Traveling to Provence

by Pam
(Mt. Airy, MD, USA)

I have been enamoured with Provence since reading A Year In Provence. Coming from New England and now living in a small town in Maryland, I'm familiar with and very fond of the quirky characters, their strong opinions, and the unique habits that the people in the book seem to share. I want to go to Provence for my 50th birthday with my sister who shares my love of wine and food. Someone recommended we rent a chateau. What do you recommend for those who want to experience the lifestyle, the markets, and the food? You should probably know that neither of us have been to Europe and I am currently learning French for the trip.

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Oct 01, 2011
Traveling to Provence - Part Two
by: Diane

Regarding the planning stage for your first trip to Europe. You might want to pick up the "Rough Guide to Provence". You might also wish to watch some travellogues about the Provence region, and keep looking for books about people who lived there or even fiction titles set there. I read one a long, long time ago called "Mistral's Daughter" I think it was by Judith Krantz.

Do keep in mind that small towns such as Apt in the Luberon region feature great open air markets. Cavaillon too. Small medieval villages such as Roussillon are stunning and you can visit the natural open air pigment mines used for artist's paint pigments.

Contact tourist offices via email in the towns that appeal to you the most. They have bi-lingual staff, at least for communicating via the internet, and they'll be able to send you links to the websites of local attractions, which will help you organize your trip beforehand.

You'll want to visit the Papal palace in Avignon, the Pont du Gard, the Roman arena in Nimes, the very expensive antiques market town of Ile sur Sorgues (not ceratin of the spelling of that one, and you'll find prices of stuff insanely expensive but it's a great place to wander and window shop. Gordes is another mountain village.

For travel around the Provence region, renting a car is best. Get one at the same time you book your plane ticket through the same booking agent and you'll save yourself a bundle. You can pre-book an automatic transmission car. For two people get a category 2 car. France is a small country with tiny roads and Lilliputian parking spaces. Renting a big car will have you driving around wasting very expensive gas, searching for a parking space you can fit in.

Hope this supplies some answers to your query. Please feel free to contact me as many times as you like. I do however, apologize for the wait time between your query and my response. I was off wandering about in the Snowdownia region of Wales and didn't think to check my emails....

Bon Voyage Planning!


Oct 01, 2011
Provence - Part 1
by: Diane

Dear Pam(future traveller to Provence)...

Lucky you!

I will need to split up my answer in to two parts, due to character limitation here.

Good initiative for the french classes. Keep in mind that communication is necessary, not perfect syntax. Learn as much vocabulary as you can, and try not to memorize too many phrases perfectly because you might mislead the person to whom you're asking directions into believing that you speak really great french, and then they'll answer you. At great speed. Using words you're not expecting, which might leave you as clueless as to what you were asking help about, as you were beforehand. Not to mention frustrated and possibly still having to use the bathroom. :)

Which doesn't answer your castle question.

If you have the budget, stay in a "Relais et Chateaux" in the area. The rooms are stunning, the properties are as well. They usually have exquisite restaurants. They're quite pricey, but the quality of service, and of the experience in general is incomparable. Or look online for the "Hotels et Auberges de Charme" guide. The catalogue is extensive, the properties less expensive than the summum "Relais et Chateaux" properties. You'll have lots to choose from and a more intimate experience. There are chain hotels available everywhere, for a lower budget, but you might want to aim for a bed and breakfast in lieu of that. You'll get to meet some authentic French families that way, too. Do read my article about bed and breakfast etiquette, though. It will help prepare you.

Watch for Part Two...

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