Mmmm, I still have the buttery taste of Alex’s Kouign Amann in my mouth… Although we both seem to remember eating Kouign Amann on our last holiday in Brittany (when we visited Vannes, on the beautiful Golfe de Morbihan), strangely enough, neither of us particularly remembers the cake itself. But the homemade version the other day was so delicious that I already announced that I would like a Kouign Amann for my birthday! Or maybe I can find another occasion, as I do not want to wait that long – I am always open to suggestions!
But now back to our road trips. The other day I presented you a two-week road trip through the north of France, in the footsteps of Asterix on his Tour de France in “Asterix and the Banquet”. At the end of this trip you must have had a table full of regional culinary specialities: Mentchikoffs from Chartres, Kouign Amann from Brittany, Calvados and Camembert from Rouen, Bêtises de Cambrai from…. well, Cambrai, champagne from Reims, quiche lorraine and mirabelles from Metz, tarte flambée from Colmar, mustard from Dijon and ham and mushrooms from Paris.
So this time we are travelling to the south of France. Like last time, I will follow Asterix’s route, but I will also add other places of interest known for a particular speciality. Also this route is designed for a journey of two weeks. As a reminder, you will find below the original route of Asterix’s Tour de France:
- Starting point: Gallic village
- Rotamagus = Rouen
- Lutetia = Paris
- Camaracum = Cambrai
- Durocortorum = Reims
- Dividorum = Metz
- Lugdunum = Lyon
- Nicae = Nice
- Massilia = Marseille
- Tolosa = Toulouse
- Aginum = Agen
- Burdigala = Bordeaux
- Gesoscribate = Le Conquet
- End: Gallic village
- Duration: 13 days plus arrival and homeward journey, hence 14 nights
- Start: Lyon
- End: Lyon
- Distance in total: 2.034 km = 1.264 mi
- Themes: food, culture, historic places, Asterix
View the route on Google Maps.
I have thought long and hard about where best to start and end the road trip through the south of France. In the end, I decided on Lyon, because there is a big airport, the train connection is good and access by car from most of France’s neighbouring countries is more or less convenient.
This time, by the way, I also decided not to draw up a plan linking the route through the north and the one through the south. If you do not want to drive too many kilometres a day, you will have to drive almost every day for four weeks, which for me, personally, would no longer be a vacation. You would have to include at least one, better two weeks of break, but a trip planned for six weeks seemed rather unrealistic to me. Anyway, if you are interested in such a planning, please let me know and I will create one!
Saturday: Arrival in Lyon = Lugdunum
The first day is dedicated to getting to and arriving in Lyon. If you have some time left on that day, you can, for example, visit the districts west of the river Saône, as they are located a bit up a hill and therefore you will have a nice view over the city from there. The Basilica de Fourvière and the park Jardin des curiosités (also known as the Jardin de Montréal or Jardin du Belvédère) are said to be ideal for this.
Sunday: Start of the road trip with the drive from Lyon to Sarlat-la-Canéda (407 km = 253 mi)
The first stage is unfortunately quite long and a bit twisty at the end, but it is worth it. Sarlat-la-Canéda in the Périgord is a picturesque village that has often been used as a filming location, for example for Lasse Hallström’s Chocolat with Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, or for the fairytale adaptation EverAfter with Drew Barrymore and Anjelica Huston.
It is well worth taking a walk through the medieval village and visiting one of the many restaurants. However, I have to admit that I was a bit unlucky in choosing the restaurant – the whole next day I threw up about once every hour during a six-hour drive, it felt very much like a mild case of food poisoning…
But of course, this should not stop you from tasting the many culinary specialities for which the Périgord is famous, such as foie gras in particular. You can buy them about everywhere in the many speciality shops.
Monday: Drive to Bordeaux = Burdigala (210 km = 130 mi)
The next day we drive to Bordeaux. Although it feels like I know about every place along France’s Atlantic coast, I have actually never been to Bordeaux. But now that I have done some research, the city on the Garonne is clearly on my to-do list.
Since you are travelling by car anyway today, you can take advantage of this to visit a winery near Bordeaux and taste different wines. If you want to go straight to the city, you can still stick to the topic of wine and visit the wine museum Cité du Vin, which looks very impressive from an architectural point of view.
Today you can also buy one of the two specialities that Asterix from Bordeaux has brought with him: Wine, of course. Interestingly enough, Asterix chooses “Burdigala blanc”, i.e. white Bordeaux wine, although at least I would have always understood Bordeaux to mean red wine. So I asked my brother, an avowed wine and Asterix connoisseur, for advice on why Asterix would bring white wine instead of red. According to his research, until the 1970s, Bordeaux was indeed better known for its white wines than for its red wines, and the French original “Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix” upon which this journey is based, dates from 1963 in a first version, and the official album from 1965.
Tuesday: Bordeaux = Burdigala
After at least two days of car journeys, we now take a short break to visit Bordeaux in peace and quiet. Here, of course, you can take a walk through the city, whose 18th century architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Darwin site also seems to be worth a visit, converted former barracks which today offer space for all kinds of alternative lifestyles, from the largest bistro-canteen in Europe with organic and zero-waste products to large street art walls and a skater park. I would also be interested in the art installation Bassin des Lumières, for which well-known works of art are projected onto the walls of a large underwater base.
If you do not want to risk missing it the next day, you can also buy the second speciality that Asterix brings from Bordeaux today, namely oysters.
Wednesday: Drive to Agen = Aginum (141 km = 87 mi, detour to the sea not included)
The drive to Agen is not very long, so a small diversion to the Atlantic coast is worthwhile. Here, for example, it is worth making a trip to the Dune du Pilat, the largest shifting sand dune in Europe.
Agen is primarily known for its dried prunes, the Pruneaux d’Agen. These are also the reason for Asterix to visit this town.
Otherwise, the most important sight in Agen seems to be the cathedral of Saint-Caprais, which is also part of the UNESCO World Heritage. In addition to that, a number of other churches and historic buildings are worth seeing in the city centre. A walk along the Garonne river is also said to be worthwhile.
More information in English about the sights in Agen can be found in the blog SoloSophie.
Thursday: Drive to Toulouse = Tolosa (116 km = 72 mi)
The next day we continue to Toulouse. On the way, you can visit Villascopia, fitting to our Asterix trip. There, the ruins of a Gallo-Roman house are being used to take you on a time travel into the 4th century with the help of 3D projections.
Although I was about to move to Toulouse with my mother when I was a teenager, in the end I still have not been there, yet, but Alex has. Supposedly, it is the dream city of French pensioners as the climate is pleasant, the quality of life high and life quiet.
To get a first impression of Toulouse in the evening, it is best to stroll through the alleys of the old town from the Place du Capitol. The blog Love & Compass particularly recommends (in German) the streets Rue Saint-Rome, Rue de Taur, Rue Léon Gambetta and Rue de la Daurade.
Friday: Toulouse = Tolosa
Today is dedicated to the visit of the city of Toulouse. Because of the colour of the bricks often used there, Toulouse is also called the pink city.
Probably the most important sights of the city are the Basilica Saint-Sernin built in the 11th century, the Jacobin monastery Couvent des Jacobins and the Hôtel d’Assézat. It is also well worth walking along both the Garonne river and the famous Canal du Midi.
For those who like parks, the blog The Road Behind offers some nice tips, again in German, for example for visiting the Japanese Garden, the Jardin Raymond VI or the Jardin de Plantes.
Do not forget to buy one of the local specialities! Asterix brings sausage from Toulouse, the so-called Saucisse de Toulouse, a sausage twisted into a snail, which is only produced and sold here.
Saturday: Drive to Carcassonne = Carcaso (93 km = 58 mi)
The drive to Carcassonne is not very long, but still I recommend to leave early. The Cité de Carcassonne with its impressive medieval castle is worth a full day visit, but it is also one of the most visited sights in France and is accordingly overcrowded. At least that is what both Alex and I remember from our respective visits there. Therefore it is worthwhile to be there early to have some time to visit the Cité without too many people around.
This fortress, which is of course a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is particularly famous for its history as the most important city of the Cathars, as well as for its 3 km long defensive wall and 52 towers. In the Cité itself, apart from the small alleys, the basilica Saint-Nazaire, the Château Comtal and the city gates Porte Narbonnaise and Porte d’Aude are particularly famous.
It is not surprising that Carcassonne has also been used as a filming location on several occasions. In addition to numerous French movies, such as in particular “Les Visiteurs“, a classic of French humour (no commentary on this) with Jean Reno, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” with Kevin Costner is probably the best known film on an international level.
Ever since Alex and I have been thinking about this trip and brainstorming about beautiful places and delicious culinary specialities, Alex has been dreaming of finally cooking (and eating) a cassoulet, a Languedoc speciality.
Sunday: Drive to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer = Sancta Maria de Ratis (206 km = 128 mi)
Today we go to the sea! After we were already on the wilder Atlantic coast near Bordeaux the other day, it is now the turn of the calm Mediterranean Sea. Our destination is the popular tourist destination Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue.
Depending on your mood, you can either use the day to relax on the beach or to explore the Camargue. The Camargue is a marshland that has been declared a nature reserve. It is particularly famous for its wildlife, as it is home to white wild horses, pink and white flamingoes, black bulls and numerous birds. To see flamingoes and birds, you can take a walk through the Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau bird park.
Obligatory souvenir of this stop is of course salt: the famous Fleur de Sel de Camargue.
Monday: Drive to Nice = Nicae via Marseille = Massilia (324 km = 202 mi)
As Marseille is not necessarily known as a sightseeing hotspot and there are so many places in the area that I, personnally, would prefer to see, I only planned a short stopover for Marseille. Here, you can for example have a little walk at the old harbour (Vieux Port) or through the district Le Panier and have lunch in one of the numerous restaurants and cafés.
The culinary speciality here is the fish soup bouillabaisse, although a soup will admittedly be difficult to transport… So perhaps it is better to eat it on the spot!
If you have a little more time, you can also visit the Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde, located on a hill from where you will have a great view. In order to get up there you can go by car or take the bus at the harbour.
After this break in Marseille you will continue your journey to Nice. Unfortunately, the detour to Nice is not very practical, as one has to drive almost the same way there and then back again later. But as Nice and the Côte d’Azur are of course very worth seeing and part of Asterix’s route, I decided to keep it in the planning.
Tuesday: Nice = Nicae
Now a quieter day for sightseeing. In Nice, you will of course have to stroll along the Promenade des Anglais (in the Asterix comic it is called Promenade des Bretons), past the listed Hôtel Negresco. Unfortunately, the beach there consists mainly of pebbles and is therefore not necessarily inviting for a day at the beach.
In the city centre, the old town, the squares Place Rossetti and Place Masséna and the Promenade du Paillon with its refreshing water games are particularly worthy of mention. Moreover, the Colline du Château is not only worth a visit for its views.
You can find a useful description in German of the various sights in the blog Urban Meanderer.
As a culinary speciality, salade niçoise is on the menu here!
Wednesday: Drive to Aix-en-Provence = Colonia Aquae Sextiae Salluviorum via St. Tropez = Heraclea-Caccaliera (232 km = 144 mi)
As I said, you now have to drive back a large part of the same route to get to Aix-en-Provence.
To vary the route a bit, you can make a detour to the famous St. Tropez. In the harbour there you will find private yachts as big as hotels of which one cannot help but be amazed. In this large village or small town, known since the 1950s as a popular holiday destination for the jet set, you must of course also taste the local speciality: the Tarte Tropézienne, a very tasty brioche with orange blossom water and a thick layer of cream.
So after this stop you will continue your journey to Aix-en-Provence. In the city of Paul Cézanne, you can visit his studio as well as the cathedral of Saint-Saveur, and of course stroll through the small streets. A good overview with practical information in German can be found in the blog Sommertage. From a culinary point of view, Aix-en-Provence is best known for its Calissons d’Aix, a diamond-shaped sweet made from almonds, candied melons and lots of sugar syrup. You can also buy the famous Herbes de Provence here.
Thursday: Drive to Lyon = Lugdunum via Montélimar (305 km = 190 mi)
Today is the last trip, but unfortunately it is a bit longer. For a lunch break, for example, I have included a stopover in Montélimar. The little town does not seem to be one of France’s highlights from a touristic point of view, but I just could not resist: The Nougat de Montélimar is simply too delicious to skip it! But apart from that, especially the Château des Adhémar looks like it is definitely worth a visit.
Afterwards, you will drive on to Lyon and, if necessary, you can return the rental car in the evening.
Friday: Lyon = Lugdunum
You can now use the last day of your vacation to visit Lyon. You already got a first impression when you arrived. If you would like to end your trip with a quiet day, you can take a walk through the Parc de la Tête d’Or, for example, which is also home to a zoo free of charge.
For a slightly different kind of city walk, you can also visit the various districts on the tracks of the so-called traboules. Traboules are small passages and stairs that were once used by silk weavers in particular to shorten transport routes. By the way, these paths help Asterix to lose the Romans! You can find suggestions for walks in different districts on a French Website dedicated to the Traboules de Lyon.
Of course, you still have to try the local speciality! Asterix brings sausages and quenelles from Lyon, dumplings mixed with fish, poultry or meat.
Saturday: Homeward journey from Lyon = Lugdunum
Time to go home.
Which tour appeals to you more, the one through the north or the one through the south? And which speciality do you find the most delicious?