Since we moved to Belgium, I have opted to celebrate my birthday by taking trips vs receiving a gift, and I may never ask for a wrapped present again! This year, I planned for us to take a 7 day road trip to the south of France.
For assistance in creating the schedule, I used this awesome website RoutePerfect and leveraged Lonely Planet to find things to do in each city.
Sunday May 14th
Sunday afternoon, we made the hour drive to Lille to begin our road trip. Once we arrived, we checked into our hotel Holiday Inn Express Lille Centre. From the hotel, we headed out by foot to explore the city. We walked through Vieux Town for the afternoon to discover what the city had to offer. We checked out Meert, a famous patisserie to taste out their waffles and we were not disappointed. They are different, not as mind-blowing fantastic as Belgian, but good. I would recommend trying it. For the afternoon we did more exploring then grabbed dinner at Brasserie Flore (the food wasn’t good).
Monday May 15th
After breakfast, we left for Lyon with a plan to stop in Beaune for a winery tour. Based on the long drive to Lyon, we opted for a only 2hr long tour at Château de Pommard, a renowned winery. The cost was €25 per person and included both the tour and wine tasting. The wine was the best I have ever had… so we splurged and bought 2 bottles.😁
From Beaune, we kept moving south to Lyon and arrived at our hotel, Crown Plaza Lyon – Cite Internationale, in the early evening. The location offered great views of the Rhone River and Parc de la tete d’Or + easy access to Vieux Lyon. That night, we just relaxed and grabbed dinner at TerrAzzura, an Italian restaurant, one of the many places to eat on the premises.
Tuesday May 16th
After we checked out of the hotel, we headed into the city center via public transportation. Right next to the hotel is a bus stop for line C5 (tickets were around €2 pp) that takes you directly to the shopping area in Lyon. Before exploring, we grabbed lunch at l’Institution, a cute restaurant with an outdoor kiosk where you can buy lunch and sit outside to eat. From there, we headed towards Vieux Lyon by foot. In this part of the town, we were able to check out a couple beautiful churches and enjoy the cute little shops. We checked out Cathédrale St. Jean, Musee Miniatures, bought TinTin books at Librairie Diogéne, and just walked around trying to dodge the bus loads of elderly tourists and children. The most memorable part of the day was our walk of hell to heaven to checkout Notre-Dame de Fouvière. This was a walk of hell for 3 reasons: 1) the extraordinary heat, 2) the steep incline + amount stairs, 3) the time it took to get up. What made the walk even more crappy was the amount of runners that went past us as if they were jogging on a flat surface. Hell, I know we aren’t in the best of shape, but seeing the runners really put things into perspective. LOL. After making it to the top, we had to cool down for a good 10 minutes before we were able to take in the view, which was worth it….i think.
After checking out the view and the Notre-Dame, we headed back down to our hotel to begin the drive to Marseille. We arrived in Marseille that evening and got to experience the joy of driving through the city to Vieux Port. Cars appear to have no regard for pedestrians and vice-versa, making it nerve-racking to drive in. Our hotel of choice was the Hôtel la Résidence du Vieux Port. After checking in we found a restaurant close by with lovely views of the port called La Brasserie du Port. (I had the daurade, a grilled fish, that was delicious!)
Wednesday May 17th
Wednesday morning, we grabbed breakfast at one of the many cafés near the hotel. After breakfast, we began our day by exploring the museum The Gallery of the Mediterranean (Mucem). The museum is a must see! On our visit, we were able to view exhibitions on Global Recycling and the history of the Mediterranean. The exterior of the museum also offered stunning views of city and port. From the museum, we were able to walk to the city’s beautiful Cathédrale La Major.
For lunch, we headed into Le Panier, what Lonely Planet calls ‘a fantastic history-woven corridor’. This area boasts lots of colorful houses and many little boutiques and restaurants. We grabbed lunch at Les Delices du Panier, then visited the boutique Nature et Tendances to go shopping for some souvenirs. Post shopping, we wandered back towards Vieux Port to catch a bus and head to Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde which was, similarly to Lyon, perched at the highest peak in the city. This view was definitely worth it. From this view, we were able to see Château d’If…we will be back to check this place out!
Later that evening, we went to a local favorite, George’s, for their famous cheesecake. Wil was a big fan … that’s saying a lot as cheesecake is one of his favorite desserts. For dinner, we stayed in Vieux Port and went to l’Entrecôte du Port. The food was delicious and their outdoor seating had a romantic ambiance.
Thursday May 18th
Thursday morning, we left Marseille and headed to Montpellier. Before heading to stay with family, we stopped in Old Montpellier to check out the city. Like normal, we parked and just decided to walk. The old town here was similar to many others. Lots of stores and restaurants. On our walk, we stumbled into a Romanesque part of the city, Place Royale du Peyrou where there is an aqueduct and a beautiful park housing several monuments.
After walking some more and catching a group of kids performing on the street, we headed to meet with family. Driving in Old Montpellier was a maze with winding roads and road closures taking us over 30min to get on the right roads to head out of the city center. What made this trip wonderful was the fact that we were finally able to meet more of Wil’s family that has been in contact with us since we moved to Belgium. Over the past year, we had tried multiple times to connect, but due to schedules someone always had to cancel. This time the stars aligned and we were able to make it happen.😊
Friday May 19th
After a morning of rest, we had a French breakfast of an assorted breads. Because I had tests the following week, I used the time to study and chat with Elsa to get to know each other. When Thomas got home from school, he and Wil headed out to a local park to shoot hoops. It was great to see them play together … Wil says that he was just like Thomas as a kid: completely in love with basketball. While they were playing, I ran some errands with Elsa. We went to a cheese (La Maison du Fromage) and a local wine store to buy some rosé for me to take back to Belgium. After errands and when the boys were done with basketball, we had dinner with the entire family.
Saturday May 20th
Saturday morning was another lazy day of hanging out with the family. Wil shot hoops with Thomas, while I relaxed and kept the chefs company as they prepped for a summer lunch fresh off the grill. We are so grateful for this amazing family’s hospitality and hope to spend more time with them in the future! ❤️ After lunch, we got on the road to make the 9.5hr drive back to Brussels.
Overall driving down to Monepellier took us about 11hrs and almost €200 euros in tolls. We were fortunate to have fantastic weather the entire time. Every day the sun was out and the temperature was at least 20 degrees C. Although we were out for 7 days, the time went by way too fast. I hope we can make time in our schedule to head back to the south of France again this year to check out the beaches and see family… that also gives me some time to expand on my French so I can be more active in conversations and understand more of what is said.