More Wanderings through France: Provence & St Tropez
Leaving the Pyrenees behind, we continued through the South of France with the goal to get to our campsite near Monaco for the Formula ePrix for which we had tickets. With a week until the race we had time to linger in Provence and explore this well-touristed area a little more. We had both been to Nice and Marseille several times for work (and fun) so didn't feel the need to visit again. However, we had never explored the famed towns and villages inland from coast that we all read about over 20 years ago in Peter Mayle's memoirs.
A motorhome is great for exploring but that's not always true. Some roads are narrow and windy and not much fun to navigate in something 7.5 meters long. We decided to base ourselves in the lovely city of Avignon and rent a car for a couple of days instead to really get a taste of the region.
On our first day we headed east from the city with a list of some well-chosen villages that we hoped would give us a flavor of the area. First stop was L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We didn't visit on market day, although I hear that is quite the thing, but the town still has a lot to offer; a gorgeous setting surrounded by water (hence the "'isle") with charming narrow streets and pretty storefronts. You will find everything you expect from reading about the area. We are not into antiques but this town seems a perfect place if mooching around looking for treasure is your thing.
Our next stop was the small town of Gordes where the view from the the road on the way in really is the main attraction. The town has a stunning location perched high overlooking the magnificent Provençal landscape. Once in the center it is less thrilling but glimpses between the houses remind you this its special location.
Roussillon has a completely different feel to the other towns we visited in the area. The houses are brightly colored with the locally mined ochre. It's a beautiful place with undulating streets, a great atmosphere and a gorgeous color palette well worth spending some time meandering around.
Lourmarin is another pretty town that took a little more fortitude to reach. We had to drive along a narrow canyon to get there and we congratulated ourselves on how smart an idea it was to rent a car and not attempt the drive in the motorhome. We did see some motorhomes making the journey but that would most definitely not have contributed to marital harmony in our van. The town is utterly lovely to stroll through. Again we were charmed by the pretty storefronts, colorful houses and character that oozed from every street corner.
Our fifth and final stop was the tiny town of Goult, peaceful and again impossibly pretty. We wandered up the only street in town; there's only one way in and out. At the end of the road we reached a windmill with a viewpoint that gave us a chance to take in all the surrounding countryside before heading home.
After our last stop it was time to make it back to Avignon but our day wandering through the gorgeous towns of Provence reminded us that just because somewhere is touristy and popular doesn't mean it isn’t worth visiting. The whole area was amazing; not too busy and just absolutely charming in every way. We left wanting to see more of this fantastic region.
The next day we decided to head west from Avignon to visit one of France's most visited tourist attractions - The Pont du Gard. This roman aqueduct bridge was built in the first century A.D. and is stunning to see and fascinating to read about. The accompanying exhibition is really something and leaves you completely amazed at the feat of engineering that was achieved two millennia ago to carry water from its source near Uzès over 50km to the people of Nîmes.
After a fabulous few days based in Avignon we moved deeper into Provence, this time to the coast. After all , we hadn't seen the Mediterranean properly since we left it in Spain many months before. As always the Med never lets us down and we based ourselves for a few days of relaxation at a gorgeous campground near Grimaud. From here we cycled to St Tropez to check out the fashion scene and to ogle at the billionaire yachts in the harbor. Unfortunately it was market day when we chose to visit and the place felt more like Tokyo than a fishing village. It was completely mobbed. Still the views were pretty and the yachts were indeed huge.
Our final stop along the coast was actually just over the border into Italy at Camping Por La Mar. This was were we chose to base ourselves for the race in Monaco. The owners provide a shuttle to the station in nearby Menton allowing you to be in the principality within 10 minutes by train. It was the perfect location for getting to all race day activities. The race was a lot of fun. We enjoyed rubbing shoulders with all the drivers and the race fans as well as seeing the all-electric racing up close.
When the event was over we hopped on the train and headed back over the border one last time from France into Italy. It’s always one of our favorite countries to visit. Again, we planned to spend the next few weeks exploring parts of the Italy we had never visited before. As for France, we plan to be back after the summer traveling through briefly while on to further destinations but we have been grateful for the last few weeks getting to tread new ground and definitely found some new favorite places to return to in the future.
Recommendations & Tips
Where we stayed: We visited at the beginning of May 2019.
41: Camping Pont d’Avignon, Avignon 17.22€ a night with ACSI Card & Tourist Tax. GPS 43.95588, 4.80301
42: Camping Les Mûres, Grimaud 21.50€ a night with ACSI Card & Tourist Tax. GPS 43.28446, 6.59106
43: Camping por la Mar, Ventimiglia, Italy 23€ a night. GPS 43.79295, 7.56372
You can always find details of where we stay on our overnight stays map.
To visit Monaco the train along the coast is the easiest option as the principality is not conducive to motorhome driving. The station is close to the center of town and the service is regular. We found staying just over the border in Italy very convenient.
In Avignon we hired a car with Hertz that could be picked up very close to the center of town at a gas station.
To visit Pont du Gard you have to pay a 9.50€ entrance fee, you can visit from either side but you can easily wander over to the other bank. Just go to the side that is most convenient from where else you are visiting. The accompanying exhibit is excellent - allow yourself plenty time to explore.
Market days in St Tropez are Tuesday and Saturday if that’s your thing. If not, I recommend visiting any other day to avoid the crush and fight for a parking spot.