Experiencing the South of France
Last year thanks to UEFA Euro 2016, we discovered a lots of French cities where the matches have been played. Nobody can have doubts that France is absolutely captivating, elegant and rich of history but considering now is summer, there is no-place like the South of France where the warm sun and the Mediterranean Sea influence everything: the food, the wine, the architecture and the way of life. Mmmm…imagine sunshine, the scent of lavender and rosemary, parasol pines, olive groves, sunflowers and the Mediterranean…you are experiencing the South of France. But Provence and the Cote d’Azur offer much more than that. Think of hill towns, charming markets, art galleries, sailing, scuba diving, star-gazing, swimming and soaking up the sun, and of course, fine French food and wine; you’ll love it! If you are a golfer, look no further for some of the best courses on earth. You must come to Provence and the Cote d’Azur to really appreciate the charm and beauty of France. The South of France is legendary for its beauty and charm. The people here live a slower lifestyle than their Paris compatriots and it shows in their friendly approach to visitors and the care they give to their homes and beautiful gardens. Read a brief guide to our favorite towns and cities of Provence and the Cote d’Azur. Each of the towns listed below are special in their own way!
Aix en Provence
Called the Paris of the south, Aix en Provence (Aix is pronounced ex) is a chic and cultured city. Be sure to stroll down the main street, the Cours Mirabeau. Lined with arching Plane trees, the Cours hosts 17th century mansions and sidewalk cafes. This city is known for its beautiful and plentiful gardens and fountains. Don’t miss the Old Town area in the north part of the city where you will find an excellent market on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturdays.
Café Van Gogh
Be sure to stop in Arles when you are in Provence. This small city is teeming with Roman ruins and has one of the most well preserved Roman amphitheaters (1st century) in existence. Home to Van Gogh for many years, the city has honored him with a wonderful museum. The heart of the city is the Place du Forum, where a statue of Mistral looks over the outdoor cafes in the shaded square. Café de Nuit, made famous by Van Gogh’s like-named painting, is located right on the square. It is now called the Café Van Gogh. The market in Arles is located on the ring-road on Wednesday and Saturday. It is considered one of the best markets in Provence.
Once the seat of the Catholic Church, Avignon (picture on top) is home to the Palace of the Popes; a beautiful castle and cathedral located in the city center surrounded by lovely gardens. You can even stop in the castle for some wine-tasting. Be sure to visit the Petit Palais as well. Avignon is a sophisticated city with a university, abundant cafes and marvelous shops. When in the Main Square, be on the lookout for tromp l’oeil paintings on buildings (faux windows, flower pots, etc).
Situated on the shores of La Napoule bay, Cannes is a glittering city with lots of old world charm. Cannes is world renowned for its International Film Festival and the legendary boulevard, La Festival. To find the grandest hotels, the best restaurants and the most fabulous designer shops, look no further than La Croisette. During the 20s and 30s, Cannes was the playground of the rich and famous as well as the art crowd. F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived nearby during that time while the famous expatriate wrote about their Jazz Age lifestyle in several of his stories and books. Cannes is now one of the leading convention and exhibition destinations in Europe. The nearby international airport easily connects Cannes to the world. Cannes embodies all the charm of the French Riviera: an ideal climate, sandy beaches beneath an azure sky and the luxury of its palatial hotels, 3 casinos, boutiques, golf courses, tennis, deep sea fishing, sailing and more.
A small fishing town on the Mediterranean, Cassis is charming yet sophisticated. You can enjoy a delicious meal at several fine restaurants, sit at an outside table and watch the world go by or try your luck at the local casino. You may also want to take a boat trip to the Calanques. The Calanques are steep white cliffs jutting into the Mediterranean Sea.
View from Jardin Exotique
Ezasques as the Eze natives are known, number just over 2600. Their home is actually a two-part settlement: The site of the ancient village at Eze-village and also Eze-bord-de-la-Mer (also called Eze-sur-Mer), a fishing village or residential seaside town, located between Beaulieru-sur-Mer and Cap d’Ail. You’ll find beaches, water sports, cafes, restaurants and hotels at Eze-sur-Mer, while parts of Eze-village which circles the base of the hilltop chateau, is now in ruins. In the village, enjoy beautiful shaded public squares, well restored old buildings of red-brick centered stone, and narrow streets leading up to the Jardin Exotique. Perched high above the sea on a corniche (rocky cliff), Eze is a spectacular example of a fortified village, with its ancient ramparts evoking the significant threat of 6th century Saracen pirates who terrified coastal dwellers. Nearby are hiking trails with breathtaking views, and the Roman ruin of the Alpine Trophy at La Turbie.
Skyline of Grasse
The center of the French perfume industry, Grasse has a perfume museum and many fine perfume shops. The town is an interesting blend of the old and the new. The surrounding countryside is filled with the scents of the flowers planted for their essence. The International Rose Festival in May celebrates a blossom long favored by the perfumers. In August, Grasse lets out all the stops during the Fete du Jasmine (Jasmine Festival) where fragrant flowered floats delight your senses.
Notre Dame de la Garde
Marseille is a Provencal city with new-found vitality. The city boasts a 26-century-old port, a dynamic downtown with great shopping, big parks, a medieval-village-style neighborhood, and wonderful seafood. The spectacular Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde sits atop a hill overlooking the city while offering panoramic views of the city, the port and the nearby Chateau d’If. If you have a negative image of “industrial” Marseille, a visit here will be a wonderful surprise.
The capital of the Cote d’ Azur, and the fifth largest city in France, Nice is a glittering gem. It is as sophisticated and elegant, as it is charming and quaint. Walk along the Promenade des Anglais for wonderful views of the sea and the hotels and shops across the way. Visit the Old Town featuring the chateau, Place Garibaldi, and the hanging gardens. Nice is also home to several world-class museums including the Musee Matisse, the Musee d’Art Contemporain and the Musee Chagall. Nice takes its heritage and beauty seriously, carefully protecting the beautiful frescoes and the trompe l’oeil, which ornament the façades of the houses of Old-Nice. It supports the activity of the Cours Saleya, where the flower, fruit and vegetable markets are held daily. Nice is designed for walking. Nice’s green spaces, gardens, plane and palm trees lining the wide avenues, fountains of the forum Massena and the esplanades all provide memorable pleasure to those strolling through this sensuous city.
Bay of Saint-Tropez
Chic in the 50s, St. Tropez is still home to the artsy crowd. The seaside resort town is still very popular with tourists, and the younger movie in-crowd seems to have recently re-discovered its charms. Set on the lovely blue water of the Bay of Saint-Tropez, this modern version of a medieval town is most popular for the line of yachts along the quai, and the facing line of terrace cafés, divided by a parade of strolling tourists and slow cruising expensive cars. Behind the cafés, the small streets and old buildings are picturesque, but they’re more popular for the multitude of shops and restaurants than historical significance. There are endless possibilities for buying gifts or items of proof that “you’ve been here.”