France's sensational south coast is home to both the glamorous playgrounds of St. Tropez and Cannes and the authentic hilltop villages of Eze and Haut-de-Cagnes. While I was whizzing along the French Riviera in May, it struck me as a perfect time to visit. Here's why...
Avoid the Crowds
July and August is peak season in St. Tropez, which can lead to hoards of tourists, hour-long traffic queues and beaches jam-packed with loungers. Instead, while visiting in spring, I explored the sleepy medieval village of Eze, just a 30 minute traffic-free drive from Nice. Blissfully calm, with whisper-quiet winding alleyways, this 14th century village is perfect for a spot of relaxation. I stayed at the charming Château de la Chèvre d'Or, which is perched on a cliff face with spectacular Amalfi-like views over the sea (but with almost no boats on the water). I felt like I was stepping back in time while wandering along the hilltop without bumping into a single tour group or fellow traveller - utterly dreamy.
Temperatures in July and August can see highs in excess of 30°C, whereas in spring you can expect closer to a cool 20°C - the perfect temperature for exploring. A hidden gem I visited in May is Chateau Le Cagnard, nestled in the authentic village of Haut-de-Cagnes (think Saint Paul de Vence, but more off the beaten track). Love art history? The Renoir museum lies just outside Haut-de-Cagnes. Spend a morning there and then wander back through the cool streets like a 19th century flâneur, arriving back at the hotel in time for lunch on the sun-dappled terrace.
Hotels along the coast are generally less busy around May meaning more space and time to yourself during your visit. I stayed at the contemporary La Reserve Hotel, Spa and Villas, a peaceful oasis in Ramatuelle. Boasting a 1,000 square metre spa with 11 treatment rooms - all with sea views - you'll leave feeling perfectly pampered (FYI, the full body massage is a must)! I had a delicious lunch at their new beach club (La Reserve a la Plage) before relaxing on a free sunbed. For the more active types, try one of their fitness programs or a guided Nordic Walk where you'll hike around the secluded provincial hills and soak up plenty of spring sunshine.