by Steve Baker, Villa Specialist
I had a wonderful and informative springtime trip to France, visiting all three areas we represent in the south: Provence, St. Tropez, and the Cote d’Azur. We had bright sun most days and everything was green; roses and poppies were blooming; jasmine scented the air, and vineyards and olive groves nestled adjacent to nearly every villa we saw.
In Provence, we stayed two nights at the charming and quaint Hotel Le Benvengudo in Les Baux. Our guide met us in the early evening and we visited the lovely villa Le Chat Perche (FR1 LPC) on the outskirts of Maussane-les-Alpilles. With high wood beamed ceilings, wide windows and crisp white couches, the villa has beautiful décor throughout, but particularly in the kitchen and living room. There is no view except its own lovely and tree lined yard (which is really lovely) complete with terraces and a pool. Plus, town is a five-minute walk. In one town over from Maussane, Le Paradou, lies villa Mas de l’Esperance (YNF ESC). A mix of modern and provençale styles, the villa has its own olive grove and guests can receive some of the production.
The dining room of Villa Le Chat Perche (FR1 LPC), in the heart of Les Alpilles
Next up was villa Les Hauts des Baux (YNF BAU) burrowed into the craggy rock formations high up in Les Baux. The villa has a lot of character with interesting gardens and a view all the way to hills located in Aix-en-Provence. Later that evening we sat down for dinner at the hotel—I had daurade with rice and vegetables finished in a delightfully spicy tomato sauce. The chef sent small tastes of other bites for us to try—all were welcomed and delicious.
The next day we made our way to Les Alpilles, visiting villas in Le Paradou, Eygaliere, and Maussane, along with a trio of very nice villas on the same estate just outside of St. Remy-de-Provence. The estate sleeps up to thirty for large family groups or weddings, and up to forty can be seated for a meal or reception (young brides and mothers, take note). Later we settled in for lunch at Brasserie de Commerce in downtown St. Remy, trying their risotto with leeks and Parmesan.
We were introduced to a local real estate agent in Coutillon (in the Luberon) and shown four villas in Gordes, and others in Porquiers, Bonnieux/Lacoste, Isle sur la Sorgue and nearby Lagnes. Villa Mas Du Panorama (YNF PAN) lives up to its name, with sprawling panoramic views of Gordes and the valley below it. It’s a three-bedroom villa with a heated pool and has soft, comforting colors throughout. Villa Un Mas De Reve (YNF REV) sits near Bonnieux and has a view of the hilltop village of Lacoste. Cheery trees, olive trees and vineyards dot this villa and made it one of my favorites of this trip.
Villa Mas Du Panorama (YNF PAN), in the Luberon area of Provence
At the end of the day, we drove the two hours to St. Tropez and checked into Hotel B Lodge. It is a simple hotel just on the edge of the old town, and the same owner as the Tom Beach hotel on St. Barths. We finished the evening with fresh sushi in a tiny restaurant close to port.
We were off to work the next day in the South of France, seeing some very nice villas in St. Tropez, St. Maxime, and Grimaud. We also went to the hilltop medieval village of Ramatuelle to see the narrow streets, shops, and restaurants. We had a treat as a group of bright and shiny Citroen 2CV (deux chevaux) were on tour and were streaming out of the village past our vantage point.
St. Tropez was rather quiet when we arrived on Thursday, but picked up by the weekend and the celebration of Les Bravades, which commemorates the Tropezien militia’s defense of the town from a fleet of Spanish galleons in the 16th century. It is also a festival honoring their patron saint—Saint Tropes—who defied the Romans in AD 68.
On Sunday, we went to the beach for a good part of the day, lounging at The Key West beach club on the famous Pampelonne beach, and having a lunch of grilled Thai style calamari. The weather was sunny but a little cool with the breeze of the Med.
It was a wonderful trip—with great meals, a touch of history and culture, and a whole new set of villas to add to our WIMCO France collection.
Summer in the Cote D’Azur, at one of Cannes beach clubs