A Holiday Itinerary For The South Of France

29th May 2014
Photo of A Holiday Itinerary For The South Of France 1/6 by Anna Krahn
Pont Du Diable
Photo of A Holiday Itinerary For The South Of France 2/6 by Anna Krahn
Photo of A Holiday Itinerary For The South Of France 3/6 by Anna Krahn
Pic St Loup
Photo of A Holiday Itinerary For The South Of France 4/6 by Anna Krahn
Photo of A Holiday Itinerary For The South Of France 5/6 by Anna Krahn
Photo of A Holiday Itinerary For The South Of France 6/6 by Anna Krahn
St. Guilhem Le Desert

With our upcoming nuptials (I always thought that word had another ‘u’ in it. Huh. Who knew?) in the south of France fast approaching, many people those coming from far and wide to see us and spend some time in our beautiful region. Quite a few people are making more than a weekend of it, which is wonderful, and I’ve been asked for advice on things to do round here.

Since we’ve been living here (on and off) for a while, I decided to write what I would say is a perfect itinerary, starting in Montpellier for a couple of weeks in the region.

Of course it depends on tastes, maybe you’d want to stay in one place longer than others or have more beach time, less walking, more wine, less food, so this is just a version of an itinerary. The region is very accessible by public transport (details below) so even if you don’t have a car it’s great to get around.  The one advantage of having a car here is the fact that you can drive between towns avoiding motorways and stopping off at some stunning, lesser known villages, suddenly turning a corner and being confronted by an endless field of vines, sunflowers or lavender.

There are so many things to see and do in the South of France that you could spend weeks, months or a year here and not have seen and done it all, so this is just a sample itinerary which may help in planning a trip to this rich and beautiful part of the world.  While there’s nothing quite like driving around and getting lost somewhere in a field of sunflowers or finding yourself in an off-the-map village, public transport is great down here. Trains are excellent especially for visiting the bigger towns and from most towns, buses are cheap and day trips allow you to visit the more out of the way parts.

Even if that wasn’t where our wedding was it’s a great place to start. Great transport, fabulous town, Montpellier is not your average tourist destination. While most people think of Nice or Cannes or Provence as the South of France, Montpellier is far less touristy, far more real and has its own unique vibe. So fly in to Montpellier, hang about for a few days just walking around the old town, eating and drinking rosé in the square then pop into the boutiques and listening to street music. You can also base yourself here to explore these nearby treasures.
Photo of Montpellier, France by Anna Krahn
A hop and a skip away from Montpellier is St Guilhem, one of the most beautiful little villages in France. It’s popular so prepare to see a lot of tourists but it is gorgeous. You can quite comfortably just stroll around the village but for a little more adventure, pack your walking shoes (which I did not) and take a hike (which I did) up the big jutting hill to reach a monk’s chapel and take in the view of the village below. It’s also super handy to get to with a bus from Montpellier taking you right there.
Photo of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, France by Anna Krahn
A visit to Pont du Diable could be done on the same day as St Guilhem as they’re right next to each other, but it’s awesome enough to just spend a day there alone. It is a river with a bridge that crazy people like to jump off and normal people like to watch. This is, in my opinion, the best beach around here, it just happens to be by a river and not the sea.
Photo of Pont du Diable, Aniane, France by Anna Krahn
Just north of Montpellier is the region’s most popular wine region and a beautiful area for walking and exploring. Wine tours (information at Montpellier tourist office) can be arranged for about €90 or if you’re braver, save your money, rent a car and drive around stopping off and asking to try some wines, then fill up your boot with your purchases. If wine tasting isn’t your thing the walk up Pic St Loup is incredible, offering one of the best views in the area.
Photo of Le Pic St Loup, Rue Saint-Léon, Toulouse, France by Anna Krahn
We drove to Avignon to find our wedding caterer whose address was “towards Avignon, turn right at small town, after cemetery take third road on the left which a grey sign with no name on it…that’s where you’ll find me.” That’s how things roll around here. Near Avignon is where you’ll find those famous fields of lavender, they even do bus tours apparently, but the town itself is also an amazing maze of little roads, giant walls, bridges, ruins, churches, markets, restaurants and general amazing French-ness. Down the road is Orange, famous for having some of the most impressive Roman architecture still standing in Europe.
Photo of Avignon, France by Anna Krahn
Baux-de-Provence is an example of a village in Provence, there are many more worth visiting along the way. This is one of the more popular ones though so bear in mind that means it’ll be more expensive to eat in. I’d generally avoid restaurants around here and pick up a baguette from a boulangerie or find a local village somewhere nearby to eat in, then wander around this adorable little village or one of the others with a full stomach.
We took a little weekend trip for our birthday in October, which was outside of tourist season and so a little cooler of course than it would have been, but Cassis stays top of the list as one our favourite parts of France. Exciting food, stunning walks and a lovely atmosphere make Cassis a highlight of our French year of adventure. In sunnier times I imagine it would be even better and we could have happily spent several more days here walking, eating and sunning ourselves in Cassis.
If this was all that time would allow I would head out of Marseille. I can’t personally recommend much in Marseille as we haven’t made it there but I hear many many good thing, amongst the bad, so I would definitely give it some time, otherwise keep going towards Nice but stop off in other beautiful towns and villages like Saint-Raphael and Bagnols en Foret along the way.
Photo of Marseille, France by Anna Krahn