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We've booked our flights and will be finishing our trip with a week and a half in Provence and Paris, possibly with some Rhone and/or Burgundy stops in between. We've been to the St. Remy, Les Baux, Paradou, Maussane area, but have skipped Avignon and Aix for the more rural regions. This time we are expecting to stay somewhere in the l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, and Apt area. We'll also consider a visit to Aix if it seems worth the time. We'd appreciate any advice on hotels, sights, dining, and area wineries. In the past, we have received wonderful advice from the forum members here that have enriched our travels. Yeah, we're looking at guide books, but the opinions on this site have been the best guide book we've found.

I read this thread, and hope that DoktaP will share his recent experiences, french16 his great knowledge of the region, and anyone else who has been fortunate enough to visit there. Thank-you
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Board-O, I'll try my best from memory.

Isle sur la Sorgue is lovely on Market day, and if you want a reservation at Le Vivier, I suggest you make reservations well in advance (5-6 days). It's a bit of a hike from the market, and I suggest you drive.

L'Ousteau Baumanieres is superb in Les Baux. Pricey, but worth it.

Christian Etienne was exceptional in Avignon.
We all tried a different tasting menu and it was glorious. The chariot of cheeses was extraordinary.

Le Fournil was charming with great ambience in Bonnieux. Relatively inexpensive, but with character from the staff and surroundings. Worth it if you're in or near Apt.

For lunch, there's a charming little restaurant called Le Jardin in Hyeres.

In Chateauneuf du Pape, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Domaine du Pegau. Laurence is absolutely amazing, and opened her 2007 Da Capo for us. Her english is superb, and she was extremely accommodating. The hamlet of CDP is tiny and other than the ruins and wineries, had little to offer. I suggest you email Pegau and arrange your visit in advance. It's easy to miss it: just look for the small brass sign in front.

That's a start and if I think of more, I'll let you know.
Isle Sur la Sorgue has a very nice, quite large market day on Thursday as well as the larger one on Sunday. Finding parking on Thursday was challenging, I would expect that finding parking for the Sunday market ( or is it Saturday?) would be pretty tough.

If you cannot get a table at Le Fournil in Bonniuex, L'Arome is also very nice.

Lunch at Le Verger Des Papes in Chanteauneuf Du Pape was excellent - its just below the massive ruins of the Chateau.

We spent a week in Aix in June. I have never seen so many beautiful women.
Thanks to both of you. We're considering staying in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for 2 or 3 nights, Saturday, Sunday, and posibly Monday, so we'd have no problem parking for the Sunday market. From there we'd make a day trip back to Chateauneuf-du-Pape where we visited last this year. I'd like to visit a few different wineries, though a return to Pierre Usseglio is something I can't pass up. I also thought we'd drive into Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and take the walk to the source, unless one of you who've been there thinks otherwise. french16 grew up in the area and said he'd chime in with some recommendations.

As far as Les Baux goes, Dok, we spent three days there this summer and probably won't return this coming year as there is so very much of Provence we haven't seen. I had hoped to return to Le Bistrot du Paradou for a lunch or dinner, but they're closed Sunday and Monday.

From Provence we're considering several different routes before returning home from Paris. We loved Burgundy and the great hotel in Flagey-Echezeaux with a truly great small restaurant next door. There are certainly many wineries we'd love to visit other than the three we enjoyed this year.

Other possibilities for us are Gigondas, Cornas, Bonnieux (though Le Fournil is closed Monday and Tuesday- the most likely days we'd be there), Ampuis (though I'm guessing Guigal will be closed again in August), Carpentras, Beaumes-de-Venise, and Avignon (which we bypassed this year). We've enjoyed the country more than the cities, so while we may visit Avignon, we'll pass on Aix this trip. In fact, after much thought, we've decided to skip a stay in Paris and simply drive from our last destination to the airport.

Champagne is another possibility. We very much enjoyed staying in Ay rather than the bustle of Reims, though we spent time in both.

Any other advice is greatly appreciated.

We visited the eastern half of the Loire Valley, but spent no time in the western half, so that's something else we're considering.
Bonnieux is beautiful, but it's not an easy trek up and down that mountain. Add a good 30-45 minutes commuting either way if you're touring from there. I'm told the Bastide de Capelongue in Bonnieux is a truly great hotel.

I've parked in Isle/Sorgue twice on Sundays when the market was packed. It's not easy, but it's doable. Expect a bit of a walk from the outskirts, maybe 10-15 minutes to get into town for the market. IMO it's worth it. Make sure to buy Cavaillon melons when you are there. The only problem with them is that when you come back and taste a cantelope you'll be so disappointed. If you're there the right time of year the fraises de bois (wild strawberries) are unreal.

Hey Dok- we ate at Christian Etienne in 2008, and I agree- an excellent and unique meal in a tremendous setting.
I also thought we'd drive into Fontaine-de-Vaucluse and take the walk to the source, unless one of you who've been there thinks otherwise.

"The source" is literally a hole in the ground. The walk up the side of the stream is nice, with some shops and such along the side. It's a bit touristy actually. Probably a 15 minute walk from the town, where there is a traffic circle with a huge shade tree in the middle and some nice cafes around to sit and have a drink.
The other thing that may be relevant to you is that near the top as you get to "the source" the footing is not really too safe nor is it level. To go "all the way" to "the source" one must have steady feet.
Agree 100% with Irwin about the fontaine. It's a very pleasant walk, but not a must-do. The fontaine is a hole, literally.

To clarify, Board-O, the commute to Bonnieux I was referring to was driving time. It takes about 30 minutes to get up the mountain in a car. It's beautiful, but IMO it's a little bit of a disincentive to staying in Bonnieux if you're planning on touring.

There's a great canoeing opportunity near Isle/Sorgue, but I can't remember what it's called. It's along the Sorgue river, and is a nice way to spend a couple of hours without having to work too hard.
I know you said you're skipping Aix in favour of Avignon, but I would do the reverse. We loved Aix and found Avignon kind of dull and dreary and the Palais de Papes and Pont d'Avignon, while interesting, did not make the town worth the trip. We did have a nice lunch at La Fourchette in Avignon and one of the best value meals we've ever had in France at Le Bistro Latin in Aix.

I also would skip Carpentras as there's very little to see there (we stayed just north of there in Crillon le Brave).

We had an amazing lunch in Isle sur la Sorgue at a place called L'Ousteau de L'Isle, which is just outside of town on the road to Gordes, and is an outstanding meal (Gordes is pretty spectacular too).

I don't think I'd be able to pass up a trip back to St. Remy and the Provencal tasting menu (all fish) on the back terrace at La Maison Jaune either.
You mentioned Les Carmes to me last year. It looks great, but we'll be there in August and it's not air-conditioned. Rather than fight our way into town for the Sunday market, we found a nice place in town where I'm thinking I'll make a reservation. It looks like it could be a good base for travelling around Provence, so we're also trying to decide whether to stay 2, 3, or 4 nights.
Here is a little bit of information. I may not be the best person to recommend hotels since I never used one over there !

It looks like you went to Les Baux de Provence but I really love the Luberon so it may worth to also go to Bonnieux and Lacoste. Beautiful villages and the drive is scenic.
You can also go to Lourmarin for the day, visit Michel Tardieu (from tardieu Laurent). The winery is like 5mn away from the village which is lovely.

Of course being from Isle sur la Sorgue I'm biased but it has changed a lot from the time I was living there. Much more touristy now and lost its soul somehow. Still market days are fantastic and I miss that. Just buy local fresh veggies and fruits, a bottle of wine and you're set !
Fontaines de Vaucluse is fun. Half a day is way enough. Barely 15mn from l'Isle.
Carpentras and Cavaillon are ok but I would personally not waste time there. But again, this is personnal.
Don't forget that everything will be closed on Mondays.

As it has already been said, Le Vivier is a nice restaurant and Christian Etienne has a great reputation (never been there myself).
Of course l'Ousteau de Baumanieres may be the best restaurant of the entire region.

Chateauneuf du Pape is like 30mn from l'Isle so easy car ride. Many places if course to visit there. Some of my faves to visit include Charvin, Nerthe, Vieux telegraphe and Bonneau.
For lunch, if you have not tried it last time, go to La Mere Germaine. All the locals are going there and the food is typically Provencale and the wine list has one or two CdP :-)

Between Avignon and Aix, many worthy wineries to visit. Some I really like are:

-Domaine du Deffends (25miles from Aix)
-Domaine Hauvette
-Chateau Simone
-Domaine Henri Milan

I lived 2 years in Aix-en-Provence and totally loved it as a student. The city is full of small streets, cafes, international students (but in the summer it should be more tourists than students!). I really think it worth spending at least half a day just walking around the city. Grab a coffe on the Cours Mirabeau and just people watch. The restaurant of Pierre Reboul in Aix is really good if you like modern cuisine.

If you have time, it is totally worthy to go to Bandol and Cassis. Have lunch on the port. Lovely cities but it can be crowded in the summer (it will be crowded). When in Bandol, hit the Maison des Vins de Bandol. Best way to taste a bunch of Bandols if you don't have time to visit the wineries and you can buy the wines at the winery pricing. Drive around, views are simply awesome.

I'll try to think of other places to recommend.
Originally posted by Board-O:
Thanks, french! That's exactly what I was looking for. Should we do this all from l"Isle-sur-la-Sorgue as our base, or plan on staying in a couple of different places?

Avignon (25km), Fontaines de vaucluse (7km), Chateauneuf du Pape (30km), Bonnieux (27km), Lacoste (22km) and Aix (70km but you catch the freeway from Cavaillon which is 10km form l'Isle)are not far so it's a good idea to stay in Isle sur Sorgue if you find a nice place.
Bandol and Cassis are a little far (130km). Of course you will be on the way pretty much all the time but if you want to spend one night in bandol or cassis and just drive around it may be better. But it will take you 1h30 approximately from l'Isle so it is not crazy far either! Would be a nice day trip.
For lunch, if you have not tried it last time, go to La Mere Germaine.

French16, we were in CdP and La Mere Germaine is closd. The owner retired and it is under construction by the new owners. C'est dommage.
Just a heads up for those planning a visit. We were very hard pressed to find anywhere else reasonable to eat there. Who da thunk there would not be a nice place to eat in Chateauneuf du Pape?
Originally posted by DoktaP:
For lunch, if you have not tried it last time, go to La Mere Germaine.

French16, we were in CdP and La Mere Germaine is closd. The owner retired and it is under construction by the new owners. C'est dommage.
Just a heads up for those planning a visit. We were very hard pressed to find anywhere else reasonable to eat there. Who da thunk there would not be a nice place to eat in Chateauneuf du Pape?

Crap ! Very sad.... Thanks for the heads-up Dok.
I had some really nice meals over there and loved the atmosphere... Frown
We're now planning on using l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue for a base for a four day exploration of the area. We've noted all the advice received so far. We're going to visit Gigondas also as part of this trip and are thinking of continuing a ways through Sablet and Seguret into Monieux to the Gorges de la Nesque. Any experience in that area?
Thanks to all for their help, and an extra big thank-you to french16 for his great advice.

A few impressions of Provence- We enjoyed our stay in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue very much. We were there for the once-a-year floating market (just by luck) which occurs on the first Sunday of August. The floating part consisted of a bunch of small boats tied to the wall in the center of town. They were mostly laden with vegetables and a man or two waded in between the boats to serve customers. I found the town market on land more interesting. If we had wanted a picnic meal at that point, there was plenty to choose from.

After the market, we went to Fonataine de Vaucluse, a charming little town and walked most of the way to the source before returning. It was tee shirt heaven (or hell) on the walkway.

Next, we drove through Gordes (there was a wine festival that day and it was jammed) and some of the roads were closed. The best view of the town was from just outside, rather than in the center, but parking was impossible so we left and headed to Roussillon, pretty mountain village with brilliant ochre cliffs. We had a nice lunch at Le Bistro du Roussillon overlooking the cliffs.

Next we drove to Bonnieux, another beautiful mountain village with a ruined castle on top that once housed TBird the Marquis de Sade, and is being restored by Pierre Cardin. Artists sell their work in town.

We then drove to Lacoste, another pretty village, walked around a bit, and returned to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.

The previous night's dinner was Cafe Fleurs, a highly rated restaurant. The 39 Euro menu was actually a 51 Euro menu, with 6 Euro supplements for 4 of the 6 choices of entrees and plats. We started with a glass of local Viognier for 7 Euros, blah, but the foie gras with mango chutney was excellent. Our monkfish was good, but certainly not special. It came with no greens and some mediocre mashed potatoes. The 2009 Corbier Crozes Hermitage on the wine list turned out to be a 2010 for 37 Euros. The assorted goat cheeses were no more than OK, with one hard one so incredibly raunchy we were warned to taste it last because it would overpower anything after it. It was gross and would have overpowered Port. PASS!

The second night, we dined at a less expensive but far better restaurant, Les Terrasses du Bassin, on a patio by the river. There were also tables on a narrow footbridge over the river. The 34 Euro menu was our choice. Scallops and shrimp in coconut milk were excellent, as was the foie gras with figs. The magret came with some sort of a fruit sauce on the side. It was wonderful. The cheese course was satisfactory and the desserts fine. A Cotes du Luberon for 37 Euros was serviceable. Recommended.

The next day, we drove through the southern Rhone valley and visited wineries in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Sabon), Beaumes-de-Venise (des Bernardins), Vacqueyras (La Garrigue), Gigondas (Moulin de la Gardette and La Cave) as well as driving through Seguret, Sablet, Monieux, and the Gorges de la Nesque. The scenery was all we had hoped for. I'll write up the wineries later.

We had dinner reservations at La Prevote foir my wife's birthday, but we weren't hungry at all, so I called them a few hours in advance of our reservation, apologized, and canceled. We walked into town late and had a main course and a bottle of wine on the river's edge at Le Cafe de la Sorgue. A 2009 Cotes du Rhone was 17 Euros. My andouiette, grilled and served with a mustard sauce, fries, and a small salad was excellent, 14.10 Euros. My wife's Tagliatelle fruits de Mer was fair, same price as mine. We weren't goinbg to have anything else until we saw the desserts, so we split a beautiful Chocolat Liegeois, 7.50 Euros. Excellent value and solidly fine fare. Recommended.
We stayed at Hotel Les Nevons in l'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The rate was 90 Euros for their large room with a balcony on the Sorgue. The room was large and the wifi worked, but the air-conditioning didn;t get the room as cool as we would have liked. The shower was in a bathtub with no door or curtain, so the floor got wet no matter how careful we were. You have to ring a buzzer to get in or out of their parking lot. After 10 or 11 PM, a large gate closes and the room key opens it.

The location is perfect and the market and center of the old town are short walks. There are many restaurnats within easy walking distance. I recommend this hotel if you can live with the shortcomings mentioned. I'd probably go back. The view from the balcony of the river is nice and I can't imagine a better location.

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