Travel diary: road trip South of France

My first road trip together with my boyfriend was in 2013 to the South of France, ranging from the French Riviera (la Côte d’Azur) to Languedoc. We planned to explore the region in 12 days and spend another 7 days at the Spanish coast to surf.

Day 1 Sint-job-in-‘t-goor – Savora

At 9:30 am we (my boyfriend and I) are ready to leave home. We decide not to take toll roads because we don’t want to spend money on it. Our first stop of our roadtrip is Menton.

It is a small picturesque village close to the borders with Italy. Our sat nav (GPS) said we would arrive in 12 hours. Perfect. After a few hours we pass through Luxemburg on our way to Switzerland (because no toll roads there). Sadly our sat nav doesn’t work here. From now on I am the co pilot, with a map in my hands. Hope that is going to work out well!

We pass lake Geneva. There is still snow (it’s June!) and it’s freezing here! But the view is gorgeous: bright blue water and mountains covered in white snow. In the meanwhile many fancy cars passed us like Ferrari. While driving further, we notice that our arrival time isn’t getting shorter as it should be. Now we will arrive at 11:30 pm. We really want to reach Menton in one day so we decide to keep on driving. But while it gets darker and later, we would arrive later and later. This is so exhausting. At 2 am we decide to quit driving. We end up in Savora, Italy. It is too late to find a place to sleep, so the only option is to park our car and spend the night sleeping in it…

Day 2 Menton

After a terrible night, we are on the road again at 7 am. No time to lose. It is 9:30 am when we finally reach our first stop of our real roadtrip! Hello Menton, nice to meet you. Our camping is at the top of a hill, which allows us to look over the entire village. After installing our tent we went down to get some cocktails. We really deserved this.

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Day 3 Monaco – Nice / Cagnes-sur-Mer

This morning we go out for a run. To warm up we walk down the hill to the beach. After a 40 minute run and shower, we leave Menton for our next stop. Monaco. The Principality of Monaco greets us with beautiful lanes and nice expensive cars. We visit the Casino, the harbour and the shopping mal. There’s not much to do here if you don’t want to lose your money on one day. We head towards Nice. Apparently Nice seems to have no camping in the close area, so we stay at the closest village: Cagnes-sur-Mer. In the evening we drive to Nice. We booze some Corona in a bar at the beach with cosy lounge music and funny dancing drunken people.

Day 4 Nice

Our plan is to rent a bike in Cagnes-sur-Mer and cycle to Nice. Unfortunately you can only pay with Visa, which we haven’t got.  We need to go by car. We leave our car in a parking lot in the city centre and from there on we start walking across the city. The old part of Nice is cosy. There is a small market with fruit and vegetables and small alleys with souvenir shops. In the afternoon we lay at the beach for the first time on our vacation. Chill mode on.

Day 5 Cannes

Our morning run is tough! It is so hot and hilly here. Afterwards we leave for Cannes. It is a pretty city but not much to see as in Nice. A few cosey alleys and the palais des festivals et des congres where the film festival is organised every year.  It is a shame we don’t see any Hollywood actors. In the afternoon we are ready to leave Cannes for Castellane. We have amazing views on our way!

Cannes South France

castellane france

Day 6 Castellane – Saint-Tropez

So what is there to see in Castellane? Not much! But it is a great base to explore the Gorges du Verdon. It is the biggest canyon in Europe after the Tara River Canyon in Montenegro. At some points the canyon is 700m deep. And we want to go rafting through the canyon. But we aren’t lucky. Rafting isn’t possible because the water is too low. If we wait for two days, they will open up the dam and the water level will rise again. But we don’t have the time to wait. So we decide to do aqua trekking. It is a mix between trekking, swimming and jumping off rocks. This is so much fun! We get a thermal suit because the water is 12°C. Brrr. But the adrenaline we get from diving into the water and floating in the rapids ensure we don’t feel the cold. When floating on the river, you can see the immense canyon above you. I can recommend this activity to anyone who likes adventure and adrenaline kicks!

After this unique experience we get back in the car and drive to Saint-Tropez. Our camping here is right next to the beach between numerous vineyards. We went to the village after installing our tent. There are many tourists and street artists as well as the biggest and luxurious yachts and cars I have ever seen. And ofcourse everything else is expensive in Saint-Tropez. One cocktail for 16 euros. Not really prices for two students. Bummer. So we decided to have just one drink here haha.

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Day 8 – Cassis

Wow. Cassis is so adorable! I am totally in love with this little village. It has a harbour with small restaurants and pubs. It has a beach as well, but with small cobbles (less comfortable but free hot stone massage). This day in Cassis is going to be a relaxed day. We lay at the beach and ate pancakes and ice cream and fresh fruit. Ah the good life.

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Day 9 Calanques (Cassis) – Marseille

Yesterday we gathered some information about the Calanques. This is a National Park between Cassis and Marseille that has some hidden beaches which you can only reach by foot. The first beach is reachable after 1 hour of walking rocky hilly offroads. Walking this track is exhausting because of the rocky ground, steep hills and the heat but worth doing. you get rewarded with a tranquil beach surrounded by cliffs and bright blue water. It seems like you are on a tropical island, except the cold water.

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Being completely exhausted of our walk to the Calanques, we drive further to Marseille. Marseille is the second biggest city of France. It was no wonder we thought Marseille too industrial. So we did not visit anything in particular except the old harbour and the shopping district. At around 6pm we drove further to Martiguez, Camargue.

Day 10-11 Camargue

The Camargue is a region comprised of lakes and marshland. This region is known for its flamingos, horses and cattle. We leave in the morning for a ride through the wetlands. We see some wild horses, bulls and flamingos. Just like a safari. In the afternoon we drive back to our camping near the sea to catch a tan.

flamingo camargue france

The next day we stroll in the streets of Martiguez. We book a table in a typical restaurant. Bull is on the menu. Damn this is good meat! With a fine red wine our evening is a complete success.

Day 12 Montpellier

This is our last day in the south of France. We are heading to Lattes. Here is a camping closest to Montpellier. On our route we pass Aigues Mortes, famous for its pink salt marshes. It is the hottest day of our trip, and luckily we have a pool at our camping. Joy! In the evening we visit Montpellier. Montpellier is charming! The old village has little alleys and cosy squares with restaurants and bars. It is crowded. Probably because the Tour de France has passed here today. Montpellier is the perfect end of our trip. But we are not going home yet. Tomorrow we drive to Zarautz (Spain) to go surfing for one week!

montpellier south france

Highlights in the south of france :

  • Aqua trekking in Gorges du Verdon
  • Nice
  • Camargues
  • Calanques National Park in Cassis
  • Montpellier

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