Plan Your Trip – South of France
Hi everyone! My brother and I took our parents on a once in a lifetime trip to the South of France in June. I want to share what I learned from this travel adventure.
Here’s how to start, where to stay, what to pack, where to eat, villages to visit, how to get around and my woulda coulda shoulda list.
How to Start Planning
Planning an expensive trip is exciting, overwhelming, and even stressful. (Extremely stressful if the US passport agency tells you they’re not sure if they can get your passport in time 😉 )
- Use Pinterest to pin your favorite travel blog posts.
- Consult a concierge — I love using my American Express Concierge Service.
- Go to a trusted source for ideas of dream-like places to stay (depending on your context) — I start with Relais & Chateaux
Context matters. For us, the main priority was making sure our parents had a comfortable and pleasant experience. So here’s how we pulled this trip together with a small amount of time and a pretty generous budget.
Our context– here’s what prompted this trip
My brother John and I took our parents for a grownup vacation. John had been invited to one of his best friend’s wedding in the southwest of Germany. I was also itching to travel. And on top of that, we remembered that our mother had always wanted to see the lavender fields of Provence. So why not make all these come together?
That being said, taking your adult parents on a trip as a grownup was something I hadn’t done before. At times it felt like a complete role reversal. In the past my parents planned everything, and I felt little responsibility. This time I wanted them to be as comfortable as possible, and we really wanted them to enjoy this experience. They are getting much older, and the truth is this could be our last time traveling together to Europe. So we wanted it to be extra special.While this was an amazing experience, there are some things we could have — and should have– done differently.
My woulda-coulda-shoulda list
Looking back here’s what I wish we’d done differently and what worked well.
First of all, we should have rented a car. Everyone says you should do this for the south of France, but my dad didn’t want to drive, and he never “likes being in a car unless he is driving it. :)” And we’d had a pleasant experience with our car rental from the Zurich airport to Bannholtz, Germany. But in France, we used a driving service along with a tour guide. They were both nice in that none of us had to stress over the French roads & parking but they were pricy.
Secondly, leave time to explore unexpected places. On the last day, I discovered we were close to this beautiful tiny town. Below is Joucas, which is about a mile and a half from Le Phebus. It has all kinds of lovely patia and texture with french country architecture. Looking back, we could have left more time for exploring the charming villages close to where we staying.
Third, I wish we had stayed in Gordes. In a place such as Gordes, you still have the quaint small-town feel, but amenities such as restaurants are far more easily accessible by foot. A village-like Gordes has everything to offer, and we wouldn’t have needed to have drivers as often.
Favorite Villages to Visit
For the small-town feel, visit Gordes, Lacoste, and Roussillon. An ideal big city visit would be Aix or Avignon, but whatever you do, leave room for discovering unexpected gems like Joucas. See just below.
Where to Stay –
when your parents are high maintenance, just kidding mom 🙂
If you’re a foodie that loves a luxury boutique hotel and you feel the urge to splurge, it never hurts to start with Relais & Chateaux properties. I usually begin by looking at their website to get ideas for a place to stay. Did you catch this post from our favorite Hotel in Hawaii? I loved their private aerial yoga classes.
As great as my experience at Le Phebus was, I was excited to learn of other luxury hotel networks for our next dream vacation, such as “The Leading Hotels of the World.”
Staying at a place such as La Bastide de Gordes in Gordes would have been a dream. We had dinner there twice on the terrace with stunning views. The pictures below are in Gordes at La Bastide.
Where we stayed while eating our way through France
Staying at Le Phebus & Spa was great. They had a world-class chef, and so my parents were thrilled. The pool was also very refreshing and peaceful, and our rooms were spacious and absolutely beautiful. I also loved the decor at Le Phebus.
Where to Eat – for a luxurious treat
- Bistrot le 5 — This place is off the beaten path of tourists, typically frequented by locals. As for what to order, I’d go with steak and then ganache for dessert. The French master desserts…OMG
- La Bastide de Gordes in Gordes — the view is stunning, everything is absolutely delicious and the staff is extra friendly.
- Le Phebus & Spa our hotel — dessert’s the best part, so save room. However, you also get the dessert tree even if you just order decaf. On top of this, there’s a tray of sweets – the macaroons were amazing. This surprised me because I don’t even like macaroons in the US
When’s the best time of the year to visit the South of France
Late June is supposed to be ideal.
One disappointment was that the lavender fields were not quite in bloom, even though they usually are toward the middle or end of June. France happened to be experiencing a horrendous heatwave…what luck! Although we did see one or two that were well on their way, none had the wow effect we’d hoped for.
How to get around… Get a Tourguide, a Driver, or a Rental Car
How to get around is tricky in the south of France. Parking is also a challenge. As I mentioned earlier we decided to use driving services, thinking it would be easier for my parents. If you’re looking for a driver, use this service, and ask for Clément.
The one diamond in the rough was this field on the way back from Avignon, thanks to our tour guide Flore — look her up on trip advisor.
What to Pack –
My Mom loves wrinkle-free Travel Clothes. Check out some of her favorites here on Amazon or at Chico’s.
My dad and brother really enjoy these Untuckit shirts.
As for me, I’m all about neutrals. See the links below for this summer’s most worn travel looks. For starters, I love this statement top by Ganni.
This post has taken me much longer than I thought to pull together 😉 We’re working on part 2, which will feature our time in the Riviera.
Thanks for visiting! I hope these references help. I’d love to hear from you.
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August 3, 2019 @ 1:20 pm
High maintenance Mom thanks you for bringing back many special memories! I also think that if you plan to tour cities you need tour guides rather than drivers. You could use drivers if you have a tour guide to meet you in the city.
August 3, 2019 @ 1:27 pm
Thank you 🙂 That’s a good point.
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