The history of the South of France
The historical South of France has a wealth of neighbourhoods and monuments which tell a story. Travel back in time...
Old Town Nice
Get lost in the narrow little streets which are home to surprising activities and boutiques: Old Town Nice does not disappoint! A souk "à la niçoise", from shadows to light… You won't be short of things to discover and taste!
Old Town Nice is 10 minutes away by car from Nice train station, situated next to the TGV Lyria Mediterranean line.
Notre-Dame de La Garde
A beacon for Marseille's inhabitants, it is visible wherever you go… This roman-byzantine style church is topped with a golden virgin, la Bonne Mère (the good mother), patron saint of the sailors. You can make your way to the top by foot from the Place aux Huiles, walking along narrow streets and up flights of stairs. The view of the city's harbour is your reward… Inside: stained-glass windows, two-tone Roman arches and hanging boats...
Discover Notre-Dame de la Garde which is 20 minutes away by metro from the Marseille train station, where TGV Lyria stops off.
The Palais des Papes
Avignon, a fortified medieval city, was also the Vatican of the Provence region; it was home to 7 popes and 2 antipopes. The Palais des Papes, with its orange-coloured stones, recalls the mark they left on European culture.
You can access the Palais des Papes in just 10 minutes from the Aix-en-Provence TGV train station, where TGV Lyria stops off.
Culture in the South of France
You won't be short of opportunities to discover the culture of the South of France! Here is a selection of spirited places...
Built by the architect Rudy Ricciotti to celebrate Marseille being named European Capital of Culture, the Mucem (Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations) is an original work which takes centre stage at the entrance to the Old Port, near Fort Saint Jean. A footbridge over the sea allows visitors to enjoy the spectacular views. You can walk around a Mediterranean park or in the depths of the old Fort before discovering the art collections and popular traditions.
The Mucem is situated 15 minutes by metro from Marseille train station, which can be accessed by TGV Lyria from Geneva.
Paul Cézanne's workshop
The landscapes in Aix-en Provence have long inspired painters like Cézanne. Admire a few of his works at the Granet museum. You can also gain insight into his private life and discover the house where he became a painter, while exploring the garden and the family farmhouse, the Jas de Bouffan. At the Carrières de Bibémus (Bibémus quarries), not very far away, see the scenery of Montagne Sainte-Victoire through Cézanne's eyes.
Head to Paul Cézanne's workshop from the Aix-en-Provence TGV train station, situated on the Mediterranean line of TGV Lyria, in 45 minutes by bus or 30 minutes by car.
Food in the South of France
If you want to discover the traditional dishes of the South of France, there are two specialities that you must try.
Bouillabaisse (fish stew)
In Marseille, the saying goes: "the fish live in the sea and die in olive oil". A real culinary institution, only noble species (monkfish, red mullet, shellfish...) are used in this matelote made with spices, garlic and fish. Try it at "Chez Fonfon", in the Vallon des Auffes port. As for the name, it comes from the watchword: "When it boils (bouille), turn down the heat (abaisse)", to avoid the fish falling apart!
Try the specialities in the restaurants in Marseille, which can be accessed from the Marseille train station where TGV Lyria stops off.
Star of the village feasts of the County of Nice, aïoli was prepared on the village square at the end of the fêtes votives (festival celebrating the patron saint). The defining quality is the mayonnaise with a strong garlic (aillé) flavour, thus the name of the dish, which is accompanied with various different vegetables cooked "al dente", hard boiled eggs and salted cod. Before devouring this dish, you usually enjoy a pre-dinner drink of pastis with olives from Nice and pissaladière (onion and anchovy tart).
To try the restaurants in Nice, take the Mediterranean line of TGV Lyria which connects Geneva to destinations next to Nice.
Nature in the South of France
The region is overflowing with exceptional natural beauty, caves, canyons, calanques, seabeds… The natural landscape in the South of France is dominated by the rocky mountain ranges, garigues and pine forests, not forgetting the Mediterranean sea!
The Colorado provençal
Near Aix and Avignon, in Rousillon, discover the open-cast ochre mines with their multitude of colours in the canyons created by erosion. In the 19th and 20th centuries, life in the village of Rustrel evolved around the iron and then ochre industry. Visit the Conservatoire set up in an old factory, Usine Mathieu, and the underground ochre mine in Bruoux to really immerse yourself in this industrial and poetic adventure.
Rustrel, the village which is home to the Colorado provençal (French Colorado) is situated 1 hour from Avignon by car, a city on the Mediterranean line where TGV Lyria stops off.
The Fontaine de Vaucluse
Less than an hour from Avignon, the most powerful spring in Europe which gushes clear waters into a "vallée close" (closed valley), after which it was named. You should visit in the winter when the flow is at its strongest, or when the water is low in summer: a dark abyss appears in the cliff with an underground lake 30 m below. Enjoy a magical walk along the banks of the Sorgue river (the source of the fountain), with its riverbed carpeted with bright green aquatic plants.
You can access the Fontaine de Vaucluse in 45 minutes by car from Avignon train station where TGV Lyria stops off.
Calanque de Figuerolles
Just a stones throw from Marseilles, between the Cap Canaille in Cassis, the highest sea cliffs in Europe (394 m), and the Bec de l’Aigle in La Ciotat, you will find a tremendous promontory of red conglomerate. A flight of stairs will lead you to the bottom of a small valley covered with green foliage, right to the edge of the calm, clear water of the calanque de Figuerolles. Grab your flippers, mask and tuba and visit the posidonia herbarium (aquatic plants typical in the Mediterranean) covered with nacre shells. You will find a small hotel-restaurant at the end of the calanque in an "end of the earth" ambiance.
The calanque de Figuerolles can be accessed in 50 minutes by car from Marseille train station, where TGV Lyria stops of