I was unable to blog during the last two weeks as I was lucky enough to experience my second time in the South of France. Last year I was in Valréas, in the mountainous region about an hour and a half away from Marseille or the coast. This time was spent in two parts, the first week in Aix en Provence and the second week in Hyères.
Aix en Provence is a university city about 19 miles north of Marseille and full of tourism in the summer due to its perfect climate. The city center is a hub for architecture, culture, dining, and shopping. With 2 other couples, we booked a home about 3 km from the center. The house was equipped with things to do including a pool with tiki bar and firewood stove, plenty of outdoor seating for many aperos, bocce (pétanque) arena, ping pong, and bicycles.
I also got some running and yoga in, thankfully due to the fact that I am signed up for a half marathon at the end of September. Otherwise, I would have eaten and drunk my way through vacation…oh wait, I did that too.
Having some fun at the house (thanks to Sam for some of the photo credits 😉):
We did venture off and explore a bit a couple of days. One day we went to TNX wake park in Peyrolles. It’s a lake with a cable system to allow you to make rounds around the lake on either a kneeboard, water skis or wakeboard. I have only been wakeboarding behind a boat one time in my life over 12 years ago but managed to get upright. So I was a bit nervous about using a pulling cable. Somehow with a bit of luck and some good balance, I managed to get up. The turns were a different story but I had fun and was sore for days after.
Another day we drove into Marseille. It was my first time in the city. It’s a bit rough in some parts and not the cleanest city but when we made it to the old port (vieux-port) you almost forgot about the negatives. We had lunch by the port with great seafood and entertained by street performers before taking a 3-hour boat tour of the beautiful Calanques along the seaboard.
One thing I learned about the south is the favorite apero is a drink called Pastis. You will find only two brands (Pastis 51 or Ricard) and people are loyal to only one or the other. It’s a black licorice taste so you have to have a specific palate, I do not enjoy this flavor but when in the south of France…
Our second week brought us an hour and a half southeast to meet up with 2 other couples, one who has a small beach home nearby Plage de l’Almanerre in Hyères. We ended up camping on his property and enjoyed running, hiking, swimming, my first time stand up paddleboarding, and beach life for the week.
Several days we got out to see other southern beaches. One being Plage d’Estagnol, once voted one of the best beaches on the French Riviera. Here is why:
There are three islands off of Hyères. One day we took a quick ferry to visit the Île de Porquerolles. Plenty of hiking trails, beaches, and bars, it’s almost impossible to have a bad time here.
When I thought I had seen it all, thinking how much different could any of the rest of the beaches be, we went to Plage de Layet and home to Chez Jo, famous to the best Bouillabaisse around. First, The beach is a nudist beach. Second, you need to make reservations well in advance for the restaurant (which thankfully traveling with a local, we had) and two days advanced notice that you will be eating the Bouillabaisse (fish stew) as it takes a day to prepare. As the rosé and limoncello flowed freely, I think this was one of my favorite days on my trip.
Needless to say, the vacation was a success on exploration, gastronomic feasts, good times with friends, and full of sun and relaxation. Now it’s back to real life and work so I can save for my next adventure (which will be London this weekend to visit my friend, Dorothy)!