Lavender, blue skies, charming villages and swanky beach clubs. I'm sharing our itinerary from our week in Provence.
Saturday - Fly into Marseille Airport and drive 20 minutes to the holiday house in Aix in Provence. Aix is a perfect base for a week in Provence because you are close enough to do a day at the beach or explore one of the charming mountain towns that ooze charm and culture. We were delayed extensively on our flight from London so we didn't make it to the villa until around 1 am on Sunday morning but our friends arrived earlier that day and spent the day lounging by the pool and getting acclimated.
Sunday - A trip to Cassis - boat ride and lunch. This quaint seaside town has so many little shops and restaurants. The waterfront is lovely with cliffs on either side. Many people come to Cassis pack a picnic and climb the rocky calanques to get to some stunning swimming spots where you can explore hidden caves and jump off the rocky cliffs.Another option to get to the calanques is to hire a kayak or a boat. Since we had small children with us, we decided on the boat and to have lunch in town overlooking the harbour. The only downside was not being able to get to jump into the water from the boat - it is prohibited for boats to moor in the calanques. Still it was a lovely day.
Advice: Go early. Getting a parking spot can be difficult and you will likely be stuck walking up a very steep hill if you leave for Cassis too late. This is especially true on a weekend or any day at peak summer travel time when the temperatures are sweltering and there are many more tourists.
Where to eat: Chez Gilbert - make a reservation and insist on sitting upstairs. Thank me later when you see the view and feel the ocean air breeze.
Boats, kayaks and tours: can be hired at a kiosk located near the beach.
Monday - Les Baux de Provence and The Carrieres des Lumieres. Nestled in the heart of the Alpilles regional park, Les Baux-de-Provence is one of the most beautiful towns in France. What makes this day really special is visiting the former quarry which now houses a permanent light installation called Les Carrieres des Lumieres. which has launched many similar exhibits around the world.
A short walk from Les Baux, you will be transported into a magical space filled with an exhibition of projected art to the sound of the most wonderful music. It's also an amazing reprieve from the heat.
Advice: Check out the town of Les Baux ahead of time and then check out Les Carrieres followed by lunch a short drive away at La Cabro D'Or.
On the way back to Aix, you could possibly stop in Saint Remy but we always like to have chill afternoons by the pool rather than trying to do too much in one day.
Tuesday - Beach day in Saint Tropez and a tour of the town. If you're able to arrive in Saint Tropez early enough 9:30/10, I suggest walking around the town, grabbing a coffee and enjoying this beautiful seaside town. One of the most spectacular spots is the Dior Mansion and cafe. Then it's time to hit the beach. It's important to make advanced reservations and to arrive a l'heure . As our hosts advised us: they are ruthless in the South of France. They will give away your beach chairs and your lunch reservation without a second thought. We went to Club 55 which is time honoured classic.
This year we were a bit disappointed in the vibe and maybe that's because we went on a Tuesday. I think we will try somewhere else next time we are in Saint Tropez because for the prices, I felt the service left quite a bit to be desired. On my list for future visits to Saint Tropez are:
Indie Beach - comes highly recommended. Better prices, great DJ and food is meant to be amazing.
Bagatelle - another classic beach club, this brand has beach clubs all over the world from Tulum to Miami to Mykonos.
Lou Lou - A Tropizienne sister to one of my favourite Paris restaurants. I can't imagine this place to be anything other than top notch.
Wednesday - A trip into Gordes. Driving to these hill top towns in Provence will never get old. Gordes felt extra special because it was quiet the day we went (their market day is Tuesday so make sure you leave extra early if you're planning a trip on that day) and it felt like we had the town to ourselves. We went on a "ladies day" meaning no husbands or children so we hit the shops hard. There was no shortage of purchasing options in this fairy tale town. My only regret is having agreed to go back to the villa for lunch - I would have loved to have had lunch HERE.
Thursday - Kids Beach Day to Saint Cyr Sur Mer. If you want an easy beach day without the hubbub associated with Saint Tropez, then this is the perfect option. Get there early and set up at one of the family friendly beach clubs. Best to go early to get a parking spot and head back to your villa for lunch and chill/pool time in the afternoon.
Friday - Lourmarin market in morning. Lourmarin is another stunning little town - I would never send you anywhere that wasn't perfect. You will love the market which takes place on Fridays under the trees in the centre of the town with a view of the castle. Even if you don't go on market day, it's a perfect trip for lunch or some shopping and ice cream. If you go on a market day you need to arrive early to get a parking spot. On the way back, you can stop in at Chateau LaCoste for lunch. Otherwise, I suggest heading to Chateau La Coste a little later in the day. The art tour is fantastic - my favourite is the Anthony Calder sculpture - and the grounds are stunning. You can follow it up with a glass of something delicious and a charcuterie board while your kids play on the grass.
Saturday - Aix-en-Provence - market.
This was our departure day so we headed into Aix just to get out of the house. The kids went on the merry go round and the bungee cord jumping in the centre of the town. You could also check out the following in Aix: Musee Granet, Musee Caumont (wish I'd made it to this place).
Monday - Cadenet
Wednesday - Saint Remy de Provence
Thursday - Aix-en-Provence
Friday - Lourmarin
Saturday - Apt or Aix-en-Provence
Sunday - Isle-sur-la-Sorgue (have not been, always busy with kids on Sundays)