South of France on the Road

Who I am
Martí Micolau

Author and references

We took a road trip in the south of France, visiting the Cote d'Azur, Provence and the Camargue and we also included a stop in Carcassonne attracted by the medieval charm of the city. In total we traveled about 1.500 km over 8 days, alternating driving. To speed up the trip we did the French telepass from Italy, in practice for the first 12 months you only pay tolls and taxes are negligible, can you? apply on the internet and send it directly to your home.

1 day

We started from Castelletto Ticino (NO) and made a first stop in Eze, just after the border with Italy. It is a medieval village characterized mainly by a fantastic view of the sea. Bench? we arrived at about 10:30 am the parking in the city? low was already? full, we followed the signs and reached another parking lot by car in about 5 minutes. From the city? ? far away, but there are free return shuttles every 10 minutes that lead to the foot of the climb to the village, the whole day costs 5? and as a gift c '? a ticket to the Jardin Exotique (it costs about 6?), so I'd say it's worth it. In the Jardin Exotique there are mainly cacti, but what about the sea view? unmissable. The narrow alleys of the village between the stone buildings are very picturesque, a shame for the crowd of tourists that began to rage in the late morning.
In total the stop? lasted about 90 minutes, after lunch we left for Saint Maxime. We included Saint Maxime in the itinerary attracted by the prospect of an afternoon at the sea of ​​the Côte d'Azur, but all in all not? been very satisfying. N? the sea n? the beach had something extraordinary, the country? nice but in my opinion too touristy.

2 day

We had planned to travel by car to Saint Tropez, but the manager of the hotel where we stayed overnight advised against it due to traffic and difficulties. of parking, cos? we took the boat that every 20 minutes from Saint Maxime takes you to Saint Tropez in about 15 minutes (it costs about 13? A / R).
I didn't have high expectations of Saint Tropez, but the contrast between the luxury yachts in the port and the somewhat seedy alleyways of the areas surrounding the port left me a little perplexed. We went up to the Citadel hoping for the view, but didn't we? was exceptional. After having lunch we returned to Saint Maxime and left for Arles.
Arles? was a fantastic surprise,? a city? which fascinated me a lot for its colorful alleys and its sense of belonging to the Camargue. We slept at the Porte de la Camargue hotel which I can highly recommend for its typical character and availability. of the manager who helped us plan the itinerary of the following days in the Camargue. There? what me? liked the most? of Arles? was getting lost at sunset in the alleys with your nose in the air in search of colorful views. The colors of Arles are precisely those of many of Van Gogh's paintings, even if the painter is celebrated less than I would have expected, in the center c '? a sign near the Caf? de la Nuit, subject of the homonymous painting.

3 day

We left early in the morning to reach Saintes Maries de la Mer and then begin our exploration of the Camargue. Along the way we saw many Camargue horses, most of them in riding schools, but some also free, wallowing in the ponds.
In Saintes Maries we parked downtown in front of the only bike rental near the Mairie (we looked for it for hours even though we had it there). We hired two mountain bikes (cost 10? Each for 4 hours) and followed the promenade until we reached the Digue a la Mer. The trail? dirt road and easily accessible by bike apart from a few short sections in which? sandy and the bike must be carried by hand. Shortly after the start of the path we made a fantastic stop near a pond full of flamingos, and then continued for about ten kilometers. Unfortunately, in addition to the flamingos, we have not seen other wild animals, perhaps why? most of the ponds were dry.
We have not reached the Phare de la Gacholle why? from Saintes Maries are about 15km, the heat was felt and the landscape was quite monotonous, so? we returned to the base about an hour early.
After eating we took a walk in the country, which I expected was more? typical and less holiday destination. There are very nice beaches (too crowded in the late morning), but we didn't have time to stop. We then left for Aigues Mortes, what? about 30 minutes from Saintes Maries.
The country ? inside the medieval walls, we left the car in a paid parking lot just outside the walls. We climbed the walls (for EU citizens under 25? Free), the view? very beautiful both on the city? than towards the outside where there are the purple salt flats (even better from the tower). We stopped for about an hour and then reached Nimes to spend the night. Nimes not me? loved it, apart from the arena I? seemed like a city? a little lacking in identity.

4 day

We reached Carcassonne (? 200 km from Nimes) driven mainly by the childhood dream of visiting a castle. The view along the way to reach it? fantastic, the perimeter of the walls? huge, imposing and extremely well preserved (or reconstructed?). Once you have overcome the walls for? I must admit I felt a certain disappointment. The interior ? very "normal", packed with tourists who flock to the countless souvenir shops. Maybe we got a little too carried away by the childish imagery of the castle, but the atmosphere that is perceived has little of medieval. Maybe we were a little naive in imagining a trip back in time, though? could you do something more? to enhance the charm of the place, perhaps and especially for children (inside and out). We also climbed the walls (also free here for EU citizens under 25), the view? cute but not particularly noteworthy. In total, the visit lasts about 2 hours. Despite the disappointment (and the hike since the hotel was a long way away), we also returned in the evening to see the illuminated walls and ne? worth it.

5 day

We started from Carcassonne to reach Avignon (about 250 km). Avignon? was absolutely the most? great disappointment of the trip: I had high expectations but unfortunately the city? me? little liked, perhaps also due to bad weather. We took an afternoon stroll through the center visiting the Palais de Papes (admission 9? With student discount), the bridge and the cathedral garden, but nothing really struck me about this city.
In the evening (at 21:15 pm or 22:15 pm) in the courtyard of the Palais de Papes they do a light show of about 45 minutes (it is called Les Luminessences de Avignon) in which the history of the city is told. and of the palais, I had been recommended but did not particularly attract me. Fortunately we decided to go there thanks to the discount with the daytime visit ticket and? was very nice, the play of light? really fascinating, too bad it was only in French (in English they do it only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays).

6 day

We left Avignon to reach Gordes, about 50 km. It is a medieval village built on the side of a hill. We left the car in a paid parking lot just outside the walls (4? The whole day) and ventured through the stone alleys.
The country I? loved it, probably also due to the fact that it was early in the morning and there weren't many tourists. From? we reached the abbey of Senanque between the hills and the lavender fields (unfortunately dry), but we could not visit the interior why? only guided tours are carried out at set times, but it is still worth seeing from the outside. We then went to Roussillon (about 10 km), another village known for its ocher quarries. The country ? very beautiful for the bright colors of the buildings, the Sentier des Ocres is definitely worth a visit. The admission price? 2,5? and there are two routes, one for 30 and one for 60 minutes. We have done the most? short, the first stretch? very beautiful and you see what is called the Provençal canyon, the remaining stretch? in the pine forest.
In the afternoon we then reached Sanary sur Mer (150 km), a childhood holiday destination. We spent what was left of the afternoon at the seaside and in the evening we visited the evening stalls.

7 day

From Sanary we reached Port Grimaud, a kind of Venice of France. The colorful terraced houses rise between the canals and each has its own little boat (or yacht at best) moored in front of it. It is very characteristic to walk through the canals, we also climbed the tower and the view that reaches up to Saint Tropez? spectacular. It is also possible to go around the canals by boat (30 minutes 5?) Or to rent electric boats (much more expensive).
We then left for Frejus. We were planning to spend an afternoon by the sea but in the end we couldn't go, we visited the port in the evening, the promenade? it was pleasant but not exciting.

8 day

From Frejus we returned to Italy with a stop in Grasse. The city? high? very pretty, less touristy than I expected, she too has typical colorful alleys and an omnipresent smell of lavender. In total the visit? lasted about an hour.

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