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South of France- help! Does my dream destination exist?

57 replies

SLAW70s · 13/02/2021 09:13

Hello everyone, we recently had an amazing holiday on the west coast of France and are looking to recreate the experience further south but have never been to the south of France.

We splashed out £3k on a beachfront cottage with little pool as it was a big anniversary so am now obsessed with seeing and hearing the sea from my bedroom!

Our wish list:
Waterfront (essential)
Ability to cycle (flat, easy safe route) from the door to local shops and restaurants
Beautiful scenery
Not glitzy/ glam / mega expensive location
Prefer rustic village charm/ small town feel
Beautiful coastal scenery
Villa/ cottage/house/ gite ( not camping or apartment block)
Dds will be 17&19 so somewhere without much/any nightlife (it’s a chill out holiday- they can do that with their friends- I don’t want to be up late worrying about them!)
Budget £3k for a week max in school summer holidays ( I’m looking for waterfront location not luxury)

Can anyone recommend a stretch of coastline that might fit the bill, to help me narrow my search? I know I’m asking for a lot!

Tia :)

OP posts:
poorbuthappy · 15/02/2021 09:00

Agree - Port Grimaud is a nightmare in high season. But we still enjoyed our holiday!

Onesipmore · 15/02/2021 09:00

We have stayed in Cavalaire every year for the last 20. I love it. Up the road is Croix Valmer one way and Le Lavandou the other. The traffic is bad in St Trop, but its ok for a day visit. Gassin is pretty and Port Grimaud nice for a mid week boat trip. In cavalier there are plenty of shops and bars. I have teens and they can safely have a drink on their own without us.

ReviewingTheSituation · 15/02/2021 09:05

We went to Contis sur Plage a few years ago - ticks all your boxes, but I don't know about gite/SC options.
We loved it, and it's on our list of places to go back to.

uggmum · 15/02/2021 09:10

Have a look at Les Issambres, especially San Peire.

Beautiful coastline. Cycle paths, restaurants on the beach, mini supermarkets, lovely beach, weekly markets.

There are villas there and in the surrounding area with beautiful views and right on the beach.

Worth looking at Airbnb and Provacances.

Iamanunsafebuilding · 15/02/2021 11:53


Collioure. Catalan region of the south of france. Very picturesque with great restaurants. Easy to drive along the coast road into Spain.

That's the place I was thinking of and couldn't remember the name of! It's beautiful
SLAW70s · 15/02/2021 12:21

Ihatethecold, welcome!

Ok- so we went just south of La Rochelle last year which is what inspired this thread but am looking to explore the south, EvvyJ but agree it's gorgeous there!

Daft- I would love to look at those options but I'm thinking there is slightly more chance of a holiday in France happening this year than in other countries. (But realise that this research might have to be for 2022...)

I can't thank you all enough for your ideas and replies and have read every single one in depth. xx

I prefer the idea of rocky, rugged coastline with small bays rather than long sandy beaches with rows of sunbeds. It's all about liostening to the waves, for me!

Collioure is now firmly on my shorlist, lots33!

OP posts:
dreamingbohemian · 15/02/2021 12:38

Is 3K your total budget or just for accommodation? Are you flying or driving?

How do you feel about VERY hot weather? We spent a summer in Cogolin/Grimaud and while it was lovely it was almost 40 every day and not everywhere has air con. If it's not your thing, then I'd second the suggestion to look farther south on the Atlantic coast (better waves too!)

I'd also agree there are a lot of lovely places around Narbonne and it is way less touristy/ritzy.

I think you will struggle with your budget because everyone in France goes to the coast in the summer. I know you want the sea but I'd consider something inland/mountainous with a lovely lake/river as well.

SLAW70s · 15/02/2021 12:57

Dreaming, hi. £3.5K is the very most we'd pay for one week's accommodation only. We did it last year! I'm not looking for a swanky villa- I'm just looking for 2 bedrooms right by the sea. I have actually seen a few places within budget but one was an airbnb (I don't like their host cancellation policy ) and the others had no or shared pool
(I'm holding out for the perfect place and maybe a little plunge pool as well!).

I'd book a second week in a less premium spot and hopefully fly from Gatwick. We normally drive but DH won't do that now that we have an all electric car- and I don't blame him!

I definitely want to hear the sea- that is the only non negotiable!

I'm ok with heat, actually. Can't be worse than Turkey in August! I want to be south of La Rochelle but would consider the Atlantic coast again if the right rental came up. (We've been to Arcachon and Bicarosse areas so would prefer somewhere else, tbh.)

OP posts:
BrieAndChilli · 15/02/2021 13:09

La Lavandou has a lovely long sandy beach, lots of nice resturants etc and is close enought to Port grimaud and St tropez for a day trip.

mootymoo · 15/02/2021 13:12

Went to a lovely area a few years back just east of Marseille - we were staying inland so our (amazing, just rebooked to take my dp) accommodation doesn't fit your brief but I suggest you Google there. No English people at the beach, cafes or restaurant we went to in the evening overlooking the med (we were with French friends)

Honeyroar · 15/02/2021 13:15

I spent a year in Provence when younger. I think the area just outside Provence is just as nice and less full of itself! As someone previously mentioned, have a look at Langdoc Roussillon. Aigues Mortes to Montpellier areas.

JingsMahBucket · 15/02/2021 13:16

What a great thread. Marking my place for when we can travel again.

Timeforatincture · 15/02/2021 13:19

We went to a lovely seaside town east of Marseilles a few years ago. Cassis. Really lovely. Loads of restaurants on the waterfront. Swim before breakfast every day, and lots of lovely coastal inlets to enjoy.

We had a week there then a week inland in a tiny cottage in the beautiful higglyedy piggledy village of Cucuron, which is one of the lovliest places I've ever been.

stodgystollen · 15/02/2021 13:40

If you want rugged, you need to be right up against the Spanish border or east of Marseille. Most of the Alpine coast is expensive, but the Spanish side should be relatively cheap. Alternatively, you could go for in the middle. It's got long golden windswept beaches and salt marshes, a bit like Norfolk. The beaches are plenty big enough to avoid the deckchairs and there are beautiful hills and gorges just inland and on a good day you can see the Pyrenes, the Alps and the hills inland (e.g. like Pic Saint-Loup and the gorges in the Ardeche). Marseille is ok although a bit rough round the edges, and Montpellier is both lovely and cheap because it's really studenty. There's the Roman stuff at Nimes, and the papal palace at Avignon, as well of loads of nature reserves, national parks and vineyards. Train connections are good but expensive. The roads are fine.

The one thing to bear in mind is that all the French have booked domestic holidays this year so there won't be much availability.

SLAW70s · 15/02/2021 15:37

Ok. Update time!

I've just sent a booking request for a little waterfront place near Martigues nr Marseille. It's really got the wow factor so hope my booking request is accepted. It might not be the best strectch of coast but it is such a fab property.

Now to week 2: I need somewhere close by for a contrasting week. Maybe Cassis? Maybe a village house or harbour front house somewhere. I don't think we'll want to be more than 1.5 hours from Marseilles...unless we fly back from a different airport.

Any ideas?

Oh this is such a chore!
(Everything has Covid proof free cancellation btw)

OP posts:
SwedishEdith · 15/02/2021 15:49

Sete is lovely and 1/5 hours away from where you are.

Honeyroar · 15/02/2021 16:09

Cassis is lovely but quite often closes in high summer, plus it’s so close to Marseille anyway. I’d drive up through the Alpilles through Avignon, Rousillon etc up to the alpes de Provence. You really can’t go wrong wherever you go in any direction within 1.5 hours of Marseille!

SLAW70s · 15/02/2021 16:35

Thanks Edith. Will take a look :)

Can I just mention my mountain road phobia again...I just can't do sheer drops. Would your suggestion involve narrow mountain roads, Honey?! xx

OP posts:
dreamingbohemian · 15/02/2021 18:44

Have a look at the train line between Marseilles and Lyon (so you don't have to drive)

Arles, Avignon, Valence.... all really gorgeous

Then you could fly back from Lyon if you want

Onesipmore · 15/02/2021 19:52

As mentioned up thread have a look at Cavalaire sur mer

stodgystollen · 15/02/2021 19:53

How about taking the ferry from Marseille to Corse?! It would be a bit of an adventure and the food would change marvellously.

The roads just north of Marseille/Montpellier are fine. Think Peak District at worst. The mountains don't get steep/ravines until you get into the Alps proper.

Nacreous · 15/02/2021 20:00

I think I'd go inland for the second week - Avignon is super, and you can visit the theatre at Orange and the amphitheatre at Nîmes and they're incredibly well preserved and fabulous. Just make sure there's air con as if you get a week where there's no breeze it can be absolutely stifling there.


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Honeyroar · 15/02/2021 20:01

There may be mountain roads with drops in the big alps, but lower down they’re not. The Alpilles are very tiny hills but striking because of the white rocks. Rousillion is a hilltop town where the rocks are a lovely red. Les Baux de Provence is a gorgeous medieval fortress/town built into the hills. Near to Cavaillon there a bright blue beautiful grotto pond under white cliffs that bushes into a crazy river in spring when the snows melt in the alpes (think it’s called Isle sur la Sorgue). Then there’s the Roman Pont du Gard in between Avignon and Nimes. The lavender fields. Plus the beautiful towns of Arles, Nimes, Avignon etc. Provence is such a lovely area.

CoolShoeshine · 17/02/2021 18:30

I came on to say Collioure too! One of my favourite places and very different from the glitzy riviera.

GoodAsMyWord · 17/02/2021 18:54

All around Cavalaire-sur-Mer is lovely... Gigaro, La Croix Valmer... St Tropez is close for a day out.

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