All hail the glorious south of France. A sun drenched, eternally elegant, time-stands-still sort of place synonymous with wine, cheese and general decadence. Forever in our hearts and destined to stay phenomenal, Provence should be everyone’s new spiritual home.
For those keen to plan a sun-kissed trip to France’s captivating icon we have a few provincial tips, and a few holiday snaps, to get you feeling sufficiently inspired.
Best Base: We recommend setting up camp in Aix-en-Provence (home of Cézanne and Emile Zola) or Arles (the stomping ground of Van Gogh and your best chance of getting remarkably well aquatinted with the ruins of Roman France).
Where To Stay: If you decide to make Arles your holiday home, promise us you’ll pass a few nights at the Grand Hotel Nord-Pinus, which overlooks Place du Forum and the bright yellow Le Café La Nuit, immortalised by Van Gogh. A historic playground for models, muses (Charlotte Rampling and Napoleon III are just a few famous guests) and matadors, this Spanish-inspired hotel brims with art and verve. Almost every room has taken on a different decorative style yet Suit 10 has to be the cultural stand out. Bullfighters would spend a no doubt sleepless night here before their amphitheatre fight, using the room to dress and greet the awaiting crowds.
Where To Eat: Feel like a local and pass a Saturday morning ambling along the fragrant main street when the local produce market sets up shop - meals made entirely of fresh bread, creamy cheese and a local rose really are the best. For something a little more decadent there is always Restaurant L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabenel, which focuses on fine, local ingredients and creates dishes with a definite Asian twist - the interiors are also decidedly Matisse-esuqe. The more casual yet equally flavour-focused Le Comptoir du Calendal is also worth checking out.
Get Arty: In the shadow of such humbling artists greatness it is essential to pay homage and if you’re basing yourself in Arles The Van Gogh Trail, which snakes through the town, passing bridges, open spaces and cafes that are immediately recognisable, is absolutely essential. A trail map can be picked up from the local tourist office and highlights include the the Espace Van Gogh and newly opened Foundation Van Gogh.
If Aix-en-Provence is your base pay a visit to Cézanne’s studio, a short walk from the centre of town this light-filled space, overlooking a beautifully overgrown garden, is filled with his paints, easels and the subjects of his numerous astounding works. This is a genuinely moving space.
Discover The Wine: In our humble opinion, the rose hailing from Provence is simply the best. Fresh and fruity, it is largely responsible for the resurgence of this particular, brilliantly-hued drop. If you want to learn a little about the local wine trade and its secrets join a tour with Provence Wine Tours. You’ll travel, with a knowledgeable local guide, to a range of local wineries famed for their colourful chateaux, artistic quirks and unique and passionate approach to wine making.
Parting words of wisdom: Just be prepared to get a little lost, unwind and fall for the brilliance of old stones, blue skies and a sunny French disposition.