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Beaune and Provence in early October

Bob from Paso

New Member
Hello all - I am new to sloweurope and seeking advice on an itinerary. We are traveling by train to Dijon or Beaune and spending 2 nights in or near Beaune. We are renting a car, is it better to do so in Dijon of Beaune? We plan on driving the car down to Provence, spending 3 nights in Avignon and taking day trips covering Marseilles, Aix, Arles and surrounding areas. We then will take the train to Milan to continue our trip in Italy. It looks like the fastest train to Milan is up north in Lyon, so we were planning to drive back up there on our 6th day, return car in Lyon (or Dijon if that is where we have to return the car) overnight and take a morning train to Milan. We know this is a limited time in such a beautiful area we have not visited before, but I would appreciate guidance on this itinerary and suggestions for areas/towns that are “don’t miss” in the time we have. Thank you!
My suggestion is Beaune, rather than Dijon because it's smaller and nicely walkable. The surrounding area is full of vineyards and also has bike trails for exploring if that's your thing. It's nicely centered between villages and wine to both the north and south. One 'don't miss' day trip from Avignon would be the fortress ruins at Les Baux and the nearby Roman ruins at St. Remy.
I'd suggest taking the TGV to Dijon and go to the Ducal Palace to see the rich heritage and art of Burgundy. Then pick up your rental car and drive through the Côte de Nuit vineyards to Beaune. Beaune is a great town - large enough to have nice restaurants but small enough to walk everywhere. Don't miss the Hôtel de Dieu there. When you get to Provence, do allow some time for Arles and all its Roman and Van Gogh sites. I highly recommend the Museum of Ancient Arles and Provence (formerly called the Museum of Antiquities). In addition to the artifacts from Roman times, there are wonderful scale models of a Roman forum, the building of the amphitheatre, and a mill that gave me a much better understanding of Roman architecture. We always stay a few days in Arles to delight in the colors, smells, and sounds of Provence. The Saturday market there is amazing.
As long as you will be in Lyon, be sure to spend some time there also. Interesting city with very good food! I guess we are all telling you not to go through France too quickly!

For car rental, you might find that Auto Europe doesn't charge a drop off fee for returning a car to another location - depends on the locations and car rental company, but it's easy to put in alternate locations to find out the cost.
Dijon or Beaune.
We prefer to take a train to Dijon, rent a car from there, but stay near Beaune.
Both are beautiful towns.
Last time we went south we found that it cost less, and is so much less trouble, to rent a car from Dijon than from Paris.
Dijon it is.
But before driving to Beaune, we like to spend a few hours in Dijon, have a nice lunch near the old market and then walk it off in the surrounding old town.
We prefer to stay near Beaune because there are many vineyard b&b's around there, whichwe love. You open your room window and it's vines as far as the eye can see. Not just any vine. It's Les Climats, the Beane winegrowing hills that are now a listed Unesco heritage.

As for your idea to stay in Avignon then do day trips to Arles and Marseille…
My suggestion is this:
If you have a car, why not go to the fabled villages in the Luberon hills, which are harder to get to, since you have a car? Of the hilltop medieval villages, my pick would be Goult, Saint Saturnin les Apt, Bonnieux. They are not museum-villages. They have bakeries, butchers, food shops, in short, the kind of good eateries and commerces that cater to locals. And when you stay in one of these 3 beautiful villages, you are actually in the middle of a cluster of beautiful villages. You never have to drive far to visit another charming spot.
Avignon and Arles are near each other. I prefer Arles as a base for its many Roman ruins and its greater concentration of good eateries, from Michelin temples to authentic Vietnamese. That's food- and archeology-obssed me.

But if you only have 3 days for the entire area, then you need to choose between Arles and the southwest side of Provence, and the Luberon hill villages. You can't do both unless you drive 20 hours a day. Even staying on only one side for 3 days is the kind of trip where you miss things more than you experience things. Can you allot more time to this area?
I live in Goult most of the year. I want to add that October is a wonderful time to be in France.
On many visits in the past I’ve found that the convenient place to stay west of the Autoroute would be St Remy de Provence (vast farmlands and flat until the Alpilles) or in the Luberon East of Avignon, in which case stay in a village close to Cavaillon…maybe Oppede or Robion..these give you mobility and get you no more than an hours drive to Arles, Avignon, Pont du Gard, Marseille and my most favorite town, Aix en PROVENCE, an elegant university town.
Here in the hill villages you increase your travel time by 20 minutes from Goult, Gordes, Roussillion, Menerbes & Bonnieux.

Hint: Avignon and east is department 84: VAUCLUSE . Rhône wines.
St. Remy and south is Department 13: Bouches du Rhône. Fruit & veg growing.
Of course all have a mix of both.
Bonne Route!

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