Avec my dear friend Simone in the exquisite village of Viviers. This was a village so authentic, unpretentious, a little bit rustic but more than anything a place that was warm and inviting. A petit nugget of gorgeousness on our journey across the southern regions of France!
Other Loulabelles links:
Recently I have been speaking to a number of people who have travelled to France this year and they’ve got back into the travel groove now the world has opened up post COVID! I was fortunate to make more than one road trip in France this year. I managed to escape and I nicked off to France for almost 2 months! I left the adult and almost adult children to care for the fur babies and my husband Pauly and I started on an adventure that took in a number of projects and experiences that in the end were quite life changing.
One experience that was a highlight of the whole two months was a road trip I had with a gorgeous dear friend of mine Simone. I have spoken of her before on the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles podcast, because we have travelled in France quite a bit together over the years. Many years ago we even had our kids brought over by Simone’s beautiful octogenarian mum from Australia to France to meet us after a roadtrip back then. That’s a brave grandma to take 4 teenage boys half way around the world on her own!
Anyway, this year Simone said she wanted to come and see some more of France with me. We knew we wanted to discover the southern part of France so we worked out our own itinerary of where to go. We started our adventures in Paris, then the Basque region, then across in an easterly direction to Cahors, Uzès, the Pont-du-Gard, the tiny village of Mollégès (which we used as a base to visit Eygalières, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue, Gordes, the Abbey de senanque and Avignon) before heading to the next part of my journey in Lyon.
See down below for links relating to the villages and towns that we found on this amazing experience.
We started our adventure in Paris and headed to the south west to the Basque country. We stayed the Be My Guest Immersions and our host Sarah was absolutely amazing! We visited so many places off the beaten track plus some more touristy but we still saw the less popular side which we loved. Notable was Saint-Jean-de-Luz which I have been to and stayed at a number of times. We loved it especially for the fabulous Basque food and the shopping!
From here we headed east on our road trip. We had the starting point decided for us for our first night. My Uncle Carl and his best mate Paul had been walking the Chemin de Compostelle, the French part of the Camino trail. They happened to be finishing their epic walk on the first night of our road trip so we stayed at the same hotel and had dinner to celebrate their achievement with them. Simone and I would never had considered going to Cahors had it not been for my Uncle Carl being there and using the place as a venue really for a catch up with my uncle and his dear friend and a one night pit stop on route to Provence, we didn’t even consider that it might be somewhere we’d like to spend more time in. Let me tell you! Cahors is divine! It is absolutely going on the list for a return visit. The best thing was the view from the hotel as we were right on the river next to a 12thcentury bridge. We wandered around the town in the morning and loved the quirkiness of it. The smell of summer from the lush trees lining most of the main streets, the historic buildings that were beckoning us to come and explore, but unfortunately we needed to continue on our way and continued our trip in a sort of easterly direction to Uzès.
So after leaving Cahors we returned to the habit I am usually in when driving through France, I set my maps app to “avoid tolls”. This way we drove through some of the most exquisite country side. We saw villages that would never be on a tourist map. We headed to Uzès making our way into town to the main square and had a wonderful meal at one of the restaurants. There were loads there and apparently they’re all good, or so the tourists told me after they’d filled their bellies! We went back to the square the next day to soak it all in again. If you can picture beautiful big stone colonnades with creeper growing over them, a huge fountain in the centre and beautiful trees providing gorgeous shade from the summer heat. Ice cream vendors on the corner, just a slow and exquisite morning spent in the square and then getting lost in the maze of little streets all around. Uzès is definitely one for your list.
From Uzès we drove for about 20 minutes to the Pont-du-Gard which is an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge built in the first century AD to carry water over 50 km to the Roman colony of Nemausus which is modern day Nîmes. Simone and I got a little lost finding it and came across a tiny and exquisite village nearby. There is absolutely no where that is not delightful in this area. So the Pont-du-Gard crosses the river Gardon near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard. It’s the tallest of all Roman aqueduct bridges, as well as one of the best preserved. It’s actually now on the UNESCO list of World Heritage sites because of its exceptional preservation, its historical importance, and incredible architecture with its three tiers of arches. There were massive amounts of tourists there on buses but it didn’t feel crowded at all. We had the space and time to wander about, with me getting to hug a tree that has been growing since the year 908. It rightly makes one feel very small when in the presence of a tree that has lived through so much. I so hope that it goes on living for a long time to come.
A massive storm came rolling in whilst we were here so after a quick glace – a sorbet, we were on our way to Mollégès. We drove through what the locals told us was a once in 100 years down pour! At times the water flooding the road came up to the doors and we had to find higher ground for a while but eventually we made it to our most divine accommodation in Mollégès. It was exactly what one pictures when we think of the white washed walls of a Provençal house with stone flooring and thick walls to keep cool in the summer heat. Simone and I agreed we wanted to pack up this house and take it home to Australia. We could have stayed there for months! It was the perfect place to explore the part of Provence south of Avignon, across to the Luberon.
We had a list of things we both wanted to see. I wanted to explore a local market or two and I had never been to Saint-Remy-de-Provence. Simone is the best travel companion ever as she is always agreeable to anything I want to see too! She really only had one request to see L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue where I have stayed previously with Paul and loved it, so I was more than happy to return with my friend. We checked the info that our house owner had left for us regarding market days and particular recommendations for dinner, and drove out each day with a loose itinerary, but with enough time in the day to discover new experiences and immerse ourselves in anything wonderful we happened to stumble across. We explored the beautiful streets of Saint-Remy on market day, we found more markets and restaurants to die for in Eygalières, we drooled over the brocante and sat by the canal in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue sipping G&Ts (not very French I know but they were gorgeously cold in the heat), we had coffee gazing out across the cliffs from a café in Gordes, we saw monks and lavender in the Abbey de Sénanque, and waited for an extra hour to get out of the car park due to a bus that had got itself in a pickle and we couldn’t get past, but what a gorgeous view of the lavender fields while we waited! And finally we left our little haven in Mollégès to visit the Palais de Papes in Avignon. The Palace of the Popes is about 800 years old and was the summer residence of the Pope for some centuries. Suffice to say it has earned its status as a Unesco World Heritage site and is worth a visit.
On leaving Avignon we had a bit of a drive north to Lyon and decided to break up the tip with a one night stop. Again we took the road less travelled and found a village along the way as we were about to cross yet another picturesque river and bridge. It turned out to be another village I wanted to buy a house in, which it seems happens everywhere for me in France. The village Viviers was just an ordinary little village on a river like so many others. But when we got there we were definitely ready for dinner. We saw the locals all out having apéro together but nothing was ready for dinner being only 6 o’clock-ish. It was a gorgeous night so we found a restaurant (there were only about 3 in the village) and settled in for a glass of wine until it opened. There was a huge dog who lived at the restaurant and became my new best friend, plus a meal of Cuisses de Grenouilles to keep me happy. The people were chatty and patient with us, the food and ambiance was almost intoxicating in the late warmth of a hot summer day with the light changing. After dinner we took a walk along the river to find locals enjoying their picnic supper with laughing and frivolity everywhere! We finished up our roadtrip in Lyon where Simone and I met up with a group of girlfriends to continue our adventure.
So a few important learnings from this roadtrip:
1. Avoid the toll roads as I said earlier.
2. Don’t over plan! Have the things you definitely don’t want to miss, then keep your schedule open for things suggested by locals, or just anything that might pop up during your day.
3. Take cash for petrol and tolls in case your international cards don’t work. The regional petrol stations off the toll roads are almost never manned and are automated only. Petrol stations on the toll roads are usually fine for purchases as for other stores in France with staff in attendance.
4. Have coins for parking. Simone noted how clever the French are for having the same type of parking meters everywhere we went! We worked out how to use it on the first time parking and after a few towns we were explaining it to others like we were the local experts!
If you have any recommendations for holidaying in France, drop me a line to email@example.com or connect via the contact section on this website and let me know your best travel tips!
Villages pour ces vacances
Mollégès (which we used as a base)
This song is in the Loulabelle’s FrancoFiles Fabulous Frenchy Spotify Playlist with a link at the top of this page.
(A great driving song. I adored singing along to this as I drove around France. Carefree days, great driving beat, it evokes memories later on of beautiful vacances.)