Le Tour de France – Stage Two

Continuing my touring ideas for France, not by bicycle but by road and rail (see my stage one post for Côte d’Azur).

Provence

Also accessible from Nice, a better gateway is Marseille, especially as you can now get a direct train there from London.

Marseille is very big and can be a little stressful, but still offers all that you would expect from a large city, as well as having some very nice coastal areas to relax in. If you go in autumn or winter make sure you have a bowl of their signature dish of Bouillabaisse (fish soup to you and me).

For authentic Provence, head first for the nearby much smaller city of Aix-en-Provence.

Aix is a very pretty place and well worth a day or two stopover to chill out, enjoy the al fresco cafe and bar culture and visit the lovely cathedral and cloisters.

IMG_3768IMG_3734IMG_3742

The best thing about Aix though is its proximity to the villages of Provence, those of a Year in Provence fame and the equally famous Abbaye de Senanque.

Think lavender fields, picture perfect villages adorned with a riot of colourful flowers, scented wild herbs, soothing fountains, eclectic art galleries, charming boutiques and gift shops that shout ‘spend your money’ at you. The word idyllic was invented for these small settlements.

We went in June and barely saw another car on many of the minor tree-lined roads that connect les villages beaux.

IMG_0046

One Tractor = Busy Road!

Our particular favourites amongst a strong list were Gordes, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Lourmarin and Saignon. I will let the pictures do the talking…..

IMG_3824IMG_0144prov2IMG_0143IMG_3870IMG_3932IMG_3973IMG_3963

The villages are easily doable in a day or two, however lingering, browsing and long lunches are highly recommended.

The Abbaye de Senanque adorns a multitude of biscuit tins, bookmarks, mugs, posters and postcards.
We spurned the pricey guided tour and just lapped up the familiar scene.

IMG_3892

The Natural World Of Provence

As well as all of the man-made wonders, there are a couple of natural jewels within a couple of hours of Aix that are well worth the effort to get to.

The Verdon Gorge is Europe’s largest and you could easily spend a few days exploring the area. We went en route between Cannes and Aix, but met a few travellers in camper vans who were doing just that.
The drive up the hairpin bends to the summit of the gorge were spectacular enough and we were further rewarded with stunning views of the gorge and the winding river within it.

IMG_3619

We stopped in several places to take in the breathtaking scenery and having seen many photos on-line since, it is clear that there are many more that we missed. It was a choice of Left Bank or Right Bank as we did not have time to do both. The Left won out, perhaps meaning we need to return to do the rest.

IMG_3642

Head west from Aix and you will get to The Camargue, France’s premier national park. The area is vast and a paradise for ramblers, climbers, serious hikers, flora and fauna watchers and all sorts of activity sports. Bordered by the Mediterranean on one side, the area is a real natural wonderland.

We satisfied ourselves with a lovely picnic (Boursin with fig on crusty baguette is to die for!) and a visit to the bird sanctuary. As a (extremely) part time twitcher, I was beguiled by the flamingoes, herons, storks and eagrets.

Sitting ducks they may have been, but this did not stop me snapping away in search of the perfect pink pose!

IMG_4025 IMG_4001 IMG_4057 IMG_4077 IMG_4067

3 comments

  1. […] of Avignon, you can also use it as an alternative base for the alluring villages of Provence (see Le Tour Stage 2 for details) or the famous wine growing region of Côtes du Rhône topped by the daddy of them all […]

    Like

  2. This is a good idea Wilbur, can we look forward to your top 12 France cities?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Think they will be covered in this series but loads not done yet like Rennes, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Toulon, Tours, Montpellier – need to do a few more tours!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: