If you were reading a couple of weeks ago, you’ve already heard a few tales from our recent Cote D’Azur holiday. (And if you weren’t reading a couple of weeks ago, you can catch up – if you want to – here). I hope I haven’t bored you, because where Part One ends, Part Two tends to follow…
So, where were we?
Ah, yes, I remember now.
We were on our way to the prettiest of postcard-perfect towns.
For our fourth day in the south of France, we decided to head to the Verdon Gorge (often hailed as France’s answer to the Grand Canyon.) We set off along quiet, winding roads (don’t ask me where these roads were headed. I just know that they were quiet, winding roads). Along the way we planned to stop off in a few towns and villages, most notably Bargemon, which my husband thought I might like, having done some research on the area (which turned up snippets such as the Beckhams’ fondness for trips there). But knowing me as he does, my husband also knew that when we passed the little town of Claviers, there was no way we were leaving before we’d had a proper look around.
We arrived in Claviers around 11am, when the village only just seemed to be stirring. For an hour or more, we wandered around cobbled streets devoid of anyone, just staring up at tall, old houses and watching elderly gentlemen on a common area playing boules. We took pictures in the village square, and had coffee in a place where, to my delight, none of the staff spoke English. Eventually a few other tourists arrived – older people who seemed to be on some sort of organised bus tour. I have always felt comfortable in the kinds of places older people visit.
These were my people. And on the Cote D’Azur, at least, it seemed like Claviers was my place.
Alas, as much as I might have liked to, we couldn’t stay in Claviers forever, and soon it was on towards to our destination – with another stop at a little place called Chateau Double. Framed by lush green canyons, this is another gem of Provence – an ideal spot for lazy lunchtimes spent drooling over awe-inspiring views. Unfortunately, in the 30 minutes I spent drooling over awe-inspiring views, I was unaware that everything was shutting up until dinner, making me briefly very unpopular with my menfolk (and their rumbling stomachs). Thankfully, we found a tiny village not far away, where we were able to secure mid-afternoon coffee and paninis, and place food orders in bad French again (hurrah for pointing, hand gestures, and my favoured expression: ‘mon francais n’est pas bon.’)
THE VERDON GORGE
Eventually, we made our way to the Verdon Gorge, in an episode which could also be entitled ‘notes on a nervous traveller,’ or ‘woman, terrified.’ The views were astounding, but I liked them best back in the safety of the car, and viewed from the comfort of my phone. I was surprised how few people were around to marvel at this wonder of nature (though I admit that to my shame, I’d previously never heard of it).
We had virtually the whole place to ourselves, in fact.
Perhaps everyone else in the world that day was also scared of heights.
CANNES AND SAINT-TROPEZ
The fifth day of our holiday loomed, and with plenty remaining to see on the Cote D’Azur we decided to visit Cannes and Saint-Tropez in one full-day excursion. Conveniently, most of the hot spots on the Cote D’Azur are relatively close together, so if you have someone brave enough to drive a hire car (and they need to be brave sometimes!) you can see everything from glitzy coastal resorts to sleepy inland towns.
Cannes, with the air of celebrity afforded by its annual Film Festival, falls firmly into the first category, and by now we felt well enough acquainted with frothy seafronts not to linger. Having said that, I did find myself lingering beside a poster of Ryan Gosling for longer than was strictly necessary, before being alerted by the rumbling of male stomachs again, and ushered off to the backstreets for a leisurely lunch and a stroll around pretty, antiquated streets.
And then it was off to Saint-Tropez, which surprised me by being nothing at all as I’d imagined it. Where I’d envisioned glitz and glamour I found laid-back elegance, and where I’d expected heaving streets, were quiet squares and pretty lanes. I’m sure the summer months would tell a different story (reason 1045 for visiting in Autumn). Suffice to say, Saint-Tropez was a Cote D’Azur treasure, and undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip.
That trip was coming to an end though, and for our last day we decided to take a final flurry to San Remo. Part of the attraction was just experiencing a day in Italy (where my husband and I honeymooned many years ago), but I’d also read good things about La Pigna – San Remo’s old town – and if you’ve gleaned anything from reading so far it should be that I’m a fan of all things old. And La Pigna didn’t disappoint, with its twisting alleyways and arches that climbed to the Madonna della Costa church, and panoramic views across the pretty harbour. Something else that didn’t disappoint in San Remo were the copious amounts of pasta and gelato consumed by yours truly and my band of menfolk. Not for the first time that week, I made an exception to my normally gluten and dairy free lifestyle (because: pesto pasta).
When in Italy, after all….
But all good things come to an end, as they say, and for one last night it was back to the Cote D’Azur for packing, sleeping – and avoiding any last-minute wild boar encounters (see Part One, if this odd reference makes no sense). We would leave the South of France with some funny stories, more than a few mosquito bites and a suitcase worth of memories.
And when it comes to an unforgettable family holiday, you can’t really say fairer than that.
Travel Notes and Info:
Travel and Accommodation
We made all our travel arrangements through James Villas, staying in a lovely property on the outskirts of Biot. Perfect for larger groups, with a small (unheated – i.e. freezing!) swimming pool and a lovely outdoor area, too. The kitchen was small for the size of the property, but the view from our bedroom window more than made up for that, and the charming town of Biot was just a short drive away. Overall, I would recommend it. (P.S. – this post has no affiliation to James Villas whatsoever. P.P.S. – just watch out for the wild boar!)
Do be prepared to try out your French – and possibly your Italian if you venture further afield as we did. Although English is offered occasionally, in most of the places we visited it was not spoken as readily as certain other places on the Med. Just to note – our French is very limited and we managed perfectly well in terms of ordering food and making basic conversation. Our experience was that locals appreciated us trying to speak French, however badly. It’s all part of the holiday experience, after all!
Driving can be a hair-raising experience in this area (and I say this as a passenger!) On the busier roads, there are mopeds a-plenty, weaving in and out of traffic – just something to bear in mind if you plan to hire a car. If you have someone brave enough to take on the task, though, it offers a wonderful opportunity to explore more of this absolutely stunning region. Do note that if you travel as far afield as we did, you will encounter toll roads, which can be paid with cards, coins or by signing up in advance to an automatic payment scheme.
If you are gluten or dairy free or have other dietary restrictions, you might find travel to this area tricky. Although larger supermarkets were well stocked with gluten free/free from sections, dietary needs did not seem to be terribly well catered to in terms of eating out. However, with a bit of pre-planning, I’m sure there would be ways to manage. Luckily for me, I am gluten free by choice, rather than necessity. And did I mention that the pesto pasta was very, very good?
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