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A land of light, warmth and beauty, Provence awakens all the senses; the scent of purple lavender, the sound of cicadas in the pine trees, the taste of chilled rosé wine, and the warmth of the sun on your back.
This beautiful region, in south-east France, has been divided into six different 'départements', each with its own unique feel and landscape. Our properties are to be found in the Vaucluse, the Var and the Alpes-Maritimes; picturesque areas of diverse beauty ranging from cultivated vineyards and medieval villages to deep river canyons, dramatic cliffs and sweeping bays.
To the south of Vaison la Romaine the hills rise up to become the Dentelles de Montmirail. The name comes from the unique outline of the pale limestone peaks, 'dentelle' meaning lace. Enchanting villages nestle among vineyards noted for their excellent wines.
Rising from the Vaucluse plateau is Mont Ventoux, the highest peak between the Alps and the Pyrenees. The ascent is awe inspiring - the higher you climb, the sparser the vegetation becomes until you reach the white limestone gravel covered summit. Indeed, the ecosystem of Mont Ventoux is so diverse that the mountain has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The summit affords breathtaking views, transformed at night into a dark carpet studded with clusters of glittering lights.
Avignon, capital of the Vaucluse, should not be missed on any itinerary. Lying on the banks of the river Rhône, vestiges of its eminent past remain in the imposing Palais des Papes, a magnificent building that looms over the city. Wander elegant boulevards or simply while away an afternoon in one of the many cafés.
An hour's drive from the Vaucluse brings you to the charming centre of St Rémy de Provence, gateway to the Alpilles national park. A picture postcard town, it offers the quintessential boulevards shaded by plane trees, fountains in squares, narrow streets and cafés.
A truly magnificent site is Les Baux de Provence, a fortified castle and village perched atop a tall spur of rock with sheer cliffs on three sides.
Moving east into the countryside, the town of Carpentras is worthy of a visit, for its Friday market. Equally appealing are Pernes les Fontaines with the 40 fountains found within its village walls, Isle sur la Sorgue, the second biggest antiques centre in France with its Sunday morning 'brocante' market, and Fontaine de Vaucluse famous for its resurgent spring.
Tiny back roads lead you to Venasque, known for the beauty of its springtime cherry blossom. From the cobbled streets of Venasque, the road meanders to the valley known as the Luberon. Probably the best known area of Provence, the Luberon abounds with elegant restored villages perched on hillsides overlooking valleys of vineyards, orchards and fields. A designated national park, it remains unspoilt and beautiful. The burnt sienna coloured houses of Roussillon and Rustrel echo the ochre sands found in the area, used for art and building work. From the deep red cliffs of the Provence Colorado, the landscape opens out on to a wide plateau where the air is filled with the scent of the lavender that covers the plain, evoking the true sense of Provence.
Head due south and you arrive in the Var, whose captivating coastline still boasts small unspoilt coves where white sand meets sparkling blue waters, and the hinterland offers a tranquil and rural way of life in sleepy villages set amongst vineyards, sometimes dominated by a medieval castle or stone church.
In the north of the region you will find the largest canyon in Europe, the spectacular Grand Canyon du Verdon. Stretching for 21km, the sheer cliffs and the rushing vivid green torrents of water combine to create a most amazing sight. To the east of the region, many medieval hilltop villages await discovery including Bargemon, Seillans, Fayence and Tourrettes.
French Riviera and Cote d'Azur are virtually interchangeable names for the coastline of the Var and Alpes-Maritimes départements, a stretch which includes the world famous resorts of Cannes and St Tropez, but also breathtaking scenery and a wealth of history and culture besides.
Set against a backdrop of forested hills, the Corniche des Maures is the name of the coastline between Le Lavandou and Fréjus. Le Lavandou is a former fishing village, as was St Tropez, which is now of course more famous for its celebrities than the fish! This coastline is exceptionally pretty with sandy coves and lovely seaside resorts such as Bormes les Mimosas, Rayol Canadel, La Croix Valmer and Gigaro, family friendly places that people return to year after year. Fréjus itself is steeped in history, with various Roman ruins including an amphitheatre dating back to the first century AD.
The coastal road from St Raphaël to Cannes is an exhilarating drive winding round the striking red rock headlands of the Estérel massif with the sea just metres away on the other side. East of Cannes up to the border with Italy, the aptly named Alpes-Maritimes region sits between snow-capped mountains and the glittering Mediterranean ocean. The glamour, bustle and sun drenched beaches of the Côte d'Azur are a draw for many, as is Nice with its extensive vibrant market held in the characterful old town which shelters below the Castle gardens. Heading inland, the well-preserved villages of Vence and Grasse rise out of hillsides scented by the flowers grown for the thriving perfume business.
Our wonderful selection of both traditional farmhouses and modern villas are perfectly situated to take advantage of the spectacular coast and the natural paradise that is so attractive to walkers, nature lovers and of course artists who aspire to capture the mountain plateaux, villages perched above dramatic river gorges and of course the quintessential Provençal colours of lavender and olive.
Bursting with colour, fragrance and flavour, the local market offers irresistible stalls burdened with the best local ingredients. Sun ripened tomatoes, ripe black olives, deep hued aubergines, the reddest strawberries and juiciest melons lie alongside fresh fish from the coast, lamb from the hillside and tables laden with herbs.
A typical dining experience on the Cote d'Azur might begin with a Salade Niçoise. Peppers, garlic and olives transform a catch of Mediterranean fish into that mainstay of Provençal cuisine, bouillabaisse, for a hearty main. Then why not finish with a rich cream and custard filled Tarte Tropezienne for dessert.
Provençal vineyards offer many quality wines. Rosés are perfect for long summer days and warm evenings. Châteauneuf du Pape is famous worldwide for its excellent reds whilst villages such as Vacqueyras and Gigondas in the Vaucluse offer equally good wines. Muscat de Beaumes de Venise is a superb dessert wine and for an apéritif, a pastis from Marseille is the obvious choice.
Provence offers an abundance of colourful outdoor summer festivals. History and tradition are honoured with celebrations ranging from the huge Avignon Festival to the smallest village fête.
On the Cote d'Azur, events range from the world renowned Cannes Film Festival where you can spot the stars from a distance, to the Fete du Jasmin in Grasse where visitors are encouraged to join in the melée of the 'flower battle' in which jasmine flowers are thrown into the crowds from decorated floats.
Musical events include opera and classical music in the Roman amphitheatre in Orange, and jazz festivals in Aix, Juan-les-Pins and Nice. Natural heritage is commemorated too at St Rémy de Provence, for example, with the Fête de la Transhumance in May as well as the August lavender festivals, notably in Sault and Digne. In September every grape producing village has its own festival offering thanks for the 'vendange' or wine harvest.