Southern France Travel Guide

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The Night cafe in Arles, painted by van Gogh

The Night cafe in Arles, painted by van Gogh

A justifiably popular destination the region of Provence combines historic sites a warm climate striking scenery and some of the best restaurants in France.

From the beaches and posh towns of the Riviera such as Nice, Monaco or Cannes to the hilly and mountainous hinterland constantly smelling of perfume and thyme, the Provence offers something to every kind of traveler.

Marseille is the largest town in this region and is really the capital of the South. When you talk to one of the locals, don't mention that you like Paris.

The Dordogne river valley and de Ardeche offer great hiking and water sport opportunities. Ancient towns, most of Roman origin, such as Orange, Avignon or Arles dot the countryside.

Among the wonderful culinary regional specialites are anchoiade (anchovy oil and garlic paste) daube (braised meat poultry fish or game) marcassin (young wild boar) and panade (fruit tart). Provence is also prime truffle territory. During the season (fall through December) stop at a truffle fair—the prices are steep but the taste and mystery surrounding this delicacy are definitely worth the cost. At any time of the year you can enjoy a variety of markets including the Marche des Antiquaires at L’Isle sur la Sorgue (Sundays).

When you go closer to the Pyrenees, you enter the Languedoc: the land where they say "Oc". The Occitans are still proud of their own language and culture. A visit to Toulouse, Montpellier or Carcassone gives you some impression of the richness of their culture.

Further in the east, the Atlantic coast region is quite spectacular as well. Bordeaux is famous for its wines, Gascogne for its cognac. But also for those not primarily interested in alcoholic beverages this region has a lot to offer, Beautiful mountains in the Pyrenees, great beach resorts such as Biarritz and many medieval towns and castles.

Lourdes deserves special mention as well, this is the place to go if you need to be cured of something and you think religion is your best bet. For other travelers the town is also a fascinating place to visit.

The Basque region is the country of the Euskari people as the call themselves. They have lived in this region since the dawn of times and their language is apparantly unrelated to any other language in the world. Their battle for independance has been going on for centuries, but on the French side of the norder things are safe.


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