Yes, Paris is wonderful, romantic, and full of people wearing clothes you'll never be able to afford. Not surprisingly, Paris is the most popular tourist destination in all of France. There's the powerfully imposing Eiffel Tower, the awe-inspiring towers of Notre Dame, the scent of croissants wafting from cafés on every cobblestoned corner. But what about the southern part of France? The French Riviera? Provence? It's hard to believe some of the places in southern France even belong to the same country as Paris in the north, but they are equally as beautiful and deserving of a visit.

On the road trip I took through Western Europe, as we came out of the Tuscany region of Italy on our way to Spain, we stopped at a number of places in the southern French regions for a few days; how I WISH we could have stayed for so much longer to venture to some of the other cities that these regions have to offer, but it only gives me an excuse to come back (probably will bop on over when I return to see Cinque Terre…DYING TO SEE CINQUE TERRE).

1. Nice

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Probably the most visited city in all of southern France, Nice is a must. With tons of views to see, things to do, seafood to eat, and beach on which to bask, you will find you won't even know where to start! The French Riviera is known for its fancy beachside resorts and wealth, so coming here was a wonderful break from all the running around in Italy and gave us a chance to really relax, enjoy ourselves, and enjoy the locale. 

2. Nîmes

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Nîmes is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, less than an hour northeast of Montpellier and less than an hour north of the sea. It has been fondly referred to as the "French Rome," because of the massive Nîmes Arena: an amphitheater reminiscent of Rome's Colosseum, once used as a fortified community around the time of the fall of the Roman Empire, and now used for bullfights during Feria de Nîmes and for concerts and world tours…when we were there, they were setting up for a ZZ Top show later that week.

3. Pont du Gard

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Part of the Nîmes Aqueduct, Pont du Gard is almost two thousand years old and was originally built to bring water to the Roman colony from the springs here in southern France. It is now on UNESCO's Lists of World Heritage Sites and one of France's most popular places to go! Hop in a kayak and paddle underneath to see how utterly massive and ancient this thing is, and also go up on it for a view over the Gardon River.

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4. Avignon

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Another UNESCO World Heritage Site!! Seriously, southern France needs to relax and save some for the rest of the world. Avignon is known for, and well respected for, its medieval architecture, notably the Pont Saint Bénézet, the bridge on the bank of the Rhône River, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame des Doms d'Avignon, the cathedral of Avignon, and the Palais des Papes, Palace of the Pope, where the Pope lived 600 years ago. About 13% of the residents of the city live among the medieval walls today. The city is obviously worth a visit for the historical aspects alone, but one of my favorite parts was that the palace is often used as an art gallery, which is really cool to walk through in that sort of setting (HELLO? The rooms themselves are art!).

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5. Carcassonne

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Carcassonne is another medieval town AND UNESCO World Heritage Site (yeah, yeah, we get it, South of France, you're historically important and whatnot), but this one is a FORTRESS. The largest fortress in all of Europe today, to be exact. In Ancient Roman times, it was the first to use hoardings as a defense technique when under attack, and it was one of the most impenetrable cities in all of southern France. It is fun to wander and get lost within the walls of the city, as well as explore the shops and feast on crêpes (after a 2 week long withdrawal after departing from Paris). A bit touristy, but a fascinatingly important place that should make it on your itinerary, whether you stop through on the way to or from Spain, or take a day trip from a larger South of France city.

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With the exception of lovely, lovely Nice, which is a destination in itself and will not stand for being rushed, these sites are all possible if you are short on time but still want to see another side of this historical country. What are your favorite places to see in South of France?? Whatever they are, I will certainly be adding them to my list.

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