Ellie, what you are going to do sounds wonderful. We went to Provence
just last year and after asking around, we chose to stay in Aix. We took
a side trip to Avignon but didn't really see enough of it to know for
sure, but I think we'd choose Aix again. It's a college town, so it's
lively and busy. The Old Town is wonderful with lots of interesting little
shops and cafes. No cars and our hotel was right at the edge of it, so
we had lots of time to explore. Sidewalk cafes abound. From Aix there
are lots of little villages to visit. And listen, Aix is not a small town.
We managed to get ourselves lost trying to walk from Old Town to our hotel.
We visited Gordes (Peter Mayle and his book A Year in Provence), St. Remy, Les Baux and Roussillon, considered one of the most impressive in France - colorful red earth, and Avignon.
Our hotel was the Aquabella. In Paris we also stayed in the St. Germaine area.
And we received as much information as we needed from the French tourist board. You can take the train from Paris all the way to Aix. We were a group, so there was no car rental involved, but everyone loved it. Avignon is quite a long drive from Aix -- of course we made several stops en route.