France is a beautiful country. It has great food, delicious wine, storied history... And even though I'm a local , I haven't seen much -I probably know New Zealand better than France. But I can say South France will bewitch you.
From turquoise Mediterranean waters, deep purple lavender, bright sunflowers, colorful hidden lakes, art festivals to ochre quarries, you'll be amazed by what the region has to offer.
I won't tell you the 10 best things to do in South France. The problem in South France is-like everywhere else in the world- there is so much to see. Let me tell you about 10 things I love to do when I'm back home...
01. see the sun rise over provence [Mont Ventoux]
The tallest mountain in the region, Mont Ventoux has a majestic presence that dominates the sweeping vistas of Provence. The top of the mountain is often compared with the landscape of the Moon, as no trees or other vegetation grows on the highest part, and all you can see is the white limestone. There are many ways to reach the top -I'd recomm hiking. If you get to the top before sunrise, you'll be rewarded by an incredible view -that is worth the 4:00 am alarm. Whereafter you'll enjoy driving down through windy roads, wide lavender fields and authentic villages.
02. hunt Street Art & colorful houses [Marseille]
Never would I have expected to feel mesmerized by Marseille! In 2013, the city was elected European Capital of Culture. It wrought a genuinely startling transformation of its waterfront, with world-class museums and cultural centres where once there was dereliction. To that added, culture took off where culture had never been spotted before... Bright and colorful wall painting, picturesque houses with a air of older times... It's an a perfect mix between authenticity and modernity.
03. Kayak in the deepest canyon [Gorges du Verdon]
The Gorges du Verdon are compact, wild and beautiful. It's the deepest canyon in Europe. Words cannot do this place justice. After enjoying the view from the long drive following the canyon, go down to really feel the beauty and rent a kayak for a day. Paddle through caves and remote corners on one of the world's most spectacular rivers set in a deep, committing limestone canyon. You will feel privileged, alone in a piece of heaven, where rocks, waterfall, little beaches and landscape in general are absolutely stunning.
04. Jog among an unreal, orange sandy setting [mormoiron]
If you travel in Provence, you will hear about Roussillon. One of the most beautiful villages in France, known for its red cliffs and ochre quarries - victim of its own success, it's packed with tourists in Summer. So here is my alternative : Mormoiron. The soil is mainly composed of sand, ochre and gypsum. Which creates an extraordinary range of colors in the white-orange-pink-red rocks. It creates a fascinating 'out of his world' experience. I love doing my jogging there, lost in the wild among the shades of oranges, the vines and that quietness...
05. treat yourself to a little luxury [MONTPELLIER]
Montpellier is, at any time, one of the most seductive city in the French South. It's elegant, cultured and avant-garde, with Mediterranean blood coursing through its veins and dynamism to spare. A superb old city, fountains, squares, cafés and parks, and sublimes tramways designed by Christian Lacroix. Start the day strolling in its narrow streets, and let get yourself lost there. Then head up to Le Grand Travers to enjoy the luxury of a private beach, lying down on a lounger in the sun, with a cool lemonade in your hand...
06. immerse yourself in creativity [FESTIVAL d'avignon]
One of the oldest surviving festivals in the world, the Festival d'Avignon transforms the entire city of Avignon to one big culture fest for three whole weeks. It presents up to 1000 different shows (theater mostly), shown in historic places transformed into theaters. The town is so full of festival ambience, with walls covered with posters and flyers on every corner. You can simply stroll in the street and enjoy the atmosphere, the street performances and the craft market on the Allées de l'Oulle... And of course, call on at least one show!
07. discover the bohemian lifestyle of the wild west [CAMARGUE]
Wild horses are racing in the sand. In the water, hundreds of flamingos. Further behind, we can perceive two bull fighting... - Are we still in France? I guess you've never pictured France with cowboys, cattle ranches and bull fights. Camargue is a huge protected marshy delta of the Rhone River. It will surely amaze you, with its rice-paddies (yes, your read right!), numerous wild bulls, white horses and thousands of pink flamingos. The dune-lined coast has some of the largest, widest, expansive sandy beaches in Europe. It's the international Gypsy "capital".
08. Walk up to the deep-emerald fountain [fontaine de vaucluse]
Fontaine de Vaucluse is a tiny picturesque village in the Luberon, traversed by the River Sorgue. When the level of water reaches the trees, the river flows over the slopes in a tumultuous, leaping mass, and the rocks are splashed with foam and haze. It's one of the most powerful resurgent spring in the world. The village it is dominated by the backdrop of the dramatic limestone cliffs, and the banks of the river are lined with overhanging trees, parks, restaurants across the water, few old factories and mills... - Go off-season to avoid the crowds.
09. explore mediterranean fjords & bask in the sun [les Calanques]
Azure-blue inlets ranging from shallow indentations to jagged, deep-water canyons and hidden little beaches. This is what we call in France les Calanques. On the coast from Marseille to Cassis, several Calanques are gouged into the shoreline. Take your sneakers, swimsuit and some food, and go for a great hike to the sea. The view on the way is breathtaking. Once you've reached the beach, you can go cliff jumping, diving in the crystal-clear blue water, or simply cool down in the water.
10. discover les bons produits de la région* [provence markets]
As you might have noticed, food is a pretty big deal in France. And no single event better symbolizes the French preoccupation with fresh products and their strong ties to the farmer than the market. And in no other region is more celebrated than in Provence! You can find endless array of products at Provençal markets, from pottery, clothes, pâtés to cheese, olives, saucisson, fruits and veg, crusty golden baguettes, honey, patries... - OMG I'm so hungry right now!
°the good food of the region