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Jul 2, 2011 01:49 AM

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 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.