St  Remy

PROVENCE From Avignon to Aix-en Provence

Discover the route from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence

On this extraordinary trip from Avignon to Aix-en-Provence, you will be visiting Cavaillon, Lourmarin, Eygalieres, Saint Remy de Provence, Les Baux de Provence,  and Arles. The marvel of this route is that it features beautiful landscapes, picturesque villages and outstanding historical sites in a radius of just a few kilometers.  There is no doubt that it deserves a few days, with overnight or more stays on each town.  The road through Les Alpilles, a small range of mountains 20km south from Avignon is full of places to stop and discover.  I have posted Google Maps and driving directions at the bottom of this post.

The area or province that we will explore in the route from Avignon to Aix-en Provence is Bouches du Rhone

baux-de-provence-vue-vallee

Photo: Baux de Provence by Fabrice Terrasson

Bouches du Rhone Highlights

BEST MONTHS TO GO

April, May and June are the best months to visit he region, temperature is warm and tourists are few, Avoid high summer months of July and August, fall months of  September and October are nicer.  Winter is cold and snowy in the mountain areas.

NATURE

I made a selection of the most relevant natural sites to visit in this itinerary.

  • Les Alpilles is a limestone hill chain south of Avignon.  From Neolithic times onwards, its valleys were used as trading routes, giving rise to the birth of various towns such as Les Baux de Provence. Many castle were erected here in the Middle Ages and their ruins can still be seen today. The Alpilles chain offers typically Provencal views of olive groves and vineyards.
  • La Sainte-Victoire is a small chain of limestone mountains in the south of France famous for appearing in many paintings of Paul Cézanne, who could see it from close to home.
  • The Camargue National Park  is one of the ten natural wonders of Europe.  This wetland area formed by the Rhone delta covers over 140.000 hectares between the River and the Mediterranean Sea.  The protected area has an  exceptional biological diversity, and is home to unique breeds of Camargue horses and Camargue bulls, and to more than 400 species of birds including pink flamingoes.

Views of the Camargue

Photo: Views of the Camargue   by sjrowe53
ART & CULTURE

The towns of Arles and the historic centre of Aix-en-Provence are rich in Roman & Romanesque monuments.  In summer there are plenty of cultural events like the Festival of Lyric Art in Aix-en-Provence and the Arles International Photography Festival.   It is also important to note the presence of Van Gogh in Arles and Cezanne in Aix-enProvence.  The Atelier Cezanne and the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh worth a visit.

Arles and Van Gogh

Photo: Arles and Van Gogh by hdrapprentice
FOOD & DRINK

The main local products are olives and olive oil, the sea salt of the Camargue, basil and  garlic, which used to  add an aromatic touch to different dishes and the fragrant melons and tomatoes from the Cavaillon town near Avignon. Among beverages, the pastis, an anis flavoured liquor, is well-known as an apéritif, the red wines of Bouches du Rhone, the Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Rose Wine and the white wine of Cassis.  I recommend the wine tasting sessions in cellars and renowned vineyards as well as the visit to wine growing villages.

Camargue Aigues Mortes

Photo: easyrab

FIRST STAGE  From Avignon to St Remy-de-Provence

Driving directions on Google Maps

The first stop is Cavaillon, situated at the foot of the Luberon mountain, 25,5km south-east of Avignon.  Cavaillon is not a very picturesque village, but still has nice pedestrian streets for shopping and a rich cultural heritage, the synagogue is the most beautiful of Europe.  There are wonderful views from the top of St. Jacques Hill.  The Monday morning market is full of seasonal produce, including the famous and fragrant melons.

Cavaillon: couleurs et senteurs du marché

Cavaillon Market   by fredpanassac

Leave Cavaillon and drive southeast the D973 for about 40 minutes towards the village of Lourmarin.   Lourmarin is one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France,  set amidst olive groves and vineyards. An attractive village to explore due to the many art galleries and shops, narrow and winding streets and of course, the castle.

Lourmarin

Lourmarin   by Martin Hapi

From Lourmarin head 43km. northwest  (50 minutes drive)  to the small hilltop village of Eygalieres.  On the rue de la Republique, at the heart of the village, is the Bistrot d’Eygalieres, a one star gourmet restaurant. Menus 95-120 Euros. The house also offers five double rooms and two superior rooms.  This site is 3.5 away from Maison Bru, the main house.

Eygalière

Saint Sixte Chapel  Eygalieres    by dierk shaefer

SAINT REMY DE PROVENCE

The last stop of this first stage should be Saint Remy de Provence, a beautiful town in the heart of Les Alpilles. 12km northwest  from Eygalaieres.  Nostradamus was born in Saint Remy, while Vincent Van Gogh painted more than 100 works there. Every corner of this town is enchanting, each turn is surprising, the flower and food markets are unforgettable.  Wednesday morning market is a must, it takes place in the middle of the old town and spreads over several streets and squares. Do not leave Provence without having the pleasure of visiting Saint Remy.

SLEEPING IN SAINT REMY

HOTEL DE L’IMAGE  36, boulevard Victor Hugo. Luxe hotel with an excellent restaurant. From 180 Euros.
MAS DE CORNUD  Petite route des Baux, Saint Remy de Provence. Country Inn and cooking school. Prices from 155 Euros, breakfast included.
LE MAS DES CARASINS  1, chemin Gaulois. Saint Remy de Provence. Price range 100-200 Euros. Old farm-house from 1854 in the middle of a charming garden. Almost every room has a view of the Alpilles. Most rooms have been recently renovated.

EATING IN SAINT REMY

BISTROT DES ALPILLES  15, boulevard Mirabeau. Brasserie and restaurant, menus from 25 Euros.
LE DECO CAFE  Boutique decor, restaurant & tea room. 2, avenue de la Liberation.
MOULIN DU CALANQUET  This is an olive plantation and boutique. Vieux chemin d’Arles. Saint Remy de Provence

St. Remy-de-Provence

Saint-Remy-de-Provence   by ryhyndman

SECOND STAGE  From  Saint-Remy-de-Provence to Arles

Leave Saint Remy and take the D5 south towards Les Baux de Provence.  The road winds  through olive groves and rocky  formations, the approach to the village is impressive, as it emerges from the rocky outcrop. The town was once home of the powerful feudal lords of Baux, who in the Middle Ages held control of Provence for many years. Today Les Baux is proud of being one of the most beautiful villages in France, if not the most, and a very popular attraction in the region, this means that no matter when you go, it will always be full of  tourists wandering about. This should not discourage anybody, for the village is really enchanting.  A good idea is to spend the night there, calm and quiet once the crowds have left, and have dinner in one of the restaurant terraces  of the village.  There are some hotels in the village, one of them is Le Prince Noir, a bed & breakfast with only three rooms, the three of them are wonderful.

DSCF0214

Les Baux de Provence  by samuel_belknap

ARLES

From Les Baux de Provence head southwest 19km, 30 minutes on the D17 to Arles, city of art and culture.  The city is set in the countryside and the gateway to the Camargue.  Roman and Romanesque buildings in Arles are  UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  Vincent Van Gogh lived in Arles in 1888-1889, here he  paints a series of masterpieces, cornfields and market gardens.  A self-guided Van Gogh  a walking tour map  of ten reproductions described in a brochure on sale at the Tourist Office.

SLEEPING IN ARLES

L’HOTEL PARTICULIER  4, rue de la Monnaie.  This is a splendid hotel housed in a historic building of the VXIII Century in a peaceful area in the city center of Arles.    Price range 259-379 Euros.

MAS DE LA CHAPELLE  Petite route de Tarascon.  The small and charming hotel is a former priory belonging to the Knights of Malta, located within the walls of a 16th Century chapel. Price range 95-195 Euros.

LA POUSADA   9, rue Croix Rouge.  Bed and breakfast in the area La Roquette, the most picturesque place in the centre of Arles.  Price range 80-115 Euros.

EATING IN ARLES

LA FEE GOURMANDE  3 rue Dulau.  Fixed-price lunch menu 14 Euros, à la carte 35 Euros. Prices are per person without wine.

LE GIBOLIN  13, rue des Porcelets.  French cuisine and French bar restaurant.  At noon menu at 16 Euros,  at night menu at 30 Euros.

Arles

Arles   by David Domingo

SIDE TRIPS

SOUTH OF ARLES   Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and Aigues Mortes. Get driving directions on Google Maps

The round trip is 115km. approximately.  From Arles head 37km. south (36 minutes) on the D570 to the village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, the capital of the Carmargue, in the heart of the Camargue National Park, a place of incredible wildlife and incomparable flora. The Camargue horses, pink flamingos and Camargue bulls are visible in all places. Visitors can also discover the 35 km of beautiful sandy beaches.

Road trip

Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer   by soloJ

Leave Sainte-Maries northwest on the D570-D979 to the historic town of Aigues Mortes, 33km (40 minutes aprox).  In 1240 St. Louis decided to build a city near his kingdom, to have direct access to the Mediterranean Sea. Aigues Mortes has hardly grown through the years and retains much of its medieval appearance.

Aigues-Mortes ramparts

Aigues Mortes ramparts   by sjdunphy

THIRD STAGE   From Arles to Aix-en-Provence

From Arles head southeast on the A54  (77km) to Aix-en-Provence.  Get driving directions on Google Maps

AIX-en-PROVENCE

Aix is known as the cultural capital of the Provence. A small town, quiet and clean, the narrow streets of Aix are very charming and perfect to discover the city by foot, for parking is difficult if not impossible in the city centre.

SLEEPING IN AIX-en-PROVENCE

LA VILLA GALLICI  Avenue de La Violette, Aix en Provence. Beautiful Relais & Chateau de luxe hotel. Price range 230-930 Euros.

LE PIGONNET  5, avenue de Pigonnet. Four star hotel situated walking distance from the centre of Aix, in the middle of a beautiful garden Price range 115-530 Euros

LA PETITE MAISON DE CARLA A five-room bed & breakfast in the heart of the Old Town, from 130 Euros.

MAS D ENTREMONT  Celony, 315 Route d’Avignon. Four star hotel and restaurant, situated on top of a hill, overlooking the town of Aix. From 150 Euros.

EATING IN AIX-en-PROVENCE

LA CHIMERE CAFE   15, rue Bruyes.
ZE BISTROT    7, rue Couronne.
RESTAURANT PIERRE REBOUL   11, Petite rue Saint Jean.
FOOD MARKETS  Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays are market days in Aix. The food market at Place des Precheurs is excellent.
COMPTESSE DU BARRY 55, rue Esparlat.  Shopping Gourmand.

SIGHTSEEING IN AIX-en-PROVENCE

Mazarin Quarter & the Old Town
L”Atelier de Paul Cezanne
A walk along the promenade Cours Mirabeau, well-known for its fountains and gardens, which links the Mazarin Quarter with the Old Town.

Provence2007 1284

Place d’Albertas  by dvdbramhall

SIDE TRIPS

LUNCH WITH CEZANNE

East of Aix, the small village of Le Tholonet, 5km away from Aix, at the foot of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, was one of Cezanne favourite places. Outside the village, the Moulin Cezanne is a painting and graphic art gallery. The Mont Saint Victoire, famous for its appearances in the paintings of Paul Cezanne was visible from the terrace of the house where he lived with his family, is a symbol of Provence. There is a road around the mountain with beautiful viewpoints and several departure points for walks. The very small village of Saint Antonin sur Bayon lies to the south of Sainte Victoire Mountain and deserves a visit because of the wonderful landscapes and surroundings. For lunch I would recommend to plan and make a stop at one of the colourful markets of Aix. Buy some delicatessen and a bottle of good wine and enjoy a perfect picnic meal on the countryside. If this is not your style, La Table de Beaurecueil, 66 Allee des Muriers is a good option.  The 2 star Michelin Guide bistro is near the Provençal town of Fuveau, 12km south from Le Tholonet, along the D46.

CELEBRATE LAVENDER

The drive from Aix to the North towards Forcalquier is a joy, for lavender fields are in bloom in summer, the best months to go are July and August.

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