Provence is one of France’s most beautiful and popular regions with mountainous areas, a Mediterranean coastline and vast rural countryside. Provence has one of the country’s most stunning coastlines with cities like Nice, Marseille, Toulon and Cannes. The Maritime Alps on the border between France and Italy and several other smaller mountain ranges offer opportunities to ski in the winter and hike in the summer. The Garrigue landscape along the coast is covered with fragrant wild herbs, lavender and thick forests. The Camargue river delta is a bird watcher’s paradise with lagoons, sand bars and marshes providing a home to over 400 species of birds including the greater flamingo. Provence is also criss-crossed with several rivers including the Rhone River, Durance River and Verdon River where visitors can enjoy boat trips, water sports, swimming and fishing. Provence has a reputation for delicious local cuisine and quaint hill top villages. So with so much to offer how can a traveler plan a trip to Provence?
Driving Around Provence:
Begin in Marseille where you can see the Roman docks, Church of St. Victor and stroll down the boulevard La Canebiere. Enjoy the beautiful blue water by taking a boat trip or spending time on the beach. Drive up to Aix en Provence a refined university town, take in the tree lined Cours Mirabeau, sidewalk cafes, the city’s grand homes, artist Paul Cezanne’s former studio and the Old Quarter. Follow the rural roads through vineyards and olive groves towards Haute Provence and drop in at any of the hill top villages along the way. You could take a look at St. Cannat, Lignane, Silvacane on the River Durance, Cadenet or Loumarin. After a stop in Bonnieux visit Apt where you can feast on truffles and buy some locally produced lavender perfume. Roussillon is a small village with a labyrinth of narrow streets, the homes are painted in shades of ochre and the village is really beautiful. Gordes is another picturesque village where you can see the restored 17th century bories (traditional dry stone huts). Other nearby villages to visit are Senanque; Venasque surrounded by dense forest; Crillon le Brave and Cavaillon. From here make for Avignon where the highlights include the Palais des Papes, a former papal residence (1309-1377). Also see the city’s impressive churches and the Pont Saint Benezet bridge crossing the Rover Rhone. If time permits drive on to St. Remy de Provence and then to Arles and Nimes.
Basing yourself in Avignon
Alternatively base yourself in convenient Avignon and make day trips to the nearby sites and cities in the region. Travel to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue on the banks of the Sorgue River and on to Roussillon. Further east is the hill top town of Moustiers Sainte-Marie one of the most beautiful villages in France. Les Baux-de-Provence is 2 hours from Avignon and offers brilliant views from the cliff top fortress. St. Remy and Arles are nearby and from Avignon you can also visit Aix-en-Provence.
Only the Provence Highlights
If you are pressed for time then why not confine yourself to the regions highlights like the city’s of Marseille, Avignon and Cassis as well as the villages of Moustiers Sainte-Marie; Saint-Remy-de-Provence; Dignes surrounded by lavender fields; see a bull fight in Arles; shop in the markets of L’Isle Sur-la-Sorgue and take in the pristine natural beauty of the Gorges of Verdon and the Camargue wetlands.
Where to Stay
Provence has a wide selection of places to choose from when it comes to places to stay during your visit. If five star resorts are your preference, the Mediterranean towns of Nice, Saint Tropez, St. Raphael, and Marseilles offer the ultimate in luxury and beautiful accommodations not found anywhere else in the world. If spas and gourmet restaurants aren’t on the top of your to do list while in Provence, a more authentic experience can be found in choosing to stay at a vacation rental property. These can vary from studios or apartments in the cities to chateaus or farmhouses found in the countryside. Groups, such as families, reunions, and friends, will find vacation rentals an affordable and fun way to spend a vacation together. For those couples seeking a romantic getaway, what could be better than spending some quality one on one time experiencing the beauty of France and it’s culture in a vacation rental property.