road trips from paris

Road Trips in France: Toulouse and Montpellier

Happy Thursday! Today I'm rewinding to the very beginning of my most recent trip through France to share about my time in Toulouse and just outside Montpellier. While Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world (check out my Travel Guide and Hotel Guide for more about the city of lights) there are SO many other destinations in this beautiful country that I knew I wanted to see. So I did some homework, mapped out a route and set out on a two week road trip from the south-west corner all the way up to northern coast.

Full disclosure, this is not a comprehensive post where I break down the intricacies of every-single-thing you need to know. While I want to be a helpful resource to show you the "best of the best" of every destination, I also want to help show you different styles of traveling. I (personally) don't believe seeing this region of France is something you do with a grand agenda. Since these are less-popular destinations than some of the "heavy hitters" in Europe, there's not really a laundry list of things you're "supposed to do." So instead, I recommend to relax a little, let yourself go with the flow and take everything in along the way. I will say that the best way to visit either of these, especially if you group them together with villages in Provence, you'll want to rent a car to get around (and as I mentioned in my Étretat post, we spent quite a bit of cash on tolls so I'd advise planning accordingly - this is a good resource for more information.)

 

TOULOUSE

After my trip to Prague, I had 24 hours on my own to kill before meeting up with my friend Marcia. I caught a flight to Toulouse, nicknamed "La Ville Rose" (aka The Pink City) known for the hues of its terra-cotta bricks. Toulouse is someplace that's been on my radar for a while now. I'd read articles in Condé Nast Traveller and Vogue praising this soulful metropolis in southwestern France. It's situated between the Pyrenees mountains, very close to the Mediterranean and just around the corner from one of the most beautiful and popular regions in France, the Dordogne. In the short time I spent here, I quickly became very aware of how much history, culture, epicurean excellence and beauty this city possesses. I set out with no agenda and simply got lost roaming through the narrow blush alleys and strolled along the Garonne river.

toulouse france
garonne river toulouse france

 

Grand Hôtel de l'Opéra

In the heart of the city is a breathtaking courtyard and domineering façade known as "Le Capitole"-- serving as the City Hall. Here, you'll find a variety of musicians, cafes and anything else embodying the "Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler" (let the good times roll) lifestyle. I stayed at Grand Hôtel de l'Opéra, a beautiful four-star hotel that's rich in history, modern in comfort and overlooks the Capitole square.

toulouse france

 

This hotel was a former Monastery dating back to the 17th century. Today, the 57 elegant rooms offer a refined style with unique charm (and lots of them offer a balcony or terrace that overlooks Le Capitole). They also have a Gastronomic restaurant, Les Jardins de l'Opéra, on site which offers delicious cuisine and a beautiful atmosphere. 

grand hotel opera toulouse france
grand hotel operal toulouse france
grand hotel opera toulouse france
grand hotel opera toulouse france

The staff was most welcoming and accommodating and I couldn't have been in a more optimal location for exploring the city by foot. I'd highly recommend this gem to anyone paying Toulouse a visit!

 

While my time in Toulouse was fleeting, one thing I know about this beautiful city is that they know how to have a good time. Whether in bustling food markets, the impressive wine cafés or relishing in the hum of the jazz, techno and rock scenes, the pink city is sure to captivate your heart. I can't wait to return again in the future!

toulouse france

 

MONTPELLIER

Once my friend Marcia arrived the next day, we hopped in the car and set out for Montpellier, France. This (almost) coastal town is only 10km inland from the Mediterranean Sea and is known for its medieval streets and warm subtropical climate. We stayed slightly outside the city for more of a tranquil retreat so that Marcia could recover from jetlag and I could recover from 6 weeks on the road. 

 

DOMAINE DE VERCHANT

The Domaine de Verchant is a place that disconnects you from the outside world in a cozy cocoon of luxury. Set in the heart of a restored vineyard estate, this five-star castle/ hotel/ château offers a wide array of unique apartments and villas- each with unique decor. The setting is deliberately intimate to maintain a low accommodation capacity to promote optimal service and comfort. No matter if we were at the impressive breakfast spread or lounging by any of the beautiful pools, it felt as if we were the only ones there. 

domaine de verchant
domaine de verchant hotel and spa montpelliere france
domain de verchant montpellier france
domaine de verchant montpellier france
domaine de verchant montpellier france

To be perfectly honest, we planned on exploring more of Montpellier that evening but we loved Domaine de Verchant so much that we ended up staying on property the entire time! For dinner that evening, we ate a gourmet meal at “Verchant” one of the restaurants on-site with sweeping views of the vineyards. The staff was very accommodating and everything we ate was fantastic. But then again, that was true for our entire experience overall. Domaine de Verchant was exactly what we both needed: a place to rest that's set in a beautiful and quintessentially French atmosphere. I highly recommend staying here to anyone passing through the southern region of France who is looking for the same. 

verchant restaurant
domaine de verchant

 

Toulouse and Montpellier (or Domaine de Verchant anyway!) were each unique in their own way, but both were destinations I'm glad I visited. From here we journeyed onto Provence (which you can read about in my Provenceal Travel Guide). No matter what you're looking for in a destination, I sincerely can't recommend going off the beaten path enough. It's places like these little towns and villages that you truly get a taste of the local culture- something you could accidentally miss in a big city like Paris where there is so much going on. Visiting less-popular destinations has become one of the most rewarding parts of travel for me, and it's my hope that introducing you to some of these places encourages you to get outside your comfort zone and try something new. 

Any questions about these destinations? Let me know in the comments below. 

Thanks for stopping by, and stay tuned for another stop on my road-trip through France: Dijon!

xx

Whitney

BA_button+copy.png

Étretat France

etretat france

Hey friends. Happy Monday! Hope everyone had a great weekend. 

When I was in Europe a few weeks ago, I got to meet up with my friend Caitlin a few different times over the course of my trip. She lives in Berlin so we don’t get to see each other as often as I’d like, but I can always guarantee it will be an amazing adventure whenever the two of us travel lovers get together! To bookmark the end of an incredible journey, she joined me for road-trip through some of the most beautiful bits of north-western France. Our first stop? Étretat. 

Before I dive into this destination, let me caveat by saying my goal for this road-trip that Caitlin and I embarked. There are tons beautiful destinations near Paris to visit, and we wanted to showcase them. Don’t get me wrong- Paris is an incredible city (one of my very favorite in the world). But I’ve learned that smaller, more remote destinations offer such a unique + special experience that I believe is really valuable for travelers. So when you find yourself booking tips to the “heavy hitter” cities, my hope is that you’ll find a day or two to venture out to some other, less “popular” destinations. 

Étretat was made famous when impressionist painters like Monet captured the seaside landscape on canvas. Today, its three natural arches and white chalk cliffs that soar high above the sea attract visitors from all over the world. It wasn’t until one rainy afternoon in Berlin when we started scheming up this trip that I even knew Étretat existed (I think one of us found a photo of the arches on Pinterest) but it didn’t take long for us to commit to visiting this breathtaking coastal town. 

 

Étretat is a popular day-trip destination for tourists visiting the D-day beaches, thus your average visitor won’t spend much time here (we stayed for one night). The town itself is quite small, though offering plenty of shops and restaurants to choose from no matter the length of your stay. But it goes without saying the real showstopper of any visit here is the natural landscape. One of our favorite parts of this trip was hiking to Falaise d'Etretat (a giant archway lurking over the sea and Chemin des Douaniers) and taking in the breathtaking scenery. 

We stayed at Domain Saint Clair: an idyllic Anglo-Norman style castle from the nineteenth century that’s nestled in a picturesque park overlooking the cliffs and the sea. While we only stayed in Étretat for one night, Domain Saint Clair showed me I could easily spend a week retreating, relaxing and embracing the French “art of living” where people know how to take their time. It’s an ideal place to relax, read, have a drink, play a game of cards or just listen to the crackling fire in the hearth on winter days. Overall, this place offers a tranquil energy that feels like you’re in a novel and seems to soothe the soul. 

We loved the beautiful design of the rooms, the incredible food served at the restaurant, the hospitable staff that made our stay unforgettable and most importantly, the stunning views. 

No matter how long you plan on staying in Étretat, Domain Saint Clair is a fantastic place to stay that I can't recommend enough! Do yourself a favor and book your stay here

 

 

etretat france
etretat france

Overall, Étretat is one of those locations where you simply feel like you're in another world and I highly recommend that you pay a visit yourself. As I said before, we drove here from Paris (only 2.5 hours by car) so it's very easy to do. Just be sure to plan ahead for tolls, because they are expensive in France (we spent ~€40 just from Paris to Étretat).  

 

Want to know some other destinations you should add to this road trip? Stay tuned, because Caitlin and I hit 2 more beautiful spots that I'll be recapping soon! 

Thanks so much for stopping by, and feel free to ask any questions about Étretat in the comments below!
 

xx

Whitney