It is no secret that the Provence is one of my favorite places on earth. The Provence has been a great inspiration for Impressionist painters such as Paul Cezanne and it’s not hard to see why. The combination of gorgeous light, the countryside and the coherently colored villages make this place worth a visit. Last time, I visited the Provence in lavender season which makes this place even more lovely. This year we visited just after the sunflower season and I was super sad to see whole fields of withered sunflowers. The upside to visiting in September is that the weather is absolutely lovely and the huge crowds have left this area. We stayed in Aix-en-Provence and used it as a hub to explore the area. Read on to see which villages we visited.
Aix-en-Provence is the perfect hub as it is located super centrally in the Provence and has a lovely old town with many atmospheric bistro restaurants. Aix-en-Provence is one of the cultural capitals of France and boasts an impressive range of museums. We decided to visit “Hotel de Caumont” as this museum was hosting an interesting art collection borrowed from the Guggenheim in New York. Hotel de Caumont is located in a beautiful Renaissance building, which is kept in an amazing condition and also has a lovely little garden. The entrance fee was € 14, which I found on the steep side given that the collection was really small. For this price you could also watch a movie about the life of Paul Cezanne, which was really interesting and had beautiful shots of Aix-en-Provence and the countryside. I did like my visit to Hotel de Caumont and would recommend to go if you like the temporary exhibition, however this visit did not top my previous visit to the Victor Vasarely Museum, which is located just outside of the city center of Aix-en-Provence.
Besides museums, Aix-en-Provence is a beautiful town which is famous for its many fountains. There are lots of atmospheric squares which feature large terraces where you can eat typical French dishes, such as Coq au Vin and have a burger with French cheese. Aix-en-Provence has a great range of shops as well, from classics such as Petit Bateau to independent fashion stores. We stayed in the Ibis Aix-en-Provence, which was of good value for about € 80 per night including breakfast.
Gorges du Verdon
The highlight of our road trip in the Provence was exploring the Gorges du Verdon by pedalo! If you drive to the Pont du Galetas you will pass by some kayak, canoe and pedalo rental points (close to the bridge). If you drive from Aiguines to Moustiers-Saint-Marie you will automatically pass this point. The laziest way to explore the gorge is by pedalo, you can rent them for € 20 an hour. This price is a total rip off, but it gives you the perfect opportunity to get close to the “European Grand Canyon”! A round trip through the canyon takes about 1,5 hours, but if you rent the pedalo for just an hour you can still see most of the canyon. We were visiting during a gorgeous day and loved hanging on the Lac de Sainte Croix in the full sunshine!
Moustiers-Saint-Marie is a super small, touristy town super close to the Gorges du Verdon. The main activity in Moustiers is visiting the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir, which is located on top of a hill, between the rocks. If you want to visit this church, make sure to wear sturdy shoes, because it is quite a climb and super slippery. We loved wandering through the streets of Moustiers, which are filled with ceramic shops and enjoying the views of the surrounding rocks. During high season it can get difficult to find a parking spot, as most people are combining Gorges du Verdon with Moustiers. We visited in September and were lucky to quickly find a parking spot.
On our way to the Provence we made a lunch stop in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is famous for its wines. When getting off the highway you will drive by many wineries and have great views of the Provencal countryside. The town itself is also filled with wineries, so there are many opportunities to taste the delicious wines. It was super windy when we visited so unfortunately we had lunch inside, instead of enjoying the terrace of La Table des Vignerons (one of the most popular restaurants). On top of the hill on which Chateauneuf-du-Pape is situated you will find the ruins of a castle, which gives lovely photo opportunities. We were surprised that Chateauneuf was not touristy, the town was very sleepy and we felt like we had it to ourselves. Make sure to arrive before 2PM, because otherwise the restaurants will be closed.