Best Foodie Base Camp in Provence
I am trying to sift through a lot of foodie towns posted on the message boards but can't decide. From what I can tell Saint Remy, Arles, and Cucuron seem to garner much fan fare.
We will in Provence for 6 nights. Looking for something quaint and romantic yet something that still has the essence of Provence. We will have a car for lots of day trips but would prefer something close for dinners (for obvious reasons many others have posted). Somewhat close to good wineries would be nice as well but this is secondary to food (I'll be doing my wine tasting prior in Burgundy).
Anybody have suggestions and/or recommendations on the above 3 or others?
We stayed for several nights in St Remy last Fall. Our hotel was the Hotel van Gogh. It was just off the main part of town and a 5 minute walk. It was very reasonably priced at under $100 a night with breakfast. Rooms were simple but nice. English is spoken by the staff. Pool and protected parking is free. Loved the town with many nice basic restaurants and shops. Check out the perfume museum and the Joël Durand Chocolate Shop. Travel from there is easy to most areas of Provence for day trips. Don't miss Les Baux.
St Remy is nice. The Alpilles area. We love the Domaine de Valmouriane there, a dreamy little hotel just out of town. The Wednesday market in town is HUGE. Striking distance to AVignon, Arles, L'Isle sur la Sorgue, a longer ride to Aix. We like to split up the Alpilles with a stay in the Lubéron, a different feel with the beautiful towns of Gordes, Bonnieux, Lourmarin, La Tour d'Aigues et al. Bon voyage! And please report back!
There are probably over 50 towns that could qualify for your "Base Camp", but my vote is for Lourmarin. Well situated and many lovely restaurants. Quite an attractive village as well, makes many calendars.( A good reminder to me to get back there!)
Cucuron is quite tiny and only has 2-3 restaurants.
Also, "Provence" covers a vast area and at least 4 departments. Some also include Gard and Alpes Maritimes as well, making 6.
Here is an apartment once owned by American expats. We have dealt with this family when they produced travel essays and found them to both kind and honest. They have since sold the apartment but seem to vouch for the new owners. We have walked by the apartment when in Lourmarin. It is very centrally located but on a street just behind the main drag so it does not have heavy car or truck traffic. FWIW: http://www.provencebyways.com/aptrent...
Thanks everyone for the advice....looks like I need to do some more research on all the suggestions. Since I forgot to mention we are going in early Sept and budget is on the order of 250/night max maybe, although we do not like chic or high end places.Thanks again!
We spent 4 nights earlier this year at Les Carmes outside Le Thor, for 125 E/night, including breakfast. We dined each night there, eating very well at 34 E/dinner/person, plus a 3 Euro supplement for a cheese course, with a surcharge for wine (local vintages, very reasonably priced). The food is creative and delicious. We thought that 4 dinners there might be boring or redundant, but it was not.
Les Carmes is within an easy drive of virtually anywhere you would want to visit in Provence -- Avignon, Arles, Gordes, St. Remy, Bonnieux, Chateauneuf du Pape, Gigondas, etc.
Here is the link to their website. http://www.lescarmes.com/
I live in Vaison la Romaine and often visit both the Luberon and the St Remy area. Both are gorgeous, have tons of Provencal charm, and great places to eat. Arles is a beautiful town but too busy and yes, out of the way. So for me either the Luberon or St Remy have what you are looking for.
I agree with jeremyholmes that the Chateau des Alpilles is a wonderful, authentic place to stay and I have been there many times. Another excellent choice is the Mas des Carassins in St Remy. Its advantage over the Chateau des Alpilles is that it is an easy 8 min stroll to the center of St Remy; Chateau Alpilles is a bit further and on a road with no berm. Service is great at the Carassins and the rooms --especially in the new part--are great. They have two swimming pools and a beautiful garden. I was there with 8 American women in May and they all loved the hotel. ( I also spent two more weeks in St Remy recently.)
St Remy has lots of great shopping (some high end places) whereas in the Luberon there are mainly just daily markets to visit plus some small shops. St Remy has many restaurants that you can walk to and there is a nice Provencal life in town. It is clearly high end.
The Luberon is high end as well, and has great places to eat though you will probably have to drive to most of them.
Saignon is WAY out of the way and Goult is too tiny and far as well (unless that is what you are looking for.) The Luberon is easily accessible (1/2 hour) from St Remy.
Regarding wineries, nothing in these areas compare to the southern Rhone (Cotes du Rhone, Chateauneuf du Pape) though Chateauneuf is just a 45 min drive from St Remy, unless you are stuck in Avignon traffic.
Having no idea of the season nor your budget, here are a few suggestions for places to stay:
Bastide de Marie in Ménerbes
Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux (actually overlooking the town)
La Ferme de la Huppe in Gordes (down in the valley)
RIboto de Taven in les Baux (one or two "troglodyte" rooms are built into the mountain)
Balcon des Alpilles in Aureille
The first 4 also have very good restaurants (Huppe being the least expensive for food & lodging). Balcon des Alpilles is more like a glorified B&B, where the hostess/owner supplies lavish breakfasts and an occasional rare dinner, if requested.
For me, Arles is too big and "out of the way". St Rémy is best if you prefer to walk to dinner, since there are many restaurants (but few we've been to). I'd suggest somewhere in the Bonnieux/Gordes/Goult/Ménerbes area for beauty/charm plus vineyard/restaurant choices.
We love Le Chateau des Alpilles in St-Remy. It is a hotel of enormous charm with fabulous sprawling grounds and a very nice swimming pool. The rooms are very pleasant and service is first class. The food here is also more than serviceable and there are good dining options in the town.
In terms of food, beauty, Provnce essence, my picks would be:
Since you did not specify, I suppose it's for summer months. Except for Arles, all the above are villages with a handful of restaurants, cafés, no more. In winter months, if you really want to stay in a place where you can walk home after dinner, you will have to stay in a town like Arles.