Specific directions to your property will be sent to you when you make your reservation, but below is a bit of general information about getting to the Lourmarin area.
TGV From Paris
By far the best way to get to Lourmarin from outside of Europe, is to fly direct to Paris (Charles de Gaulle airport) and take the high-speed train (called the TGV, short for 'train à grande vitesse') to the Aix-en-Provence TGV station, where you can rent a car and drive on lovely back roads for less than an hour to Lourmarin.
The TGV station is located within the CDG airport, just a short walk from the Air France International terminal. The high-speed train takes three hours to reach Aix. It is very convenient and comfortable. You can stretch out, walk around, enjoy a petite déjeuner, and take a brief snooze before you reach your destination.
A couple of caveats:
- Tickets and reservations are mandatory for the TGV and can be made via SNCF or through your local travel agent. Do make sure you have booked your TGV trip from CDG airport rather than one of the central Paris stations. Before boarding, validate your tickets by inserting each one into one of the ubiquitous orange machines. (This way, you can avoid the irritation of the conductor as well as a small fee.)
- The Aix-en-Provence TGV station is NOT in Aix-en-Provence; it is 37km outside of Aix. Therefore, make sure you have rented your car from the Aix TGV station. There are regular buses that can take you to central Aix, if that is your first destination.
- Avignon also has a TGV station and is a good alternative destination as it is also less than an hour from Lourmarin.
- Finally, do be ready to board and disembark quickly; the station stop may be as brief as a few minutes and the TGV waits for no one!
Fly into Provence
Another way to reach Lourmarin is to fly into Marseille Marignan Airport and rent a car for the drive to Lourmarin, less than an hour away. There are quite a few daily flights from London (on British Airways), Paris and other European cities.
Traveling by air to Marseille is typically a little less expensive than taking the TGV from Paris. Air France has good deals that often make this alternative more appealing than the TGV option.
From the UK, you can also fly into Marseille's other terminal, MP2, on low-cost carriers like Ryanair and Easy Jet.
Nice airport is a third option. There are direct flights from London and from New York City (and probably other major American cities, too). This airport is about 2½ hours away by car, via the autoroute, which can be a very long trip after a sleepless night on a long-haul flight, especially if you're not familiar with the route.
Rent a car and drive
There are buses connecting many of the villages to one another and to larger cities, but they run infrequently and irregularly.
Having a car in Provence is essential, as many of the most interesting sites can only be accessed by car, especially in the small hilltop villages.
Make arrangements to rent your car in advance; try Auto Europe or any of the large rental companies (Avis, Budget, Europecar etc). Make sure to choose the correct pick-up point for your car. We have had several guests arrive at the Aix-en-Provence TGV station only to find that their car is waiting for them in the city of Aix-en-Provence! Car rental agencies are typically found in or near airports and train stations and in large cities.
NOTE: there are no car rental agencies in Lourmarin (or in any of the small villages in the Luberon area).
Some notes on driving:
- Select a compact or medium-sized car. We recommend strict avoidance of SUVs and vans because they are simply too large for the roads in the villages and even parts of some cities. If you prefer an automatic, make sure to specify that that is your preference. If you get a manual, make sure you know how to operate the gears (especially reverse) before you leave the agency's premises.
- An international driver's license is not required in France. The use of seatbelts is mandatory. You will be fined for driving while talking on a hand-held mobile phone, and France has very tough laws prohibiting driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Most of the major highways are toll roads and are called 'autoroutes'. Sometimes you pick up a ticket at one toll booth (péage) and pay at another. There are also both manned and unmanned toll booths in which you pay before you enter. Carry coins with you or pay using a credit card at the larger toll booths.
- French drivers drive fast but they are very courteous. On motorways, always keep to the slow lane unless you're overtaking. On small roads, be mindful of passing slower cars, cyclists, tractors, a circus (yes, really), herds of goats, and the like. You never know what you might see on the narrow little roads in Provence.
- Order a satnav when you rent your car. If you don't have satnav, keep a good map handy. Signage is quite good but navigating can be tricky. The key to following the signs is to know the main villages and cities along the route to your destination; most directional signs will note the next main village or city. If you don’t see a sign for a destination that lies along your route, follow signs for Toutes Directions or Autres Directions (meaning "all" or "other" directions) until you see a sign for one of your destinations.