Second time in the South of France

We’re back in Vias! June 2016. Almost exactly the same time as last year. And we thought it was Beziers this whole time. But that’s just the closest airport. Last year we had a completely different adventure, having driven to Vias from Nice (Frolicking in the Sunshine in the South of France) after 10 days in Morocco (Big Love for Morocco).

Here’s a daily diary of our adventure this time around, starting with 5 travel tips:

  1. Learn some French before you get there – most speak little to no English in these parts
  2. Hire a car from Ryanair if you fly with them, they are MUCH cheaper!
  3. Buy snacks and drinks from the Intermache (supermarket) – wine starts from €1 and a 6 pack of beer starts at €3
  4. Expect to pay high tolls on the motorways but they’re worth it to save time!
  5. Plan to eat lunch at restaurants before 2pm so you don’t miss out

Wednesday – Flight to Beziers

Holiday on! We flew with RyanAir from Luton Airport in London around 4.00pm and arrived 2 hours later. You definitely need a rental car here. There are so many places to explore nearby and up to a few hours away. You can even drive to Spain in 2 hours! Plus the shuttle buses from the airport are unreliable which we’d learnt from last time.

Refer tip 2 – our flight times changed a few weeks before our trip which meant we had to change our car pick up time. A few difficulties with this process led us to changing car rental companies the day before our trip (£0 cancellation fee) and we ended up saving ourselves £50 thanks to the cheaper car rental prices via RyanAir (shout out to Alamo). We even got upgraded to an automatic 5 door Peugeot 3008. Our original booking with the other company was a Renault Twingo or similar… so don’t be afraid to change!

It was a nice familiar feeling to drive into La Carabasse (all of 8 minutes from the airport), our accommodation from last time. Our friend Jim owns a place here, which is quite handy for us! We decided to get dinner at Bar Atoll (part of La Carabasse) and discovered how big the Euro games are here. People were getting their faces painted in blue, red and white as we were eating pizza, recognising staff from last time and planning our 5 days in the South of France.

Thursday – Cevennes National Park and its wolves, cute villages and gorges

Roadtrip! After a bowl of Les Doodingues (similar to cornflakes).

IMG_5984Refer tip 4 – our one and only toll between La Carabasse and Saint Enimie was €9.80 each way. But last time we drove to Cevennes it took us 5 hours thanks to not knowing about the motorway and entrusting google maps with the destination entry – ‘Cevennes National Park’.

Saint Enimie

Saint Enimie

We visited Saint Enimie last time and loved it, hence why we were back. Sadly it was a bit cooler this year so no swimming for us. We did however enjoy our time exploring the windy streets of this old medieval village. See my Vlog: Aussie couple roadtripping around the South of France.

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Saint Enimie

Wanting to try something different, we drove 10 minutes to Saint Chely Du Tarn to a place highly recommended on TripAdvisor for lunch – Eden Bar. The setting was perfect! But unfortunately we couldn’t get in thanks to a large group beating us to it and it being after 2pm – insert tip 5.

Saint Chely Du Tarn

Saint Chely Du Tarn

But we did get to meet a very nice Mexican who took our photo! He originally asked us to take his photo then a few minutes after saying our goodbyes shouted “Australia! Want me to take your photo?” This place is breathtaking. Even driving in we felt that the village was special. We spotted another restaurant but it didn’t have the same perfect setting as the Eden Bar. So we yelled “Goodbye Mexico”, got back in the car and drove to Saint Enimie for a panini at the same place we enjoyed an ice cream on our first ever visit.

IMG_6067What we didn’t have time to see on our first visit to Cevennes were the wolves, so this was a must see this time. Loups du Gevaudan is in the north-west area of Cevennes. Cost is €8 each. Let me describe the experience for you. After paying the entry fee, you walk through the cafe and shop and open the door to an outside path. If you’re lucky enough there will be a tour and feeding during your visit to coax the wolves out from their hiding places. The 100 or so wolves (five different species) roam free within a fenced area on either side of the pathway. They look relaxed and are surrounded by lots of meat free bones they have licked clean. The tour guide spoke in French so we skipped ahead and walked the entire pathway before ending up back at the shop. Downstairs there is a museum worth checking out and outside the cafe is a balcony above a waterhole. Our favourite part of the experience was standing on the balcony watching the wolves drink and bathe and three cubs playfully wrestling. Life complete.

On the way back to La Carabasse we stopped at the Intermache to pick up a few things. Insert tip 3. Quick change at ‘home’ and onto Pancho Villa on the main street of Vias Plage for dinner. We had one of their extravagantly decorated cocktails and a mix of their Mexican menu offerings before strolling the length of the street and returning home.

Friday – Lounging by the pool and Europark

Imagine a day spent in the sun lying on a deck chair reading a book by the pool. That was us for a good few hours before racing each other on the waterslides. Yes, La Carabasse has waterslides! They’ve also got a large entertainment area near the pool, perfect for their evening shows.

To continue our complete relaxation, we had lunch at home followed by an afternoon nap. We needed our energy for Europark! You’d be blind if you hadn’t yet seen any advertising for the opening of Europark today at 20h (8pm).

IMG_5924After a few drinks, snacks, dinner and tunes on our outdoor table in the sun, we walked to Europark within 5 minutes. It’s free to enter Europark however there is a cost per ride. To save money you can buy bulk tickets upon entry. For example we paid €40 for 48 tickets though you can pay cash per ride if you prefer. We braved the following rides before it poured with rain and forced us home:

  • Euroloop (biggest roller coaster – they sent us around twice!)
  • Eurobravo (water ride)
  • Eurospeed (roller coaster)
  • Shake Up (g force spin)

IMG_6069But we had tokens in our pockets and our hearts set on the Sky Rider so we knew we would be back.

Saturday – Exploring the REAL Beziers and Europark round two

So as I hinted right at the beginning, what we thought was Beziers was actually Vias. Beziers has a large city centre about 10 minutes drive from Vias! And today was our day to explore it. We parked the car near a market in which we discovered lots of beautiful antique furniture and home wares.

IMG_6070We explored the winding pathways around the city covered by colourful umbrellas before settling on the Cafe Des Arts for lunch. We spoilt ourselves here, spending around €50 for the both of us including drinks. Good food and full of locals celebrating a birthday or something similar. Afterwards we walked to the Beziers Cathedral which is similar to the one in Paris. There’s also a great view of the city from here.

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The rest of our afternoon went something like this:

  1. icecream stop on the way home (Vias)
  2. nap time
  3. go-karting on the track next to Europark (very important to mention that I beat Harry!)
  4. drinks and snacks in the sunshine at our accommodation
  5. back to Europark!

And we know what that means. Skyrider! It costs €20 each but totally worth it. We worked our way up to it with a dancing machine competition and using up a few tokens on the other rides first. Once we’d purchased our Skyrider tickets, it was soon our turn so they ushered us over to put our harnesses on. We stepped onto the platform which was elevated before they hooked us up together. Harry had been given the HUGE responsibility of pulling the cord at the top and had it safely placed near his left shoulder.

It’s amazing how quickly you get pulled backwards towards the top of the Skyrider! Harry reminded me to breathe and assured me he wouldn’t pull the cord until we saw the white smoke as instructed. Well we didn’t have to wait long! It all happened really quickly and both the ride and view were breathtaking!

We made it back to La Carabasse in time for the free entertainment at the pool area – a family friendly cabaret show. The Entertainment Manager from our first visit was one of the main performers and they put on a great show! Everything was translated from French to English and vice versa due to the mix of tourists staying in the holiday park.

Sunday – Valras Plage (beach) and Vias Old Town

Today we drove to Valras Plage about 15 minutes from Beziers. A quick google search was our method of finding it and we felt like we’d hit the jackpot! We walked towards the beach through a sea (get it?!) of markets and restaurants full of people until we reached the sand. What a lovely area! As usual for us it’s almost always food time so we found a place along the beachfront for lunch.

IMG_5970On the drive home we stopped at Vias Old Town, recommended by our friend Jim. They have an Irish pub there called Shenanigans and a slogan out front – ‘There are no strangers here, only friends you haven’t met yet’. There’s also a few restaurant options and an ice cream store. Another area worth visiting!

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Vias Old Town

We had a quiet night relaxing with:

  • a drink at Bar Atoll
  • game of pool
  • chat with our German neighbours and a cuddle with Teddy their dog!
  • take away pizza from the main street of Vias

IMG_5986You’ll think we’re really weird now but as it was our final night and we had a tin of cat food from the Intermache we’d bought especially for ‘Bruce’ who we met last time but sadly didn’t visit us this time, we went on a search for the lucky cat/s. Cat food and spoon in hand. We found a very grateful shy cat but we decided to spread the rest of the love (aka cat food) around the holiday park until the tin was empty. You can call me a crazy cat lady. It’s fine. I totally get it.

Monday – Meze and final waterslide!

Sad times! Final day in the South of France before flying back to London. Luckily our flight was later in the evening so we still had time to explore. Another Google search led us to Meze, a beach 25 minutes from Vias.

IMG_5990When we arrived we found that there was both a beach (not as nice as Valras) and a port surrounded by restaurants. You guessed it! Lunch time. We found a restaurant with a view of the port area and enjoyed our lunch while soaking up some sunshine.

The rest of our holiday was spent relaxing on a deck chair by the pool at La Carabasse reading our books, swimming and of course assuming our positions at the water slide along with mostly young children.

There are so many places to explore in the South of France. If everyone who visited wrote a blog post, I’m 100% certain they would all be very different, just like the two of mine. Who knows, we might visit again next year!

 

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