Welcome to a magical little island on the French Atlantic coast. My perfect place to just be! I have visited many times so why do I keep going back. From the colourful La Rochelle it is reached by a great arching bridge to tranquility, a stylish and perfect French experience along with the refreshing Atlantic sea breeze. Dotted about this little island are ten stunning villages all with something different to offer. If you want buzz then it’s St Martin or La Flotte, if you want beach then it’s Le Bois Plage or La Couarde or the smaller pretty … Read More
I was a little nervous as I secured a place in the Alps; this time last year I was being helicoptered off a mountain having fractured a pelvic bone. Set me back a little but didn’t take the passion away. I’d always wanted to return to this little place in the Aravis Mountains not far from Annecy that I visited some fifteen years earlier so with only a five hour car journey between myself and the Hotel and Chalets … Read More
It’s always a joy to stumble across something different! I used to lunch at a cool little restaurant in the centre of Aix en Provence full of vintage furniture serving delicious organic soups, salads and tarts. It was my favourite place; a little secret that few local people seemed to know; except the people in the know! The young and stylish couple who ran it quietly screamed individuality which was refreshing in the land of noisy brasseries, haughty waiters and steak frites.
Then one day they closed down and Aix lost a gem of a lunch place!
To my delight, … Read More
The approach to the town never fails to stir. As you descend into the gentle valley in which this ancient regional capital lies, you sense that something special awaits, the sentinel presence of Mont St Victoire, which looms up over one edge of the town, providing a clue.
I lived in Aix-en-Provence for a year; a dream come true for my family and I. It never disappointed! I’m passionate about France but Provence is where I know best and Aix encapsulates so much that I crave from the region in one truly magical town. Complete with a rich history and … Read More
As days become warmer, it’s impossible to resist the urge to get out – attention turns to more exercise and a spring swim in the med. A short drive from Aix en Provence or Marseilles the magical Calanques are a special place to walk, breath deeply, practise yoga or simply sit and take in the amazing views………………….
I hadn’t heard about it before I moved to France; amazing to think that it could have been missed, being only focused on those sun-searching trips down to the med beach after long winters living in London, only to be sandwiched between the … Read More
A truly spectacular place to buy a property; as well as visit for a holiday! I’ve always dreamed of having a home here. Transforming a wooden house into a cozy, stylish home. I’ve met many people in Provence who have done just that.
I dream of preparing for Christmas by chopping and stacking wood for our alpine home and HUGE FUN tasks like digging ourselves out of freshly fallen snow drifts outside the front door. Trips to enchanting villages nearby for chocolate box treats. Exquisite! Fresh mountain air, dramatic scenery, HEAPS of opportunity for cheese fondue. The snow is still … Read More
Planning a trip with kids is never easy and my two don’t get excited about much other than a sofa with easy access to an iPad or a friend – so a trip to the St Tropez area had to involve some serious kids fun…. Dreamy villages were off the agenda (kids truly have had enough of that) as were those three course set french brasserie lunches where the option was either steak hache or a slice of ham – any discussion around an alternative for them was always greeted with a pretty defiant NON….. ok ok fine! Steak hache … Read More
When you only have a limited time to enjoy Provence, authentic experiences are to be treasured. This one came lovingly wrapped in the form of a friends’ invitation to join them for a special day. Wrapped up cozily against the chill of a provencal winter, a lazy morning drive took us through the gentle hills and valleys of the Luberon to Opede; the dreamiest village of all!
The stillness and peace against an electric blue sky was deafening….. as we sat in the little square enjoying a cafe. Not a soul around except for a bird or two and a … Read More
A recent trip to this dreamy part of France was wonderful. This irrepressibly charming land lies south of the Dordogne and, for me at least, it is more beautiful and gentler dotted by sunflowers, medieval castles, vineyards and orchards. I have spent many a summer here kitted out as a wench or a queen whilst attending a local medieval festival (Monflaquin) in baking 90 degree heat. This land has a beauty that calms the spirit and is stuffed full of markets, foie gras, rivers, pigeonniers, charming villages and great wine. A very good friend lives here and I’m so glass … Read More
All aboard…. time to jump on the TGV ..my favourite way to travel. Aix to Nice close to the dreamiest of coastline. Via Toulon then a brief diversion inland to vineyards near Draguignan, it meanders snake-like with great ease close to the coast. A time to sleep or read or just be……under three hours of hypnotic glory and we are there… world famous Cote D’azur and Nice ville… Blinking in the bright sunlight as we come out of our TGV trance we put on our backpacks and head for the beach. I’m here with my kids for a few days … Read More
A favourite run by car in Provence is the twisty road sweeping through pine, oak and chestnut trees from the A8 (Aix to Cote D’azur highway) down the D558 to the sea. It’s a little heartstopping in places (if you don’t like heights) but the aroma of pine and the sound of Les Cigalles very soon takes your mind away from that worry. Passing by La Garde Freinet (definitely worth stopping at) I’m heading to my favourite village, Grimaud. Why do we give a place this accolade; beauty, family, where one falls in love? For me, it was a realisation … Read More
There’s an anticipation when you go to the beach, isn’t there? There’s an image in your mind so it’s disappointing when the image is not fulfilled. That’s what has happened to me, here in the South of France – a few times – searching for the beach in my head. I’m a big beach lover….. any weather will do…… but sun is best for paddling in the shallows and occasionally mastering a half decent sea swim. Provence is blessed with an endless coastline from the Calangues of Marseilles to the beaches of the Cote D’azur but some are better than … Read More
Nothing prepares you for the smell! So familiar, intoxicating…..it’s a head rush! The smell of Lavender! I have spent years trying to create that smell in various forms in my home in London but it’s nothing like the real thing. A short trip up the A51 from Aix en Provence towards Manosque and a right turn to the Valensole Plateau and you are transported to this purple land. The ever changing colours of Provence are quite something but I think this is the most impressive. You can find it all over the region but a good source told me that … Read More
The little ferryboat slowly makes its way across the glittering bay toward the historic Saint Tropez, from Port Grimaud where I’m staying. It’s my favourite way to arrive. Past all manner of sleek motor boats, one aptly named ‘one more toy’… Say’s it all really about this place… doesn’t it? Glitzy, cool, super-glossy, iconic, brash, myth of stars and glamour. Saint Tropez still has the cache…….the Brigette Bardot film legends are long gone but the money remains seducing celebrities from all over the world..
The whirr of helicopters drown out the sound of my little ferryboat – the rich … Read More
Aix en Provence is in a fabulous location. It’s accessible to many places. Avignon, Paris, Nimes, Montpellier, St Tropez and Nice are so easy to get to and are all interesting in their own right. But sometimes its tempting to search further a field into Spain or Italy.
Barcelona is only four hours away by car and it’s a place I have certainly wanted to explore for a long time now. Oh so tempting to go as it’s so close……. and it doesn’t disappoint. What a city! Hot, cool, passionate, wild and edgy, it has a beat all of its … Read More
We have all been there. I’ve been there a thousand times. After school activities and the quest for something that they want to stick at. Crowded swimming pool waiting rooms, windy athletic tracks – the same conversation over and over ‘you can’t give up yet you’ve just started’. The joy when finally it works – well for a while anyway!
Day three of our arrival in Provence we were directed to a fabulous event in Aix showcasing hundreds of after school activities – all the usuals from home plus mountain biking, hiking, skiing. Wednesday afternoon is when this all takes … Read More
It’s my passion – sourcing and advising friends on places to stay around the world. I’ve been at it for years and I probably should have made a career of it. So I’m delighted that somehow I found myself here with a blog I love to write and an opportunity to share special places with more people than just close friends. I use Alistair Sawday special places travel books every time I travel – he is the king! One of his suggestions that was always booked was Le Mas des Gres…Of course the more you can’t have something the … Read More
They never appreciated a luxury holiday but now my girls (the whirls as I call them – because they are always whirling around) have really started to enjoy a touch of 5 star…….. Ooooh! they exclaimed as we were shown to our room at the stunning Villa Gallici Hotel in Aix en Provence.
Surrounded by silk and velvet and gorgeous smelling hand cut roses, everything in this magical haven had been thought out carefully. The whirls eyes sparkled! No nagging from mum to wash, they were straight in the shower with lotions and potions smelling of rose and lavender. Oh … Read More
Our first day at the little CIPEC International School located just ten minutes outside Aix on a peaceful road surrounded by beautiful sunflowers. The house we are renting is four minutes away and I’m in heaven as it’s so much quicker than my school run back home. When we first ventured to the school in June for a visit it was quiet, apart from the children that is…… Fast forward to the first day of Autumn term and the quiet road is jammed with international looking cars (i.e. big ones like ours) and the sunflower field has turned into a … Read More