From the lazy Languedoc to the glamour of Monaco

Provence

The French coast is a long stretch (roughly 552 kilometres) that offers various exciting activities, styles of gastronomy, oenology, and lifestyles. We travelled from the languorous vineyards in the Languedoc, to the buzzing Monegasque coast and we’ve cherry picked some of the highlights of our whistle stop adventure, so that you too can enjoy the best of the best, should you embark on a similar journey.

 

The Languedoc

canal du midi

Known for its prolific output of rosé, delicious delicacies (think foie gras and oysters galore), areas of outstanding natural beauty and towns full of wonderful belle epoque architecture, the Languedoc is an up and coming area that needs to be on your radar.
Where to visit:

Beziers – for some of the most beautiful examples of belle epoque architecture, including the Beziers Cathedrale.

Narbonne – A languorous town with the Canal du Midi flowing through it. Be sure to visit Les Halles for some gastronomic delights. Those in the know – and now you know! – will be sure to book Les Grands Buffets de Narbonne in advance; it is one of THE best buffets in the world. Read The Tastemaker’s review here.

Montpellier – dubbed Europe’s culture capital, Montpellier is a sort of mini-Paris – one that is shrouded in sunlight. We loved the cool art and design boutiques and the café culture that permeates the city.

montpellier

Collioure – our favourite seaside town with its beach enjoying a medieval castle as its background.

Collioure

Collioure

Where to stay:

Villa Vasilisa

Chateau St. Pierre de Serjac

 

Avignon

Avignon BBeyond

Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse….or so the song goes. Sadly, visitors can no longer visit the bridge but the town itself more than makes up for this.

Upon entering this fortified town from the West, you will be confronted with the monumental and majestic Palais des Papes. The building, with its majestic Gothic architecture, is one of the most important medieval buildings in Europe and in its former life was both a fortress and palace (for the history buffs, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity in the 14th century, with 6 papal conclaves held in the Palais).

Avignon TM

We loved Avignon for the mix of romantic history and modernity; tree-lined squares lead off onto narrow alleyways that are now populated with quirky cafes and eateries. We didn’t get to experience some of the best (Les 5 Sens or Fou de Fafa – and no, the Flying Concords don’t own it!) but would definitely recommend booking in advance for what looked like absolutely sensational restaurants and meals.
Where to visit:

Arles – The van Gogh museum is a must, as is a visit to the LUMA Foundation with the newly built Frank Gehry tower. Arles is an exciting town that is both steeped in history and entering a new, art-filled future.

La Camargue – A nature region famous for its wildlife: it plays host to over 400 species of birds, a large flamingo centre and the roaming Camargue horses (Camarguais).

la camargue

Where to stay:

La Bastide Rose

Provence

The beautiful, serene Provence is probably best characterised by the ubiquitous charming villas and manicured gardens that the affluent have embraced in this part of the world. Large chateaux and domaines have been lovingly restored or renovated resulting in some of the most spectacularly designed abodes. Think authentic tiles and fireplaces mixed with a handful of contemporary cheekiness. We loved the main town, Aix, that has been popularised in countless novels, films and paintings. The town epitomises the relaxed laissez faire attitude of the French that permeates the South of France.

chateau-marie-therese1

Where to visit:

Villa La Coste –  For its exciting and often quite daring artistic programme. Technically a hotel, the establishment has become a must-visit by art lovers around the world. Be sure to visit the Pavillon de La Musique by architect Frank O. Gehry and Le Pavillon d’Exposition by Renzo Piano. The Centre d’Art by Tadao Ando and The Crouching Spider by Louise Bourgeois are also on the top of our list – and somewhat hard to miss!

The Maeght Foundation – en route to Nice, the Maeght Foundation is a wonderful reserve of some of the world’s greatest Modern artists including Joan Miró, Alexander Calder, Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, Alberto Giacometti, Marc Chagall and Eduardo Chillida.

maeght foundation

Where to stay:

Domaine de Fontenille

 

St. Tropez

Welcome to St. Tropez!

st tropez bb

St. Tropez seemingly has it all: a party reputation, a plethora of exquisite eateries, a burgeoning art scene, many an unspoilt beach and a hugely appealing hinterland around it. Whether you visit for a week or a weekend, it is the perfect spot for a bit of relaxation and a bit of a boogie.

Two mentions must go to the wonderful musée de l’Annonciade and the institution that is Club 55.

Musée de l’Annonciade plays host to a wonderful collection of works by Paul Signac, Matisse, Pierre Bonnard and Albert Marquet, amongst others. It is one of our favourite museums in terms of layout: the museum itself is a converted chapel and the art has been arranged just so – none of the walls are overcrowded but rather, the museum acts like a gallery, spacing the works out and allowing the visitor to absorb the works without becoming visually oversaturated.

musee de l'annonciade

Club 55 is an institution in St. Tropez that most of you will already know. Legend has it that during the filming of And God Created Woman in 1955 (starring Brigitte Bardot and filmed by Roger Vadim), Vadim’s parents, having cooked a small meal for the cast, became inspired to create a restaurant in the very same spot; and thus the creation of Club 55. You will find some seriously well-heeled folks patronising this place – both locals and visitors – but most importantly, the food is outstanding.

Club 55, St Tropez

 

Where to visit:

Ramatuelle and Gassin – hilly towns just behind St. Tropez, they are an ideal escape for a day and an escape that will allow you to revert to the French way of life as opposed to the Europeanised St. Tropez. Half of the fun is in getting there – winding your way (preferably in a convertible Porsche) through the romantic tree-lined background of St. Tropez.

Where to stay:

Pastis St Tropez

Monaco

monte carlo

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose…..or so it’s supposed to be. In hand with Bouygues Construction, the Principality will be increasing the square footage of Monaco to create an exciting new artificial extension.

In the meantime, the Principality is as sexy and glamorous as ever. Our all time favourites Rampoldi and The Metropole Hotel are still there and thriving – a testimony that quality trumps all.

 

Where to stay:

If you’re not in a private apartment, our vote would go to The Metropole Hotel for opulence, elegance and comfort.

Visit The Tastemaker for bespoke tour options.

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