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A tour for the soul through the delights of Southern France
In the south of France every corner leads you to classic art, history and cuisine. Work your way from east to west and go from the glittering waters of Nice to the riverside majesty of Bordeaux. As you travel some of the world's best wine regions don't feel guilty for that second glass of Provence rosé or St Émilion. Walk the cobbled streets and smell the lavender in the air as the pace of life slows lovingly in La belle France.
Explore Southern France
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The French Riviera has been a mecca of glitz and glamor for centuries, and Nice remains its heart. Stroll past the ornate stone balconies of the Promenade des Anglais, built by the English escaping their native weather by coming to Nice in the 19th century. End a day in front of the sparkling Mediterranean sea with a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, watching the yachts anchoring in the harbor.
Avignon was once one of the most important cities in the world. During the 14th century the seat of the pope moved to Avignon, making it the center of the Catholic universe. Wonder the papal palace, whose fortress-like walls are a far cry from the pomp of the Vatican. Look down onto the Saint-Bénézet bridge—destroyed in 1226, it has never been rebuilt, making it the world’s most famous half-bridge.
Drive west through the Languedoc hills to Carcassonne, a fortified town whose 53 towers have dominated these hills for centuries. Jump back in time as you enter through the Narbonne Gate, designed to slow down invaders—although nowadays you don’t have to worry about them firing arrows at travelers. Head to the Place Carnot for a hearty cassoulet stew, just as they have done for centuries in this medieval sanctuary.
Head south to the foothills of the Pyrenees, where you’ll arrive at the holy town of Lourdes. The waters in the spring here are said to have healing properties after a local teenager named Bernadette Soubirous saw the Virgin Mary appear in a grotto. Take part in the vigil held in front of the Basilica, where crowds sing Ave Maria by candlelight. Whatever your faith, you’ll be moved by this experience.
Biarritz has long been a playground for Europe’s upper crust, attracted by the seafood and crashing waves of the Atlantic. Wander the playground of the Belle Epoque, keeping an eye upwards for the balconies and garrets that look as if they’ve been plucked from Paris and placed by the sea. Try your hand at surfing on some of Europe’s best waves, or enjoy the adrenaline from the shoreline, accompanied by oysters and champagne.
There’s no questioning that Bordeaux is the world’s capital of wine. Head to the Cité du Vin, a huge wine museum, for a comprehensive history of the subject and some very old bottles, sold in typically French fashion by tuxedo-clad sommeliers. Stroll past the palatial Place de la Bourse before settling into a cosy bistro for Pauillac lamb and Pomerol wine—a fitting end to a journey through the elegance of France’s south.
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