Peter Mayle’s book ” A year in Provence” prescribes just that, but even a year might not be long enough to soak up all the beauty of this very captivating region. In three days you can see three very different towns: Arles, Avignon, and St-Remy; On a seven days drive you can add La Camargue, Le Luberon, and Aix-en-Provence, on a ten days drive you can add Vaison-La-Romaine and Marseille.

If you have three days to spend in Provence

The best getaway to the region is Avignon, where tiny, narrow streets cluster around the 14th-century Palais des Papes, the massive structure represented the supreme Christian authority of the world back in the 14th century. Then you can make an afternoon outing west to Le Pont du Gard aqueduc, a majestic relic from the ancient Romans that strikes all as more a work of art than a practical construction. On the second day make a brief stop in Nimes to see the antiquities of the Arenes and La Maison carree– quite a contrast to the busy commercial center -and then head to Arles , inspiration to Van Gogh who truly captured the very delicate features of the Arlesienne in some of his finest portraits. On the third day, drive to L’Abbaye deMontmajour whose cloisters offer the perfect view of the oleanders in bloom – and the medieval hill town of Les Baux-de-Provence, if you feel like it you can do an overnight in St-Remy-de-Provence with its Roman ruins and recognizable Van Gogh landmarks.

If you have seven days to spend in Provence

On your first day visit Orange and then head out to Le Pont- du- Gard both will take you back two millennia in time. Spend a couple of nights in Avignon and make a stop at the bridge of St-Benezet ( made very famous by the song ” Sur le pont d’Avignon”. In the early morning make a stop in Nimes on your way to the fortified town of Aigues Mortes and make a detour through the Camargue to Arles. The next day you can explore Arles’s Roman remains. If you can push it to the rocky perch of les Baux-de-Provence by lunch time and then continue to St-Remy-de-Provence where Van-Gogh did a lot of his work. Then on day five you can wend your way  through L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and then to Gordes, you can make a stop at Le village des Bories, a hamlet consisting entirely of restored bories ( dry-stone “igloos”), where inhabitants of  the Vaucluse and the Luberon lived from Ligurian times ( 6th century BC). Gordes is located in the Luberon mountains. You can spend the night in the hilltop village of Bonnieux and drive over the windswept spine of the Luberon on your way south to Aix-en-Provence, you can spend a couple of days visiting the marvelous 18th century mansions, the museums, and its court Mirabeau, which is to Aix what La Tour Eiffel is to Paris.

If you want to make it a ten days itinerary

To the seven- day itinerary , if you’d like you can add a day  visiting ruins in the Rhone-side-Roman market town of Vaison-La-Romaine and then drive the winding back roads of the neighboring Mont Ventoux region, whose fruited plains lead to forested heights. Or you can make a broader sweep through the Camargue region to include the seaside town of Stes-Maries-de-la-Mer. The church ( full of gypsy tributes to the two St – Marys and their servant  girl Sarah). Then you can take the time to experience the urban vitality of Marseille or relax and cool your heels at the gentrified seaside of Cassis.

Anne Suire

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