It’s no wonder Nice, the jewel of Provence and capital of the Alpes-Maritimes department, draws millions of visitors each year. They come to experience its classic atmosphere, shop among the finest designer stores, and simply enjoy the spectacular sea views of the Cote d’Azur.
St. Tropez on the shimmering Cote d’Azur is renowned for its glamour, glitz and elegance, but is it a realistic holiday destination with children in tow? Vintage Travel explores whether this ultra-chic French Riviera coastal resort is feasible with the kids…
St Tropez is without doubt one of the most unique shopping experiences in France. You will find a late night grocery shop right next to a boutique selling Dior, Louis Vuitton or Dolce & Gabbana. The resort has butchers, bakers and candlestick makers, with the world’s leading designers camped next door in little back alleys. There is a definite triangle between the Place des Lices, Rue Gambetta and Rue Allard, or the lovely Place de la Garonne, that compares favourably to chic Paris or Rome.
Rich millionaires in summer shorts may be buying a Cartier watch, whilst strolling past is a family who have saved up for their annual holiday. There are no security men, and everyone mixes together. As a local official succinctly put it:
When planning a wedding, the honeymoon has to be one of the most exciting aspects of wedding organisation. You’ll be happily married, all the pre-wedding jitters will be behind you and you and your ‘other half’ will be jetting off to a week or so of romantic freedom.
The biggest question related to planning a honeymoon, is, of course, where do you go?
With its swathes of romantic towns and cities, set amongst a stunning diverse backdrop of rivers, valleys, gorges and mountains, not to mention world-quality wine and cuisine, France has long been a favourite destination for couples on their honeymoon.
But whereabouts in France should you head to for an unforgettable honeymoon?
The marvellous pyramid-shaped rocky island of Le Mont Saint-Michel is to be found just over Brittany’s border with Normandy, one kilometre out to sea at the mouth of the River Couesnon, not far from Avranches.
Le Mont Saint-Michel was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1979 and attracts more than three and a half million tourists and pilgrims each year.
Sometimes referred to as “The wonder of the Western world”, Le Mont Saint-Michel certainly is a ‘must see’ French cultural, geographical and historical attraction.
Surrounded by the sea, during high tide, Le Mont is affected by the highest tide in Europe with up to 15 metres height difference between high and low tide. During spring tides the sea retreats by 15 kilometres and returns extremely quickly.
The Bishop of Avranches built and consecrated a church here in 709 A.D. Legend has it that the previous year, the Bishop was visited by the Archangel Michel and was instructed to build a church. When he did not do as he was told, the Archangel is said to have ‘burned a hole in the Bishop’s head with his finger!’ The Bishop then built the church immediately.
The Romanesque abbey church on the island was built around 1000 AD and various buildings and extensions were added over the ensuing centuries.
In the sixth and seventh centuries Mont Saint-Michel was used an Armorican stronghold of Gallo–Roman culture, until it was eventually raided by the Franks, a confederation of Germanic tribes.
During the French Revolution Mont Saint-Michel became a prison and gradually fell into ill-repair. In the following years, several influential figures, such as Victor Hugo, campaigned for Mont Saint-Michel to be restored and resurrected. In the latter part of the 19th century the Abbey and its surrounding buildings were restored to their former glory.
On arrival to Mont Saint-Michel, visitors walk through the grandiose entrance to the medieval town, past the guardroom, which is now a tourist office, through the Boulevard Gate and then through the Kings Gate, fortified flamboyantly with splendid portcullis.
On the town’s main street, you will find shops, restaurants and four museums. A ticket to enter all four of the museums can be bought for approximately 20 Euros.
Proceed up the main street to the grand staircase past numerous 15th and 16th buildings. The staircase leads to the Abbey Church, a true architectural marvel that dominates the island’s vista. A final walk down the rampart path gives the visitor unrivalled views of the seascape across the bay.
Le Mont Saint-Michel is a real five star place to visit. You will however need a good full day at the Mont Saint-Michel to make the most of this true ‘Wonder of the Western World.’
Why not take a look at Vintage Travel’s collections of luxury villas in France?
Wandering around the many quaint and charming chapel-strewn villages and exploring which of the intimate and characterful restaurants serves the best wine and cuisine in the lush and roaming hillsides.
The romance that inspired the likes of Paul Cezanne and Vincent Van Gough, in the region of Provence, also takes some beating.
Watching the sun slowly set on the horizon of the Mediterranean, casting a pink hue that makes the luxury yachts moored in some of Europe’s finest harbours look even more magnificent, whilst sipping some of the finest champagne the region produces, is an equally idyllic setting for your honeymoon.
Either way, to get the best out of this area of beauty, you need some honeymoon in the south of France tips.
Hire a car
Although France has one of the best rail services in the world, exploring the vast verdurous countryside, laced with stunning vineyards and the many pretty inland villages, steeped in history and splendour, cannot always be achieved without a car, as France’s railways tend to ‘miss out’ many of the most secluded and beautiful sites. After all that is why they remain untouched and stunningly tranquil. Hiring a car is therefore advisable.
Take your honeymoon between May and October
With the sunflowers coating the landscape in a duvet of gold, and the fully-bloomed lavender fields casting a fragrant aroma to fill the air, the months from May until October is perhaps the best time to make your honeymoon in the south of France as memorable as possible.
Do not dismiss the quirkier independent hotels
Whilst there are literally hundreds of large-chain hotels in the south of France, all offering fantastic honeymoon packages to cater for your every whim, try not to opt for the ‘easier’ option by booking to stay in these large and popular hotel chains. The south of France is brimming with quaint, cosy and romantic individual hotels, guest houses and inns, just crying out to be explored.
Learn some French
Whilst on the larger resorts, geared up for tourism, many of the locals can speak some English, many of the ‘off the beaten track’ and romantic hideaways do not have the same English-orientated vibe. If you are planning on exploring these romantic hideaways, it is advisable to learn some French before you embark on your honeymoon – or at least take a dictionary!
Make use of the tourist boards
Nearly all of the larger towns have a tourist information centre, which provide leaflets and brochures about the area, which can be a great place to start planning what promises to be, a truly unique and unforgettable honeymoon.
A calendar of colour, vibrancy and passion – St Tropez’s 2011 festival line-up.
St Tropez may be world-renowned for being a seaside lined with yachts, trendy terrace cafes and society’s glamorous elite, but its religious festivities remain less well-documented than the town’s penchant for reeling in the well-heeled and famous.
At the end of May, the first of a string of religious festivals is held in St Tropez, heralding the start of the summer. The Fete de la Bravade kicks starts the religious festival calendar in the town.
The whole of the resort becomes even more animated and colourful than usual, with music, dancing, military displays and huge parades passing through the elegant streets, never failing to astonish St Tropez’ rather glamorous crowd of onlookers. This annual event dates back to the 15th century and is in honour of St Tropez’s patron saint.
Sharply after the conclusion of the Fete de Bravade, the Fete des Espagnols begins on June 5th each year. The Fete de Espagnols is in celebration of St Tropez’s successful defence against the Spanish when they invaded the town in the 1500s. Again streets are lined with costumes, colour and jubilant activities, whilst the air is filled with music and the delicious aromas of some exquisite St Tropez cuisine.
As this exclusive French Riviera town embarks on a summer designed for making every individual tourist’s experience as impeccable as possible, it is in the late summer and in to the autumn when the festivals return. To mark the beginning of the grape harvest, the Fetes des Vendanges takes place at various vineyards in the area, creating huge interest from many enthusiastic French wine lovers.
The popular Fetes des Vendanges is quickly followed by the even better attended sailing regatta at the beginning of October, which lures many exclusive yachts, their owners and like-mined enthusiasts to the area, to witness this fashionable event.
Our guide to the best carnival in the South of France – The Nice Mardi Gras 2011!
Being associated with flamboyance, colour, joviality and life, Mardi Gras celebrations could be described as being the ultimate carnival festivity. And none more so than in the city of Nice, where every street, square, boulevard and building comes alive the splendour and a vivacity unique to a Mardi Gras.
Take in the wonder that is Nice Carnival 2011.
A programme of events dedicated to the tradition of Christmas and New Year in the south western corner of France, with a particular emphasis on wine, is to be held in the wine cellars in the town of Beziers.
Until 2 January next year, the Beziers Mediterranean Tourist Office is putting on a series of activities, known as “Caveaux de Noel” – “Christmas Wine Cellars”, based around five main themes including, Christmas workshops, gourmet delights, Christmas traditions, meet the artists and fill up your baskets.
From the 13th until the 21st of November this year the French Riviera city of Nice will be spruced up nicely for a nine day musical bonanza. The Centre National de Creation in Nice organises the annual MANCA festival, with inspirational shows and performances.
The festival is aimed at attracting both established musicians and aspiring performers of all age groups. Introductory workshops for children are available, known as the mini-MANCA, as well as instrumental master classes, both of which members of the public can attend.