Travelling through the south of France to discover the most beautiful places in this region. This is the promise of this new road trip in a BMW iX3. Entitled, the virtues of the road, I’m off to discover a confidential version of Provence France, from the Pont du Gard to Menton: exceptional panoramas, Mediterranean art of living, beautiful stopovers and a selection of exceptional places. All this in an EV (Electric Car): Yes it’s possible.
Watch the film of this trip
More than 1170 km by EV
The selection of the scenic places
DAY 1From Paris to Nimes.Via A6 and A7. 7h29 min. 713 km
LE PONT DU GARD
Starting with a strong symbol then allows to draw the rest of the journey. I am heading about twenty kilometers from Nîmes to the picturesque Gardon valley where an ancient aqueduct rises, known as the Pont du Gard, its overwhelming majesty astonishes travelers and strikes their imagination by its boldness and lightness. It is one of the fortunately spared vestiges of the Gallo-Roman domination, the progenitor of Latin France. This building, which is 48m77 high and 273 meters long, seems to have been created only for the enchantment of the view, framed by a valley with a harmonious flare, this masterpiece of ancient architecture is one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world. Built in the 1st century of our era. It is exceptional by its dimensions since with its 49 meters height, it is the highest Roman bridge-aqueduct of the world. At the time, the Roman city, the ancient “Nemausus”, experienced such a development in the 1st century that it decided to equip itself with an aqueduct, following the example of Rome, capital and model for the entire Roman Empire.
Here is a guide to the best places in Provence.
This achievement gave the city (which then had 20,000 inhabitants) a new prestige: fountains, thermal baths, running water in the rich homes, and clean streets contributed to the city’s pleasure and well-being. Thanks to an average slope of 25 cm per kilometer, one of the lowest ever achieved at that time, the aqueduct carried 30,000 to 40,000 m3 of running water per day by gravity from a spring located in Uzès, over a distance of 50 kilometers to Nîmes. A technical feat at the time.
The road to the Pont du Gard is very pleasant and everything is well indicated. From Nimes, I follow the direction of Marguerittes, the experience with the BMW iX3 becomes even more interesting on this piece of road. During half an hour on this superb road, the experience is translated by an unprecedented pleasure of driving. I discover a car capable of delivering a high and continuous power, from the start, I let you imagine the feeling on this country road.
DAY 2From Nimes to Gordes. Via N100. 1h26 min. 113 km
Gordes, classified among the most beautiful villages of France, occupies a special place. It is a village that can be seen from far away by car and when you arrive at its feet, you have the feeling that it has always watched over the valley, so much so that it is one with the plateau that it powerfully and proudly embraces. Gordes has long been one of the most beautiful villages in France, and rightly so, it deserves its place in the Roadness ranking. It is a village not to be missed where limestone, dry stone walls and bories are omnipresent components of the landscape.
The village has been sheltered under the castle, designed to protect the vulnerable junction with the plateau, since 1031. It has thus become for 7 centuries, one of the watchtowers of Provence with its strong walls, its high houses with rare openings and its labyrinth of alleys. In the upper part of the village: the castle, the church of Saint-Firmin, restaurants and shops. The abbey which is next to Gordes is a Cistercian abbey classified as a historical monument since 1921; it was founded in 1148. As it was 900 years ago, the abbey is home to a community of Cistercian friars who live according to the Rule of Saint Benedict. Upon arrival you will be treated to a magnificent view of the abbey, and for the highlight of the show, I advise you to come in May/June/July in order to have a huge lavender field! The abbey being still inhabited by the monks is very little decorated to avoid that they are distracted from their worship. The abbey is really beautiful to see. For your information, a small parking lot exists at the belvedere, it is free but you can’t stay there more than 10 minutes. Larger parking lots are also available at the top of the village.
DAY 3 & 4From Gordes to Aix-en-Provence. Via Route de Saint-Canadet/D13. 1h15 min. 76,7 km
Renowned for its elegance and high culture, Aix-en-Provence has been colonized by leading French minds and artists. The most famous of these was Paul Cézanne, who immortalized the limestone peak of Mount Sainte-Victoire, which rises east of the city. Provence is famous for being hot in summer, but the streets of Aix remain cool thanks to the shade of its beautiful buildings and its honey-colored plane trees and by its numerous fountains.
City of water and city of Art, Aix-en-Provence is the perfect embodiment of the Provencal art of living so highly praised throughout the world. It’s a good thing it’s my next stop. Aix-en-Provence is the second wine region of Provence. It produces Mourvèdre, Grenache and Cinsaut, for the connoisseurs. A third of the production is devoted to rosés, to be tasted in summer to refresh oneself. The diversity of the vineyards and cellars of Coteaux d’Aix-en-Provence AOC is truly unique. The Cours Mirabeau is the highlight of this stroll in the oldest part of Aix. This pedestrian avenue, largely shaded by rows of plane trees, is filled with mansions and restaurants that have been the haunts of French cultural icons such as Camus, Cézanne and Zola. On the western edge is La Rotonde, perhaps the most beautiful of Aix’s fountains, while the strangest, La Fontaine d’Eau Chaude is covered in moss and creates a delicate mist on winter days.
Take the time to admire the different lights at different times of the day, it is not for nothing that the greatest painters have stopped there. Surrounded by olive and fig groves, Paul Cézanne’s studio where he worked for the last four years of his life is just a few minutes from downtown. According to local anecdotes, he commuted daily from his home on rue Boulegon to this studio, which was specially built to the artist’s design. The place has not been touched since his death 110 years ago, so for lovers of his paintings, this is a setting where you can almost feel his presence. In fact, his smock hangs inside, still stained with paint. Other objects of the painter’s work can be found in this unique house. Still in the footsteps of Paul Cézanne, the famous Saint-Victoire mountain is located about twenty kilometers from Aix. Visible from his studio, it was a source of inspiration for Cézanne who painted it many times, from different angles and with different lights. The mountain rises to more than 1,000 meters and is dotted with small religious sites that you will encounter unexpectedly, such as the Priory of Sainte-Victoire or the Hermitage of Saint-Ser, which is carved into a cave.
To reach the summit, start at the Barrage du Bimont and the round trip will take about two hours. Alternatively, you may be just as happy to stay at the edge of the Bimont lake and enjoy the view of the mountain without conquering it! Chateau La Coste, which is located a few minutes north of the city, offers guided tours that tell you about the grapes used in each bottle of wine and each stage of fermentation and aging. The castle also has a modern sculpture park with works by Tracey Emin and Andy Goldsworthy, to name two. An exceptional site to see, and one of the best wine sites!
Selection best hotels in Provence
Lovers of places steeped in history, contemporary art, wilderness, design or adventure, Provence offers an incredible diversity of hotels. Addresses of charm or contemporary boutique hotels, the selection of the best hotels in the region. Continue Reading…
DAY 5 & 6From Aix-en-Provence to Cassis. Via A51 and A50. 1h09 min. 63,1 km
The magic continues as we leave Aix-en-Provence. The road is spectacular, it winds between vineyards and pine forests and as we climb the steep hills and small roads that lead us to the picturesque fishing village of Cassis, the silence is masterful with the BMW iX3 and all the more pleasant. For me, all the happiness of driving an electric car can be appreciated at this moment. A few kilometers further, the charm of Cassis is revealed through the streets and squares lined with colorful fishermen’s houses. The few early morning passers-by appreciate the silence of the iX3 and its familiar yet revisited design. Further on, the cove of Port-Miou is part of Cassis. The small well-marked path gives an idea of the paradise found here: pines, white rocks, water mixing blue, green and Mediterranean turquoise.
“Who has seen Paris and not Cassis, has seen nothing.” These words of the Nobel Prize of literature, Frederic Mistral translate alone the formidable attraction that Cassis exerts on all those who go there. This small fishing port, nestled between two exceptional natural sites (the famous Calanques massif and the majestic Cap Canaille) offers visitors a concentrate of Provence and the Mediterranean. Cassis will always be in the eye of those who discover for the first time the port, its boats and its welcoming terraces.
ROUTE DES CRETES
Following the route des crêtes to Cap Canaille, the cliffs rise up. This winding road connects Cassis to La Ciotat offering spectacular views and an exceptional panorama of the bay of La Ciotat and the Ile Verte beyond. In the distance, the vast Calanques massif dominates the sea. This road is a real paradise for road-trippers, imagine driving an electric car with the spring sun dominating the cliffs, with the windows open… The Route des Crêtes is a 15 kilometer drive in each direction. This road dominated by the Cap Canaille culminates at an altitude of 394 meters. Quite impressive! Indeed, this road is one of the highest sea cliffs in Europe. We have real jewels near us, no need to go to the other end of the planet to see wonders of nature.
From my point of view, the route des Crêtes is one of the most beautiful roads in France that I have visited so far. Its presence in the Roadness ranking is justified.
Here is the guide to the best places around Marseille.
Several parking spaces have been set up along the road to enjoy the view. One of the main stopping points is on the heights of Cap Canaille. On one side, you will admire the Mediterranean Sea, and on the other side the yellow rock mountains typical of the hinterland of Marseille. The route des Crêtes starts at the exit of Cassis in the direction of La Ciotat. However, a little advice: take the opposite direction for more originality. Let me explain: the most beautiful viewpoints are in Cassis. So, start your road-trip with the views of La Ciotat and finish it with the incredible panoramas of Cassis.
Where to sleep at Marseille?
Hotel Dieu is a generic term from the Middle Ages for the town’s main hospital. These are charitable establishments, generally located near the cathedral and managed by the Bishop. In Marseille, this was no exception. Continue reading…
DAY 7From Marseille to Village of Castellet. Via D559 and A50. 1h01 min. 51,1 km
VILLAGE OF CASTELLET
Perched on a promontory at an altitude of 250 meters, Le Castellet is famous for its famous Paul Ricard racetrack where prestigious Formula 1 and motorcycle races take place. However, its village does not lack charm and attractions. Located in the heart of the Bandol vineyard, it has a medieval, picturesque and authentic character where it is good to walk. You enter through one of the two fortified gates, the Portalet or the Grand Portail, then take one of the paved and flowered streets. Admire the old stone houses, browse in the many craft stores, stroll on the shady squares and discover a very nice heritage. The castle, which now houses the town hall, dates back to the 15th century and offers from its esplanade a splendid panorama of the Sainte-Beaume massif and the vineyards below. Not far from there, you will find the “Trou de Madame”, one of the multiple openings created in the ramparts, which will also allow you to enjoy a magnificent view on the surrounding landscape.
The church of Saint-Sauveur dates from the 12th century. You enter Castellet through two fortified gates, testimonies of its long history. It is then that architecture lovers can take the direction of its most emblematic monuments. Starting with the parish church of the Transfiguration, whose construction dates from the end of the 11th century and the beginning of the 12th century. It is the best preserved element of the medieval castrum and its Romanesque architecture is to be scrutinized in every detail. In the ramparts there are various openings. The “Trou de Madame” offers a sublime panorama of the surrounding nature, and tradition has it that the Ladies of Lombard used to stop here to wait for the return of their husbands. Afterwards, go to the Castellet castle, which today houses the town hall of the commune. Largely rebuilt in the 14th and 15th centuries, it is another element that highlights the use of stone and the specificity of Provencal architecture.
Without upsetting my habits, the iX3 changes my way of driving. I take the road for a few hours in the direction of St Tropez. Between the highway and some country roads, its silence still surprises me. I skim the miles in total relaxation before arriving at this destination for celebrities from around the world.
DAY 8From Village of Castellet to St Tropez. Via A57. 1h40 min. 132 km
This Mecca of the international jet-set is nevertheless a small, typically Provencal village accessible to all! From Sainte-Maxime to Cavalaire, the Gulf of Saint-Tropez has a thousand reasons to seduce: its beautiful sandy beaches, its rocky creeks with turquoise water, its umbrella pines and wooded hills, its famous charming villages and one of the most beautiful bays in France.
Contrary to what one might think, its many tourist attractions are not necessarily reserved for the wealthiest of bank accounts. It is quite possible to enjoy yourself during a stay in the area and to find out what to do. The town has many assets and is located in a privileged natural setting: the bay is one of the most beautiful in France, as Provence seems to open onto the Mediterranean Sea! Whatever your ambitions are when you come to discover this pearl of the Var coastline, there is no doubt that you will find your happiness in this commune like no other. It is the most mythical place of the city. The port of Saint-Tropez was built at the end of the 15th century by Genoese sailors. In the 15th and 16th centuries, navigation was one of the main activities of the city through fishing and shipbuilding. Today, fishermen’s boats mingle with the yachts of billionaires. The various terraces of the port are, for the Tropéziens, a central place! We stop at one of them to have a coffee, or to admire the sunset in the late afternoon. Strolling along the quays to admire the paintings of the artists and the sumptuous boats is an art of living here. Continuing along the harbor, you can take the Môle Jean-Réveille, a quay that will allow you to have a completely different view of the city and the harbor.
Let’s just take the example of Pampelonne, it’s actually a must-see place when you come to visit Saint-Tropez! Located on the peninsula of Saint-Tropez, it ended up giving its name to a sandy beach of almost five kilometers located in the town of Ramatuelle, in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. An interesting anecdote: during the landing in Provence in August 1944, it was used by the Allied forces who dug a track to get away from it, which is now used by many residents and travelers who came to visit Saint-Tropez! Then, in 1955, this beautiful stretch of white sand became world famous with the film “Et Dieu…créa la femme” featuring the sublime Brigitte Bardot. It has a national protectorate in order to avoid the urbanization too often present on the coast, but many establishments have obtained a concession to install private beaches and trendy bars. Or Cap Camarat is a local pride: you can see it when you come to visit Saint-Tropez.
Here is a guide of Best Places in St Tropez
It is especially famous for its lighthouse, the Camarat lighthouse, one of the highest in France with its 130 meters. The range of its light is over sixty kilometers, and has saved many sailors over the centuries! It was registered on the list of historical monuments in 2012. There are many species of reptiles on the site: multiple varieties of lizards, snakes and even Hermann’s turtles. They rub shoulders with seabirds such as the Northern Gannet, and even birds of prey such as the Peregrine Falcon. We therefore recommend you to go and greet all this little world as soon as you arrive on the area!
DAY 9From St Tropez to Èze. Via DN7. 3h00 min. 116 km
A trip on the roads of the south of France, without passing by a stopover in Èze is nonsense. This magnificent medieval village is perched at 429 meters on top of a hill, between Monaco and Nice. Eze has become famous for its inimitable views over the Mediterranean, its atypical architecture. It is in my ranking of the most beautiful villages of the French Riviera. But the real particularity of Eze is its exotic garden built on the site of an old medieval fortress 429 meters above the Mediterranean. The panorama is one of the most exceptional of the Riviera. A view that extends to the Esterel Mountains and the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. In addition to its remarkable location, the exotic garden of Eze houses in its southern part several dozen species of succulents, xerophytes from all continents. Another important element concerning Eze and which for me makes it an exceptional place, is the Nietsche Way. Abandoned by success and weakened by illness, the German philosopher found a second wind by stopping in Eze for a while. The story goes that it was while walking the path that links the eagle’s nest to the village of Eze that he began to write “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, one of his major works. And one understands why when one sees the beauty of this path of a little more than 2 kilometers. It is one of the ways to reach the small medieval village while admiring the breathtaking view of the French Riviera and enjoying the labyrinth of small streets. A path conducive to mediation!
Probably because for more than 10 days, I drove an electic vehicle. All along my trip, I tried to explore new perspectives in relation with nature. I knew this garden before. My view was different this time. Far be it from me to announce that since I drive an electric car I am cleaner or more ecological. No, I just think that everyone who tries this kind of vehicle changes their mind. The strength of the electric car is in this way of seeing things.
DAY 10From Èze to Menton. Via D2564. 32 min. 17.1 km
Last step of this journey dedicated to the virtues of the road: Menton. Because in a way everything stops and everything starts here. This city which is located at 1 km from Italy offers something new in France, for me the best of the Mediterranean is in Menton. All the beauty of the place is located at a time when you have the impression of being a little bit everywhere in the world. Menton offers you this vision. It is not for nothing that it is nicknamed “the Pearl of France”. Menton deserves to be in the Roadness ranking of the most beautiful places of the French Riviera. Classified as a “Ville d’Art et d’Histoire” since 1991, Menton is full of small typical and colorful streets. Walking around as you wish is the best way to discover it. If you choose the car, several free parking spaces are available along the quays of General Leclerc.
Throughout the trip. I was constantly surprised by the potential of the BMW iX3. In the end, one starts driving an electric car out of conviction, and continues the adventure out of passion.
BMW iX3, designed to ride
The BMW iX3 marks a change of direction for the famous German brand, at least when it comes to producing electric cars. What do I mean by that?… Continue reading
If the idea of driving “clean” flatters the ego, and allows not to emit polluting emissions in traffic, driving an electric vehicle is, in addition, a very pleasant experience.