Fly from London to Marseille in less than 2 hours and land in Provence, the idyllic southeast corner of France that is home to artists, lavender fields, lush vineyards, divine cheeses and relaxing sun-spashed days that define joie de vivre.
Only leave Marseille, the bustling port city Alexandre Dumas called “the meeting place of the entire world” after you’ve sampled the bouillabaisse, a regional classic, seafood stew. On to Aix-en-Provence, and stay in the 5-star Le Pigonnet located in the city centre.
Whilst in Aix-en-Provence (abbreviated to Aix, pronounced ‘X’), meander through century old streets in this colourful university town. Weekend markets, fashionable cafés and for art-lovers, follow in the footsteps of Aix-native Paul Cézanne for whom “art is a revelation of an exquisite sensitivity.”
Just 15 minutes north of Aix, the remotely-situated Bastide La Valentine is a six-bedroom stoned-built house in the district of Puyricard, an ideal base for outings in the Provençal countryside.
Wineries: If you only have time for one, visit Mas De La Dame or “the women’s farmhouse” which is managed by sister-team Caroline Missoffe and Anne Poniatowski and has produced wines and olive oils for four generations. Seductive, inviting and steeped in history – Nostradamus, Van Gogh and Simone de Beauvoir have connections to this picturesque vineyard. Also nearby – an estate worked by the Négrel family since 1813, Mas De Cadenet derives its name from the word “cade” a local juniper-like shrub. These winegrowers produce vintages under the prestigious AOC-appellation, Sainte Victoire. For an ultra-modern organic winery, Château la Coste practices biodynamic principles of agriculture; the vineyard has a wine shop, bookshop and several cafés.
Perched Villages: Located mainly in the Lubéron region, villages-perchés are hilltop towns that were built around castles during the Middles Ages. Gordes is one of the prettiest and most popular villages.
One last stop before returning to Marseille, the port town of Cassis, nestled into limestone hills on the southern coast, known for excellent seafood and AOC white wine.
A taste, a glimpse, a fraction of a sliver of the region. I’ll soon be wanting more. Reminiscent of Peter Mayle’s bestseller, A Year In Provence, that would be a lovely start.