France is considered one of the most attractive and romantic destinations in the world, beloved by tourists from all over the globe. You can’t really go wrong over there, wherever you land – whether it’s the cultural, beautiful capital of sweet Paris or the sun-soaked countryside of the south, the country has much to offer the intrepid traveler. France is all about the finer things in life; whether it’s food, wine, scenery or culture, there are plenty of places all over the country that provide dream destinations for wistful would-be voyagers of all shapes and sizes. Though you may think that Paris is the obvious choice here, we’re actually going to take a look at the southern region of Provence; a historic slice of land featuring some of the most stunning scenery in the country.
The Provence region (or Provence-Alpes-Côte-D’Azur, to give it its proper title) holds the distinction of being one of the earliest known sites of human habitation in Europe. These days, it’s home to France’s second biggest city, Marseille, the famous port city of Cannes, (home of the titular film festival) and stunning coastal and rural scenery, all topped off by a decadent food and wine culture. There’s much to discover in this ancient, picturesque setting; why not start by firing up your BUCKiTDREAM app and seeing how many of your fellow travelers have already ticked Provence off their bucket list? As you go, you can jot down some notes in your handy BUCKiTDREAM planner, so you don’t forget the best of Provence when it’s time for you to plan your own trip.
Here’s a few ideas to keep you entertained in Provence, but rest assured – there’s much more to this place than we can list in one article!
Brave the Ancient Stone Village of Les Baux It’s a tourist hotspot, but with good reason; this one-of-a-kind village has been called home by humans since 6,000 BCE and was once the seat of power to some of France’s most powerful feudal lords.
Soak in the Springs at Digne-les-Bains Natural thermal pools lie dotted around the Digne-les-Bains region, which earned its name from them. They’re a great place to take a dip or cover yourself with mud or seaweed and supposedly have great healing abilities.
Float Through Calanques National Park Yes, you can walk through this magnificent natural park, but why would you do that when you can catch a boat and drift lazily through it instead? If hiking is your thing, just invert the first sentence of this entry.
Wander the Markets at L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Many weird and wonderful delights await your perusal at this large open-air market, which can be found overflowing with fresh local produce. For a place that has the stellar culinary reputation that Provence has, food lovers should spend many an hour (and many a euro) here.
Hike Europe’s Deepest Canyon Known as the Grand Canyon of Verdon, the dramatic Gorges-du-Verdon features an adventure lover’s dream of a hike up its plunging walls.
Descend into the Wetlands Not as immediately stunning as some of the other scenery in the region, the wetlands of Camargue are still definitely worth checking out. There’s a variety of wildlife that you can glimpse, including wild horses and flamingos, and you can explore by bike, jeep or even horseback.
Stroll around the Elegant Aix-en-Provence Located just above Marseille, the refined and beautiful city of Aix-en-Provence is certainly worth a walk; you’ll feel as if there’s a deep history behind every cracked stairway and ornate fountain.
Marvel at the Roman Ruins in the Charming Saint-Remy-de-Provence A lazy, sleepy village surrounded by a whole lot of history, Saint-Remy-de-Provence was once the site of a Roman city and much of the Italians’ unmistakable architecture and structures still survive today.
High End There are amazing, luxurious hotels and resorts dotted all over the Provence region, and your selection will largely depend on what (and where) you want to get out of your trip. La Bastide de Gordes is one of many highlights, sitting atop one of Provence’s many stunning perched villages.
Medium Again, it depends on where you want to stay in the region; Provence is a popular tourist destination and they are well equipped for visitors. Just take your pick of the numerous affordable hotels – the Hotel Spa Le Calendal in Arles is one such boutique spot.
Budget Airbnb is your friend in this situation; it’s very easy to grab a handy apartment in one of the main cities, or even out in the more rural areas; again, it just depends on where you want to end up for your trip!
Food is a major culture in France and Provence is no exception. You can expect to eat a bevy of glorious meals during your stay here, including some local specialties you might not have encountered before. The Provence natives are big on vegetables, stews and broths. They also like to mix beans in with a lot of their dishes and their coastal location means that fresh fish dishes are plentiful and divine.
You shouldn’t leave without sampling bouillabaisse, king of the regional dishes and signature meal of Marseille. It combines no less than four types of sumptuous fish with a thick, hearty broth, that makes it feel both classic and timeless simultaneously. For those with a sweeter tooth, the local white nougat is a chunk of chewable loveliness.
Towards the Italian border, the cuisine gets much more…well, Italian. So if pasta and pizza is your favorite fare, make sure to allot some time to exploring the far east of Provence. A quick trip into Italian territory for a night might also not be out of the question. Just throwing it out there. Don’t forget your passport!
Drinks and Nightlife
It’s all about the wine. The French make some of the finest wines in the world and Provence, with its rustic rural ways, produces some of the finest wine in France; there’s a vast selection of local wines in the region that even the most well-versed connoisseur may not have encountered before. Equally adept at producing both reds and whites, for wine lovers, Provence is one of the world’s dream destinations.
When it comes to nightlife, it entirely depends on what you’re looking for. Sure enough, you can find any sort of activity you might fancy, depending on where you go. If you want a quiet pub and few local wines, there are plenty of rural hideaways to be found; but if you’re looking for clubs, revelers and thumping music, you can head to Marseille and dance your way through to the small hours. There’s also all sorts of live music to be found, from traditional French fare to Latin, Jazz and Blues. Provence is about exploring and finding your own experiences, so get out there and explore the nightlife!
Tips and Culture
Even if you learned French in school, beware when visiting Provence; the locals speak with a very thick accent, which can make them hard to understand to the untrained ear at times. But never fear, tourists are a major source of trade for the locals, and most of the people you need to interact with will be well-versed in English. Learning a few words of French never hurt anyone though!
The weather can get awful sticky in the summer months; the best time to visit the region is spring or early autumn; you’ll also avoid most of the crowds and have a little more personal space at some of the busier sites.
One of the most stunning sites of Provence are the lavender fields of the high plateaus of Sault. Fields of amazing purple stretch out into the horizon, covering the rolling French countryside in a unique and alluring smell. It really is a sight to behold, both vivid and relaxing at the same time. You shouldn’t leave Provence without casting your gaze over the seemingly endless purple fields.
Hopefully this little guide has fired up your imagination and you’re now chomping at the bit to start exploring this ancient and breathtaking region of France. Armed with your BUCKiTDREAM planner, which should already be full of ideas and inspirations, you’re all set for your once-in-a-lifetime trip to the purple field of dreams.