Summer is here… now all you have to do is head south to embrace the best that France has to offer… Provence! Clear blue skies, aquamarine sea, crusty French bread, succulent tomatoes, garlic, olives ripening on the trees and the heady scent of lavender. If that weren’t enough to tempt you, then here are some other ideas to make the perfect Provencal holiday.
From Marseille heading east, there are a whole variety of seaside experiences waiting for you, from the fabulous Parc National des Calanques with its breathtakingly beautiful inlets, to family friendly, but ‘classy’ resorts such as Bandol offering a choice of several beautiful beaches to enjoy. In-between, the coastline dips and winds between multiple fishing villages, creeks and bays.
Although Calanques is normally closed to walkers during the summer months because of fire risk, July and August are the perfect months to view this amazing part of the coast from the sea; join a kayak tour, take a boat trip or charter a yacht. If being on the water isn’t for you, then enjoy cooling your toes paddling along the Mediterranean shore.
Events not to be missed
Throughout France, festivities will be organised for Bastille Day on July 14th and Provence will be no exception. Fireworks are a norm, but Marseille, Aix-en-Provence and Toulon offer some of the best, so expect lots of spectacular flashes and bangs!
Opera performances of the highest quality can be enjoyed at Festival d’Aix in July, rivalled only by Festival d’Avignon, a music and theatre festival with concerts taking place at various venues around the town. Jazz follows in early August, also in Avignon.
The ultimate temptation for brocante hunters will be found in l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue from 11th-15th August. With around 100,000 visitors, you won’t find yourself shopping alone, but with over 500 vendors touting their wares there will be plenty of bargains to tempt you.
Smaller, local events will also abound, with evening “fetes”, markets and soirees in typical French style. Lots of music, conviviality, food and wine. Indeed, these informal summer, open-air gatherings give you a real taste of the joy of life in France. Many will have long tables, informally laid with paper tablecloths and you will normally need to bring your own cutlery and wine glass. Claim your place and then stroll amongst the stalls, selecting various dishes for your supper together with the wine to accompany it. Always great, informal fun and you get to practise your French with the locals sitting nearby.
Well it is summer time and nature will be blooming. Olive trees will be laden with their slow growing bounty, grapes will be swelling on the vines and the air will be scented with the glorious fragrances of lavender and thyme. Don’t miss the opportunity to shop for nature’s generous offerings in the many markets which will be held, big and small, in local towns and villages. They always offer an extraordinary variety of things to buy ranging from all the items you will need for a picnic under the trees, to local potions to soothe your sunburn, straw hats to protect your head as you stroll in the summer sun and Provencal herbs to pop in your suitcase to take home. Well worth a visit is the market at Sanary-sur-Mer is held on a Wednesday morning. The recently voted the Most Beautiful Market in France you simply HAVE to visit!!
July and August are most definitely lavender season, with awe-inspiring fields of flowers to admire. If you want to do a little more than admire, and want to learn more about this amazing plant, there are a whole variety of tours which can be booked. Alternatively, visit beautiful l’Abbey de Senanque where a community of Cistercian monks grow lavender around the spectacularly beautiful buildings of the Abbey.
A little bit of history
Beautiful, cultural Avignon never fails to impress, from the Papal Palace to the Pont d’Avignon with Mediaeval buildings in-between, plus theatres, galleries, squares and statues.
Elegant Aix-en-Provence shouldn’t be missed with its tree-lined streets, noble houses and fountains. Other attractions include Paul Cezanne’s studio and the amazing, recently restored St. Saveur Cathedral.
Marseille, with its cultural diversity, offers something to please most tastes. Stroll the old port, take a boat trip out to Chateau d’If, admire the splendour of Notre-Dame de la Garde or visit the amazing Musee d’Histoire which gives you a real taste of Marseille’s ancient history. Near the old port, the district of “le Panier” with its colourful buildings and little squares will tempt you with boutiques and cafes. Amazing MuCEM, with its dazzling modern architecture is a museum with a little bit of everything where art, photography and history are combined under one roof.
Food for the soul
And last, but most definitely not least, all those culinary temptations! During the summer months Provence quite literally bursts with fragrance and flavour… markets with mouth-watering fruit and vegetables, the freshest of seafood straight from the Mediterranean, pale chilled Provencal Rosé, lavender flavoured sugar delicacies.
Gorgeous little cafes will be found wherever you wander, plus Salon de thé, Boulangeries for the freshest of French bread, Bistros and Michelin starred restaurants. With all this to enjoy, you won’t ever want to leave! Happy summer holidays!
Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.
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