This mini-itinerary, which comes fashionably late, is all about my favourite stops as we covered a good chunk of Provence on the way to Andorra in May.
It’s not a real itinerary because all the places are so close to one another, so I recommend picking one place as your base (in the Arles area ideally; we stayed at Corinne’s farm and cannot recommend it enough!). It is also important that you have a car, as some of these places (looking at you, Tarascon) are not necessarily easy to reach otherwise.
When we were there, in late May, the first lavender was starting to bloom, but it was barely noticeable. Some places, like Aigues-Mortes, were quite crowded already, while others were still really quiet. We got some nice temps around 25 C most of the time, which was ideal! Unless you’re a beach person (but then again this is not really a beach person itinerary), then the shoulder season is perfect.
I’d been wanting to visit Orange for a long time because of its Roman theatre, and it did not disappoint! What I did not know is that the town itself is really cute, too, with leafy squares, pretty churches, and colourful buildings. My favourite surprise was finding that the theatre, in addition to being still used as such, is also inhabited by cats.
Tarascon was on our list for totally nerdy reasons: the Tarrasque (yup, the thingie that has been butchering Dungeons & Dragons characters since the 80s) was born from a local myth.
It did help, however, that Tarascon was by far the most charming town we visited during our stay. We also really enjoyed how Tarascon is kept alive by young Maghrebi families that made this town their home, especially the city centre, which looks like has been abandoned by most of its native population.
Avignon was absolutely delightful. We considered it an obligatory stop because we’d never seen the Palais des Popes, but we were surprised at how lovely everything was – how walkable, how friendly the people, how beautiful the views.
Arles was my favourite surprise of the entire trip. I instantly fell in love with the sights, the archaeological sites, the colours, the narrow streets, the warm evenings, and the liveliness of the tiny city centre.
I’m already considering going back – and as someone who normally doesn’t visit the same place twice, this is huge. Arles completely bewitched me. My one regret is that by the time we reached it, my camera battery was dead and I had to rely on my phone to capture the beauty of the city.
One of the reasons why Arles is now one of my favourite destinations ever is that it’s just at the border of the beautiful Camargue area, with its lush vegetation, wild horses, fields, flamingos, and salt marshes.
The natural park of the Camargue sits in between Arles and the coast, with the cutest quaint towns on the seaside. Aigues-Mortes was our stop on a day when the heat was unbearable, and we sought refuge (and food) in one of the restaurants within a stone’s throw of its beautifully preserved medieval walls.
Finally, salt is clearly a recurrent theme this year because we were really excited to visit these salt marshes, both because we were curious about the process but let’s be honest, also because how pretty is this? The pink colour comes from a kind of carotene-rich algae (these algae are also part of the diet of flamingos – that’s why flamingos are pink). As the spring/summer season progresses and there is less shrimp left to eat the algae, the marshes turn a bright pink. We took the train tour and were very happy with it!
The medieval walls in the distance are those of Aigues-Mortes.