PROVENCE - THE ALPILLES FAQ`S
The Alpilles is a small range of low mountains in Provence, southern France, located about 12 miles south of Avignon, and stretch from the Rhone River to the Durance River. The range is an extension of the much larger Luberon range. The range is about 15 miles long and about 6 miles wide, running in an east-west direction. The mountain range is not high; the highest point reaches to an altitude of only 1,269 ft. The region boasts some of Provence`s most famous tourist sites, surrounded by fields of olive trees that stretch as far as the eye can see. Here and there you will glimpse landscapes of cypress trees, leading to lovely renovated country houses or ancient drystone farm houses.
The Alpilles are also the home of the various celebrated artists: French authors Frederic Mistral and Alphonse Daudet and painter Van Gogh, who contributed to the fame of the Alpilles through his paintings. Several typical Provencal villages encircle the foothills of the Alpilles range. With little stone houses gathered together around the Romanesque church, quaint fountains here and there, and the open squares shaded by trees and charming cafes.
Avignon-Provence: 18 miles
Nîmes-Alès-Camargue-Cévennes: 27 miles
Marseille Provence: 40 miles
Nice Côte d`Azur: 147 miles
There are four international airports in Provence-Alpes-Côte d`Azur, the two most important are Marseille (1 hour, 5 minutes) and Nice (2 hours, 30 minutes).
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.
From the train station(s) 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.
Car rentals are available at all arrival train station as well. The network of country roads and highways are easily navigated with a village every ten minutes by car. Renting a car is the best way to get around the Alpilles area.
Most villages in the Alpilles have a limited bus service. For bus travel around the region, seek out specific towns and route on Trans Vaucluse (www.vaucluse.fr) and Lignes Express Regionales Region PACA (www.info-ler.fr).
The nearest train station are Avignon-TGV (16 miles), Arles (17 miles), Tarascon (15 miles), and Saint-Martin-de-Crau (30 miles).
SNCF train station: Avignon Courtine and Avignon Centre
TGV (Traina Grande Vitesse) trains connect Paris/Gare de Lyonto Marseille in 3 hours. There are 17 trains a day.
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 railpass usable within France for a 1-month period. Eurail (www.raileurope.com) offers regional rail passes throughout Europe, including a France-and-Italy combined pass.
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 Alpilles are easily accessible by car from Provence`s main cities Marseille, Arles, and Avignon, as well as the cities of Nimes and Montpellier through a network of highways that are easy to navigate, the French `autoroutes`.How do I get around the Alpilles by bus?
Most villages in the Alpilles 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 route on Trans Vaucluse (www.vaucluse.fr) and Lignes Express Regionales Region PACA (www.info-ler.fr).Is the Alpilles region a walking destination?
The Alpilles 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, orchards and woods offering 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.
Cycling in the Alpilles is a very popular way of exploring this destination bringing you past vineyards, orchards, sunflowers, wineries, ochre valleys, and lavender trails while offering the most spectacular views.
There are some sign-posted cycling routes, but you may want to build your own route. You`ll find many excellent general websites dedicated to cycling in France and worldwide. Some worth noting that offer valuable advice and information are www.veloloisirprovence.com/fr and www.freewheelingfrance.com to learn more about cycling in the Provence and the Alpilles area.
Something that has become increasingly popular in recent years is the electric bikes in hilly Provence for obvious reasons. Using these to get around has become much easier thanks to longer-lasting batteries and a growing network of recharge points.
A big added bonus: it`s a lot easier to park a bicycle at a top tourist spot than to find a space for your car.
The Alpilles is a safe destination to visit, but as with all French cities, tourists in the Alpilles region should always 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 and the Alpilles area 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 in fruit, 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 press coffee, drinks, sandwiches or pizzas.
Most villages in this region have 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.
Don`t leave without purchasing some olive oil, this area produces some of the best in the world! The wines are spectacular, as well as the soaps, perfumes and cosmetics produced here, and lavender anything, 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