From the mountains to the Mediterranean, the Provence region of southern France oozes charm. Stretching from the Hautes-Alpes, across to the Rhone Valley and down to the coast, there’s more to Provence holidays than its fragrant lavender fields. Sip an ice-cold drink in Marseille, breathing in the sea air drifting through the Vieux Port. Gaze out over the rooftops from the top of the Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica, and explore the latest exhibition at the Mucem museum. Or, turn away from the big city, and stroll through the golden streets of Aix-en-Provence, birthplace and much-loved home of impressionist painter Paul Cezanne.
See Arles through the eyes of Van Gogh and unwind for a few days in the tranquillity of Hôtel Particulier or in the creative atmosphere of Le Cloitre, both renovated by the Swiss philanthropist Maja Hoffmann. Take a trip to the Cite des Papes in Avignon, which fizzles with energy during its festival, before returning to the unrushed serenity of its day-to-day life. Nature lovers will be in their element, too. Meander through the Verdon Gorge and take a dip in the crystal blue creeks of Cassis. There’s something for everyone in Provence.
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What you can find in Provence that you won't find anywhere else?
Home to many iconic landscapes, this region of south-eastern France will have you reaching for your camera phone as you pass endless purple lavender fields; or wander through ancient olive groves, silvery-green leaves whispering in the breeze. Venture through magnificent mountain passes and past snow-capped peaks - Provence is littered with lyrical landscapes - it's hardly surprising that Van Gogh and Cézanne both drew inspiration from its beauty.
What is there to do in Provence?
Spend sleepy, sunny days wandering around any number of picturesque villages, tasting local produce at farmers' markets or sipping pastis beneath the plane trees of an outdoor café. Food is, of course, central to life in France but in Provence, it is an all-consuming passion. Dominated by classic Mediterranean ingredients, the region's cuisine is deliciously simple. Savour every sip of soupe au pistou (bean and pasta soup) or indulge with a bowl of bouillabaisse (fish stew) by the sea in Marseille. Bon appetite!
Explore the region's impressive Roman heritage in places like Arles, Orange and Vaison-la-Romaine, or - of course - go walking through fields of lavender and sunflowers. For yet another aspect of Provence, head for the unspoilt wilds of the nearby Camargue, in the Rhone delta. Here you can enjoy excellent riding and see everything from flamingos to famous long-horn Camargue bulls.
What are the best ways to discover Provence?
For those keen to minimise their carbon footprint, Provence can be easily reached by train using France's superb TGV network, and Eurostar trains now run direct to Avignon on certain dates throughout the summer so you can be in Provence just five-and-three-quarter-hours after leaving central London. Not sure why we'd ever consider flying again.