Its Canebière, its Calanques, its Bonne Mère and its cheeky humour too. The southern capital is worth immersing yourself in without keeping track of how long you’ve been there. From the “recent” Vieux Port to the « old » Panier district, and the Corniche along the sea to the end of the world, Les Goudes, so many unexpected places make Marseille a city of contrasts where you will experience an emotional roller-coaster. When you have filled up on the big city, it just takes a 15‑minute drive to reach the Col de la Gineste where you’ll witness the enormously contrasting panorama of the city, the sea and the southern landscape of the Calanques Marseillaises. You’ll spot many motorcyclists in your rear-view mirror following the Routede la Gineste through these fairytale limestone mountains.
After the Plateau de Carpiagne, the road descends sharply. Make a short stop on the overhang to admire the village of Cassis, almost as sought-after as Saint-Tropez, which makes you want to grab a drink at the little port and, in the summer, have a swim. If you choose to visit the famous Calanques on foot or by boat, plan to stay a second day. From Cassis, look up and there, like a great wall above the waters, you will see Cap Canaille. The winding tarmac road that climbs it is simply staggering. You’ll certainly feel dizzy once you reach the top—it’s the highest sea cliff in Europe at almost 400 metres tall.
Considered one of the most beautiful roads in the world, the Route des Crêtes is a bravura piece that rewards you with a panoramic view of the Golfe d’Amour, running from the Plages de la Ciotat to the PlagesdeSaint-Cyr les Lecques. You will feel it in your gut … which had a good shake on the D3 from Ceyreste, where it’s one relentless turn after another.. From a thick pine forest, your route forks to the left. If you continue straight, the Circuit Paul Ricard is only 10 km away. On the little D3 you glide towards the Col de l’Ange which has a mix of things to enchant you. You descend the pass on the west side, leading to the adorable village of Gémenos.
Now catch your breath and say Sainte-Baume. It’s the name of the mountain standing before you, whose Pic de Bertagne looms over the department from its 1041 m height. The Route de l’Espigoulier, which goes almost right to the summit, is as magnificent as the landscape that undulates in the sunlight. The Massif de la Sainte-Baume delights rally drivers as much as cyclists and the many walkers. More than a massif, it offers thrills and an unforgettable experience for every visitor.
As soon as you arrive at Plan-d’Aups, you will regretfully have to leave it for the D12 that heads down to Saint-Zacharie. The natural area cannot be described – it is best experienced, inhaled and savoured. You arrive at the Col du Petit Galibier by the Pas de la Couelle. Through the Montagne de Régagnas, you discover a pristine wilderness, a setting for one thousand and one tight turns. In Trets, it’s « straight on. » The vision of the Sainte-Victoire, painted by Cézanne, takes your breath away. You approach it by a gentle slope. After Puyloubier, on the right you follow the limestone plateau that offers an amazing spectacle. It’s a rock-climbing dream. Coming down from Saint-Antonin to Le Tholonet by another route that defies description, the white rock gives way to red clays. Is the Colorado around here?
Aix-en-Provence rings a return to urbanisation The city is an open-air museum—get initiated into Provençal lifestyle sipping a drink on a shady terrace on the Cours Mirabeau. 15 km from the City of Roy René, a high place awaits you: l’Aqueduc de Roquefavour. 393 m long and almost 83 m high, it is almost twice as high as the Pont du Gard. Only 1 km away, near Ventabren, the imposing TGV viaduct is the modern counterpart of Roquefavour. Then it’s onto La Fare-les-Oliviers, surrounded by vineyards and soon the edge of the Étang de Berre.
From Saint-Chamas to Istres via Miramas, the mostly-protected shore brims with charms. After going halfway around the Étang, Martigues nicknamed the Provençal Venice for its emblematic canals, takes you back to the Mediterranean.Sausset-les-Pins and Carry-le-Rouet are the iconic villages of the Côte Bleue, forming rustic coves fringed with vast pinewoods. Le Rove, where you buy the celebrated AOC cheese made with the milk of local goats, then L’Estaque, famous for its panisses and celebrated by director Robert Guédiguian (Marius and Janette), announces your return to Marseille. You’ll approach the city by passing the commercial port before you find yourself right back in the Vieux Port, wide-eyed at so much diversity.