Fall-Winter Sun in Provence! One or Several Weeks of Provence Bliss!
Updated: Dec 15, 2018
This autumn, discover Provence at its normal pace, when you can experience the true heart and soul of the region. So, what is there to do in and around Saint Rémy de Provence during the off-season...? PLENTY!
St. Remy is located at the very heart of the Provence region and when you stay here, you can visit a new corner of Paradise every day, or simply lounge at the pool and get back to exploring later on in the week. You’ll find that there are more than enough sites and activities to capture your imagination in this beautiful part of the world. Just make sure you set aside enough breathing room to relax now and then with a delicious glass of rosé!
The following recommendations will allow you to plan your stay in Provence based on your own schedule, and on the places you would like to see. Do you enjoy visiting our picturesque villages? Wait till you see them super-Provencified (super-charged with Provence vibes) the day that the market or the brocantes are in town. In addition to proposing a destinations timeline for your stay, we want to share some of the particular charms of each location. At your fingertips: the resources to achieve that perfect state of Provence Paradise bliss, which we know from experience is located somewhere between fun, authenticity, rosé wine and cultural immersion.
Take a look at our sample itinerary below. This is just a little taste of all that the area around Saint Rémy has to offer.
So, let’s get started!
Saturday: Arles Market, bistro lunch, then a visit to the special Roman History Exhibit An essential part of any visit to Provence is visiting its famous open-air markets. These aren’t industrial markets – you’ll find farmers selling produce that they’ve grown or gathered themselves. You’ll also find all kinds of farm products: cheeses, poultry, charcuterie, wines, honey, fruit juice, flowers...
For your first big day, we recommend the market in Arles. It’s huge, with 450 stalls set up along the Boulevard de Lices, and it’s open from 8:00 in the morning until just before 1:00pm. You can often sample the foods on offer, and at this large market you’ll also find many handcrafted items like woodwork, pottery, and paintings, as well as linens and clothing. If you’re in the mood to buy, prices tend to be very reasonable here, but it’s also a great place to stroll and soak up the local culture.
And don’t forget to look for the famous herbs of Provence! You’ll find dried Rosemary, Laurel and Thyme all year long, and fresh herbs when they’re in season. And of course, the iconic Lavender that has become synonymous with Provence the world over. These delights are also featured in many of the artisan products you’ll discover at the market.
When the market winds down, you might want to unwind with a leisurely meal. There are many lunch spots to choose from, so you should be able to find a meal to match your mood. One stand-out is Chardon, located on the Rue des Arènes. They offer small plates as well as a set menu, prepared by visiting chefs who cook for short-term residencies throughout the year, so there’s always something new to taste here.
After lunch, take a step back in history. Arles, a UNESCO World Heritage site, dates back to the 1st Century BC. Julius Caesar himself founded the ancient Roman colony that has become modern-day Arles, but many vestiges of its history remain: the Roman Arena (Arènes d’Arles) that is still in use for gladiator fights and concerts, the Cryptoportico foundation of an ancient Roman forum, the Theatre Antique where you can see a modern performance, as well as remains of a circus, thermal baths, and necropolis. You can see the entire guide on Ancient Roman ruins of France HERE .
Sunday: Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market, Fontaine de Vaucluse for lunch, then a ride through the Luberon
Another open-air market? Well, yes. In fact, if you wanted to, you could visit a different market every day (and most evenings) of your stay! But even in this part of the world, there are some markets that deserve special mention for the outstanding quality of their selection and their settings. Among these is the Isle-sur-la-Sorgue market, selected by France’s National Council of the Arts of Cooking as one of the “Exceptional Markets” of Provence. The town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is known as the “Venice of Provence” as it’s situated upon the Sorgue River. Waterwheels and lush flora abound, and make for a lovely backdrop to the market. It’s really a food market, flea market, and antique market all in one, so there should be something to interest everyone in your party. Head over in the morning – the market tends to get going by 9:00am or so – and plan to spend at least a couple of hours strolling and shopping.
When you’re ready for lunch, there are many riverside restaurants to choose from in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. But if you’d like a change of scenery, just seven kilometers away you’ll find the town of Fontaine de Vaucluse. This is where the Sorgue River begins, in a mystical spring whose water has carved a spectacular gorge that’s over 300 meters deep. Here, too, there are many great lunch spots to choose from, with wonderful food, charming gardens and inspiring views of the Sorgue. From the town, it’s about a 30-minute leisurely walk to the “enclosed valley” where the famous spring is located. There are lots of hiking and biking routes in the area, as well as paddle-boating and kayaking.
Now that you’re on the edge of the Luberon region of Provence, why not explore it a bit on your way back to home base? The Luberon’s rolling hills and villages have been celebrated in many books and films, but there’s nothing like taking in the views for your self. Plot a meandering course back to St. Remy that takes you through some of these hilltop-perched towns, each possessing its own charming character along with fabulous vistas in all directions.
Monday: Ride under the morning sun at the feet of the Alpilles to Eygalières
Enjoy a wonderful bicycle ride from St. Remy to Eygalieres on the old country path. The bike ride from St. Remy to Eygalieres, at the foot of the Alpilles, is mostly flat, yet stunning at the same time. It's really a beautiful route along the Alpilles, as if you’ve entered a Van Gogh painting. And electric bikes can make it even easier. One can rent e-bikes in the St. Remy city center: Click Here
Ride along the lavander and orchards fields. Speaking of lavender, here in Provence you can catch it in bloom from mid-June to mid-July. Then, harvest time, from mid-July to mid-August, is when fresh lavender appears in the markets, though you can find lavender-based artisanal items year-round. You can also visit local growers and distilleries, sometimes with free tours.In fact, as you explore the outdoors during your week in Provence, you will discover the presence of all the “herbes de Provence” in their natural habitats. And this year, we’ve planted them in our gardens at Provence Paradise. Lavender, Rosemary, Laurel and Thyme are all here! Read more about these wonderful aromatic plants: Rosemary , Laurel , Thyme , Lavender .
As you approach the village, you can see Eygalières at the top of a small hill. Among the small winding streets lined by charming stone houses, the main street leads to the village church, La Chapelle des Penitents. Further up the hill you’ll find castle ruins, and fantastic views across the Alpilles. There are some very good restaurants on the village square, so take some time to enjoy this warm, peaceful spot.
On the outskirts of Eygalieres are two vineyards that offer tastings: Domaine de Valdition and Domaine de la Vallongue, both beautifully situated. For a dip into history, be sure to stop by the 7th-Century Roman church Chapelle de Saint Sixte on the Route d’Orgon.
There are plenty more wonderful biking routes if you’d like to tour the Alpilles landscapes in and around Eygaliere. Click here to learn more about cycling in Provence.
Tuesday: Explore Avignon, the Popes' Palace, and Villeneuve-lez-Avignon
The famous city of Avignon is just 20 kilometers from St. Remy, and easy to reach by car, bus, or bicycle. There’s plenty to see and do in Avignon, including famous festivals like the theater festival in July and the Rhone wine festival in November.
History looms large here. Thick medieval walls from the 14th Century surround the old city center, which was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995. Within the old town stands the “Palais des Papes”, or the Popes’ Palace, one of the largest Gothic palaces in Europe. There are walking tours should you care to take a look inside, as well as a stunning view from the rooftop.
You can shop at Les Halles, Avignon’s large covered market, for fresh produce, spices, herbs and other Provençal specialties. There is also ample shopping along the narrow serpentine streets of the town. And Avignon offers a broad selection of wonderful restaurants, from very simple ones to Michelin-starred extravaganzas.
Spanning the Rhone from Avignon is the bridge that school children throughout France and beyond grow up singing about, the Pont d’Avignon, built by St. Benezet in the 12th Century. Further, across the next arm of the river, lies the small town of Villeneuve-lez-Avignon. With its iconic hilly landscape and beautiful architecture, this hamlet warrants a visit of its own. Visitors can enjoy impressive natural and panoramic views: Mont Ventoux and the Alpilles, the glistening Rhone, and Avignon from a new perspective.
For art-, history- and architecture-lovers, there are many charming places to visit in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon. In July the town hosts a festival of its own in conjunction with the Avignon theater festival. And don’t miss the award-winning olive oil mill of the Chartreuse on the edge of town. Established by the Cartesian monks in 1358, it’s one of the oldest functioning olive oil mills in the world, and offers free tastings. Provence is renowned for olives, as well as the olive oil that’s produced here. These tend to be small-scale producers, often offering tours and tastings. Click here to read more about the olive oil of Provence.
Wednesday: Market day in Saint Rémy!
Your adopted village is the perfect location for enjoying French provincial life, with a nice selection of cafes, shops and restaurants in a marvelous setting. St. Remy is quite picturesque: remains still stand of its 14-Century wall and the circle of buildings that once protected the town center, which boasts medieval structures, cobblestone streets, and many lovely fountains. The “portes” in the ancient wall still serve as entrances to the old town. Through the northern porte, the Porte Du Trou, you can walk down Rue Nostradamus (Nostradamus was born here) to the Nostradamus fountain. The porte on the southern end of town leads onto the Rue de la Commune that will bring you to the main square in town, the Place Pelissier.
On Wednesdays, the large open-air market covers the parking areas and squares around the northern and western sections of the roads that ring the old town in St Rémy, commencing around 9:00 in the morning and wrapping up around 1:00 pm. Hundreds of vendors offer their wares. In addition to fresh produce and artisan foods, this market is especially good for women’s clothing and typical Provencal gifts like linens and soaps. If you haven’t gotten any yet, don’t forget to pick up some Savon de Marseille, the traditional olive oil soap. Between perusing the market stalls, treat yourself to a Cousadou, a local specialty at the Robert Cambillau Boulanger, or perhaps a coffee at the Café de la Place.
Buy your food at the market and take a cooking class. We’re probably biased, but we believe that Provencale cooking is the very best expression of French cooking. Learn how to cook the Provençal way: the flavors are direct and uncomplicated, reflecting the sharp clarity of the light and the landscape. You can see the entire guide on French Cuisine and Culinary Classes in Provence here .
Though the bistros in Saint Remy can get crowded on a market day, there are a number of hospitable ones where the food is delicious and the lively atmosphere is fun and friendly. Often you can find a spot with traditional live music, an added treat.
While strolling around town, don’t miss the chocolate shop of Joël Durand . This beloved chocolate maker makes liberal use of the culinary riches of Provence, and indeed the wide world, in his tremendous variety of both classic- and exotic-flavored truffles. Herbal, floral, and spice flavors all find delightful expressions in his hands.
Other favorites are Monique Mayer’s cheese shop La Cave aux Fromages on the Place Joseph Hilaire, and Le Petit Duc for cookies made using traditional Roman, Renaissance, and Provencale recipes.
If your foodie side has been sated, you could also indulge your artistic leanings by visiting some of Van Gogh’s favorite painting spots here in Saint Remy. A self-guided walking tour takes you to Saint-Paul de Mausole, the asylum where the artist resided when he painted Starry Night and his iconic Self-Portrait. To read more about Van Gogh in Provence click here .
Thursday: Cassis: Cassis, the Calanques and Beach If it’s sunny (and of course it will be sunny) take a day to visit the Mediterranean port town of Cassis and its inspiring surroundings! Cassis is a popular stop for the yachting set and hikers alike – its coastline is famous for the spectacular Calanques, deep narrow inlets in the rocky limestone cliffs. Some of these inlets feature small, protected harbors and beaches.
If you want to get closer to these impressive cliffs, you can sail in and around the Calanques on a tour boat, or take one of the many hiking routes in the area. Remember to wear sturdy shoes and carry the essentials for a day hike. Here is the English version of the official Calanque website .
When hunger strikes, wander back into town for lunch. There are many cafes and restaurants in the charming streets to choose from, in particular the unassuming but excellent Restaurant Le Bonaparte. The town also offers quite a few attractions and shops that might catch your interest, like the L’eau de Cassis Parfumeur Créateur, where they’re been making perfume since 1851.
Wine lovers can sample some of the famous Cassis wines in town at Le Chai Cassidain, or at the Maison des Vins just outside the town limits. Most of the vineyards located in the hills nearby are open to visitors. Cassis wineries tend to focus on producing white wines, but they usually offer at least one rose as well.
Eventually, though, the clear blue-green water of the Mediterranean is sure to beckon. Stroll down to the pebbly beach and relax in the sun! Make sure to take plenty of water and a good book, and sunbathe while listening to the sound of the “cigales.”
87 % of the wines produced in Provence are rose. You can see an entire guide on Rose wine here .
Friday: Sign up to return to PROVENCE PARADISE ... next year!
And don’t forget to carve out some time for siestas in the shade, making new friends by the pool, cooking with ingredients fresh from the markets…
We look forward to your visit!
The PROVENCE PARADISE Team