PROVENCE - THE BOUCHES-DU-RHONE FAQ`S
The department of Bouches-du-Rhône is divided into 4 districts, 57 townships and 119 municipalities. The department in the south of France, named after the mouth of the Rhone River, it is part of the current region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d`Azur. Bouches-du-Rhone is surrounded by the departments of Gard on the west, Vaucluse on the north, and Var on the east, and the Mediterranean Sea on the south. The principle mountains of the department are the Sainte-Baume massif, Mont Sainte-Victoire, the Garlaban massif and Alpilles massif. The largest city in the department, Marseille, contains a major industrial harbor and serves as France`s largest commercial port.
The Bouches-du-Rhone is quite vast in character offering diversity and lots of interesting and varied activities to explore depending on where you are; the region includes South-west, North-west, North-east, Around Marseille, and South-east. The towns and Roman monuments, the impressive scenic highlights, and its typical `Provencal` character offer activities varied for all different interests.
Nîmes-Arles Camargue Airport (in Nimes-Garons)
Marseille Provence (in Marignane which is situated in the Bouches-du-Rhone, Provence region)
Nice Côte d`Azur International Airport
There are four international airports in Provence-Alpes-Côte d`Azur, the two most important are Marseille and Nice (about 2 hours, 30 minutes away).
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 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.
Most villages in the Bouches-du-Rhone 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 region is very rural and public transportation is virtually always scheduled to get residents to and from work, so it doesn`t always work well for tourists who want to visit multiple sites on a given day. We recommend having a car during your visit. Car rentals are available at all arrival points in France (airport, train station, port, etc.). The network of country roads and highways are easy to navigate.
Highways A1, A6 and A7: Lille, Paris, Lyon, Marseille
A62, A61, A9, A54: Bordeaux, Toulouse, Narbonne, Montpellier, Nîmes, Arles
A54: Nîmes, Salon-de-Provence
A8: Italie, Nice, Marseille
A51: Gap, Sisteron, Aix-en-Provence
TGV (high-speed train):
Paris-Lyon-Marseille. TGV railway stations in Avignon, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille (3 hrs from Paris).
Train services from Italy (via Nice) and Spain (via Narbonne).
The train station of Marseille - Blancarde is a hub in the French transport network enabling travelers to reach the region around Marseille (Bouche-du-Rhone, Provence-Alps-French Riviera). This station provides an easy connection to other forms of road transport if necessary.
The nearest train station is Aix-en-Provence that has both TGV (high-speed trains) located in Cabries, Bouches-du-Rhone.
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.
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 region is very rural and public transportation is virtually always schedule to get residents to and from work, so it doesn`t always work well for tourists who want to visit multiple sites on a given day. We recommend having a car during your visit so you will not be so limited in regards to what you can see and do.
The Bouches-du-Rhone`s CARTREIZE coach network (www.lepilote.com) offers highway shuttle services for fast and easy access to the area`s main cities, plus local services to towns throughout the area. Whether visiting Marseille, Aix-en-Provence, Aubagne, La Ciotat, Arles or Saintes-Maries-de-la-mer, you can sit back in a comfy coach and enjoy the ride.
Le Pilote (www.lepilote.com) is an alliance of public transport services available in the Bouches-du-Rhone (bus, tram, metro and train). Le Pilote suggests the best ways to travel and provides websites and other ideas for getting around (on foot, by bike, car sharing, etc.), as well as real time traffic updates.
Bus line schedules for the Bouches-du-Rhone department are available from the www.lepilot.com website. Towns served by these Bouches-du-Rhone bus lines include Aix-en-Provence, Arles, Avignon, Barcelonnette, Briançon, Brignoles, Carpentras, Castellane, Cavaillon, Digne-les-Bains, Forcalquier, Gap, Grenoble, Gréoux-les-Bains, Le Luc, Manosque, Marseille, Nice, Sisteron, Tarascon, Toulon.Is the Bouches-du-Rhone region a walking destination?
The Bouches-du-Rhone offers an extensive and accessible network of walking/hiking 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 the risk of fires.
Cycling in the Provence - Bouches-du-Rhone Department 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 signposted 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 to learn more about cycling in the Provence and the Alpilles area and www.freewheelingfrance.com.
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 Bouches-du-Rhone is a safe destination to visit, but as with all French cities, tourists in the department 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 Bouches-du-Rhone Department 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.
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 in this region are spectacular, as well as the soaps, perfumes and cosmetics produced in this region, 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
Police dial 117
Aix en Provence Hospital, avenue des Tamaris, 13616 Aix en Provence. Tel: 04 42 33 50 00