Bienvenue! Je suis perdu. Je m’appelle Rodica. Voulez-vous coucher…no, no wrong phrase.
I am an adventure lover so sometimes I take chances, get my car on the road and make an unplanned trip become an awesome experience.
That’s exactly what I did when I decided to taste the French vibe again through a seven days road trip through the south of France. Here’s how we did it and how you can do it too.
Although I have been to France quite a few times, Paris is one of those cities I can always get back to. It’s the city where friends, architecture and culture make you believe there’s so many things to learn that you should definitely try to get the most out of it, no matter how tired you are.
So I started with convincing two friends in Paris to join me, charged my batteries, hired a car, bought some reasonably warm clothes and we started off the adventure that is now on my top five list of things I’ve done in the past 10 years.
How to make the best of a French road trip
We wanted to experience both cities and countryside so we drove all the way through to Lyon, stopped there for one night, where people have recommended us to go to Saint Etienne.
The challenge of being on the road with just a map and without a fixed itinerary is what I believe makes people who travel adventurers and if you sometimes like being more like that, you’ll see things start happening for a reason.
In Saint Etienne we went to La Rotonde, a place to go if you’re passionate about science and art. This is where Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez Monastery and Museum of Modern Arts gave us a bit of both.
On our way from one to another, we made a new friend Pierre.
He was from Saint Juste Saint Rambert. He was heading back to his village and yes, you got it, this is how we sorted our next destination!
Getting with the locals in Saint Juste Saint Rambert
That was a fantastic chance for us to get to know more about the French family life and values.
Pierre had a great family with two beautiful kids. He moved there to get away from the city life a few years ago and still thinks that the village offers him what he always wanted – to work with small communities on cultural projects and contribute to communities’ development around the world.
Things to do in a small French village: camp fire and family barbecues, tree climbing and a short trip with Pierre’s private helicopter.
Easy enough to do, maybe except the helicopter part, but it’s worth a shot at the rest.
South is the way: Avignon
Our way to the south continued with Avignon.
The city has fantastic scenery and stories dating back in the 14th century. You can read the story of the bridge, the song and some other practical info on Marvellous Provence.
If you’re not familiar with those, you should go on a walking tour. It was one of the best ones I did as we ended up dancing on the Avignon Bridge and learning the famous “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” (On the Avignon Bridge) and the Saint Bénézet legend.
We looked like this guy:
The funny thing is that I have never imagined myself doing this in a completely new city, on a song in French that I actually got to sing all the way to Marseille and Nice.
Even if you’re not a road trip type of person, I can guarantee that no story would ever convince you that this is exciting.
You have to live it!
Unplanned, unforeseen and in the moment!
And as long as you have the right friends with you, it is a brilliant way to get some adventure in your life.
Stuck on the road to Cannes
So my next challenge was to find my way around toward Nice and Cannes. Driving is one of my passions and getting lost on the coast of France was probably the tipping point of our road trip experience.
We were left without fuel and this made it even funnier. Staying on the side of the road with an empty bottle was the first thing that came to our minds so we’ve done it! Figured if it works in movies it can work for us too.
Music on with funny moves and within one hour we got the fuel we needed to get to Cannes. We spent the night in our car, as it was too late to continue driving, so we even got to explore Cannes by night.
As you already know, Cannes is a city where when Cannes Film Festival is on, high-class, fashionable outfits are all around you, not to mention red carpets and famous actors walking past.
Lesson learned: Have a posh dress on every road trip through France, just in case you get to see Tom Cruise and want to take pictures without wearing your travel jumpsuit 🙂
Isn’t this Nice! Get it? Get it?
In Nice we were lucky enough to have some friends host us for the last two nights. It was the time and place to go for drinks, bars and great food and most importantly, to get some sun on the beach while sipping a brilliant cocktail along with some really good French music.
For more on the bars there is a great article on the nightlife in Nice by the Telegraph. Worth a read if you want to be prepared. We winged it and went to Le Ghost and La Suite. Not overly priced but you are in Nice so be prepared.
Would I do it again?
My experience on the road in South of France was filled with great stories, people and places that could not be captured by a camera.
Both sides of the trip – Saint Just Saint Rambert and Saint Etienne, as well as Nice and Cannes have offered us both the city and countryside vibe along with the history and landscape of the places you can see while driving through.
It is definitely an itinerary to remember if you’re planning a road trip to south of France. It is something that must be done.
All in all, don’t plan in detail, just make sure you’ve got your friends, a car, good mood, great music and be ready to feel the adventure! So yes, I would do it again a million times over.
Have you danced on the Avignon Bridge? Or have you found any other adventures worth doing on a road trip?
Don’t be shy and let me know in the comments. It’s easy as well.
On every road trip you need a kick ass playlist so make yours before departure. You have plenty of French songs to choose from here.
We were lucky and didn’t pay for accommodation but for those that don’t have that I suggest to look at homestay.com where you can pay as little as £28 per room per night with breakfast included for an apartment near the sea for Nice.
Alternatively, check out airbnb.com to rent an apartment. You might end up going for a combination of both.
I am usually a hostel fan but we were six and if you are a big group I find the above two options work best in terms of price and comfort.
We got a car from Car Hire Market and read a few of the posts on their blog to see how they are as a brand. Everything was sound and Talon from www.1dad1kid.com actually wrote for them so it’s defo worth checking out. You can read his post here and see his itinerary of a road trip in France.
Food wise, we cooked a bit and/or were fed by friends. #winner for our pockets.
We all know this type of road trip is not budget friendly but you can make it if you have the right info.
If you have any additional advice on how to not spend a lot and sell a liver to do this trip, I would love to hear from you in the comments.