Provence

France’s southern region of Provence is celebrated internationally for its rosé wines, lavender products, sunshine, stunning landscapes with medieval villages, and it’s proximity to the glamorous Côte d'Azur. With so much to see and do, it is easy to spend a week exploring the region.

If traveling to Provence in the summer, you will almost surely cross paths with tourists. The lavender is in bloom in June and July, and is typically harvested in mid-July (this varies by farm). We visited in late June and while some fields were still early, others were in perfect purple splendor. If the lavender fields aren’t at the top of your list, we recommend avoiding the tourists by traveling during the spring or fall shoulder season.

Provence is a large region and our travels have covered only portions. The region is best accessed via the Marseilles or Nice Airports, and for full flexibility on schedule and timing we recommend renting a car. Choose one area to base yourself from or plan a road trip, staying somewhere new each night. We’ve highlighted our favorite towns and routes in the recommendations below.

Attempt to speak French, no matter how rusty it may be! While many in the hospitality industry will have some basic English, this is more difficult to find in smaller towns. It is easy to get by with a mixture of French, English, Google translator, and well-meaning hand gestures, but attempts at their language will go a long way with the locals.

EAT

La Fleur de Thym This gem of a culinary experience was recommended by our bed and breakfast hosts. It’s an unassuming space in the unassuming village of Flayosc, but the fish and meat dishes were fantastic. Try the three course menu.

La Guinguette du Lac This market nearby Plage Galetas and the Lac de Sainte-Croix is a good place to stock up on food stuffs and water before heading to the beach and lake.

Lavender ice cream Nothing quite like it! Find a small stall in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie featuring a non-dyed variety (many glaciers use a purple food die in their lavender ice cream, and while it looks nice it’s not necessary).

DRINK

Restaurant Le Styx at the Hotel Le Provence This restaurant and hotel in La Palud-sur-Verdon is the perfect stop for un café au lait, un biere, or snacks before continuing to or from the Gorges du Verdon. Pleasant outdoor seating in a quiet space.

Rosé wine Provence is one of the world’s top producers and exporters of rosé. There are numerous wineries and vineyards dotting the region, but if you are looking for a special tour or visit we have heard good things about Chateau d'Esclans and Domaine Rabiega. We also recommend Château d'Estoublon. We visited the Chateau while staying in nearby Les Baux-de-Provence. The winery has a selection of reds and rosés, and a delicious olive oil!

PLAY

Lavender Fields The Valensole plateau in Provence has a high concentration of lavender fields, with lavender distilleries (check out Terraoma Jaubert and Lavandes Angelvin) dotting its roadsides. Start just east of Manosque at the intersection of the D4 and D6, and take the D6 east towards Valensole. From Valensole turn left onto the D8 and head northeast. You’ll past a myriad of fields along this route, and we’ve pinned our favorite one just before the intersection of the D8 and D953.

Gorges du Verdon and Parc Naturel regional du Verdon The Gorges du Verdon are considered Europe’s Grand Canyon, and a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. Come here for hiking, biking, white water rafting, kayaking, swimming, and more. Also visit the nearby icy, turquoise waters of the Lac de Sainte-Croix, where the gorge begins. The nearby village of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is built into the craggy mountainside and located within the Parc.

Pont du Gard This relic remaining from the Roman occupation of France is a first century AD aqueduct. It is considered the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges and remains one of the best preserved today, so much so that it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a magical experience to walk across the bridge and marvel at the skill of Rome’s early engineers, and admire the view across the countryside.

Provence’s many medieval villages Make time to explore! Some of the ones we’ve passed include Aups, Comps-sur-Artuby, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, La Palud-sur-Verdon and Villecroze. Stop and spend an hour in a traditional Provençal market, often held one day during the week and one day on the weekend.

DAY TRIPs

Arles and Pont du Gard Formerly a provincial capital of ancient Roman, today the sunny city of Arles retains temples and vestiges of its earlier days. Tucked up against the banks of the Rhône River, its charming streets served as inspiration for the painter Van Gogh. We highly recommend an overnight stop here, to or from your way to the Pont du Gard.

Cassis Warranting a weekend visit, this fishing village is known for its beaches, bistros and beautiful calanques. Take a boat tour of the calanques (coves formed from dramatic limestone cliffs that line the Mediterranean coast). We bought tickets the day-of at the ticket stand toward the left of the Port. The 5 Calanques tour was the perfect length! The calanques can also be explored by foot via hiking in the area or by kayak. Eat at Le Grand Bleu, located central in front of the port. While in Cassis be sure to try the local rosé and Provençal mussels.

Gorges du Verdon, Lac de Sainte-Croix and La Palud-sur-Verdon This area could easily be broken down to 2-3 days, for an easier pace. The road leading in and out of La Palud-sur-Verdon, D952, has stunning views of the Gorges far below. For a really wild ride, take the steep and craggily D23 for even more panoramas. Warning, we only recommend this route for experienced and confident drivers! The villages of Aups, Comps-sur-Artuby and Villecroze are adorable and not far from these main sites. Stop for a few hours at one of the beaches along the Lac de Sainte-Croix. We loved Plage Galetas, where we rented a paddle boat for two hours to explore the lake and gorge, and swim.

Les Baux-de-Provence One of the most beautiful villages in France, Les Baux-de-Provence sits between Arles and Saint Remy de Provence. This medieval village rests atop the hill within the Regional Park of the Alpilles, and offers charming store fronts, scenic terraces, and delicious local cuisine. We stayed one night at the bottom of the village at the 4-star Benvengudo.

Valensole Plateau and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie See above under lavendar fields. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a great stop for a late lunch after a long morning on the D6 and D8 visiting the lavender. Stay overnight night here and then head into the Parc Naturel regional du Verdon the next day to visit the Gorges du Verdon.

STAY

Make the most of a visit to the region by road-tripping and staying in a few places. We would recommend overnight stays in some combination of Arles, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, La Palud-sur-Verdon and Draguignan. Choose a well-reviewed French bed and breakfast for a truly delightful experience with local jams and marmalades, and homemade baguettes and pastries.

We adored our overnight at Bastide des Selves, a quiet country retreat a few miles outside of in Draguignan. Run by a local couple, this small B&B has four spectacularly decorated rooms and serves up a delicious breakfast. We would come back to use Bastide as a base for a longer visit to enjoy the region’s wineries, the nearby Parc Naturel regional du Verdon and beaches of the Côte d'Azur. Both are approximately 40 minutes away by car.

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Portland

This relaxed, hipster city is the largest in Oregon and definitely worth a visit when in the Pacific Northwest. Portland is brimming with independently-owned shops, microbreweries, farm-to-table restaurants and has no shortage of wilderness escapes. The city is home to the Columbia and Willamette rivers, and is about 1.5 hours from the famous Mount Hood. Portland’s surrounding national parks offer plenty of adventure for hikers, kite-surfers, skiers, and more.

The Portland airport is about 35 minutes from city center. Take the MAX light rail or an Uber. If you plan on exploring the region, we highly recommend renting a car for a few days to check out some of the national parks nearby.

EAT

Portland is well-known for its restaurant scene, craft beer and food truck (cart) culture. The food carts are located in “pods” sprinkled throughout the city. Wandering around downtown? Head to the food pod between 9th & 10th Avenues on Adler Street, and don’t miss the Grilled Cheese Grill for their famous, cheesy sandwiches.

Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom Brick oven pizza and beer? Our kinda place. Try the Truffle Shuffle.

Imperial Located Downtown, this American style eatery from Chef Vitaly Paley is a delicious brunch spot. On the hungrier side? Opt for the Fried Chicken or French Toast.

Ox Restuarant Argentinian steakhouse famous for its wood-fired grill.

Paley's Place Upscale yet casual dinner in Nob Hill. The chef’s focus is on sustainable, locally-sourced Pacific Northwest plates.

Pine State Biscuits Famous breakfast eatery with three locations in the city. Go for the signature homemade biscuits and gravy or fried chicken.

Pok Pok Authentic, Thai cuisine in a chill, outdoor atmosphere. We like the original location on Division.

Salt & Straw Not your average ice cream shop. This creamery offers eclectic flavours like Arbequina Olive Oil and Honey Lavender with homemade waffle cones. Plain Vanilla kinda guy? No worries, they have it all!

Toro Bravo Spain meets Portland. Expect to find a mix of pintxos, tapas, charcuteria and a seasonal menu that changes daily based on local produce. A delicious, modern and local take on traditional Spanish dishes.

DRINK

Barista Little coffee shop on Alberta Street.

Breakside Brewery Craft beers and delicious bar food.

Great Notion Brewing Award-winning brewery with funky and fruity IPAs. We love the cans to-go.

Stumptown Sustainable coffee homegrown in Portland. Try the cold-brew!

PLAY

Downtown Like most downtown areas, Portland has it all. We love wandering around downtown as there are always new shops that are a bit unique and quirky in their own right. As an added bonus, the state has no sales-tax!

Japanese Garden Over five acres of beautiful gardens on the west side of the city.

Powell's Largest collection of new and used books in the US.

Union Way A little shopping quarter with various boutiques. Definitely check out All Good and Bridge & Burn for stylish and functional outerwear.

Waterfront Park If visiting for a weekend, check out this area on Saturday for the weekly market with locals selling a bit of everything. Portland at its finest.

DAY TRIPS

Canon Beach Home of the famous Haystack Rock, this beach is a perfect day trip from the city. Enjoy the beach, go for a hike in Ecola State Park, or explore this small seaside village for local food and shopping.

Columbia River Gorge National Park 30 minutes outside of Portland, this national park hosts an outdoor playground with several hiking trails and beautiful views of the Columbia River Gorge. Check here for trail information.

Mount Hood 1.5 hour drive from Portland, Mount Hood offers a variety of activities no matter the time of year. We visited during December and took advantage of the snow sports. We recommend booking a chalet in Government Camp and driving up to the mountain during the day. Airbnb had great options for our family. Government Camps offers a village-feel, and is within walking distance to shops, restaurants, and bars. For skiing, there are three options: Ski Bowl, Meadows and Timberline. We skied Meadows and loved skiing in the tree-line.

Tamanawas Falls This 6 kilometer hike is east of Mount Hood and begins at the Sherwood Trailhead. This is an easy path straight to the falls and back. Proper hiking shoes are recommended.

Timberline Lodge Check out (or stay in) this historic landmark lodge constructed in 1937 during the Great Depression. This lodge offers ski in/out access to the slopes and on site restaurants & bars. The lodge is also famous for its role in the movie, The Shining.

Multnomah Falls Iconic waterfall in the Columbia River Gorge. The trail is currently under repair after the forest fires so check here for the latest updates on trails.

STAY

We recommend using Downtown or the Pearl District for a base. The Pearl is known for its art galleries, boutique shopping, and dining nearby. Staying in Downtown? Check out The Nines on Morrison Street for its location, comfort, and friendly staff.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

San Francisco

The sparkling jewel of northern California, SF has wine, food, beautiful architecture and world-class parks. While there is much to do in the city itself, we highly recommend tacking on a day or two to visit the surrounding areas.

Depending on time of day and traffic, take a cab or Uber from the Airport to the city, or the local BART train (30 minutes).

EAT


Akiko's Sushi (Bush St.) Unassuming from the outside, this small Japanese restaurant serves excellent, fresh sushi sourced daily from local purveyors or directly from Japan.

Bar Bocce Great food, wine and outdoor seating with a fire-pit on the waterside in Sausalito.

Brenda`s French Soul Food hearty brunch spot near the Tenderloin. Unpredictable wait times so plan accordingly.

Ferry Building Marketplace Stalls, gourmet food stuffs and a farmers market are all inside this historic building.

Good Mong Kok Cantonese bakery and dim sum in Chinatown.

Leo’s Oyster Bar Old school vibes, cool cocktails and oysters. Recommended by a friend.

Murray Circle Restaurant Admire the view from across the Golden Gate Bridge at this restaurant on Cavallo Point. Go for brunch, sit on the deck and order the pastry basket (a friend’s brother is the pastry chef!)

Taqueria El Buen Sabor An unassuming taqueria in the Mission District.

DRINK

Mikkeller Bar industrial craft beer bar in the Tenderloin district.

Napa Valley and Sonoma Just an hour north of the city, it is worth exploring California’s most famous wine regions. We love Patz & Hall and Three Sticks in Sonoma.

The Pour House Wine bar and tasting room in Nob Hill.

Vertigo Bar Cash-only dive with dancing on Polk Street.

PLAY

Alcatraz Island Tour the island’s old military and federal prison. Book tickets in advance!

Big Basin Redwoods State Park Make a day trip to visit these gentle giants two hours south of the city.

Golden Gate Park This urban park offers stunning views of the world’s most famous bridge.

Fisherman’s Wharf While touristy, it does offer a great vantage of the bridge and Alcatraz. Pick up a few homegrown chocolates from Ghirardelli Square.

Mission District “The Mission” is a vibrant, eclectic neighborhood with Latino roots, street art and no short supply of tacos and hipsters. Spend an hour people watching in Mission Dolores Park or take a stroll down Valencia Street.

The Painted Ladies For children of the 80s and 90s, these Victorian houses were made famous by the Full House sitcom.

Presidio This former military post is a large park at the tip top of the peninsula with beautiful views of the bay and bridge.

Sausalito This cute, artsy town overlooking the water lies directly across the bay. Bikee from Golden Gate Park and take the ferry back, or take the ferry both directions from the Ferry Terminal in the Embarcadero.

STAY

If you are just in town for a long weekend, choose an AirBnb in Pacific Heights or Russian Hill to be near the sights, restaurants and nightlife.

LOCATIONS NEARBY

Western Sicily (San Vito lo Capo, Trapani, Marsala)

Western Sicily is, simply put, stunning. It’s clear, calm water, rugged Mediterranean landscapes, medieval towns, delicious seafood and rich red wines are deserving of a four to five day road trip. Best of all, this region hasn’t quite yet been found by international tourists. Enjoy the sleepy beaches and towns of San Vito lo Capo, Trapani and Marsala.

Fly into Palermo and then head west two hours along the coast by rental car to San Vito lo Capo.

EAT

Morsi e Sorsi Dinner in San Vito lo Capo. Try the seafood busiate pasta.

Caffè Savoia Ice cream and sweets overlooking the Santuario di San Vito Catholic church in San Vito lo Capo.

Pasticceria Maria Grammatico Pastry and sweet shop in Erice.

DRINK

Donnafugata A family owned winery and historic cellar in Marsala. A tasting includes several traditional Sicilian foods. Try the nero d’avola red blends.

Ni Mia Beer bar a block from the beach in San Vito lo Capo.

Cantine Pellegrino A family-owned winery known for its sweet Marsala wine production. They also produce dry reds and whites.

PLAY

Catamarano Alien Boat Tours A daylong boat trip off the coast of Trapani and around Favignana Island. The water, views, quiet coves and cliffs are incredible. Hosts Isa and Ale are incredibly generous and serve homemade, traditional meals and snacks.

Erice A well-preserved, hill-top medieval town overlooking the Mediterranean and Trapani. Take a cable car from Trapani or drive.

Riserva Naturale Orientata dello Zingaro A national reserve with seaside walks and hikes. Bring water and food!

San Vito lo Capo Do not miss this sleepy beach town. It has a truly world class beach.

Scopello A small village and beach town down the east side of the peninsula from San Vito lo Capo.

Trapani Tours A daylong tour of the region, including two wine tastings, tours of Trapani and Marsala, and a local salt flat. Guide and owner Aldo is incredibly knowledgeable of Sicily.

STAY

A few suggestions by area:

San Vito lo Capo The town is small and anything near the beach will be close to restaurants and night life. We loved Poseidon Residence.

Trapani Stay in Old Town. Secret B&B is a boutique hotel with beautiful touches in an old, traditional Sicilian building.

Asheville

Ashvillle is a bohemian town in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Known for its artist enclaves, live music venues, craft beer breweries and delicious food, Asheville is just sparkling with southern charm!

Asheville’s airport is small and flights in and out can be pricey. Another option is to fly to Charlotte and drive two hours through the mountains.

Given the loveliness of the surrounding area, we recommend renting a car. If you’d rather not drive, Uber is available and an easy option for getting from the downtown area to the River Arts District, Biltmore Estate, and Biltmore Village.

EAT

Green Sage Cafe Healthy, organic cafe in downtown.

Tupelo Honey Perhaps Asheville’s most famous restaurant, serving up Southern food from scratch. Try the South Asheville location, likely to be less crowded.

Twisted Laurel Mediterranean food in an industrial-style setting.

Well-Bred Bakery & Cafe Tasty bakery in Biltmore Village with outdoor seating.

DRINK

Wicked Weed Brewing Pub Friendly brewery in downtown Asheville with outdoor seating.

New Belgium Brewing Company Industrial brewery and taproom near the River Arts District. Grab a seat on the deck for lovely views of the French Broad River.

Village Wayside Bar & Grille Local dive open late night in Biltmore Village.

PLAY

Biltmore Estate A historic, Chateau-style home built by George Vanderbilt with gardens and sprawling grounds at the seat of the Blue Mountains.

Blue Ridge Parkway A 496 mile drive through North Carolina and Virginia offering stunning vistas of the Appalachians. There are lots of hiking trails near the Parkway.

North Lexington Avenue A street in downtown with antique and eclectic shopping.

River Arts District Just west of downtown, this industrial area along the river is home to artist studios and galleries.


STAY

For a weekend stay, base yourself within walking distance of the downtown area.

If you have a car and intend to hike or visit surrounding areas, parking could be tricky downtown. We stayed in the very affordable Hampton Inn & Suites Asheville, just south of and within walking distance of Biltmore Village.

The Biltmore Estate offers luxury accommodation, a lovely option for a romantic weekend.

LOCATIONS NEARBY