The south of France stretches over a tremendously varied countryside, from sleepy fishing villages to soaring red cliffs to purple lavender fields to sophisticated urban meccas sitting on the sea.
Almost everywhere you travel there is a view. From a perched village high atop the Mediterranean. From your table on the beach in St. Tropez. From a cafe looking over an open air market. Or from your car window as you drive along roads with views of the ocean to one side and fragrant lavender fields to the other.
This most picturesque of locations is not only visually appealing and interesting but it has a lively culture and cuisine that charm even the most jaded traveler.
Here are some of the stand-out reasons why you will fall in love with the south of France:
Wild horses run through the marsh grass along the beach. Pink flamingoes delicately balance on one foot under the blazing sun. Olive trees provide dappled shade to old stone farmhouses. For a bustling bit of culture, the village of St. Remy-de-Provence’s open air market, art galleries and trendy restaurants stand as a counter-point to the wild beauty of the rest of the region. You can get lost here in the peace and serenity, or get inspired here by the life of the village.
The cuisine and culture take on a slight accent from nearby Spain. There are bull fights and rice dishes piquant with saffron and pimento.
This is where the gypsies make their annual pilgrimage for the Gypsy Festival to celebrate their culture and way of life, and where you will hear their ancient Romani language spoken in the street.
It could be said that Marseille, because of its proximity to North Africa, takes on a distinctly different flavor than the rest of the coast. There is an exoticism here that you can’t quite put your finger on, but which intrigues and surprises. Old art and modern art stand side by side against the backdrop of a rowdy seaport and busy, loud city center. Hip hop and opera coexist in peace.
And because this is the second largest city in France, it is sprawling and large, Yet, it has its intimate moments in small restaurants proudly serving its legendary dish, bouillabaisse, or along its narrow streets lined with small family run boutiques.
It is also the oldest city in France, so there is the lure of the ancient as well. Musty or modern, Marseille is like a visit to the past within the future.
Elegance and glitz dominate much of the larger cities along the golden Cote d’Azur, which are lined with chic boutiques, luxurious hotels, and starred restaurants. Close enough to drive into Italy or St. Tropez for the day, traveling in either direction carries you along a coastal journey of great beauty with many stops to make: A visit to Cannes; to the glass-blowing village of Biot; past the mansions and yachts in Cap d’Antibes; and to Antibes’ open air market and massive marina full of boats. The Picasso Museum, also in Antibes, is a must-stop for its sheer location high above the crashing surf. You can also make your way to the grand old city of Nice, with its sweeping arc of beach and its sophisticated city vibe.
Back in from the coast is another world, one where the Impressionists found the famous “golden light” they loved so well. Steep vertical roads climb to the villages of St. Paul de Vence, Grasse, Gordon, and Eze.
The Cote d’Azure is where the International Cannes Film Festival takes place, as well as the Carnival de Nice. The cuisine is everything from rustic Nicoise to cutting edge modern, both taking advantage of the bounty of the nearby hills and ocean.
From tip to tip, the south of France is a constantly changing vision and experience. Yet one thing binds it all together: heavenly weather and an easy going way of life.
(Image by Wolfgang Staudt on Flickr)Write a Comment
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