France is without a doubt the world's most popular vacation destination, but you haven't begun to discover all that this amazing country has to offer until your feet have touched down in the incredible southeastern region of Provence. Its natural beauty is absolutely stunning, and it's not a stretch to say that Provence offers everything that you could ever want in a vacation destination. It's perfectly nestled between Italy and the Mediterranean Sea, and it's also home to the Southern Alps, rolling fields of lavender and many of the world's best vineyards and olive groves. Read on to learn more about all that Provence has to offer, and you'll understand why this has to be at the top of your list for your next vacation.
A Bit of History
Provence has been around for a very long time with its very first inhabitants traced back to the Neolithic times. The Celts called it home since 900 BC, and the Greeks began to colonize it back in 600 BC. Rome came along and conquered it sometime during the 2nd century BC, and it was even a semi-independent state for a while. By 1482, its ownership had passed to Louis XI of France, and it was fully incorporated as a part of the country in 1486.
You'll see much evidence of its long and varied history as you travel throughout Provence, and there are several examples of brilliant architecture left behind by the Romans. You'll discover Greek and Italian influences in other structures as well and in the traditional foods served at many of the restaurants. History buffs are sure to want to tour the many medieval abbeys, grand churches and art-deco buildings as well as the other historic sites and ruins.
Many famous artists throughout history have been inspired by the beauty of Provence, and those who have created great works here include Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne and Renoir. Today, you'll find art galleries in this region that are filled with some of the world's very best art collections.
When to Visit
Thanks to this area's lovely Mediterranean climate, any month of the year is a great time to visit Provence. You'll enjoy over 300 days of sunshine with a whopping 2,900 hours of sunlight brightening up the region each year, and the warm summers and mild winters form perfect weather conditions that are never too hot or too cold. Each of its four distinctive seasons offers its own form of natural beauty and special activities and events.
Beach Holiday/Festival Season
Things really get hopping during the traditional summer months of June, July and August, and Provence has some of France's most gorgeous beaches. You'll find a nice assortment of family friendly beaches as well as clothing-optional beaches for those who are looking for a more daring adventure on the seashore. The lovely summer months also welcome in the busy festival season, and there are major music and film festivals held every year.
The fun doesn't end with summer; it just moves to the mountains. The ski resorts, both large and small, are typically open for business between mid-December and early March, and there are several to choose from. Each offers lessons and ski runs that range from perfect for the beginner to just right for the expert, so you can come for a real challenge or bring the little ones to learn and have fun in a safe environment.
Wine Lovers Rejoice
Everyone knows France is famous for its wines, but Provence has the distinction for developing the best rose wine. The local vintners pride themselves on its elegant flavors and beautiful blush color. Provence is the world's biggest producer of rose wine, and they offer the most expensive bottle of wine in the entire world. Wine enthusiasts could spend all of their time touring this region's many vineyards and indulging in all of the tastings and still not manage to get to them all.
The Many Wonders of Provence
You'll need more than one vacation to thoroughly explore Provence because it meanders across six departments (Bouches du Rhone, Var, Alpes Maritimes, Vaucluse, Alpes de Haute Provence and Hautes Alpes,) and each of these areas are filled with cities, towns and villages. Visitors may choose from among a great many options that include but are certainly not limited to Cote d'Azur, which is also known as the French Riviera, with its spotless coastline along the Mediterranean Sea and world-famous beaches that have long been the playground of the world's wealthiest people.
There's also Nice with its many cafe terraces and iconic Promenade des Anglais, the natural wonder of Camargue with its wetlands and nature reserves boasting pink flamingos and wild white horses and Verdon with its limestone hills, rivers flowing down from the Alps and the deepest gorge in all of Europe. Nimes and Pon du Gard are a must for those interested in the ancient ruins, Menton is a seaside town famous for its incredible gardens and Cannes is where you'll find the biggest and most popular festivals.
How to Explore Provence
You can absolutely set out on your own to explore the bigger cities or the villages that are dotted throughout Provence and up in the mountains, but you may learn more by first joining one of the many available tours. Countless city tours are available, and you can choose from one that hits the high points or one that delves deep into the city of your choice. Walking tours, biking tours, bus tours, segway tours and tours by private car are all available most every day.
Things to Do in Provence
In addition to the activities and events already mentioned above, you may also expect to encounter an excellent nightlife scene in Provence, 5-star restaurants, some of the world's best museums, incredible food tours, endless day trip possibilities and historical walking tours. There are also sightseeing cruises, gaming, world-class golf courses, theme parks, zoos, many activities aimed at children and families, romantic events and an abundance of fabulous land and water activities.
Where to Stay
Those who want to enjoy a truly luxurious stay during their time in Provence will want to lodge with us here at Exceptional Stays in one of our incredible villas with such amenities as a private swimming pool, a home theater and a gourmet French kitchen. In addition to exquisite accommodations, our dedicated concierge team is available to help you plan your perfect stay in Provence. We'll book your flight, make your reservations at the best restaurants, obtain tickets to your desired events and schedule your daily activities so that you won't miss a thing during your time in France.