French Alps and Provence
Everybody has some opinion about France. We have been in France many times, however most exciting was our three weeks long trip around the country in August of 2007. The first part of it was visiting French Alps and Provence, afterwards continuing trip to exceptionally nice town of Rocamadour.
This part of the trip (especially before arrival to French Alps and Provence), apart of mountains, was mostly related to food and wine. The second part of the trip (Atlantic coast and Paris) was mostly relaxing. It included camping near Atlantic ocean, Disneyland in Paris and ended with champagne tasting near Reims. Our trip around France started with wine testing in the capital of Burgundy Wines – Beaune.
We stayed at pretty good hotel Stars Beaune – comfortable enough for price we paid for it. Hotel was located not far away from main road and it was especially convenient as we arrived late in the evening.
Chamonix Mont Blanc
Our next stop after some wine tasting in Beaune was Chamonix Mont Blanc, the town of ski resorts. Our campsite was located just a few hundred meters from lift to the Aiguille du Midi (3842 m above sea level), a mountain in Mont Blanc massif and one of the best panoramic views we have ever seen.
From viewing platform you can see the highest mountain in Europe Mont Blanc (4807 metres above sea level) as well as many other peaks of the Alps. Using local transportation provides possibility to enjoy excellent hiking and climbing places around Chamonix Mont Blanc. Routes are marked and have different levels of difficulty, however if you have not appropriate shoes and equipment, best choice would be to use easiest routes only.
After a couple of days in Chamonix, we went to Provence. Arrival at Provence was a huge change after living close to the snow and ice. Temperature of the air after driving just a few hundred kilometres reached +35 Celsius. As it was end of August, it was too late to enjoy beauty of lavender fields, but we had an advantage to buy fruits and vegetables from local gardens. One old nice lady we visited, was speaking only French, however deal of buying fruits was successful.
Our next short stop was in Grasse; we visited factory of Fragonard perfumery (there is also Fragonard perfume museum in the town but it was closed because our arrival was too late in the afternoon). Guided tour in the factory was free of charge but as you may guess, at the end of exposition there was a shop with company’s production. Obviously, to our gift items consisting of French wines were added original French fragrances.
After Grasse, we went to Nice and enjoyed couple of very sunny days on the beach there. There are even no photos from Nice because sun was so hot and water in the sea so relaxing that all the world around didn’t exist for us those days.
It took about half an hour in the evening after arrival to find good and well equipped camping to spend a couple of nights there. Campsite was located about 15 minutes from the beach. It was very good choice to start trip with hiking mountains with further rest in the French Riviera.
From Nice we started our way towards Atlantic coast. About 300 km from Nice (not far away from Avignon), we made a stop to see very exciting historical object Pont du Gard – an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge made in 1st century AD. This aqueduct was built across Gard river. Since 1985 Pont du Gard is listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.
After French Alps and Provence, our next destination was Rocamadour – small spectacular old town in South-West of France. Since medieval times, Rocamadour was popular destination for religious pilgrims visiting cathedral’s Black Madonna.
Nowadays, many tourists are coming over to see the cathedral, which is built almost vertically into a cliff. I shall say that it was really worth coming to Rocamadour – everything there looks magnificent.
For a couple of days we were sleeping in tents at Camping Ferme Brache, located next to the town. There also were a number of different touristic attractions in surrounding area, such as demonstration of full cycle of cheese production with a tasting, goose farms and open-air monkey park La Foret des Singes.
We also visited from there another very nice medieval town Sarlat. Local food market in Sarlat is famous and it was really fantastic experience! There are only 10 thousand inhabitants in the town, however more than 1 Million tourists visit Sarlat every year.
You can continue reading about our experience on Atlantic coast of France during this trip.