South of France itinerary : where to go part 1 18


I love road trips in the south of France!

It's always the perfect occasion to take the small roads and discover some new wonderful places. Planning a South of France itinerary, looking for the most beautiful places to stop... It's always very exciting.

In March, westie Jahan and I had the opportunity to housesit in the beautiful village of Saint Paul de Vence. It was our first assignment and a real dream. The house and dog owner was so happy that we will return regularly.

Of course, I immediately built a different itinerary to use each time we will go there for housesitting or travelling with you.

In resume, we had to go from the pink south-west region called "le Seignanx" to the turquoise south-east one called "pays vençois".

 

South of France itinerary with St Guilhem le desert

A South of France itinerary from "le Seignanx" to "Pays Vençois". Map made by Raymond Tarrit

 

Here is the first South of France itinerary offered to us !

 

South of France Itinerary 1 : through St Guilhem le desert

 

The highlight of this first South of France itinerary, for us, was the perched village of St Guilhem le desert, at 35 kilometers from Montpellier. But I added the places I recommend you to stop on the map.

 

 

First stop : Pau

 
Once in Pau, visit the place where King Henri IV was born: the castle.

 

Castle of Pau. South of France itinerary

The castle of Pau, where Henri IV was born. Licence Creative Commons

 

Historic facts : You can learn more on the interesting story of the one who was called "The Good King" after his death, but was the most hated during his reign. He was considered as an usurpator by the Catholic as he was protestant, and a traitor by the Protestant. He stopped the War of Religions by promulgating the Edict of Nantes.

 

Go further : you can stop on the way and visit the castle of the little village of Coarraze, where Henri IV spent his childhood.

 

Enjoy a drink on the terrace of one of the bars on the Boulevard des Pyrenees.

It offers a magnificent view of the mountains.

On the way, have a look on the free cable car going to the railway station.

 

Wine lovers : Try the famous sweet white "Jurançon" wine. You can even stop in this little village before Pau and visit a cave.

 

Second stop : Lourdes

 

Lourdes is one of the World's most important sites of pilgrimage and religious tourism. It became famous in 1858, after the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous.

Visit the religious site, including the apparitions' grotto called Massabielle and the Rosary Basilica.

The spring water of the grotto is considered by the believers as miraculous. It would have some healing properties. They drink it, bring it at home or a lot of disabled people have a bath inside.

 

South of France itinerary Lourdes

Candle procession in Lourdes. Photo from bvi4092 (licence CC)

 

Shopping : there's a lot of shops in Lourdes, selling religious artefacts.

 

The castle and the area around worth a visit, as the center of the city itself : town hall, churches, etc. The tourism center offers the free app Visit Lourdes to organize your trip and wander inside and around the city.

 

Third stop : St Guilhem le desert

 

Before St Guilhem, it's also possible to visit the pink city of Toulouse. Although the city is beautiful, it's not really unforgettable.

 

Specialties of Toulouse : Cassoulet, sausage of Toulouse, violet flower and Cachou Lajaunie.

 

St Guilhem le desert is a beautiful medieval village surrounded by mountains. Read the related article here.

 

South of France itinerary St Guilhem le desert

The village is full of tiny paths like this one

 

Fourth stop : the UNESCO Roman remnants of Arles

 

Here you are in the beautiful Camargue territory.

Arles is both famous for its collection of Roman and Romanesque remnants and its people. Vincent Van Gogh lived here for almost 3 years. The famous designer Christian Lacroix, the oldest human being whose age is documented Jeanne Calment, the footballer Djibril Cissé were all born here.

 

South of France itinerary Arles

The roman town of Arles in Camargue. Photo credit : Paul-Louis de la société MEROPS-Photo http://merops-photo.com

 

September is a good time to visit Arles : Horse and Rice festivals, "Rencontres d'Arles" (international photography)

 

From mid-November to mid-January, you can enjoy the Santons Fair

 

Fifth quick stop : the "calisson" of Aix-en-Provence

 
Of course, you can stop in some other places on the way, following your inspiration. But driving from Arles to Nice through Aix-en-Provence is already a great activity !

The last stop I recommend you : try the famous speciality of Aix-en-Provence, the calisson

This smooth yellow and white traditional candy, made from melon, orange, and almond, is a delight.
 

Take the highway to Nice or wait for the second itinerary!

 
Next time, I will introduce you the second South of France itinerary we will take next time, focusing on the wildness of Camargue.

I hope you enjoyed this first one, and I convince you to drive through St Guilhem le desert next time you will come in the south of France.
 

 

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About Stephanie

After 18 years as an expert of Hospitality, and 15 years of solo trips mainly in Asia, Stephanie Langlet now dedicates a big part of her time offering customized private tours in the beautiful Southwest of France. She gives a strong experience of the Art of Life "à la française" in the area where she lives : basque country, Spain, Landes, Bordeaux, through insider tips, gastronomy and good wines, offbeat festivals...


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