Monday, October 30, 2006

Provence - How to get there, where to stay, and what to see?

My sister and I are going to Marseille the end of November. The whole trip was kind of a stunt, as we both wanted to get away for a few days. We tried to book a budget ticket to Rome with Norwegian Air Shuttle, but only one of us managed to get a cheap ticket. So we cancelled the tickets. My sister did, however, manage to book two round-trip tickets on a new flight from Torp airport to Marseille operated by Ryanair. The price tag? You won’t believe it – a little less than 60 Euros, all included.

I have visited the South of France only once, in April 1984. Then I had a one way flight ticket from Oslo to Paris, and travelled on by train to Toulouse. As there was a large conference in town I visited the Cathedral of St Sernin to see the grave of Thomas Aquinas and then travelled on…

I left the train in the beautiful walled city of Carcassonne, where I stayed a few nights in a hotel overlooking the traffic on the Canal du Midi. Then I moved closer the Mediterranean coast to the beautiful city of Sète, where staying at Hotel de Venice on the beach stretching as far out as Cap d'Agde.

Later I had a room with view two nights at Hotel Regina overlooking the gothic papal palace in Avignon, before I left the hot south for the cool elegance of the city of Strasbourg. I enjoyed staying at Hotel Carlton by the railway station for three nights, before travelling home to Oslo by train.

I loved the south of France and I look forward to another visit.

My sister and I leave early evening and arrive close to midnight Saturday November 25th at Marseille airport Provence. As we arrive this late, we need to find transportation to the city centre. Reassuringly there is supposed to be a shuttle bus to the city every 20th minutes. In the worst case a taxi will cost us 46 Euros by night.

We stated by booking two nights at the Hotel Alizé by the old seaport on We a payed a bargain price of 176 Euros for two nights. The hotel had got great reviews from former guests displayed on the website. This was not because of a high standard, it is rated only with two stars. The guests were particularly satisfied with the hospitality and service from the hotel staff.

But after two nights, we have no bookings so the question remains, where will we go? It all depends on the weather. It is november and actually completely off season. The average temperature in Marseille in November is 10 degrees Celsius. That means that you might get mild days or freezing cold days. For us that may mean either some days by the sea or some days in the interior of Provence. And there are enough to see. And the good thing being off season. The should be plenty of of rooms available.

What is there to see. If you travel to the coast you find the medieval walled city of Aigues Mortes. This 13th Century city is situated in the landscape of Camargue, south west of Marseille in the Rhône river delta. Travelling into central Provence you find another historic city - Aix en Provence. It is situated 25 minutes north of Marseille Airport Provence. This wonderful city of culture has 2000 years of history packed with historic monuments, museums and galleries. These are only two historic citys of many. Further north and west you can visit Montpellier, Nîmes, or Avignon, and further south - the cities on the Riviera.

And ofcourse - we have to find somewhere to eat and drink, to enjoy the cuisine Provencale and the local wine. That is something I will return to in a later article.


Evelyne said...


You should try to go along the coast (Cassis, Bandol, Sanary). Nice places, amazing beaches and even in November you may enjoy good swims.
Have fun!

Tor Johnsen said...

Thank you Evelyne. I will travel to the places you recommended. I will write a story here after I return.