A traditional stone windmill in Provence, France

Another Good Year: Another Provencal Road Trip

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

Or what we learned from last time

Following on from our post 'A Good Year: A reason for a road trip', we roll forward to 2012, and our second Provençal road trip.

We hadn't been idle in the years since the first trip; We had seen other parts of France, had our Texas & New Mexico Trip, Our Canadian Adventure. All squeezed in within our annual leave.

A traditional stone windmill in Provence, France
The Moulin De Daudet, Fontvieille, Provence
However, we had unfinished business with Provence.

Quick Links

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.

Planning a French Road Trip

First, the mistakes we made last time
So as you are aware, if you read the earlier post, the original trip was inspired by Ridley Scott's 'A Good Year'. We loved our time in Avignon & Arles, exploring cities like Nîmes, driving through the Camargue and the countryside of Provence.
The brass statue of a bullfighter in front of the complete, two-storey, Roman arena in Nîmes.
The Arènes de Nîmes

However, we wanted more time in one place. On the last trip we'd had seven stopovers in the two weeks leave, on this trip we reduced it to four. We still needed intermediary stops for the journey down, and the drive back home, but we'd split our time between Provence and the Côte d'Azur 50/50.

Our Itinerary this time looked like this;
 Dijon (from Calais 353miles/569km)
 Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (from Dijon 271miles/437km)
 Villefranche-sur-Mer (from Saint-Rémy-de-Provence 202miles/325km)
 Besançon(from Villefranche-sur-Mer 454miles/730km - to Calais 403miles/648km)

The grand stone palacial Dijon town hall from the Place de la Libération in the centre of Dijon, France
The Hôtel de Ville de Dijon

We picked a smaller town too, somewhere it would be good to come back to after touring the countryside.

So we chose Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

It starts in France

Our journey started with the Eurotunnel. It's quick and easy, and in no time we're on France's superb Autoroute network.  Remember to book early for the best prices.

Destinations in Provence

We picked a winner
We arrived at the boutique Hotel Gounod, and popped the car outside reception, check-in and opted to use the secure private parking (currently €10 per day) which is around 500m from the hotel. It is also next to the town cemetery, guess who spotted that! I knew then we'd be having a little wander around.
The impressive four columned portico in front of the cream stone Collégiale Saint-Martin in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Collégiale Saint-Martin, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
A stroll back into town and we set off to discover, and boy were we pleased. Now Saint-Rémy-de-Provence has some beautiful tree-lined streets, and a fantastic array of restaurants from the cutest little bistro's, to temples of gastronomy with everything in between.
A Provencal cafe in the lower storey of a shuttered building in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
Strolling the lanes of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
A quiet lane, lined with plane trees, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
The tree-lined streets of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
After an hour or so I persuade Janis that 'Drive' deserved a drink, so we took a table at Grand Cafe Riche and settled back to watch the world roll by. You just can't beat a spot of people watching, and our main subject of interest was the roaring trade the Pizza van was doing opposite us.

More on Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

If you are interested in More on Saint-Rémy-de-Provence then you're in luck, we have a post dedicated to our visits to the town. Yes, we have been more than once to this idyllic retreat, why not check out 'Our little secret, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France'

Discovering Provence

But this was inspired by 'A Good Year'
Indeed it was, go the next morning we headed in the countryside in search of Cucuron. For those who have seen the film, this is the little town with the vast pond that hosts the outdoor movie screening.
The village pond at Cucuron, Provence
But the truth about the movie is that it's about the Provençal way of life, and the beauty of its little towns & villages.
Typical provencal homes in pretty pastel colours with shutters at the windows in the hillside town of Luberon
As we cruised the countryside, we followed no set script. We discovered towns as we went, stopping where the urge took us. We urge you to follow the same path - go with the flow.
A Mini-Morris traveller parked up in the pretty Provencal town of Venasque in France
The quiet little town of Venasque

A Good Year

Did you catch our post on the original inspiration for our first trip? A Good Year: A reason for a road trip A little busier, but still fun - well, it must have been because it led us to this trip.

Provence by road

discovering further afield
There's a couple of great lines in the movie when Fanny Chenal, rushed off her feet at her bistro, tells Max "McDonald's is in Avignon, Fish 'n' Chips in Marseilles". Max offers to help with the waiting duties, and after being told by Fanny "And remember you're in France: The customer is always wrong!" repeats the "MacDonald's …" line to two slightly annoying American tourists.
Overlooking a small harbour, lined with small pleasure boats, in Marseilles, France
The Vallon des Auffes, Marseilles
Those lines reminded me though that Avignon just 13miles/20km to the north and Marseilles is only 56miles/90km to the south, along with pretty coastal towns such as Cassis.
The entrance to the harbour at Cassis protected by a lighthouse, with the provencal town, in the background.
The harbour at Cassis, Provence

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?

The best of Provence

Saint-Rémy-de-Provence: A great base to return to
At the end of each day it was great to head back to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. Each night we tried a different restaurant, and each one was a great experience. So would we return to the town? Without a doubt.
A stone fountain built into the corner of a building in the quiet lanes of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
The quiet lanes of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The perfect destination in Provence?

All good things...

So after five short days, we left Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Not before we checked out the town's cemetery though (told you so!)

A large stone grave plot, decorated with porcelain floral tributes in the cemetery of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, France
A family grave in the town cemetery
We also discovered the 'Ancient City of Glanum', just on the southern end of town.
Thr Triumphal Arch, Glanum

As we left, we thought, "perhaps we should have stayed just a little longer…" It was that good.

However, we were heading up the coast to the Welcome Hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

The view of our accommodation, the Welcome Hotel, from the jetty in Villefranche-sur-Mer
Welcome Hotel, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Now haven't I seen that in the movies?

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Have You?

Ever returned to a place, and discovered it's even better the next time around. We loved our return to Provence, and one day we'll be back.

Inspired to visit Provence?

We loved our first trip, and we wanted more. It's your own adventure, start planning it now.
The open roads await, pop in your location details then Rental Cars will search well-known car hire brands and discover the deals that suit you the best.
Have a peek at the latest offers from Booking.com, our preferred hotel booking website.
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