Road Tripping through the South of France


Day 108: Carcassone > Albi > Peyre > Millau

Still riding our high from an incredible two days in Carcassonne, it was time once again to hit the road. With no specific destination or accommodations booked, we quickly googled a few places on the map headed towards the ones that caught our eye.

Heading north, we passed through rolling hills blanketed in fields of sunflowers.

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A road sign highlighting a town with an old windmill appeared, and we took a detour to stop in the quaint village of Lautrec.

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After strolling through its’ empty streets, taking note of the unique building structure and having a picnic below the windmill, we continued to our first marked destination—the commune of Albi.

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This one caught our eye on a Google search, and it definitely lived up to the photos.

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Albi is one of the larger towns we visited, though still small by most standards—and also with very few people in sight.

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A river dotted with old bridges divides the city—the one below originally dates back to the year 1035 and is still in use.

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A cathedral with impressive gardens was the highlight of our walk through Albi.

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The adventure continued as we turned east into the mountains, stumbling upon hidden gems like Saint-Affrique:

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The next planned stop was Peyre, a settlement built into the side of a cliff named one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France”.
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This place was magic in person. Between the empty winding streets, the river views across the canyon and sound of my favorite song coming from an empty church, I’d found my happy place.

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We met a local on the river shore collecting water, who had been born and raised in this tiny village. After a brief conversation, we went on our way with just an hour left until sunset.

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While traveling internationally we turn the data off on our phones to save money, which means we need wifi to use the internet. Normally it’s not an issue as wifi is available in most places, but this also creates a challenge while trying to be spontaneous on the road.

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Outside of larger cities, Airbnb’s have generally been the best option. Once we got moving and had an idea of where we wanted our last stop to be for the day, we’d stop at a cafe with wifi to book our stay, hoping that by the time we arrived we’d have instructions on how to get inside. We’ve been lucky so far, especially after some miscommunication with our second Airbnb in Millau.

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We arrived in Millau just after sunset at 10pm and were too exhausted to explore, but it’s in a beautiful setting that’s worth spending more time in one day.

Day 109: Millau > Aigues-Mortes > Cavaillon

On day 4 of our road trip, we’d scouted out a hilltop castle a few hours South and headed in that direction. A few brief detours along the way revealed more deserted villages tucked along the river, but no sign of our hilltop castle which still remains a mystery…

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We then drove through our biggest city yet, Montpellier, but opted not to stop. I’ve always considered myself more of a city girl, but after a few days off the beaten path… all I want to do is find myself in the middle of nowhere.

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Just outside of Montpellier is the historic walled town of Aigues-Mortes.
While the scenery of this general area is quite bland, inside the walls you’ll find a bustling village. Touristy? Yes. But still cute.

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After we’d had our fill of shopping and gelato, I was ready to ditch the traffic and get back out into the country.

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I can’t remember how we came across Les Baux-de-Provence, but it quickly became our favorite stop.

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Described as a partly ruined Chateau overlooking a medieval village atop a narrow mountain, we arrived just in time for sunset.

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The Chateau entrance was closed, so instead we wandered around the village, trying to capture the spectacular views from every corner.

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The fading sun’s last rays cast an orange hue on the ancient stone city, giving way to the glow from the street lanterns at dusk. We watched the sky rotate through shades of pink and purple behind the cliffs—one of our favorite sunsets on this trip.

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That night was another close call of almost sleeping in our car after not being able to find our Airbnb in the middle of nowhere. Luckily a pizza guy saved us, who was able to contact our host, and we ended up in a house with some of the most interesting decor we have come across.

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Day 110: Cavaillon > Gordes > Sault > Valensole

Day 5 was our day of Lavender hunting. A photo of a stunning lavender field had popped up in my Instagram feed, and after a little digging I realized it was taken in the Provence region of France, which is where we were. Lavender season only lasts for around one month each year, and lucky for us, we made it right at the tail end!

We began traveling towards the famous chateau, Abbaye Norte-Dame de Sénanque, which still operates as a monastery.

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On the way there we stopped in Gordes, another hilltop medieval village. At this point I feel like we’ve seen so many of these that they’re all blending together.

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Gordes is still a sight to see, though, and has an undeniably stunning view. It’s also more touristy than our previous villages, so we moved onto the Abbey after lunch.

The Sénanque itself is dreamy, but the amount of tourists, midday heat and wall built around the front to deter photographers made it a bit of a disappointment after all of the hype. We stayed long enough to snap a couple photos and headed north to continue our purple field mission.

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For hours we zig zagged through the hills, pulling off on the side of the road for picturesque chateaus that came out of nowhere…

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A couple times we accidentally ended up on rocky back roads that I thought we wouldn’t make it out of, but little Cecile the Citroën didn’t let us down.

Eventually, we made it to Valensole—perhaps the most well known lavender town in Provence. The annual lavender festival was just the day before, and most of the fields had already been harvested. Hoping to get lucky, we kept moving east, and eventually found a field all to ourselves.

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We picnicked there while waiting for the golden hour before sunset, and had some fun with photo and video shoots (video coming soon!)

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Day 111: Manosque > Verdon Gorge > Lorgues

After days of castles and countryside, we decided on a change of scenery for Day 6.

Another google search revealed that a place nearby called Gorges du Verdon was claimed to be the most beautiful gorge in all of Europe. Of course, we had to investigate if this claim was true, so we packed up and stocked up on picnic supplies for the day. Including this box of wine just because it used my font (which is everywhere in France, I feel so honored!)

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While the wine didn’t exactly meet our expectations, Gorges du Verdon surpassed them. Ladies and gentlemen, the Yosemite National Park of France:

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At the base of the 2300ft deep canyon runs a turquoise blue river, which opens into lakes west of the gorge.

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The scenic drive along the steep and windy roads of the gorge was easily the best part.

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And the striking blueish white color of the water was a shade we’d never seen in a lake before.

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We picnicked, watched boats and kayaks pass by, and followed the roads all around the lake, stopping for the best views.

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On our way out we pulled over beside a sweeping pasture and watched from a distance as herds of sheep were being rounded up for the night. The faint sound of barking grew closer, and suddenly there was a pack of the biggest fluffy sheep dogs I’d ever seen surrounding our car. Another family had pulled over and the dogs ran up to them, licking the small boy and protectively guarding their car, reluctant to leave as their owner was whistling for them. Then a herd of goats appeared from out of nowhere, and it became adorable farm animal heaven.

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That night we found an Airbnb out in the middle of the country, and we were greeted with the sweetest older French couple as our hosts. We sipped wine on their deck and exchanged conversation via Google translate, and in the morning they served us a full French breakfast complete with fine cheeses.

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Day 112: Lorgues > Saint Tropez > Cannes

It was Day 7, our last day on the road. Cecile had to be returned in Nice the following day, so we planned to drive up the famous Cote D’Azur coastline on our way there.

First stop: Saint Tropez. We only went out of curiosity to see why it’s such a well known name. The verdict? It’s basically nothing more than a parking lot for your yacht. Not worth going, especially when you have to fight hours of traffic.

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Things seemed a bit more promising as we headed north up the coast, especially once you pass through Saint-Raphaël. Jagged rocky mountains appear sharply along the coastline dotted with clusters of white buildings.

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The water is bright and clear with shades of aqua and navy beneath, and droves of vacationers swarm the beach with colorful umbrellas.

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Well dressed families and sightings of Bentleys and Lamborghinis abound—welcome to the French Riviera.

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It was fun driving through it all, with so much to see and such a stark contrast from the humble, centuries old countryside we’d been exploring for the last week.

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The next day we landed in Nice, gave our sweet Cecile back to Hertz, and settled into another Airbnb for two final nights in France.

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The main stretch of Nice is nothing to write home about, but that changes quickly once you continue up the coastline.

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Èze is another tiny medieval hilltop village that was recommended by many of you. A 20 minute bus ride from Nice, it was neat to walk around in but also quite small, touristy and crowded, with nothing to really differentiate it from all of the other hilltop medieval villages (France has a lot!)

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The worlds wealthiest and most densely populated country, the tiny city-state of Monaco, is next to Èze so we caught a bus there as well. After a disappointing St Tropez, I wasn’t expecting to love Monaco, but I was hooked from the start.

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The steep and layered mountains surrounding the harbor set the scene, and the world’s finest yachts, cars and hotels take care of the rest. It’s a bit like walking into a movie set, complete with the casino from James Bond and the Royal Palace of Monaco.

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We walked around all afternoon, people watching, taking in the views and stopping to read every yacht or private plane for sale flyer in store windows. It’s a fun place to daydream.

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From medieval castles to small mountain villages, countryside dirt roads to opulent French Riviera beaches, the South of France has been one beautiful surprise after another.

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I’ve been glued to the road at every twist and turn for nearly 600km, and there’s still so much that I plan to return and see.

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Thank you, France, for the best week of our trip—and for some of the best memories of our life.

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Now it’s time to do it all over again in Italy… 😉

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The next adventure begins today as we hit the road for the next month! Follow the daily action on my Instagram and snapchat @jennasuedesign, and stay tuned for the Italy Part 1 road trip blog post. Feel free to shout out your favorite must see places to visit—especially if they’re lesser known. We’re traveling based solely on recommendations and google searches, so we love hearing them from you.

Next up: our France video! We really put our drone skills to the test with this one and can’t wait to show you some of these shots. Keep an eye out in a few days…

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6 thoughts on “Road Tripping through the South of France

  1. What an awesome road trip through France!!! Cannot wait to see the France video and what you will see in Italy… Safe travels…

  2. I am loving your stories and was hoping our paths might cross in Italy! I just got home late last night to Toronto from 2 weeks in Italy! What a beautiful country! As I’m sure you can tell it will be HOT and so so crowded in the big cities. My best suggestion is Portovenere! What a gem and a little more hidden since the train line doesn’t go there. We started in Venice, on to Florence, made our way to Pisa (only worth an hour stop to see the tower really, the town was pretty dirty otherwise!), then went to Cinque Terre where we took a ferry to Portovenere. Cinque Terre was beautiful but becoming crowded, Vernazza was out favourite of the 5. After that we went South to Rome, we woke up super early one day to see the Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and Collisseum as the sun came up and it was so much more amazing to see them without the swarms of people. We had the BEST pizza at Oggi right by the Trevi Fountain one night. We went south to Sorrento, Amalfi Coast (Positano was wonderful) and hit Pompeii. Then I got on a cruise out of Rome and went to Sicily (Messina & Taormina) & Malta, as well as 5 of the Greek islands if you need recommendations there! Italy is a slice of Heaven I am sure you will love every minute of it like I did! We didn’t stay long in each place but they were lovely to see.

    1. Wow, sounds like a full schedule! We’re hitting Cinque Terre tomorrow so thank you for the suggestion — hopefully we’ll have time to see Portovenere! And we’ll definitely try to get up for the sunrise in Rome. We did that for Venice and it was our favorite part. Cities like those are quite different when empty! We’ll also be doing Sicily, Malta and Greece. Probably spending around 2 weeks in Greece with nothing booked yet — would love to hear your recs!

      1. So different isn’t it! I am so glad we woke up early to see them in their true beauty. The crowds everywhere get overwhelming! The Colosseum was also magnificent lit up at night! We rode segways in the Villa Borghese park in Rome at sunset and the view from the terrace was spectacular.
        In Greece, we hit Crete, Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini and Athens. Crete we went to Chania’s old town, it was quite charming, we wandered through the streets very early in the morning before the shops all opened. Mykonos was stunning, probably my favourite! We took the ferry to the city centre, and got lost in the winding streets that was fun! We went to Ornos beach which I wouldn’t recommend it was REALLY busy and not sandy, I wish we had of rented an ATV here and went to Paradise Beach our friends did this and had a great time. The clubs here open at 4pm and it is such a party island. Renting an ATV in the Greek islands seems to be the best way to see the place, I was kicking myself that we didn’t end up doing it here. Rhodes was so so cool, the shops and restaurants are all built into the castle/fortress walls, gorgeous scenery, Elli beach was beautiful. Santorini we did a wine tasting which was neat, Oia Village was much like Mykonos for winding white streets but amazing views of the blue roof churches from here. Fira as well and we ate at a rooftop restaurant at the top of the hill here where we could see for miles. Rode the cable car down to the water but there wasn’t much place for swimming here. Athens you must see the Acropolis (early it will be scorching hot later in the day, it was 42 degrees when we were there at 9am!), the Plaka was also worth seeing but the sad state of the nearby neighbourhoods was hard to see. There was also a market in the afternoon which I can’t remember the name of but the one street is FULL of vendors in the afternoon it was a sight to wander through.
        In Sicily we went to Taormina and saw Mount Etna, beautiful. Messina wasn’t very exciting but that’s where our cruise docked. We did have fabulous pizza again in Sicily. Malta had gorgeous sandy beaches, we went to Mallieha here. Valletta was where we docked, it was beautiful at night but very quiet not a lot going on. We did do hop on hop off buses in some cities, super touristy but we found it to be a good way to get a nice loop of the overall place and then decide what areas we wanted to see in more detail…Athens, Rome and Sicily we did them I think.
        I wish we had more time in Mykonos, Santorini and Rhodes but wouldn’t spend any more time in Athens or Crete than I already did (1 day!). Would definitely go back to Sicily and Malta too.
        Hope this helps! Can’t wait to see your adventures!!

        1. Oh wow, thank you so much for taking the time to write all of that out! I’ll go through it all with Lucas and it will be a huge help for us to decide where to go next. You’re the best xo <3

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