South of France Photo Diary: Living Our French Country Side Dreams
As our stint in Europe comes to an end, Toby and I decided to take one last trip to cross off a bucket list item in the beautiful South of France: the extraordinary lavender fields of Provence.
And what better way to see all this region has to offer than by road tripping on arguably the most scenic route through France? We set out from Toulouse and ended the trip in Nice. Our plan was to just wing it and stop wherever it felt most French to us. Additionally, we partnered up with Château St Pierre de Serjac and Château Les Carrasses on this journey because it's not a French countryside holiday without staying in a château, is it?
With so much visually appealing landscapes surrounding us on this trip, we figured the best way to document it for you is to let our pictures speak for themselves.
I've created a custom map in case you're looking for a complete overview of our passage and the most Instagrammable spots on the way. This is the route we took:
Due to a delayed flight and some tedious camera issues, we had to skip Toulouse and look for a repair shop instead. Unfortunately, this meant we weren't able to find out how Toulouse's crystalised violets tasted. Only more reasons to come back, I suppose!
Despite "winging it" this time, I had to add a few castles to the itinerary. Aside from staying in one, it's simply not a South of France road trip without visiting some châteaus too, right?! So that's how we came up with our first stop: the picturesque La Cité in Carcassonne.
We explored the beautifully maintained grounds of this medieval fortified city first thing in the morning. After that, we laid out a picnic brunch in the fields surrounding the castle.
The area outside the citadel was much more enjoyable for me compared to the inside due to the quaintness. I would recommend visiting from 9am-noon if you want to take photos. Visitors arrive en masse after that!
After this, we headed deeper into Languedoc, the largest wine region in France. We drove for another hour in which I had to listen to Toby repeatedly talk about just how badly he wanted to work on his tan. Once we arrived at the beautiful Château St Pierre de Serjac, Toby did what he said he would do and immediately hit the pool loungers.
The view of the château from where he was sitting was absolutely stunning! Unfortunately, I'm a vampire and couldn't handle that much direct sunlight. I decided to take some photos around the property and enjoy some quiet time in the shade instead.
After discovering so much charming greenery surrounding the hotel, I eventually dragged a half-baked Toby off the sun lounger. He wasn't very impressed. I wasn't sure if it was because I cut his sunbathing session short or because his skin was covered in blotchy red patches in places where he had misapplied sunscreen. In any case, it was all smiles again when we took a romantic tour through the luscious vineyards.
After spotting the hotel's head chef and expert gardener carrying boxes of fresh produce around, I asked if I could take a photo of them. Nothing makes me smile more than seeing others proudly show off the fruits of their labour. Quite literally this time.
We learned the hotel has its own vegetable garden, maintained by the most passionate gardener I have met to date.
The freshly picked produce was then turned into flavourful creations by Head Chef Jil. We enjoyed our dinner on the patio of our villa, served al-fresco with a never-ending view of the vineyards of Languedoc.
After dinner, we got changed and rushed to our infinity pool with the goal of getting a photo during sunset. If you're looking to stay in this very villa, ask for Villa 16 - the sunset view is mindblowing!
After two relaxing days at Château St Pierre de Serjac, we were back on the road. Looking out of the window during our drive was surreal. The whole region of Languedoc is filled with wildflowers, vineyards, châteaus and endless fields of green. It was truly beautiful.
As we drove on, we reached Château Les Carrasses. This place is the textbook definition of château. I mean, look at it!With the official castle count now reaching 3+, we celebrated Toby's successful castle hunting with some cocktails on the grounds.
There was a beautifully designed Orangerie on-site boasting a high level of attention to detail. I didn't know what to look at first!
And most importantly, secluded spots were hidden all over the property.
And just like at Château Les Carrasses' sister property, Château St Pierre de Serjac, we met the loveliest people during our stay.
At this point, we had only been in the South of France for three days. Yet we had numerous quintessential southern French experiences under our belt. I can highly recommend the two hotels I stayed in: Château St Pierre de Serjac and Château Les Carrasses.
We saw vast and varied scenery and architecture just from staying in these two properties alone. So on we go!
The next stop was Pont du Gard. Built over 2000 years ago, this three-tiered, Ancient Roman aqueduct bridge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's definitely a place to see if you're interested in Roman history and architecture!
We stayed the night in Avignon to experience the Festival d'Avignon. We left the camera at home to enjoy the arts and music shows without distractions.
The next day we visited the most French town we had ever come across. A town with a name so French, I don't dare say it in front of a French person: L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.
After enjoying a coffee and a scenic walk around town, we filled our car with more picnic supplies and we took aim at Valensole Plateau. It was time to tick off the bucket list item! Seeing the lavender fields was the original purpose of this trip and it did not disappoint.
There are a multitude of lavender fields in Provence but the most famous are the ones at Le Plateau de Valensole. They are one of the best-maintained lavender fields in Provence, if not the best one. The only downside is that it can get pretty crowded even in June when they only start to bloom. You can't really avoid it at any point of the day because it's consistently busy, especially as you get closer to harvest time in mid-August.
So I would say the best time of the day to visit is early in the morning for sunrise or at sunset. The lighting during this time creates an ethereal glow cover the fields and it's truly magical to see in person. If you're looking for quieter fields, just drive through the roads within a 3km radius of the plateau. They're everywhere!
Nice became our temporary base to explore France's famous Côte d'Azur region. We managed to check off another country too: Monaco! Granted it's the world's second smallest, that doesn't mean there isn't much to see. In fact, you'll probably find here the highest density of panoramic lookouts, beautiful streets and opulent yachts in all of Europe.
If you didn't gamble away all your cash in Monaco's casinos, your next investment should be a few litres of petrol so you can make your way up the coastline to Menton (that's what we did at least). Menton is a tiny French town that looks like it’s in Italy yet is nicknamed the Pearl of France - that's Europe for you.
Our last few days took us back past Nice to paradise... Saint-Tropez! At this point, our camera had completely given up on us and we weren't able to document the last few days.
Although our trip was very rushed (all of this packed into six days!), we felt very much at ease and in a daydream throughout the whole route. I had seen dreamy images of the South of France for years leading up to this trip. Now I can safely say the spirit of our South of France dream holiday -- staying in castles, walks amongst the vineyards, wandering through the lavenders fields, eating hearty food against an earthy backdrop -- it was everywhere and it was better than we could have expected.
Have you visited the South of France? I would love to know what your favourite part of this diverse region is in the comments below! And if you're planning to go, what would you like to see most?