficult as we are trying to stick to one area and both are calling us! We enjoy history, architecture, small towns, and food. We'll have to save the other for another trip. We're researching 7 day itineraries for both Provence and Dordogne, which we could stretch to possibly 10 days since we prefer to travel a little slower and enjoy where we are. When we do decide which area we'll probably post a tentative itinerary looking for feedback. Thanks again for your suggestions and advice.