With more restaurants per head of population than any other city in France, Lyon rightly holds the crown as the gastronomic capital and it's worth a couple of days dining and enjoying the city before heading south on a driving holiday.
Car rental is easy, with comparable rates to hiring in Australia. Due south is Avignon, an easy three-hour drive - though given French expressways, the train network is a good option if you have anxiety issues.
Avignon itself is amazing. While mainly famous for the bridge and the song Sur le Pont d'Avignon, it should be equally renowned for the Palais du Papes. This amazing palace was built in the 14th century when seven popes sat in Avignon. It was clearly a time when budget was not a consideration.
A 15-minute drive from Avignon is one of the most beautiful towns anywhere, L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Famous for antiques and markets, the river running through the city centre is the ideal location for lazy lunches and long walks.
A short drive away is Chateauneuf-du-Pape, a village where quality wineries appear to outnumber shops and spectacular views are thrown in as an added extra.
Nearby Nimes is a city with strong Roman historical and architectural connections - evident by its city centre colosseum, which is the epicentre of the annual Roman festival and also hosts bullfights.
On our visit the festival was in full flight with gladiatorial fights featuring swords, tridents, nets and asking the crowd whether the vanquished should be spared or not. Possibly due to a gladiator shortage, despite repeated crowd requests for no mercy, none of the defeated were dispensed with.
From Nimes we took a backroads drive to the medieval city of Carcassonne. The castle here is magnificent - both in terms of views and architecture. Vying for attention is everything from the famed locally made knives and swords though to truffles, fashion, jewellery and outdoor bars. The castle regularly tops the list of the most visited monuments in France.
One of the benefits of a driving holiday is the surprises you encounter. Arriving in Uzes on its market day was one of those, with an amazing range of local produce and country-friendly locals who welcome your attempts at French. My haircut request was the source of confusion when I apparently asked to have my horse sliced...
Couple the good value wine, food and accommodation with the friendliness of the locals in the south of France and it's an all-round win. Occasional limited English is overcome by helpful locals, ensuring that part of the joy of travel is the reward (and occasional surprise) of overcoming communication barriers.
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