Looking for places to visit in the South East of France? Well, I would not skip the Cote d’Azur as it’s a special place. If you’re traveling by train from Italy back to the UK, you’ll most likely pass right through it.
Top 10 Destinations in SE France
(places in order of driving from Italy; not ranked as best to worse)
1. Monaco: casino & nearby garden with meat eating plants
2. Nice: various impressionist art museums.
3. Nice old town. It’s beautiful and filled with fun little shops and places to eat. Did you know that the streets are narrow as a natural ‘air conditioning’-system for the town; not because towns at that time were build that way….
4. St. Paul de Vence: the world famous Maeght Foundation museum; and the fantastic old town itself. Walk along the outskirts of the town and make sure you get a coffee with a view. Gorgeous view, gorgeous town, gorgeous art everywhere!
5. Antibes: see the old market, and the old fort where Picasso used to work (there’s a Picasso museum now), and of course the wonderful harbour. Eat fish in the old town.
6. Villefranche: the Musee Renoir there was the artist’s home for the last twelve years of his life.
7. Biot is an ancient town known for its pottery. Very pittoresquely set on a mountain top.
8. Cannes: old town and harbour side. Gorgeous. Have a wonderful meal on a terrasse with ocean view and enjoy the sun, year round.
9. Grasse: visit the parfume factories and their nearby flower fields
Go beyond this, and drive for a couple of hours more and you’ll be in ..
10. Comptes: a town in inland Provence which is ‘in the middle of nowhere’. In the Auberge you can get a beautiful room and a wonderful 3-course meal that is just unbelievable for its location. Besides the auberge, the pub, the police station, a shop and the great, region-serving bakery, there’s nothing there, … oh besides, of course, its tower church. Beautiful hiking trails nearby. A once in a lifetime experience to be in a town where nothing seems to happen. Therefore, the road is just 1 horse (car) wide. There are campsites/ chambres d’hote not too far out of town.
For the coastal destinations 1-8, I’d find a campsite near Antibes and take daytrips to the other towns. All towns can be reached by train/bus.
There you have it. A great top 10 in the south east of France.
Bormes-les-Mimosas means “the Sunny One” and it’s an accurate description of this medieval village that is perched high on a mountain top.
Bormes-les-Mimosas still has the imposing remains of a castle and the rampart walls that protected it during the Saracen invasions. Its official title as the “village of flowers” was given to Bormes-les-Mimosas for good reason – first because of the flowering trees called “Mimosas” that line the streets and lean out over stone walls are as bright as the sun itself.
And secondly, because no matter what time of year you’re visiting the French Riviera, the beauty of Bormes-les-Mimosa will be sure to please. The sun beats down on the pink-tiled houses that crowd together on both sides of the narrow winding streets and alleys, and window boxes, glazed ceramic pots and gardens overflow with jewel-colored flowers. You’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time or walked into one of the paintings of an old master.
To those familiar with this quiet little village, one of the most fascinating aspects of Bormes-les-Mimosas are its narrow little alleyways that lead to secret places filled with unexpected treasures. Walk along a narrow alley and turn through a narrow archway and you might find a bubbling fountain, with the flowing water making music for the birds and a lazy cat napping out in warm sunlight. Or walk down a cobblestone staircase and find yourself in the midst of a tiny public garden.
Turn another way and head up a narrow pedestrian walkway and you’ll come across a comfortable old bench that invites you to sit back, relax and enjoy the spectacular views of the bay and the Golden Iles in the distance, or the Massif des Maures mountains.
The nearby coast has always played a very important part in the rich history of Bormes-les-Mimosas. In fact, one of the most famous fortresses in the area, “Bregancon” has been one of the official residences of the president of the French Republic. Perhaps because it sits high above the Mediterranean Sea,and offers complete privacy and security as well as its beautiful gardens, thick forest and its own private beach away from the curious and prying eyes of onlookers and the paparazzi, Bregancon has always been a favorite weekend and summer get-away of the the president, his family and visiting heads of state or celebrity guests.
You’re invited to a party! Bormes-les-Mimosas is a must-see to add to your vacation itinerary for the sights, sounds and colors that can only be experienced during festival time! Throughout the spring and summer months, Bormes-les-Mimosas is one of “the” spots for true music lover for classical and folk music concerts. Proud of its rich heritage, culture and traditions, the villagers organize a number of other large-scale events throughout the year, including the “Festival of the Mimosas” during January, the traditional “Corso Fleur” that attracts thousands of visitors every year in February (and which, for those of us who live here, really heralds the coming of spring!)
In May the “Sports en Lumiere” celebrates sports for everyone and is a great time to see many of France’s top-level athletes. Autumn means a celebration of the grape harvests with the “Santo Coupo” and there’s even a car rally in October, for visitors who enjoy a little more excitement. And finally, Bormes-les-Mimosas shouldn’t be missed if you’re planning a trip to the French Riviera in December, because the entire village is transformed into a living “crib” as it is called, and celebrates Christmas and the little Santons figures that Provence is known for with traditional costumes, food and fun.
Looking for a break from the crowded beaches of the French Riviera, or the wall-to-wall people packed into Saint Tropez during the summer months? Come to the harbor of Bormes-les-Mimosas and sit in a sidewalk cafe, sipping on a cool drink while you enjoy watching the yachts and sailboats whose captains have recently begun to discover this beautiful port. Then you can lazily wander along the coastal footpaths to find hidden creeks, and beautiful sandy beaches. Or enjoy the many amenities of the Golden Isles and try scuba diving, water-skiing, windsurfing or sailing.
Bormes-les-Mimosas is also a haven for painters, potters, ceramists and artisans who work with silk, leather, wool, wood and metal. You’ll also find soap makers and sellers and other vendors who will set up shop on the little alleyways in the summertime, and offer real bargains for those who want to take a little of Provence and the “Sunny One” home with them!
About the Author
Learn all about where to go and what to do in the French Riviera from an American who lives there! Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop. Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you can create an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide
Over half a century ago, Elizabeth David, the doyenne of British food writers, wrote somewhat disparagingly about the wine of Provence.
“It was”, she wrote, “the kind of wine which it was wisest to drink out of a tumbler so that there was room for a large proportion of water”!
She was talking specifically about the wines of the Luberon, but her opinion of Provençal wines in general was not much higher.
“Most of them,” she wrote, “are made by the co-operative societies nowadays, and what they have lost in character they appear to have gained in fieriness.”
Well, what a surprise Ms David would have today!
It’s probably true to say that over the course of the last two or three decades the wines of Provence have increased in range, quality and popularity more than those of any other French wine area.
This has been due to a number of things: the harnessing of modern wine-making techniques, the introduction of new, hardier, more reliable grape varieties, and, of course, the arrival of a new breed of young, intelligent, dedicated winemakers.
Today the wines of Provence are amongst the most appreciated and sought-after in France.
And, best of all, they continue to improve!
It is convenient to divide the wines of Provence into two main areas.
Firstly, there are the wines of the Southern Côtes du Rhone, beginning just above Avignon and running practically the whole length of the Rhone valley.
Although some excellent white wines are produced, the region is best known for its fine, heady, powerful reds, which are particularly suited to the rich, spicy, full-flavoured food of Provence.
The most famous, of course, is Chateauneuf-du-Pape – and no visit to the region would be complete without a trip to that charming and totally wine-dominated little town. But there are other, equally illustrious, although not quite so well-known, labels, such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Hermitage, etc.
Further south, one starts to encounter the less-famous but steadily improving wines designated simply as Wines of Provence. There are eight appellations d’origine controlées wines, as follows:
AOC Cotes de Provence: Best known until now for its fresh, light rosés, this appellation also produces wonderful, herb-flavoured reds and an increasing range of aromatic whites, many of which will continue to improve with age.
AOC Coteaux d’Aix en Provence: Reds, whites and rosés, continually improving, mostly made to be drunk young and fresh.
AOC Les Baux de Provence: The appellation refers only to the reds and rosés. These are strong, elegant wines developing faint but distinct truffle flavours with age.
AOC Palette: An appellation since 1948, these are outstanding red, white and rosé wines which can be laid down for many years.
AOC Coteaux Varois: Fresh, young wines of all categories, quite similar to Cotes de Provence, but made to be drunk younger and sooner.
AOC Cassis: Believe it or not, the oldest appellation in the whole of France! Full-bodied, fragrant white wines, perfectly suited to the wonderful fish and seafood of the region. Some reds and rosés also produced.
AOC Bandol: The whites and rosés are certainly worth trying, but this appellation produces really exceptional full-bodied reds which can be lain down for up to 30 years with no problem.
AOC Bellet: From the area above Nice, this apellation produces red, white and rosé wines, although the whites predominate. These are fresh, elegant wines with both almond and citrus flavours. The rosés have hints of honey aromas, and the reds a hint of cherry.
More and more wine merchants and supermarkets are starting to stock Provençal wines – but you may have to search for them. Compared to other wine regions of France, such as Bordeaux, Beaujolais, the Languedoc, etc. Provence produces a relatively small harvest – and the Provencal wine-lovers like to keep it for themselves! Certainly, the more well-known Cotes-du-Rhone wines are readily available. If you’re interested in trying some of the more obscure wines, have a word with a specialist wine dealer and see if he can order some for you.
Better still – visit Provence and buy them on site.
This article has been adapted from the author’s web site dedicated to the food, wine, restaurants and recipes of Provence.
Dubbed as the millionaire’s playground, St. Tropez is home to some of the world’s most immaculate beaches. This medieval town remains to be well-known for its yachts that line along the harbors, and the expensive cars that cruise its streets.
As a tourist mecca for the rich and famous, St. Tropez has its share of the best and the most private luxury villas in the world. Villazzo Villa Hotels are among those who cater to the special needs of the elite. With seven St. Tropez luxury property rentals to choose from, guests are assured of an unforgettable vacation experience in this fashionable town.
Villa Hotel Katarina exudes a kind of glamour that is far more superior to what five-star hotels have. Located within a short walk of the Mediterranean Sea, this opulent property speaks of un-equalled elegance through its Versace signature furnishings and luxurious amenities. Take pleasure as Katarina provides you with the level of sophistication that only a Villazzo Villa Hotel can give.
Villazzo’s Villa Hotel La Forge drips charm and remarkable uniqueness. Set within well-maintained gardens, La Forge boasts of spectacular views from every corner. Each detail of its architecture has been meticulously-planned to ensure that guests receive the best type of accommodation in St. Tropez.
Ideally-situated at the heart of St. Tropez, the Villa Hotel Village is known as the town’s lone grand mansion. Unlike other St. Tropez luxury villa rentals, the Village is new but is designed to match the medieval atmosphere of the town. The modern interior that is specially-designed to emanate a classic appeal is part of the high standards known in all Villazzo Villa Hotels.
A Mediterranean-inspired luxury accommodation is available at the VillaHotel Eldorym in St. Tropez. With its 4 bedrooms, superb bathroom facilities, spacious living room, and inviting swimming pool, the Eldorym speaks of a mixture of both classic elegance and unique modernity.
Villa Hotel Les Pins defines superiority best. Located within the most exclusive area of St. Tropez, it is built according to a Provencal-inspired theme. The villa’s concept is not only creative and elaborate, but incalculably relaxing as well, as defined by its expansive gardens and comfortable living room furniture. An elegantly-chic haven and a casual relaxation venue, Villa Hotel Les Pins is the ultimate accommodation option in St. Tropez.
The beaches of St. Tropez are among the town’s greatest treasures. VillaHotel Dolce Vita recognizes this and offers its guests the absolute convenience of living right next to one of the world’s finest beaches. The villa boasts of an immensely attractive, yet highly unique accommodation style. As among the grandest villas in St. Tropez, the Dolce Vita radiates elegance, comfort, and enjoyment in the same proportions.
Villa Hotel Patricia is a paradise all on its own. Set in a Provencal-Mediterranean-combined theme, this villa exudes an enchanting atmosphere, emphasized by its fabulous view of the sea and the magnificent collection of white roses in its landscaped garden. Villa Hotel Patricia is definitely unlike any other luxury villa or five-star hotel in St. Tropez.
About the Author
Anabelle Balanzar, a luxury travel and leisure expert, writes for Villazzo.Com. Learn information about the different Villazzo villa hotels on different locations around the globe. For more information, visit Villazzo Villa Hotels
Saint-Tropez has 12 markets: fruit, honey, flower, fish markets and Place des Lices – the region’s most popular street market. Two steps from the coast, under the plane-tree, old people usually play petanque. But on Tuesdays and Saturdays this place is occupied with long rows of counters. They sell traditional Provence fabrics. This is a parti-coloured cotton textile with a traditional pattern depicting olive branches and sunflowers, produced in Provence since the 17th century. Newly-produced fabrics can be bought at any boutique. But if you are at the market, look for something special. For instance, old local napery or typically French furniture, like puffs and sociable, upholstered with beautiful cotton fabric, Toile de jouy. The fabrics are often adorned with pink or blue patterns, depicting shepherds and shepherdesses in the white background. The other hit of local trade is multicoloured ceramics brought from the neighbouring Aubagne, where Pablo Picasso himself used to work. Clay dishes and jugs have the same patterns as local fabrics.
During the market day Place des Lices is filled with people even at dinner time. That is why the city’s best restaurant, La table du marché found next to the market, has a strategic location.
Périgord Noir. Sarlat-la-Canéda
Sarlat is famous for its well-preserved medieval and renaissance buildings. Make a separate trip to Domme bulwark city and a tiny village called Martel. But there is another thing why you should make a stop at Sarlat – its market, the most important in the whole Perigord. At the market they sell goose liver and all the things produced of it – from spicy pate to simple tinned stew with pink garlic. They also sell truffles. Twice a week, but mainly on Saturday, the market fills Place De La Liberte and adjoining streets. A walk around the market will take approximately 4 hours. During the height of the season – from the end of April till the end of September – lots of farmers and culinary tourists from all over the world come to Sarlat. The latter enjoy numerous culinary traps placed all around the city. Of course, the main attraction is cheese, particularly the renowned Cantal (usually sold €30 to €50 per kilo). Truffles are sold at €1000-1200 per kilo (one truffle can cost €20 to €50). But fresh mushrooms spoil quickly, so if you want to take them with you, buy cheaper pre-prepared truffles – the best of them are sold at Truffes de Périgord store at Place De La Liberte.
Markets of Dijon are concentrated in the old town and adjoin most of its attractions which are a real must for every tourist (like the Notre-Dame and its stone owl). Those are mainly gastronomic markets where one can buy traditional Dijon mustard, spice-cakes, blackcurrant-flavored liqueur Crème de cassis. But the main market does not sell food only. In the midst of the pedestrian area, on Place Grangier there is a second-hand market, a Brocante opened on weekends 7 am – midday. Look for various antiques, furniture, toys, lamps, books, old pots and pans and carpets. If you are lucky, you will find Savonnerie – this is how the first French carpets were called (starting from the 17th century they were brought from Persia). The carpets are known for their posh Baroque pattern. The older the carpet, the higher the price. Not only local sellers, but experienced commissioners bring their goods to this market. Prices are lower than the ones in salons and there is a chance you will find some rarities.
This is part 2 of a two-part article that gives you 10 of the best ideas for family activities when planning a vacation on the French Riviera.
MarineLand is Europe’s biggest marine park, located in Antibes. Come and watch as the Bottlenose Dolphins show off their speed, dexterity and agility – and marvel at the complete trust they display in their trainers, as man and dolphin work together in a beautiful water ballet. And your kids will enjoy the “talking” sea lion who seems a little jealous and constantly interrupts the show, wanting all the attention for himself.
Your kids are sure to fall in love with the “mammoths of the sea” after sitting spellbound during the whale show. Housed in a glass tank the size of a small lagoon, the killer whales offer a glimpse of what life is like as they demonstrate some of the natural behaviors of whales in their natural habitat – rushing onto the beach to catch seals, swimming at top speed to catch prey and even the showing off through jumps and leaps practiced by young whales.
Walk through the 30 meter tunnel that’s located inside a huge aquarium containing nearly 2 million liters of water, and you’ll get a look at sharks – up close and personal as they swim above, below and all around you. You’ll see Sandtiger Sharks with their huge teeth, Nurse Sharks that enjoy lying lazily in the sand, and Sandbar Sharks with torpedo shaped bodies that allow them to move swiftly through the water. A giant manta ray (almost 1.5 meters wide) shares the tunnel with these mysterious and deadly creatures, and you’ll feel as if you could reach out and touch them – but happy they can’t say the same thing!
The tropical aquarium gallery is home to the world of coral reefs, and gives you a look at the very different volumes represented: from small modules with starfish, shrimp, horse-shoe crabs and clown-fish in their sea anemones and multi-colored corals, to reef walls with monstrous green moray ells and so many other fish that you have to see it to believe it. The gallery is your invitation to stroll through the heart of the tropical seas of the world.
Dogs are allowed on leash, and MarineLand is handicap accessible. There is also a children’s playground available. The museum provides a variety of special activities every month, including a chance to see and touch with dolphins under the close supervision of their trainers.
Call for rates and times – reservations are required for special activities.
What to Bring: sweaters (it can get chilly inside the aquarium), walking shoes. If you have an infant, strollers are also recommended. Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation: 306 av. Mozart Tel +33 (0)4 93 33 49 49 www.marineland.fr Call for fees and hours of operation.
7. Parfumerie Mollinard
Located in the city of Grasse, which is the perfume capital of the world, the Parfumerie Mollinard offers guided tours. Your children will see first hand how flowers are gathered, dried and used to create perfumes.
They will see the huge copper distilleries, and see how production of perfumes is carried out. They’ll also learn about a time in history when people were afraid of soap, and taking a bath was thought to make you sick as they visit the room where all of the Mollinard soaps are made – by only one man!
During the tour, they’ll learn about the mysterious geniuses who are known as “the nose” and who earn large salaries because of their ability to create exotic new perfumes. You can even create your own perfume (reservations for these special lessons must be made in advance). Dogs are welcome on leash, and the facility is handicapped accessible.
What to bring: Your curiosity.
Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation:
60 bd Vicor Hugo
Tel +33 (0)4 92 42 33 11
Fax +33 (0)4 93 36 03 91
Open: all year, every day from April-September and during school holidays. 9am-6pm during the Christmas and February school holidays, 9am-6.30pm in April, May, June and September and 9am-7pm in July and August. Winter hours: 9am-12pm and 2pm-6pm, Mondays to Saturdays. Price: free entrance.
8. Musee Escoffier de L’art Culinaire (The Escoffier Art of Cooking Museum)
This museum is dedicated to Auguste Escoffier – a man known as the “King of Chefs and Chef to Kings.” He was known as the creator of many mouth-watering recipes, among them the “Peach Melba.”
The museum is located in the house Mr. Escoffier was born in, and has eight exhibition rooms dedicated to the most illustrious French Chefs of all time.
Your children will enjoy seeing what a real kitchen would have looked like in the 1800s along with all of the different utensils used back in those days. Kids receive a special map that offers special insights and information just for them.
After visiting the museum, take them to the Villeneuve Loubet – a village perched high on a cliff, and let them discover the giant maze and adventure playground.
9. L’Ecole des Champs
If you want a little grownup time, or are interested in finding excellent supervised activities for your children, then check out the School of Champs.
Situated in the middle of fantastic countryside, near Nice and Monaco (approx. 13kms), this children’s holiday and leisure complex, is unique in the region. It offers original activities centered around an educational farm, and includes a productive garden and comprehensive sports facility. They provide special workshops during school vacations, including: English, horseback riding, IT classes, music, arts and crafts, and also have an adventure park, and Indian camp and dance sessions. There is even a bus that services Nice and Monaco.
Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation:
9, Route du Château, La Colle
Tel: +33 (0)4 93 54 03 83
Open from April until the end of July during school holidays and on Wednesdays.
10. La Dolce Vita
You’ll be hard pressed to find another private beach anywhere on the French Riviera that was designed with families in mind. Take a walk along the pedestrian zone in Menton, and you’ll run into La Dolce Vita.
It offers a ramp for wheelchairs and strollers. A section of the beach has been designated for children, and there is even a roped-off section of the sea right next to the lifeguard shack where kids can play in the water in complete safety. You can rent inflatables and water toys.
If you fancy a dip in the water or want to lie on the beach quietly for a while, there are even supervised activities for children aged 5 and up, available every day from 9 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. (If your children are younger, they’re welcome to participate, but need an adult with them.)
They offer an air-conditioned children’s playroom and DVD movies are shown every afternoon at 2:00 p.m. (Younger children can even nap in a mini-bed just for them!) Your kids can eat lunch with you, or enjoy their own food in the Kid’s Club. The facility even offers private toilets and showers just for kids.
Your older children can enjoy access to some of Menton’s other private beaches and try water skiing as well as other water sports activities.
While your kids are enjoying themselves, if you get tired of lying on the beach, why not schedule some time at the gym, or indulge yourself in a relaxing massage?
What to bring: Sunblock, swim suits, towels and bottled water.
Location, Contact Information and Hours of Operation:
Promenade de la Mer Menton
Tel +33 (0)4 93 35 44 50
Open from May to September, from 9am to midnight. Call for prices and to make reservations.
There are literally hundreds of family activities waiting for you in the French Riviera. No matter what time of year, the ages of your children or their interests, you’ll find something for every member of your family in the French Riviera.
About the Author
Author Cheryl Antier invites you to learn all about where to go and what to do in the French Riviera from an American who lives there! Discover the best places to eat, stay and shop. Why settle for an ordinary vacation, when you can create an extraordinary one? French Riviera Vacation Guide