The first holiday with our youngest daughter, Cheeky, was a fairly ambitious one. We went on a road trip from London to Provence in July 2016. Our travels took us to three cities, around hilltop villages and we drove amongst the bright sunflower and lavender fields. It ended it in the mountain valleys of the French Alps where the Tour de France was taking place.
With a six-week-old baby and a three-year-old daughter, it was challenging at times, especially with a detour to Italy thrown in at the last minute to meet up with friends. But if you fancy a road trip to Provence, grab a cuppa, and get some inspiration with our 21 day itinerary.
Day 1: London – Troyes
We took the EuroTunnel to Calais and stayed overnight in Troyes. The medieval city on the edge of the Champagne region in Northeastern France, is marked by its half-timbered housing.
We got there fairly late and headed for something to eat in the old town. The city was in good spirits as France was playing its Football World Cup semi-final against Germany. They won! Car hoots of jubilation sounded out as we settled down to bed.
Accommodation: Le Mercure, Troyes. This was our second stay at the hotel following our trip the year before. It served us well for the night and had secure parking for our car. We had a large room and the hotel is a short walk to the town centre.
Day 2: Lyon
We were originally planning to stay in the gastronomic city of Lyon for a three nights. Realising our friends were in Italy at the same time, we decided to squeeze a trip to the Marche region of Italy (yes, this was probably a bit crazy). It meant we had only one night in Lyon. I’d recommend staying three days to do it justice.
We drove to Lyon airport which took around 3 and a half hours from Troyes. We left our vehicle in the car park and got the train to our hotel. We stayed in another Le Mercure hotel which was right next to the train station. We left the next morning to Rome.
Our afternoon in Lyon was spent sampling some of its famous food and looking around its old town. It wasn’t nearly enough time so we must return one day.
Accommodation: Hotel Mercure Lyon Centre Saxe Lafayette. It was next to the train station so proved very handy. We had a spacious room and Mercure is great with families. It was a bit of a walk to the Old Town but the city has good metro and bus links.
Days 3 – 7: Rome and Cesolo, Italy
We flew from Lyon to Rome where we experienced the chaos of Rome airport. It really is the most disorganised airport I’ve visited – and there have been a few!
We spent a lot of time trying to find the car hire desk. Turned out it was in another building. Once located, we joined a large queue of similarly frustrated travellers. We quickly discovered (before too much waiting) that our company was somewhere completely different. After much wandering around, we found a shuttle bus which took us to the off-site car hire desk.
Of course the vehicle was far smaller than we’d expected (they always are, aren’t they?). Despite leaving some bags in our car at Lyon airport, we only just squeezed in. I sat in the back with the girls. The pushchair got the front passenger seat.
Three hours later we arrived at the villa in Cesolo, a remote village in the Marche region. As we were only there for four nights, we didn’t get the chance to explore. In fact, I didn’t actually leave the villa!
It was good to relax (as much as you can with a baby) and spend time with friends. There was never a dull moment with 20 adults and 14 children! The kids loved playing together and the inflatable swan was a winner too (although sadly didn’t survive the whole holiday)!
Accommodation: Via Della Villa, Cesolo, Marche
Day 7 – Lyon Airport
After four days in the middle of nowhere I was ready to explore again! We got a flight back to Lyon airport and stayed overnight at the NH Airport hotel. It provided us with a large room with great views of aeroplanes. It served us well as somewhere to rest our heads for the night before beginning our Provence travels.
Day 8 – 10 Joucas, Provence
Our first destination in Provence was Joucas – in the Luberon region. Our hotel looked over the beautiful valley filled with vineyards and picturesque hilltop villages.
Although Joucas is small without much activity, it was a great base to explore the region. During our three-night stay we visited the hilltop villages of Gordes and Roussillon, famous for its red clay rocks.
We also took a trip to the quaint town L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue which was around a 30 minute drive. Famous for its waterwheels and antique markets, we found some great gelato shops too!
Accommodation: We stayed at the Mas des Blanches Herbes – a luxury boutique hotel overlooking the valley. We had a large room with amazing views from our balcony where we could enjoy an evening meal without disturbing the children. They also have a babysitting service.
Mrs T had a huge double bed in the living room and Cheeky slept in the Koodai travel bassinet in our room. We spent a bit of time at the hotel’s swimming pool. As the property is located up high, it can get a bit cool and breezy but with a baby that suited us.
One night, we even managed to eat at its Michelin-starred restaurant while our daughter slept in the pram and our three-year-old joined us. Cheeky awoke just as we were finishing our desserts. Result!
Days 11 – 12: Avignon and Uzes
Our next destination was Uzes, an hour and a half drive from Joucas. En route, we stopped at the city of Avignon where we stumbled upon its theatre festival. The city was buzzing and packed with street performers. Posters were stuck on walls, lamp posts or any spare space available while the sounds of musicians filled the air and dancers and actors entertained.
The Gothic Popes Palace (Palais des Papes) dominates the city and is a magnificent structure from the outside. Construction began in 1252 and the palace became an important centre of western Christianity in the 14th century. Seven popes resided in the palace.
The interior of the palace is very austere – which was a little bit of disappointment – but it is worth taking a look.
After seeing the palace and checking out some of Avignon, we headed to Uzes. I instantly fell in love with the medieval town, characterised by its maze of cobbled streets. It’s a compact but buzzing place where we could easily envisage ourselves assimilating into local life. We even lingered in estate agents looking at properties.
Accommodation: Our Relais and Chateux hotel, La Maison d’Uzes, was excellent with a Michelin-starred restaurant to boot. It’s an old building with lots of stairs so we had to leave the buggy at reception. Our room wasn’t huge but suited us. Mrs T had a small bed at the end of ours and the hotel gave her a cute teddy as a gift.
Days 13 – 15: Castillon du Gare
Our next stop provided some chill out pool time – much to my daughters delight. The medieval village of Castillon-du-Gard was quiet but there were a couple of good restaurants. Wherever you go in Provence, you can be sure of quality food and wine.
From Castillon-du-Gard, we took a day trip to the Roman Aqueduct, le Pont du Gard. The 50km structure was built half way through the 1st century to supply the city of Nimes with water. Standing at the top you feel humbled to be upon something so old.
Down below people paddled, swam and dived off the rocks into the river Gardon.
Our ticket to the aqueduct included parking, the museum and a few other activities but with a baby in tow we only managed the main attraction.
Accommodation: I loved staying at Le Vieux Castillon, a small boutique spa hotel. It is in a beautiful setting with excellent views and a gastronomic restaurant on its large terrace. It also has a communal courtyard with places to have a drink or read. With only 33 rooms it’s a quiet place to relax.
Days 16 – 19: Morzine
Rather ambitiously we headed to Morzine in the Alps at the end of the break where we saw family and watched one of the final stages of the Tour de France. It was a four hour drive there from Castillon-du-Gard.
The actual race goes in the blink of an eye. Bradley Wiggins zoomed past in just a few seconds. As it was raining, we took refuge in a local pub and watched from its terrace. Cheeky slept through a lot of it in her KangaWrap.
Prior to the race there’s plenty to keep children (and adults) amused with floats driving through the route, throwing out goodies which are quickly snapped up by enthusiastic kids.
Accommodation: Private villa
Day 20: Beaune
The wine capital of Burgundy, Beaune, was the stop-off for our journey home to London. It took around three and a half hours to get there from Morzine. We had a lazy Sunday wandering around Beaune (pronounced Bone).
There are a few places to visit in Beaune (which we didn’t) such as the museum, The Hospices de Beaune, housed inside the Gothic 15th century former hospital. Every November it holds a large wine auction. There’s plenty of places to sample the region’s wines in Beaune as well as wine tours if you can linger for longer. We enjoyed sampling the local tipple in the sunshine, taking home some bottles of Burgundy from a wine shop called La Petite Cave.
Accommodation Le Mercure. A tried and tested hotel brand, we had another large room. It was a little walk to the centre but good value and even had a swimming pool (which we didn’t have time to use).
Day 21 – Beaune-London
The following day we had a long seven hour drive back to London. Our trip, which spanned almost three weeks, took us to two countries and we clocked up 2,000 miles. It wasn’t without its challenges with young children but we thoroughly enjoyed the scenery, food and wine. We fell in love with the region all over again and are sure to go again soon. Have you been to Provence? Where would you recommend we visit?
For more detailed posts about our Provence visit, take a look at the following.
A brief liaison with Lyon
Travel with a six-week-old baby
France’s Avignon festival in pictures
Visiting historic Troyes
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