July 11, 2023

Discovering Provence; A Memorable 10-Day Itinerary

Welcome, to Provence, a region with stunning landscapes, rich in history, and irresistible charm. Ahhh, yes, and, It’s also the birthplace of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, where sipping rosé all day is a function of daily life, and wearing perfectly wrinkled linen is the norm. There are endless reasons to visit Provence, which is why you should go!

That said, we travelled for over three weeks in June to explore this magical region. Although we had a substantial amount of time, it felt like we barely scratched the surface. We’ll definitely be back.

Where We Travelled

Noves – Home Base

From Paris (Gare de Lyon), we trained to Avignon, which took approximately 2 hours and 45 minutes; we picked up our rental car (an electric blue Citreon) and drove for what should have been a 30-minute drive to our villa at Moulin de la Roque, in Noves. Instead, we found ourselves driving off-road through orchards, vineyards and narrow one-lane roads, “Um, this can’t be the right way,” However, with a few GPS adjustments, “recalculating…” we eventually made it to our destination.

And it was worth the wait!

Moulin de la Roque is the perfect location to set up a home base, meaning less time living out of a suitcase and more time exploring the region. We prefer longer stays vs jumping from town to town. Several years ago, we connected with the lovely owners’ Gaby and Guy, of Moulin de la Roque while scrambling to change our vacation plans from Italy to France during the onset of Covid. Unfortunately, we know how that story ends. Gaby and Guy were both very helpful with our dilemma. Should we still go? In the end, we all agreed, that we should visit Moulin de la Roque when it was safe to travel again.

So, here we are three years later!

We arrived at meticulously tended gardens that led us to our home away from home for ten days. We immediately fell in love with the beautiful property on sprawling acreage in the pretty town of Noves. If you’re looking for tranquillity, this is the place. Beautiful stand-alone villas and apartment-style accommodations are rented weekly. A large shared pool completes the pretty setting.

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Market Day

It’s a 25-minute drive along some picturesque roads to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue from Noves and our first Provençal town to explore. Located on the Sorgue River, it’s been nicknamed the Provençal Venice, minus the gondolas. I’m pleasantly surprised by the size of this charming, bustling town. L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is known for its antique stores and markets. And as luck would have it, today is market day, and it’s busy!

It can be challenging to find parking on market days in most of Provence, so arriving early is best to avoid crowds, and find that rock star spot. Additionally, most markets close around 12:30 or 1:00 pm, so plan accordingly to avoid any disappointment.

As we cook most of our meals at the villa, it’s fun to shop as the locals do. With a large selection of fresh produce, charcuterie, artisanal cheese, herbs and spices, it’s hard not to get inspired. Everything looks delicious, “what should we make for dinner?”

Saint-Remy-de-Provence – Lunch

Where do I begin? I could write an entire blog on this gorgeous town alone, which I’ll do separately since Saint-Remy is also our last stop on our way back to Paris. But, more on that later.

Saint-Remy is a historic village built on one of the oldest archeological sites in Europe. It was also home to Vincent van Gogh, who resided in Saint-Remy, during 1889-1890, at the Monastery of Saint-Paul de Mausole. Here he produced nearly 150 of his most important works while institutionalized. A testament that art can emerge from even the darkest of moments.

This sophisticated little Provençal town had me at hello, or bonjour! Only fifteen minutes from Noves, we made a quick trip to Saint-Remy for lunch. It’s sooo pretty here. The town’s cobblestone streets, muted-tone buildings and pastel-coloured shutters create a tranquil palette, j’adore!

We meandered our way through the tiny streets, filled with boutiques, boulangeries, cafes and restaurants.

Which, by the way, in Saint-Remy, there’s no shortage of restaurant options; most often, menus are usually displayed on large chalkboards, or outside on stands. Try the day’s specials; I haven’t been disappointed yet.

APT – Market Day

We travelled to APT in under an hour, venturing further than usual. However, when visiting Provence, the APT market is a must-see destination. It is also one of the largest markets in the area. Every Saturday, the market winds through town; it literally goes on and on, showcasing a never-ending array of specialty foods, fresh produce, olive wood products, seafood, boulangeries, cheese, and more.

My son and his girlfriend were visiting from Paris for the weekend. Neither has been to the south of France, so it was fun to explore together.

After shopping and sampling, it’s time for un café in town.

Eygalières – Leisurely Sunday Lunch

Truth be known, I had never heard of this sleepy little village, which by the way, isn’t that sleepy. A friend of mine insisted, “You must go,” and so go we did! I have to say; I was more than impressed. It’s a gorgeous little village (town?) perfectly coiffed in every detail. There seems to be a considerable amount of rejuvenation in this area. That said, Eygalières has been discovered, and it won’t be long before the crowds swarm to this village, or perhaps they already have?

We enjoyed a delicious meal at Chez Paulette; the food, the setting, and the company were fabulous. Reserve a table because this place is hopping on a Sunday.

Avignon – A Visit to the Palais des Papes

Avignon is a large, bustling town, and its main attraction, the Palais des Papes, is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. With that intel, it’s wise to get here early. It was hotter than hot the day we visited; fortunately, we got in right away. However, it was a different story on our way out. We were provided with audio, and it was an easy 2 hours exploring the palace and the gorgeous gardens, which I have to say were my favourite.

After our tour, it was time for lunch! We found a lovely area nearby with large trees and plenty of shade. And wine, obviously!

Pézenas – Road Trip

With my foot firmly planted on the brake in the passenger seat, we set off for a two-hour road trip to visit friends for lunch at their beautiful home in Pézenas. If you know me, I’m NOT a fan of highway driving. I will go out of my way to avoid highways at all costs. However, Google Maps added an extra hour if we chose to take the scenic route. Highway it is!

So, yes, I survived the drive and was welcomed by a surprisingly beautiful town I knew nothing about. Pézenas is located in the Languedoc region, southwest of our home base. And it’s only a three-hour drive to Barcelona. Tapas anyone?

The location of Pézenas is brilliant, and it scores high in history and architecture. After our delicious lunch, our hosts graciously led us on a walking tour of Pézenas. It was interesting to view the town from their perspective and hear their stories about living in France. My dream, Sigh…

Pézenas is definitely a town worth visiting, if just for lunch or en route to Spain 😉

Châteauneuf-Du-Pape – Wine tasting

Only a half-hour drive from Noves, this region is one of the most renowned appellations of the southern part of the Rhone Valley. Famously known for powerful, full-bodied red wine, largely made from the classic southern Rhône grape trio of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre.

The town of Châteauneuf-du-Pape mainly serves as a hub for wine tastings offered by different vineyards, making it a convenient option for those who prefer to buy directly from nearby producers. These are some of the best wines you’ll ever taste. And yes, we left with a few bottles of full-bodied reds and lighter wallets, but how could we resist?

It is interesting to see; notice the large stones called Galets roulés (“pebbles”), a characteristic terroir of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These stones are remnants of Alpine glaciers that have been smoothed over millennia by the Rhône.

Gordes – Go for the Views

We’re short on time, but we couldn’t leave Provence without at least a photo of this beautiful cliffside town. It’s a 30-minute drive to Gordes, and we could see the vantage point, aka “the money shot.” The views! Even better than I could have imagined. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore the town. Instead, we had a special happy hour planned. See below…but we got a few great shots!

Domaine La Pierre Blanche – L’Ambar – Happy Hour

It’s not a town; Domaine la Pierre Blanche is a gorgeous resort 20 minutes away and on the outskirts of Eygalières. L’Ambar is plunked on the edge of a vineyard and came highly recommended for drinks at sunset. So, we couldn’t wait for sunset, but we made it for happy hour! Surrounded by vineyards, the setting is breathtaking. Their specialty? Cocktails made with rosé. How clever and delicious!

It was quiet when we visited at 6 pm for happy hour. However, I would recommend reservations regardless.

Eygalières – Market Day

Friday is market day in Eygalières; we were told it is one of the best. Shhhhh…that’s just between us.

I have fallen in love with this little village, town, however, you prefer. Was it the setting? The vendors? The level of quality and display was top-notch. I recognized some vendors from other market days, except many seemed handpicked for Eygalières alone. You could say all markets are the same, but they’re not all equal. This market is my favourite! I loved it, and I didn’t want to leave.

Our morning in Eygalières and afternoon poolside marks the last day of our ten days spent in Provence’s Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhône region. It was the perfect finale to our stay at the charming Villa at Moulin de la Roque in Noves. We touched on some truly beautiful places. Another trip, perhaps?

We set off for Cotignac, a small village in the Var region, the following day. Which also happens to be part of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, or the most beautiful villages of France. We’ve booked another Villa for one week, not knowing much about the area, we’re looking forward to discovering a new destination.

Stay tuned for my next post on Cotignac and Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.

The comments +

  1. April Douglas says:

    That looks like a fabulous trip ! I love all your beautiful pics and tidbits of information on each location . Great planning , I know it was probably a lot of work , but what an experience! Thanks for sharing

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