I’ll never tire of visiting France
Here I go again, chatting about one of my favourite countries.
We are so lucky that France is just on our doorstep, a quick hop across the English Channel and we’re there. This time though, we were skipping the delights of the north like Normandy and Alsace and heading south.
We love reminiscing about our trips and jogging each other’s memories of the places we visited or the restaurants we ate at. Surely, this one of the reasons we all love to travel, right?
A war memorial in the town of Gordes
We’d visited Provence and the Cote d’Azur a couple times before, but there is so much to enjoy about these regions of France that once is never enough. Also, Gary and I were celebrating a significant anniversary, and I needed no other excuse than to head to France.
The trip wasn’t all going to be dreamy sunflowers in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence and rocky coastlines by Villefranche-sur-Mer. We’d planned a couple of stops en-route of Arbois in Jura, Annecy in Haute-Savoie and Aÿ in Champagne (or Marne to be exact).
A small fishing boat at the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer
Hopefully, our memories will tempt you into an incredible road trip for yourselves. All this reminiscing is now making want to return. Here is a taster of what we discovered.
A helpful guide
I love nothing more than planning a trip through France and so often I use the DK Eyewitness books. I find them 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 French road trips, now you can grab the revised copy.
Arbois in Jura, what a treat!
Arbois was our stopover heading south, and this little town is such a gem. I’d never heard of it prior to researching the Jura region. Rolling vineyards, babbling brooks and the home of a famous chemist.
The tractor at Place de la Liberté, Arbois
Louis Pasteur had his family home in Arbois, which you can visit along with his laboratory. Also, enjoy a lovely stroll around the town by following the Louis Pasteur Trail. Arbois has an incredibly attractive central square, here you can sit back, relax and treat yourself to the local tipple of Vin Jaune (yellow wine). Vin Jaune is quite an unusual wine; some might say an acquired taste and is similar to a Sherry.
Louis Pasteur Steet art
Yes, I know, you’ve probably heard it all before; however, I’m going to say it again, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is wonderful.
Duck egg blue shutters flung open to the Provence sunshine, tiny lanes to stroll through, passing boutiques with an aroma of lavender. Ahhh, take me back.
Fiston, St Remy-de-Provence
This town makes an ideal base to tour the region, it easy to get in and out of, plenty of restaurants and cafés and an incredible amount of history. The ancient Roman settlement of Glanum is also located here.
The gardens of the Monastery
Wow, this was a highlight, I know Annecy is a busy place but, when you have a view like Lake Annecy with the beautiful mountains as a backdrop, it’s not surprising.
Where Annecy meets the edge of the Alps
We toured around the lake it’s only about 24 miles (37km) in total, so isn’t too far. It took us about 1 ½ hours as there are some beautiful viewpoints along the way.
Strolling through Nice
We only spent a few hours in Nice, and that is nowhere near enough time. The old rustic lanes are so intriguing, full of interesting shops, traditional restaurants and incredible architecture.
A café in Nice
I urge you to head up to Castle Hill, the views from above are breath-taking. A bustling harbour one side full of yachts large and small.
Then stroll around to the other side, and you get the incredible view across the terracotta rooftops of Nice and the sweeping golden sandy beaches beyond.
You can cheat!
We climbed up Castle Hill without assistance, probably because it wasn’t until we got back down to the bottom that we noticed there was an elevator, and it was free of charge. Oh well, we needed the exercise.
A view over the coast of in Nice
Hilltop villages of Provence and the Côte d'Azur
When I think of Provence and the Côte d'Azur, quite often the rocky hillside villages teetering on the edge come to mind.
Around this region of France, there are so many beautiful towns your only problem will be, deciding which ones to visit.
A cobbled lane in Tourrettes-sur-Loup
In Provence, there are places like Gordes, Les Baux-de-Provence, Bonnieux and Roussillon. In Côte d'Azur, there is Eze, St Paul de Vence, Gourdon; the latest one we visited was Tourrettes-sur-Loup.
Tourrettes-sur-Loup was beautiful, and we were so lucky with our timing.
If you fancy cruising the Grand Prix streets of Monaco and visiting the Medieval hilltop village of Eze, let someone else take the strain. Jump on this trip with Get Your Guide, sit back and relax.
The elegance of Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villefranche-sur-Mer is just around the bay from Nice and is incredibly pretty. We stayed here for a few nights and used it as a base to tour more of the region. Once an old fishing village, this picturesque town is so delightful.
Leading from the Rue Obscure
The tables & chairs at the quayside.
It’s a must to stroll around the harbour and the bay; however, you should also head back a lane or two, to Rue Obscure or the ‘Dark Street’. These dark enclosed streets date from 1260 and run underneath the buildings along the harbour front. In darker days these were used by smugglers and ne’re-do-wells.
The quayside at Villefranche-sur-Mer
On our route back north through France, we broke the journey up a couple of times, and our last stopover was in the small town of Aÿ. This little town is synonymous with Champagne and particularly the Champagne house of Bollinger.
The cutest of towns, Ay
Located by lush vineyards, you’ll have to watch your backs for all the tractors passing through, laden down with the grape harvest. Aÿ is also the birthplace of René Lalique, the famous glass designer. You can follow a little trail around the town and find out all about him.
The vineyards of the Champagne region of France
Mixing with the locals
I love strolling through a French market, whether they are selling art, crafts, flowers or local produce, they always seem so enticing. Annecy had a lovely market in its old town along Rue Sainte-Claire, the nougat was unbelievable.
Nougat on the market stall
We were so lucky while staying in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence as our visit coincided with, Les Route des Artistes a contemporary art market with over 100 exhibitors. It’s only held a few times of the year. Also, in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, they hold a night market on a Tuesday evening.
The art market in la place Jules Pelissier
A stroll around Saint-Tropez
We’d driven through Saint-Tropez a couple, of times, but it was so busy we didn’t stop. This time we made an effort. Yes, it was still busy, although I don’t think there are too many times of the year when Saint-Tropez isn’t.
Harbour view and fishing boats, St Tropez
I’m so pleased we stopped as it was delightful wandering around the harbour. It’s still has a lot of old charm and character, some elegant residents and views across the bay to be very envious of.
If you’re staying in Nice and fancy a day trip to the elegant shores of Saint-Tropez, hop in this tour with Get Your Guide.
Nibbles and tipples
Ahh yes, the joys of travelling are trying local food and drink and Gary, and I are never ones to shy away from a challenge. Well, I do think twice now since I made an unwise decision in Lyon of ordering tripe.
A fondue typical of the Arbois region
So, while we were in Arbois, we went for the Comté cheese fondue. Admittedly it was incredibly delicious, but not too sure it was the right choice for a hot day. Although that didn’t stop Gary ordering one in Annecy when it was 30 degrees.
So, my weakness is ice-cream, and I just couldn’t walk by the Fenocchio ice-cream parlour in Old Town Nice without stopping.
It would have been rude not to have one.
An ice-cream from Fenocchio, Nice
An evening drink at Villefranche-sur-Mer
Of course, you can’t visit the south of France and not partake in a glass of Rosé wine. They make it so well; I may have just had to have two.
When we first arrived in Annecy, it was a bit bizarre, as our first impressions were not too favourable. Whether it was because we arrived later in the day and it was the weekend and really quite busy, I’m not too sure.
The view from the Château d'Annecy
However, the following day, it all changed, and we were won over by Annecy’s charm. It is a beautiful location, meandering canals, half-timbered houses and window boxes overflowing with flowers. And Lake Annecy is stunning, go grab a little boat and soak it all in.
Annecy at dusk
Dipping my toes in the Med
Ahh, what a lovely feeling. It’s hot in the glorious Côte d'Azur sunshine, you’ve been for a long stroll, and it’s time to kick of those shoes. The wonderful cooling sensation as you dip your toes into the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea is fantastic.
Toe-dipping in the med in Villefrance-sur-Mer
Something to make your travels easier?
The Provence village of Cucuron is absolutely delightful, if you’ve seen the film ‘A Good Year’ you’ll know why. The vast rectangular pond in the village square is a wow moment, as it is so unusual, for a village so small.
The Bassin de l'étang in Cucuron
If you’re lucky enough to be there on a Tuesday, the 14th century Bassin de l'étang is surrounded by a wonderful market selling local produce. My resounding memory of visiting Cucuron is sitting at the edge of the pond and enjoying lunch celebrating Gary’s birthday.
Vincent van Gogh
When touring the Provence countryside, you’ll understand why it attracted so many famous artists, and one I really appreciate is Vincent van Gogh. Vincent spent time at a Saint-Paul-de-Mausole asylum in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. We visited Saint-Paul-de-Mausole, and it was here he painted “The Starry Night”.
A sunflower in the gardens, St Remy-de-Provence
The Changing landscape
France has some beautiful landscapes as I’m sure you’re well aware of. I just can’t help drifting away watching the hazy sunshine hovering above the Provence olive groves.
The wonderful Corniche d'Or on the Cote d'Azur
That’s before I’ve even reached the south coast. Where the waves crash against the red ochre-coloured shoreline along the Côte d'Azur or the flamingos wading across the wetlands of the striking Camargue.
Flamingos wading in the Camargue
Lap of Monaco
As Formula One fans, we couldn’t visit Monaco and not do a lap of the legendary F1 Grand Prix circuit. Although, as the circuit is on the streets of this principality, it was very slow-moving at times, great fun, nonetheless.
The Fangio monument on the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco
Our Things to do Differently
To be perfectly honest, there’s isn’t a lot I would have done differently for this trip, as it was great visiting some old and new destinations. When we head back to the South of France as I know we will one day, I think I will spend longer around Provence.
Our Slight Disappointment
Gary and I are quite optimistic people and can usually put a positive spin on things. So, it was odd when we arrived in Annecy that we were a bit downbeat. However, after spending a day in and around Annecy, it soon won us over.
Our Points of Note
The French roads are so easy to drive upon, particularly on the autoroutes. They are often quiet and free-flowing. The main thing you need to bear in mind is that the autoroutes are usually toll roads.
Keep your credit card handy as it’s one of the quickest and easiest ways to pay.
Something for the Traveller
Inspired to tour the South of France?
Who's not going to love Provence and the Cote d'Azur, or shall we call it the French Riviera? There's so much to enjoy from the hills, towns, villages and just the scent of the countryside. What are you waiting for?
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