Southern France [22 May - 02 June 2024]

Day 1: Bristol - Marseilles

We're off again - it seems so long since we were on a plane! Just a short two hour hop from Bristol to Marseilles to start a lovely 10 day trip around the region.

After picking up the hire car from just outside the airport, we drove to the beautiful and unusual town of Roussillon. It's known for its ochre cliffs, which come in a variety of dramatic colours, ranging from ochre yellow to fiery red.  These colourful cliffs are the result of millions of years of erosion, exposing layers of ochre-rich sand. The town sits upon these cliffs and you get the most spectacular views over the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. On our arrival, and after settling into our hotel, we took an evening stroll around the town. It was so quiet - like a ghost town! Nevertheless, its beauty shone through. 

For our evening meal, we enjoyed the most wonderful dishes at one of the town's most popular restaurants where the cuisine was definitely French through and through. The Daube provençale was melt in your mouth while the three desserts with coffee was a lovely way to finish without over indulging! 

Day 2: Roussillon & Luberon Region

After a lovely buffet breakfast, it was time to head back up the hill into town. Gone was the atmosphere of last night, replaced by a bustling vibrant scene of the local market and the day trippers all arriving at once (quite a few on cycling tours by the look of all the Lycra shorts on display!). The golden morning sun certainly brought out the colour of the buildings. 
At the top of the hill are the remains of some of the quarries that used to mine the ochre and there is now a civilised walk around and in amongst the orange and yellow cliffs that are left standing. 
In the afternoon (after a little siesta and swim) we headed to the charming town of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse - known for being the source of the Sorgue River, which bursts forth from a giant Vaucluse spring  - one of the most powerful in Europe. It's a truly impressive sight, with water erupting from a cliff at a rate of up to 6,000 cubic meters per second, although for us, the water was high and the entrance to the cave was submerged. 
The water was also a source of power for a papermill - very reminiscent of Wookey Hole! 
We then headed onto Gordes - a spectacular hillside town that is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. in fact it is designated as one of the "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France". The afternoon sun really brought to life the limestone buildings and the narrow, quaint streets were so charming to wander through. 
Not content with all of today's sights, we pressed on to our next destination - the town of Lacoste with its famous Chateau de Lacoste which was home to the infamous Marquis de Sade. The town itself was another charming labyrinth of cobbled streets intertwining across the hillside. We felt like we were in a movie set since it did appear that no one actually lived here, but we were grateful that the local restaurant was serving, so we enjoyed our evening meal overlooking the streets, while a triple rainbow appeared in the sky while we ate.  Sadly, no photo was able to capture it successfully! 😟

Day 3: Vaucluse Region

Another packed day today. To begin, we started off by heading to one of the highest mountains in France that is not part of a chain (or massif/massive) - Mount Ventoux. Known as the "Giant of Provence," it stands at 1,909 meters (6,263 feet) and is renowned for its striking appearance and challenging ascent. Its name also gives away the fact it can be very windy at the top, although thankfully today, it was okay and not too cold, because, as you can see, we didn't exactly dress for the mountain! Mount Ventoux is also famous in the cycling world, especially due to its inclusion in the Tour de France. It has been featured in the race multiple times since its first appearance in 1951. 
The drive up was spectacular and we shared the road with riders both on motorbikes and cycles - mostly all.of a 'certain age' which was reassuring to see! 
When we got to the top , James sought out the last remaining patch of snow - he's so at home in the snow!
Next up was the world renowned town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where the protected wine is produced. A ruined medieval castle sits above the village and dominates the landscape to the south. It was built in the 14th century for Pope John XXII, the second of the popes to reside in Avignon (our next stop) and there is also an impressive parish church that church probably dates from the end of the 11th century when the village was first fortified.

We enjoyed a lovely three course lunch in town (€26 per head which we thought was great value) and of course, had to sample some of the local wine. The town itself didn't take too long to explore, so after lunch it was time to hit the road again and head down the Rhône to Avignon.
Avingnon is famous for two things mainly - its bridge and being one of the Pontifical residences in the 14th Century. 
Though famous for the children's song, today only four arches of the bridge's original 22 arches remain. Despite its partial collapse, the bridge's history is fascinating. Built in the 12th century, it was once a vital link for pilgrims and served as a key part of the city's prosperity. 
The Palais des Papes is UNESCO World Heritage Site and isn't just stunning Gothic architecture - it's the largest Gothic palace in all of Europe. It is huge! And we certainly got our steps in, especially since most of them were up and down stairs. 
We were impressed by the tablets we were given which recreated the rooms using AR to show you what they may have looked like back in the day. 
After all of this, it was time to head back to the hotel for one more night, before we began the second part of our holiday. 

Day 4 - St Tropez!

Today was an exciting, if less busy day. After checking out of the hotel, we headed to Nice airport to pick up our friends who were joining us. Getting four adults, with all their luggage in a tiny Kia Picanto was interesting with luggage wedged in every available space! 
We headed down towards St Tropez - that playground beach town of the rich and famous! Just outside of the town we stopped off for lunch at a restaurant run by one of James' old friends (he has contacts everywhere!) where we also rendezvoused with his brother and his party to make up our group of 10 people enjoying this fantastic vacation. 

The restaurant was stunning - literally it was on the beach (it has to be dismantled and rebuild each year because of the winter tides) so the views were stunning, as was the food. 
Then it was onto our accommodation for the rest of our stay - a stunning villa over looking the St Tropezx bay! 
The rest of the day was spent, as you might expect, enjoying this stunning villa and all that it has to offer. 

Day 5 - St Tropez

Our first full day in this stunning location while resting at this amazing villa was of course going to be centred around relaxing and enjoying our new home. We awoke late, after a good evening of chatting and maybe a drink or two, to a glorious sunny day. The sea across the way was so inviting, but the villa's pool was nearer!
Nevertheless, there is a world out there to explore, and so James led us to the fascinating town of Port Grimaud, which lies just outside of St Tropez and is nicknamed "Little Venice," Port Grimaud is a charming resort town built in the 1960's that  features canals, bridges, and colourful houses lining the waterways. It's a beautiful place to wander around, which is exactly what we did - and of course, had a beautiful lunch beside the waterway. 
After stocking up with beautiful cheeses, bread, wine and other delicious goodies for dinner, we headed to the villa and that pool to enjoy a chilled rest of the afternoon.
In the evening, we headed into town to explore St. Tropez's nightlife.
There was certainly a lot of money on display! The boats moored up were incredible! Such a pretty town with its narrow streets and old fisherman's houses.

Day 6 - St Tropez 

Beach day!! A simple day today as we headed out to one of James' old haunts for a beautiful beach side lunch at Plage de Gigaro followed by a spot of sunbathing and paddling the crystal clear waters. Amazing. 

Day 7 - St Tropez

Grimaud was today's cute village. Another quaint settlement on a hillside, with a ruined castle and fortifications at the top. The perched village is a medieval town with a rich history. It's filled with narrow cobbled streets, charming squares, and old stone houses. The village is dominated by its 11th-century castle, which has been partially restored and offers stunning views of the surrounding area.  Grimaud was originally named after Gibelin de Grimaldi, a member of the Grimaldi family who helped drive out the Saracens from the area in the 10th century. The Grimaldi family went on to found Monaco.
Our second town of the day was Sainte-Maxime where again, idyllic paved streets snaked their way past colourful terraces of shops and houses, but this time, we were beside the coast. We treated ourselves to the most delicious ice-cream which was served in a cone and made to look like a flower! 

Day 8 - St Tropez

A short morning drive took us to more picturesque villages today. First off was Gassin, another beautiful medieval village perched high on a rocky outcrop in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region. he village itself is a maze of narrow cobbled streets, charming squares, and old stone houses built in a traditional Provençal style.  One of the most notable features of Gassin is its 13th-century fortified walls, which offer panoramic views of the coastline. The town was also dotted with contemporary artwork which added to the sophisticated air!
Next up was Ramatuelle, nother charming village located on the prestigious Saint-Tropez Peninsula which can trace its history back to the 10th century. Unlike its neighbour Gassin, Ramatuelle sits on the coast, offering easy access to some of the most stunning beaches in the area, including the famed Pampelonne Beach.
In the afternoon, we headed to what was definitely a highlight of the trip so far - the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang beach - Plage de la Briande at Cap Taillat near Ramatuelle. the cinematograhpy of the scene is crisp and colourful and director Ken Hughes didn’t fail to exploit the beauty of the area. Sally Ann Howes and the children are shown on the beach, known as a isthmus (a narrow piece of land that joins two larger masses together). It is one of the Riviera’s few naturally sandy beaches. 

And here is the relevant scene:

Day 9 - Monaco

We had to say goodbye to two of our party today and we drove them to Nice airport so they could catch their flight. On the way, we briefly stopped off at Saint-Raphaël to admire the red rock cliffs and dramatic coastline.
After we dropped them off it was time for lunch in Monaco! This clifftop principality is a sovereign city-state and micro-state located on the French Riviera, and as we all know, it's a glamorous place known for its casinos, luxury shopping, and yacht-filled harbour. The views over the harbour were lovely and the Palace of Monaco (the official residence of the Prince of Monaco) was suitably imposing - as were a few other buildings we saw. 
After lunch we head to the quaintly named Èze - another hill hugging town, but this time, it's now ruined fort at the top of the hill has been transformed into the most amazing garden, filled with colourful succulents that overlook a breathtaking view (where is there a view in this region that is not breathtaking?!).

Day 10 - St Tropez

Although we have been walking a lot as we wandered around all these magical towns, our daily step count has not been as high as it usually is when we are walking daily at home. So today, we embarked on a little bit of an epic walk along the St Tropez coastline. 
We started in St Tropez at the dramatic Citadelle de Saint-Tropez with its rich history and breathtaking views of Citadelle de Saint-Tropez! From the stunning panoramas of the French Riviera to the fascinating maritime museum, this iconic fortress offers an interesting and informative blend of beauty and heritage. While we were there there was a school party of 6 and 7 year olds looking around. Funny to see them being escorted around by their frazzled teachers. How I miss doing school trips!!
From the Citadelle we took the "path" along the coast. The path wasn't exactly continuous and, at times, it was more like scrambling - but we managed to walk for about two and a half hours (8km) before we felt we needed a rest. 
Luckily after what amounted to 17,500 steps and 12.5km, we found ourselves at a lovely beachside restaurant - albeit an expensive one!
Along the way, we saw some amazing mansions and could only speculate who might live there. We also came across a film crew filming a scene out in the water with the director nicely dry on land!

Day 11 - St Tropez to Marseille 

Today was our last full day of the holiday and boy, did we pack a lot in!
We started early with breakfast in St Tropez with a morning stroll around the colourful Saturday market. There was lots on display - all eye-wateringly beautiful and just as expensive!! We didn't buy anything (well maybe a pastry or two for breakfast!)
We also took one final stroll around St Tropez harbour in the glorious morning sun. And wow!! Some of those boats are just insane!! Goodness knows which rich folk were docked over this weekend but there were several billion dollars on display!
Then it was time to leave St Tropez. We really like this historic and beautiful town, but it's not the only gem along the coast that's stunning as we shall see. 
Our first stop towards Marseille was Bormes Les Mimosas to admire this lovely town, its windy streets and wonderful view across the valley. We thoroughly enjoyed ambling through the streets of all the hillside towns we have visited over the last week or so. This one certainly was one of the cutest.
Onward to Cassis for lunch! This town is so pretty - it is picture-book perfect. We may even rate this place higher than St Tropez for its atmosphere and sheer beauty. There's a castle that overlooks the idyllic harbour and the colour of the water contrasts beautifully with the multicoloured quayside restaurants and cafes. We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy a boat trip along the coast and into the Calanques - the rocky inlets and bays formed by the dramatic geomorphology of the area. Lunch was fantastic too by the way!
And just like that, it was time to head to Marseille to drop off the car and check into our airport hotel for tomorrow's flight home. 
We didn't have the opportunity on this trip to explore Marseille, but hopefully there will be another opportunity. 
This has been yet another memorable trip and we both know how incredibly lucky we are to have been able to add yet more memories and experiences to our lives. 


  1. Good to have the blog back, I have missed my daily dose of envy!
    We are in Lincolnshire, V’s Mum wanted to visit a friend.
    Have fun and see you soon, A&V


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