INFORMATION ON AIR, RAIL, ROAD TRANSPORT, ACCOMMODATION COTE’D AZUR
Provence – This is a large region, and a diverse one, whose contrasting landscapes encompass the rural fields and villages of inland Provence, the remote mountainous regions of the Alpes-Maritime in the east and north, and the high-rise developments and autoroutes of the Riviera in the south.
Air Services – With two of France’s largest provincial airports at Nice and Marseille and a further international airport at Toulon-Hyères, getting to Provence by air is usually the quickest and cheapest option from the UK or Ireland, with the competition between the low-cost airlines and the established carriers helping to keep costs down. There are few direct intercontinental flights to the region, though, so long-haul travelers from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa are more likely to fly into a major European hub such as Paris or London, then transfer to a short flight, or complete the journey by train.
Rail & Bus Services – Euro star rail services through the Channel Tunnel link to the fast TGV system, making rail a viable alternative, although you’ll need to change at Paris or Lille. It’s possible to reach Marseille or Nice by bus and car from the UK, too, though the journey can take up to 24 hours. Travelling by train is the most reliable and economical means of visiting Provence’s main cities. Once you reach your destination you can use the local bus networks to get around, both in the town and out into the surrounding areas. Away from the major towns, however, the rail network is sparse, and bus services are infrequent and often extremely slow, so having independent transport is an important factor if you want to be free to explore out of town.
Accommodation – Finding accommodation on the spot in the larger towns and cities in Provence is generally not a problem for much of the year, outside of the July and August high season. On the Riviera things get more difficult earlier in the year, however: in May, the Cannes Film Festival makes it extremely difficult to find reasonably priced accommodation in the western Riviera, while the Monaco Grand Prix creates the same problem on the stretch of coast to the east of Nice. Booking a couple of nights in advance is reassuring at any time of year, and spares you the effort of trudging around looking for somewhere.
Cuisine – Food is as good a reason as any for going to Provence. The region boasts one of the greatest cuisines of France, as well as some very fine wines in the Vaucluse, on the coast and at Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
International Editions -Getting hold of international editions of English-language newspapers and magazines in Provence is relatively easy. Newsstands at airports and railway stations and branches of Virgin in the major cities invariably stock the major publications, though such is the influx of English-speaking expatriates that these days you may just as easily find the latest edition of the Wall Street Journal or Financial Times on sale in some idyllic village in the Luberon.