City, Beach, or Small Town: Where to Stay in Provence
Before my recent trip to Provence, I didn’t know much about the area other than it was known for its lavender and pastis. It’s only 3.5 hours from Marseille to Nice, so I figured it couldn’t be that hard to find a place to stay.
Despite its relatively small size (compared to, say, California, where I live) Provence is amazingly diverse. If you’re planning a trip, you need to know where you want to stay; if not the exact town, then the type of experience you want.
I’ll break down your options to three: city, beach, or small town. You could dive even deeper into your options beyond these three, but I’m trying to make your next trip to Provence easier, not harder!
City: Full of Action (and Not the Cheapest)
In general, I’m a city kind of girl. I pined for the nightlife of a bustling metropolis when growing up in a medium-sized town in Arkansas. And while I love places like San Francisco and London, it wasn’t what we wanted on our recent trip. More on that soon.
If you want plenty to do without needing a car, ample restaurants to choose from, and culture coming out of your ears, Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, and Nice are great choices. You could easily spend weeks in one of these cities without ever leaving. We did the opposite: stayed in a small town and visited the metropolises.
Drawbacks: You won’t get as much bang for your buck in accommodations in the bigger cities, and may have to cram your family into a smaller place to fit your budget. But if being at the center of the action is more important than space, go for it. Also be aware that parking is a pain in the #%^, especially for those of us used to wide open streets and parking spots. I thought I’d have a meltdown in Nice trying to find parking.
Beach: Laid Back Riviera Style
For us, staying on the beach wasn’t necessary this trip for two reasons: one, we live in San Diego, so we get the beach whenever we want it. Two: we were there in April, so it wasn’t exactly beach bum weather.
Still, I was drawn in to places like Antibes with its jewel-colored buildings and glistening water. If I went back, I’d look into Menton or maybe even Monaco for something a little less popular and crowded than Cannes (though Monaco may be pricey).
Drawbacks: Depending on when you go, it could be super crowded. Obviously the summer is high season, though that’s when it’s the most fun. You can still get the views in the fall and winter, though you can leave your bathing suit at home.
Small Town: A Slice of La Vie Quotidienne
Just like Goldilocks, we considered all three options before landing on a small town for our five weeks in Provence. They were pretty much one and the same to us: we wanted to stay near somewhere we could hike (that didn’t pan out) and somewhere not too touristy. We chose Pignans, which was so far off the beaten path, people asked why we were there.
I’d recommend looking at the website for town you’re considering to see what it’s like. The town we stayed in necessitated having a car, which wasn’t ideal. We envisioned more walking than we did in the town.
Drawbacks: Not to complain, but staying for weeks in a tiny town can get boring! Plan day trips to surrounding places, or consider staying in a few places if you don’t mind repacking your suitcase.
Provence has a surprising amount of diversity when it comes to the landscape (from vineyards to mountains), population in a town, and things to do. But guaranteed: there’s a place that’s just right for you!