Awesome day in Provence

France

Alex had two boxes he wanted to tick during our three weeks through France: eat some great French food, and drive some awesome roads. He’d covered both after our first day in the car. It seemed France wasn’t going to let us down on any aspect. That was confirmed again when we had one of the best days of the trip…

Provence seems to have been brushed under the carpet in favour of people waxing lyrical about Tuscany. Whilst we loved Tuscany, I cannot wax enough lyrics about driving through Provence. It completely blew both of us away.

We set off from St Tropez bidding farewell to the coast after stopping off at the endless stretch of beach not far from the town. Hitting the countryside was gorgeous. We stayed off the A roads as we had done in Italy, and the scenery was very rewarding.

Our first night was spent in Lorgues, which was lovely with lots of big trees and a mix of lanes and more developed areas. I guess something like small town NZ where immediately surrounding the centre you can go off onto country roads with grape vines and lovely houses with a nice amount of land. We had no accommodation booked and after trying one B&B, which was full, we stumbled across our option B on a country lane. The lady was a little surprised when we told her over the phone that we were in the driveway, yet she welcomed us in and was well prepared to host us. It was a very nice place and more like a home stay than a B&B. The rooms were off the main lounge, we were welcomed by two huge dogs and she had young children.

After getting settled in, we headed into town to find a tiny place for dinner. The French standard of having a set menu turned out to be the best value every where we went. Whilst we probably ate more than we should, it was a good value way to try a lot of local specialties.

We left Lorgues with full tummies after our lovely (but quiet/little English) host served us up a great selection of French breakfast treats. Turns out the French eat dessert for breakfast and I for one approve. We stopped off in a few of the little towns as we drove. Every one of them was so tidy and picturesque. Tourtour was one memorable stop. Incredibly quaint and very quiet.

Our map was showing up a very, very large grey area between us and our destination for the day. Our suspicions were confirmed once we hit substantial fencing along the side of the road and threatening signs. The area was a huge army base, as evidenced by unimogs, tanks, targets and the like scattered about in the distance. Not to mention the huge car park of artillery. Not something we had seen on that scale before.

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The drive once we hit the Gorges du Verdon was pretty remarkable. Some of it was reminiscent of New Zealand, though certainly unique and not really something we were expecting to find. We stopped at a restaurant-come-souvenir shop high above the gorge, and dined with a view and the sound of the army letting off some seriously large explosives echoing through the valley.

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As we carried on through we started to catch bright azure blue glimpses of a lake that we were winding towards.

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Through a bit of mobile iPad searching, I managed to find a couple of B&B options on the side of the lake in a tiny town We drove up to a beautiful house which was so well set up to host guests, and were welcomed by the owner Sophie and her black labrador. We were so comfy in our gorgeous provincial-style room with sunny courtyard, garden and comfy lounge area inside. Before it got dark we walked down to the lake and spent some time on the pebble beach. It certainly felt like home there – the town had a similar feel to somewhere like Twizel or Taupo. We walked to a restaurant for dinner on Sophie’s recommendation. It turned out to be another really great meal, complete with foie gras & chatting to a French gent. We would be endlessly surprised that these ‘middle of nowhere’ type towns could produce such fabulous food.

All in all, it was a simple day but certainly one of the best of our travels.

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