Where to go, cool things to do, winter sunshine away from the city, road trips, beaches, coast, countryside - history, culture, art and architecture, gastronomy, food & wine tours. There're so many places to visit, so much to see & experience here in the sun drenched south.
Provence a rich diverse landscape of coastline, countryside & rocky ancient hilltop villages ...
Provence from endless lavender fields to bountiful vineyards, rolling hills, rocky hilltop villages and dazzling seascape, steep cliffs, remote sandy beaches and coastline. Stunning port towns, historical landmarks, rich countryside, Provence is the region of France that epitomizes the Mediterranean as a dream destination. The region enjoys a delightful Mediterranean climate, with hot, dry summers, mild winters, and the infamous cold Mistral wind.
The Mistral blows down through the Rhône valley during winter and springtime bringing with it a cold chill and intense deep colours in the nature. This south eastern province of France stretches from the Italian border on the east, to the river Rhône & Camargue to the west. Marseille, the capital of Provence is at its centre and Cannes-Nice on the Cote D’Azur to the east hugging the Italian border. This is a large region waiting to be discovered.
Avignon to the north up towards Lyon, is the historical capital of the Vaucluse region and a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its medieval architecture and Roman ruins. The Palais des Papes that dominates the Avignon cityscape is today one of the most important medieval gothic sites in Europe. The abandoned Pont d’Avignon dates back to the 12th century. Avignon, like many towns here plays host to numerous arts festivals.
Avignon stages many significant art and theatre festivals. Then of course there's Arles, a Roman town on the banks of the river Rhône. It's architecture is both historical and modern. Hosting each year Rencontres d’Arles the international photography festival founded in 1970 by photographer Lucien Clergue and home to the new museum Foundation Vincent Van Gogh. He came south in search of warm weather, bright lights and the colours of Provence.
Aix-en-Provence a town with leafy boulevards, elegant public squares, 17th & 18th century mansions & Marseille second and oldest city in France founded 2,600 years ago, a sprawling colourful port city that blends tiny fishing ports, old town charm, historic buildings and an array of modern architecture. To top all this, the choice of the Luberon, Alpilles, Mount Sainte Victoire, Les Baux de Provence, St Remy, Cassis, Bandol and St Tropez. It's a long list.
Wine & Gastronomy in Provence
tours in Provençal villages include a spectacular visit to Château La Coste where art, architecture & fine wine live in perfect harmony with nature or perhaps a more intensive day out exploring the vineyards of Châteauneuf du Pape and Mont Sainte Victoire, Côtes de Provence.
A pocket of left-bank Parisian chic deep in Provence, Aix is all class - leafy boulevards, public squares lined with 17th & 18th-century mansions, punctuated by gurgling moss-covered fountains and stone lions guarding its grandest avenue.
The town of Avignon once the centre of the Roman Catholic world and during its stint as the seat of papal power it's been left with an impressive legacy of ecclesiastical architecture, most notably the soaring, World Heritage–listed palace, Palais des Papes.
Grit and grandeur coexist seamlessly in Marseille, an exuberantly multicultural port city with a pedigree stretching back to classical Greece and a fair claim to the mantle of France's second city. Once seen as dirty and downright dangerous.
Roman treasures, shady squares & Camarguais culture make Arles a seductive stepping stone into the Camargue. Colourful sun-baked houses evoke a sense of déjà vu, that's because you’ve seen them already on a Van Gogh canvas.
Brigitte Bardot came to St-Tropez in the 1950s to star in Et Dieu Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman) and overnight transformed the peaceful fishing village into a sizzling jet-set favourite. And Tropeziens have thrived on their sexy glamour image ever since.
Named after France's most powerful natural spring, Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in the Vaucluse region sits sandwiched between the mountains of the Hautes-Alpes & the rocky Var coastline. Crossed by three rivers – the Rhône, Durance and the Sorgue – Vaucluse is renowned for its lavender fields and vineyards, including the legendary Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Where the Petit Rhône and Grand Rhône meet the Mediterranean sits the Camargue, 930 sq km of salt flats, saltwater lakes & marshlands, interspersed with farmland. Hauntingly beautiful area of Provence, roamed by black bulls, white horses and pink flamingos. Windswept sandy beaches, the towns of St Maries de la Mer and the Aigues-Morte nestle.
It feels like a miracle to find a refuge like Les Calanques which is just a short distance from gritty pressurised Marseille. This relatively small 85 sq km patch of rough high cliffs & convoluted promontories, it's easy to believe you're miles from civilisation. Then a twist in a pine-clad gully will reveal the entirety of France's second city Marseille.
Clinging precariously to an ancient limestone cliff, Les Baux a fortified hilltop village is one of the most visited in France. Narrow cobbled streets twist past ancient houses, up to a ruined castle. At the centre of Les Alpilles mountains - St-Rémy a small village about as cultured and chi-chi as Provence gets whilst managing to cling on to its heart and soul.
Châteauneuf du Pape
In the world of fine wines, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is arguably the best-known of the Rhône appellations prized the world over. The hilltop château after which the wine is named originally was built as a summer residence for Avignon's popes, but little more than a ruin today plundered for stone after the French Revolution, and bombed in WWII for good measure.
Create in the heart of Provence - fine art classes & oil painting, architecture & history excursions, food & gastronomy, vineyard & fine wine and photography workshops
Food, Wine & Gastronomy in the heart of Provence
Provence has long been associated with the finer things in life, and justifiably so. Not only is the region a feast for the eyes, but it is also a feast for the tastebuds. There are, however, three products specifically wine, truffles and olive oil – that are essential to the fine art of living here in the South of France. Wherever you end up in Provence, you certainly won't go hungry. Food is a central part of French life, but here in Provence it becomes an all-consuming passion. It's dominated by the hallowed ingredients of Mediterranean cooking – olive oil, wine, tomatoes & garlic – the region's cuisine is guaranteed to be a highlight, whether that's savouring a simple bowl of fish soup, candied fruits near Apt or Nice, tasting the season's first-press olive oil on a local farm, or indulging in a delicious classic bouillabaisse in Bar des Goudes, in the tiny fishing port of Les Goudes close to Marseille.
Art class & photography workshops in the Luberon
Lacoste is a charming perched village in the heart of the Luberon Natural Park. Lacoste partly owes its reputation to the outstanding quality of the luminous soft limestone once quarried here. The village is crowned by the Château of the divine Marquis, Louis-Alfonse Donatien de Sade, who lived here in the 18th century. The castle was pillaged and destroyed during the French Revolution and since been bought by couturier Pierre Cardin who has done much work to renovate the site. Pierre Cardin has also undertaken the restoration of many houses in the village, and organises every summer a music and theatre festival in the old quarries. The village of Lacoste is a source of inspiration to the students from the Savannah College of Art & Design which has its home in the village. Now if you want to visit, sketch, paint or join a photography workshop, well why not give it a try.
Discover the Provence of Caesar & Van Gogh
The Romans called the area Provincia Nostra or just Provincia it was one of the first significant conquests outside the Italian peninsula. The name survived as the name of the region of Provence. The Cities of Massilia (Marseille) Nemausus (Nimes) Arelat (Arles) all flourished here. They invested in building massive monuments, engineering projects, and amphitheatres. Narbo Martius (Narbonne) originally established by the Romans to compete with the rich Greek city of Massilia to shift trade arteries away from the Rhone valley. Massilia was eventually incorporated into the Roman Empire - the Rhône River remaining focal point of urban life. Today Arles is connected to the painter Van Gogh who stayed in Arles from 1888 for 15 months painting over 300 works. In 1889, after months of hospital treatment in Arles, he allowed himself to be committed to a psychiatric institution in St Rémy.
The revolutionary genius of Paul Cézanne
On the edge of the quintessential Provençal town of Aix en Provence, Mont Sainte Victoire soars more than 1,000m above a vast plain of vineyards, red tile-roofed villages, meandering streams and pine tree woodlands. But this rocky limestone peak has contributed much more thanks to the revolutionary artistic genius of Aix native Paul Cézanne. Cézanne, who was born in 1839 and always loved the mountain. "As a small child, he and friends Émile Zola & Jean-Baptistin Baille kept an eye on it from afar during their escapades, running, climbing and hunting in the unspoiled countryside at its base,” said great-grandson Philippe Cézanne. At first Cézanne painted Mont Ste-Victoire from the park of the family home in Aix & it wasn't until later in his life, that he began focusing more intentionally on the mountain, approaching it from different angles, painting with more precision, brushstrokes & colour.