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16 Days in Provence and the proposed Itinerary and Restaurants

What began as another fanciful 2 week exploration of restaurants, boulangeries and patisseries in Paris with a 2 or 3 day excursion to Avignon next spring has evolved into a 16 day tour of Provence at the end of October and 2 or 3 days in Paris, such was the persuasive power of the advice, opinions and descriptions of the regular contributors to this site. Thank you all.

Like many who initially propose a dining itinerary around Provence, I found myself planning an extensive tour of the region as well as a very substantial lunch and dinner every day, but realized such an undertaking would require more time driving and transporting ourselves rather than experiencing Provence and might eventually diminish the enjoyment of savoring both the meals and the memories of them as well. We still may be trying to see, do and eat too much so hope to hear if the proposed itinerary seems too ambitious. Trying to start slowly and alternating with either a light lunch and full dinner, or substantial lunch and a light dinner when possible.

Day 1 Arrive in Avignon early evening after long travel day
Dinner - Le Petit Peche? for something light.
Sleeping in Avignon

Day 2 Tour Avignon
Lunch - Shop Les Halles Market for picnic.
Dinner - Cuisine du Dimanche (specialty is either roast chicken or scallops which is probably all we can manage this first day)
Sleeping in Avignon

Day 3 Rhone wine tour from Avignon (We'll have a rental car from here on)
Viason la Romaine till winery and tastings, Cairanne, Gigondas, Chateauneuf du Pape
Lunch- L'Oustalet in Gigondas
Dinner - Le Cinq Sens, L'Isle Sonnante or a suggestion
Sleeping in Avignon

Day 4 See Apt on Market day, then Bonnieux in the afternoon
Lunch-Auberge de Castelas in Sivergue (and if weather predicted good, sw it to dinner and get lunch from the market stalls or follow our noses to a bistro in Apt)
Dinner- Restaurant Pont Julien? hope someone is familiar with it. the lunch at Castelas sounds so substantial may just be able to handle a soup and salad
Sleeping in Bonnieux

Day 5 l'Isle sur la Sorge (Sunday market day) Fontaine de Vaucluse (Le Thor if time permits) and stopping at Domaine de la Citedelle in Menebes to look at some corkscrews and pick up a bottle
L - Le Vieux Bistro in Cabrieres d'Avignon
D - Possibly dining in at Le Clos du Buis ((if enough guests ask)
Sleeping in Bonnieux

Day 6 Lourmarin, Jardins du Val Joanis, Ansouis and or Cucuron as time permits
L- Restaurant Du Lac (near Pertuis) or La Closerie.in Ansouis
D-La Bartavelle in Goult (Two big meals but sometimes you just have to suffer)
Sleeping in Bonnieux

Day 7 Gordes (Tuesday Market Day) Abbaye de Senanque, Roussillon
This also is All Saints Day Do the markets operate then? and will have to ck w restaurants
L-Auberge de la Loube in Buoux if closed today will flip flop day 6 and day 7
D-L'Arome in Bonnieux (late celebration 43rd anniversary- really late it was back in June)
Sleeping in Bonnieux

Day 8 Saint Remy (Wed Market Day) Glanum, Les Baux,
L- Bistro du Paradou or La Place in Maussane-les-Alpilles help!
D- Sous les Micocouliers in Eygalieres
Probably Sleeping in Eygalieries so we don't have to drive after dinner

Day 9 Pont du Gard, Uzes
L- prefer Uzes or nearby still researching
D- pending big or light meal at lunch
Sleeping in Arles

Day 10 Open to explore then returning the rental car
L-L'Affenage in Arles
D- Tempted to select either L'Atellier or Le Cilantro but hoping to discover a not so thoroughly reviewed establishment and at least attempt to explore
Sleeping in Arles

Day 11 Arles (Sat Market Day)
probably too full from Market grazing for a sit down lunch but will give it a try
L-Jardin des Arts (decent salads?)
Sleeping in Arles

Day 12 Nimes
Sleeping in Arles

I'm still doing research and will update the open meals but I really want to get your suggestions and recommendations.

Day 13-16 Staying with friends in Montpellier, (they're vegetarians) Since they're familiar with many of the establishments and dine "Provence" I'm considering taking them to
Les jardins de Marrakech in Montpellier. We occasionally choose to dine at one or another Moroccan restaurant here in the San Francisco bay area because of the completely relaxed atmosphere, the wonderful aromas and the alternating and so very interesting hot then cold then spicy then sweet (especially fond of the bstillam then the main couscous and tangine courses. I love a restaurant that gives you a bathtowel for your napkin! Anyone know this place and is it okay? And if by chance the weather is lovely, perhaps treat them to lunch or dinner seaside, in Sete or Aigues-Mortes as well. Any suggestions there?

And I thank everyone in advance and only hope my trip report can inspire others half as much as Kurtis' report did me.

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  1. For Nimes, try Cosy Wine - always good food and lovely staff. We eat there a couple of times a year. The location is lovely too - a pretty square and right in the centre:

    For Sete, the best place we have been to is slightly off the main drag (where it's tricky running the gauntlet of rubbish tourist places along the canal). It's called Sel et Poivre and they serve very good food. The only draw back is that you don't get a view of the canal, but you will get much better food away from the crowds.

    1. All your picks are good, but two restaurants a day is too much. You will be enjoying less instead of more.
      Take day 10. L'Affenage AND l'Atelier (I assume you mean Rabanel). A meal chez Rabanel is at least 3 hours, often little longer (and believe me, you don't want it to end), with multiple dishes. L'Affenage is perfectly fine, but not in that league. If you dine at L'Affenage on another day, you will enjoy it perfectly. If you dine at both restos back to back, one will dilute the pleasure of the other.

      Likewise, many of your days seem to have one restaurant too many…

      As for Pont du Gard, nearby Collias is a beautiful village with several interesting eateries mentioned on this board.
      Collias is not only beautiful but also quiet and very few tourists venture there, which feels great after Pont du Gard. Actually from there you can rent a canoe to go up to Pont du Gard. The view of PdG from that approach is out of this world.

      1. My comments:
        Day 4: I don't know anything about Restaurant Pont Julien, but you are certainly right about the meal at le Castelas. Since everything is served family style, you can eat quite a bit, if so inclined. (Do not hesitate to ask for another dish of....anything.) Whether you go there for lunch or dinner, you could have the other meal at la Flambée in Bonnieux - great pizzas. If the weather is warm enough, request a table on the terrace (upstairs) - there's a beautiful view of the church, valley & Mt Ventoux.
        Day 6: Again if the weather is accommodating, go to Restaurant du Lac for lunch. Although la Closerie has a charming setting, we found the food to be more form than substance, although very well prepared.
        Day 7: We've found that most markets operate irrespective of holidays (although I'd expect vendors do take off for Christmas, for instance). But there are usually fewer vendors as it gets colder anyway, and I remember going to Gordes "off season" several years ago when the market was a bit scrawny - so I wouldn't expect a big turnout.
        Day 8: Lunch (any meal) at the Bistrot du Paradou should not be missed, but be prepared for a big meal (including a great 4th course of many cheeses & free-flowing wine). With that in mind, you will be "suffering" as much as Day 6 - consider Parigi's warning - but should you opt for 2 big meals that day, I would not necessarily choose les Micocouliers in Eygalières. Why not look into the Mas du Capoun in Mollégès ? They have reasonably priced rooms & a terrific restaurant. And the hostess/owner is extremely welcoming.
        Day 10: I agree with Parigi - a meal at l'Atelier Jean-Luc Rabanel (if that is what you meant) is indeed special & long (13 courses), and should be approached with an empty stomach. Why not make that your farewell dinner on Day 12?

        1. I just looked at where you are sleeping every night. You know Avignon and Bonnieux are quite near. Why not make Bonnieux your base and stay there longer, instead of spending nights in Avignon. Since you will be visiting Arles, Nîmes, St Rémy, Avignon will be similar but lackluster. If you have compelling reasons to visit it, it can be easily visited in a morning or afternoon, when you are staying in Arles. Since your itinerary seems very ambitious and at times hectic, this may streamline it somewhat.

          1. “Day 2 Tour Avignon_Lunch - Shop Les Halles Market for picnic. _Dinner - Cuisine du Dimanche (specialty is either roast chicken or scallops which is probably all we can manage this first day)_Sleeping in Avignon”

            Even several picnics won’t be enough to sample all the food that can be had at Les Halles, and I wished that we did more of it. Not all but many cafés nearby will accommodate your picnic with plates and silverware if you order drinks. Some pics below to wet your appetite...

            “Day 3 Rhone wine tour from Avignon (We'll have a rental car from here on) Viason la Romaine till winery and tastings, Cairanne, Gigondas, Chateauneuf du Pape_Lunch- L'Oustalet in Gigondas_Dinner - Le Cinq Sens, L'Isle Sonnante or a suggestion_Sleeping in Avignon”

            Vaison-la-Romaine’s market is thought to be one of the best in Provence by many accounts, so do consider this if feasible.

            “Day 5 l'Isle sur la Sorge (Sunday market day) Fontaine de Vaucluse (Le Thor if time permits) and stopping at Domaine de la Citedelle in Menebes to look at some corkscrews and pick up a bottle _L - Le Vieux Bistro in Cabrieres d'Avignon_D - Possibly dining in at Le Clos du Buis ((if enough guests ask)_Sleeping in Bonnieux”

            If I were to redo my visit to l'Isle sur la Sorge this would be it: get there before 9am for ease of parking, take a small break around 10:30-11am for a drink in a café and watch the market crowd (many market-side cafes were packed with the locals around this time). Find a table in one of many restos there and have a grand lunch; likely need reservation as place was packed like rush hour NYC subway. Then make the roundtrip, walk or canoe, to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to prepare yourself for the dinner at Le Thor if appetite permitting.

            As mentioned, I am sure you will find a pace that fits your enjoyment, and certainly your thoughtful itinerary will afford that for sure! Still, I would echo the sentiment that two big meals are difficult to enjoy on their own. One of the frequent contributors to this board said it quite nicely and wisely that there are two phases to enjoying the meal: one is as you are eating, and the other is when one allows some time to look back on the experience.

            I agree with Parigi’s comment regarding logistics of the base if feasible. Hassles of sizable town is similar anywhere, and after a week of idle in Luberon, even a day trip to Avignon was tagged on both ends with auditory hallucination of local radio traffic update. And as many people advised me: drive less, walk more, and stop frequently.

            1. Why don't you rent a house in one of the villages and do day trips. All the villages/towns you mention are no more than an hour's drive. You will really experience life in Provence. Also, I would definitely check with the restaurants where you want to eat to make sure they are not closed at the end of October/early November as it is not unusal restaurants in Provence to close for a few weeks between the end of the season and when they reopen for Christmas holiday season. Your Day 3 itinerary is crazy in my opinion. Vaison-la-Romaine has both an upper medieval town with fortress and worth a hike to as well as the lower Roman town with vast archeological ruins and 2000 year old Roman bridge. If you go on Tuesday morning, there is the weekly market (even then it will have 200+ vendors), one of the best in the South of France. Lunch at L'Oustalet will be at least two hours. The village of Gigondas is worth hiking around besides tasting the wonderful red wines produced in that AOC. Unless, you have scheduled tastings, I would go to Rasteau before Cairanne; Rasteau is newly elevated to its own AOC like Gigondas and CDP. CDP is at least 1/2 hour drive from Gigondas, while the village doesn't have much to offer besides the remains of the Pope's summer castle, there are plenty of wonderful places to taste wine. One of our favorites is Domaine de la Charbonniere. Some of your other days are over packed too.

              5 Replies
              1. re: Pammel

                "Why don't you rent a house in one of the villages and do day trips. All the villages/towns you mention are no more than an hour's drive. You will really experience life in Provence."

                Words of Ur-wisdom.

                1. re: Parigi

                  What wonderful support. Thank you all! And all the suggestions will be considered before I reserve lodging, I had anticipated needing to trim down our plans, but something in the manner of the opening round of negotiating with myself, this first proposal is overloaded with sights and meals.

                  As for the Avignon stop, I don't believe we'll be capable of going a step beyond there let alone pick up a rental car and drive to an eventual base. If it weren't for the fact that we'll be too exhausted to go further than Avignon, we would gladly take your suggestion Parigi, This is our arrival day, having flown transatlantic 11 hours then a 3 hour wait at CDG for the first TGV to Avignon. And then the reluctance to change locations the following day set in. We had considered overnighting in Paris but our experience is that we are "miserable" the first day after any long flight so we might as well get to where we're going. Also, we'll need to return to Paris to catch a flight to Amsterdam before flying home so we would need to overnight close to CDG anyway and spending time in Paris after Provence seemed logical.

                  Renting an apartment or house has and will be considered again. My concern centers around being able to walk from evening meal to our room on as many occasions as possible. I'm not familiar with the weather that time of year and am simply being cautious about having to restrict enjoying wine with our meals and a glass of Armagnac afterwards because we have to drive on unfamiliar roads in a possible rainstorm.

                  Pammel, thank you for the insight. Selecting which village or area to visit for tasting was and is a delightful problem. There are two "planets" we wish to visit , tastings in Gigondas and lunch at L'Oustalet, and all the rest are simply orbiting bright moons that we'll get to or not as time permits. I considered spending a peaceful hour or two enjoying a cafe and pastry in the pleasant surroundings of Viason la Romaine while waiting for the wineries to open and not as a Destination on this trip. (I've already noted it for the next) But this can be done in any number of villages closer to or even in Gigondas. I wanted to visit Cairanne because I'm not at all familiar with those wines and have read that the Co-op (Cave) has some 150 wines from a variety of small producers and many available for tasting, but neither am I familiar with the wines of the nearby AOC domaines so again, thank you for suggesting Rasteau. Would you suggest that over Seguret? And CdP is on the road back to Avignon and thought by turning down a back lane I could find a small family operation offering tastings rather than the larger coops, and spend some time chatting about the difficulties, if any, experienced this vintage and see the joy and pride in their eyes as we taste. So I believe Day 3 is much more manageable now. Coffee and Pastry in Rasteau before tasting, then Gigondas and lunch and finishing the excursion with a visit to a producer around CdP.

                  I need some time to digest all the information provided and post a more realistic itinerary. Thank you all!

                  Kurtis, Dinner in Le Thor? When I mentioned it, I had meant seeing the Cave! Le Vieux Bistro that

                  1. re: catfur

                    "If it weren't for the fact that we'll be too exhausted to go further than Avignon, we would gladly take your suggestion Parigi, This is our arrival day, having flown transatlantic 11 hours then a 3 hour wait at CDG for the first TGV to Avignon. And then the reluctance to change locations the following day set in. We had considered overnighting in Paris but our experience is that we are "miserable" the first day after any long flight so we might as well get to where we're going. "

                    Yikes. Two miserables don't make a positive. Catfur, do yourself a favor, stop a night in Paris. Then a breezy 2.5 hour train to Avignon.

                    And you may want to switch your days so that the Avignon days and the Arles days are back to back. There are several trains and many buses connecting the two towns. And neither towns by themselves need a car. In fact it is best not to have a car.
                    When you are ready to leave the Avignon/Arles area and go to the Luberon part of Provence (Bonnieux?), that can be the start of your car rental. This will reduce your car rental by several days and save some of your hair from being all pulled out by you trying to park in those towns.

                    Don't worry about the "gems" you will miss. Of course you are going to miss "gems" with a 16-day tour. I have been back to Provence nearly every year for more than a dozen years and am still discovering new places on each trip. In order to enjoy Provence as it is meant to be enjoyed, you should stick to your leisurely pace instead of rushing around until all the hilltop villages blur into each other.

                    You can use this site to get temperature statistics of the area. Input a larger town like Avignon, which is more like to have statistical records than, say, Bonnieux:

                    In big markets like Isle sur la Sorgue, beware of the "fake fromagers". Typically they offer cheese samples to … mainly foreigners, and the cheeses are usually excellent. Many visitors are so enchanted by the cheeses and the context that they buy without asking the price. -- Wait a minute, none of the cheeses have prices indicated. And many tourists are lured into buying vastly overpriced cheeses. BY overpriced I mean twice as much as the neighboring stands. Last time at Isle sur la Sorgue, I balked at the prices finally and reluctantly announced by the quote unquote fromager and told him that I would think about it. He screamed that one should not lie "le jour du Seigneur". Maybe he's right and I should have told him he was a scammer. The other vendors were disgusted, because these fake fromagers give the whole market a bad name.
                    This phenomenon has been reported elsewhere in France.

                    1. re: Parigi

                      Parigi: we've been told by a vendor-friend that the Nougat sellers at markets pull a similar scam. They give you something yummy to taste, but sell you already packaged crap. Better to buy from an actual specialty shop, that is if you're into nougat. (Not having bought any myself, I have no personal experience.)

                      1. re: Parigi

                        "l beg of you, watch yourself. Be on guard. "
                        "This place is full of vultures. Vultures everywhere. Everywhere! "

                        -from Casablanca

                2. Your itinerary avoids the jewel of Provence, Aix, where I had the best meal in my recent holiday in France, at a tiny little place archly called Ze Bistro. Three courses for 36 euros or, for only 42 euros, five courses; the only catch is that everyone at the table has to eat the "surprise" dinner. That requirement is made more tolerable by the fact that the executive chef, Olivier Scola, asks about any allergies or distastes. Then it all shows up, perfectly timed and served with excellent bread--pain de campagne and pain complet. The wine list was fascinating because it had, in addition to the usual pricy bottles, some really excellent finds under 20 euros. (Our foursome shared a 2010 sauvignon blanc from Touraine by Francois Chidaine and a 2009 cote de rhone villages from Domaine Roche Audran for 34 euros total.) The courses: (1) lamb terrine with chevre and roquette salad; (2) tuna tartare with celery root rapee and mustard ice cream; (3) cod (lieu jaune) in a beurre blanc with zucchini two ways (pureed and steamed) and a salted watermelon ball; (4) magret rare with apricots and soft white beans; (5) baba au rhum with yuzu sorbet--for which I substituted a cheese plate (stilton, banon, brebis) in order to finish the wine. Menus change daily as Scola shops the market.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: confitdoie

                    This place sounds like a real gem! Would love to hear more about your trip/eats!

                    1. re: Kurtis

                      Confidoie, I was afraid of this! Aix has been the source of much angst. We do want to see and enjoy this jewel. It seems just far enough out of the way to warrant an overnight stay and I've been desperately trying to minimize changing overnight locations. If I were to include Aix, I would prefer to do it on one of it's Market Days and if possible, on the way to a base. That's Day 4, a Tuesday so its quite possible to spend a day there and continue on to Bonnieux that evening, eliminating Apt or one of the other satellite days around Bonnieux. Much to consider.
                      And sorry Kurtis, inadvertently posted before finishing. you suggest dining in Le Thor instead of Le Vieux Bistro?

                      1. re: catfur

                        boredough, I had looked into the Mas du Capoun in Mollégès and in fact it was my first choice, however it's closed on Wednesdays, which is the market day in Saint Remy so that particular day was planned around enjoying that along with a side trip to Tarascon to shop for some table linens at Souleiado's outlet/shop. (Sigh) We will be able to attend several market days... back to the drawing board!

                        1. re: catfur

                          oops catfur, you are right about WED at Capoun. A shame, since the restaurant is much better than Micocouliers....

                          1. re: boredough

                            You do realize that you're ruining all my plans! Now I'm determined to dine at Capoun, Market day be damned!

                            1. re: catfur

                              so many restaurants....so little time....

                    2. re: confitdoie

                      Confidoie: I will pass on your comments about the Cotes du Rhone from Domaine Roche Audran to the young owner/winemaker, Vincent Rochette. They are locate in Buisson, near St Romain de Malegarde. (http://www.roche-audran.com/; he speaks some English if anyone wants to visit. He will be happy to see this comment. Vincent makes wonderful white and red Cotes du Rhone, plus some late harvest wines. Last year he bought a small parcel of Chateauneufdu-Pape and has produced his first wine from it, which got Rober Parker's attention.

                      1. re: sderham

                        Hi Sderham,
                        If you'd like specifics, the Rochette wine was a 2009 CdR Villages "Visan" and it was slightly bretty--a whiff of barnyard in the nose which disappeared as the meal wore on--normal in Grenache/Syrah wines especially biodynamic ones.

                        1. re: sderham

                          Sderham, since you live in and no doubt are familiar with the many restaurants in the villages around Viason-la-Romaine, would you be kind enough to comment along with everyone! We'll be spending a day in the area and after researching, have these 4 to choose from for our afternoon meal and quite possibly another for dinner instead dining in Avignon that evening.

                          Restaurant L'Oulo in Mazon
                          Coteaux et Fourcheltes in
                          St Hubert in Entrechaux
                          L'Oustalet in Gigondas

                      2. These advises are some really nice logistical and culinary considerations! I think your over-planning will allow you to be flexible and so that's a good thing; having heard your story now, I am sure you will under-execute which I think would be for your better enjoyment.

                        "you suggest dining in Le Thor instead of Le Vieux Bistro?"

                        I thought it would be better to stay in L'Isle-sur-la-Sorge for lunch instead of traveling for another destination - however close it is - since it has abundance of good restaurants including Le Jardin du Quai. The choice for Les Carmes over Le Vieux Bistro for dinner was that the former seems more qualified for a destination dining, while latter seems easier to access as you drive around Luberon any other days. Besides, I always like to include nice walks with meals, and Le Vieux Bistro is ideally situated for circular walk to Mur de la Peste, and this would be too much to include on the same day.

                        "I was afraid of this! Aix has been the source of much angst. We do want to see and enjoy this jewel."

                        Personal jewels are much more precious and brighter for the discoverer, and far more valuable if it is you doing the discovering. My comment to the poster re a resto in Aix was to encourage him/her to share more restos that may fit your itinerary better, and for others who may read this later and Aix is a definite part of the trip . Combined knowledge of Parigi and boredough alone can easily run you and me silly in all directions for months I am sure, and their recs are, as it was for me, thoughtfully chosen that caters to your need.

                        I do agree with Pammel's suggestion: your day #3 include enough itinerary for at least 2 days. VLR really deserves a whole day or more IMO, and for that reason, I reluctantly turned back at Gigondas. Regrets in these regions are insurance for your returned trip!

                        Days 6&7: again too many cities, but I think by then you will find your pace and plan accordingly. If possible, I would definitely pick Lourmarin over Gordes for the market experience. Again, my preference to include a walk with a meal wants me to suggest a visit to Fort de Buoux when you are at Auberge de la Loube: it can be done in 1.5hr RT and offers wonderful view and will definitely get you ready for the meal at L'Arome:)

                        If I were to drop a couple of cities from your itinerary, it would be Roussillon and Apt. Roussilon is a unique village within Luberon, but it reminded us of American SW in mini version. Apt seemed rather ordinary in our drive through, but this may be unfair judgement.

                        As said before, peoples lives were rearranged because of these choices including mine, and for these kind of delimmas, more the better ;)

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Kurtis

                          "If I were to drop a couple of cities from your itinerary, it would be Roussillon and Apt. "

                          Would also drop Fontaine de Vaucluse for the same reason Kurtis cited re Roussillon.
                          Even with these eliminations, the itinenary is still too ambitious. Visiting a village is not just about running out to take a pic and running back to the car.

                          1. re: Parigi

                            I did realize I would have to eliminate visiting some of the villages and desired meals as I refined the trip and honestly Parigi, I won't be running out to take a pic and back to the car. I may, however, run out to purchase a wedge of cheese and a baguette to tide us over.

                            The reason I planned to drive to Bonnieux after spending 3 days in Avignon is because I noticed that a few of the restaurants I really want to try will close for several weeks on Nov 1. I don't recall the names at the moment, Le Bartaville is one I think and there were one or two others whose regular closing dates didn't allow us to try them if we visited that area later in our trip.

                            I'm surprised that dropping Fontaine de Vaucluse was suggested tho. We will arrive in L'Isle sur la Sorge before 0900 on Market day and have several hours to browse the stalls as well as enjoying some time in a cafe before having lunch there or driving the few minutes to Le Vieux Bistro and that leaves about 3 hours of daylight, which I thought would be enough time to visit Fontaine and walk the short distance to the spring. This follows the scenario of walking around a village or taking in a market then enjoying a natural wonder, or visa versa before and after our meals. I read that the path to the Spring is a little tacky with shops selling T-shirts and such so hadn't planned on spending time in the village itself. (Don't chastise me Parigi, I realize the rest of the village won't be like that)
                            And all of you still think I still need to drop Fontaine? Of course I would if we wanted to devote more time to the Market itself.

                            Gordes basically is on the way to the Abbaye de Senanque where I've learned the Monks produce and sell an excellent Lavender honey then we would continue on to the Gorges de Nesque, some 45 minutes drive away for our afternoon natural wonder and walk.

                            In any case, I'll work and trim and post a revised edition in a week or so and continue to read and research and ask questions. I was distracted by another thread recently where the request was to provide a list of the top 5 restaurants in Paris and thought there are already so so many books and websites that provide exactly that, lists and much prefer the communication and information gained here. CH is like walking down a lane window shopping then going into the ones that were most attractive and then sampling what they offer before deciding which to purchase not simply going to one store and filling out a grocery list. Where's the fun in that?

                            1. re: catfur

                              Though I have not been, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse wouldn't be a destination on its own as you describe, but the walking along the stream in between here and L'Isle-sur-la-Sorge seems nice to way to "decompress" for both the body and soul after the market and lunch at la-Sorge. We didn't get to do this; we instead brought back items from the market to our base in Maubec for a memorable picnic .But I could have easily spent the whole day there, and had dinner there as well.

                        2. I have to stick my nose in here and say that I LOVE Avignon. I have been there several times, and enjoy staying in the old town, and taking day bus trips from there. (especially Chateauneuf-du-Pape). So I can indeed see spending a couple of days there, carless.

                          There's a lot more to do than just dancing on the St. Benezet Bridge!

                          1. Don't forget to go to Arles market(the best i thought) and taste some of great wines from Les Baux region. I forget which market but I believe it was market in Avignon, a young man was selling a small batch of canelle...omg, i nearly fainted.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Monica

                              ChefJune, I'm glad you did stick your nose in, like everyone here I would imagine, I keep being led from thread to thread and have read and enjoyed a number of your posts. Along with being an attractive destination, Avignon just fits in so well as the first stop of the trip. We can get there within 3 hours from CDG after our flight and probably with enough strength to stop for a strong coffee and chat with some locals we've communicated with over the internet and who practice their English every Wednesday evening before wandering off for a light supper. Ideally, Arles would be the next destination were it weren't for the fact that one of the restaurants we definitely want to visit in the Luberon closes down on Nov 1 and Monica, yes, the market in Arles is one of the main attractions for us. We've read so much about it and how it's considered one of the best and most varied. And I like the possibility of being able to return the rental car and just using the extensive and regular bus and train lines to and from Nimes and Montpellier during the final week of the trip.

                              Along with all the tempting destinations and dining decisions to be made for each and every day and meal driving me crazy, there remains AIx-en-Provence to consider or not. We're not ones who have ever traveled with a tour group nor do I think we could every enjoy it, no matter how loosely they might claim to be organized but the prospect of finding a guide in a city for one particular purpose is something that I believe we'd enjoy, specifically a tour of Aix on a Market day, purported to be another one of the best, where the focus is being led from cheese shop to cheese shop to chocolate shop to pastry to sausage shop etc to the establishments we could never hope to find given the limited amount of time we'd have. I've been able to locate several such "guides" in Aix, but have been unsuccessful finding any on the internet in Arles, Avignon, Nimes, Montpellier or any of the modestly larger cities we'd be near. And beyond that, Aix does have its tremendous charm and actually will be on our route back from the Luberon toward Arles. We'll probably bypass it, it's just a struggle to strike it from the list.

                              One possibility has surfaced. We may keep the rental car and take an apartment in Maussane-les-Apilles for 7 days and take day trips from there. Weekly rates seem to be half again what they are around Saint Remy so that is still on our agenda. Anyway, I'm slowly, very slowly striking restaurants and villages from the list, occasionally adding, and will post a second, less ambitious itinerary soon

                              1. re: catfur

                                Sderham, since you live in and no doubt are familiar with the many restaurants in the villages around Viason-la-Romaine, would you be kind enough to comment along with everyone! We'll be spending a day in the area and after researching, have these 4 to choose from for our afternoon meal and quite possibly another for dinner instead dining in Avignon that evening.

                                Restaurant L'Oulo in Mazon
                                Coteaux et Fourcheltes in
                                St Hubert in Entrechaux
                                L'Oustalet in Gigondas

                                1. re: catfur

                                  "so many restaurants, so little time"
                                  I not only second that sentiment but 3rd and 4th it Boredough and I'm not just referring to visiting and dining in them, I'm applying it to this research stage stage as well. But I imagine everyone here has gone through this, several times. I have noticed that one of the benefits of devoting time and effort considering possible restaurants is that I've been focusing and refocusing the trip to smaller specific areas, which, in turn, allows a more in depth study of the history and attractions. As for restaurants, I haven't fully explored Nimes and Montpellier yet. I don't believe I can absorb half the information already provided on Paris so my inquires and requests for suggestions will remain firmly lodged in Provence.

                                  The first 3 nights will be in Avignon as initially planned. The next 3 nights will be spent in Bonnieux and as you suggested Parigi, I've reserved an apartment in Lourmarin for the next 5 nights, so I can focus on the villages around both. There is still more driving than I care for but it seems manageable. We'll spend the next 3 days in an apartment in Montpellier which our friends have graciously provided. So now....

                                  Day 1 Avignon after long travel day
                                  Dinner - Le Petit Peche

                                  Day 2 Tour Avignon
                                  Lunch - Shop Les Halles Market for picnic.
                                  Dinner - Cuisine du Dimanche
                                  Sleeping in Avignon

                                  Day 3 Rhone wine tour from Avignon (We'll have a rental car from here on)
                                  One winery visit in Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, (Seguret if time or skip) but definitely Vacqueryras because I'm not familiar with these wines.
                                  Lunch- L'Oustalet in Gigondas
                                  Dinner -Au Tout Petit or back to Dimanche if we liked it enough.
                                  Sleeping in Avignon

                                  Day 4 Arles on Market day, then Pont du Gard
                                  Lunch-L'Amphitryon or Les Clos des Vignes in Castellon du Gard
                                  need help picking one or the other
                                  Dinner-La Bartavelle
                                  Sleeping in Bonnieux

                                  Day 5 l'Isle sur la Sorge (Sunday market day) Fontaine de Vaucluse if time
                                  L - Le Vieux Bistro in Cabrieres d'Avignon
                                  D - Flambee or Le Saint Andre in Bonnieux
                                  Sleeping in Bonnieux

                                  Day 6 Bonnieux Gordes Senanque,
                                  Lunch - Un Jour Charlotte in Gordes(may be closed) Le Pont Julien is the alt
                                  Dinner L'Arome
                                  Sleeping in Bonnieux

                                  Day 7-11 sleeping in Lourmarin

                                  Day 7 Lourmarin and Buoux
                                  Lunch Auberge de la Loube in Buoux
                                  Dinner - Suggestions please

                                  Day 8 Saint Remy on Market Day, Les Baux
                                  Lunch - Bistro Paradou
                                  Dinner-something light Crepes or salads, many choices available anyone familiar with either Cafe Gaby or La Louche a beurre?

                                  Day 9 Aix on the Thursday Market day
                                  Lunch Ze Bistro
                                  or we could easily opt for market prepared lunch, ie roasted chicken and those potatoes underneath all those rotating birds)

                                  Dinner Grand Mere, Chez Charlotte or Ze Bistro
                                  A little suspect of the reviews found about Grand Mere, all similar wording, but if you've dined here and like we'd like to try the place either for lunch or dinner due to what appears to be a really lovely setting

                                  Day 10 Ansouis, Jardins at Val Joanis, Cucuron
                                  Lunch - Du Lac in La Motte d’Aigues
                                  Dinner - Restaurant de L’Horloge in Cucuron

                                  Day 11 Apt for Saturday Market Day Saignon
                                  Lunch - La Sanglier Paresseux in Casaneuve
                                  Dinner - Ferme Castelas in Sivergues
                                  or reverse lunch and dinner spots pending availability and weather

                                  Day 12 We leave Lourmarin and end up in Montpellier
                                  Lunch Mas de Capoun in Molleges (Finally manged to plot this in)
                                  Dinner- Would really love recommendations in Montpellier because we'll be with our friends who lent us the use of their apartment. (It's a Sunday though)
                                  Sleeping in Montpellier

                                  Day 13 Nimes
                                  Lunch Le Bistro Nimois
                                  Dinner either in Nimes (Magnolia) or in Montpellier (?) help?
                                  Sleeping in Montpellier

                                  Day 14 Arles
                                  Lunch L'Affenage in Arles
                                  Dinner- in Montpellier ? anyone?

                                  Day 15-16-17 Paris
                                  (friend having us over for dinner with her family one of these nights)

                                  Day 18-19 Amsterdam might as well visit the Van Gogh Museum and SEE some of his paintings.
                                  Have reservations at Toscanini.

                                  I know a 3 or 4 of these days are ambitious dining adventures and we'll certainly curtail consumption on a dinner if necessary. The sightseeing appears reasonable, a village or sight before lunch, a walk and a second village or sight after lunch then an a couple of hours at whichever home base with a glass of wine before dinner.

                                  I can't wait!

                                  1. re: catfur

                                    "The next 3 nights will be spent in Bonnieux and as you suggested Parigi, I've reserved an apartment in Lourmarin for the next 5 nights, so I can focus on the villages around both."

                                    I look at the places you want to visit, and still think you are better off making one base for that period, instead of having two bases. Or at least give Bonnieux 1 or 2 more nights, for the visits of Saignon, Apt, Caseneuve, etc. If you are based in Lourmarin and visit those places, there is only one road, a very zigzaggy one, from Lourmarin back to that part of the Luberon. It gets old fast.

                                    "There is still more driving than I care for but it seems manageable."

                                    I agree with the first part of your sentence.

                                    In general, it seems you are spending a lot of time in Avignon as a base. It is difficult to drive in and out. If all the places you want to visit are elsewhere, do consider staying in a lovely village like Séguret.

                                    "Day 6 Bonnieux Gordes Senanque,"

                                    Day 8: Saint Rémy market and Les Baux

                                    Since you will be seeing the market in Aix, you will not only see a very similar market, you will be seeing many of the same vendors.
                                    As much as I love the St Rémy market, you may consider skipping it and its monstruous traffic, do Les Baux and its monstruous traffic in the morning then in the after visit a much more relaxed and no less beautiful St Rémy, plus the Roman ruins and the asylum where Van Gogh stayed, just ourside the town. They are right next to each other.

                                    On your way from Bonnieux and Gordes, there is the lovely village of Goult. This may be the best time to have your meal (lunch?) at Bartavelle.
                                    Nor far from Gordes, and much less touristy, is the beautiful village of Venasque.

                                    In general you are going to a lot of places, and often have two restaurant meals in a day. Having a restaurant meal, especially in the leisurely Provençal pace, takes time. Again, you have to decide whether to maintain this maximum sightseeing or enjoying two meals a day.
                                    When you are crisscrossing the Luberon, a convenient place for picking up good picnic food is the traiteur section of the butcher la Maison Gouin in Coustellet, located in the middle of many of the places you want to visit.

                                    1. re: Parigi

                                      "... St Rémy, plus the Roman ruins and the asylum where Van Gogh stayed, just ourside the town."

                                      By Roman ruins I meant Glanum.

                                      1. re: Parigi

                                        Was at a wedding three 3 weeks ago in the Luberon. Went to La Petite Maison in Cucuron. I really enjoyed it.

                                    2. re: catfur

                                      Looks like a great trip to come, and am looking forward to reading your report already. Few of my thoughts…

                                      “Since you will be seeing the market in Aix, you will not only see a very similar market, you will be seeing many of the same vendors.”

                                      I agree with this. Even if you are planning to picnic every lunch with the market buys, and as much as it is tempting to fill all the days of the week with visits to markets, I think it would be better to select 3-4 markets in your trip that offer different experiences; larger town markets like Aix, St. Remy, Apt, versus smaller but still well-represented ones in Lourmarin or I’lsle sur la Sorge, against charming ones like in Bonnieux or the one in Cucuron that has real “local” feel. They were very different but equally wonderful experiences, and unless you have special desire to be at the market every day, the experience can blur after a few similar visits.

                                      It seems like you are staying in Lourmarin for five days but did not plan for any meal there nor left time to enjoy their market which falls on your day#10 where your day is filled with Ansouis, Jardins at Val Joanis, La Motte d’Aigues,and Cucuron. If you are planning to spend some time in Lourmarin market on this day, I think your itinerary far too busy: I would not enjoy having separate destinations for morning market, lunch, then dinner.

                                      Similarly, in my limited and humble opinion, the day that you will be dining at La Bartavelle would be so much nicer if you could spend some time around the village before the dinner, as Goult is a beautiful commune, and your day’s itinerary coming from Arles don’t seem to have much room for this. Dinning at La Bartavelle is a wonderful experience, but going in and out of Goult just for dining is missing the forest for a tree albeit a magnificent tree, and for that matter, any dinning experience with similar plans in Provence.

                                      Have a wonderful trip!

                                    3. re: catfur

                                      I don't know L'Oulo.

                                      Coteaux and Fourchettes: just had lunch there yesterday and dinner last fall when it opened. Excellent wine list and service, most of the food was excellent except for a vegetable garnish. Will go back soon. Opened by the former chef at L'Oustalet.

                                      St Hubert: country restaurant with terrace in this small village. Run by a family for 3 generations. Food is good but not creative and usually large portions. Popular in the area.
                                      L'Oustalet: usually quite good buy pricy (for France) but I had a disastrous dinner last January when I went with some people from a Patricia Wells class. No one else in the restaurant but service was an abomination. Excellent wine list.

                                      Le Tourne au Verre: very popular wine bar and bistro in Cairanne. Lunch is around 14 euros for 3 courses, dinner is 23 euros. About 15 wines by the glass at food prices.

                                      1. re: sderham

                                        sderham wrote: "Le Tourne au Verre: very popular wine bar and bistro in Cairanne. Lunch is around 14 euros for 3 courses, dinner is 23 euros. About 15 wines by the glass at food prices."

                                        Yes! We ate lunch there last Saturday, and it was the best meal that we have ever eaten in France. Yes, Le Tourne au Verre's euro14.50 lunch was head and shoulders superior, course for course, to a euro100 dinner we had recently eaten in Paris. As a bonus, the wines on the menu are more reasonably priced than we have seen elsewhere. We had an excellent Domaine Armand (AOC Rasteau) rouge for 24 euros that we liked enough that we bought a pair of bottles for take-away (euro11.50 each) to relive the moment later.

                                2. I too was puzzled by the decision to stay in both Lourmarin & Bonnieux. Although I love Lourmarin, Bonnieux may be the better choice for you. That aside, I would suggest switching Days 7 & 8, should you opt for Parigi's other suggestion to forego the St Rémy market (in which case it does not matter which day you go). Day 7 (Tuesday) could be lunch at Bistrot du Paradou followed by that light dinner. I have never eaten at Café Gaby, but have had a drink or two there on market days, since it is perfectly located in the village center. (Our good friends consider sitting in Café Gaby to be the embodiment of life in Provence, and what they dream of when anxiously awaiting their return.) But I can't speak for the food, only that the place is usually crowded. As for la Louche à Beurre, other friends have only been there for what they claimed to be the best steak frites in the area (in spite of it being a Crêperie).
                                  Then Day 8 (Wednesday) you could do Auberge de la Loube for lunch, and le Fournil (Bonnieux) for dinner (the reason I suggested the switch).
                                  Day 9: If you go for a "market" lunch in Aix, I would suggest le Poivre d'Ane (in Place des Cardeurs) for dinner. (Sorry to make your decision even more difficult!)
                                  Good luck!

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: boredough

                                    It's obvious I will have to trim down (pun not intended) both destinations and meals as well as carefully reconsidering our selection and duration of the home bases but I now feel all of you have provided enough information to do so. Thank You. And forgive the further inquiries which border on the mundane.

                                    Parigi, when I use either angloinfo or the viamichelin maps to estimate time and distance, the road from Lourmarin to Buoux and the road from Bonnieux to Buoux are listed as almost the same approximately 12 km taking 18 minutes which is why I chose to include it on one of the days we would be based in Lourmarin, providing a day to visit villages north of Bonnieux. from Bonnieux. Are those estimates correct? And, yes, I see your point about Saignon being much more convenient to visit from Bonnieux. And perhaps taking lunch at L’Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon and eliminating Caseneuve will slow the pace to a more enjoyable level that day. It's just that I hadn't found a reference to La Sanglier Paresseux on here and thought this is an opportunity to contribute something. Adjustment underway! Also now knowing Aix's and Saint Remy's markets are so similar, I'll reverse the sequence of visiting Saint Remy and Les Baux as you suggest or possibly switch days as boredough has suggested. (Are there still massive crowds in November at these two?)

                                    Also switching days 4 and 11, the saturday visits to Apt and Arles seems more logical now, it just requires we check out and leave Avignon a little earlier that morning and we can drop off our luggage in Bonnieux before proceeding to Apt. An aside, I've been finding a number of cautions that it is almost a certainty that someone will break into the car at these markets - this can't be true, can it?

                                    And Kurtis, the reasons for adding Lourmarin as a home base right after staying in Bonnieux are rather pedestrian. It cuts the cost of accomodations in half each of those 5 days as well as being closer for those day trips to Aix and then another to Val Joanis and Cucuron, and finally, further south should the area experience an early snow. Or is snow something I needn't consider?

                                    Boredough, I have to laugh, more difficult? It's a delight! Thank you. Grrrrrrr

                                    1. re: catfur

                                      The mileage (or kilométrage) from either Bonnieux or Lourmarin to Buoux may be just about the same, but Parigi's point is that from Lourmarin the only road (a lovely one through a chasm) takes you back to just below Bonnieux before heading off to Buoux, Saignon, Sivèrgues. As for lunch on day 4 or 11, I would pass on le Sanglier Paresseux for l'Auberge du Presbytère as you suggested, as its setting in Saignon is lovely. (I've only had drinks at Presbytère so can't comment on the food, but CHers like it. Sanglier Paresseux did not seem worth the trip foodwise...IMO)
                                      Regarding car break-ins, if you are not traveling with luggage, then in theory you should not have any worries. We go to many a market and have never had our car broken into, nor have we witnessed any other car's damage. However it is worth noting that your rental car will probably have a license plate from the French department #60 (I don't know why, but that's the way it seems to be) - and since you will be traveling mostly in departments 84 & 13, it will not be difficult for a potential troublemaker to figure out that you may have luggage in your trunk. Whether your trunk is empty or not, I would head for an indoor parking lot in big towns like Arles, Aix, Avignon. Street parking is next to impossible to find, so the added security is gravy (or better yet, crème chantilly) on the convenience of a garage.
                                      PS: I don't think you need be concerned about snow.

                                      1. re: boredough

                                        Folks, we've removed some off-topic discussions of car break-ins, and would ask that people keep the focus of the conversation on where to dine. Thanks.

                                  2. For Gordes, go to Mas Tourteron (full discolsure: the chef is a friend). I think it is one of the best restaurants in the region and the courtyard is spectacular http://www.mastourteron.com/uk/index.php. I also recommend Mas du capoun as having one of the highest food to price ratios of any place I've been: http://www.masducapoun.com/restaurant....

                                    Have fun

                                    13 Replies
                                    1. re: demo5

                                      Demo, thanks. Both were already high on my list and I may yet manage to work Mas Tourteron into our itinerary, however, according to ViaMichelin and another website, Mas du Capoun closes down for a month mid Oct thru Nov. I'll send an email to them just to confirm but as disappointed as I am, the alternative for us that day would be Le Bistro Paradou which seems to be among everyone's top recommendation. I'm now trying to plot out the second week of dining with Montpellier as our base, spending a day each in Arles Nimes, Uzes, &, the villages around the Gard and Montpellier itself. And Kurtis, if you're still monitoring this thread, I now understand what you meant by rearranging your life!
                                      But back to Mas Tourteron. I'll definitely try to dine there should we opt for a 2nd major dining experience on the same day, but not solely because it is a fabulous restaurant. One of the joys of dining is being welcomed as a friend.

                                      1. re: catfur

                                        I see you got no recommendations for eating in Montpellier, so here goes:

                                        - If you're into stars, you should not miss Le Jardin des Sens (which has 2).
                                        - Strongly recommended: Thierry Alix's excellent cooking at Folia, Château de Flaugergues (in Montpellier).
                                        - Another must-do: Ô Bontemps, in Magalas. Booking mandatory.
                                        - If you got to Sète, you'll enjoy the Bistrot de Plaisance, in a lovely setting by the canal.
                                        - Le Saleya in Montpellier: dinner only, booking recommended. Nice local wines, tapas and brochettes.

                                      2. re: demo5

                                        I really wanted to go there, but the thread linked here on Mas Tourteron - assisted by other internet-based reviews - made me go elsewhere on my trip. Has things changed, or was this an unfair/unfortunate report?


                                        PS Catfur, rearranging one's life now and then for such cause is a good thing, no ? :)

                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                          I just read that report. Didn't think it was "unfair/unfortunate" at all. there were several comments, mostly very positive, and one that thought it was overpriced. Everyone has different tastes, and different experiences at the many places we write about/eat at on these boards. I would take one "meh" comment with a grain of salt against many very complimentary reports.

                                          1. re: ChefJune

                                            Re-reading the comments, I think you are right. However, as at-best and occasional visitor to this region, my decision to go elsewhere was based on this comment:

                                            " As for the food - I really can't remember what we ate, but I do remember the dessert because there was a huge dessert station."

                                            Perhaps I was reading into it bit too far, but for their price which is higher than many great places nearby, it would have been great to hear that the OP had fond memories of the meal along with the dessert, as I often recall detailed account of memorable meals even years beyond. Would love to return to this area and try Mas Tourteron, as it would have been the ideal dinner spot of choice and beautiful setting for the romantic first night out when we were there.

                                            1. re: Kurtis

                                              <as I often recall detailed account of memorable meals even years beyond. >

                                              ...and so do I, but many people don't.

                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                Ptipois , I'm not into "stars" per se as my experience with "THE" restaurant, or just the very expensive establishment has generally been either a letdown or outright disappointment. Granted, when dining in such places my expectations are extremely high but I don't feel those expectations are unreasonable. So my inclination is to look a few notches down the proverbial list of best restaurants, not so much to find a terrific value, but trying to find those that are trying to move up the ladder. I've experienced far fewer disappointments with that group. However, my generalizations may change after this trip. They've already been altered a bit by discovering that many of these wonderful restaurants in Provence are in Hotels! A great hotel restaurant here in the States is a rare rare bird.

                                                Anyone familiar with two restaurants in Montpellier, L'absolu and La Diligence?
                                                Also would really appreciate a suggestion for a Moroccan themed restaurant either in Montpellier, Nimes or the immediate surrounding area? We want to take our hosts to both a lunch and dinner.

                                                1. re: ChefJune

                                                  "<as I often recall detailed account of memorable meals even years beyond. >

                                                  ...and so do I, but many people don't."

                                                  ... and many people do.

                                                  1. re: Kurtis

                                                    June 12, 1963 it was a brave little hotdog, meaty but with a spring in the casing....

                                                    1. re: catfur

                                                      Just bumping this thread up for a review and any polite "you would be better off " warnings. Many of the restaurants have been reviewed or mentioned here in chowhound, some haven't or at least I couldn't find a reference to them and I really wanted to include some of those, just for the joy of exploration and maybe find a jewel and contribute to the knowledge found here. And I've left a number of lunch and a few dinners open and intend to "follow our noses" which sometimes is risky business but for the most part, we've always had great success by peeking in and finding a house filled with locals. I wont bore anyone with a day by day itinerary and just list the city or village and the establishments we intend to try. Again, please advise (warn) me if I've veered off the delightful culinary path.

                                                      Avignon 3 days
                                                      Lunch - open
                                                      Dinner - Au Tout Petit

                                                      Lunch -picnic from Les Halles or inside at Cafe Francoise (pending weather)
                                                      Dinner - Cuisine du Dimanche

                                                      Lunch-L'Oustalet (in Gigondas)
                                                      Dinner - revisit either Dimanche or Au Tout Petit

                                                      Bonnieux 4 days
                                                      Lunch - Le Vieux Bistro in Cabrieres d’Avignon (stopping here on the way)
                                                      Dinner - L'Arome in Bonnieux

                                                      its sunday in L'isle sur la Sorgue and undecided probably light salads
                                                      Lunch-Le Guinguette in L’Isle sur la Sorgue
                                                      Dinner- Auberge de la Bartavelle in Goult

                                                      Lunch-L’Auberge du Presbytere in Saignon
                                                      Dinner - open

                                                      Lunch -L’Etape du Promeneur in Buoux

                                                      Saint Remy just an overnight on the way to Montpellier
                                                      Lunch - Lunch-Bistro du Paradou
                                                      Dinner - open possibly Le Cassoulet or Les Gaubois in Saint Remy

                                                      Montpellier 5 days
                                                      Lunch open in Aigues-Mortes
                                                      Dinner - Les Gourmands -Montpellier

                                                      Lunch l’Amphitryon in Castellon du Gard
                                                      Dinner Open in Montpellier

                                                      In Sete
                                                      Lunch open in Sete
                                                      Dinner Insense -Montpellier (informed service is erratic- true?)

                                                      In Arles
                                                      Lunch - market picnic in Arles
                                                      Dinner - open (either in Arles or back in Montpellier)

                                                      In NImes
                                                      Lunch - Le Cosy in Nimes
                                                      Dinner - Les Bains in Montpellier have locals recommendation

                                                      Aix 2 days
                                                      Lunch - will be lunching with local friends
                                                      Dinner --La Poivre d’Anne

                                                      Lunch - Open
                                                      Dinner - Open

                                                      Paris 3 days
                                                      Lunch - open
                                                      Dinner - dining at and with friends family

                                                      Lunch -
                                                      Dinner - La Fontaine Gourmands

                                                      Lunch - Le Timbre
                                                      Dinner - open

                                                      1. re: catfur

                                                        Visit to Sivergues and Le Castelas for the dinner on the day of your visit to Saignon would fit nicely here.

                                                        Looking forward to hearing from you re your choice in Buoux as the place was never reported here in CH. Visit to the Fort de Buoux would add much to your experience there. Enjoy!

                                                        1. re: Kurtis

                                                          has anyone mentioned Chez Bru in Egylieres? Or Oustau de Baumaniere in Les Baux? Or La Cabro d'Or also in Les Baux? worth checking out. Also I dont know how many of you here are but my mum rents out her house in Paradou(sleeps up to 10, swimming pool), feel free top get in touch if you are interested as it sounds like a good area fr your base

                                                          1. re: justmarried

                                                            Hello there. I was just browsing chowhound for comments on restaurants in the Maussane/ Paradou area. We have been vacationing in the area since 1985, often renting houses, mostly in Maussane, but once in Paradou, right next door to Terrance Conran's estate. No, we never saw him. We have rented a small house in central Maussane for a month from mid april this year (2014) We are looking at bringing over our two grown kids, with their kids next year and will be looking for a larger house.Can you provide us with contact information on your mother's house. You can contact me by e mail at:


                                                            Would love to hear back from you

                                                            Gordon Marantz
                                                            Kingston Ontario Canada

                                        2. Wow, this is one looong thread! I think that I got through most of it with only a few bouts of nodding off. Unfortunately, I have forgotten most of what I wanted to say but will try and kick in a bit if it isn't too late. I highly, highly recommend the idea of renting ONE home base for this trip aside from your arrival/departure evenings (and yes, I love Avignon). Either Maussane or Paradou would be great for that and there are wonderful opportunities to be had this time of year. And yes, I too think that you are really planning far, far too much. Still! Vaison is a day. Arles, my home town, is definitely a day--especially on Saturday! That said, my bet is to do a market swoop and then take your goods to the Bar du Marché, if you order a bottle (whether you finish or not and I believe it is in the 10 Euros area) they will look the other way as you dive into your goodies. I have no idea where L'Affenage came from as I can't think of a single local that eats there. The chance to eat at Rabanel for dinner after the market is the must do! Just go with an open mind and time on your hands--and don't let them rush you either! While I like Cilantro, I think that it is rarely truly exceptional--La Chassagnette would get my vote in its stead or for a lower down the Michelin chain experience, L'autruche (you could also eat light there with their "after the market" menu). Jardin des Arts also surprises me--don't let the website fool you! It's pretty but nothing more.
                                          I have a good friend who is Setois, I will try to get ahold of him (busy dude) to get a proper recommendation.
                                          I actually really like Sous les Micoucouliers but prefer it for lunch if it is still warm enough to sit outside (it might or might not be).
                                          I also prefer La Place in Maussane.
                                          I would totally skip the market in St Remy. Bunch of silliness compared to what else you have planned.
                                          For Nimes, there is also a huge Les Halles there as well, open 7 days a week. Just a thought.
                                          For Avignon, I think that the experience at METropolitan, inside the courtyard at the Collection Lambert is positively lovely. Not mega gourmet but really clean flavors. Then to stroll it off in the museum is sublime.
                                          Loumarin is also a great base, driving and munching wise. You'll find your way, just follow your nose!
                                          L'Isle sur La Sorgue is a great Sunday--the market, the brocante, lunch, the antiques dealers and then, on the road out of town to Apt, not far is a stand called "Les Fruits de L'Isle" (I think!! Something like that) on the left side as you leave town and you will notice the signs for fresh truffles. The man that runs it is delightful and he has so many yummy things to take with you.
                                          Time to make dinner!

                                          5 Replies
                                          1. re: HeatherinArles

                                            PS. My hunger got the best of me last night but one thing that I think deserves mentioning: Toussaint is a serious holiday here and things really do close down completely, at least in Arles and the region, just something to keep in mind.

                                            1. re: HeatherinArles

                                              hi! i've been searching through posts on provence in chowhound and just saw your mention of toussaint - do you know if the outdoor markets (thursday for this year) still take place on nov. 1? are market schedules affected other days during this week?

                                            2. re: HeatherinArles

                                              Since we'll be spending 5 days in Montpellier I've been looking for nearby villages to visit and Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert seems of interest and one we would enoy, then learned of Restaurant de lauzun, in nearby Gignac. Has anyone dined there or heard reports?

                                              And Heather, thanks for mentioning the Met at the Collection Lambert in Arles. It's a definite possibilty for lunch, esp if the weather is reasonable. And the tip about the truffles at Les Fruits de L'Isle stand is perfect! I've been searching for some small gift to bring to dinner, beyond taking our friends out to lunch or dinner another day, as a gesture of our gratitude and thanks. Truffles will do nicely, especially if offered with a selection of chocolates from one of these incredible shops I've been reading about. I know the first week of November is a bit early for fresh truffles and that's about all I know, but if I present my ignorance honestly and explain that this is for a gift for dear and local friends... perhaps he'll take pity and select a good one. As for Lourmarin, time just doesn't allow a visit this trip.

                                              While in Montpellier, we'll make reservations for dinner at Les Bains and Les Gourmands, which we are told is reliable. then for lunch at L’Amphitryon in Castillon du Gard,
                                              (Parigi's recommended restaurant in Collias wont be open for lunch the day we're in the area unfortunately) but if we choose to spend a day in Sete, we're definitely going to lunch at Ptipois' Bistrot de Plaisance. And as many times as I've selected the restaurants in Paris, I've changed my mind. Confusion reigns but La Cerisaie and Au Bon Saint Pourcain always seem to survive when I trim the list.

                                              1. re: catfur

                                                If you are visiting Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, then you won't be far from the wonderful Restaurant Le Mimosa in St Guiraud or their wine bar/bistro La Terrace de Mimosa in Montpeyroux.

                                                I'm no expert on restaurants in Paris, but we enjoyed La Cerisaie a lot. Reasonable price for Paris, great SW cooking, small and a bit cramped, but in a good way. Very friendly with a buzzy bustling atmosphere - essential to book in advance.

                                                1. re: catfur

                                                  Just a query - I can't find any mention of Bistrot de Plaisance in Sete on the internet - and I've tried all the other possible variables like Bistrot Plaisance, Bistrot du Plaisance Bistrot le Plaisance, Restaurant de Plaisance etc etc. I know that not all place have websites, but it doesn't seem to be entioned by anyone - does it exist?

                                              2. I just read your July 2, 2011 planned itinerary. I hope you survived and made it back home. that presumes that you were both young enough to endure the rigours of the gastronomy.

                                                We have been vacationing in France (mostyl Provence) since 1985 centering around Maussane les Alpilles. Things have changed enormously in that time frame. We will be heading back to Maussane mid April for a month's stay in a rented house in midst of the village.

                                                Would love to hear how your trip turned out

                                                Gordon Marantz
                                                Kingston ON Canada