A view of the hillside town of Gordes captured in the glow of the evening sun.

A Good Year: A reason for a road trip

In En-Route, Europe, France, Inspiration, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, World Travel by GaryLeave a Comment

How a movie sparked our interest

We've racked our brains, and we don't know why we settled down to watch Ridley Scott's 'A Good Year'. 
Two rows of olives tree in the countryside of Provence, with a stone hut in the distance.
Olive groves under a blue sky in Provence

The movie, for those that haven't seen it, is the tale of a City trader, Max (played by Russell Crowe), who inherits his uncle's tired chateaux in Provence.

Initially, he just plans to sell it, as life is in London. However … well, I won't give too much away, but he is charmed by that little pocket of France, and maybe Fanny Chenal (played by Marion Cotillard) had something to do with it.

Quick Links

A Good Year DVD Cover

A reference guide

If you love Provence as much as we do, you'll want to start planning your visit now. I so enjoy using the DK Eyewitness books, as they are extremely informative, easy to follow and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more.

We used a previous version of this book to plan our Provencal road trip, now you can grab the revised copy.

DK Provence Cover

Planning a Provence Road Trip

This was our version
We aimed to head towards the Vaucluse region, and we picked the fine city of Avignon as our first stop in the area. However, the journey from Calais to Avignon was over 600 miles or nearly 1,000kms, so we decided to pick a stopover mid-way'ish' at Beaune just 370miles/600km from Calais.
A traditional carousel in the peaceful Place Carnot in the centre of Beaune, in the heart of the burgundy wine region of France
Place Carnot, Beaune

Our planned route for the whole trip was a mix of two-night stopovers at the following locations;
  Beaune (from Calais 378miles/609km)
Avignon (from Beaune 238miles/384km)
Arles (from Avignon 27miles/43km)
Grasse (from Arles 191miles/308km)
Gap (from Grasse 127miles/205km)
Lyon (from Gap 146miles/235km)
Auxerre (from Lyon 188miles/302km, to Calais 296miles/476km)

I'll cover details of the whole trip in a later post, but here we're focusing on 'A Good Year'

Our Gateway to France

This journey, like so many of ours, starts with the Eurotunnel. I always plan my travels from the moment I arrive in Calais because I consider the shuttle part of the trip so easy. It pays to book well in advance as the prices increase as you get closer to your departure date.

Driving to Provence

Our chariot of choice
With a heavy heart, I had to discount my Audi TT Roadster. Sure it would have been great to have cruised through France with the wind in our hair, but alas, the boot (or trunk - whatever you want to call it) was a challenge to get sufficient clothes in for the break. We had yet to learn the art of careful packing. (Not sure we have yet to be honest!)
Our silver Audi S3 parked at the base of a mountain route through the Alpes-Maritimes region of the south of France
The Audi S3 in the south of France.
So we had to 'make-do' with her sister, Janis's Audi S3. As you'd expect, the car was fabulous, and Janis has shoes for all occasions.

The very best of Provence

Heading for 'A Good Year'
So after a couple of nights in Beaune, we'd head on to our next destination of Avignon. With the towns & villages of the region being our 'A Good Year' backdrop.
A view across the Rhône river to the remains of the Pont d’Avignon and the Palais des Papes in the background.
The Pont d'Avignon at dusk

Avignon as a destination was splendid. Granted the sun shone, the food was fabulous & we were introduced to the wine of Lirac. It's also worth noting the village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is just over 10miles/17kms away.

From here we headed towards Gordes & Bonnieux, the key filming locations, all set within the Luberon Natural Regional Park.

A view of the hillside town of Gordes captured in the glow of the evening sun.
The town of Gordes
Driving through the countryside with the heavy scent of Provence, it was like walking into L'Occiatane. It's also the reason why their products feature in our bathroom to this day!
A view over the rooftops of Bonnieux to the landscape of Provence.
The view from Bonnieux
We also discovered a little further afield - heading just 15miles/24kms from Avignon to the splendid Pont du Gard.
The historic Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard. Three levels of arches carrying water over the river Gardon.
The Pont du Gard

A little dated?

As with so many movies, it dates a little. However, not the beautiful locations of Provence. When Max taunts the French cyclists at the roadside, he chooses "Lance Armstrong" as his weapon of choice, oh how the mighty have fallen.

Discovering Provence

Sticking with the region
After two short nights in Avignon, we moved onto Arles. A beautiful city, with its fantastic amphitheatre and blessed with a golden light that made it Vincent van Gogh's home for a little over a year.
The ancient steps leading to Arles' Roman Amphitheatre in the Provence region of France.
The Roman Amphitheatre in Arles
It also typified the lifestyle that lured Max to up sticks from his City job.
A cream motor scooter parked outside shuttered apartments in the historic centre of Arles in the heart of the Provence region of France
The quiet streets of Arles
Earthy ochre tones of a series of shuttered windows in a home in Arles, Provence
Windows in Arles
We loved this phase of our road trip, but we had further adventures planned, so after two short nights we were on the road again and headed up the Côte d'Azur
A view of the rugged red rocks and the deep blue waters of the Cote d'Azur. Hugging the coastline is the road known as the Corniche d'Or.
The wonderful Corniche d'Or on the Cote d'Azur

Your own adventure

As you can see, we drove from the UK. However, why not fly into Marseille or Nice (Visit ebookers.com for the best flight offerings), and then check out Rental Cars for your wheels and start exploring?

More of Provence

But the story doesn't end there
So the movie still got watched, and we still had an itch. So in 2012, we went south again.
Our black Audi S5 convertible parked across the valley from the hillside town of Les Baux-de-Provence in the south of France
The Audi S5 at the roadside in Provence
I had upgraded the Audi TT, and now I had an Audi S5 Convertible. We had a proper amount of space for luggage (Nope, still not learnt to cut back on the packing!). The 2012 road trip needed planning…

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