Memories of our Autumn road trip through France

In Europe, France, Memories, Our Journeys, Road Trips, Trip-Types, World Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

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?

The Provencal village of Gordes where a war memorial acts as a roundabout at the edge of the old town.

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).

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The harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer, with a small fishing boat in the foreground and the hillside in the background.

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.

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 fountain, acting as a roundabout in the centre of Arbois.  Bunting leads from all corners of the square to meet at the fountain.

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.

A bright coloured graphic art portrait of the french biologist Lois Pasteur.

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.

The front of a small provencal gift shop with blue shutters over the window of the upper two storeys.

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.

Looking across the gardens to the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole that was briefly home to Vincent van Gogh.

The gardens of the Monastery

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.

DK France Cover

Lake Annecy

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.

Two boats on a hazy Lake Annecy.

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 street scene of a café next to the fruit & vegetable market with people sitting at a bunch of tables under bright red canopies.

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.

Overlooking Nice from Castle Hill with the sparkling azure waters of the French Riviera on the left and the orange tiled roofs of the old town to the right.

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 small cobbled lane, lined on either side by old stone-built houses, wide enough for only a couple of people to pass.

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.

Looking through an arch to the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Leading from the Rue Obscure

A table & chairs at the edge of the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer in front of 3 small yachts.

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.

A street view of the quayside at Villefranche-sur-Mer with its pastel-coloured buildings and quaint cafés.

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. 

A view along a quiet street of Ay to a roundabout featuring a granite globe.

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.

Standing at the edge of a vineyard, overlooking a landscape dominated by vineyards as far as the eye can see.

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. 

A collection of large, artisan, nougats for sale on a market stall

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.

A collection of stalls at an art market in the town of St Remy-de-Provence.

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.

Looking down on the old harbour of Saint Tropez from the raised city walls.  The old port is filled with traditional, small, fishing boats, but in the background, you can also make out the super yachts this town is famous for.

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 bubbling pot of cheese fondue served in a cast-iron saucepan over a low heat.

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.

A smiling Janis, tucking into an ice-cream cone in Nice

An ice-cream from Fenocchio, Nice

Two glasses of rosé wine in front of the harbour of Villefranche-sur-Mer at night.

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.

Looking across the rooftops to Lake Annecy and the mountains that frame it.

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.

A view over the canal fed off Lake Annecy at dusk with the church of Saint-François de Sales dominating the skyline.

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.

Janis with her toes in the Mediterranean sea as it laps up to the beach in Villefranche-sur-Mer.

Toe-dipping in the med in Villefrance-sur-Mer

Let us know

Does our reminiscing bring back any memories of your French road trip? Drop a comment below and let us know your favourite French destinations?


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 large raised pond, lined with trees, in the centre of Cucuron filled with large golden koi.  Restaurants line one side, and a market on the other.

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 drying sunflower head, drooping amongst the wildflowers of the garden of the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole.

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. 

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

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.

The wonderful Corniche d'Or on the Cote d'Azur, France

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.

A bronze statue of a facing driver standing next to his 1950's formula 1 car under a couple of trees in flower, in front of the famous Monaco harbour.

The Fangio monument on the streets of Monte Carlo, Monaco

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. 

The choice is yours

You have various options when visiting the South of France if you’re travelling from the UK. Firstly, you can jump in your car and hop on Le Shuttle and head south, this is our preferred option.

Also, you have the choice of letting Eurostar take the strain. You can catch a train from London St Pancras International direct to Avignon. How good is that?

Alternatively, if you are flying in, head directly to Marseille Provence Airport or Nice Côte d'Azur Airport. This is also a great option for travellers visiting from further afield. Why not give Rental Cars a go, as they search multiple well-known car hire brands for the best deals.

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.

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.

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Inspired to tour the South of France?

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