South of France: Why it’s worth venturing beyond Paris!

Gordes france

Start with minimal expectations and they will likely be exceeded! This described our time in the south of France! Avignon, Gordes, Uzes and the remaining Luberon region towns were an absolute delight, and a highlight of our travels so far! Read on for our highlights, recommendations, and considerations!


A work colleague of Ky’s had raved about Avignon and the surrounding region, prompting us to consider and subsequently add it to our France itinerary. However, we arrived in Avignon with minimal expectations. The low expectations were instantly exceeded when we wandered down the main street and felt the ‘small town’ atmosphere and vibes set in. As we strolled into one of the main areas we were treated to tables sprawled over the square. And a vinal DJ playing some funky tunes. After some wine of course we got up to have a dance, and the moment of dancing with those of all ages and nationalities in the middle of the old Avignon square is one we will remember forever. We would suggest Avignon is perfect for a couples vacation! A few little recommendations from our time in Avignon are listed below:

  • Visit Gordes! Okay, this isn’t in Avignon, however it’s a must do when in the region. Read below for more!
  • Have a coffee or a wine in the beautiful squares! We spent mornings and nights sitting in the beautiful squares with a coffee or a wine. It’s the simple things that are often the most enjoyable. The Place des Corps-Saints was excellent, along with the square along Pl. de Carmes.
  • Treat yourself for dinner at La Cuisine Du Dimanche: We both don’t often treat ourselves to fine dining, however we made the exception for La Cuisine du Dimanche. This small French restaurant is located in the heart of Avignon in a simple yet romantic setting. We arrived without a booking and managed to get the last table, however we would advise booking as the restaurant wouldn’t have many more than 10 tables in total. The highlight was obviously the food, and we highly recommend choosing the ‘chefs choice’ menu, which utilizes seasonal produce to treat yourself to either 3 of 4 courses at a very reasonably priced (for fine dining) €38E or €48 respectively. We paired this with a pitcher of house wine (cheap but delicious) and were very happy with our choices.
    Link to website:
    Google Maps: see here


Gordes you have our heart! This little French town located to the east of Avignon in the Luberon district was a massive highlight, and ranks as an early favourite of our trip! What made Gordes such a highlight? The hilltop town offered sweeping valley views, panoramic viewpoints of the picturesque town, winding streets, cute shops, along with a number of little bars and restaurants. Want to hear more about Gordes, including the best views, and what we did during our trip, check out the post here!


We started a morning in Uzes, and fell in love with the quaint charm of the place. The main square was a particular highlight, where people watching with a coffee under the dappled sunlight was a particular highlight. We also found a little moment to call family back home, which is always a memorable moment. The narrow alleys and tree-lined main streets of Uzes provide a beautiful setting to wander. We spent 3 hours in Uzes and felt we were ready to move on, with this including an hour with our coffee and phone calls.


This French town was the largest of the towns (outside of Avignon) that we visited during our road trips, thus the size means it has a different feel. The town has distinct Roman heritage, with the Amphitheatre of Nîmes evidence of this. We enjoyed our visit, however we would suggest including the towns above in your travels before visiting Nimes. However, we are biased in our views, as we typically enjoy the smaller towns rather than bigger and more commercialized cities. We spent an afternoon in Nimes, with enough time for some food, drinks, shopping and wandering the streets. Those wanting to tour the Amphitheatre may want to spend a little longer.

Pont Du Gard

Whilst not a town, this impressive old bridge is the perfect addition to your road trip to Uzes/Nimes when driving from Avignon. The bridge is an impressive architectural feat, and was a pleasant walk for us to start the third day of our time in southern France. We didn’t realize until we had arrived that swimming was permitted in the river that flows under the bridge, so if visiting during the warmer months, maybe pack a towel for a little dip.

Key consideration: we arrived to free parking and free entry, with our poor interpretation of French meaning we didn’t quite understand why. Don’t question free though, right? The signage showed parked was normally €9 and entry for adults was €9.5 per person, so factor this in. We enjoyed the stop, however we are unsure if we would have similarly enjoyed it had we forked out €28.

Chateauneuf Du Pape

This sleepy little down located north of Avignon was a fleeting visit on one of our day trips. When arriving, the town was very quiet, and we were unsure if this was due to the time of year, or the small nature  of Chateauneuf Du Pape. It appeared to have a number of wine bars that were closed, and we passed a number of impressive vineyards on the way into the town. Whilst we enjoyed wandering the winding streets, based on our experience we wouldn’t say this is a ‘must do’, however that may change at different times of the year/seasons.


This small down is only a 5-10minute drive away from the heart of Avignon. The castle is visible when standing in the Avignon gardens (Jardin des Doms). We arrived late in the afternoon, and the narrow streets were very sleepy. We ventured up to the impressive hilltop castle with hopes of exploring the tower and it’s reportedly beautiful gardens. These hopes were dashed when we were informed the gardens and tower were closed for the day, so keep this in mind if planning to visit from Avignon (unsure if this was a seasonal thing).


The old port city of Marseille was a fleeting visit for us at the end of our stay in France before we flew out to Spain. We spent an afternoon wandering through the old streets which reminded us of parts of the Alfama in Lisbon, whilst the port was impressive with it’s 1000s of yachts. Our recommendations for Marseille are minimal, due to our short stay, however for those visiting, you may want to consider the following:

  • Rooftop Bar with Stunning Views at Les Bords De Mer: This stunning rooftop bar overlooked the Plage des Catalans beach, providing a wonderful place to stop and enjoy a cocktail. The staff were so lovely, providing us with local recommendations.
  • Healthy Salads at Eggplant: located in the centre of the old port, we were delighted to find Eggplant. Finding a healthy meal in Europe, or whilst travelling, can be a challenge, thus the grain salads we enjoyed we a welcome treat.
  • Value for Money Accommodation: staying metres from the Plage des Catalans beach and a 1km walk from the old port, the accommodation was excellent value for money. We used the kitchen to cook up a meal, whilst the bathroom was a particular highlight. Worth considering for those visiting. Check it out here!

What we missed

  • Additional inland towns through Luberon and Provence regions including Russolin, Orange, Saint Remy de Provence, Les Baux de Provence, L’Ilse sur la Sorgue, Fontaine de Vaucluse and more.
  • The lavender fields of Provence: the world famous lavender fields are a big attraction for the region. The time of year we visited (start of May) was not in season for lavender, and the fields we did see (e.g. Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey) weren’t flowering. The season is reported to be end of mid-June to mid-August.
  • The French Riviera: initially when planning our Europe adventures, the plan was to visit some of the Riviera region. However, as we planned more detail of the travels, we realized that the Schengen zone days for Australian tourists meant we had to choose either the inland or costal region (apart from a 1 night stay in Marseille). Based upon our positive experiences inland, we are very happy with this decision.

Important Considerations for travelling through the south of France:

  • Car: travelling to Avignon via train is easy (e.g. train from Paris arrives at Avignon TGV), however getting around the region is much more challenging. To enjoy the small towns in the way we did, we would advise hiring a car as necessary! The roads around the region were very easy to drive, however the car hire was quite expensive (~250AUD/165EURO per day). There are tours that run, however they usually arrive into towns at peak times, and reduce your flexibility.
  • Early is better: these towns are touristic regions, with tours and travellers often visiting. We arrived to Gordes and Uzes relatively early before 11am, and found that around lunch time and early afternoon busses and tourists began to roll in. This may be amplified during peak times, however generally, we would advise you to choose the regions you most want to see and visit early e.g. get to Gordes earlier to enjoy them without the crowds.
  • Wander beyond the main street: the main streets of the bigger towns e.g. Avignon, Nimes, Marseille are often bustling and impressive, however we had our favourite moments when we ventured down smaller alleys and found cute squares to stop in. We encourage you to wander beyond the main streets to get the most out of these towns.
  • Time of year: we had a truly wonderful time in Avignon, Gordes, and the south of France. However, we regularly commented about how much we enjoyed having quiet streets, empty roads and the ability to get into all the restaurants/bars we wanted. Having not travelled here during peak Europe travel months (e.g. June-August), we are unsure if the time would have been as enjoyable. Don’t let this stop you visiting, but potentially try to visit in a shoulder season (e.g. May-June or September-October), or visit the small towns early to avoid the crowds.

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Want to keep reading more about our time in France? See here!

Read about how much we loved Gordes! See here!

See the highlights from our time in Paris by clicking here!

Take a look at our Paris croissant tour, including a little vlog of the adventure! Take a look!

Keen to take a look at further travel memories and advice? Take a look here!

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