Two of WIMCO’s reservations agents traveled to France to explore country, test the gastronomy, and of course, report back on the beautiful homes. After traipsing through France and exploring the marvelous countryside, incredible beaches, and all that make Provence & St. Tropez such special places, they had a lot to say about these wonderful regions in France.
We arrived at the Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) in Paris at 11:30 am and sat in the outdoor waiting area at the airport train station for our train to arrive – the weather was nice, but breezy. We climbed aboard the TGV around 3:00 pm and were whisked through farm country and hilly areas to Avignon in Provence where we arrived at 5:20 pm. After 18 hours of plane, train and automobile, we finally arrived at our hotel in Les Baux de Provence, the Auberge de la Benvengudo. This charming property was at one time a family home and is still run by the family. Our rooms were lovely and we dined here several nights. The proprietress, Maggie, was an absolute delight and I would stay here again any time!
We started our villa visits on Wednesday with a break for lunch in a different village each day. This was a wonderful arrangement as it gave us all a chance to enjoy the village atmosphere and have an introduction to some of the better restaurants in each village. Of course we would be delighted to pass these little treasures on to our clients! Our first lunch together was in Paradou at Le Bistrot du Paradou. Here they serve one menu to everyone. Talk about authentic Provencal style dining. The main course of the day was rabbit and it was my first. It was delicious! Also the stone building that we dined in and the décor of the dining room was the perfect example of French countryside dining, complete with characters.
The weather was very cool and rainy for all 3 days that we did villa visits. The villages of Les Baux, Maussane, Fontvielle and Paradou were like little ghost towns. Hardly a soul was about. One evening, after leaving Mausanne quite late, we decided to try a restaurant in Fontvielle. We walked into the village and looked into 2 or 3 restaurants to measure the atmosphere and check out the menu. There was NO ONE in these restaurants, a bit spooky. So finally we decided on Lou Claveu, the tiniest of them all but loaded with charm and atmosphere. Just after we arrived, another couple came in and within 30 minutes the place was full! I do not know where this many people came from! But I think we started the trend for the evening! The food was quite good. Lidy and I started with escargot and finished with a filet of sole provencal.
The villas were totally amazing! Something for everyone! I really enjoyed the villas that were located in the villages, like CEN MST and in Mausanne and CEN MCO in Paradou. Here one can enjoy the village life – shopping for groceries, having a leisurely lunch or an impromptu dinner with friends. Then do your exploring as you wish!
There were also some absolutely marvelous places in the countryside. Some of my favorites were YNF ESC, very modern, so tastefully furnished, and only 5 kms from the towns of Les Baux, Mausanne and Paradou. With 3 bedrooms, it’s perfect for couples or a small family.
Villa CEN SOR
My two top, top favorites were a new villa called CEN CON just 5 minutes from the village of Eygalieres and CEN SOR near Il Sur la Sorgue and Le Thor. Both villas are furnished with the most exquisite taste. Mas de la Contemplation is very traditional and Mas de la Sorgue is more modern. They both stand out as pure perfection. The gardens, the location, the view, the pool … everything!
Although it rained almost the whole time we were in Provence and quite hard some of the time, it is a very beautiful area with vineyards, olive groves, small villages, large towns with historic centers, and many cafes and restaurants. We enjoyed seeing the Roman aqueduct ruins near Fontvieille, the coliseum in Arles and passing the Roman ruins at Glanum. I would like to tour Glanum and Les Baux next time and to spend more time in the hillside village of Eygalieres. We had some evidence of Le Mistral – the winds that blow relentlessly from time to time in Provence – we were told they do not blow as much in the Luberon area as the hills deflect them, but that’s not what Peter Mayles said in his “A Year in Provence.”
Oh how I love St. Tropez! What a fabulous place! You have vineyards and villages, a romantic town, a gorgeous seaport, fantastic shopping, great restaurants and an incredible beach! St. Tropez has everything one could wish for in a vacation spot.
We drove the coastal route from Provence down to Marseilles and on to La Croix Valmer and sneaked into St. Tropez via the back door. It was a wonderful drive! We arrived at our hotel La Ferme D’ Augustin on the Plage de Tahiti in the early evening. This small and sweet property is within walking distance of Tahiti beach. We had the smallest rooms in the house, but the terraces, the lounge areas and the pool area more than made up for the lack of space. We dined very lightly that evening on appetizers. After the large luncheon we had enroute we were not terribly hungry. And of course we had to try the Cote de Provence Rose. No where else in the world will you find any wine so fine!
The following day we continued our villa visits. We visited 9 villas and had a fabulous lunch at Tropicana on Pampelonne at route de Bonne Terrase. What an experience! It was so beautiful and the food was fabulous! The best Steak tartar ever!
We enjoyed a fabulous lunch at a restaurant on the Place des Lices. The trees had not yet put forth their leaves so this Parc looked really strange. It was my first exposure and I still cannot get over how the French prune and shape their trees.
ACV FAB is one of the nicest houses we saw in the St. Tropez area – incredible artwork – including one room with a diesel engine from a motorboat and chairs made from the exhaust pipes. It has fabulous views of l’Escalet beach – the last undeveloped inlet in the area and you can walk down to the beach in 5 minutes. There is a huge pool deck and large, saltwater infinity pool. The master bedroom has a Corbusier couch and panels from the Atomium in Brussels. The amazing home theater uses Klieg lights as decoration. Guests will enjoy the wonderful décor, lovely outdoor seating areas, and the great kitchen with second staff kitchen behind.
The St. Tropez area is beautiful –with vineyards, countryside, beautiful homes and close proximity to the hillside towns of Ramatuelle, Gassin and Grimaud.
The friendly South of France offers so much for anyone – the beauty of the Alpilles and Luberon areas of Provence are perfect for those wanting to relax, savor the food and wine, shop for local crafts and antiques, and tour the many historic treasures of the region, which include medieval castles and hillside towns as well as Roman aqueducts, ruins, coliseums and theaters. And the St. Tropez area has lovely countryside and historic villages plus the beaches, harbor, upscale shopping and nightlife.