Four of us are seriously considering booking the Rick Steves winter tour for "Southern France." We feel this would be a really good way to start since we have never taken one of his tours. It starts and ends in Nice. After the tour, we plan on renting a car and staying for additional seven days. Here is our dilemmaWHERE?? The more we read and research the more villages we want to like!! So far, we have as the top contenders: Bonnieux, Rousillon, Gordes, L'Isle sur la Sorgue, Menerbes. They all sound incredibly beautiful!!
Any suggestions/ideas about our "short list" or additional candidates we should consider? Also, places to stay? Also, we plan on going in Februaryhow is the weather? Thanks for all your guidance. Frances. Miami, Fl.

Posted by Lisa
500 posts

I haven't been to Provence yet but I have been doing lots of research for my upcoming two week trip in July 2014 during lavender bloom time. I am currently working on my plans too. One week we will move between 3 villages 1-St. Remy, 2-Gigondas, 3- still working on but am considering Gordes, Roussillon and Fontaine de Vaucluse then, the second week will be in Bonnieux. I agree with you that all the villages sound wonderful and that makes it hard to choose. One thing to beware of is the mistral, a fierce cold wind that hits the Provence area in winter. Some towns are more likely to get the mistral winds more than others so try to figure which ones, I read about it somewhere but didn't pay attention since my trip is in July. Also the best resource is the Michelin Provence guide and Rick Steves Provence guide is pretty good too.

Posted by Larry
Elk Grove, CA, USA
6890 posts

Somebody has been reading a list of the most beautiful towns and villages in Provence. You might want to check out Les Baux and San Remy as well. And, don't miss Lourmarin. You do need a rental car to see all of these towns in a few days. Where to stay is a good question. You could base out of Avignon or Arles and drive each day. We based out of Avignon. Good underground parking for the rental car. Or, you could go to the interior a bit to Gordes or Rousillon and drive each day. Both are quite touristy but most likely not in winter. A bit farther to the southeast in Luberon is Lourmarin. Smaller, a bit more quiet and most picturesque. Again, you will drive each day. You will see a large difference in size, restaurants, number of places to stay, traffic, people, etc. between Avignon and Lourmarin. Only about 12 hotels & B&Bs in Lourmarin. Gordes and Rousillon are larger. Much will depend on your own personal tastes and choices.

Posted by Bets
3366 posts

In February the weather is all right, but you need to be aware of the Mistral winds that blow out of the Alps about every third day. The winds blow cold, so you need a warm coat, hat, gloves, and scarf around the neck on those days. The winds blow all the way to the coast, including Nice. They can impact your enjoyment of outdoor activities. When the Mistral isn't blowing, the air and sky are very clear. You get to enjoy the famous south-of-France light and color. Even on Mistral days you need sunglasses.

Posted by Gladys
55 posts

Thank you for all the information. Was not aware of the Mistral!!!! Any suggestions of which towns are LESS affected?? This will guide our decision of where to stay and use as a base. Thanks!!

Posted by Bets
3366 posts

I urge you to do a web search for Mistral Winds in order to get more information. There is no place that is sheltered from them except some tiny micro-climates here and there. For example, one hillside in Menton near the Italian border is one such micro-climate. Otherwise, they blow down the Rhone valley everywhere in Provence. They do make for unforgettable sightseeing, however.