PROVENCE - THE LUBERON FAQ`S
The Luberon region in Provence is a spectacular countryside of vineyards and orchards, with charming perched hill-top villages. Several of the villages are listed among the `most beautiful villages of France`, and although they are often small, each village has its own particular appeal and character. Much of the land in this region is unspoiled agriculture and is very popular with cyclists, hill walkers and rock climbers.The Luberon is an area of lush vegetation and exceptional wildlife, which can be explored with its various routes and itineraries.What is the main airport servicing the Luberon area?
The closest airports to the Luberon are Marseille (1 hour), Nimes (1hr 15), and Montpellier (1hr 40). These airports have direct flights from the UK and Europe, but not transatlantic. Avignon airport is even closer, 40 minutes, but only has internal flights and the odd one from the UK. The busiest airport in Provence is Nice, which does have non-stops from New York and Montreal, and Nice is 2.5 hours drive from the Luberon.
From North America, you will typically arrive in France at Paris CDG airport. From here or Paris itself you can catch the TGV fast train down to Avignon or Aix, or an onward flight to Marseille. The train takes 2 hours 40 minutes and the flight is 1 hour.
Yes, the railway stations of Cavaillon, Pertuis, La Brillanneand Manosque serve the territory of the Luberon.
SNCF train station: Avignon Courtine and Avignon Centre
TGV trains: Paris, Lyon, Lilles, Genève and Brussels
Rail passes -- Rail passes as well as individual rail tickets are available from Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com; Tel. 800-622-8600 in the U.S.). Options include a 5-day rail pass usable within France for a 1-month period. Eurail (www.eurail.com) offers regional rail passes throughout Europe, including a France-and-Italy combined pass.
SNCF stations of La Brillanne and Manosque serve the eastern territory of the Verdon. The Pinnes train from Nice to Digne les Bainsalso allows rail access to the western territory of the Verdon.
TGV (Train a Grande Vitesse) is the world`s fastest trains. This train links all the major cities and resorts in the South of France, allowing you to travel within the region.
Aix has both a TGV and regular station and is well connected both to Paris - Marseille line and (via Marseille) to the Genoa - Nice - Barcelona line. The same shuttle that runs from the airport to Aix also services the Aix TGV station. The regular train station is at Place Victor Hugo, a 5 minute walk from the center of the town of Aix.
SNCF (French National Railroads; www.voyages-sncf.com) also runs local trains that connect rural areas, as well as along the resort area of the French Riviera. It also operates trains running into the mountains above Nice, and over into the Italian border.
The most practical train station is Cavaillon, where trains arrive from Avignon`s central station. The trip takes about 35 minutes and costs around €7 one-way. From Marseille the trip takes about 75 minutes and costs around €15.30 one-way.
The nearest train station is on the western side of the valley in Cavaillon, which is served by regular regional trains from Avignon. From Cavaillon, several buses a day run east to Apt.
There are two train stations in Avignon:
Gare TGV (High-speed train station) located in the suburbs. Direct TGV trains (high-speed) from Paris, 2 hours and 40 minutes (Gare de Lyon and Charles de Gaulle airport), Lille, Brussels, Geneva.
Gare Centre SNCF, located on boulevard saint Roch in the center of town. These are regional trains, and Intercity lines to Paris (3 hours and 20 minutes), Eurostar Avignon-London is available during the summer months.
From the train stations, you can find a car-hire agency at either station (reserve ahead, especially in July). Or taxi services are available at either train station to get you to your final destination.
The Luberon does not have public transportation. A car is the best way and is an essential in order to get around this area. Car rentals are available at all arrival points in France (airport, train station, port, etc.). The network of country roads and highways are easily navigated with a village every ten minutes by car.
Most villages in the Luberon have a limited bus service. The main hub is Apt, which has buses to local villages, and a regular bus link to Cavaillon and Avignon. For bus travel around the region, seek out specific towns and routes on Trans Vaucluse (www.vaucluse.fr) and Lignes Express Regionales Region PACA (www.info-ler.fr).
The Luberon offers an extensive and accessible network of walking paths and trails, linking villages that are often just a few miles apart. There are trails for people of all abilities, including many hikes which are very suitable for families with younger children. These trails are extensive, well-maintained and reasonably marked. The walking paths will take you through farms, vineyards, orchards and woods offering some of the most breathtaking views.
Winter, spring and fall are ideal times to use these walking trails. If you hike the trails in the summer, try to walk/hike in the early morning or late afternoon and be sure to drink plenty of water. Summer is typically a dry time of year, and some areas may be closed for hiking due to risk of fires.
Getting to the Luberon by car you will take the motorway A7 - Avignon exit and then take the RN7, towards Apt or Cavaillon. For Motorways of the South of France: www.asf.fr
There are several car parks around the Luberon, many just outside the towns and villages. You will park your car and then walk a few minutes to the center of town. It is fairly easy to drive and park in the area. You will just need to pay attention to where the parking locations are.
Cycling in the Luberon is a very popular way of exploring this destination. The region can be hilly and many of the villages are on top of a short hill, but the villages are not far apart. Cycling the area will bring you past vineyards, orchards, sunflowers, wineries, ochre valleys, and lavender trails while offering the most spectacular views.
There are some signposted cycling routes in the Luberon, but you may want to build your own route. The one busy road to avoid in the Luberon is the D900 between Avignon and Apt, which is the main east-west artery. To make the complete tour of the Luberon, it takes about 5 to 7 days. Visit: www.veloloisirprovence.com/fr to learn more about cycling in the Luberon.
The Luberon is a safe destination to visit, but as with all French cities, tourists in the Luberon region should be conscious of the risk of pickpockets and theft. Be aware of your surroundings. Do not leave valuables within view in parked cars.Can I pay/tip in US dollars?
The currency of France is the Euro, US dollars are not accepted.
Under the euro system, there are seven notes: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. Notes are the same for all countries. There are eight coins: 1 and 2 euros, plus 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents.
ATMs are common in major cities and larger towns and this is one of the easiest ways to get cash. Credit cards are accepted in most establishments. It is a good idea to inform your credit-card company before you travel, otherwise, the credit card might be put on hold due to unusual activity. We recommend you record all your credit card numbers, as well as the phone numbers to call if your cards are lost or stolen.
It is often said that the climate of Provence is `typically Mediterranean`. But this is to oversimplify the complexity of a climate that is very particular, and marked by two distinct parameters: Firstly, its position with regard to the Alps and to the Mediterranean; secondly the influence of the Rhone valley. From May - September the weather is nice with good average temperatures. On average, the warmest month is July. The coldest months are December and January at about 45°F.I don`t speak French. Will many people speak English?
French is the official language spoken in this region, but there is also another language spoken in Provence, which is Provencal. This dialect was more common in the past but today, it is spoken by a diminishing number of people. You will find only a minority of locals that can answer questions in English. We suggest you get a good English-French guidebook and familiarize yourself with common phrases such as hello, goodbye, excuse me and numbers 1-10.What is the food like?
Provence is famed for the quality of its food - the region is blessed with a climate and countryscape that produces the finest fruits, vegetables, herbs, not to mention fish and lamb. Not surprisingly many fine chefs are drawn to this area. You will enjoy their skills when you dine out where you`ll find the food to be almost invariably excellent. There are many types of dining experiences to choose from in the region. Restaurants are formal in France, serving full dinner menus and at a slower pace than what you are used to in North America. It is important to note that it is considered impolite to request that a dish be prepared in a different way than it is stated on the menu.
A bistro is more casual and has more individual items. And a café is even more casual, serving pressed coffee, drinks, sandwiches or pizzas.
Each village in this region has a market day. You can buy local foods from the farms of each region (breads, cheeses, sausage, olives and preserves) and have a picnic while exploring the countryside.
Most markets are outdoors on the same day each week. Big markets take over the center of town, sprawling in all directions. Small markets are based in the village square. Some sellers have extensive and elaborate booths and displays, some have stores set up inside refrigerated trucks, and sometimes there`s just a folding table. Often you are buying from the actual farmer, seamstress or artist or members of their family.
The markets are popular to tourists and locals alike. The French use mostly fresh food and produce in their cooking, and many people shop for food every day or two. The markets provide easy access to fresh produce, often locally-grown. The markets are also important social centers, a place where residents gather not just for shopping but to see their friends and get caught up on local news.
There is more than one village market in the Luberon every day of the week. They range from a handful of stalls, like at Oppede-le-Vieux, to the town markets at Cavaillon, and the biggest of them on Saturday mornings in Apt, with up to 300 stalls.
The markets offer the best local, seasonal fruit and vegetables; meat, fish, bread, olives, tapenade, honey and conserves, herbs and spices, cheese, goat cheese, flowers, oils and wines, ready-to-eat rotisserie chickens, Provencal fabrics and housewares; clothes, and more.
A marché paysan is a farmer`s market with produce sold by the farmers who grew it, and at an evening market like Velleron, picked the same day.
Below we show most of the important markets that are held all year around - but be aware that many of the smaller towns and villages will also have markets, in particular during the summer months.
Night markets are also popular, and great fun, but perhaps a more recent innovation than the more traditional Provençal markets!
Markets in Luberon - Vaucluse
Avignon: every day except Monday
Le Thor: Saturday
Markets in Luberon - Alpes-de-Haute-Provence
Les Mees: Friday
Don`t leave without purchasing some olive oil, this area produces some of the best in the world! The wines in this region are spectacular (Côteaux d`Aix, Palette, Gigondas...), as well as soaps, perfumes and cosmetics produced in this region. And anything lavender, being the lavender capital of the world you`ll find everything from lavender sachets to lavender-infused honey.
Note: Value-added tax (VAT) rate is currently 20% in France for standard goods. A reduced rate of 10% applies to restaurants, transport, and certain medical drugs. And a 5.5% tax applies to food, water and non-alcoholic beverages, books, some entertainment events and some domestic personal services.
Emergency dial 112
Aix en Provence Hospital, avenue des Tamaris, 13616 Aix en Provence. Tel: 04 42 33 50 00