After these difficult times, our travel and travelling habits have significantly changed. As such, many of us will be favouring France as well as nearby European countries for their summer holidays. If this may be synonymous with disappointment for the biggest adventurers, our wager remains however to show you that, obviously, idyllic and playful places exist in France, just like in the neighbouring countries.
A must in our popular French-speaking culture when we think about holidays in France, the South of France remains a must-see destination, at national, European and international level. Ideally located between Italy and Spain, it is an essential stopover during a road trip in the south of Europe.
If the French Riviera is historically the most famous place in its eastern part, as well as cities such as Biarritz in the west, the south of France is full of historical and natural jewels, and today, we offer you a more original and unknown itinerary, at the gates of Languedoc, Camargue and Occitanie. It is a pleasure for me, as a native of this region who has grown up there, to make you discover it! Here we go on an itinerary between Arles, Beaucaire, and Montagnac, in the Bouches du Rhône, Gard and Hérault.
During this holiday itinerary, we will be offering you a playful aspect, but also relaxation and luxury, and finally a cultural and historical side. This itinerary will mainly focus on the Occitanie region.
Thanks to its ideal location, it is a cocooning and unforgettable stopover before Spain and Portugal, and is part of the stages of our road trip between France and Portugal. If many of us can sometimes grind our teeth at the simple word ‘road trip’, imagining sketchy conditions and dingy motels, don’t panic! Little Guest, as usual, guarantees top-of-the-range services!
This itinerary starts in the city of Arles, which is located in the Bouches du Rhône, but nevertheless close to the Occitanie region. Visually, Arles is more reminiscent of its cousin (and often rival) Nîmes, than Marseille.
A thousand-year-old Roman city, Arles transports us, as soon as we pass the gates of the city centre, to the time of gladiators, majestic aqueducts, and chariot races. Much less known and pompous than its close cousin Nîmes, it nevertheless has its own character and folklore linked to art, but also to its bullfighting culture, and its traditional guardian houses. Easily accessible by motorway, our partner in this city is nothing less than the Hôtel l’Arlatan, a historic hotel built on ancient ruins, and modelled on the large spa villas where once the Roman elite used to relax.
Start the day by taking advantage of the unique setting of this hotel which has travelled through antiquity to come and welcome us today. Children will be able to play safely if you choose the « connecting rooms » option. You can then relax in the hotel’s heated pool and enjoy lunch in the restaurant of this cosy hotel.
In the afternoon, you can discover the sumptuous Roman city of Arles, on foot or with your children, alone or by taking advantage of the numerous excursions offered by the Tourist Office. The must-see monuments are of course the Arles Arena, an ancient Roman amphitheatre which once hosted gladiatorial fights and other circus games, but also the Saint-Trophime church and its cloister, or the Abbey of Montmajour.
After that, parents and children can go shopping on foot, since the streets of the south-east are very pleasant to « shop », and there are many small original shops selling colourful fashion pieces, and definitely suitable for summer!
Adapted to children thanks to its various activities, the Museum of Ancient Art of Arles is a museum that I keep good memories of with my parents. It is better to spend a whole day there to really enjoy it and to immerse oneself in Roman culture and society. It is also a complement to a visit of the city! Qualitative, you can eat there or take your picnic, children can enjoy an outdoor playground with thematic games and finally, what we appreciate is that it offers activities for families. So, don’t hesitate to check out the family activities planned for 2020 on the museum’s website! On your return, a relaxing moment at the hotel’s swimming pool will be much appreciated.
It would be a pity to find yourself in the vicinity of Arles without taking advantage of the magnificent regional nature park that the Bouches du Nord shares with the Gard: the Camargue. A land of myths and yet little-known, you can’t try it without adopting it. One of the most famous and emblematic activities to do is not to go there on foot, but to organize a day horseback ride, which you can book at the Arles tourist office, which offers various types of excursions. It is also possible to swim in creeks protected from mass tourism and very discreet. You can also choose to practice kite surfing in one of the most popular spots in the country.
After such an excursion, tiredness will be there, but don’t panic, it will be time to go back to the Arlatan and enjoy a nice hot bath, or to relax in the Hortus gardens a stone’s throw from the hotel, after the children have fallen asleep.
It’s time to hit the road again for the second hotel of our trip, Le Domaine des Clos, located in Beaucaire in the Gard. Unknown, Beaucaire is often overshadowed by the towns of the Golden Triangle between which it is situated: Arles, Nîmes, and Avignon. Nevertheless, it remains a city steeped in history and charm, ideal for couples or families.
A more discreet city, you will enjoy an unprecedented calm and serenity at the Domaine des Clos, and this will be the keyword of this part of the road trip. For this first day in the Gard, we advise you to take full advantage of your place of residence in a relaxed atmosphere.
You will be able to enjoy, in an exceptional setting, a magnificent outdoor swimming pool with your toddlers, but also have fun in the lounge with board games to strengthen family ties. Regular readers can also take advantage of the hotel’s private library. A bocce ground is also available for those who like to try their hand at it, for what would a trip to the south be without our emblematic regional sport? Finally, the babysitting service will be appreciated while parents can, why not, relax in the hotel’s Spa.
As a woman coming from the Gard, there is one place I would definitely recommend to enjoy the serenity of my birth department. Only an hour’s drive away via the N106, I invite you to go on an excursion to the Bambouseraie de Prafrance, which is a real moment of complicity with nature, and where I have unforgettable childhood memories. Ranked among the most beautiful gardens in France and with 160 years of history, you will be able to immerse yourself in the heart of the Gard in an exotic atmosphere between bamboos of exceptional height, koi carp swimming in ponds, the small animals present in the park, and bamboo huts built in the style of those usually found in the land of the rising sun!
The park also has various educational greenhouses where Asian reptiles and plants can be observed. Each visit is a surprise as several exhibitions are also offered at different times of the year. You can enjoy this park all day long and also enjoy guided tours, family activities, or even choose to take a family walk at your leisure.
In the evening, the beautiful village of Anduze will welcome you with calm and before leaving, I advise you to soak up our excellent local cuisine by stopping at the restaurant La Ferme de Cornadel, a top-of-the-range family establishment with local produce and character. Discreet and little known, this village is nevertheless worth the detour as it is home to the second homes of many stars and artists. You can therefore boast of having had a star holiday!
It would be a shame to pass through the Gard without visiting our emblematic monument, the Pont du Gard (Gard Bridge) At only 1 hour’s drive, I suggest you start the morning by stopping in our departmental capital, Nîmes. A beloved city of the Roman Empire, it is the pride of the locals since it was built centuries ago on the model of Rome (nothing less!) and was one of the most attractive and lively cities of the Empire due to its ideal position on the Via Domitia, which, like Little Guest two thousand years later, proposed an itinerary to join Italy to the Iberian Peninsula.
Start your quick visit in the historic centre, so that you can pose in front of its bullring and enhance your happiness by stopping in front of Nimeño II, the bullfighter who once made the city famous. The Square House, a hexastyle Roman temple built in the first century, is less than a ten-minute walk from the bullring and is also worth a visit: today it is no longer dedicated to imperial worship, but it remains the best preserved temple in the Roman world, and you can still pose in front of its steps! You can then enjoy the many prestigious restaurants where you can taste the city’s specialities, from cod brandade to our excellent taurine meat.
If the city enchants you to the point of wanting to extend the morning, you can always visit the Museum of Romanity opposite the Nîmes Centre railway station, or enjoy a beautiful walk in the Jardins de la Fontaine, mythical Roman gardens which are still today overhung by magnificent ancient statues and of which no one knows the origin of the source that watered its canals.
You can then go by road to the Pont du Gard site, and choose if you prefer to visit the museum linked to the site which will explain the genius of the Romans who, through this aqueduct, brought water to the heart of our city of Nîmes, take a canoe trip, or just enjoy a swim in the river. My tip: swimming in the river is different from fine sandy beaches! Don’t forget your trainers!
It is then time to head for the Hérault and the Mas de Thau, which owes its name to the nearby pond. Still in our beautiful Camargue, between lavender and vineyards, it will delight you with its proximity to the Mediterranean Sea. Close to the beaches of Sète and Marseillan, it will be synonymous with idleness after a busy week. You will also be close to the cities of Montpellier, Béziers, Narbonne, and Carcassonne.
For breakfast, take advantage of our regional pastries offered by the hotel, then, why not, of the babysitting service or the mini-club of the establishment to organize a relaxing day for lovers? On the agenda: relaxation for two at the Spa, exceptional access to the private beach, aperitif at the bar then dinner at the restaurant offered by the hotel, after a busy day. What’s more, this hotel is equipped with a cinema to complete your evening with your lover. Just like at home!
Whether you choose the hotel’s private beach or one of the many beaches in this characterful region, make the most of this day to relax, play with your family, swim in the Mediterranean Sea and breathe in the sea air. Don’t forget buoys, sunscreen, but also pretty outfits and colourful swimwear.
If you want to discover the surroundings, we recommend the small port town of Marseillan, which also borders the Thau Lagoon. Unlike many tourist port towns, the old Marseillan is characteristic of the region and is therefore very pleasant.
Very famous, this water park was the first one inaugurated in Europe in 1983! The day will therefore be dedicated to games, and also to thrills. Located in Agde in the Hérault and not far from your hotel, you will be able to enjoy many attractions for the youngest, but also for thrill seekers (they are classified as such, in three levels, color-coded to help parents). Changing tables are available as well as sun loungers. As a bonus, you can benefit from a « fast pass« .
After this hectic day, a relaxing evening at the Mas will be greatly appreciated!
Resolutely student and young, the capital of the former Languedoc Roussillon is worth a visit. As such, you will be able to take advantage of a prime shopping spot, the Odysseum open-air shopping centre, where everyone can buy accessories or missing beach dresses. This shopping centre features many restaurants for all budgets (and tastes!) but also a cinema, an ice rink, and an aquarium!
You can then take the tram and easily arrive in the city centre, to discover Montpellier’s Arc de Triomphe, its small streets and the mythical Place de la Comédie.
For the last day of our itinerary, it is important to rest and stay close to the hotel. That is why we suggest you to visit the surroundings of the Mas de Thau.
Our favourite place is the Bessilles Departmental Park, a small jewel of nature where you can enjoy an exceptional setting before leaving. We also advise you to stop and admire the Saint-André Church, a 14th century historical monument.
In the evening, why not take advantage one last time of the private beach before returning home?
Of course, the region remains vast and rich and there are still many places I would have liked to share with you! To find out more, don’t hesitate to read our article on Provence with your family! We hope that you will enjoy your stay and that it will be just like my beautiful region: atypical, welcoming, and above all unforgettable!*
Have a nice road trip and happy holidays!
Rachel, 24 years old, passionate about history and travel, Occitan expatriate in Flanders