Small and picturesque town with its medieval fortified harbour on the Mediterranean seashore has become a busy focal point for visitors of La Camargue.
Saint-Aygulf Beach near Frejus.
The Beaches of Provence.
Notre Dame Beach, Ile de Porquerolles
No cars are allowed whatsoever on this island, so it is very safe to walk or ride a bicycle along the rocky , 3 km ( 2 mile) track from the port to the loveliest beach in France. Surrounded by pines, it boasts white sand, calm waters, no commerce and few people. Your very private slice of paradise.
Pampelonne Beach, St Tropez
Everyone has his or her “place” in St-Trop largest beach. The very famous beach clubs cater to the super- rich and glamorous, to nudists, to gays, as well as to everyday families. This 5- km ( 3 mile) sandy stretch across the headland from the town also has extensive public areas. There is enough space to escape the crowds and appreciate real beauty. I do not recommend Saint-Tropez in the summer time, way to crowded.
Calanque d’en -Vau, Cassis
“Calanques” are inlets formed where the chalk cliffs plunge into the sea. Many of them are found between Marseille and Cassis. En-Vau is very pretty one of the prettiest and one of the most accessible. It is about 90 -minute walk from the nearest Cassis car park. At the foot of the white, pine- clad rocks, the setting of white sand and sea is intimate, wild and quite unforgettable.
Elephant Beach , Le Lavandou
Le Lavandou has a total of 12 beaches, from the great sandy stretch of the Grande Plage to the nudist creek of Rossignol. The most attractive is L’elephant. The approach is only by sea or by climbing over rocks, a feature that ensures tranquility.
Calanque de Figuerolles, La Ciotat
Steps lead down to this extraordinary creek. On both sides are cliffs, while further back are terraces of fig-trees and pines. Out front the blue sea laps around weird rock formations and onto the pebble shore.
La Garoupe Beach, Cap – d’Antibes
Between them, Antibes and Juan-les-Pins have 25 km ( 16 miles) of coast and 48 beaches, slotted into rocky creeks or opening into sandy beaches. One that is the prettiest goes by the name of La Garoupe, on an inlet of the peninsula. Very fashionable and very crowded in the summer time.
Agay beach, St-Raphael
As the red rocks of the Esterel hills tumble into the blue sea, they give the coast around Saint Raphael an untamed allure. The small creeks are much more accessible, bigger, sandier and equally alluring. The Bay of Agay is perfect for families with children.
Saint-Honorat beaches, Iles de Lerins
A short ferry ride leads from the crowded beaches of Cannes to this island, owned by Cistercian monks. The presence of a monastery kind of discourages the holidaymakers so the pretty rock outcrops and very small beaches remain calm and unusually for Provence, it is under populated.
Long, wide, sandy and safe, the beach at St-Aygulf, near Frejus has the additional advantage of being in a Nature Preservation Area. This protects the Etangs de Villepey – great, wild, freshwater lagoons on the other side of the road, where 217 bird species have been noted. A very beautiful setting.
Piemancon beach, La Camargue
A very beautiful beach, beyond civilization. You must walk around salt -flats and lagoons before arriving at the flat exposed sands. Life is a little rugged , but totally ideal for wilder beach elements.
Cezanne ‘s work. Watercolour scenes from his hometown.
Like moths to a flame, artists have gravitated toward Provence’s vivid sunlight and vibrant landscape for centuries.
The painters are:
Paul Cezanne born in Aix, where he lived most of his life ( 1839 -1906). He painted hundreds of oil and watercolour scenes of his home town and the nearby Mont Sainte -Victoire in his own post impressionist style. He really captured the soul of Provence. His great grand daughter Aline Cezanne lives in Saint Francisco and is a friend of mine.
Vincent van Gogh the Dutch master ( 1854 – 1890) created hundreds of his vivid powerful landscapes and self portraits during his years in St- Remy and Arles. The sunshine of Provence really changed the way the painter saw light and colour.
Pablo Piccasso was the driving force behind the Cubist movement, ( 1881-1973) Picasso was influenced by the sights and colours of Provence, where he lived in exile from his native Spain most of his life. He learned to make ceramics from the potters of Vallauris and helped to revive the craft.
Henry Matisse ( 1859 – 1954), lived in Nice from 1917 until his death. his paintings were inspired by the vivid light and the colours of the Riviera. During world war two he retreated to Vence, where he designed the Chapelle du Rosaire, including its beautiful vestments and furnishings.
Marc Chagall the Russian-born painter ( 1887-1985), moved to St-Paul-de-Vence in 1949. His light-filled work included biblical messages and the paintings are in the Musee National Message Biblique Marc Chagall in Nice.
Fernand Leger ( 1881-1955) is well known for his strong cubic paintings and his love for bold lines and pure and primary colours.
Raoul Dufy ( 1877-1955) embodies the values of the fauvist school wits its intense use of bright, intense colour. Nice was his favorite background for his vivid work.
Paul Gigniou. ( 1834 -71) painted sunny landscapes of his native Vaucluse, capturing the pure light of Provence‘s rugged hillsides. Les deux lavandieres devant la Sainte-Victoire , one of his best known works, is on display in the Musee Grobet-Labadie in Marseilles.
Frederic Mistral, This Nobel prize -winner ( 1830 -1941) wrote epic poems based on local lore.
Alexandre Dumas ( 1802 – 1870) used the Chateau d’If as the grim backdrop of his well-known book, The count of Monte Cristo.
Victor Hugo ( 1802 – 1885) set the early chapters of his epic novel Les Miserables (1862) in Dignes-les-Bains
Albert Camus, the French author and existentialist ( 1913 – 1960) wrote his autobiography in Lourmarin, Luberon.
Alphonse Daudet ( 1849 -1897) is remembered for Tartarin de Tarascon, the tale of a Provencal bumpkin.
Graham Greene, the English novelist ( 1914 – 1991) retired to Nice where he wrote ” J’Accuse”, the dark side of Nice.
Ernest Hemingway, Another visitor from the US to Provence, Hemingway ( 1898 -1961) set the Garden of Eden in Napoule.
Marcel Pagnol, one of my favorite was an author and film director ( 1895 -1974) wrote L’eau des Collines ( 1963) and later filmed Jean des Florettes and Manon des Sources.
Colette ( 1873 – 1954) wrote about Saint-Tropez in La Naissance du jour ( 1928).
F Scott Fitzgerald. The US writer ( 1896 – 1940) stayed at Juan -Les -Pins in 1926 to write his novel, Tender is the Night.
Life in Provence is magical and here are a few traditions.
Midnight Mass, Christmas Eve
Pastoral memories mixed with Christmas ritual, as five lambs participate in the ceremony.
Thirteen Christmas desserts
Symbolizing Christ and the Apostles, the meal of the Christmas Eve includes dried fruit and griddle cakes.
Scenes are made of biblical characters with Santon figures of Provencal villagers.
Fete de la Saint Jean
In Valreas medieval parades attend the election of a boy-child to “protect the town”.
Fete des Tripettes, Barjols
Incongruously, celebrates both the relics of St Marcel and the importance of the bulls. 2nd weekend January
Fete de La Tarasque, Tarascon
Tarasque “reappears” to terrify revellers. Last weekend of June.
Fete de la Transhumance, Riez
Takes place on Sunday, mid-jun. Sheep cross the village to upland pasture, giving rise to festivities.
Fete de La Lavande, Sault
Takes places on August 15. The heartland of Lavender celebrates its traditions.
Fete des Mimosas, Bormes -les- Mimosas
Lots of festivities amid the flowers. This event takes place every year as well, Mid-Feb.
Fete des Vins
The wine district welcomes the new vintage. Takes place the first Sunday of December.
The legend tells how a boat carrying Mary Jacobs, sister of the Virgin Mary and Mary Salome, mother of the apostoles James and John, were washed ashore at this seaside village between the Rhone and the Mediterranean. their statues in the 12th-century Romanesque church of Notre-Dame-de-la-Mer recall the event. In the crypt, dressed in sequined robes,is a third statue: that of their maidservant, Sara venerated by the Gypsies. The three saints are carried in procession to the sea on May 24 and 25 of each year.
According to Legend Ste Martha brought the Tarasque , a six-legged, man- eating monster to its knees by showing it a crucifix. The Collegiate Church built between the 12th and 15th centuries and containing works by Mignard, Vien and Parrocel is dedicated to her. Opposite stands one of France‘s finest medieval castles ( 1400-49), once home to that bon vivant King Rene. The very well preserved keep, the courtyard, kitchens and the kings luxurious apartments ( complete with his chafing dish) still survive today.
in 1777 a sheperd boy named Benezet received orders from God that a bridge should be built across the Rhone. People in Avignon were very sceptical, so the young boy picked up a rock which 30 strong men could not move and carried to where Saint-Benezet was to begin.
The ocher cliffs of the Roussilon. The legend has it that the wife of a noble man, Sirmonde fell in love with a troubadour, the Lord had him killed and she threw herself from the top of the cliffs after her husband forced her to eat her dead lover’s heart. The earth turned scarlet with her blood, and rocks and villages were left with a permanent rosy glow.
Saint Maximin de- la-Sainte -Baume
After she landed in Provence, Mary-Magdeleine spread the Christian word, before spending her last years praying in a cave in the Sainte-Baume mountains. her remains were discovered in the 13th century and may be seen in the Gothic basilica. The Gothic architecture , without stained glass, creates an unusual light.
Catherine Segurane, Nice
Catherine led Nicoise resistance against the Turkish Fleet that besieged the city of Nice in 1543.She knocked out the Turkish standard bearer with her washboard, before lifting her skirts and putting the Turks to fight. The day was lost , but Catherine‘s statue is in the Old Nice.
Visit us online and travel to Provence with us in the Fall.