Road trip in Provence: The Calanques of Marseille, Gorges du Verdon and Avignon

For the last article of this year 2020, nothing better than going back to the roots, visiting my family in France and even taking a road trip with my best friends in the south of France. Despite the pandemic I still decided to fly to France to spend some quality time with my loved ones and end this year of restricted travel. I rediscover my country and I venture into places still unknown, such as the south-east, which is full of the most beautiful villages in France.

The Calanques of Marseille

A calanque is a rocky Mediterranean cove with a beach or boats that are moored at the foot of the rock. The Calanques National Park is located between Marseille and Cassis with 25 km of coastline and 145 km of marked trails, by car or by foot, you will be completely charmed.

We hiked from the Calanques of Sugiton to Morgiou, about 11 km with 520m of elevation which took us about 4 hours. To get there we parked at the Luminy car park where the Sugiton trails start. Do not do hike in sandals, equip yourself with sneakers or hiking shoes, water, a lunch and money in cash if you want to stop to eat or have a drink at the only restaurant / bar of Morgiou which accepts only cash! And a towel with a swimsuit if you want to swim in this beautiful blue water. We went in October and the weather was just perfect! For avid hikers you will surely find this hike “easy” but for me and my friend we found it difficult! Especially when you had to climb rocks with a chain, a ladder and come back down, gripping the slippery rocks. If you fear of heights, you can always go back to Sugiton instead of trying to follow the red lines that lead to Morgiou, as we don’t think this trail is for everyone. The views, however, are exceptional, the colors and especially the turquoise blue water are simply magnificent. Despite this somewhat incredible hike, the scenery and the experience are definitely worth it.

We also visited the surroundings of Marseille and I just fell in love with the towns of La Ciotat and Cassis. One of the routes to drive is the Route des Crètes, from there you will see the extent of the creeks and their beauty. Have a pain au chocolat and a coffee at the port of Cassis or drink a Monaco in one of the bars of La Ciotat, you will feel on vacation and relaxed. Carpe Diem!

In Marseille itself, we started by visiting Les Goudes, one of Marseille’s neighborhoods surrounded by cliffs, a beach and a fishing port. A striking and spectacular view awaits us, we actually have the impression of being at the end of the world, since it is the ultimate border of Marseille. Walk a bit towards the village and stop for a good local meal at Esplaï du Bar des Goudes, seafood and white wine by the water, a real delight!

Then of course, visit the famous port of Marseille and admire the city from the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica. Going there from Les Goudes, we stopped at Vallon des Auffes in the Endoume district, small fishing boats and colorful houses offer an authentic atmosphere reminiscent of Marcel Pagnol’s time.

Vallon des Auffes

Gorges du Verdon

Did you know the Gorges du Verdon? Me, not at all before going there and yet it is the largest canyon in Europe! And one of the most beautiful! A true natural gem, nearly 50km long, surrounded by cliffs up to 700 meters deep. Located just 1-hour drive from Marseille, we rented kayaks and an electric boat to visit the Gorges on the Verdon river itself. We rented them from Location-Nautic in Montmeyan, you will have the choice between canoe, pedal boat, boat and paddle with several routes. If the weather conditions are not suitable, it is better to call before. As we were there at the end of October, it was a bit windy, but the good news was that it was not crowded. Prices vary depending on the type of equipment, such as the 1-seater kayak starting at 8 € for an hour and the 2-seater kayak at 11 € per hour. Don’t miss this place if you are around, you can also drive along the gorges and go to the top to see them from above, that’s what we did.

On our way to Avignon, we discovered the most beautiful villages in France, such as Vinon-sur-Verdon, a very charming village that we were able to visit and even taste excellent gastronomic dishes! But also, Roussillon and the Gordes in the Luberon.

On our way we also visited the Colorado Provençal, which is aptly named since it has the same red colored trails as the National Monument site in Colorado in the US, with the same hoodoos. For having done both, I find that there is indeed a similarity, but one is French and the other American 😊 Access is free but if you go by car, the parking is 5 € only for the day. From there, several marked paths are accessible for 1 or 2 hours hikes. The site is accessible from 10 am. to 4 pm. in low season and from 8 am to 7 pm in high season. I highly recommend you do it, the paths are very easy and nice.

Avignon

The popular city of the Popes and its Bénezet bridge famous for its counting rhyme that we all sang as a child and even now. When you visit France, you feel like you are going back in time because it is such a rich country in history. This was the case for our visit to the Palais des Papes and the Avignon Bridge, we took a ticket for these two places which was 14.50 €, but you can also take them separately. The visit is very pleasant since you have access to a tablet that allows you to experience the Middle Ages, the papal palace is in fact the largest Gothic construction of the period, a building of 15,000 m². With the tablet each room is scanned with a code and you see them reconstructed as they were in the 14th century. I found it very interactive and much more interesting than an audio guided tour. Surprised to see the Avignon bridge cut, I learned more about it during the visit and I’ll let you find out why. A very pretty town full of history and culture.

Back to Marseille, about an hour’s drive from Avignon, we return the rental car to the airport itself. During our road trip we booked accommodation on a daily basis through Airbnb, we had no problems and the housing was always clean and well located close to all amenities. We split the bills among my friends with the Tricount app that calculates everything for you for each expense. The rental car was booked through carjet.com for the best prices and the rental company in Marseille was InterRent. When you arrive, do not let yourself be influenced by the agent who will sell you insurance that is much more expensive than your own insurance. Finally, we had an outstanding driver, my friend who drove the whole way without any worries, with giggles, anecdotes and music of all times. This road trip with friends in Provence will have just contaminated me with joy and happiness, tested positive for new adventures, my best vaccine will remain travels.

See you next year!

2 thoughts on “Road trip in Provence: The Calanques of Marseille, Gorges du Verdon and Avignon

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