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Gorges du Verdon, Bild: Richard Semik / shutterstock

Provence and the South of France: historic buildings, lavender and pink flamingos

The area is so close, and yet with ease it gives the feeling of being deep in the south and in another time. The French Provence. Home to fragrant, purple lavender fields, vast wine-growing areas, yolk-yellow sunflowers as far as the eye can see, full-bodied wines and one of the best cuisines in Europe. There are so many small, dreamy places in this part of France that it’s not easy to choose one. So here is a little amuse-gueule, a nice starting point, and a few tips on how we explored Provence and the south of France.

Starting point and accommodation

As a starting point for various exploration tours through Provence, the historic, small village of Saint-Victor-la-Coste is ideal. A small, and absolutely picturesque insider tip. It is nestled between wine-growing areas on a gentle hill, is very quiet, and yet the surrounding sights are easily accessible by car. The only restaurant in the village offers the famous moules fries every second Friday and is well attended, so a reservation is recommended.

Chateau St Victor La Coste
The accommodation: Chateau St Victor La Coste, Image: Melanie Stampfl

The Chateau St.-Victor-la-Coste, from which you can overlook the rooftops of the whole village, is THE place to stay. The 500-year-old chateau, inhabited and run by a Greek-English couple, offers the opportunity to stay in an incredibly lovingly designed environment in the historic cottages, which are arranged between huge cypress trees and a Provençal garden, around a dreamlike pool. They cook here themselves, in a great communal kitchen with enough space for their own food. The owners are happy to give a guided tour of the whole chateau if they are interested, and attach great importance to personal attention to their guests, which can sometimes even escalate to a glass of wine or dinner on their terrace with an enchanting sunset.

In addition, various theme weekends, such as “The Taste of the Provence”, are offered, where you can get to know life in Provence better. They cook together, try out various recipes and visit different markets. Fully organized cycling and experience combinations are also offered. Behind the chateau, you can reach the ruins at the top of the hill via a small path, from where you will be rewarded with a priceless view over the whole region.

Of course, you will also find countless other picturesque villages, beautiful accommodations and hotels in Provence, but we personally have been captivated by the Chateau, and we can only recommend it.

Cycling in Provence

Provence, Vineyards
Cycling in the midst of beautiful vineyards, Picture: Melanie Stampfl

Provence is an excellent area for those who want to combine their holidays with cycling. Road cycling is France’s national sport and for those who like it challenging, here, in Provence, is also the highest and last stage of the famous “Tour de France”, the famous Mont Ventoux. At the foot of the mountain, lies the small town of Bédoin, which is perfect as a starting point for various bike tours, and with its countless small restaurants and bars provides a cozy end after a strenuous day.

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Even for those who like to travel on two wheels, but prefer to take it slowly, there are plenty of opportunities to explore surrounding villages via gently rolling cycle paths, through green wine-growing regions, and under bright blue skies. In short, the dear bike, on a holiday in Provence, has its advantages.

Markets

Market visit Provence
A visit to the classic markets in Provence is always a treat for the senses, Image: Melanie Stampfl

Countless market stalls, with fresh fruit and vegetables, pickled olives, handmade soaps, small restaurants offering everything from moules fries to oysters and friendly sellers. These are the famous markets of Provence that you have to visit. One of the most famous, largest and most worth seeing is the market in Uzés, which can be reached from St.-Victor-de-la-Coste in 20 minutes by car. Uzés is a small town that turns into a lively but very pleasant place on market days (Tuesday and Saturday). Especially if you have a place where you cook yourself, you will find fresh and incredibly delicious food, from olive oil to homemade tapenades.

For vegetarians and vegans, it is not easy in France, as the country is very much characterized by meat and fish. Therefore, you are usually best off at the markets, as the Sacher are pure here and you don’t have to torture yourself through long lists of ingredients. At the market in Uzés, the freshly cooked dish with aubergines and tomatoes is highly recommended. The small booth prepares only this, and has thus perfected it, of course.

If you are interested in antiques, you should not miss the market in Ville Nueve des Avignon . From silver cutlery to antique statues to old records, you can find everything here. It’s also fun to browse through the old objects and discover long-forgotten things.

No matter where you spend your Provence vacation, the Saturday markets are obligatory, and worth a visit in every small town.

History and history

If you are interested in history and history, Provence is the right place for you. Here, it feels like there is ancient history in every stone. Whether you want to follow in the footsteps of the Pope in Avignon or visit historic buildings, chateaux and churches, Provence offers a varied programme for all history buffs.

In Avignon, the Palace of the Popes is worth a visit, which is a World Heritage Site along with the old town. So is the castle in Gordes, and of course the small town itself with its charming terracotta houses. In the end, it doesn’t matter where you go in Provence, you can find history everywhere, and the streets from village to village, from city to city are lined with fragrant lavender fields.

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Gorges du Verdon

If you have a little more time on your holiday, you can take the three-hour drive to visit the Gorges du Verdon. The famous gorge, with its Caribbean blue waters, white butterflies and steep, rugged cliffs starting from Lac de Sainte-Croix, is undoubtedly worth a visit. It can be navigated by pedal boat, SUP or kayak. These can be rented everywhere at the gorge entrance. A little tip: If you visit the gorge as early in the morning as possible, you will be rewarded with solitude, silence and tranquility. From about 10:30 a.m. it gets so crowded that the whole thing is more like a slalom ride (between other boats) than a relaxed kayak tour.

If you don’t take the motorway on the way to the Gorges du Verdon, you will be rewarded with a fantastically beautiful car ride through French landscapes. A recommended stop for a break is Riez, a small town that offers a nice market and cozy restaurants.

Camargue

Flamingos, Camargue
The pink flamingos of the Camargue, Image: pixelshop / shutterstock

If you have already worked your way to the Gorges du Verdon, you can also pay a visit to the famous Camargue, if there is time. It attracts with its white horses, black bulls and pink flamingos. In Sainte Marie de la Mer, a small but very lively coastal town, you can easily find accommodation if you are not travelling with a camper. For all those who are traveling by camper, there are plenty of campsites or WOMO pitches here, right by the sea.

Sainte Marie is a great base from which to explore the Camargue. Already on the way there, the road leads through dreamlike landscapes, and you can already admire the flamingos, whose precise flight in groups and the dance in front of them are simply breathtaking. You don’t need to book expensive tours to get closer to the birds. With a 15-minute walk, you are in the middle of bird territory. If you want to go a little deeper, pay a visit to the Ornithological Park and have the world of birds explained to you by experts.

Of course, there are also plenty of opportunities to ride the famous white horses and discover the Camargue on their backs. Here, however, it is advisable to take a good look at the riding schools beforehand and to explore yourself, so that you do not support an animal exploiting business.

Summary

Provence and the south of France are beautiful. Whether you want to discover delicious food, good wine, great bike rides, historic buildings, colorful markets or beautiful landscapes, the trip to this part of France offers all of that and more. Even for a long weekend, a trip to the herb-scented south of Europe is a good idea.