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How to Bring the Southern French Lifestyle Home With You

March 30, 2020

So, you’ve visited the South of France and now you can’t imagine living anywhere else? I can relate! From the first time I went to Provence I was enamored with the charming towns, gorgeous nature and that laid back southern French lifestyle. Freshly baked baguettes every day? Oui. 2+ hour lunches? Oui. Rosé? OUI!

I’ve since gone back many times and every time I fall a little bit more in love. But, if you’re like me, you can’t simply pick up and move to the South of France permanently (a girl can dream though, right?). I do however have some ideas to bring that southern French lifestyle home with you so you can feel like you are in Provence no matter where in the world you are.

the baguette, an essential part of french lifestyle

How to Bring the Southern French Lifestyle Home With You

Visit Your Local Farmers Markets

The local daily marches, or markets, are an essential part of the French lifestyle. Instead of heading to the mega grocery store chain and stocking up a week’s worth of food, many French choose to walk to their local outdoor market every day to get fresh and seasonal produce, meat, fish and fresh flowers.

While at home, you can visit your local farmer’s market to have a similar experience. It’s more pleasant than going to a regular supermarket, and you are also supporting local farmers, bakers, and artisans.

fruits at the market, an essential part of french lifestyle

Adapt Your Home Decor to the Southern French Lifestyle

One word that springs to mind when I think about Provence is “color.” The Provençal color palette is sunny and vibrant, with earth tones and accents from the surrounding nature. Bright yellow is the star of the show, along with baby blue, ochre, peach, mint green, lavender, and soft pink.

the color palette of provence, an essential part of french lifestyle
A perfect example of the Provence Pallette

If you’re not ready to totally re-do your house in a “French country theme” there are little accents you can add to bring in these pops of bright. The South of France inspired painters like Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, and adding any of their works to your wall will help bring in this palette. Fresh flowers and indoor plants are also a great way to Frenchify your interior, especially if purchased at a local market!

The Provence interior often has rustic elements like stone walls and exposed beams, which are accented with modern touches. Antique and rustic farmhouse style furniture also adds a Provençal touch, or giving your existing furniture a distressed “shabby chic” makeover. Porcelain and ceramic accents (typically painted in the Provençal palette) are great ways to add color pops. Traditional textiles from the region, including bright table linens are are also a great way to bring in that color. You can pick some up at the market on your next trip to Provence, or buy online. Here are some beautiful options I found below:

french lifestyle table cloth from williams sonoma
french lifestyle table cloth from amazon

Get Really Good at Entertaining

The French love to entertain and gather in the home! When you visit a French person’s house, you will literally want for nothing. A huge element of the French lifestyle is entertaining guests, and they have really mastered it.

One secret to this is preparing things in advance. Do as much prep as you can before your guests arrive so you can really enjoy conversing with them and spend less time in the kitchen while they are over. Set the scene with fresh flowers and simple yet elegant table decor. Light candles. Leave nothing in packaging and serve everything in decorative bowls or platters. Serve French wine and French cheese.

As I will go over below, the typical French meal is a lengthy affair, and you want to make your guests feel welcome to linger over their food and/or drinks. Make sure they always have something to drink if they want by subtly refilling their glass or offering them options. Don’t rush to clear everything immediately and let people pause and relax between courses.

glasses of rose wine, an essential part of french lifestyle

Linger Over Your Meal

Perhaps my favorite thing about dining in the South of France is the way that they really sit, savor and enjoy mealtime. In America, it’s often rushed, with an emphasis on “to go” because we are always so busy. The French lifestyle really about taking it slow and enjoying all aspects of life, and a big part of that for them is cuisine!

The French meal starts with an aperitif, which I suggest adding to your routine immediately. An aperitif is a “before dinner (or lunch) drink.” If you are in the South of France it’s typically Pastis (a licorice-flavored liquor from Marseille), a Kir or Kir Royale (white wine or Champagne mixed with Creme de Cassis Liquor), or fortified sweet wine or vermouth. The aperitif is served with a few small snacks like olives, nuts or chips.

an essential part of french lifestyle

Moving on to the meal, each course is served separately. The meal starts with appetizers, followed by the main course which is typically meat or fish with vegetables. The French, in contrast with how we do it in the US, typically serve the salad course AFTER the main course.

Then comes the cheese course, dessert, coffee, and sometimes an after-dinner drink. Make sure to have plenty of fresh bread, in baguette form. Wine is obviously served throughout.

cheese and baguette, an essential part of french lifestyle

A Few Typical Provençal Appetizers:

  • Tapenade or anchoïade on Toasts
  • Radishes served with salt + butter
  • Ratatouille
  • Charcuterie

A Few Typical Provençal Mains:

  • Bouillabaisse
  • Sea Bass with Vegetables
  • Lamb or Beef Stew

Find more inspiration here!

tapenade, an essential part of french lifestyle
Bouillabaisse, a typical southern french lifestyle meal

Change Your Tunes

Nothing sets the mood like a little bit of French music! Whether you’re throwing a little dinner party, having friends over for aperitif or just hanging out in your Maison, a great French playlist will have you daydreaming of sun-drenched lavender fields and drinking wine alfresco at a cute cafe.

Classics I like to listen to are Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Yves Montand, Jacques Brel, Georges Brassens, and Françoise Hardy. For a newer, chill vibe, Carla Bruni is also a great choice.

Here are some of my favorite Spotify playlists that will transport you back to France without leaving your living room:

Pamper Yourself with French Products

The South of France is known for its perfumes and soaps, so one great way to bring the French lifestyle home is to pamper yourselves with French-made products and scents!

An easy and affordable way to make your home life a little more French is to stock up on French soaps. “Savon de Marseille” is known worldwide and can be purchased for as little as 1 euro at the markets in Provence, so I usually stock up and bring a bunch back with me. I love putting them in my bathroom – it adds a nice little touch for guests. You can also buy them online here.

L’Occitane en Provence, while popular in the USA is also very authentically Provençal, with its headquarters in Manosque, France. Their products and scents will bring you right back to the lavender and sunflower fields of the South of France. Durance de Provence is another fragrance company from the South of France that you can incorporate into your decor and lifestyle.

If all else fails, a lavender-scented candle is an easy way to transport yourself to the fields of Provence!

savon de marseille soap, a french lifestyle product you can use at home

Ready to stop dreaming and plan your trip to Provence? Check out my guides for Visiting Provence in Autumn and My Favorite Spots in Provence

Allie Marie Travels is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com

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France Provence Travel

5 Fairytale Villages in the Luberon, France You Can’t Miss

March 25, 2020
view of Gordes, one of the villages in the Luberon

Planning on visiting the villages in the Luberon? I approve! In my (biased) opinion, there is no other region in France more charming than Provence. If you’re planning a trip to this southern part of France, you would be mistaken to skip this beautiful little valley, filled with breathtaking hilly countryside and dotted with quaint perched villages.

Trust me when I say you will feel like you’ve been transported into another world as you wind down the country roads and take in the cobblestone streets and little corners of these fairytale towns. These are the scenes of Monet and Cezanne’s paintings and the backdrop for Peter Mayle’s bestselling novel, A Year in Provence.

Even though there are many quaint villages in the Luberon, I’m going to tell you about 5 you absolutely can’t miss on your trip!

Getting to and Around the Villages of the Luberon

The closest large airport to the Luberon is the Marseille-Provence airport (code MRS). Most flights from the US tend to route through another major European city like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, etc. The airport is also serviced by several European budget airlines such as RyanAir, Vueling, and EasyJet.

There is also a high-speed train from Paris to either Aix-en-Provence or Avignon and both of these cities will put you in good proximity to the region.

One thing that I would say is essential is a rental car. Unless you pre-book some sort of a group tour, it’s pretty much impossible to explore the villages without one.

When to Visit the Luberon

While the Luberon is beautiful in any season, the obvious and most colorful time to visit would be late spring and early to mid-summer. The weather will be warm but not too hot and the hoards of tourists will not have fully descended upon the region yet.

These are the (approximate) seasons for the most popular blooms:

  • Red Poppies: May
  • Lavender: Mid June-end of July
  • Sunflowers: Late June-early August

Visiting in the early fall is also lovely. While you won’t have all the blooms, the weather is still pleasant and the tourist boom will be over. Hotel prices will also be lower and will have more availability.

Lavender field in the Luberon provence

5 Fairytale Villages in the Luberon, France You Can’t Miss

Ménerbes

Speaking of A Year in Provence, the village of Ménerbes was where British author Peter Mayle lived and documented his life in his 2 books based in this region. Due to the popularity of the books, Ménerbes experienced a boom of overtourism in the 90s from fans. Luckily, it has since calmed down and returned to the quaint and quiet Provencal village it once was. Famed artists Picasso and Nicolas de Staël also once owned houses here.

One of the many perched villages in the Luberon, the road to Ménerbes will take you around some twists and turns, so be prepared if you tend to get a bit car sick and just take it slow. Once you get to the top, enjoy views of the Luberon valley below, historic 18th-century buildings, preserved guard walls, chateau, and belfry.

Menerbes, a fairytale village in the Luberon

L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue

L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue is an incredibly charming town in the Luberon that is known affectionately as the “Venice of the Vaucluse (the department that houses the Luberon).” Named for the Sorgue river that runs through the center, L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue is known for its antique shops and markets as well as it’s charming canals and old fashioned waterwheels.

There is a big market every Sunday that brings with it antique dealers and local artisans selling the typical Provencal souvenirs. There many restaurants and cafes lining the river, and on a sunny day, you can sit outside, sip your coffee or wine and watch the ducks lazily float by. It’s unique, idyllic, and definitely should not be missed when visiting the villages of the Luberon! 100% right out of a fairytale.

Lourmarin

One of my absolute favorite villages in the Luberon, Lourmarin is a village you can spend several hours (or days) in! Oozing charm, it’s an amazing spot for shopping and dining as well. Located about a half an hour from Aix-en-Provence, it’s a great spot to hit up for a day trip.

At the edge of the village is a 16th-century castle, that was restored in the early 20th century. Today it is used as a concert venue. Trendy and unique shops and art galleries line the small streets, making it a great place to shop for souvenirs for yourself or others. The main square is adorable, with cafe terraces spilling out into each other filled with people on a sunny day.

Rousillon

Rousillon stands out among the Luberon villages due to the distinctive ochre cliffs surrounding it as well as it’s matching clay-hued buildings. It actually sits within one of the largest ochre deposits in the world, perched atop the red mountains and accented by green pines (and in the summer, lavender fields). It’s truly a sight to see and should not be missed during your Luberon trip.

In addition to walking around the colorful town and observing the gorgeous views, there is also a museum dedicated to ochre and the production of artists’ pigments you can visit. Rousillon also has plenty of gift shops selling pigments that you can purchase for yourself or as a unique souvenir from this beautiful village!

Gordes

Ah, the crown jewel of the villages in the Luberon: Gordes! One of France’s most picturesque perched villages, the breathtaking part of visiting Gordes will be your approach. As you drive up the hill and reach the lookout point (it will be obvious), you will see an amazing view of the perched village and the gorgeous valley below. This is where you will get your key photo ops. Going during golden hour will provide great lighting and a pinkish tint to the surrounding buildings. Magic!

Once in the village, it is mostly pedestrian and you will have your typical souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants. Gordes is also home to several luxury and boutique hotels and a Michelin star restaurant, making it a great place to stay if you want to pamper yourself. It is very close to the famous Abbaye de Sénanque which you will most likely recognize as the church among the lavender fields in countless Provence posters and stock photos. So, if you visit during the lavender season (mid-June through mid-July), your view will be extra special.

View of Gordes, a fariytale village in the Luberon

So there you have it, 5 fairytale villages that you can’t miss! While there are many more villages you can explore within this region, these are the ones I would recommend topping your list with. I hope your visit to the Luberon is everything that you’ve been dreaming of!

For additional information on visiting the beautiful Luberon, check out the official site of the region HERE for everything else you need to plan your trip!

Want to do some more exploring in Provence? Check out my posts on  Visiting Provence in Autumn and My Favorite Spots in Provence

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Marseille Provence Travel

5 Unique Day Trip Ideas from Marseille, France

January 4, 2020

Bonjour! If you’re no stranger to my blog and Instagram account, you know Marseille has become my home away from home. My husband’s family is from there and we go at least once a year. Marseille is a diamond in the rough, and I certainly advocate spending at least 3 days exploring the city itself. (See: my Guide to Marseille and my Instagram Guide to Marseille). If you find yourself wanting to wander off the beaten path though, I have 5 unique day trip ideas from Marseille that will make you fall in love with the surrounding area.

Cassis & Bandol

You may have heard of Cassis, the candy hued, charming (& somewhat touristy) seaside town. Maybe I’m biased because it’s where I got engaged, but I think it lives up to it’s hype. About a half an hour from Marseille by car, the view when approaching Cassis is one of my favorites in the world. The stunning red cliff of the Cap Canaille, the endless aqua of the Mediterranean, gorgeous houses dotting the mountain side…wow. It is simply breathtaking.

What to Do in Cassis

I would suggest leaving late morning from Marseille to start your day. You only need an hour or so in the village itself. There are a few dozen cute boutiques & souvenir shops and plenty of choices for food. I love picking one of the places on the waterfront for lunch (I’m not loyal to any one in particular) and dining on Moule Frites. If you still have room, head to Amorino Gelato for a tasty (and Insta-worthy) rose shaped cone. There is often a little market in the central Place Baragnon. The typical French Market is on Wednesdays and Fridays but they have traveling and art markets as well.

If you are interested in seeing the Calanques (beautiful inlets that dot the coast around Marseille), you can take a cruise from the harbor. The price and duration vary depending on how many Calanques you want to see and what time of year it is. If the weather is nice, it’s definitely a good option! (Plan to leave earlier if you plan to see the village, do the cruise, AND still want to see Bandol).

Onward to Bandol

As you enter and leave Cassis, you will see plenty of vineyards where you can stop and taste wine. Unlike most of Provence which specializes in rosé, Cassis is known for it’s full-bodied and herbaceous white wines. While Mike and I usually try our luck stopping at random places along the way, here is a more detailed guide to region if you would like specific vineyard recs.

As you head towards Bandol (30 mins further east down the coast), you will pass many more vineyards. Even though the wine region is named for the seaside town, you won’t find any vineyards in the city center. In contrast to Cassis, Bandol is known for it’s earthy reds but also makes great whites and rosés. Taking the A50 towards La Ciotat/Toulon towards Bandol will take you past the villages of La Cadière d’Azur, Le Castellet, in the heart of the region. This guide will point you in the direction of specific wineries if you’re looking to plan in more detail.

This should go without saying that you should always have a designated driver if you plan on tasting wine – those sips can add up quick and France’s love of wine doesn’t cancel out their enforcement of drunk driving laws.

If you have time, continuing on to the village of Bandol would be a nice way to end the day. It is a fun and festive seaside town with quaint streets plenty of options for food to soak up all that wine.

Once you are satiated and tired, you only have a 42 minute drive back to Marseille.

Harbor in Bandol

Six-Fours-les-Plages

Another gem along the coast that I wanted to make sure to include in my guide to 5 unique day trip ideas from Marseille is Six-Fours-les-Plages. Take the A50 from Marseille towards Toulon and you’ll be there in about an hour. We didn’t spend much time in the center of Six-Fours and instead continued towards the sea to the smaller commune of Le Brusc, which I would recommend. It’s quaint with a distinctly local feel. You can pass through the little town by car and park in the paid lot further down towards the water.

Coastline at Le Brusc

Here the shore is rocky with pretty formations and tide pools and you can jump right in for a pleasant dip. We were there for golden & blue hour which were particularly beautiful. Adjacent to the coastline is a small island called Île du Petit Gaou which is reachable by foot bridge. There are walking paths to enjoy the beautiful nature, majestic cliffs and breathtaking views.

Scenes from Le Brusc & Île du Petit Gaou

There are a few nice restaurants close to island which offer amazing views. We chose to do a casual dinner of pizza back in the little village of Le Brusc which we ate on benches overlooking the harbor accompanied with rosé in plastic cups.

I would suggest allowing yourself a full afternoon here and ending up with sunset drinks and dinner. Six-Four/Le Brusc could also be paired with a morning trip to Cassis or Bandol.

Côte Bleue

So you’ve heard of the Côte d’Azur but have you heard of the Côte Bleue? I hadn’t until I started visiting Marseille regularly. The Côte Bleue is a charming piece of coastline between Marseille and Martigues, with the Mediterranean on one side and the Etang de Berre on the other. You’ll find quaint and lesser known fishing villages and beaches to keep to occupied on your day trip.

Coastline near Carry-le-Rouet

L’Estaque

Driving East from Marseille you can start in L’Estaque which is a suburb of Marseille and worth checking out either on your way out or on your way back. This little village has been an inspiration to many artists over the years including Cézanne, Renoir and Georges Braque.

Carry-le-Rouet

Further west you will find the village of Carry-le-Rouet, another seaside resort town which is favored as a summer retreat by the locals. Besides the cute downtown and harbor there is a coastal footpath where you can walk along the sea and four different beaches:

  • Le Rouet: the first beach in town and the most popular,
  • Cap Rousset: a natural limestone cove
  • Fernandel: in the center of town
  • Les Beaumettes: edge of town, stone and shallow water

Fun fact: Carry-le-Rouet is known as the “sea urchin capital” and even has a designated urchin month (February) with events and tastings!

Martigues

After you can head to Martigues, a colorful village known as the “Venice of Provence”. It’s bright buildings and bridges were definitely reminiscent of the famed Italian city, however even in the middle of summer there were no crowds. The Moiroir aux Oiseaux, a little port along Quai Brescon, was particularly picturesque and also a famed spot among painters.

Road to Valensole

I’m sure you’ve heard of Valensole (hello, Lavender fields?). Not so unique, you might say. BUT- I want to recommend a few places surrounding the famed plateau that you may not have on your radar, qualifying it as one of my unique day trip ideas from Marseille. The places below are a bit on the further side for a day trip so I would suggest leaving early if you want to get the most out of your day!

When you go to Valensole during off season 🙂

Gréoux-les-Bains

A cute little town with shops, colorful buildings and cafes with outdoor seatings for prime people watching! It also home to a thermal bath healthy center at which you can prebook health treatments for an extended period of time. If you’re just there for the day though and want to enjoy some pampering, there are facilities to book day treatments.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

We loved visiting this quaint perched village! Also simply known as “Moustiers”, this pedestrian town has waterfalls woven through it’s streets and a glorious view of the valley below. It’s also well known for it’s beautiful and uniquely hand-painted ceramics called faïence. You will see many shops with plenty of opportunities to stock up on unique souvenirs (although they are not cheap!) Also make sure to be respectful in the shops as a lot of them have signs that say “no photos.”

As you drive up the hill to approach the building there are parking lots where you can leave your vehicle and continue on foot into the town.

Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon

Sainte-Croix-du-Verdon is a small town overlooking the beautiful Lac Sainte Croix (which I also recommend visiting if you have time!) In fact, you can take a quick visit to the lakeshore below the village and then drive up the hill for the view. The view, in fact is the main attraction and we’ve come back several times to have dinner at Le Comptoir. I still think about the lavender honey & goat cheese bruschetta and dessert plate I ate there, and the scenery is truly unbeatable.

Camargue

To conclude my 5 unique day trip ideas from Marseille I present you with The Camargue. It’s a natural park area in Provence, known for it’s marshy land, birdwatching & wildlife, salt flats & quaint villages, just west of Marseille and the Côte Bleue. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you’re interested in distinct landscape and natural beauty.

Aigues-Mortes

Aigue-Mortes is an old medieval walled city with towers, lots of shops & restaurants. It is at the edge of a large pink body of water known as an Etang, or Lagoon that gets it’s color from the high concentration of salt in it. You can take a guided tour of the salt flats on a little train – cost is around 10 Euros. It was a neat and unique experience! You can also find WILD PINK FLAMINGOS as well as over 400 species of birds. Wild horses and cattle roam the rolling landscape, which looks a bit like a Monet painting.

Arles

While in the area, you can also visit the village of Arles, made famous in part by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Cafe at Night” (here is where the cafe can be found). You can even take a Van Gogh Walking Tour organized by the tourism office! Other things to visit are the Roman Amphitheater, Ancient Theater, several museums and of course, shops & cafes.

Conclusion

So, here you have it: 5 unique day trips from Marseille! If you can’t get enough of this region like me, check out my guides for Visiting Provence in Autumn and My Favorite Spots in Provence. If you scroll back up I’ve also provided a handy dandy MAP of all the places I’ve talked about here and color coded it by trip for your convenience. I hope this guide was helpful to you and that you enjoy your time in Provence, wherever it takes you!

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France Provence Travel

Visiting Provence in Autumn

October 4, 2019

Visiting Provence in Autumn is probably the best idea you’ll have all year. “The South of France” is a hugely popular summer destination among travelers worldwide. Dreamy flower fields, aqua coastline and festivals – what’s not to like? Huge crowds and expensive prices for one.

I really enjoy traveling in this region during the shoulder season of late September, October and November. The crowds are smaller, hotels are lower priced. Also, it’s easier to book last minute and the weather is still pretty beautiful! In fact, my water-loving husband has been known to take a dip in Marseille’s gorgeous Calanques as late as October!

My first trip to Provence was in November of 2011. Since then I’ve spent several more years exploring the region and enjoying it’s autumnal charm…

wall at vineyard in provence with colorful ivy

Getting There

The most centrally located airport to the Provence Region is the Marseille/Provence Airport (code: MRS). The recently renovated airport is a low key base to fly in and out of.

Flights from the US tend to route through another major European city like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, etc. The airport is also serviced by several European budget airlines such as RyanAir, Vueling and EasyJet.

Transportation

I think it’s essential to rent a car for exploring the small towns in Provence. I suggest you rent it online beforehand via a site like KAYAK to get a better rate. Also FYI for my American friends, we have found also that for some reason when we rent it from a United States IP address we get a lower price!

Weather & What to Pack

Just for reference, here is a breakdown of the average temps for Marseille in the fall months:

Month Average High/Low (Fahrenheit)  Average High/Low (Celcius)  Days of Rain
September 78° / 61° 25.5° / 16.1° 3
October 70° / 55° 21.1° / 12.7° 6
November 60° / 47° 15.5° / 8.3° 5

As you can see, it’s pretty mild weather. So, a daily uniform of jeans, comfortable walking shoes or boots, tops that can layer, scarves and a light leather or jean jacket. You can pack a heavier coat but honestly I’ve never needed one, even in winter.

I made the mistake of choosing fashion over comfort during my first trip to Provence and tried to walk around cobble stoned villages in heels! Please save yourself the pain and opt for a flat or chunky heeled boot or walking shoe. Also make sure to pack sneakers or hiking boots if you plan on taking advantage of the beautiful trails. If you are visiting in September or October you can even optimistically throw a bathing suit in your suitcase.

Looking out over the Mediterranean at the Cap Canaille

Taste All The Wine

In my opinion you can’t miss the vineyards in the South of France in the autumn months. Even if you’re not a big drinker or wine connoisseur, the landscape and scenery alone is worth a day of touring around. Trust me, driving through the beautiful Plantane tree tunnels with their changing golden leaves is a magical experience you will not forget. Of course, it does help if you like wine (and have a reliable DD)!

There are basically two wine regions that are easy to visit from here:
Provence and the Rhone Valley.

Here is a comprehensive guide to the wine regions included in Provence. Personally, I enjoy the Bandol, Cassis, & Aix en Provence area (this includes my absolute FAVORITE vineyard Chateau LaCoste), particularly for rosé and white wines.

If you travel a bit north towards Avignon into the Rhône Valley you will find the prestigious region of Chateauneuf du Pape which is well known for it’s reds. You can visit the little town there and as you drive along the countryside roads you will pass vineyard after vineyard.

The Luberon region (within the Rhône) is also filled with vineyards – we had a great experience staying at Chateau Perreal, a vineyard with vacation rentals onsite (this is pretty common).

(From Top Left: Rosé at Chateau LaCoste, Foliage in Chateaneuf de Pape, Outside Chateau Perreal in the Luberon, Pool at Chateau Perreal at sunset.)

Visit Fairytale Towns

It’s no coincidence that painters like Van Gogh and Monet used the South of France as a consistent subject. The towns and landscapes here are right out of a painting! Speaking of Van Gogh, the town of Arles is home to the cafe that was the subject of his famous “Cafe Terrace at Night” and is worth seeing.

Other favorite towns in the region that are gorgeous during fall are Gordes, a postcard perfect perched village, Isle Sur La Sorgue, a tiny town filled with canals and antiques, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a small hamlet with a “magical” natural fountain at the top of a hill. Honorable mentions include: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Les-Baux-des-Provence, and Lourmarin.

The great thing about these towns is that a lot of them are close together so you can knock out several in a day, making the most of your vacation! I’ve put them on a google map you can reference below:

Also the larger cities of Aix en Provence and Avignon are worth spending at least a day visiting. Aix is great for shopping and Avignon is great for history (the immense Papal Palace there was the seat of the Catholic Church from 1309 to 1376).

Featured Post: My Favorite Spots in Provence

(From Top Left: Arles, Isle Sur La Sorgue, Aix en Provence, Walking in the Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, The Pool at Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, View of Gordes from outside the town)

Really Get to Know Marseille

I think Marseille is a completely underrated French city and you could spend days or weeks exploring it. If you are limited on time though, you can definitely get to see a lot of the main sites (Vieux Port, Notre Dame de la Garde, etc) in a few days.

I’ve written a large guide to visiting the city which includes all my favorite spots and you can find here, and an Instagram Guide to Marseille’s best photo ops here.

Featured Post: Why You Shouldn’t Skip Marseille

(From Top Left: Marseille’s Vieux Port, The funky Cours Julien Neighborhood, a street in the Panier Neighborhood).

Enjoy the Amazing Nature

This region is RICH in beautiful nature and scenery. For example, one of my favorite things to do here is visit the Calanques, a series of inlets that run along the Mediterranean coast from Marseille to Cassis. Most of them are only accessible by foot or boat. From Cassis (approx half hour drive from Marseille), you can take a Calanque Cruise, which will show you all the different Calanques from the boat. That option won’t allow you to swim in the Calanques, however it is a good option if you want to see them all in a shorter amount of time.

There are also plenty of options for hiking, one being the Mont Saint Victoire at the outskirts of Aix en Provence. This resource provides guides to other options in the area with detailed info on length, time and difficulty.

(From Top: Port Miou Calanque near Cassis, View of Marseille from the Mountains, Mont Sainte Victoire.)

Time to go!

In short, there are honestly so many activities to do in the South of France in the fall! Basically it’s hard to go wrong when planning your trip. I hope you consider visiting during this beautiful time and that this guide is a helpful starting guide to creating your perfect itinerary.

Bon voyage!

France Provence Travel

10 Can’t Miss Spots in Provence

October 27, 2018

One of the reasons I love Marseille is it’s proximity to so many amazing towns & natural wonders! Provence has become one of my favorite regions in the world, and once you go you will know why. While there are endless possibilities of stops when you’re planning your trip, I’m here to tell you about the can’t miss spots in Provence that I would recommend visiting.

Getting to Provence

The most centrally located airport to the Provence Region is the Marseille/Provence Airport (code: MRS). The recently renovated airport is a low key base to fly in and out of.

Flights from the US tend to route through another major European city like London, Paris, Frankfurt, Madrid, etc. The airport is also serviced by several European budget airlines such as RyanAir, Vueling and EasyJet.

Transportation

I think it’s essential to rent a car for exploring the small towns in Provence. I suggest you rent it online beforehand via a site like KAYAK to get a better rate. Also FYI for my American friends, we have found also that for some reason when we rent it from a United States IP address we get a lower price!

10 Can’t Miss Spots in Provence

Aigue-Mortes and Camargue

The Camargue is a really interesting region in Provence, known for its marshy land, birdwatching & wildlife, salt flats & quaint villages. The village of Aigue-Mortes within the Camargue is an old medieval walled city with towers, lots of shops & restaurants. It is at the edge of a large pink body of water known as an Etang, or Lagoon. It gets its pink color from the high concentration of salt in it. You can take a guided tour of the salt flats on a little train – the cost is around 10 Euros. You can also find wild pink flamingos as well as over 400 species of birds.

Wild horses and cattle roam the rolling landscape, which looks a bit like a Monet painting. While in the area, you can also visit the village of Arles, made famous in part by Vincent Van Gogh’s painting “Cafe at Night”. You can actually visit the cafe where he based his painting. We ate at this very cozy Spanish tapas place in Arles called Bodeguita

Avignon

Avignon is definitely one of the top can’t miss spots in Provence, located about an hour and a half from Marseille. It’s larger than the other villages I’ve recommended (more of a city) and has quite a rich history. The city center is walled so when you arrive there are large parking lots between the city and the river. The parking is priced very reasonably and you are able to leave your car and walk-in.

Once inside the city, it’s easy to spend hours walking around exploring. Place de l’Horloge is great for strolling or people watching from a cafe. Rue de la Republic has a lot of French stores & international Boutiques – you can also find many shops selling local products and souvenirs. Les Halles d’Avignon in Place Pie is a large vine-covered market with 40 stalls selling local and regional food & wine.

Avignon was briefly home to the Catholic church, and the grand Papal Palace sits in the center of the city. You can simply walk inside the colossal palace or you can pay an entrance fee to tour the museum. Avignon is situated on the Rhone river, and you can take a boat tour around the city which is a nice way to spend an hour or so. There is also the famous Pont Saint-Bénézet, the inspiration for the song Sur la Pont’Avignon. You pay a small fee to walk on the bridge, but you get a headset which tells you all about the history as you walk on it.

Aix en Provence & Puyricard

Every time I’m in Marseille I make at least a few trips to Aix. A large University town in the middle of the gorgeous countryside with charming pedestrian streets, Aix is what I would picture/describe as a classic Provence experience.

Like most French and European villages, one of the best things to do in Aix is wander the streets. There are so many great shops (from luxury to bargain, to local artisans & souvenir shops) and great places to stop and eat or drink. A tradition for us is getting a slice of Pizza at Pizza Capri on Rue Fabrot- with takeaway slices as big as your head – you will not regret it! Walk by the Place d’Albertas – an old brothel but now a nice little fountain square where people hang out and there is sometimes live music. Rue de la Verrerie has a lot of bars and a good Kebab shop. There is a large market on Tuesdays, Thursday and Saturdays that is not to be missed.

One experience I highly recommend it Chateau LaCoste – a beautiful winery/restaurant/museum outside of Aix in Puyricard. I’ve been here several times and the grounds are beautiful, the wine is great and they have a lovely terrace restaurant where it’s nice to get lunch or aperitif.  There are also beautiful sculptures throughout the grounds and an art and architecture museum. During the summer they have movie showings on a large screen outside. It’s truly a wonderful place!

Cassis

About a half an hour from Marseille along the beautiful (and winding!) Mediterranean coast. Cassis is a special place to me because I got engaged there, on the top of the Cap Canaille, which I highly recommend you visit for sunset. Cassis has more of a Riviera vibe being right on the sea and there are plenty of cafes and restaurants on the harbor where the people watching is excellent. Also there’s plenty of great boutique shopping in the village and there is usually a market in the Place Baragnon with art or different items depending on the day and time of year.

There is a beach in the village, but if you feel like an easy hike you can visit my favorite calanque (see the Marseille post re: Calanques), Port Pin! There is a car park and a snack bar before the hike and it’s really not bad. The water there is gorgeous, just make sure you watch for jelly fish and you can because the water is CRYSTAL clear. You can also take a Calanque cruise if you prefer to see the Calanques by boat. If you decide to spend the night in the area, we stayed at a lovely B&B right after our engagement right outside the city center called Le Clos De Cigales.

Le Castellet

About 40 minutes from Marseille, this charming little village is easy to visit for an afternoon. Do not get confused, as there are apparently 2 places in France called Le Castellet, but I am recommending this one! Perched and walled, you park your car at the foot of the village in a car park and walk up and into the pedestrian streets. There are plenty of little gift and artisan shops and nice cafes, and the view is amazing. If you want to make a day of this area, there are tons of vinyards around as it is in the Bandol wine region. Also – there is a feral (?) cat colony there so you will see plenty of them roaming around, sleeping on your car, and some may let you pet them!

Gordes

One of France’s most picturesque perched villages, the breathtaking part of visiting Gordes will be your approach. Make sure to stop at the foot of the climb to the village and take photos! Once in the village it is mostly pedestrian and you will have your typical shops, cafes, restaurants, etc. It is very close to the famous Abbaye de Sénanque which you will most likely recognize as the church among the lavender fields in countless Provence posters, stock photos, etc.

Île de Porquerolles

Lovely day trip from Marseille, drive to Hyères and you can take the ferry to this beautiful and virtually vehicle free island with a gorgeous beach. There are also dolphin watching excursions you can book from here, as well as biking, windsurfing, paddle boarding, etc.

Lac St. Croix & Verdon

The Gorges du Verdon are known as the Grand Canyon of France and are within 2 hours of Marseille. We rented kayaks with our friends during our summer group trip to Provence and had a great time paddling our way through the river running through the gorge. The water is beautiful light green and there are plenty of caves and mini waterfalls to explore. It was pleasant and also a pretty good workout! There is also Lac St. Croix nearby which is a beautiful crystal lake with a beach where you can swim, camp, and canoe. After our day of adventures, we went to Sainte Croix du Verdon and had a magnificent dinner with a view overlooking the lake at Le Comptoir. I still think about the lavender honey & goat cheese bruschetta I ate there, and the view was truly unbeatable. It’s definitely another great can’t miss spot in Provence!

Valensole & the Lavender Fields

If you’ve ever dreamed of running through the never-ending lavender fields of Provence as you see in all of the posters/stock photos, this is the place to go! Lavender is in season June-August so if you are visiting in the summer be sure to check it out. You can find sprawling acres of fields around the village of Valensole, where you will also pass numerous farms/shops selling lavender honey and various other deliciously scented goodies.

You can pull off the road to take pictures in the fields, and trust me you WILL have company! There are many bees flying around the fields but they seem to be really focused on the lavender blossoms vs. stinging unsuspecting tourists. We made the mistake of having our windows down the first time we drove through and had a few bees fly into our car. Oops! After some photo ops, we drove to the village of Puimoisson. Cote Soleil, a simple and lovely pizza/french food place is a nice place to grab dinner on a terrace.

Lavender fields near Puimoisson

The Var

The Var is a department that is included in the Provence Region and borders Bouche-de-Rhone (where Marseille is located). It is home to some beautiful countryside and quaint towns, including the towns of Tourtour and Correns. We stayed with friends in Correns (fun fact: this is where Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie got married at their winery Chateau Miraval). It is small & simple but a great base for exploring the region. From here you can visit Le Cascade de Sillons – an easy walk to a lush (and freezing) water hole. There is a gorgeous waterfall where brave travelers take the plunge and jump into the deep waters below. Tourtour is also such a charming village with amazing views of the valley below, shops , restaurants & a sprawling antique market.  

If you can’t get enough of this region like me, check out my guides for Visiting Provence in Autumn and Unique Day Trips from Marseille.

Don’t forget to PIN this for when you plan your trip to Provence!