Winter in Tbilisi, Georgia – Your Complete Tbilisi Travel Guide

Tbilisi Guide - Winter in Tbilisi Georgia

Tbilisi is a place of much mystery and intrigue. It’s one of those places you wish you knew more about, and yet it can seem a bit elusive in its allure. I recently had the chance to visit Tbilisi in winter, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the capital of this former Soviet republic. 

What I experienced in Tbilisi was a city of juxtaposition. Sometimes tantalisingly so, and at other times the contrast was heartbreaking.

It’s a city that wants to position itself as a European capital with the credentials to match, but yet it offers so much more than just another weekend city break destination. Come with me as I introduce you to this city that captured my imagination and has left me wanting to discover more of Georgia…


TBILISI TRAVEL GUIDE

Where is Tbilisi Georgia?

Georgia, the country that so often gets confused with the American state of the same name, is located next to Turkey, on the edge of the Black Sea. But it doesn’t only share a border with Turkey. 

Russia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan all rub shoulders with Georgia and add to the country’s ambiguous identity.

So is Georgia in Europe?

Technically, not really. But it does identify as such. And while you’re visiting Tbilisi, you’ll have no doubt that there’s a very Eastern-European look and feel to the city. 

Things to do in Tbilisi - Georgia Travel Guide

Best time to visit Tbilisi

Like most destinations in the northern hemisphere, Tbilisi is busier in the summertime. But does that make the summer the best time to visit? 

There’s no denying you could have a lovely time exploring the city in the warmer months. The botanical gardens would be in bloom, the amusement park would be bustling, the Tbilisi Sea (actually a lake despite the name) would offer a scenic respite from the heat…

But I think Tbilisi really shines as a winter destination. 

Imagine sinking into one of the famed sulphur baths after a tour of the old town or an afternoon sampling Georgia’s divine wines. Or seeing the church steeples rising above a city blanketed in snow. 

It’s hard to name the best month to visit Tbilisi, Georgia, but December is a good bet if you want to combine the best the city has to offer while also enjoying the festive spirit of the city.

Is Tbilisi Cheap?

Surprisingly so! In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the best destinations for budget travellers. Food & drink prices – even in high-end establishments – are very reasonable, transport costs are low, and it’s possible to find affordable accommodation throughout the city. 

What about safety?

Tbilisi, and Georgia, in general, is considered to be a very safe destination. But, as always, it pays to be vigilant, just as you would when travelling anywhere in the world. Keep valuables close, stay aware of your surroundings, and keep a phone on you in case of an emergency.


TBILISI IN WINTER

Tbilisi Winter Weather

Georgia in winter is going to be cold, no doubt about that. However, Tbilisi rarely gets below zero degrees (Celsius), has an average temperature of 5 degrees in December, and snowfall is common. But you’re less likely to get wet weather in Tbilisi in winter than if you were to travel in the spring or autumn. Daylight hours are fairly long in winter, with the shortest day of the year seeing around 9 hours of sunlight.

So what can you expect in Tbilisi in winter? Fairly long, cool and dry days with the possibility of snowfall.

What to wear in Tbilisi Georgia in Winter

When travelling to Tbilisi in winter, you’re not going to need to pack anything out of the ordinary. Just make sure you have the essentials on hand – like a warm jacket, gloves and a scarf – and plenty of layers. Outside is cold, but unless you’re going to the countryside, you won’t need your ski jacket! 

Georgia’s dress code features a lot of black and dark tones. People dress smartly. And once you get inside, you can expect to be warm – hence the need for layers.

Tbilisi in December

Visiting Tbilisi in December may be cold, but there’s plenty going on in the city to keep you warm. Unlike elsewhere at Christmas, you don’t get the feeling that the city is ‘wrapping up for the year’. Partly because Xmas is celebrated later in Georgia (more on that below) – so it’s more like business as usual in the capital.

Travelling to Tbilisi in the quieter tourist season meant we got to sample life as it usually is (plus a few surprises like running into a Bollywood film in mid-production!). The bars and restaurants were humming with locals, we never had to queue for anything, and getting a slot at the sulphur baths was no trouble at the drop of a hat.

Xmas in Tbilisi Georgia

Tbilisi Sightseeing

I’m planning to write more about the best things to do in Tbilisi in another post as there is so much to cover, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Visit Leghvtakhevi waterfall – Right in the heart of the old town, this beautiful waterfall is made even more dramatic by its surroundings. Walk up to the Botanical Gardens to see it from another angle.
  • Sulphur baths – No visit to Tbilisi would be complete without a soak in one of the traditional sulphur baths. Choose a lavish private spa experience, or opt for the communal pools – there’s plenty of choice in the bath district.
  • Tour of the old town – A mixture of influences and a muddled history means the architecture in Tbilisi is a glorious medley of styles. Take a guided tour to really appreciate the antiquity on display.
  • Take the cable car to Narikala Fortress – A short but fun ride in the cable car will deliver you to the gates of the 4th-century fortress that overshadows Tbilisi. Take the cable car back down or walk the Narikala Tourist route which will deliver you back after a scenic stroll.
  • Ride the funicular to Mtatsminda Park – You can drive to this hilltop amusement park, but it’s much more fun to ride the funicular! Then spend the day exploring the rides and attractions on offer at the top.
  • Go shopping – The shopping scene in Tbilisi is amazing. Yes, they’ve got your usual brands, but it’s the independent designers and fun boutique stores that really caught my eye. Hit up the markets too for authentic antiques and souvenirs.
  • Sample the region’s wines – As one of the oldest wine regions in the world, Georgia’s vintages deserve to be appreciated. You could head outside of the city and visit the vineyards yourself, or you could make a beeline for a wine cellar and try many different varieties at once.
  • Eat your way through the city – the food in Tbilisi is incredible, and the prices are minuscule. So do yourself a favour and try out as many of the traditional Georgian dishes as you can!
  • Peek into elaborate entrance halls – Behind nondescript doors, you’ll find the most fascinating entrance halls in Tbilisi. Hard to find unless you know exactly where to go, these grand halls are like pieces of art in their own right.
  • Seek out the street art – There’s plenty of art displayed in Tbilisi’s streets. Street art lovers’ will be in their element wandering the alleyways and tunnels throughout the city to get a glimpse of the offbeat art on display.

Tbilisi Street Art. Things to do in Tbilisi in winter.

Best Day trips from Tbilisi Georgia

If you’re staying in Tbilisi more than a few days, you should take the opportunity to take a day trip outside of the city to see more of what Georgia has to offer. Here are a few ideas for day trips from Tbilisi that are less than 2 hours away.

A disclaimer: I didn’t have the chance to try out any of these trips during my time in Tbilisi, but researching them has aided my appetite to head back to Georgia!

  • Visit Kakheti wine region – with almost 3/4 of Georgia’s wine grapes being grown in the region, Kakheti is a must-do if you want to find out what makes the country’s wine so remarkable. Just a two-hour drive will have you in the heart of wine country where you can meet the winemakers and sample their wares. 
  • Hit the ski field – one of the greatest advantages of visiting Tbilisi in winter is the ease at which you can access some of Georgia’s finest ski fields. A couple hour’s drive will see you in Gudauri where you can find world-class skiing at a fraction of the cost, and if you’re a beginner, you can take advantage of the English-language ski lessons too.
  • Find a UNESCO site on your doorstep – One of the closest day trip destinations from Tbilisi, Mtskheta is also one of the oldest cities in the country. Over 3,000 years old, it’s the perfect place to dig deeper into Georgia’s history and visit some of the most monumental landmarks in the country.
  • Tbilisi Sea/Chronicles of Georgia Monument day trip – with the actual (Black) sea being around a five-hour drive away, Tbilisi locals have adopted a nearby lake as their seaside destination of choice. Obviously, the so-called Tbilisi Sea is more of a summer day trip destination; so if you’re visiting in winter, take a peek at it before heading to the nearby Chronicles of Georgia Monument. It’s ginormous in stature and hugely impressive. Plus, it offers a great viewpoint of the city.

Christmas in Tbilisi

Georgia is an Orthodox country and consequently celebrates Christmas on January 7th. But that’s not to say you’ll miss out on Christmas festivities if you visit Tbilisi in December. Quite the opposite. The Tbilisi town hall prides themselves on their festive decorations – and it shows! The lights spanning the main streets in town were incredible, and decorations hung from many a shop window.

Tbilisi at Christmas. Xmas in Georgia

In saying that, the ‘holiday season’ officially starts later in the month. And as a consequence, we did miss out on seeing the famed Xmas tree (the largest in the country) being lit up on the 22nd December. Some of the Christmas markets were just starting to get underway as we were leaving also.

So if you want to make the most of the festive season, I’d recommend visiting closer to Christmas day. Or even extending your holidays by visiting closer to New Years, which is when the real party hits the town!

Best places to eat in Tbilisi

If I had to name my favourite thing about visiting Tbilisi, it would have to be the food.

Oh my goodness, the food.

I wasn’t prepared for the flavours, the freshness, and the variety – even for a plant-eater like me. It blew all my preconceived notions of what food would be like in this former Soviet country (more potatoes anyone?) out of the water. 

Another delightful surprise was the quality (and quantity!) of the restaurants on offer. From trendy Scandinavian-style cafés to basement brick clad eateries with eclectic furnishings, and cosy candlelit diners, Tbilisi does the hospitality scene exceptionally well. I plan to write more about my culinary experiences in Tbilisi, but in the meantime, here are just a few of my favourites. These places stood out for the quality and flavour of their food, but also for the ambience they offered.

Culinarium Khasheria

I’ve listed this one first as it was my absolute favourite place to eat in Tbilisi! Amazing fresh flavours, beautiful presentation, cosy atmosphere – Culinarium Khasheria had it all. I just wish I’d bought some of their green adjika while I was there as I’ve been craving it since I left Georgia. Pick me up some if you go?

Where to eat in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Shavi Lomi

Oozing with character, this quirky restaurant serves up Georgian-fusion food with a European flair (oh, and they have cute kitties to pat too!). Be sure to order the gobi to share – a large bowl full of typical Georgian dips and breads – it’s absolutely divine.

Fabrika

Fabrika isn’t really a restaurant, it’s more of an everything-space. It packs a hostel, co-working space, art studios/shops and an eatery into a former sewing factory to create an energetic and creative meeting place. I’ve included Fabrika in this list, as it deserves to be visited for the ambience. But a disclosure – we had lunch here and it was very average compared to some of the other places we visited. I’ve heard the dinner menu is better.

Zala

Cosy and intimate, Zala was designed to have a welcoming, homely vibe, and they succeeded. The only restaurant where the owner came out to check everything was ok, they take service one step further. The food was amazing (I had a flavoursome mushroom dish), but there were very few vegan options.

Stamba

Stamba Hotel is one of the coolest spaces in Tbilisi – and we saw a lot! The decor, the open kitchen, the retro café and leafy courtyard, everything in the ground level entrance was well thought out and welcoming. Here you can eat Georgian favourites, or opt for something more international – whichever way you go, you won’t be disappointed!’

What to buy in Tbilisi

Shopping in Tbilisi is a treat. Sure, there are all the usual high street stores in the city centre, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find beautiful boutiques selling everything from local couture to ceramics. I’m not sure if it’s a trend-setting, or trend-breaking theme running through the city, but there’s some serious talent on offer. I only wish I’d had more time, and money, to explore the shops in more depth!

If you’re looking for a more traditional souvenir to take home with you, look for the intricate cloisonné (enamel) jewellery that is typical of Georgia, or anything made of wool. Wool has been an important industry in Georgia for decades and the locals love turning this natural product into beautiful handmade garments. 

Tbilisi Nightlife

Nighttime is when Tbilisi really comes to life. Even in winter, it’s usual to see plenty of people about until the wee hours. The bars are busy but not crowded, and the restaurants are still serving late into the night. There’s a real mix of trendy industrial clubs, low key wine bars, and everything in between. And as with everything, drinking in Tbilisi won’t bleed you dry!


ESSENTIAL INFORMATION FOR VISITING TBILISI

Winter in Tbilisi, Georgia

How to get to Tbilisi Georgia

Gone are the days of red-eye flights and connections in Istanbul – at least that is, if you live in the UK. Georgian Airways now fly direct from London to Tbilisi twice a week, making the journey a much more seamless experience. If you’re coming from elsewhere in Western Europe, you’ll more likely have to change planes on the way.

I flew with Turkish Airways from Marseille through to Istanbul, had a quick stopover, and arrived in Tbilisi a little more than 6 hours after I left France. The experience of transiting wasn’t bad at all, and the flights were very comfortable.

Best places to stay in Tbilisi

Ideally, staying central is the way to go when visiting Tbilisi. The capital city is remarkably walkable and you’ll want to be close to the main attractions and activities. 

I stayed in the Rooms Hotel which was ideal. Well located for the city centre, bars, restaurants and shops, yet two blocks away you have quiet residential streets – it was a great place to get acquainted with Tbilisi. The rooms were spacious and comfortable, and the breakfast spread was sublime!

Book your room here.

How to get around Tbilisi

I normally love renting a car when I’m staying anywhere for a few days or more. But Tbilisi isn’t somewhere I’d feel super comfortable doing so. Georgians have a somewhat unique driving style, and the road rules are indecipherable to an outsider. Luckily, staying in the central city I had little need to drive anyway. 

If you do find yourself needing to get further afield, taxis are an affordable option. But by far the cheapest option is to jump on the public transport system. There is a metro system and plenty of buses to take you where you need to go. Travel outside of peak times to avoid the crowds.

What to do in Tbilisi, Georgia.

What currency do they use in Georgia?

The currency in Tbilisi is the Georgian Lari (GEL). A very approximate exchange calculation is as follows:

  • £1 = 3.5 GEL
  • €1 = 3 GEL
  • $1 = 2.5 GEL

Time Zone in Tbilisi

The time zone in Tbilisi Georgia is GMT+4. Coming from France, I found this time difference an easy one to get used to. If anything, it got me out of bed earlier to start the day exploring!

Public WiFi in Tbilisi

WiFi is available throughout Tbilisi city centre. Just look for the Tbilisi Loves You network and you can join for free. I found this super handy as my network provider was going to charge a fortune for roaming data in Georgia.

Language & Key Georgian phrases to help you get around

The Georgian language is a tricky one. Not just to speak, but to read also. Luckily, most people I encountered spoke English well so after an initial “Gamarjoba!” there was no need to blunder my way through. You’ll also find there are signs, menus and instructions in English as well as Georgian throughout the city.

But as with anywhere you travel, it’s always good to have a few key phrases on hand – for politeness and to show respect for the country you are visiting.

Here are a few words you can learn and use during your trip to Tbilisi:

  • Hello – Gamarjoba
  • Please – Gtkhovt
  • Thank You – Madloba
  • Goodbye – Nakh’vamdis
  • Excuse Me – Bodishi


Tbilisi, Georgia is an interesting and diverse holiday destination with a lot to offer visitors. It has a unique flavour that’s somewhat eclectic in nature and yet it keeps you enthralled.

Whether Tbilisi is somewhere you’ve never thought of visiting before, or it’s high on your bucket list, I hope this guide to visiting Tbilisi in winter has offered plenty of inspiration and useful advice.

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Find out all you need to know about winter in Tbilisi, Georgia. Your complete Tbilisi guide including what to eat, where to stay and what to do in Tbilisi.

*My trip to Tbilisi, Georgia was hosted by the city hall. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

Secret castles in Provence – 10 Hilltop Ruins to Discover in France

10 secret castles in Provence, France

I once read somewhere that there were “no impressive castles in Provence”. And while I understand where the writer was coming from with this sentiment, after 3 years in the region, I now realise it really depends on your interpretation of impressive. While it’s true that many of the most beautiful castles reside in other parts of France, Provence is a place of immense history and drama, and our castles (or what remains of them) reflect this beautifully.

The castles in Southern France are generally not in the same league as the likes of Chantilly or Versailles in the north, but they have their own unique charm and plenty of stories to tell. 

The ten Provence châteaux highlighted in this list are those that are loved by locals in the know, but rarely receive the attention of visitors to the region. They’re the evidence of turbulent times past, and usually, places of stunning natural and historical beauty. And sometimes, they can be a little hard to find. 

So let me help you discover these secret châteaux of Provence, France.


Ten Provence Castles to Explore

There are dozens of castles in Provence. Seemingly every hilltop village and rocky spur is topped with the telltale signs of the region’s imperial past. However, some are now privately owned, many are unsafe to visit, and other’s have been made into tourist attractions to require a fee to visit (e.g. Château des Baux de Provence).

The following French châteaux are special in that they’re either secluded, largely undiscovered, or places of immense historical significance. Enjoy getting to know this lesser-known side of Provence!



CHÂTEAU DE VERNÈGUES

Chateau de Vernegues in Provence, France

One of our absolute favourite walking spots in Provence, the Vernègues castle is situated at one edge of a raised plateau. As with others in the region, the former village of Vernègues was destroyed by natural disaster. In June 1909, the village was flattened and later rebuilt on the more stable ground further down the hill. Today all that remains of the ‘Vieux Vernègues’ are the château walls and the ghostly stone structures of a few village dwellings. 

While the castle itself is unsafe to investigate at close quarters (due to the unstable nature of the structure), there are still plenty of nooks and crannies to discover. Descend ancient staircases into underground caves, climb through low slung doorways for exceptional views, and marvel at how grand the hilltop château must have once looked at the helm of the village. Despite its deteriorated state, it’s an imposing sight and must have made quite a statement when it was built in the middle ages.

How to reach the Château de Vernègues

How to get to the Vernègues Castle in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

Driving through Vernègues, you will see a sign in the direction of Vieux Vernègues. Follow the aptly named Rue du Vieux Vernègues as it snakes up the hill before branching out to the left of the château. It’s here you’ll find a large unstructured parking lot. Leave your car here and proceed on foot for the final 120 meters to the entrance of the site. Then you can follow the wider gravel path around the site, or take one of the well-trodden paths that stem off the main route to discover the hidden caves and houses on your way up the hill. I’d recommend the latter!

Once you reach the plateau, take your time to explore the various pathways which will lead you to an orientation table, and an incredible view over the village of Alleins (where there is another castle to discover, see below). And on the way back down, be sure to take the small detour to the Église Saint Jacques which is stunning in its semi-ruined state.

CHÂTEAU D’ALLEINS

Château d'Alleins in Provence, France

Driving north into Alleins from Vernègues, you are greeted with the most picturesque view of this small Provençal village. Pastel coloured townhouses huddle around a barren hill, atop of which you’ll find the stately remains of the Château d’Alleins. Once a castle fit for the noble Renaud family, the château walls now house more pigeons than people, but you can still make out the general shape and structure of the 15th-century building.

Alleins itself is a severely underrated gem of a village. It’s one of those few villages in Provence that goes undetected by tourists, and yet it’s absolutely littered with unique and well-restored relics dating back as far as the 10th century. Indeed, before the most recent castle was built for the Renaud family, there is evidence another castle once lived on the same spot around 500 years earlier.

If you pop onto the village website you can download a walking map (in French) of the various ancient attractions including beautiful old mills, churches and le donjon which now houses a restaurant. 

How to find the Alleins castle

How to find the château d'Alleins in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

If you find yourself in Alleins, you won’t be able to miss the château! There are many ways to access it, and once you do you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of the village. The most ‘official’ entrance to the castle is up a cobbled walkway from either Rue de la Liberté or Rue de la Fraternité. But you can also walk up the grassy bank opposite the SPAR on the main street. It’s a short walk to the castle but one worth doing to explore this ancient site unlike any other.

CHÂTEAU DE ROGNES

Chateau de Rognes in Provence, France

The original Rognes settlement was situated on the slopes of the Foussa – the small hill at the centre of the village. A grand château stood at its centre until it was dismantled during the 16th century. Now, all that remains of this original village are the castle ruins and, further down the hill, a few lucky houses that escaped total collapse. But the history of Rognes dates back much further and there is evidence of human habitation in this area since the Iron Age.

Despite its turbulent past, Rognes has prospered and become a popular village in Provence, in part due to its proximity to Aix-en-Provence and the Luberon. As you wander through the old town, the castle ruins at the top aren’t immediately obvious. But once you find the discreet path that leads up the Foussa to the ruins you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view over the village, nearby farms and the Luberon Valley in the distance.

How to reach the Rognes Castle

How to find the Rognes castle in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

There are two clear walking paths up the Foussa to the old village. The first, off Avenue des Cegares, is easily missed. Little more than a skinny dirt track, you need to keep a look out for it as you enter the avenue. This path will lead you up the hill, past ruined dwellings and crumbling caves, under the last remaining wall of the château, and up to the crest. Here you can climb the rocky spur for a better vantage point, discover the castle ruins, and enjoy the uninterrupted views.

The other ‘official’ way up to the Vieux Rognes is at the end of the Avenue de la Campanette, although there are plenty of small tracks and routes to explore. Just watch your step, as it’s steep in places!

VIEUX VILLAGE DE MÉRINDOL

Above the present-day village of Mérindol lies the remains of another, much older village. Although it sustained significant damage during the religious wars in the 16th century – making the village uninhabitable – what was left behind has weathered the years remarkably well. Here, unlike in some of the other ruins of Provence, you’ll find a series of structures that still somewhat resembles a village. Doors, walls and cobbled alleyways lead you through the maze of stonework to the castrum at the top.

Unfortunately, the château itself has borne the brunt of the damage, and all that remains is are a couple of walls that frame the craggy cliffs behind the village. The surrounding countryside is beautiful and you won’t be wasting your time with the short walk to the top. You’ll also find an orientation table to get your bearings of the Provençal landscape.

How to get to Vieux Mérindol

How to find the Vieux Village de Merindol in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

The most obvious, and convenient way to access the old Mérindol castle and village is at the edge of the newer village. Park at the village parking lot at the end of Rue des Cigales and follow the path up through the olive grove. There’s a large green sign to direct you, so you’re unlikely to get lost. This will lead you up to Chemin de l’Apied where you can start your exploration of the site. Don’t try to drive closer as the roads are very narrow with little options for turning around if you find yourself stuck!

An alternate route, and the one we took the first time we visited, is to drive up Chemin du Maou Traou before turning right onto a small gravel road. It’s a private road, but there is a cleared area of bush where we parked the car. From here, you follow the road into the bush before joining the path to the castrum. As seen on the map above.

LA QUILHO (LA QUILLE) DU PUY SAINTE RÉPARADE

Fort at La Cride. Ruined castles in Provence.

Another victim of natural disaster, this medieval castle survived years of political and religious unrest before being all but destroyed in the 20th Century. The 1909 earthquake reduced it to a lone tower (the keel), and 70 years later that was struck down by lightning! The town rebuilt la quille in 1994 and it’s this reincarnation that you’ll visit today. You’ll still need to use your imagination a fair bit to understand what these castle ruins once looked like.

The oppidum that houses the keel is in arguably better condition, despite its age. Dating as far back as the 4th century BC, it was occupied again in the Middle Ages, when the walls were rebuilt. These ramparts circle the hill creating terraces and natural walkways. It’s a charming site to walk through, one which many visitors to Provence are yet to discover.

How to reach La Quilho

How to find La Quilho in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

La Quilho is situated overlooking the small hamlet of La Cride, just a short distance from the famous Château la Coste. To reach the oppidum and the keel, turn into Chemin de St Jean off the main road. Take care if you’re travelling from the South, as it’s just around a narrow bend and you’re likely to miss it! 

This street will take you all the way to the beginning of the walk where you can continue by foot to explore the ancient hilltop settlement. This walking map will explain the route further and give directions to the keel and the orientation table.

CHÂTEAU D’EYGALIÈRES

The village of Eygalières is one of the most charming villages in the Alpilles. It’s hard to say exactly what it is that sets it apart from other villages in the vicinity, but there is a certain je ne sais quoi about it. At the top of the hillside village, you’ll find the ruins of the ancient settlement. Not much can be seen of the original castle, except the foundations and the donjon which was transformed into a prison in the 13th century.

On top of the dungeon, you’ll see the statue of the virgin mary which was placed there in 1893 to celebrate a miracle. Only there’s nothing on record to note what the miracle actually was, so you’ll have to use your imagination on that one! You’ll also be able to visit the remains of the Saint-Laurent chapel, and the clock tower that was constructed using stones from the castle in 1672.

How to reach the Eygalières castle 

How to find the Eygalières Castle in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

It’s a short walk to the old village of Eygalières, and once again you’ll be better off leaving your car in the newer part of the village. You can drive up, but it’s extremely narrow with limited parking space.

Wander past the new Saint-Laurent chapel and continue up the hill on Rue du Dr Roque until you find the walkway on your right. The stairs will deliver you directly to the château ruins. From there, you can loop around the hill to visit the old church and continue away from the village where you’ll find a windmill-turned-dovecote. Then backtrack to the old village, or continue down the dusty track which eventually links back up with the main road into Eygalières – just be warned, it doesn’t have a verge for walking on until you reach the village boundary again.

CHÂTEAU DE CADENET

Chateau de Cadenet- Provence Castles, France

I’ve written about Château de Cadenet before, and it’s still one of my favourite castle ruins in France. The site is relatively large given the petite village that rests at its heels, and it’s a really interesting and varied place to visit. The castle itself dates back to the 11th century and was partially destroyed in the 17th century before suffering further damage inflicted by revolutionaries in 1792. But despite its turbulent past and extensive damage, it is still a very impressive ruined castle to explore. 

But what makes this place even more amazing are the troglodyte caves pockmarked around the hill that supports the château. Take your time to explore both the rooms of the castle and the prehistoric caves nearby. 

How to reach this château in Provence

How to find the Château de Cadenet in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

At present, the village of Cadenet is undergoing some roadworks, making the route to the château a little precarious. However, it’s just a matter of ignoring your GPS and hanging a right at the first roundabout in the village (marked on the map above), and then continuing up Boulevard de la Liberté, onto Chemin des Rougettes, and then following the signs to the ‘site du château’. This will take you to the top of the castle, where there is a small carpark and a large open field. Alternatively, you can park at the carpark on Rue Raspail and walk to the château from there. 

Whichever way you arrive at the castle, be sure to visit each level in turn, ducking into caves and secret stairwells, weaving through tunnels and finishing with a walk through the wooded forest to find the hidden caves. 

LE CHÂTEAU DU DUC DE GUISE (ORGON) 

Le château du Duc de Guise in Orgon, France

The village of Orgon sits on the edge of the Alpilles. Its unfortunate proximity to the Motorway and slightly rough looking exterior means it often gets overlooked in favour of more secluded villages. But delve into the heart of the settlement and you’ll find a beautiful, quiet and authentic little village with plenty to offer.

Once home to a formidable castle, Orgon still has done well to preserve its heritage. Before you even enter the village the sight of the magnificent Eglise Notre Dame de Beauregard is sure to catch your eye. Situated high on a prehistoric oppidum overlooking the village, it’s well worth a visit in its own right. Then, as you enter the village through one of the fortified gates, you’ll no doubt spot the ruins of the Château du Duc de Guise sitting high above the rooftops. It’s one of the oldest castles in Provence and as well as being very accessible, it’s a fascinating place to explore.

How to find the castle of Orgon

How to find the Orgon Castle ruins in Provence, France

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

To reach le château du Duc de Guise, park in the village and walk through the Porte de l’Hortet – the only remaining door of the original 12th-century fortification (there are two others from a later period). From here you’ll follow a path to the château. It’s a short but very pleasant walk around the château, or you can extend your exploration further by continuing up the hill to the Notre Dame de Beauregard church and the ruins that surround it.

CHÂTEAU DE BEAUMONT LE VIEUX 

Chateau du Beaumont du Ventoux. Secret castles in Provence, France.

The ruins of this 10th-century castle are small in stature, but the scene that surrounds them is absolutely magical. Tucked away in a secluded valley, the Château de Beaumont le Vieux has been all but enveloped by the hill that supports it. And yet, the golden stones and crumbling tower wall that remain still manage to make a statement against the mountainous landscape.

Situated near the famous Mt Ventoux, the village of Beaumont du Ventoux isn’t actually a village in itself, but rather a series of small hamlets that make up the commune. It’s here, among the tight-knit streets and neatly plotted rows of cypress trees that you’ll find what makes this commune unlike anywhere else in Provence. Home to the only ski station in the Vaucluse department, the undulating terrain has a different feel to the nearby Luberon Valley and is worth a visit for that reason alone. Go in the spring when the commune’s cherry crops are in full flower.

How to reach the Beaumont-du-Ventoux castle

How to get to the Château de Beaumont le Vieux

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

To find this hidden castle, you’ll drive into the tiny hamlet of Sainte-Marguerite. Stop to admire the petite romanesque Sainte-Marguerite chapel and think about finding a discreet place to leave your car here as the hamlet only gets narrower the further you drive in. Continue through the narrow thread of houses and take the last street on your right. This will lead you to a stone path that indicates the start of the walk.

When we visited, we took the path up the hill past vineyards and old huts, right up to the crest of the hill. Here the path gets quite overgrown and hard to navigate. Because of this, we didn’t push on to the castle, but we were rewarded with a superb view of the ruins. On the way back down I noticed a subtle stack of rocks with a blue marker, indicating a shorter but steeper route to the castle should you wish to take that route. 

LE CHÂTEAU DES ÉVÈQUES DE CAVAILLON 

Château des Evèques, Fontaine de Vaucluse, Provence, France

Fontaine de Vaucluse is famous for being the birthplace of the River Sorgue. Walk alongside the gently flowing river and you’ll eventually arrive at a deep spring etched into the base of a 240m cliff face. But high above the village is another remarkable sight. The Bishop’s Castle strikes an impressive figure above the petite village and it is an equally intriguing place to discover. 

The original castle on this site was built in the 11th century, but the remains that you visit today date back to the 12th century. They’re in reasonably good condition (for ruins) and you can delve into the castle to peek through its windows, peer into caves, and climb ancient stairs for a magnificent vantage point of the fontaine below.

How to get to the Bishop’s Castle

How to get to the Château des Évèques de Cavaillon

Click on the picture to go to the Google Map

Parking throughout Fontaine de Vaucluse is plentiful in supply, but you have to pay a €4 flat fee for the privilege. From any of the car parks, make your way towards the eastern side of the village, near the tourist office. From here you can walk through a tunnel to reach the François Pétrarque museum (also worth a visit), or climb the stairway towards the château. The path is clearly marked, but it’s not without its challenges – especially for the young or elderly. There are sections where a ladder aides you to ascend a steep embankment, or where the rocks are particularly slippery. It is a short but steep climb to the castle. 

Once you’ve investigated the ruined castle and its surrounds you can continue on the same path which will take you higher and higher up into the valley of the Fountain of Oule. It’s a spectacular walk, with views to match!



By visiting these ruined Provence castles, you’ll get a unique insight into the history and heritage of the region. You’ll be rewarded with secluded walks and the most spectacular views. And most of all you’ll discover a different side of Provence, one that is waiting to unveil itself to you…

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Discover the hidden castles in Provence, France. These incredible Provence châteaux have weathered wars and natural disasters, and today offer visitors the chance to explore a different side of Provence.

Want to know where to find the hidden castles in Provence, France? Discover ten ruined Provence Châteaux, and what makes them so special, here.

The Stunning Abbey de Fontevraud: English Kings and Conspiring Queens

Abbey of Fontevraud - Stunning attraction in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

Guest Post by Helen Flatley

The Royal Abbey de Fontevraud, tucked away in a beautiful corner of the Loire Valley, is one of France’s finest examples of religious architecture and the perfect destination for a family day out. Step back into the region’s colourful medieval past and come face to face with some of England’s most notorious monarchs.


On the Trail of English Kings in France

Richard the Lionheart is surely one of England’s most iconic rulers. A fearsome crusader and warrior, he is perhaps best known as the absentee king of the Robin Hood legend, sweeping in at the end of the tale to restore order and tame the excesses of his cruel younger brother, Prince John. It may be surprising to learn, therefore, that Richard’s final resting place was not in England itself, but rather in the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud, in France’s Loire Valley.

Tomb of Richard the Lionheart and Isabella of Angouleme in Fontevraud Abbey - Loire Valley, France.

Fontevraud, perched on the banks of the Loire and close to the medieval city of Saumur, is a classic example of the closely intertwined relationship between England and France in the medieval period. Founded in 1101, this beautiful abbey is the final place of rest of not one, not two, but four English monarchs. Fontevraud was a favoured establishment of the Plantagenet kings, including the dynastic head, Henry II of England and his wife, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine, immortalised by Peter O’Toole and Katherine Hepburn in the epic 1968 film, The Lion in Winter. This was a period when English kings were culturally French, and major players in French politics, owning vast swathes of land from Normandy to Aquitaine.

Abbey of Fontevraud - Stunning attraction in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

Henry and Eleanor were great supporters of Fontevraud, and under their patronage, the foundation grew swiftly into one of the most important religious sites in the region. It was also distinctive in its organisation, divided into four priories that housed monks, nuns, lay brethren and lepers, all ruled over by a powerful abbess. It remained a functioning abbey until Napoleon sacked the buildings and converted it into a prison in the early 19th century. However, today it stands proud, lovingly restored, as a testimony to France’s medieval past and a time when these two rival nations were inextricably connected.


Abbey de Fontevraud Church: Centre of Female Power

The biggest attraction is the magnificent 12th-century abbey church, a beautiful example of towering Romanesque architecture. The interior is stripped back and elegant, with a clever interactive display that allows younger visitors to design their own stained glass windows and project them onto the high walls of the church. It’s here you’ll find the tombs of Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard the Lionheart and Isabella of Angouleme, wife to Richard’s brother John. Their bones may have been scattered during the Revolution, but their effigies now take pride of place in this palatial, dramatic church.

Abbey of Fontevraud - Stunning attraction in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

England’s kings certainly made their mark here, but it is perhaps Eleanor of Aquitaine, an important French landowner in her own right, who has left the deepest imprint. Defying the conventions of the age, Eleanor was a notorious schemer and political player and was ultimately imprisoned by her husband to prevent her from conspiring against him. She outlived him, and continued to dictate the course of English politics well into her old age, during the reigns of her two sons, Richard and John. An excellent exhibition in the abbey church describes her role in raising the ransom required for Richard’s release when he was captured on his return from the Holy Land after the Third Crusade. Fontevraud was a religious foundation where women ruled, and Eleanor made sure that its abbesses were well supported. A visit here is an ideal opportunity to witness the ways in which medieval women, despite the patriarchal restrictions of the period, were able to wield considerable economic, political and religious authority.

Abbey of Fontevraud - Stunning attraction in the Pays de la Loire region of France.


Exploring the Fontevraud Abbey

There’s plenty to explore in the abbey complex, including the large chambers, dining halls, cloisters and gardens that were an essential part of the medieval foundation. One of the most fascinating rooms is the unusual octagonal kitchen, complete with 20 stone chimneys. The blackened stone shows precisely where the ovens would have been, and it’s easy to imagine this space as the bustling hub of the abbey, with a team of nuns baking bread around the clock, working hard to feed the many mouths that depended on them. The labyrinthine cellars that extend under the visitor centre are another highlight: these were used as a storehouse in the medieval period, but are now beautifully lit to create an atmospheric and eerie effect for visitors.

Fontevraud Abbey, France

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Fontevraud, however, is its magnificent setting, which shows off the Romanesque architecture to perfection. Nestled in 14 hectares of lush, green countryside, and encompassing a traditional medieval stone village, the abbey offers beautiful views down to the river and beyond. Make sure to take the time to wander through the abbey gardens, which provided food, herbs and medicinal plants to cater to the needs of residents, and visit the beautiful orchards. There’s plenty for children to explore too, with specially designed treasure hunts that can be completed using the iPads available at the visitor centre.

Where to Stay When Visiting Abbey of Fontevraud

Fontevraud also offers a great base from which to explore the surrounding countryside and castles, either on foot or by bike. Indeed, for a special treat, and the ideal way to immerse yourself in the region’s medieval past, stay overnight at the abbey hotel, situated in the beautifully restored rooms of the Saint-Lazare priory. These simple, elegant rooms are converted nuns’ cells (albeit with considerably more home comforts!), and are beautifully decorated in a way that evokes the abbey’s medieval past while offering a taste of luxury. The accompanying restaurant, run by award-winning chef Thibaut Ruggeri, is the perfect way to round off the experience.

Book your stay at Fontevraud L’Hôtel here.

Fontevraud Abbey, France

What to do at the Abbey de Fontevraud

The restoration of Fontevraud may hark back to the medieval period, but it has also fully embraced the modern, digital age. Today, a smart visitor centre, complete with gift shop, restaurants and interactive high-tech visitor experiences, makes this a great destination for a Loire Valley day trip. The abbey regularly hosts contemporary art exhibitions and installations, concerts and plays, which will keep visitors of all ages entertained and engaged. There is even the opportunity to explore the abbey and grounds using virtual reality technology. This groundbreaking and innovative approach to bringing the past to life will excite and delight visitors and pushes the boundaries of the way we experience the past and look at historical monuments. The complex is open daily, year-round (except between Dec 25th and Jan 25th), and a family ticket may be purchased for €28. Audio guides, guided tours, and an interactive treasure hunt for children (complete with iPad) are available at an extra cost.

What to do at the Abbey of Fontevraud



The Royal Abbey de Fontevraud offers the perfect marriage between human innovation and natural beauty, between English and French, between the medieval and the modern. It’s a historical monument with a difference, providing a unique window into the medieval past through the creative use of up-to-the-minute technology. As a boundary-pushing medieval queen herself, I like to think that Eleanor would be proud.

Helen Flatley is a medieval historian with a passion for travel, nature and hills. She has lived, studied and worked in France for the past five years, where the diverse landscapes, culinary delights, and cultural treasures have offered her ample opportunity to slake her wanderlust. She now divides her time between Paris and Oxford.

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The Abbey de Fontevraud is the perfect Loire Valley day trip destination. Find out what to do, where to stay, and how to make the most of your time at the Fontevraud Abbey in France. #france #loirevalley #castle #chateau

Exploring the Village des Bories in Gordes, Provence

Visiting the Village des Bories in Gordes, France

The poster child of Provence, Gordes does a brilliant job of attracting visitors into its heart every year. As one of the most beautiful villages in Provence (and officially, of France), it’s often included on itineraries for the South of France. But this hilltop beauty is hiding a not-so-well-known secret.

A stone’s throw from the famous village, you’ll find another historical settlement of more humble beginnings. Le Village des Bories is a fascinating place that speaks volumes about the kind of people who once lived here and worked the land. It tells of how they lived and how incredibly resourceful they were.


Visiting le Village des Bories

We’ve visited Gordes countless times on our explorations around the Luberon Valley, but we’d never made the side trip to le Village des Bories until recently. Although it is signposted, it’s not overly obvious if you’re not looking for it. And the village isn’t as widely publicised as many other Provence attractions.

How to get to the Village des Bories in Provence.

We visited on a damp Autumnal Sunday afternoon and largely had the village to ourselves. And although it was a rather soggy introduction, it made us appreciate both the robust construction and the hardiness of the village’s former residents all the more.

Things to do in Gordes, Provence, France

Taking our time to explore the village, we ducked in and out of low-hung doorways, examining the displays housed within, and imagining how life was when the original occupants were in residence.

Visiting the village des bories in Gordes, Provence, France

We largely just cut our own route through the village (i.e. followed our eager 5-year-old). We weaved through and between the bories as the stone paths would allow, ducking under olive branches and jumping over deep puddles as went.

Visiting the village des bories in Gordes is a great thing to do with kids in Provence.

The bories all have simple signs outside – appropriately etched into stone – to explain what they were once used for. Many were used to house animals, others to store food; there were at least two wine cisterns and even a silkworm rearing house!

The village des bories near Gordes in Provence is a great family day out.

After exploring the bories, climbing up to inspect storehouses, and admiring the beautifully distressed façades, we walked back towards the entrance of the village. It was here we heard music coming from one of the more recent stone houses and we popped inside to find a short documentary about the village playing in a loop.

Visiting the Village des Bories in Provence, France

The top floor housed a small museum, with exhibits and displays written in both French and English. Above the chimney, you’ll find the family tree of some of the original inhabitants of Gordes which I found quite fascinating!

Onsite museum at the Village des Bories, Provence, France


Tips for Visiting the Bories of Gordes

If you’re planning to incorporate the village des Bories on your itinerary of Southern France, here are the key things you should know before you visit.

Getting there

Gordes and the Village des Bories is an easy day trip from Aix or Avignon. From either city, it will take you around an hour to drive there.

As you’re approaching Gordes, look out for the discreet white signs indicating the turn off for the Village des Bories. The entrance is on your left. If you get to the roundabout, you’ve gone too far. So circle around it and return the way you’ve come. There’s a large car park for buses and caravans next to the roadside where you need to turn.

Once you’ve turned off the main road, you’ll follow a long, narrow road for around 1.7 km until you reach the car park for the village. Drive slowly – it’s a two-way road despite the size!

The Luberon Valley is a great place to see the lavender of Provence, France

Parking

As mentioned above, there is a carpark at the entrance to the village. If you’re travelling in a camper or bus, you’ll need to park in the large car park next to the main road – or risk getting stuck. If you’re a nervous driver, or just prefer to walk, it may also be a good idea to park at this car park.

Both car parks are free of charge.

Opening Hours

The Village des Bories is open every day from 9 am to sunset. Just be aware that sunset falls early during the winter months and you’ll want to arrive no later than 2pm to allow yourself time to explore the site before closing time.

The only period during the year that it’s closed is between Xmas Day and New Year’s Day.

Cost to Visit

The current cost to visit the Village des Bories is €6/Adult or €4/Teenagers aged 12-17. It is free for under 12’s making it a cheap family outing for those of us with little ones!

Visiting the Village des Bories in Gordes, France

Other Attractions Nearby

A trip to the bories village will only take you an hour or two, so you can easily fit it in around a day trip to some of the area’s other key attractions.

Gordes Village

Gordes is the quintessential Provence village and one that is well worth taking the time to discover. Wander past the striking château and let yourself get lost in the cobbled lanes. Peek inside the Eglise Saint-Firmin to see it’s surprising interior artwork, and take in the views across the light-filled Luberon valley.

Abbey de Senanque

Visit this Cistercian abbey surrounded by lavender fields. In the summer, it’s swarming with visitors, but come winter it’s a serene place to stop for a visit. Marvel at its beauty, take an unguided tour (there are guided tours available – but only in French), and browse the beautiful gift shop.

Abbey de Senanque near Gordes in Provence, France

Roussillon Village

The village of Roussillon is only a stone’s throw from Gordes, and it’s easy to spot with its rust-red cliffs. Built next to an ochre mine, the village has a rich and varied colour-scheme ranging from bright orange to muted pinks. It’s famous for its art and you can see this evident in the art galleries that pepper the town. Be sure to take in the village square with its Instagram-famous town hall, walk through the belfry to the old town, and up to the orientation table at the top of the village.

The Ochre Trail 

The ochre trail is a short walk through the incredible landscapes of a former ochre quarry. Located in Roussillon, the trail takes in the dusty canyons and rust coloured cliffs of this spectacular site.

The Ochre Trail in Roussillon, Provence, France. Le Sentier des Ocres.

Goult Village

Wander through the lesser-known village of Goult. Follow the signs up through the charming village to the reconstituted Jerusalem Mill, then continue down to the Terrasses de Cultures – a large garden which lovingly preserves and displays the ancient agricultural techniques of the region.

Lavender Museum

The Musee de la Lavande is a petite museum on the edge of the Luberon. It tells the story and importance of ‘blue gold’ in Provence throughout history. Find out how lavender has been grown, harvested and distilled in the past, and how the process works today at the lavender farm of Château du Bois. Afterwards, visit the boutique to buy products made with the finest lavender in the region. Psst – see this post for your exclusive 20% discount on all products in their online store!



The Village des Bories is a fantastic Provence attraction that’s suitable for the whole family to enjoy. Discover one of the Luberon Valley’s best-kept secrets while learning more about the unique history & heritage of this remarkable area.

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The Village des Bories near Gordes makes the perfect Provence day trip destination. Find out why you should visit the bories village on your next trip to Southern France. #france #provence #frenchholidays

Boutique Provence Gift Guide + Exclusive Discounts!

Provence gift guide. Fine gifts from France.
 
 

It’s no secret I love my home. Living in Provence inspires me and awakens my senses in every way. The sheer natural beauty of the landscape, the herby scent carried on a breeze, the taste of market-fresh produce, the texture of an ancient stone wall, and the sound of the sea washing over a pebbled shore… As I remarked to a friend recently “Provence lives up to the dream”.

But I’m far from the only person who is inspired by living in this bucolic corner of the world. Provence is home to some incredible artisans and creatives, and I’m taking this opportunity to showcase some of my favourite local brands and products.

If you’re looking to treat yourself or someone close, this Provence Gift Guide is perfect for anyone wanting to welcome the soul of Southern France into their lives at any time of the year.


French Gifts for Lovers of Provence

The following is a carefully curated list of unique French gifts made in, or inspired by, Provence. Some of the companies featured have been kind enough to offer an exclusive discount code just for my readers, so be sure to look out for these special offers below!

Provence gifts for every occasion.


Boutique Provence Beauty Products

These French beauty products are either things I’ve tried myself and fallen in love with, lusted after from afar, or heard raving reviews about. They’re all locally made with the highest quality natural ingredients from France.

Fine Provence Lavender Gift Ideas

Le Château du Bois have been growing fine lavender since 1890. Their lavender farm, set high in the hills of the Vaucluse, is where they oversee every step in the production of their AOP certified lavender. The Lincelé family are involved in the entire process, from planting the lavender seeds through to distilling their fine lavender essential oil.

In recent years, they’ve expanded their Provence lavender products to include an organic beauty and fragrance range. And if you can’t visit their Provence boutique in person, the online shop is the perfect place to buy the highest-quality organic lavender gifts.

At the very least you’ll want to pick up a bottle of their pure lavender essential oil. Unlike lavandin oil, fine lavender essential oil has a much more delicate fragrance and has higher medicinal properties. It’s an absolute staple in our household.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT: USE THE CODE “LELONGWND” TO RECEIVE 20% OFF LAVENDER GIFTS

The Scent of Provence

Bastide is a beauty and lifestyle brand based in Aix-en-Provence, France. Shirin, Frederic and their team of qualified beautisans work together to create an exquisite range of French beauty products that are guaranteed to tantalise your senses in the best way possible.

I love the sense of passion and history that is infused in the brand, along with their ethos of only using natural, non-toxic ingredients.

Their creations epitomise Provençal living in every sense. And the Rose Olivier Eau de Toilette is the ideal way to carry the beauty of Provence with you wherever you are. A delicate rose scent with woody notes, it’s the perfect summer accessory.

French Floral Cosmetics

Provence local and trained herbalist, Charlotte Maes, combined her love of raw materials and nature to create a line of natural cosmetics and infusions. Les Simples de Charlotte offers a range of healing and nurturing products made with 100% French, natural, organic ingredients.

The products are made in small batches in Provence and packaged beautifully and simply – in line with the store’s core values. Choose from body firming balms, detox teas that look almost too good to drink, or baby lotion, and then package it all up in an organic tote for the perfect Provence gift.


Boutique Provence Style

Whether you enjoy family holidays in Provence, live here year round, or only ever visit in your dreams; being able to wear something that is tied to this place of great beauty is such a precious gift. From antique French linens to jewellery inspired by the landscape of the South of France, here are a few of my favourite finds.

Artisanal Provence Style

Luxe Provence manages to make luxury and practicality meet with their exclusive and limited edition range of locally made garments. The perfectly formed lifestyle collection draws on inspiration from the natural environment to create timeless pieces “designed to be worn barefoot in the garden by day, and paired with heels for an elegant dinner by night”. 

Much more than a fashion brand, Luxe Provence offers a divine selection of unique and handmade accessories created by the region’s finest artisans. Some of the collection is available to purchase separately, or you can give the gift of Provence year-round with a gift-box subscription.

Provence gifts - Ultimate French gift Guide

Mediterranean Candle @ Luxe Provence

Luxe Provence’s latest collaboration combines the work of the incredibly talented ceramicist Valérie Casado, and Grasse-based perfumer Stéphanie Bakouche to create a luxury candle line. The first in the series is Mediterranean fig (find it here) and I can just imagine how heavenly this scent must be. The perfect gift for anyone who wants to feel on holiday at home.

Beautiful Handcrafted Jewellery

Poulette Bijoux is the brainchild of Julie Maigret, an Aix-en-Provence local with an antipodean background. Ever since I stumbled upon her creations I’ve been in love with the simple, yet incredibly elegant designs. The pieces are easy to wear and effortlessly chic, perfect for the South of France lifestyle.

My favourite pieces in the AW19 collection, the Iris earrings and the Gaspard necklace, have both been hammered by hand to create a unique finish. The entire range is incredibly affordable, making it the ideal Provence gift for those on a budget.


Exclusive Provence Decor

Who doesn’t long to take a piece of Provence home with them when they visit? With these handcrafted decor ideas, you’ll be able to have a little slice of Southern France at home with you – wherever you live.

French Pottery of Provence

ENW Céramique creates the most beautifully designed Provence decor and dinnerware. Each piece is unique, taking several weeks to craft by hand. The artist behind the brand, Emmanuelle, lives and works in Aix-en-Provence.

I covet everything on their Instagram account. But some of my favourites include these Ibiza cups that look like they could have come straight out of Cezanne’s studio, and the beautiful teal-tinged dinnerware set pictured above.

Antique French Linens for Home

Creating new from old is what De Boer – Linge de Maison does perfectly with their inspired range of French decor accessories. Flo De Boer takes vintage French table linens and gives them a new life, while at the same time respecting their unique attributes.

This Avignon-based boutique brand sells their wares on Etsy. Why not buy a gift that combines the best of an eco-friendly ethos, vintage charm and unique style. These pieces would look fabulous in any Provence kitchen.


Provence Books & Stationery

Buying books and stationery may just be my greatest weakness. There’s just something special about a beautifully illustrated book, or a one-of-a-kind print to hang on your wall. If you know someone else who gets a thrill from finding unique paperbound treasures, I’m sure they’ll love the following products too…

Weekend Journal

Provence by Weekend Journals delivers you the very best of the region in a beautifully laid-out format. Whether you’re a regular to the South of France, or you only dream of visiting, Provence allows you to sample what’s on offer without ever leaving your armchair. Featuring exclusive interviews with local business owners and creatives, it offers unique insight into this inspiring corner of France.

With insider tips and local know-how, Provence makes the perfect travel companion. Pick up your copy with our exclusive discount code below.

EXCLUSIVE DISCOUNT: USE THE CODE “LELONGWEEKEND” TO RECEIVE 10% OFF

Stationery

Claire Leina is the illustrator and founder of French paper-goods brand All the ways to Say. From her studio in Aix-en-Provence, she creates funky, beautiful, and earthy designs that adorn everything from wrapping paper to posters.

Her online shop is a great place to pick up Provence-designed paper goods. I’m especially fond of the botanic wrapping paper, and the weekly planner might have to make its way to my desk very soon!


Provence Food & Wine

Anyone familiar with Provence will know it has its own distinct flavour palate. From the sumptuous local rosé to the saltiness of a freshly baked olive fougasse, you’ll be left wanting when you leave. With the following gifts, you can experience the tastes of Provence all year round – no matter where you are!

The Wine of Provence

While in Provence, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to sampling the region’s finest wines. But if you want to continue to enjoy your favourites once you get home, nothing beats having them delivered right to your door.

If you’re living in the US, 90+ Cellars stock a fantastic range of French wines, including the best Provençal offerings. And their delivery fees are some of the best I’ve seen! For my UK readers, Majestic Wine has you covered with their broad wine selection and super fast delivery service.

Herbes de Provence

Herbes de Provence are sold around the world, but none are as hypnotic in flavour and scent as those grown, picked and dried under the Provençal sun. Let this mixture of Thyme, Savory, Rosemary, Oregano and Basil transform your cooking, as you enjoy the flavours of Provence on your plate. 


Other Provence Essentials

Embrace the French lifestyle with the following essentials. Whether it’s carrying your groceries in a typical Provence market basket, carrying thoughts of Provence in your head with a good novel, or carrying the knowledge of the local lingo – the following gifts are for those who wish to let France filter further into their life.

French Market Basket

There are few things more quintessentially Provençal than a woven market bag. While these bags and baskets can be found at seemingly every market in Provence, elsewhere you may have trouble finding this essential French accessory.

Choose a simple basket with sturdy handles for everyday market adventures and impromptu picnics. Or upgrade to a rattan trolley for carting around your weekly veggie shop. I have both, and they’re invaluable in daily Provence living.

Provence Inspired Reading

Sometimes you just want to escape in a book and indulge in a little armchair travel. These books will transport you smack bang into the Luberon Valley, or the site of a crumbling château, while delivering a decent dose of comedic therapy too.

The Gift of Language – Learn French in 15 Minutes a Day

One of the reasons we first moved to France was to immerse our son in the French language and culture – allowing him to become bilingual at a young age. We believe the ability to learn a second language is one of the best gifts we could have ever given him. Of course, it’s not always going to be practical to pack up and move to France in order to learn French, so that’s where online learning becomes a fantastic option.

Learn French online

Whether you want to brush up on the French you learned at school, or you’re a total beginner, Frantastique offers online lessons that’ll help you pick up from where you’re at currently. And the best bit is that it takes as little as 15 minutes a day!



Whether you’re looking for a little something special for yourself, or you know someone else besotted with Provence, these French gift ideas are sure to delight even the most discerning of Francophiles. Plus, by buying these French gifts online, you’re helping support the local artisans and creators who call Provence home.

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Looking for a Provence-themed gift? These French gifts are sure to please anyone who loves the South of France. #provence #france #giftguide
Looking for a Provence-themed gift? These French gifts are sure to please anyone who loves the South of France. #provence #france #giftguide

Looking for a Provence-themed gift? These French gifts are sure to please anyone who loves the South of France. #provence #france #giftguide #xmas #frenchgifts

Joshua Tree With Kids – Planning Your Joshua Tree Day Trip

Joshua Tree with kids - Family friendly walks in Joshua Tree National Park

With its mythical landscape, the Joshua Tree National Park ignites the imagination in both young & old. The merging of two deserts – Colorado and Mojave – creates a varied and contrasting canvas, of smooth golden boulders and barbed bushes, of sweeping cactus gardens and skull-shaped rock formations.

At first glance, the unforgiving desert terrain may not seem like the obvious choice for a family holiday. But the well-signposted myriad of short, manageable trails makes it the perfect introduction to desert hiking for little ones. Let me introduce you to our favourite hikes and highlights of visiting Joshua Tree with kids.

Joshua Tree with Kids


It was largely logistics that led us to visit Joshua Tree National Park this summer. We were transiting through the US on our way to New Zealand and had a spare week up our sleeve. As a nature-lover, the National Parks were a major draw-card, but with so many to choose from, where do you start? Our search ended up coming down to where the most affordable flights would take us – San Diego. Just a short drive from the airport would have us in Desert Hot Springs – the perfect base to explore the area’s attractions before we continued on to Los Angeles. For advice on where to stay in Joshua Tree as a family, see the bottom of this post.

Getting to Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is a doable day trip from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Diego, or anywhere in between. Alternatively, it could easily be incorporated as part of your California road trip itinerary.

There are three entrances to the park – two off Highway 62 in the North & West, and a Southern entrance off Highway 10. Each entrance is well signposted. The main entrance is in Joshua Tree town, and it’s here I’d recommend you start your journey. Stop at the visitor’s centre for your entrance tickets to the park, pick up information about the walks, refill your water bottles, or grab a souvenir!

Getting to Joshua Tree National Park by Car

Essential Things to Know When Planning Your Joshua Tree Day Trip

If you’re new to exploring the National Parks of America (like we were), you may feel a bit lost about how to take it all in, and what you should know before you go. This is true of any park, but arguably even more so when visiting a landscape as unforgiving as the desert.

  • You need to buy a ticket. Tickets can be purchased at the visitor’s centre and cost $30/vehicle – making it quite affordable for families!
  • Be prepared for the weather. While the temperatures aren’t extreme in any season, you can still be caught out by unusually chilly weather in winter (it’s even been known to snow in the park!), or a hotter than usual summer  – the average summer temperature is 38°C/100°F.
  • Fill up with petrol/diesel before entering the park. The park rangers advised us to have at least a half tank of fuel before proceeding into the park.
  • Be aware that there is no cell phone reception throughout the park.
  • There is no lighting in the park. In winter especially, be aware of what time dark falls so you can plan your hikes accordingly.

Joshua Tree at night

How Long to Allow for Visiting the Joshua Tree National Park

One of the great things about visiting Joshua Tree with kids is that you can see so much of it within a single day. If you’re visiting in winter, when the days are shorter, you’ll want to arrive in the morning to make the most of the sunlight.

We arrived in the park after lunch, and although it still allowed us enough time to explore – it was super hot in the afternoon. So I wouldn’t recommend this approach if you can avoid it!

There are several family-friendly walks to do within the park that’ll allow you to cool off and have a break in the car in between. And as they’re all relatively short, you’ll be able to experience several throughout the day.

Best hikes in Joshua tree national park

What to Take With you When Visiting Joshua Tree With Kids

We were missing a few essentials such as wide-brimmed hats and a good daypack when we visited Joshua Tree. Luckily, there is a sporting goods/outdoor adventure store next to the visitor’s centre in Joshua Tree town centre which saved the day. But it was an expensive mistake, so save money and make sure you have these essentials packed before you go:

  • Closed-toe, sturdy shoes. Although the hikes aren’t strenuous, and boots aren’t strictly necessary, it is important to have closed-toe shoes when walking through a desert full of spiky plants!
  • Plenty of water. The official website suggests 4 litres of water per person. We ended up having half this quota for our trip and it was plenty for a half day exploring.
  • Weather-appropriate clothing. Layers in winter. Loose, breathable clothing in summer.
  • Wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses and sun cream. Protect your skin and eyes in the heat.
  • A baby carrier if travelling with little ones. A full day walking in the sun can quickly become too much for very small children. And strollers aren’t convenient.

Visiting Joshua Tree with Kids

Animals of Joshua Tree National Park

Far from barren, the deserts of Joshua Tree National Park are bursting with life. From long-eared jackrabbits to curious chipmunks, many critters thrive in this unforgiving, yet fertile land. But remember, these are wild animals.

Don’t attempt to interact with the park animals in any way, and try not to disturb their habitat. Simple steps such as taking care not to leave food about, driving slowly (to avoid hitting the slow-moving Desert Tortoise), and staying on the walking paths help protect the animals of Joshua Tree National Park.

Animals of Joshua Tree National Park


Joshua Tree Route Map

This route starts at the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor’s Centre and takes in four family-friendly hikes and two places of interest within the park.


Best Hikes in Joshua Tree for Families With Young Kids

The following trails offer a great opportunity to experience the best of Joshua Tree as a family. Trail length, duration, and the difficulty level are listed below each hike.

HIDDEN VALLEY TRAIL (B)

The Hidden Valley Trail was our first walk of the day, and essentially, our introduction to the Mojave Desert. An easy 1 mile-loop, it still took us nearly 2 hours to complete as our son attempted to climb every rock face we encountered!

Walking the Hidden Valley Track with Kids

Park in the large carpark and follow the signs to the beginning of the trail. The first bit of track doubles as the exit to the trail, before the loop through the valley begins. The dusty trail then leads you through the fertile landscape of this unique area. A microclimate exists within the Hidden Valley due to its sheltered position within the park. And it was this combination of the valley’s secluded location and abundant vegetation that led cowboys to use the area for cattle grazing before the park became protected.

Today you won’t find cows here, but we did see plenty of chipmunks dashing about. It’s an area hugely popular with climbers, and as you weave between the rocks, you may be tempted to try it out for yourself.

The trail is easy to follow and there are plenty of signs pointing out the various plant specimens you’ll pass on the way. It’s a good place to find the iconic Joshua Tree, but there are plenty of other cacti, trees and shrubs to get acquainted with too.

  • Length – 1.6 km (1 mile)
  • Time – Under an hour (unless you go off course like we did!)
  • Difficulty – Easy
Best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park

Entrance to the Hidden Valley Track

Hidden Valley Trail in Joshua Tree National Park

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park with kids

Joshua Tree with kids


BARKER DAM TRAIL (C)

The barker dam track is a circular track, but it seemed most people walked to the dam and then backtracked the way they’d come. They were doing themselves a disservice, as the second half of the walk is, despite being quite flat, very scenic and varied.

Walking the Barker Dam Track with Kids

Starting at the carpark, you’ll follow the signs to the start of the circular track. The dam, however, isn’t signposted until you reach it, which seemed to be causing some confusion among the other people on the track. Some simply turned around after wrongly assuming that an empty pond was indeed the missing dam.

When we did eventually find the dam (obscured behind innocuous looking boulders as the level was understandably low in the height of summer) it was an impressive sight! Not because it was particularly full or beautiful, but simply because it was there – this large body of water in the middle of the desert! It’s said to attract hordes local birdlife but we weren’t lucky enough to spot any.

If you venture on past the dam, you’ll find further evidence of past habitation within the park, including petroglyphs etched onto a rock wall. The trail is fairly flat, apart from the stairs leading down from the dam, and is pockmarked with burrows – be careful where you tread.

  • Length – 1.8 km (1.1 miles)
  • Time – An hour
  • Difficulty – Easy

Walking the Barker Dam trail with kids - Joshua tree national park

Barker dam trail in the Joshua Tree National Park

Best hikes in the Joshua tree national park with kids

Joshua tree with kids - family friendly hikes in JT


SKULL ROCK NATURE TRAIL (F)

The skull rock nature trail takes its name from the skull-shaped rock at the entrance of the walk. Located not far from the Jumbo Rocks campground, it’s a good place to discover the mammoth boulders in this part of the park.

Walking the Skull Rock Trail with Kids

First of all, let me make it clear that the ‘skull rock’ isn’t immediately obvious on this track. We didn’t realise that we had passed it at the beginning of the track, and so we continued walking, trying to spot it as we went. There were several signs along the way, but none alluded to the skull rock*

*That we noticed. I’ve since seen photos of the rock with a bid red sign pointing to it. So, it’s either not there anymore, or it wasn’t all that clear.

The track leads you through a stunning landscape, once again different from the two previous walks we’d done that day. We ended up walking half way and then backtracking – still trying to find the skull. We didn’t realise at the time that the track continues on the other side of the road, past the campground, creating a loop. But Arthur was getting tired by this point, so he hitched a piggyback ride back to the car.

We did eventually discover the infamous Skull Rock – but it takes a little imagination to ‘see’ it. On that basis, I probably wouldn’t stop here solely to see the rock, but the walk itself was really pleasant! The bright orange boulders and gently undulating landscape made it really light up at golden hour.

  • Length – 2.7 km (1.7 miles)
  • Time – 1-2 hours
  • Difficulty – Easy

Joshua tree with kids

Skull Rock Walk, Joshua Tree National Park


CHOLLA CACTUS GARDEN TRAIL (G)

This trail leads through the Cholla Cactus Garden, taking in the sheer number of cholla cactus, the sloping view over the lower Colorado Desert and the towering boulder backdrop.

Waking the Cholla Cactus Garden Trail with Kids

The Cholla Garden Trail is very short and an easy one for little legs to undertake. It loops around the garden at an even level, starting and finishing at the carpark. Be aware that the cholla – nicknamed the teddy bear cactus for its appearance – easily latches onto clothes and skin. And it doesn’t come off again easily. So make sure curious hands are kept at bay!

We arrived at the Cholla Cactus Garden at sunset, so whisked through the walk before it was completely black. It’s a lovely time of the day to experience the silhouette of the cactus against a pastel sky.

  • Length – 400m (0.25 miles)
  • Time – 15-30 mins
  • Difficulty – Easy

Cholla Cactus Garden Trail - Joshua Tree with Kids

Cholla Cactus Garden Trail - Joshua Tree with Kids Cholla Cactus Garden Trail - Joshua Tree with Kids


Other Places of Interest Within the Park

Driving around the national park, observing the subtle changes in vegetation and topography, is interesting in itself. But there are a few stops worth taking the time for if you want to make the most of your day in Joshua Tree.

KEYS VIEW (D)

A little off the beaten path – but this is one detour that’s worth your time. The sweeping views over the Coachella Valley and Mount San Jacinto (where you’ll find the aerial tramway) are remarkable. We also saw plenty of wildlife at Keys View, including mice and jackrabbits.

There’s a very short walk to a viewing platform that’s also wheelchair accessible.

Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park Keys View, Joshua Tree National Park

JUMBO ROCKS (E)

If you’re passing by Skull Rock, take time to spot the Jumbo Rocks. If you do walk the Skull Rock Nature Trail, you’ll pass by these gigantic boulders. But if not, be sure to pull over and admire their impressive size and form.

Jumbo Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park


Family Friendly Accommodation near Joshua Tree National Park

When we were looking at accommodation options, we wanted something that was close enough to both the Joshua Tree National Park and the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. We ended up booking a great little Airbnb in Desert Springs. It was fabulous price wise, and the location was good for access to both attractions, but Desert Springs itself had little to offer.

I’ve listed below the place we stayed, as well as a few other family-friendly accommodation options we were looking at in the Palm Springs/Joshua Tree area.

Desert Springs 2-Bedroom Apartment

The Airbnb we stayed in. The area wasn’t fancy, neither was the exterior of the apartment. But the interior was comfortable with two large bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a generous open plan kitchen/dining/lounge. It was also very affordable!

Yucca Valley 2-Bedroom Desert Cabin

Enjoy a bath under the stars while staying in this beautifully decorated, light-filled 2-bedroom cabin. The desert is your backyard at this Airbnb, so you can enjoy the outdoors as much as the indoors. I can just imagine sitting outside on the deck with a wine in hand and stargazing once the little ones are tucked up in bed…

If you’re new to Airbnb, use this link to receive €25 (or equiv. in your local currency) credit once you book your first stay!

Joshua Tree 2-Bed Family Room

If you prefer the convenience of a hotel when travelling, the Travelodge hotel in Yucca Valley has you covered. With large family rooms, a pool complex, and an on-site restaurant, it’s a one-stop shop if you’d prefer to spend most of the day out exploring!

Exploring Joshua Tree with Kids



Joshua Tree was a fun family day trip destination from Desert Springs. And it allowed us to sample one of the US National Parks in a manageable way when we were short on time. The incredible landscapes of the Colorado and Mojave Deserts left an impression on the entire family and fueled our desire to visit more National Parks in the future.

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Discover the best of Joshua Tree National Park in just one day. Read about the best hikes in Joshua Tree, worthwhile stops on your itinerary, and what you'll need to explore this popular US National Park with kids! #Familytravel #USnationalparks #Joshuatree #california

Find out how to make the most of visiting Joshua Tree with kids! Everything you need to know about visiting JT National Park with your family, including what to take, where to stay and the best hikes in Joshua Tree for families. #california #USA #Joshuatree #familytravel #hiking
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