I’ve always found the first day after returning from a trip to be so emotional. On one hand, it’s comforting to be back in a familiar environment and return to a routine. On the other, it’s hard not to feel a sense of mourning that an experience you’ve looked forward to for so long has ended. In my experience, it’s best to merge those feelings into one: of gratitude, for both the opportunity to see the world, and for a home to come back to.
This past week I was in the South of France with my partner Cory and his family. They chose to reunite there because his uncles run a wine importing business and were going to visit some producers. What an opportunity to come along for the ride for, right?
We rented a gorgeous house in a small town called Tressan (which has exactly 1 business -- a little store). The house was everything we could have hoped for and more. It was spacious, with 8 bedrooms and plenty of space for all 16 of us plus a big yard for the little ones to run around in. The pool with a view didn’t hurt either — it was the perfect way to relax after a day of exploration.
Because the goal of the trip was to relax and spend time together as a family, we didn’t have a super strict itinerary to go off of, which was challenging for me, but allowed for far more flexibility and relaxation along the way.
Here’s a brief overview of what we did, with recommendations in case you’re planning a trip to the area anytime soon!
Arrived in Barcelona. Rented a car to drive the 3ish miles to Tressan. Gorgeous views along the way! We arrived at golden hour and spent the evening catching up and enjoying the first of what was to be many glasses of wine.
RECOMMENDATION: Our Airbnb in Tressan was stunning.
Walked around Tressan and nearby Pezanas, where we had lunch.
Spent the afternoon at Domaine Sainte Cécile du Parc, a local winery owned by couple Christine Mouton Bertoli and Stéphane Mouton. We got to see how the magic is made and enjoyed a tasting in the couple’s gorgeous backyard.
I always enjoy wine tastings where I get to hear directly from the winemaker—it’s so clear how much passion goes into the intensive work of making wine, and it makes each sip that much more special.
RECOMMENDATION: Visit the winery to taste delicious wine made with love.
Drove to see the Pont du Diable bridge, which was spectacular. You can walk across surrounding bridges to see remarkable views, but best was to trek down to the water and take a dip.
People nearby were picnicing, a man was fishing peacefully, and a dog ran along the beach next to us.
I am not normally one to spontaneously go for a swim, but in this case, I didn’t hesitate. And it didn’t disappoint!
Next up was a trip to St. Guilhem-le-Desert, probably the most picturesque village I’ve ever been to. I couldn’t stop taking pictures the entire time — each storefront, the cathedral, town center, views… it was all perfect. We bought some sausage and cheese from a local shop which was absolutely fantastic.
Last but certainly not least, we visited the Chateau D’Assas. It’s a stunning 18th-century building owned by a local French family. The mother of the woman we met worked underground during WWII to help people escape the Nazis. She produced false papers for one of Cory's uncle's father to escape (read more of the story). It was incredible to meet her and hear about her story and be in the home that had so much history! Not to mention it was full of invaluable antiques - including an urestored eighteenth-century harpsichord.
RECOMMENDATION: Swim in the Herault River under the Pont du Diable
Started the morning with a run through the vineyards around Tressan. Talk about peaceful!
Then we drove down to Sète to spend the day. The weather helped us out a lot as we wandered around the Mediterranean coast, enjoying the energy of the town and some quaint shops. At a lovely long lunch, oysters and rose were enjoyed. It was well worth it to make the winding drive up to Mont Saint Clair for the views.
We drove out to the peninsula, which was a unique experience, surrounding by water on both sides and very little land. It was too breezy for me to take a dip in the Mediterranean, but it was certainly refreshing to be out on the beach (especially since we had it to ourselves!).
Our final stop for the day was in Marseillan, where we visited the home of France’s most famous vermout: Noilly Prat. The store itself was very cute, though we missed the tours as we arrived too late in the day.
RECOMMENDATION: Stop into Maison Janicot Epicerie Gourmande to marvel at the hundreds of options for every mustard, sardine, or olive oil you could ever need.
Our morning began at the lovely market in Clermont-L’Herault, which was filled with fresh food, vendors and shopping to take up more than an hour of exploration. We then drove up to the tiny town of Lacoste, which gave us even more house envy with its perfectly designed streets and houses with ample greenery.
Our visit to the beautiful Lac du Salagu was cut short due to pretty strong winds that eclipsed our hopes of kayaking, but it was still absolutely worth the drive. The lake is isolated among rolling hills with striking red dirt, making it feel incredibly isolated and martian at the same time.
Last but not least, we stopped in Mourèze, next up in our tiny town tour. Besides its plenty adorable homes, the standout for Mourèze is its location at the edge of a spectacular dolomitic limestone outcrop known as the Cirque de Mourèze.
RECOMMENDATION: Buy a piece of hand-crafted pottery from local artisan Charles Duluc at his workshop
Walking around Beziers, it’s hard not to claim it as a future place to live. It’s the perfect mix of picturesque Southern France with the size of a liveable European city that has yet to be discovered by the crowds. A visit to the Saint-Nazaire cathedral is a must — it’s absolutely stunning inside. A climb to the top of bell tower (175+ stairs!) rewards you with 360-degree views of the city and surrounding countryside, plus a nice bit of cardio mixed into all of your wine and cheese consumption.
We had lunch at the Restaurant le Faitout in Berlou, which was a culinary experience for everyone and another excuse to see a quaint small town for me.
RECOMMENDATION: Shop at Boutique MBF, a local store with unique clothing and gifts
We spent our last full day in Roquefort, known as the birthplace of, yes, that blue cheese. We toured the caves and learned about the entire process, which I can’t explain here in detail because 1) the tour was in French and 2) it’s too sciency for me. (Here’s a fantastic overview, if you’re curious!) That said, I loved seeing hundreds of wheels of cheese 'developing’ underground! We tried some at the end and it was too strong for me, but an overall cool experience. The town was pretty empty because it's off season, but everything revolves around this cheese and the tourism that surrounds it.
We then drove to see the Millau Viaduct, which just happens to be the world's highest major road bridge. It was otherworldly to drive across — almost felt like you were in a plane. The surrounding area was well-cultivated too, with a short (but steep) walk up to a nice viewpoint.
RECOMMENDATION: Tour the 12,000 square meters of the Société Caves
En route to Barcelona, we made two stops that were both absolutely worth our while. First was to Castell de Sant Ferran, which is situated at the top of a hill and is quite expansive. We didn’t take a tour, but there are well-organized arrows to help you move around the space and a nice pamphlet explaining what you’re looking at. Highlight was the stables, which were big enough to house 500 horses.
We had our final lunch somewhere between Figueres and Barcelona, at a chance stop which turned out to be lovely. It was a fitting way to end our trip: enjoying delicious food and wine with family.
RECOMMENDATION: Try the onion soup at Restaurant Mas Les Goges.
I am so grateful to have experienced such a fulfilling trip and to see another corner of the world. Cheers to never stopping exploring!