Better known as the South of France, Provence and the Cote d’Azur is truly an all around destination for any travel type, from Roman arenas, isolated abbeys, and the palace of the medieval popes to even the more recent opulence and luxury of the glamorous resorts for the 20th century jet setter. The sun soaked beaches, quaint villages nestles among rich fields of lavender and the mountainous hinterland have inspired and enchanted many a generation and visitors to the area. Provence and the Cote d'Azur is a place that merits a long-trip not just a few days to a week to truly appreciate this travel gem. If you are someone who loves wine, food, culture and local crafts Provence will be your haven and your soon to be favourite place to travel too. There is a “joie de vivre” attitude that can be seen throughout the region and it can become extremely contagious.
While French is the main language in most major tourist areas English will be spoken. Only about a three hour train ride on Rail Europe from Paris, this makes the locale easily accessible to any who are travelling. However, if the train is not your thing you can fly into Nice. The recommended way to explore the region is to either rent a car or use a bike.
Reasons to Visit
Located at the heart of the French Riviera Cannes is very well known for its sandy beached spanning the famous promenade know as La Croisette. If you do decide to brave the South of France in August, head over to Monte Carlo Beach (actually located in France) you will be able to spot some serious celeb action and take part in a vast array of water sports such as wake boarding, parachuting and some of the best Mediterranean’s best deep water beaches. Some of the best beaches of the region are found in the world famous St. Tropez. Needless to say, no matter where you visit in the French Riviera beaches are in huge commodity and are a definite must see, and a must experience.
2. Complete Luxury
From modern boutique hotels, to grand hotels, to luxurious casinos, it is no wonder why millions of people flock to this region of France every year and why it is a celebrity vacation hot spot. With its laissez faire lifestyle and attitude this is truly the lifestyle of the rich and the famous. Provence and the Cote d’Azur have always had the giddy days of the belle époque at the begging of summer during the avant garde of the 1920’s, this has always been a place that has glittered as Europe’s most chic and glamorous vacation hot spot.
3. Food and Wine
When you think France, your first thought will most likely be wine, as it should! The South of France, especially the Avignon region is most famous for its wine, and what is a little wine without some divine French cuisine. Thinking, dreaming, and living food has always been the norm when it comes to Provence, where majority of people’s days are geared around satisfying their passionate appetite for a well prepared dining experience. The cuisine here is reputed a world over, whether it is lazing over lunch with friends, or a romantic diner, food is an integral part of the Provencal experience. The use of fresh, local ingredients is a crucial secret into what makes the food so divine. Chef’s from all over the world appreciate the humble rhythm and natural cycles of the land and the season to inspire passion and creation when it comes to their food. It is apparent that when in Provence that you will be sufficiently suffonsified.
The modern art scene in Provence today is a fast and furious, fueled by a frantic yet creative energy that is expressed through an orgy of diverse and often ground breaking mediums. Many famous, well known artists have created their best works in this area the South of France has been immortalized by Paul Gauguin, van Gogh’s brilliant and innovative art produced hauntingly beautiful self portraits, landscapes where colors assumer expressive and emotive qualities and has been home to artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse. A mix of classic and modern architecture fused together with painting and sculptures from the end of the 16th century until the late 18th century. Creative and stunning baroque structures are apparent and create a great subtle, refined and elegant atmosphere.
5. Outdoor Activities
Despite the size, Provence has a vast array of landscapes from alpine mountains, to cavernous gorges, wetland and coastlines. No matter your physical ability, age, or hobbies there are many outdoor activities for all energy levels. Astronomy on a clear star filled night, hot air ballooning to over look the patchwork quilt of the captivating country side to cycling along the storybook coast line to name just a few.
Things to Avoid
Autoroute in August
French Autoroutes (motorways) become very crowed during high season, especially during the first and last weekends of the month. That is when large numbers of holiday makers from Northern France head at top speed for the sunny south.
Cannes Film Festival
As enticing as this may sound, for two weeks every May it becomes next to impossible to find a hotel room or even a table at a restaurant in Cannes as this small resort town becomes over run with up to thirty thousand celebrities and their entourages. This is strictly and insider event. So unless you have Hollywood ambitions give Cannes a worthwhile berth during the festival.
Monte Carlo Rally and the Monaco Grand Prix
Monaco is the host to two of the world’s most prestigious motor sports events. The Rally Monte Carlo every January and the Monaco Grand Prix at different dates during the Grand Prix season. Both are worth avoiding. It has been claimed to be sure of a room reservation during either event it is necessary to book 10 years ahead.
The traditional Provence bullfight is a bloodless affair in which the bullfighter tries to snatch a red ribbon from an increasingly irritated bull. In the arenas of Arles and Nimes, however, a more Spanish style of bullfight is commonly found. The bull is tormented and then killed as part of the entertainment; these events are advertised to the death.
If you don’t have accommodation in high season (July – August) as it is the busiest time of year to travel, especially to the Riviera and the Cote d'Azur, everything from Grand Hotels to Campgrounds will be full. Instead, try planning to travel during a less busy time such as May – June or even September -October.
Souvenirs to Bring Back with You
Wine, herbs, truffles, cheese, olive oil, perfume, and museum prints are some of the more popular items to bring back for yourself and your loved ones. Make sure you check with your airlines for any restrictions on what you are allowed to bring back.