Yes, Saint Remy de Provence is a very special place but it’d be a pitty not to venture out a bit. Here are ten BozAround ideas of day trips that will make the whole family happy.
ARLES for… the photography festival. It’s every summer and takes over the whole city, inside churches, warehouses, public squares etc. Such a special event, not to be missed. They even organize photography workshops for children. The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh (he loved this city more than any other in France), the Roman arena where they often organize gladiators rendering geared towards children, the Hotel Nord Pinus next door to the very first store of Christian Lacroix (he’s a native of Arles) for a drink late at night, the cobbled-stone streets for a stroll, the Saturday morning market (one of the most famous in the region). And stay tuned for the Frank Gehry-designed Luma art foundation, due to open anytime now.
LA CAMARGUE region for… the wild horses, observing the birds in the Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau, visiting a bulls’s farm, the captivating gypsy culture. Spend a day at the beach club La Playa in the town of Saintes Marie de la Mer (it’s the capital of gypsies…but don’t go there the week end of August 15ht when it’s a major pilgrimage destination for gypsies from all over Europe and it gets tremendously crowded!). At La Playa, reserve ahead for a beach bed and buy fish nets on the way to make the kids happy! A Michelin-starred lunch at La Chassagnette (tres delicious but tres $$$) or an equally memorable dinner at legendary Chez Bob. Or a simple meal at Le Mazet du Vaccares overlooking the Vaccares pond. An afternoon of horseback riding organised by Hotel Cacharel (read here their many tips to visit the region). You can also spend the night there, it seems wonderfully simple. Or at the more upmarket but stylish Mas de La Fouque.
AVIGNON for…a visit of the Palais des Papes where several popes went to live when they were in exile from Rome. A dinner at restaurant La Mirande (still have not been but it’s on my wish list!), a stroll on the famous old bridge and learn the song that every French child knows by heart “sur le Pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse, Sur le Pont d’Avignon, on y danse tous en rond..). Attend a performance during world-famous Avignon Theater festival every July, there are usually some productions in English, or unspoken.
VILLENEUVE-LES-AVIGNON for… the Saturday morning brocante, a haven for treasures to bargain. We found a few chairs and other pieces for the house which I love. Get there early, they start taking things down around 1pm.
L’ISLE SUR LA SORGUE for…the world-class antique and art dealers open all year long, but especially the big fair the week ends of Easter or August 15th. Beware, the dealers are usually closed on Tuesday & Wednesday. My favorites are the ones in the warehouse just as you drive into town, furthest away from the classic antiques dealers. There’s a very nice guinguette for lunch right there. I am also a big fan of dealer Xavier Nicod. Also, rafting with the children, try this one or that one on the Sorgue river. Did you know that people call Isle sur La Sorgue the Venice of Provence? Well, now you know.
LE LUBERON region for …the superb scenery and perched villages, such as Lourmarin (and the pretty cemetery where Albert Camus was buried), Roussillon, Gordes, Lacoste, Bonnieux, Menerbes… Have lunch at La Bastide de Marie where we stayed 10 years ago when Marcelo was just born. The restaurant was a hit and still is, I hear. I also remember how I was worried to bump into our neighbours every morning given how much Marcelo used to cry at night! He was only 3 months old..
CASSIS & LES CALANQUES for … swimming in the pretty blue Mediterannee. Les Calanques are those little bays that you can usually only access by boat or a long hike (not advisable with young children, it’s very rocky and gets very hot). The best thing is to rent a boat for an afternoon in the port of Cassis, it’s pricey but can be shared and is really special. Then finish the day with a bouillabaisse Chez Nino, the most famous place in town. Be careful, there are lots of touristy bad places to eat in Cassis. To rent a boat, try this one or that one.
MARSEILLES for… the Mucem museum, to eat another bouillabaisse in the vieux Port… and everything else in this fascinating city. I don’t even know where to start, and truth is I do not know this city well enough to talk about it. Yet.
AIX EN PROVENCE for … Cezanne, the old town, the weekly markets, the montagne Sainte Genevieve, the beautiful Chateau La Coste winery and art foundation (more in another post) etc..)
And NIMES & UZES for… the famous bridge Pont du Gard, the beautiful Roman ruins in Nimes, the charming streets of Uzes, which the NYTimes calls the hidden gem in South of France (competing hard with St Remy!)
The list could go on and on, but at least I stopped at 10. pfff.
ALSO, KEEP AN EYE ON THESE FESTIVALS & THEIR RESPECTIVE AGENDAS:
Roque d’Antheron for classical music in exceptional outdoor settings, July-August
Here for the photography festival in Arles every summer
Orange lyrical festival every July
Avignon theater festival every July
Isle sur la Sorgue international antique dealers fair every Easter & August 15th w/e
Jazz in Eygalieres
the new Lyrical festival in St Remy’s roman ruins
and so many more…
You see, you can’t really go wrong in Provence … unless maybe you end up eating a bad bouillabaisse in a bad touristy restaurant in Cassis.