How to Get There: Travel to Provence will likely not be a direct flight from any US airport, but you can easily book a flight straight through to Marseille with a stop in Paris. A quick flight from Paris will get you to the Marseilles airport, from where you can rent a car and easily drive to Arles (the nearest larger town to the villa where the workshop will be held). I do recommend flying, because that way you won’t have to leave the airport in Paris- you’ll just have to navigate Charles de Gaulle to find your terminal, an easier prospect than getting into Paris to find the train station. However, for the more adventurous, taking the TGV, or bullet train, to Avignon would be a fun experience.
Personally? I’ll be flying to Marseille, and I’ll rent a car at the Marseille airport to get myself to Arles. Not all of Europe, contrary to popular belief, is easily accessible by public transportation. But the rules of the road in France really aren’t that different from those in the US, and with a US drivers’ license you will be good to go (don’t turn right on red lights, FYI. And do NOT go slow in the fast lane! Big non non! For more tips, go here). Expedia is my best friend for car rentals in Europe, every time. And, your GPS will work just fine here in Europe, though you should check your data plan with your cell provider before you go.
Places to stay: I use Expedia pretty much always when I’m traveling, unless I’m staying for longer and then VRBO has been my go-to. However, I’ve started to become more familiar with Airbnb as well, and it tends to be less expensive than VRBO- you have to watch the fees with VRBO, as they seem to be getting more and more expensive- but I have yet to use Airbnb in Europe*. The only hotel in the area that I can personally recommend is Le Vallon de Gayet, which I adore. If you want to stay surrounded by olive groves and lavender fields in a place with an amazing restaurant run by a lovely and charming family, then I highly recommend this place. When I travel in France, I prefer the smaller, mom and pop type places, which Le Vallon de Gayet definitely is. You may not have the best of hair dryers or all the American luxuries, but you will instead perhaps be able to lean out your window and see, smell, and feel the beauty of France all around you.
For choices besides the hotel Le Vallon de Gayet, which may be a bit more expensive**, the city of Arles is probably your best bet for lodging, whether you use VRBO or Expedia or Airbnb. It’s the largest city that is close to where the workshop will be held, and when I do a quick search of Arles on any of these 3 websites I come up with loads of properties, many of which range in price between $50-100 a night. Yes, you read that right. This isn’t Paris, it’s the south of France, where you can actually live quite inexpensively. Expedia even brings up some little apartments for rent, which is a way to save even more over staying in a hotel because you have the option to eat some of your meals in rather than out. Baguette, cheese, ham- what more do you need (besides wine, of course). When you do a search on any of these websites, remember to look at the map and try to stay to the east side of Arles, which will keep you from having to go through the city in order to get to the workshop location.
However, if you want a smaller French town or even rural experience, I would recommend the towns of Mouries or Maussane-les-Alpilles. Neither are large or remarkable towns, but both certainly have a unique character. I have so many memories from Mouries- it’s where the hotel Le Vallon de Gayet is located and I have eaten many, many wonderful dinners there. Other memories include a midnight mass on Christmas Eve in an old stone church, where the nativity scene consisted of real live sheep and donkeys being walked down the aisle on a cold, crisp night after a meal that included the traditional 13 desserts of a Provencal Christmas Eve. So. Much. Beauty…
And if perchance you prefer a larger, chain type of hotel, those are available as well. Just search for a Mercure or an Ibis in Arles and you will find them. I found a few here.
In any case, there is plenty of time to explore the best place for you to stay, and there are so many options that will accommodate whatever your budget may be.
Check out the screen shot of a map I’ve included here. I’ve put a pin down on the approximate location of the workshop (I can’t give out the exact address just yet. The owner of the villa, understandably, doesn’t want us all showing up to ogle the place just willy-nilly). From my estimate of its location, however, you can see how far away Arles, from Mouries, and from Maussane-les-Alpilles it is, and you will see that it is not far at all. I also found a handful of hotels in St.-Martin-de-Crau, though I’m not at all familiar with this town.
*I intend to do a scouting/review trip in September of this year and will probably check out the Airbnb situation while I’m there because I can’t believe the prices. Though Expedia had some serious deals as well. Seriously. This part of France is NOT expensive.
*When I say that Le Vallon de Gayet is more expensive, please note that this is entirely relative. It actually isn’t expensive at all, but compared to some of the places you’ll find on Airbnb it seems so. A single room here will run you about 102 Euros a night, and a double will be approximately 112 Euros. Not bad at all. Consider sharing a double with a friend.