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 Le Croix Fry it was the right time to pay a visit. Fruit tree orchards merged into the Southern Alps as … 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
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
It takes only forty minutes from Aix en Provence to transport yourself to the soft and sandy beach of Cassis near the enchanting little port. It’s a delight anytime of the year – winter with a warm blanket and a windbreaker and summer with well – not much apart from an ice-cream from Amorino. This little gem, 20km from Marseilles, has been an important fishing village for centuries sitting snugly between the rugged beauty of Cap Canaille toward La Ciotat and the dramatic calangues towards Marseille.
A perfect present to give friends or family – a day or longer … Read More
A best friend’s birthday arrived and we agreed on a spring Alpine getaway. Our chosen destination, Megeve. A traditional Haute Savoie village in the mighty Mont Blanc where the French hip and cool come to play. With the village at 1,000ft and the highest skiing point at 2,350ft, it’s not the highest and the snow can be a little dicey; but if you want perfectly groomed pistes and a great choice of beginner/intermediate runs you will be satisfied. This is a place for food lovers and the little village sparkles with cozy interior-design shops, endless patisseries and horse-drawn carriages. Our … 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
It’s little streets sparkle and inspire. ‘One of the most beautiful villages in Provence’ is a mere 40 minutes drive from Aix en Provence. It lives up to it’s reputation. The minute I found out that Peter Mayle had chosen it as his place to re-settle after a number of years in America, I had to visit. I’m a fan to put it mildly! A year in Provence, Toujours Provence and Hotel Pastis are my favourite books in travel writing. He sums it up so simply and beautifully.
At the foot of the Luberon Massif surrounded by olive groves … Read More
It’s just too tempting….. I’ve tried to say no but life is short …… always! Everyone needs to be naughty from time to time and I figure that an hour or two wandering the alleyways and picking my top spots for a sweet and sugary fix is allowed on the naughty list . How can we know how good we are being if we are never naughty? So here are my top three patisserie choices for you to indulge a little in Aix en Provence.
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
A little while ago I enjoyed a glass or two of local wine with Sarah Pernot, a fellow Brit and founder of Discover Provence; a tour company offering authentic trips around the region. Sarah suggested I come on one of her newer trips, a Provencal cooking experience, to the home of Marie-Hélène tucked away in a pine forest just outside Aix en Provence.
A few days later I was picked up and driven to her home with two visiting Americans. It was an unusually cool, rainy day so we were all happy to be indoors away from the cold … Read More
Ten minutes drive from the centre of Aix and we are in the countryside. All around this town there are little villages where daily life seems a whole lot slower and simpler than its larger neighbour. The stunning ‘travel book’ villages are further away and if you need a slice of postcard Provence you need to travel 45 minutes towards the Luberon to the villages of Loumarin, Bonnieux and further afield to St Remy de Provence.
For a closer village fix head to Eguilles, Rognes or St Cannat or my absolute favourite, Puyricard. It’s home to the French artisan chocolate … 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