IMG_2171.jpg

Hey!

My name is Coco and I am the founder and traveler behind nationalcocographic. I created this blog to have a place to keep my memories & share my experiences to people.

6 Days in the South of France

6 Days in the South of France

Lavender

Just a very long time over due but I've been wanting to write about my experience traveling around France with my boyfriend. We spent two weeks exploring all different parts of France. Since we are both major wine over so we started in the South of France, continued to Bordeaux and concluded the trip in Paris. 

We chose to explore the South of France in 6 days staying in the quaint town of St. Remy, with a family friend. It is a super slow paced and gorgeous town and super convenient for us to explore the different cities around. We rented a car because traveling between all these towns wasn't always easy by public transportation aka train. So if you go here and plan to do lots of exploring then I'd recommend renting a car. When I looked into the South of France I was inspired by the gorgeous imagery of lavender, endless open fields, olive trees & of course the food & wine. The Provence region is super well known for making all types of wine but mostly rosé, which honestly wasn't ever on my radar till this trip. Now I can't get enough of it especially Miraval. With the weather being so warm, I'm not surprised that most people drink it here to help cool them off. I also wanted to share this site I found that was super helpful in planning our trip and picking the places we wanted to visit.

 

Day 1: Marseilles

We headed to the city of Marseille with our rental car and grabbed a quick breakfast to start our day. Coffee & pastries were the best way to get the morning off right. We started our walk through the Castellane district to get a birds eye view of the city from the Notre-Dame de la Garde (Basilica Lady of the Guard), which is atop the highest hill in the city. The interior is gorgeous filled with colored marble, murals and the best part is the view.

After enjoying the view and taking plenty of photos we walked back down towards the Saint-Victor back down by the Vieux Port (Old Port). We admired the Abbaye Saint-Victor from a distance and enjoyed the the super picturesque port filled with fishing boats and yachts. As we walked around the Vieux Port we walked under this amazing Mirror art piece that was covering part of the port. The waterfront is super gorgeous filled with tons of restaurants, bars and a great view of the port. We stopped by and grabbed a little bite to eat and a quick drink since it was rather warm out.

We then visited Fort Saint-Jean which also had a great view of the city and an awesome art exhibit. There is also the MuCEM right next door you could check out. If you just go inside the fort it's free entrance but if you wanna go inside the actual museum you'll have to pay. We then continued walking passed Cathedral la Major which was sadly under construction. We were able to spend more time walking around the Saint-Lazare & Le Panier area, which was super artsy and had lots of unique cute stores to explore.

Another part of the city which we sadly didn’t get to see was Château d’If and for me that has no significant meaning but for those fans of ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ you’d all be jumping at the chance to see it. My boyfriend really wanted to go but by the time we realized the island was here we were too tired and there was a long wait to go over there. So if you’re fans I would totally make the time to see it. We also didn’t make it to the Musee des Beaux Arts which has lots of Italian and Provincial paintings and sculptures from the 17th and 21st centuries. Again it’s another beautifully designed building no harm in taking a look. 

Well that was our day spent in Marseille overall it was a gorgeous sunny, warm day. Don't forget to pack the sunscreen and hat.

Marseilles-2.jpg

Day 2: Pond du Gare, Nîmes & Beaucaire

We're still in awe about how beautiful it is down here! Anyway after a good nights rest we had breakfast at home on the porch admiring the view eating fresh fruit and yogurt. We then drove about an hour to check out Pond du Gare, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a gorgeous ancient Roman aqueduct that was built over 2000 years ago that grosses that crosses the Gordon River. I’d always wanted to see it and when we got there it was just magnificent. It was free to visit and when we were there they had a car show happening at the open park area near the aqueducts. It was pretty cool because there were so many classic cars. You could bring a little picnic. We walked across the bridge on the lowest level as well as walked to the top to catch the spectacular view.

IMG_7780.jpg

It’s honestly a pretty quick stop but totally worth seeing. We then got back in the car and went to the town of Remoulis which was about a 10-15 minute drive from the Pond du Gare. We just walked around the town it was honestly super small with some cool architecture and buildings. We sat down at a restaurant we stumbled upon located on the main road leading into the town. We decided to order a small carafe of rosé & an amazing prosciutto pizza. We really wanted to try a local wine so we asked the waiter to recommend a rosé which was from, Domaine le Clos du Bailly. It was right around the corner from the restaurant but it was sadly closed when we were there. 

We then headed to Nîmes, which is known as the French Rome because it was once controlled by the Roman Empire. It again is a very small town and easy to walk around. Several of the Roman Empire architecture and sights are scattered throughout the city in amongst some of the newer buildings. We took a look at the exterior of the Nîmes Cathedral and then headed to the Esplanade Charles-de-Gualle to look at the beautiful fountain (Fontaine Pradier) and Elise Sainte Perpetue. Near by was also Cour D'Appel de NIMES or the Court of Appeals which was also a gorgeous Roman style building. On our walk I kept noticing images of a crocodiles chained to a palm tree. Curious what it was I googled it and found out it's Nimes Coat of Arms! Which I thought was super funny and cute! We went to the Roman Arena, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We didn’t go inside since its was pretty expensive but we did walk around it and admired how stunning it was. We also looked at the Maison Carree and The Gates of the Roman Town. We didn’t make it to the Temple de Diana or The Jardins de la Fontaine but both looked stunning. 

Our final stop of the day was Beaucaire. Another ancient town on the banks of the Rhone river, & a canal boat basin running down the center of the city. The town is filled with nice squares and ancient churches. I really wanted to check this town out because I wanted to see the Chateau de Beaucaire which is a 11th-16th century castle. The ruins are still pretty and I can only imaging how magical it was at its time. It still had a great view of the city as well as the area around there. We were able to admire the beautiful blue cloudless sky and admire the Rhone river that ran on one side of the castle. We even drove passed the Aqueduct Les Archades.

After a long day of exploring we just wanted to come home cook dinner & watch football.

Day 3: Les Baux & St. Remy

We head over to Saint Paul de Mausole Asylum which is where Van Gogh admitted himself for his last final years of his life. Being in this area really inspired him and he even created a few of his final pieces while he was inside the asylum. The grounds were beautiful filled with lavender rows and a ton of poppies. We then headed over to Les Baux, a castle & village, located on top the hills with small squares, well-shaded terraces and narrow streets. Grabbed a bite to eat in the town square enjoying some great french food and rosé from this area. 

We then headed over to Carrières de Lumières located inside the heart of the Alpilles. The exhibit is projections of specific artist's work onto the inside cave walls to fully immerse the viewers. We happened to see Chagall’s, Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’ve never seen anything like this before and no pictures I could take would do this justice. It was such a different way to view art and it felt like I was on a journey of his career. It's well forth visiting!

We continued on to the Chateaux located at the highest point of the mountains which gives one of the best view of the countryside. It may have been a super hot day but that view and the wind that blew through made everything worth it. We explored every nook and cranny, every high top tower we could climb and enjoyed the view. 

After that we continued to the 17th-century Mas de la Dame winery for our first wine tasting in France. It was beautiful and the wine was amazing so we ended up buying a couple bottles to take home. The grounds were so pretty with 132 acres of vines throughout the property and 60 acres of olive groves. Everywhere in this area including where we stayed had groves of olive trees so most wineries did olive oil tastings as well. Van Gough even did a painting of this winery while he was staying in St. Remy. The next winery we went to was Domaine des Terres Blanches which was the first organic vineyard in Les Baux Nimes. 

Day 4: Aix-en-Provence

We enjoyed our typical French breakfast on the patio and drove to Aix-en-Provence (about 1 hours drive). Aix-en-Provence is a dream destination filled with elegance, constantly bustling streets and squares. It is a city filled with joyful impressions, colorful festivals, provincial markets & lovely countryside walks. 

First things first we hit up the tourist office & grab a map. Then we wandered around the town and headed to a Cézanne's house which was a little outside the town center. We were able to see where he got his inspiration and how he live back in the day. The town itself was lined with gorgeous cobble stone streets, classic roman architecture, gorgeous squares filled with lovely cascading fountains. 

After the day we headed back to St. Remy before we went out to a nice dinner. We drove through les baux again and watched part of the sunset overlooking the lovely view of the countryside. We ate dinner at Le Bistro du Paradou. (Reservations required) It was absolutely amazing. This place is also set in the very traditional Provancial eating style which is a full 5-6 course meal paired with a lovely French red wine. I got to try escargot again and as much as I may not like the texture the flavor was absolutely amazing and I almost changed my opinion of it. We then ate our entrée which I got chicken with potatoes. Then dessert and ending with a giant assortment of cheeses. 

Day 5: Arles, Gordes & Abbey Senanque

After a good nights rest we headed to St. Remy’s town center for breakfast and to check out the farmers market that happens three times a week. Most of the food and wine are locally grown or made; as well as a few souvenirs and other items from bags, hats to sheets & knifes. There was so much lavender from soaps to actual lavender bunches. If this is your scene I would recommend getting there early unless you don't mind crowds. I personally hate when it gets too busy so I’d rather get up early and then leave when it gets busier. 

After we finished buying tons of souvenirs and nick-nacks we went on a hunt for lavender fields. Not gonna lie finding fields of lavender was super hard especially because when I did research I read the best time was mid June to early July to see the fields in full bloom. But it turned out we were there on the early side and the blooms come out more like mid or end of July. We did get to seem some fields but they weren't as gorgeous as I've seen in other photographs.

Either way we went exploring in search of lavender fields. We ended up driving up into the hills in the direction of Norte-Dame de Senanque Abbey. On our way there we drove through some smalls towns & ended up stumbling upon the beautiful town of Gordes. It really reminded me of the towns they show on Game of Thrones. The buildings live on the edge of the cliff overlooking the Provencial region with a stunning view. The town itself is very quaint and filled with small cobble stone streets. We did a quick drive through so if we go back I'd love to explore it more on foot. 

We left and continued our drive to the abbey, which is located at the bottom of a valley surrounded by fields of lavender and trees. It's been around/open since 1148 and is one of the oldest churches around. The building was beautiful and they do French speaking tours of the inside on the hour and they are very strict with the dress code. The monks give the tour and we sadly missed the tour by 15 mins so we just explored the exterior instead. I wish the lavender fields were in full bloom because it would have made the area so much more beautiful.

AbbySen.jpg

Once we were done here we headed over to Arles. Arles is another roman town filled with shady squares, gorgeous colorful houses and lots of culture. Most people know Arles because of Van Gough and all the paintings he painted here. We walked around the whole town starting at the tourist office and ended at a restaurant in the Place du Forum square right by Café Van Gogh, which was one of the most well-known paintings from this area. We admired all the unique stores throughout the city and admired some of the biggest tourist attractions like the roman amphitheater called Les Arènes. It is one of the few arenas besides Nîmes that is still standing. During our visit they were doing restorations on it but it was still a cool place to see and had a wonderful view of the city. 

Day 6: Avignon to Bordeaux

Woke up and relaxed in the house for a bit before heading out to Avignon. Once there we went and checked out the castle and the view of the area. As well as walked quickly down the main street to see some of the main architectural buildings and monuments. Sadly we ran out of time because our train was leaving at 1:40pm. So if I could go back I would go check out more closely the bridge that is so well known if here and any of the other sites around.  

Our train ride was about 5 & a half hours to Bordeaux. We stayed in the Saint Michel area just a few blocks away from the Basilica of St. Michael & Place Meynard. Since it was pretty late when we got there we just headed to our Airbnb to drop our stuff off and then headed back out to the square. There were lots of restaurants and lots of little cafe’s around there however arriving so late there was very limited amount of places to eat at. So we settled for the one restaurant that had the soccer matches on and some really good French food & wine. 

Avignon.jpg
The Perfect weekend in Chicago

The Perfect weekend in Chicago