SPRING TRAVEL DIARY | ON THE BACK ROADS OF PROVENCE
La Provence is a sun-soaked region marked by azure Mediterranean waters, purple lavender fields, long cascading vineyards and charming hilltop villages that you can't find anywhere else in Europe. The Provencal countryside as I described it, is where I grew up, spent 20 years of my life and where my family still lives and enjoys a slow pace and very unique lifestyle.
So the question is, where to start if you decide to take a trip to Provence as a foreigner? Everyone knows about Marseille, the second largest city in France, located on the Mediteranean coast but what else is there to discover in this region?
Let me give you a tour and bring you there with me, you might want to book a plane ticket right after that! Here is my insider tip to travel on the back roads of Provence, discover picturesque villages, fishing towns and much more (as a local, toujours)...
BIENVENUE A LA CIOTAT
Picture a tiny fishing harbour, seafront terraces of pastel-painted buildings and clear blue water. La Ciotat was once an industrial port but it is today one of the liveliest and least spoiled resorts along this stretch of the coast. Mid-way between Marseille and Toulon, La Ciotat is known for its stunning Calanques (secluded coves).
- Visit les Calanques: Make sure to visit Le Mugel and Figuerolles, incredible coves and parks you can access by easy hikes. If you want to treat yourself, go eat fresh sardines at Le Mugel's beach restaurant and stay at the Figuerolles bed and breakfast for unique nights in the cove, the view is to die for and the water the clearest you can imagine.
- Visit the gorgeous Ile Verte (the green island): Small and uninhabited, L'Ile Verte is the only woodland island in the Bouches-du-Rhône department. The boat shuttle takes about 15 minutes from the old port and runs from April to October. Bring your towel, scubas, swimsuit and picnic, this place is a little treasure on the Mediterranean sea. You will find only one restaurant there, very authentic, make sure to eat fish, the freshest you can get, miam!
DRIVE ON THE BACK ROADS AND GO VISIT THE MEDIEVAL TOWN OF LE CASTELLET:
Le Castellet and La Cadière-d'Azur are two stunning villages located just right behind La Ciotat and in the heart of the Bandol vineyards. Arriving on the little road from La Cadiére-d'Azur you get a good view of the medieval town of Le Castellet, as the road across the countryside and vineyards pretty much circles the village before finally climbing up to the center. You will find Le Castellet perched up there, on the edge of a 820 foot cliff.
Rent a scooter and take the back road crossing the Bandol vineyards: It is an amazing way to enjoy the scenary. Once you arrive there, you will be surprised to see that Le Castellet is a very active village, with many artisanal shops, art galleries and delicious crêpes stands, it can be too busy during the weekends so I would recommend to visit on a weekday.
For the outdoor lovers: Camp du Castellet dominates the plain to the Mediterranean and allows camping lovers to stay in the pine forest, 15 km from the sea and near the Paul Ricard circuit. Check and book a camping spot here.
Pick up a bottle of rosé at Le Gros Noré vineyard on your way back: Their stunning rosé is a delicious reminder of Bandol's rightful place at the top of the rosé hierarchy. It is perfect to enjoy seating on the beach, with a bowl of olives and a sunset overlooking the Provence landscape.
So voilà, stay tuned for more places to discover in France in my spring travel diary. Bisous!