A week in Provence

20th February, 2017
There is a plethora of fun activities and sights to see to keep everyone entertained during your holiday in one of our family friendly France villas. The region is often drenched in sun and you can make the most of the good weather relaxing next to the crystal blue Mediterranean waters or amidst the fields of brightly coloured flowers that are so powerful, they inspired the likes of Van Gogh and Cezanne. The scenes in the area are typically and unapologetically French, with bustling markets boasting local, fresh produce, roman ruins, medieval villages and a group of old men gathered in the town square for the weekly game of pétanque. Whether you’re there for a long weekend or a two-week break, we’ve put together a few things to add to your Provence bucket list and keep you busy during your time away. If you can’t fit them all in during your stay, fear not, for once you get a taste for this beautiful area of France you’ll undoubtedly be coming back for more, so save it for your next visit!  

Palais des Papes and Pont D’Avignon
The Palace of the Popes is a truly spectacular site, representing the churches influence throughout the western Christian world in the 14th century and should not be missed during a holiday in Provence. The building is the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe and visitors can see over 20 rooms full of scenes in historic events, including beautiful art work from professional painters such as Matteo Giovannetti, which can be found in the pope’s private chambers. There are also various cultural events held here during the summer months, so be sure to keep an eye out for art exhibits and performances from the Avignon Theatre festival that may be happening during your visit. Whilst you’re in the city, it would be silly not to visit the Pont D’Avignon, which is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The bridge attracts visitors throughout the year and only four arches remain. Steeped in history, this bridge played an important part of pilgrammages to Italy and Spain during the Middle Ages and makes a fantastic backdrop to any holiday selfie!   

About 20 km south of Avignon lies Saint Remy de Provence, a charming village that truly represents what it is to be French in the 21st century. The sleepy town is host to a traditional town square, with many authentic shops, cafes and restaurants. A lovely place to sit and watch the world go by with people you love, or head up with a good book for a relaxing morning coffee. On Wednesday, the usually peaceful and tranquil village transforms into a bustling community thanks to the popular market, which sells everything from melons that were grown just metres away to an array of provincial goods, great for souvenirs! The Roman ruins are fascinating, and the opportunity to explore should not be turned down. Interestingly, the village was also home to Van Gogh while he was receiving, undeniably unsuccessful, treatment for psychiatric problems.  

Beach days at Cassis
It wouldn’t be a holiday in the South of France without some time for rest and relaxation at any of the stunningly delightful beaches. Cassis is somewhat of a hidden gem, overshadowed by its more popular counterparts, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less beautiful. The beach is defined by white limestone cliffs and sheltered by inlets called calanques. The wide expanse of golden sands is perfect to catch up on some well-deserved rest after all the sight-seeing and good for a catching a tan. For a truly authentic experience, go French style, sans bikini top!
Marseille’s Vieux Port
Marseille is the second-largest city in France and has areas of nitty, gritty urban life to reflect this, but don’t let the occasionally harsh exteriors put you off making a visit. Head down to the Vieux Port where bustling markets show off the finest provençal produce and a century old fish-market with all the latest catches from the boats just behind. Narrow winding streets with traditional boutiques are not far away, as well as pedestrianised shopping streets if you’re after a real spree. This city is a great place to sample the freshest of bouillabaisse, containing all types of fish from local waters and is seasoned for taste with an array of herbs.   

Camargue Wetlands
The Camargue Wetlands is a natural park located in Provence which has fantastic opportunities to observe rare birds and other wildlife in their habitat. Best visited in spring and summer months, the wetlands consists of 780-sq-km near the Rhone River and is home to over 500 species of migratory birds. The area is roamed by wild white horses, black bulls and flamingos, all making for a great family activity as you embark upon somewhat of a self-guided safari. This spot is perfect for escaping the crowds at bustling cities and appreciating the wonders of Mother Nature. For a more adventurous activity, families can rent bikes and cycle or do a horse ride through the area.   

Les Baux
One of the most visited spots in France, Les Baux is located around 25 km south of Avignon, just beyond Saint Remy de Provence and is an incredible place to spend a day or two exploring. The rocky terrain and dramatic cliffs overlook a valley full of olive groves and vineyards, giving you unparalleled views of the best example of the landscapes on offer in the South of France. The village itself is host to grey cobbled streets between medieval buildings, with many shops and restaurants for you to wander during your time here. The Chateux-fortress area is well worth a visit and you can indulge on the long and complex history of the site. The spectacular village has been home to human inhabitants since 6,000 BCE and was home to some of the most powerful feudal lords in France in the middle ages.  

These are just some of the many activities you can get up to during your time in France. The area has so much to offer, and if your planning your first trip to the region, we bet it won’t be your last!

Image credit: François Philipp