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Help Needed Southern France 2020 - Can you help narrow down some regions?

Bruce Pollock

10+ Posts
After visiting other places, it's time to get serious about France. We spent three days in Paris as a family about 15 years ago, but we are now looking for a more in-depth trip as a retired couple. The very rough plan would probably call for about three weeks (could add more time for the right reasons) in the spring of 2020 with about 1 week in Paris and 2+ weeks in 'the South'. During that period, we would prefer to base ourselves in only a few locations. We would likely enter through Paris and then take the train to the south where we would explore by car.

Provence is likely a must-stay area, but I'm looking for broad suggestions and/or preferences for other regions. One area of possible interest is Languedoc-Roussillon and another is possibly Bordeaux-Dordogne. Perhaps you have another suggestion that would add to the variety.... for example, is Languedoc-Roussillon similar to Provence?

I realize this is sort of like asking "which is the best colour?" but the choices and possibilities are a little overwhelming. The challenge, as always, is that you can't see everything and I think we would prefer to visit a smaller number of areas in a more intimate way. Once we get the basic regional plan sorted, we'll do more detailed planning and look at specific bases.

Thank you for all opinions and advice.
 
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phirhon

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Have you had a look at some of the trip reports listed in the trip report section here? These are the links to my reports . In 2014 we started in Provence, then the Herault, then the Dordogne. The relevant sections are titled, usually by the department name.


In 2016 we stayed in the Lot et Garonne, and the area around Albi, among others.


In 2018 we stayed in the Var, the Lozere, the Lot, the Aude, the Ardeche which can all be considered South/ South west France.


On each of these trips we spent time in parts of Burgundy which is one of our favourite regions.

There are other reports that are helpful which are titled more specifically. I keep mine general because we visit several different areas.

Good luck.
 

phirhon

100+ Posts
Contest 2019 Winner!
Well, I am sorry I cannot help. We just enjoy travelling to France and do not really worry whether one region is similar to another. We just look at regions we could visit, things we could do and see and decide where to stay that will allow us to do that. In our research we like to look past the obvious usual suspects in regions.

One of the things we do enjoy most about travelling to France is the often subtle differences between regions. I am thinking about things such as the style of houses in villages, the church spires and bell towers, the way the villages are designed eg some will have a town square, some will be lined with arcades. And of course, you get differences in food. We always do some research on regional specialities.

We just find we enjoy wherever we go and are rarely disappointed. But it is subjective. We are fairly easy going and are happy just wandering around. When we are planning a trip we try to keep it to a logical route. We stay for a week or two at a time in a self catering holiday rental and do not do one or two night stays. For this reason we keep our changeover days to a manageable drive. So, for example, we would not drive from a base in Provence to a base in the Dordogne in a day. We would have a week or two in between. In the end we always come home content that we have had enough variety. I am sure that wherever you decide to go, you will enjoy it.
Bon voyage.
 

chachalaca

100+ Posts
Give us some more info, Bruce.

Museums, monuments and “fine” art?
Tiny villages? Hilltop villages?
Restaurants or markets and cooking?
Vines & lavender or forests and walnuts?
Hearty fare (Duck, foie gras, cassoulet) or tomatoes, chèvre, saussicons, salads?
Is getting to a beach desireable?
Hiking, kayaking?

This will help me help you. I can see where your interest lies and share my experiences.

Laura
 

Bruce Pollock

10+ Posts
Thank you, Laura. Generally, we'd like to base ourselves in one region for about a week and make day-trips into the area. Provence will likely (definitely?) be one of those regions and I'm curious to find another that would offer an alternative experience. We enjoy learning the history, the food and the geography of an area. More specifically:
  • Museums, monuments and art are always interesting - sometimes small local museums contain interesting insights.
  • We like hill towns and markets.
  • Probably won't do a great deal of cooking, but would be looking for ingredients for light meals, e.g. charcuterie, etc.
  • Wines and wineries.
  • Walking/hiking, although nothing too strenuous. Gentle river sports might be fun.
  • Restaurants of all types. I didn't think of it until you mentioned it, but having had moose cassoulet in Newfoundland, it might be interesting to try the real thing in France.
  • We're not big on beaches, but if there was one nearby we might visit.
I realize my question is a bit obtuse and I appreciate all insights.
 

Ken B.

10+ Posts
We loved the Cantal, and I think this is possibly my favourite part of France. I can understand you not wanting to plough through detailed trip reports at this stage but if you read the second post in my trip report it gives an overview of my impressions of the region.
I loved the Cantal too, as well as the Haute-Loire. And your photos. Ken
 

veronicafrance

100+ Posts
Here's an article from National Geographic about Occitanie, as the merged administrative regions of Midi Pyrénées and Languedoc-Roussillon are now known. It's not very satisfactory in terms of places to visit and local specialities -- it sticks to Toulouse, Montpellier, and Carcassonne instead of exploring the lovely countryside -- but it does give an overview of history and culture.

BTW you will definitely not hear Occitan spoken in the streets! But there are quite a few local groups who sing and story-tell in Occitan.
 

Chris

500+ Posts
You might want to consider the Loire as well. It has lovely villages, amazing chateaus, really good wines, and is a nice contrast to Provence. I love Provence, specifically the Luberon, best, but the Loire Valley is also very nice, and distinctly different from Provence.
 

chachalaca

100+ Posts
Chris is right, the Loire is a nice contrast. Also, she knows of a GREAT place to stay if you’re interested.

We just returned from the Pays Basque, which is wonderful and very different from Provence. We stayed in Sare: a tiny village in the foothills of the Pyrenees. This is our second time to the same Gîte/village and I highly recommend it. Lush, green, mountainous yet near the coastal fishing village of San Jean de Luz it is rich in culture and things to do. Hiking, biking, visiting San Sebastián (in Spain), a true bathing beach, and all the glorious Basque history and food.

There is a thread posted about the Southwest, Cathar territory. That is also quite distinct especially if you’re interested in Cathar history.

We’ve been to the Dordogne, very distinct with it's prehistoric history, caves, goats galore, duck & foie gras, walnuts....yum!

Wine tasting if possible everywhere. Do some research ahead of time to see what appeals. Ask your local wine merchants to recommend a favorite, then compare and visit the one they all recommended. Call ahead for appointments-even the teeny tiny wineries, especially these. They are busy people and I think you have a positive experience by showing respect by reserving/making an appointment.

Read some novels set in France-memoirs or travel essays. Even Peter May.e's books are a great place to begin. There's a list somewhere on this site-search the archives. But undoubtedly if you and your wife begin reading some of these books you'll have a "This is it!" moment and can begin planning for your first adventure.

Come back here often. Ask questions. The people here are amazing and have helped me so many times...sometimes resolving a serious issue, a restaurant recommendation, a tried and true vacation rental / gite and so much more. Once you decide, begin a new thread with your destination and ask specific questions (where to stay, etc).

Have fun planning!
 

Pati

10+ Posts
It’s obvious that you are all very seasoned travelers and that Bruce and his wife haven’t explored France to that extent. As someone with a similar experience, I know what wanting to see Provence is like, even though it will be more touristy, more expensive, etc. It’s also still beautiful and compelling. Rent a car and visit the hill towns. Be a tourist, it’s not always a terrible thing. Sorry everyone, but I have fantastic memories of visiting the area.
 

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