Welcome to the Europe Travel Centre travel blog. This blog will provide you feedback and reports from some of our own overseas trips and hopefully in time yours as well. As husband & wife we have travelled together for over 30 years and this blog is our way of sharing some of the wonderful experiences we have enjoyed. We hope you will gain some insights from our travels and also invite you to contribute and share some of your own personal travel experiences as well.
FRANCE – Southern France – Arles / Camargue region / Les Baux / Pont Du Gard
What a magnificent region of southern France this is, with its historical towns, breathtaking valleys mountain vistas, medieval towns and excellent food & wine. We travelled to this region by car that we had pre-booked before leaving OZ, to be collected from Avis in Barcelona. We headed initially to Figueres in northern Spain to spend a few nights and explored the Salvador Dali Museum. We drove on across the border into France heading east towards Arles. The driving time was around 7 hours including a stop for lunch on the beach at Montpellier.
The climate in southern France in early May can be a little cool at times but most days were clear. The upside of travelling at this time of year is not too many tourists have arrived yet. (Peak season being in July and August) – In Arles, we stayed in a quaint 18th Century farmhouse bed & breakfast property a few minute’s drive outside of town. Whilst a little tricky to find, it was worth the effort. The two storey farmhouse is set amongst some stunning old trees, surrounded by open green pastures, with a few horses and other animals close by. I would rate the property as a very good 3 Star standard. The rooms were huge, clean & very comfortable with plenty of space including a lounge room to relax. The best feature by far was our charming hostess Pasquale, a lovely French lady who spoke impeccable English. Each morning we ate in the downstairs breakfast room, where we would discuss our plans for the day. Pasquale with her excellent local knowledge provided us with plenty of advice and places for us to visit in the region. She was a great help and really made our stay so much better.
Using the farmhouse as our base we headed out in a different direction each day. Our first outing day was spent exploring the town of Arles itself, an easy place to discover on foot with it’s narrow streets and opening into quaint squares lined with Cafe’s, including one that had been often frequented by Van Gogh. The main attraction however is the ancient Roman amphitheatre, which is in pretty good condition considering it’s age and still hosts the occasional bull fight in the summer months. That evening we dined at a local restaurant in Arles called Le Criquet, where we enjoyed one of our best meals ever in France. I would highly recommend anyone seeking out this restaurant, you won’t be disappointed.
On Day two we drove about an hour drive south of Arles to the famous Camargue region, where you will see the famous white horses of the Camargue, plus numerous Flamingos and more. We reached a coastal town named Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and hired a couple of bikes for a 26 Km round trip ride to the lighthouse Gacholle. Whilst the track was a little on the rough side we managed to reach our goal and with several other cyclists enjoyed our pre-prepared Baguettes at the picnic tables just outside the lighthouse.
On Day three we drove just 30 minutes north east from Arles to the nearby mountain top village of Les Baux-de-Provence, one of the most beautiful villages in France. It has a spectacular position set atop a rocky outcrop with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south. The views of the surrounding valley are amazing. You can spend a whole day here if you wish walking amongst the ruins of this fortress village that date back to the 10th century. There is plenty to see including full-scale replicas of some of the huge medieval siege weapons used over the centuries.
On day four we headed to north to Pont Du Gard, around a 45 minute drive to view an incredible Roman Aqueduct that has to be seen to be believed. This is an amazing ancient structure set in a beautiful gorge with stunning scenery. We spent almost a whole day here initially in the museum to learn how, when and why the Romans constructed this ancient wonder. After the Museum we walked for hours around the vast surrounds and observed people swimming and paddling in Kayaks on the water. It is also possible for the energetic traveller to walk to one of the nearby villages. It is just a stunning place to visit. You will not be disappointed with a day at Pont-du-Gard.
Geoff & Sandra Harvey