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Planning a trip in June to Avignon, les Baux de Provence and the Ardeches

m
momski Feb 13, 2014 12:54 PM

I have been following all the amazing threads for Provence and I am now planning our own trip for two weeks in mid-June. We have booked three days in Avignon at a B&B on the island just above the city (le Domaine de Rhodes), followed by a week at another B&B (Taven Residences, recommended by CH) in les Baux de Provence and then a few days in the Ardeche (Chateau Balazuc). We are hazily thinking of a few days near the Vaison la Romaine and then Cassis and the coast for a few days.
I am planning on lunches in Avignon at les Halles and at the Collection Lambert, and dinner the first night at Au Tout Petit in Avignon. We will start exploring the towns near Avignon and hopefully eat the second night in Arles at Rabanel or La Chassgnette. The third night I am imagining dinner at L'Arome in Bonnieux and then we are off to les Baux de Provence the next day. We plan to explore the Luberon from our base in les Baux de Provence and following CH, will eat at le Bistrot du Paradou in Paradou. I read about La Cabro d'Or and Oustau de Baumaniere in Les Baux - are they worth coming back into town for, or should we eat at other small towns such as St Remy? Is the drive back to Les Baux something one can do easily after a dinner elsewhere? Will try to eat at Mas Tourteron in Gordes and L'Oustalet in Gigondas. After that we go to the Ardeche, but I am beginning to wonder if that is a good idea? I haven't read much on this site about it and I am not sure if it is the best way to spend our time? We are then considering a splurge at the Chateau de Rochegude from which to explore the Vaison la Romaine. After that a few days in Cassis and then home. Any input would be great, especially regarding the Ardeche as that is the one I am most uncertain about.

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  1. Parigi Feb 13, 2014 01:50 PM

    Your restaurant picks are good ones. I am just very confused by the one long paragraph of info. I must have misunderstood. There seems to be long drives covering north and south Provence in one day. There are also unspoken misgivings about Ardèche. Could you clarify?

    "We plan to explore the Luberon from our base in les Baux de Provence and following CH, will eat at le Bistrot du Paradou in Paradou."

    Le Bistrot du Paradou is very good. But Provence is a large area, separated by the Luberon hills, with mostly country roads. If you want to hang out in the Luberon, why not stay in the Luberon. If you want to hang out in the St Rémy-Arles area - just as lovely but different, - why not stay there, insead of driving all day long and spending so little time out of the car and experiencing.

    "I read about La Cabro d'Or and Oustau de Baumaniere in Les Baux - are they worth coming back into town for,"

    They are very good, but the answer to your question depends on the distance and whether there is something also excellent nearby. If you are in Bonnieux, a dinner at Capelongue would be just as big a delight and would make more sense than the long drive back in the dark.

    Lastly may I ask you to help help us and put more paragraph separators in stead containing all your info in one paragraph ?
    Also may I ask you to be more specific about the duration of your stays ? Thank you very much.

    I must have missed the planned duration of your stay in Ardèche. Could you give me the info again. Sorry.
    I must have understood wrong. Baumanière and the Luberon - and back - all sound like one day. I hope not. You would end up driving much more often than you get out of the car.

    Ardèche is a beautiful. People say tha Ardèche and Drome are like Provence before Provence becomes too known. There are many good eateries in Ardèche like Hotel Faurie (maybe closed currently) and Mas de la Madeleine. But Ardèche, like Provence , covers a sprawling area. In order to enjoye it, or to enjoy anything, you need that one most expensive commodity: time.

    "or should we eat at other small towns such as St Remy?"

    St Rémy is lovely but does not have a good concentraiton of good eats as, say, Arles or the golden Triangle of Bonnieux-Goult-Saignon in the Luberon.

    "Is the drive back to Les Baux something one can do easily after a dinner elsewhere?"

    Where ?

    "Will try to eat at Mas Tourteron in Gordes and L'Oustalet in Gigondas."

    That's is a long drive back to Les Baux. Are you saying you want to be based in Les Baux? Sorry you must have said so in your post. My eyesight does not allow me to read one long single paragraph well.

    "After that we go to the Ardeche, but I am beginning to wonder if that is a good idea?"

    Yes. Maybe. Maybe not. How much time do you have?

    1 Reply
    1. re: Parigi
      Monica Feb 19, 2014 01:41 PM

      There was a medieval festival in around May or June in Les Baux when i visited. They were selling a bull sandwich and french fries at food stalls....the best french fries I've ever had to this day. I don't know what they cooked in it but maybe in duck fat? It was just so so good. yumm...

    2. boredough Feb 13, 2014 03:00 PM

      I agree that you appear to be doing a lot of excess traveling that could be cut down with better planning. Also you need to clarify your time-frame. You state you'll be traveling for 2 weeks, but with a week at Riboto de Taven (Taven Résidences) and 3 days in Avignon, that leaves 4 days to cover the Ardèche, Rochegude, Cassis, plus getting to and from airports (Nice? Marseille? Paris?). Have I misunderstood as well?

      Anyway, here are a few comments on what you have so far:
      Avignon: There are a few small venues to grab a bite in les Halles, but our preference is to have fresh oysters with a glass of wine at the "oyster monger" to be found in one of the corners of the marché, not far from the public toilets. (Don't let that discourage you. They're not very obvious.) He will reserve a table for you, should you wish to check out the other vendors first. Keep in mind that parking within or along the ramparts of Avignon is impossible unless you go directly to a parking lot. We usually head to the Parking du Palais des Papes.

      Arles/les Baux & beyond: It would make more sense to visit Arles while you are at Taven in Les Baux. (Are you staying in the troglodyte room? Very cool...) From there, besides having dinner at the Bistrot du Paradou, I'd recommend dinner in the lovely gardens of the Château d'Estoublon - technically in Fontvielle, but really about halfway between le Paradou & Fontvielle. (Try not to miss the amazing experience of this:
      http://carrieres-lumieres.com/fr/home while staying in les Baux.) If you're not staying in the troglodyte room (which I see has a minimum stay of one week) and can shorten your stay there, you should consider Parigi's suggestion & stay a few of those days in Bonnieux or Lourmarin. Make dinner at the Bastide de Capelongue your real splurge. It will be more expensive than dinner at Château de Rochegude, but Edouard Loubet's restaurant is at an entirely different level. Plus the site is fabulous. At the other end of the spectrum, you could also have dinner at le Castelas in Sivèrgues (about which much has been written in CH) while staying in the Luberon.
      Lastly you should study the various restaurants' days of operation in planning where to eat. Some close SUN/MON, some MON/TUE, TUE/WED, WED/THU....

      1. m
        momski Feb 14, 2014 12:34 PM

        I'm so sorry I wasn't clear - my apologies, and here's a better version of our trip in mid-June, as it stands now.

        Day 1-3, (Fri-Mon):
        We are arriving in Marseille on a Friday from Spain, and have booked a B&B in Avignon (Domaine de la Rhodes on the l'Île de la Barthelasse) for the first three days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). We are hoping to use this as a base to explore Avignon and the Isle de la sorgue and are hoping the driving to and from the B&B isn't difficult with traffic?

        Eat: Au Tout Petit, Avignon
        Rabanel, Arles
        L'Arome, Capelongue, Bonnieux
        Le Vivier, l'Isle sur la sorgue

        Day 4-9, (Mon-Sat):
        Stay in Les Baux de Provence at the Taven Residences (which I think have been re-designed and sadly no longer offer the troglodyte room?), and will use this to explore the Luberon valley, going to market day in St Remy on Wed.

        Eat: le Bistrot du Paradou, Paradou
        La Cabro d'Or & Oustau de Baumanier, les Baux
        Chez Serge, Carpentras
        Les Bories, Gordes en Provence
        Les Florets, Gigondas

        Day 10-13, (Sat-Tues):
        Stay in the Ardeche at the Chateau de Balazuc (which looks so interesting, both the environment and the Chateau)

        Eat: Saturday night in the chateau for the group dinner
        Sunday and Monday still undetermined

        Day 14-16, (Tues-Thurs): Chateau de Rochegude to explore the Vaison la Romaine wine country
        (I haven't planned this yet)

        Eat: one night in the chateau
        more recs?

        Day 17-19, (Thurs-Sat) Somewhere in Cassis or near Aix
        (still trying to plan this)

        Eat:

        Day 20, (Sat): Home, leaving from Marseille

        I am having second thoughts about how we've planned this trip, paying a lot of attention to the advice to stay in one area and not move around too much, but also wanting the opportunity to explore different areas. Thank you for your input and I hope this helps!!

        3 Replies
        1. re: momski
          Parigi Feb 14, 2014 01:06 PM

          As I said before, the restaurant picks are good ones.The way you choose to base yourself and drive around is … not user-friendly for yourself. You have 3 weeks. You can have 3 bases in a much more leisurely setup.
          1. The first base can logically be south Provence, which means south of the Luberon hills. St Rémy or le Cabro d'Or is lovely and geographically makes sense.
          Avignon is a pleasant commute town. It is not as magical as many of the places you want to zigzag to in passing. I would skip Avignon, making it a place for picking up a car and maybe having one meal. Or, if you are tired from schlepping up from Spain, dinner one night in Avignon. Then out to the real Provence.
          First, 5 days in south Provence. Group all your nearby restaurants in those days.

          2. Then a week based in the Luberon, which has a comparable concentration of cultural and culinary wealth as southern Provence, if not more. Base in Bonnieux for example. Group restaurants in Bonnieux, Gordges, Ile sur, etc. in that week.

          3. Then drive to Balazuc, Ardlèche. On your way, lunch at your pick at Gigondas.

          4. Then 5 days around Ardèche.
          Then drive down to Cassis or nearby for the last couple of days.

          This should allow you to cover all the places without zigzagging all the time.

          1. re: Parigi
            PhilD Feb 14, 2014 05:25 PM

            Totally agree on Avignon, good for a night, a meal, and quick look around the sights but far better to not use it as a base - get out to the countryside and small towns/villages - the food will be better and the choices broader.

          2. re: momski
            ChefJune Feb 19, 2014 01:00 PM

            Interesting that you're planning to explore the "Vaison la Romaine wine country" but not Chateauneuf du Pape or Gigondas?

            If there is some way to get from you island in Avignon to the Old City without a car, I'd do that. Old Avignon is very walkable, and not having a car to deal with would be a plus. The streets are very narrow and parking is pricy.

          3. c
            collioure Feb 17, 2014 04:27 PM

            Why are you going to the Ardeche? That's a rugged area for canoeing, hiking, and car rallies - and the roads really twist and turn. I've been down the Ardeche twice in a canoe - not for amateurs!

            By far the best table up that way is the Auberge et Clos des Cimes in Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid.

            BTW I am a former travel consultant for independent travelers to France and Belgium, but mostly I post here in Wine.

            4 Replies
            1. re: collioure
              mangeur Feb 17, 2014 05:22 PM

              I would gently counter that the Ardeche is also beautiful winding mountain roads and spectacular high valleys with orchards and farms. Like many designations, it is huge and varied. We have driven gorges until we bored of the serpentines you describe.

              At the same time, i completely agree that a visit to this magnificent area deserves time of its own, not a 72 hour attachment to an already short visit to Provence.

              1. re: collioure
                Parigi Feb 18, 2014 03:02 AM

                "Ardèche is nothing but a rugged area for canoeing."
                Ardèche is so much more than a river for exercise that I do not even know how to begin.
                Ardèche has a wealth of concentration of perched medieval villages that are not unlike those in the Luberon of Provence, except those in Ardèche is lesser known.
                Just Balazuc alone, - to name the only village, and a listed plus beau village itself, which the OP happens to name, - it is very close to the medieval jewel of a town of Largentière, plus other listed plus beaux villages/villages de caractère such as Vogüé, Mirabel, Alba la Romaine, Rochemaure, St Thomé, St Montant. I am only naming those that are nearby that I can name in my head without looking at the map, and there are more. Having been to Ardèche several times, I who even like canoening found the river and the gorges to be the least interesting part of Ardèche. If I had gone insane and concentrated only those parts, yes I would have been bored. Same thing in Paris: if I were to go out to look for boredom, I am sure I'd find it.
                Indeed, as Mangeur said, the problem is that a 3-day stay means one is missing most of it surrounding beauty, architecture, history, the food and the food…
                In fact, there is a much greater number of nearby points of interest in Balazuc than, say, the town of Collioure which I also love and where I am again renting a house this year.

                1. re: Parigi
                  c
                  collioure Feb 18, 2014 03:29 AM

                  I didn't say just canoeing. i also noted hiking and car rallies. It's rugged; The roads are difficult, and there aren't many people there (the young are leaving) which ought to tell you something.

                  Every region in France has its atouts, but I think other regions have more to offer. I never sent one client there.

                  PS I forgot gathering chestnuts.and a big bicycle race.

                  1. re: collioure
                    Parigi Feb 18, 2014 04:19 AM

                    I have done no hiking in Ardèche. Still, enjoyed the villages so much that I ha to go back to see those I did not see in the 1st week's stay. Even though every region in France has its own wealth to offer, the Dordogne, Provence, Ardèche happen to be the three regions with the most listed plus beaux villages and villages de caractères.

              2. m
                momski Feb 18, 2014 09:33 AM

                Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful feedback. We have listened closely and have revised our itinerary seeing Parigi's pointed and exptremely helpful suggestions both to me and others who have tried to fit in everything into a short trip.
                Currently, this is our plan, staying only in B&B's:
                Arrive in Marseilles from Spain and rent a car
                - stay 3 days outside Avignon (my husband is really committed to this despite suggestions to shorten it)
                - 4 days at les Baux
                - 5 days in Gordes
                -2 days in Cassis
                - home to California, leaving from Marseilles.
                We divided up our time between les Baux and Gordes so that we could concentrate on the areas around each town and not have to drive far for the dinners we plan (outlined below).Now I'll concentrate on grouping the dinners around our stays, and any suggestions for modifications or additions are appreciated! Thank you so much, everyone, for the invaluable feedback. This has been surprisingly difficult to plan and to understand the true distances. We will have to explore the Ardeche another time and another trip. Thanks again!

                1. m
                  momski Feb 18, 2014 09:47 AM

                  oops, meant staying in Goult, not Gordes...

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: momski
                    Parigi Feb 18, 2014 01:29 PM

                    Bravo. Goult is much much more charming as a base than Gordes. Plus, Gordes is just down the road.

                    1. re: momski
                      boredough Feb 18, 2014 02:34 PM

                      Good decision. So assuming you are still starting out in Avignon on a Friday, here are some suggestions:
                      Avignon: Your first night you might be too tired to travel far for dinner, so consider le Bercail, which is not far from your B&B on the Ile de de la Barthelasse. It gets mixed reviews - we've only eaten there once and that was a few years ago - but the view of Avignon is lovely and would be a nice introduction to Provence. On the Sunday, go early to l'Ile-sur-la-Sorgue for the market, followed by lunch at le Vivier (which is closed for dinner on Sundays).
                      Les Baux:
                      MON: dine at le Cabro d'Or or Oustau de Baumanier (it looks like both are open on Monday evenings)
                      TUE: dinner at le Bistrot du Paradou (closed SUN/MON)
                      WED:: dinner at Jean-luc Rabanel in Arles (closed MON/TUE)
                      THU: dinner at le Mas du Capoun in Mollégès (closed TUE/WED)
                      Goult:
                      FRI & SAT: For something different (delicious roast pig) maybe go to le Castelas in Sivèrgues one night. For the other night, many CHers will suggest la Bartavelle in Goult. As a third option, there's Babouchka for Moroccan cuisine in Coustellet - the lamb tagine is wonderful...if you'd like a change of pace.
                      SUN: dinner at the Auberge des Carrières in les Taillades (closed MON)
                      MON: dinner at l'Arôme in Bonnieux (Closed WED/THU)
                      TUE: dinner at the Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux (closed WED)
                      Be sure to book in advance to make sure you are not turned away at the door.

                      1. re: boredough
                        Parigi Feb 18, 2014 02:42 PM

                        A little update:
                        I who have always been a vocal fan of Bartavelle, did not have an outstanding meal there last time (last September). The dinner was competent, it delivered, sans plus. Let's hope we had chanced upon an off night.
                        The ferme Le Castelas though was still a very enjoyable experience.

                        1. re: Parigi
                          boredough Feb 18, 2014 03:34 PM

                          Well, we're "off" of la Bartavelle as well - for reasons that have nothing to do with the food, but instead the shabby treatment by the hostess/owner. (Besides us, she lost 6 other customers.) But since it gets such rave reviews (not counting your last one, which might in fact be part of a 'trend'), I thought it should at least be mentioned. I'm very curious to see what other new visitors have to say about it.

                          1. re: boredough
                            Parigi Feb 18, 2014 03:58 PM

                            I don't remember the service being bad, but it was not good. lol.It was harried. And long waits between dishes.

                            1. re: Parigi
                              m
                              momski Feb 19, 2014 01:25 PM

                              Oh my - thank you so much for the wonderful and thoughrtful day-by-day recommendations!! I had begun combing CH for ideas and was compliling a list - you have done all that for me! I'm surprised by the negative Bartavelle comments as that name has been prominent in so many reviews.Thank you again, and I will post ideas as they come and will certainly review our eating when we go/return from our trip.

                              1. re: momski
                                Parigi Feb 19, 2014 01:33 PM

                                I was a big part of the fan base of Bartavelle until the last time, lol. Imagine my disappointment ! I don't think it has been reviewed since last September. As I said, I do hope I had chanced upon an off night…

                                1. re: Parigi
                                  f
                                  francaise Feb 20, 2014 05:54 AM

                                  Parigi, we dined at Bartavelle in October because of your (and others as well) strong recommendation. It seems from these comments that they have had some off nights in the past season. The evening we were there, they were definitely on their game, as we had a wonderful dinner - each course was equally excellent - and the service was attentive and perfectly paced.

                                  Bartavelle was only surpassed by our dinner the following evening at Bastide de Capelongue, which was far more expensive and complex. However, with a better quality/price ratio, La Bartavelle comes out on top. They do have specific times for calling to reserve, which is understandable for a small husband and wife restaurant. Happily, Le Clos du Buis, the guesthouse where we stayed in nearby Bonnieux, made our reservations for us.

                                  I reviewed it here:http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9218...

                                  1. re: francaise
                                    Parigi Feb 20, 2014 06:30 AM

                                    Whew, good to know. I have recommended Bartavelle so often I'd hate to imagine I had sent everyone to the wrong place.
                                    Who's stalking whom ? :)
                                    We were renting a 12th century house on top of the village of Bonnieux within very close walking distance to the Domaine de Capelongue…

                                2. re: momski
                                  boredough Feb 19, 2014 04:01 PM

                                  Well, let me add that I suggested le Bercail ONLY if you think you will be too tired to travel a bit. It's the view - not the food - that you'd go for. Just order simple dishes. As for la Bartavelle, if you're staying in Goult it seems the logical place to go (in spite of my personal objection & Parigi's recent experience) - but they make it difficult to reserve a table. You must phone them between the hours of 9am and noon THU thru MON, so you would have to call after midnight California time. Another option while in Goult is la Ferme de la Huppe in Gordes (on the outskirts of the village). I think they are closed SUN so FRI or SAT would work there too.

                      2. c
                        collioure Feb 19, 2014 04:14 PM

                        I must admit that I haven't dined in Avignon in ages though I've been there a few times recently.
                        Nevertheless Hiély-Lucullus has always delivered correct, quality cuisine and I see that Gault-Millau still awards it two toques.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: collioure
                          boredough Feb 19, 2014 05:43 PM

                          We had a very enjoyable meal there last summer but were surprised to be only one of 2 occupied tables on a Saturday night.

                          1. re: boredough
                            m
                            momski Feb 20, 2014 10:58 AM

                            Before I book a b&b in Cassis, is there another village/town that would be a better place to end our trip near the coast? Food options in Cassis seem limited but overall the reviews of the town appear good? Thanks!

                            1. re: momski
                              Parigi Feb 20, 2014 11:39 AM

                              There are always other places with different appeals. Cassis
                              1. is hard to drive in and out of, therefore you might as well stay inside the nice seaside village;
                              2. gives you a nice contraste of landscape from what you will have been visiting;
                              3. is near your final destination, which streamlines your last-day stress of returning car etc.
                              You'll love it. Time to minimize self-second-guessing. :)

                              1. re: momski
                                Parnassien Feb 20, 2014 12:12 PM

                                Have a look at Bandol... just 30 km east of Cassis ... it can be a bit Côte d'Azur-ish but the wine culture saves it from many of the clichés. For restos, l'Esperance and l'Atelier du Goût are my faves but there are a handful of others that range from good to very good in Bandol town and the artsy Ile de Bendor And very enjoyable market Tuesday morning along the main quai of the port.

                            2. re: collioure
                              ChefJune Feb 20, 2014 11:41 AM

                              Regardless of the number of stars they held (or didn't hold), I have always loved Hiely, and would return in a heartbeat.

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