Home Instagram Pinterest Facebook Twitter Google+ RSS Contact
Home Instagram Pinterest Facebook Twitter Google+ RSS Contact

Provence with Kids – A Dream Come True

Travel Mamas sometimes receives compensation and/or hosted travel and sample products related to blog posts. This story may include affiliate links for which we receive a small commission at no extra cost to consumers.

I fell in love with Provence long before setting foot on French soil. I had read and heard so much about Provence that for years I dreamed of visiting this region of La belle France. I almost made it there on my honeymoon when my new husband and I spent a week on the Côte d'Azur but I had to wait another 15 years before this travel dream came true. When I finally traveled to the area, I had my two children in tow and was a bit worried that my expectations were too high and that Provence with kids would be less than ideal. I needn't have fretted because not only was Provence even more beautiful than I had anticipated but also it proved to be a wonderful family vacation destination for a number of reasons.

A summer afternoon in Provence

A summer afternoon in Provence (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Plentiful Villa Rentals

Villas are available for rental throughout Provence. Renting a vacation home is ideal for families who are planning to spend more than a few days in the area and who are happy to get by without hotel amenities. Having a home-away-from-home means having much more space to spread out in and it is often more cost-effective than staying in a  hotel. Families will appreciate having separate bedrooms for privacy, a kitchen for meal preparation, and especially a private pool for cooling off after a day of exploring in the heat of a Provençal summer. The most difficult part for me was sorting through all of the choices and deciding which village and house we wanted to call home for our two-week stay.

Backyard of villa in Gordes

The backyard at our villa in Gordes (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

 

An Opportunity to Practice Speaking French

Vacationing in Provence provides the perfect opportunity to practice speaking French while being immersed in another culture. Attempting to speak French in shops, at restaurants and with other locals helped my children realize that learning another language is a life skill and not just a subject studied at school. In Provence, there are fewer people who speak English than in larger cities like Paris so communicating in French is necessary even when it's a struggle to make yourself understood. By the end of our two weeks, my teen daughter was comfortable ordering from menus and was able to follow simple conversations. Meanwhile, my grade school-aged daughter was quite pleased with her ability to use even a few words.

Lavender fields at Abbaye de Senanque

Lavender fields at Abbaye de Senanque (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Family-friendly Markets

Kids of any age will enjoy visiting the weekly markets that are held in most of the villages of the region. My daughters loved shopping for food–especially bread and fruit. After our trip, we laughed at how many vacation photos included  my older daughter with a baguette in hand; she just could not get enough of the delicious freshly-baked bread sold at the markets. Perhaps even more fun was browsing the various stalls for little things like hair-bands and other trinkets to spend their pocket money on.

Enjoying a fresh baguette on market day in Gordes

Enjoying a fresh baguette on market day in Gordes (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Beautiful Villages to Explore

The region's picture-perfect villages–each with their own unique shops, cafés, and patisseries—are great fun for families to explore. We alternated days spent close to the village of Gordes where we were staying with longer day trips to other areas. We enjoyed the nearby villages of Joucas, Roussillon, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, Oppède-le-Vieux, Ménerbes, and Lacoste–every one just a little different from the others.

Meanwhile larger towns had more sightseeing options and many offered old-fashioned carousels, which delighted my younger daughter. The Abbaye de Senanque and its famed fields of lavender was also nearby. The lavender had bloomed earlier than usual the summer we visited so I will have to return another year to see it. My daughters were content to spend part of each day exploring before returning to our villa for an afternoon swim followed by a leisurely dinner at one of the restaurants in the village. It was one of the most laid-back, pleasant holidays we have ever taken as a family.

Provence with kids

Oppède-le-Vieux in Provence (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Introduction to History and Art

Before planning our trip, I had no idea that there was such a Roman influence in Provence (although if I had thought it through then I should have realized that the area would have been part of the Roman Empire). We visited the Roman Theatre in Orange, a Roman Arena and Theatre in Arles, and the Pont du Gard–a Roman aqueduct built around 19 B.C. to supply water to one of ancient Europe's largest cities. My kids had so much fun exploring each of these sites that they didn't realize that they were learning history at the same time.

Relaxing afternoon at Pont du Gard

The Pont du Gard is a great place to spend a relaxing afternoon (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

In the walled historic area of the city of Avignon we toured the Palais des Papes (or Palace of the Popes), a 14th century Gothic palace that functioned as the primary papal residence and headquarters of Catholicism during the 1300s. In addition to learning about this unique era in the history of the Catholic Church, we also got a chance to dance on the medieval Pont d'Avignon (actually Pont St. Bénezet), the famous bridge from the French children's song that Canadians like us all learned in school.

Carousel in Avignon

Riding a carousel in Avignon (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Art enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the many French impressionists who made their homes in Provence. In Arles, for example, visitors can not only dine at the famed Café Van Gogh from Café Terrasse at Night but they will also find easels around town depicting the masterpieces that Van Gogh created on the spot where he painted them. At the time of our trip, Van Gogh was my younger daughter's favorite artist so she thoroughly enjoyed trekking around Arles in search of the easels and learning a great deal about the man and his work in the process.

Learning about Van Gogh in Arles

Learning about Van Gogh in Arles (Photo credit: Lisa Goodmurphy)

Your vacation in Provence will pass very quickly and, if your family is anything like ours, then you will wish you could do as Peter Mayle did and spend A Year in Provence instead of just a week or two.

What do you think your family would enjoy most about a holiday in Provence? Let us know in the comments!

Get 20% off The Travel Mamas' Guide

About Lisa Goodmurphy, The Spunky Travel Mama

Lisa Goodmurphy is a lawyer turned family travel writer and a mom of two daughters. She grew up in small town Northern Ontario and now resides near Toronto, Canada. Badly bitten by the travel bug years ago, she considers herself fortunate that her family is equally enthusiastic about her mission to explore the world—one trip at a time. Lisa shares her travel adventures on the blog that she founded in 2011 and now contributes to many online media publications as well. You can read about her family’s travels on her blog, Gone with the Family, on Google+ or on Twitter as @GoneWithFamily.

Comments

  1. I LOVED Provence…it was one of my all time favorite trips. I am happy to hear that it sounds like Provence will be as rewarding a destination with children as it was before. I love the idea of renting a house…it sounds like a such a relaxed way to see things and I think we will be doing a lot more travel in this style once our first child is born in August.

  2. Congratulations, Shanna!! Don’t worry about traveling with kids – it can definitely be done! I think that you can take kids anywhere that you want to go so long as you slow down and find a few kid-friendly things to do along the way. And kid-friendly doesn’t have to mean amusement parks – it can be as simple as having a picnic in a park or pausing to ride a carousel in a European village. Best of luck!

  3. Ellen Lanin says:

    Please let us know what sites you looked into to find the rental in Gordes. Would you recommend a place in Arles?

    • Ellen, we found the villa that we rented on Home Away. The couple that we rented from lived in Michigan and I was able to speak to them on the phone before we agreed to the rental which made me feel that much more comfortable as it was our first experience renting a private home. They employed a local property manager who met us upon arrival and helped with anything that we needed.

      Arles is very nice but it is a city with a population of somewhere around 50,000 I believe. I prefer the smaller villages but that is really a matter of personal opinion.

  4. This sounds so amazing! I think my 8 yo son would like the Van Gogh points too. We are headed to Paris in July for only one night as a side trip from London. Now I wish we could add Provence! But Paris will be lovely, too, I’m sure. 🙂

    • Thank you, Steph! Paris is indeed lovely! 😉 It’s difficult to see very much in a day but if you think that your son might be interested in an art museum then consider visiting Musée d’Orsay – it features the impressionists and is small enough for a quick visit. Both of my daughters love it! I wrote about our favourite three museums in Paris in this article on Travel Mamas which you may find usefu. https://travelmamas.com/parisian-art-museums-for-kids/

      Have a great trip!!

      • He really only wants to see the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower, so I’m hoping that’s a short enough list that we won’t have to spend the whole day in lines. I will check out your museums post, too in case we do end up with some extra time! 🙂 Thank you!

        • Steph – my younger daughter was 8 when we visited last year and the Mona Lisa and the Eiffel Tower were her top priorities as well. 🙂 I was afraid that she would be disappointed by the Mona Lisa but she was thrilled. I wrote a post on my site about how excited that Emma was to come face-to-face with the Mona Lisa – it was such an exciting moment for her!

          Be sure to get to the Eiffel Tower first thing – my teenager slept in and we waited for a couple of hours in line as a result!!

          • Good to know! I am still researching whether to find an English-speaking walking tour or just buy the tickets myself and do this on our own. We don’t know any French and some inside intel is always fun. Did you buy your Louvre and Eiffel Tower tickets in advance?

  5. Aloha,

    What a great post and a nice visit back to Provence, it has been awhile for me and it was nice revisiting some of these attractions and what a great way to do it by staying in a home rental, great idea.

    Noel

  6. Great photos and I hope one day to take my family to Provence! Looks so nice.

  7. Looks like fun! We are heading to France again with the boys in July- never thought of adding Provence. Thanks for the ideas!

  8. I lived in Valence and Chalon-sur-Saone near Lyon. I dream of taking my family back there when they’re a bit older!

  9. adam stewart says:

    Lisa – great website. my wife and i are going to france for 2 weeks this june. we have one week to do whatever we want and we are thinking a villa in provence. where did you actually stay in provence (town?) and did you rent a car to travel or use other transportation (?)? much appreciated

    • Hi Adam, we rented a villa in Gordes from an American couple via HomeAway – it was the ideal location for us to explore the area. We were there for 2 weeks and rented a car while we were there so we could do some day trips to explore the region. We visited Arles, Avignon, Orange, Aix-en-Provence and even travelled as far as the Cote d’Azur one day. Provence is a beautiful region of France – I’m sure you and your wife will have a wonderful time!

  10. If your kids like nature (there are a lot of walks in the hills), old villages and markets, then they will like provence. If they like entertainment that’s more aimed at kids then it doesn’t offer much. Here is my list, as a long term resident, with family:
    1) The ‘Village des Automates’ is very missable,
    2) The OK Coral park (off the autoroute that goes to Martiges) is quite good for the price. The attractions give enough of a thrill.
    3) The new (2016) water park at Monteux is good. (The Karting there is also good, if a bit expensive, but it always is expensive)
    4) The Maze near Malmort is OK.
    5) The big caves up in the Gard (take in Pont du Gard at the same time), Grotte du Salamander, are impressive.
    6) For beaches the Carmargue is the best. Sand and plenty of parking (unlike anywhere on the Cote d’Azur. Saintes Marie de la Mer is the place to go there. Climb on the church roof, take in the bull run, or some French bull fighting (the bull is not killed, but the men stand a very good chance of being maimed!), and the Spanish vibe (a lot of Spaniards moved to the Carmargue to look after the bulls and it has a Spanish feel to the place), go horse riding (avoid sunset, the mosquitoes will eat you alive).
    7) And if you are there in winter, get some skiing in!

    So thats about it for kids, it really isnt that great.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Thank you for the tips, Matt! I assume you’re joking that Provence isn’t that great for kids?!

  11. Oh, I forgot Fontaine de Vaucluse, deffinitely do the Kayacking there, Kayack Vert is the better of the two, and go down the river to Isle sur la Sorgue, Very nice when its hot!

    And when it isnt the Acrobranch (climbing around in trees, zip wires, etc) is a lot of fun, damn tiring and a good way to keep fit! 🙂

    Fontaine also has caves, an old paper mill, and a good museum to the war. A lot of people think its a bit tacky and touristy, but ignore them and go, its a rich place for tourist activities.

  12. What dates did you travel? We are going in the 3rd week of July and hope to see lavender in bloom.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Ryan – Lavender blooms in Provence from May or June to July or August. I went one year in August and our tour guide was certain there would be no lavender still growing in the fields but we lucked out and were able to see (and smell!) the beautiful purple blooms.

    • Hi Ryan – it’s one of those things that isn’t entirely predictable. We arrived in Provence for our two week vacation on July 31st. The lavender had bloomed early that year and had already been harvested so we missed seeing it. I intend to go back someday to see the blooms!!

  13. Kitti Jones says:

    Hi Lisa,
    What village did you stay in? Did you fly to France and then take a train? I am going with my 8 year old daughter, my mom and my aunt in July toLondon and Paris and we are wanting to spend some time in Provence. I’m not sure if we will go Paris train to Provence then take a train to London, or london train to paris train to Provence… but I don’t want us to backtrack all the way to paris to fly home. What did you find the easiest way to reach provence?

    • Hi Kitti,
      We rented a villa that was just outside the village of Gordes – it was very central for visiting most places in Provence. We were in Provence the entire two weeks of our vacation. We flew to Marseilles via Munich from Toronto and rented a car in Marseilles to drive to Gordes. I believe it took about an hour and a half or so to drive to Gordes from the Marseilles airport. Perhaps you could fly to London, train to Paris, train to Provence and then fly home from Marseilles.

  14. J’adore! Provence is my favorite all time destination. We go there every summer to enjoy the warm climate, sunny days, lavender & fields full of sunflowers. Our fovorite region is the Vaucluse and the Luberon with magical towns like Lourmarin and L’Isle sur la Sorgue. Rent a holidayhome with a pool and your perfect vacation can start 🙂 Love it!!

  15. Hi,
    I’m from México. I’m planning to spend a week (7-8 days) in the South of France with my husband and my kids (4 and 2 years old) in mid August.
    I was thinking in starting in Montpellier and end up in Nice. Probably spend a night in saint tropez as well.
    What would you recommend to visit in the middle and where to stay??
    Thank you

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Hi Olga – How exciting! I lived in Montpellier for a year during college. It’s such a hip college town with a beautiful central square. I loved the Luberon region of Provence with all of its wee charming towns. Aix-en-Provence and Arles are probably the most popular Provencal towns but Ils-sur-la-Sorge is gorgeous and so is Gordes. Here’s another story about Provence to tempt you: https://travelmamas.com/the-day-my-life-changed-forever-in-frances-luberon/

Speak Your Mind

*