I am often asked about travelling to Provence and while I am neither an expert nor a travel guide, I do love Provence with all my heart. I spend most of my year getting there, being there and dreaming about being there… I thought I would put together a series with travel tips, websites and information that might help when planning a trip… Simple details, that I take for granted… yet if I had known them way back… it would have made all the difference…
When to come
This is a tough one as my immediate reaction is to tell you that Provence is a wonderful place to visit at any time of the year. You know I am biased when it comes to Provence… the mere hint that someone is thinking of coming and I can’t wax lyrical enough… so for this series I will try and be practical and pragmatic…
When you choose to travel depends on your purpose for visiting… If sightseeing is your main game then I would suggest April, May… September or October. The weather is usually fabulous and the crowds haven’t peaked. If lavender and sunflowers are a must then July must be braved. If you want to rent a property with friends and do nothing but relax, then the summer months of July and August are about as lazy as you could imagine. The only downside… crowds… Provence is popular for a reason… and seeing and doing what you have planned will have to be shared with many others. The markets are crowded and the sites are jam packed… but if you can deal with the multitudes then the atmosphere makes up for that. Winter in Provence is less ideal as many places are closed for their annual break, although Christmas and New year are very festive. Provence is very much about the seasons so I am afraid you must choose… or return for frequent visits. But be warned… that’s what happened to me…
How to get there
Starting off in Paris makes perfect sense if you are travelling from a distance. Where better to acclimatise and Frenchify? Three or four days in Paris (of course longer is always better) cures a case of jet lag, warms the camera up and makes everything pretty well right in the world. The easiest way to Provence form Paris is via fast train, TGV. Driving is long and unless you have months to spend your time will be spent on the autoroute worrying about speed cameras and lurking gendarmes.
The TGV train leaves from the Gare de Lyon regularly each day and takes 2hours 37 minutes to Avignon TGV station. Be cautious when reserving seats that you are booking on the fast train (anyone who reads me regularly knows that it is an easy mistake to make…) and that you are arriving at Avignon TGV not Avignon Centre. They are two different stations in two different areas of Avignon.
The best sites to reserve your tickets are:
SNCF – It is possible to choose English option on the top right hand side of the website
RAIL EUROPE – Another site offering the same destinations and prices
TGV EUROPE – This site offers many European destinations if your travel is on going
IDTGV – A lesser known site that offers a cheaper ticket with more travel time restrictions. Well worth browsing… Do not be confused by the choice of ‘idZAP’ or ‘idZEN’… it means a choice of carriage… one that is more child friendly or one that is a silent-no-noise carriage.
*These sites can be clunky and difficult to navigate so take care and time when booking your tickets.
Starting a trip in London means taking the Eurostar to Paris or flying into Provence and these are both good options. The Eurostar leaves from Kings Cross International and the journey time to Paris is 2hours 15minutes. Flying to Paris from Heathrow International Airport takes far longer and is much more tiring.
Flying direct to Provence is easy from Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton or Stansted Airports which can all be reached by express train from central London. Marseille or Nice are the best cities to embark, depending on your itinerary. British Airways and the budget airlines EasyJet and RyanAir offer daily flights to these destinations.
Reservations are best and cheapest if made directly:
Booking ahead is advisable because prices are time sensitive. My preferred choice is BA if booked ahead, followed by EasyJet…
To learn how to negotiate the TGV fast train and what not to do… click HERE
The most successful trips are those where there is a mixture of in depth planning and local knowledge… You may find the guides listed below helpful… they are the ones I use and the ones that I share with my friends… I always cross reference with a couple of different guides… Some I prefer for the local intelligence, addresses and maps… others for the historical recap…
Happy travelling, xv.
In The Luggage