"Fermez les yeux et faites un voeu"South of France - Whilst France remains the most popular global destination for tourists, the shining jewel in its tiara must be the South of France. Condensing thousands of years of history, art and culture with the glamour of Hollywood and the allure of fabulous golf courses is a daunting task. But why the South of France you ask? Well, many before me have also fallen in love with the area. From Brigitte Bardot to Coco Chanel, Grace Kelly to F Scott Fitzgerald. Not to forget Jacqueline Kennedy/Onassis, Angelina & Brad, Johnny Depp and many more. Add in the likes of Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso and you get the picture (excuse the pun). We will focus on the area from the Italian border, westwards to the mighty Rhone River. This region is called PACA for short. Standing for Provence and Cote d'Azur.
It has been a magnet for the rich and famous, even the infamous, and Vict orian Brits and wealthy Russian aristocracy, helped bring the area to prominence. Having said that, a certain Hollywood icon called Grace Kelly, later Princess Grace, certainly helped propel Monaco into one of the most famous destinations in the world. The local football team bus has the phrase "like nowhere else" and I certainly won't argue. With a penthouse costing in the region of $500 million and a bottle of champagne available at nearly $400,000 is it any wonder there are more billionaires here than anywhere else in the world, and 1 in 3 residents are actually Millionaires. Is it any coincidence thatlife expectancy, just short of 90 years, is the highest on earth?
However for thousands of years, visitors have found the South of France simply irresistible. Greeks and Phoenicians and even Roman legions, some led by a certain Julius Caesar, have arrived and left indelible impressions. Vines can be traced back thousands of years and some of the Roman architecture is the best found anywhere outside of Rome. Indeed by a strange coincidence, the Catholic Church moved the seat from the Vatican in Rome to Avignon for a number of years.
The Palais des Papes (above) in the walled city of Avignon is a remarkable legacy of this period and their hunting lodge Chateauneuf du Pape, gives its name to the area nearby that produces some of the best wine in France.
Talking of wine, Chateau Miraval, owned by Angelia Jolie & Brad Pitt, produces a stunning rosé wine, and there so many other small fine vineyards throughout the region.
Pablo Picasso (below) and Vincent Van Gogh, along with many other famous artists, found the light inspiring, which led to the creation of many famous masterpieces.
Did you know that Picasso is buried in the grounds of his chateau near Aix en Provence?
Indeed the great man lies not far from the final resting place of Cezanne and also not too far from Arles.
Arles with its’ amazing Roman monuments is also where Vincent Van Gogh painted some of his stunning works. You can sit and have a coffee in the famous 'Cafe with Yellow Awning' or follow in Vincent's footsteps and see some of the sights he immortalised or visit nearby St Remy de Provence where Nostradamus was born and where the daughter of Princess Grace, Princess Caroline, sought comfort in the family home after the death of her husband Stefan Casiraghi.
Even the hotels are works of art. From little fishing villages to the second largest city (and port) in France, Marseille, the coast has many alluring spots. One little fishing village that changed its’ identify somewhat was a certain St Tropez. Today many of the little fishing boats have been replaced on the quayside by super yachts. The tiny little streets are a memory of how it must have been and it is certainly the favourite spot to see global icons from every walk of life. Beach restaurants like Club 55 always have 'star' clientele. However away from the azure waters, there are simply beautiful little hilltop villages under the cobalt skies. Like Eze, St Paul de Vence, Les Baux and many more. Don't take my word for it. They have been officially voted to be amongst the nicest in France.
Believe it or not there is much more.......
There are numerous hidden gems that will take your breath away. Like Chateau la Coste (above two images) in Provence, the realised dream of an Irishman who has kept a centuries old vineyard but allowed modern famous artists and architects to create unique, probably priceless works of art. The owners friends like Bono arrive by helicopter.
I haven't even mentioned the fifty plus golf courses. As golf has been played here for over 100 years, it is no surprise really to find the names Aga Khan, Rothschild, Tsar Alexander III alongside Gary Player, Robert Trent Jones and Pete Dye to name but a few. I would suggest that probably the most exclusive golf club in the world, it doesn't have a website or GPS coordinates, lies somewhere in Provence. The stunning Terre Blanche, once owned by Sean Connery, is also truly a top course along with Royal Mougins, Pont Royal, Barbaroux and so many more. I hope you have enjoyed this somewhat unconventional, whistle stop tour of PACA, however I would need to be a Pablo or Vincent to paint a picture of such a stunning and authentic part of the world.
If you are looking for that something special, then using our local knowledge we would be delighted to propose various options for you and help you join the long list of visitors to an authentic and truly special part of the world. A visit to this region could be followed by 3 days either in the wine region of Bordeaux, the Chateaus and wine of the Loire valley, or the “City of Light” - Paris.
Dan Krull – with thanks to my French partner John Wiggens