Provencal dilemmas the three Cs Countryside Coast or City
I’m a real Francophile and have stayed in more than one hundred towns, cities, villages and hamlets in France. Twenty-two of these have been in Provence, the shortest for one night, the longest for four months. Every time I plan a trip to Provence, the dilemma is where to choose…
I really love the sea so several of our vacations have been on the Côte d’Azur where we’ve been lucky enough to have panoramic sea views from our rented apartments in Beaulieu-sur-Mer and Villefranche-sur-Mer. They are less than four kilometres apart and each has wonderful views of Cap Ferrat but they are such different places in which to stay. In Villefranche-sur-Mer, it’s all about the quay-side restaurants, pretty buildings and adjacent beach, whereas in Beaulieu, the harbour dominates the coast. One of my absolute favourite things to do from both towns is to walk to tiny St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat along the gorgeous Promenade Maurice Rouvier – the sea is just metres away and the views of the Cap, the coast and multi-million euro super-yachts are always stunning!
I’ve also spent several weeks in Juan-les-Pins during the winter months, spending my days walking along the beach to Golfe-Juan or to Antibes, or taking the little French Bulldog we were looking after into Cannes and spending the morning walking him along the Boulevard la Croisette, where he always seemed his happiest! I’ve never stayed in Cannes but it’s on my list of places to stay for a few days. I love the look of the five-star Hotel Martinez, overlooking the sparkling Golfe de la Napoule, but we’re more likely to choose something lower-key if I’m honest.
My other coastal stays have been in cosmopolitan Nice, tiny Théoule-sur-Mer, just west of Cannes and the little port of Cassis, right along the coast near Marseille. Next year, we’re going to Sanary-sur-Mer, which is somewhere we’ve called into during the winter, so it will be exciting to see what it’s like during the month of June. I know it has a wonderful market nearly every day!
And then, of course, there is the beautiful inland countryside, the real Provence some might say. I’m a great fan of the Var, the département whose star is perhaps Saint-Tropez but also has forests, hills and lakes, along with fabulous villages and small towns that haven’t changed very much in years. And then there’s the Luberon full of vineyards and lavender, and those wonderfully romantic villages such as Gordes, Ménerbes and Roussillon. But there are lots more to discover and that is what I’m hoping to do next summer too – rent a cottage on the periphery of the Luberon and explore those villages just off the main tourist map.
France can be very quiet in the winter months, so sometimes it has suited us to stopover in one of the cities along the Rhone Valley. Orange was rainy and cold but the Roman amphitheatre there is stunning and interesting particularly on a wet day but would be enormously exciting if there happened to be a concert coinciding with your visit! Avignon is all about being outside and Aix-en-Provence is the same with the added delight of lovely shops and cafes. Saint-Rémy-de-Provence is a town rather than a city but, as I’ve now been to the cities, it would always be my choice as it is compact, and much more manageable as a stopover.
I think I’ve worked out my dilemma – I’m a coastal, countryside… and, in third place, city sort of girl!