France Self Drive Holiday around Provence
Driving through the beautiful southern part of France, known as Provence, is one of the best holidays you could choose to combine a love of good food and wine, art, culture and nature. The best way to see this expansive region is to fly in to Marseilles or Avignon, or arrive there by train from Paris. You can also get there by train from London on the Eurostar; and then hire a car or motorhome rental in Paris and drive around, stopping wherever you find yourself at dusk! Of course, in the height of summer you will have a problem finding accommodation and would need to have some kind of structured itinerary with bookings for your overnight stops. If you come out of season you should not have a problem finding a B&B or hotel wherever you fancy.
On my last France self drive holiday, we stayed with family who have a summer home in Joucas, (a really lovely little hilltop village surrounded by vineyards and boasting some great restaurants!) so did all our sightseeing on day trips from here; doing it this way does mean that you drive a lot more, but it is quite nice to return to a home base each day and not live out of a suitcase.
Wherever you go in this beautiful part of France you will be captivated by the lovely old villages, chateaux and landscape. Depending on the amount of time you have at your disposal I would like to recommend including some of the following:
Best Towns and Villages to visit in Provence
Aix en Provence is an absolute must for all art lovers. This town has been home to many great artists at some stage of their lives and the distinguished list includes Cezanne, Zola, Malherbes, and Mirabeau among others. The town is extremely well-endowed with museums and Art centres and you could spend days here and not see all the art on offer. Definitely a must-see during your France self drive holiday!
Avignon is a large city, but well worth a visit – see the Modern Art Museum and the Pont d’Avignon, a bridge dating from the Middle Ages. An art festival is held here each year – try to be there.
Roussillon is a lovely old town perched on a hill and famous for the wine of the region (Languedoc-Roussillon) and also for her Ochre Quarry which you can stroll through to learn how the ochre was formed; you can also buy genuine ochre to use for art – a wonderful gift for any artists you know.
Gordes is another very lovely old village with a 12th century castle – you must visit this town on your France self drive holiday for some unique photo opportunities.
What to take home from Provence?
If you visit a weekly market in one of the towns or villages you can do all your holiday gift shopping in one place! Provencal linens are absolutely wonderful and range from large tablecloths and placemats to little things that will take no place at all in your suitcase. The foods are incredible too – dozens of different types of “smelly sausage” as my friend calls them – similar to salami but much more interesting! Pair them with some wonderful local cheeses, fruit and wine, artisan French bread and you have dinner, Provencal style. Bon Appetit!