We decided head to South France after Croatia, rent a car, and see a different side of France that we both haven’t seen. It is also on the way to Madrid, which is where our next flight departs from. We started in Paris for two nights then headed down to Antibes and drove through the Provence region before heading to the Pyrenees and then to Bordeaux.
The reality was that 5 days before leaving Croatia we didn’t know where we were going next. We planned out tentatively enough from mid October – December, but we had no clue what to do with the 2.5 weeks in between. We have friends in France and it was close to Madrid so we decided to go for it, and hopefully they would give us some good advice on what to do and where to go. Always best from someone from the area, right?
Hitting south France in the fall has been perfect. The weather is great (apart from the flooding in Uzes where we stay for three nights), the colors of leafs changing is magnificent, and the small amount of travelers during the offseason has been great. Traveling through Provence is really about the small unique towns, the food, and the beautiful views on the country roads.
I must first introduce the Zimmermans. When I lived in Louisiana my parents hosted Alex, a french exchange student. He lived with us for a year, while drastically improving his English. Later his brother Jimmy came and spent a summer with us in Houston, and later his other brother Sam came and visited in New Mexico and OKC. So needless to say we have kept in touch and if we are near, we see each other. So we ended up staying in Paris with Jimmy, in Antibes with Sam, and in Toulouse with Alex.
First off is Paris. It had been 5 years since Katie and I visited Paris. We usually aren’t too keen on the hustle and bustle of big cities and prefer being around nature and more peaceful places, but it is nice to visit Paris. Everything is nice…the shops, the buildings, the food, the museums and so on. It is truly a great city to walk around, even the normal buildings look grand. We went to a bar with Jimmy to have a few drinks and a bite to eat. Jimmy explained to us that it was a small neighborhood bar where the owners are the bartenders, and they are always drunk. So we said, absolutely, we want to go there. The owner was pretty entertaining. Everything took about 30 minutes for him to do. We asked if we could order a few drinks, and he responded with “we are in no rush here” while pitter pattering around the bar. At one point after getting our drinks, another guy came up to the bar (wondering if his order got mixed up) and said in french, “I’m not sure if we got our drinks yet”, as to say politely, we ordered them and you haven’t brought them yet and its been a while. The owner looks straight at him and all he says is, “Ya, I am not sure either” then goes back to cleaning up the bar. We were cracking up.
We took a train from Paris to Nice and then rented a car in Nice and drove to Antibes. It was a nice apartment overlooking the ocean. We went for a hike to the ocean and back around to the nice houses around the ocean. The next day we went on a road trip mainly on D2 and D3 through different towns and some gorges. We did a loop through St Paul de Vence, Gourdon, Coursegoules, and Biot. St Paul was a really cool art town with great views. It had some high end art sculptors along with some original pieces from different galleries. We ate in Coursegoules at Le Bistrot de Sophie. We had no clue it was going to be as good as it was either! We basically had a family style three course meal (Pate, Wine, Rabbit, Housemade Ravioli, Steak, Pork Cheeks, Cauliflower, Mushrooms, and a tart) for lunch and it was outstanding. Gourdon had some great views, especially on the road right before we hit the town. It was a nice loop to do while visiting the small towns of Provence. While in Antibes I got to play some soccer which is always a big plus for me. I practiced with a mens team right by the ocean on a turf field. I thought we were going to scrimmage, but instead the coach wanted to do fitness with the team. I really did not want to do any drills, but I obliged because I just wanted to be out on a field. The last day we went to the morning market and then took off to Uzes. The market was great, but very expensive. We paid 5 euro for a small box of strawberries, but they were the best damn strawberries I have ever eaten.
The drive to Uzes was quaint and nice. We opted to stay in a smaller town instead of Avignon. Provence for us was about seeing the small towns in France and getting more of that culture than going to the bigger towns, so we tried to do that as much as we could. We passed through Cannes, visited Les Baux de Provence and Florac, before arriving in Uzes. Les Baux de Provence was really cool to see. The old town was built into the rocks of the mountain, and the new houses sit at the bottom of the valley covered in smaller cliffs. Florac was our favorite town out of them all I think. Really cool town in between mountains with a good hippy vibe.
Once in Uzes we visited the national park that was close by. There was a storm coming in that we were not totally aware of, so despite the forecast we went out and explored the park to the best of our ability. Once we started driving up the windy single track roads, the fog kept getting denser and denser. Once we got to the first of two lookout points we couldn’t see anything. It was quite the adventure trying to navigate when we couldn’t read road signs right in front of us. Even though we didn’t get to see the supposedly great views, the fog overtaking the autumn trees was quite picturesque to see. I have to give Katie props because she never knew how to read a map and navigate, but by the end of that day she was working it! After getting back into town we went for a really nice dinner at a more famous spot. We had duck liver and leg in a white bean broth and some radish and white raw fish mix. It was quite the “nice” french cuisine to experience. When we went to bed the storm introduced itself to us. I was up all night due to the huge flashes of lightning and roars of thunder in our room. It rained for about 13 hours straight, and as we packed our things to leave the next morning our host told us we couldn’t. Our host was amazingly hospitable to us, getting us breakfast and cooking us lunch, while we waited for the rain to stop. At around 2 we tried to make a dash for it, but we were unable to drive anywhere due to all the roads being flooded. So we messaged our host Christine and asked if we could stay another night, to which she replied, of course. Due to all the flooding the town was basically shut down that night so we rested up for the next morning. We set off in the morning around 10 and headed to Toulouse to see Alex, once one of the roads finally opened up.
Toulouse was a lot of fun. Alex had an abrupt plan to head to Paris for the night, so we hopped on the plane with him and stayed with his family for the night. When we came back to Toulouse, Alex mentioned that there was a big rugby match that night. The stadium was close to the airport so we decided to try to find some tickets. Alex managed to get us three amazing tickets and so we headed into the stadium right when the teams were coming out on the field, about 20 minutes from landing in Toulouse. It was our first rugby match to go to and was a great time with Toulouse beating the european champs Toulon. We spent a good amount of time walking through the parks in Toulouse. The three connecting parks made for some great days of just laying in the green grass enjoying the weather. Toulouse seemed like a cool city and we mainly enjoyed the time that we got to hang out with Alex.