At the end of our previous tour of France we left you in the Hautes-Pyrénées department of the southwest; we’ll now continue with our voyage, offering suggestions of things to do and where to stay in France – when it’s safe to travel again. Our next stop? The South of France: undoubtedly a destination high on many people’s lists. Off we go, via a handful of places in-between…
The journey to the next recommended accommodation is around four-and-a-half hours from where we left you in Gascony, so set off early. If you fancy it, stop in Toulouse en route. Also known as La Ville Rose (The Pink City) because of the terracotta stonework across many buildings, the capital of the Occitanie region is a lively, foodie destination with 160 parks and gardens.
From there, make your way to Domaine de Verchant Hotel and Spa, a majestic property sitting at the heart of 17 hectares of vineyards and parkland in Languedoc. Attractive stone architecture blends with contemporary decor at this intimate 26-room château; just 15 minutes from Montpellier airport, it’s the perfect escape for a night (or several).
On-site restaurant Verchant is headed up by Chef Jérôme Bartoletti; views to the pretty gardens and glimmering pool make it an enchanting place to dine. Choose from seasonal plates using regional produce: à la carte dishes range from red mullet and zucchini flower stuffed with fresh goat cheese and basil oil to lobster with pear gazpacho, while ‘Creation’ is a set menu featuring three or four courses. Accompany with a bottle or glass of one of the estate’s wines. La Plage dans les Vignes is a more casual option, with a picturesque vine-side setting and a bar area.
While there, enjoy the pools, grounds and tennis court before checking out and driving a brief hour or so northeast to luxury bed and breakfast L’Albiousse. About 45 minutes west of Avignon in the charming market town of Uzès, the 16th-century mansion has just five bedrooms, and is a peaceful oasis. Inside are contemporary yet elegant interiors, outside a pretty courtyard. And it’s a mere 60 second walk to the Ducal Palace.
While away some time wandering the pedestrian-friendly streets admiring the pale stone buildings, Place aux Herbes square and the Romanesque Fenestrelle Tower. Food-wise, fine dining can be found at La Table d’Uzès, and Le Bec à Vin is a top choice for classic French cuisine.
A further 75 minutes or so northeast takes you to another excellent choice of accommodation: La Verriere. A former medieval priory tucked away on the slopes of the Dentelles de Montmirail in Provence, the property is surrounded by a working winery, and has been beautifully restored into a luxe retreat.
Owners Nicole and Xavier Rolet sensitively renovated the property in keeping with local styles, retaining as many features of the original construction as possible. The house sleeps 17 guests, and comes complete with a fully-equipped professional kitchen. If you’re renting the whole place the team can arrange for a private chef to cater to all of your culinary whims, and needless to say, lunch and dinner are best accompanied by a selection from La Verriere’s excellent cellar.
Or if you’re there on a B&B basis, be sure to try their farm-to-fork and table d’hôtes menus. Discover the surrounding area on a wine tour, or head out on two wheels and cycle the Tour de France route.
Southwards we go now: after around two hours you’ll reach Hôtel Sainte Victoire Vauvenargues, a tranquil spot 45 minutes inland from Marseille and 20 from Aix-en-Provence. Enjoy exceptional service, state-of-the-art amenities, contemporary bedrooms, and unrestricted panoramic views to Sainte-Victoire mountain – take them in while lounging around the pool.
Be sure to dine at the in-house restaurant, where flavour-packed plates draw influence from France and Brazil. And activity-wise, there are a host of options including hiking, horse riding, biking, paragliding, and climbing.
Next stop? Eastwards about two hours to the French Riviera, where a duo of super options await: sister hotels Tiara Yaktsa Cote d’Azur and Tiara Miramar Beach Hotel & Spa. The latter features Asian- and Mediterranean-inspired rooms, several restaurants, and a beachside bar. The former boasts the Relais & Châteaux stamp and upscale eatery L’Or Bleu, and is the epitome of sophisticated elegance. Both have an inviting pool to dip in.
Relax in the zen multi-tiered garden at Yaktsa, or amble along Promenade de l’Esquillon to Miramar and laze on a lounger at the property’s private beach. Sitting on the outskirts of the seaside town of Théoule-sur-Me, the siblings are also within easy reach of the glitz of Cannes, the cobbled streets of Nice, and glamorous Saint-Tropez.
If you’re after something a bit different, Orion B&B is the place for you. Three quarters of an hour along the coast and then inland just beyond Cagnes-sur-Mer, stay in one of four tree houses, and relish being surrounded by nature and the twitter of birds. Relax in a hammock high in the canopy, soothe away your worries in the naturally filtered pebble-edged pool, or take a nap in the shade of the flora.
Nice airport is close by, so why not jump on a plane over to Corsica and spend some time exploring the Mediterranean island? It’s been part of France since 1768, but retains Italian culture. A brief 50-minute flight and you’ll land into Bastia; from there, head up the Cap Corse peninsula for 40 minutes until you arrive at Castel Brando. Located in the quaint village of Erbalunga, it’s a romantic setting.
The charming rooms are split between several houses. La Demeure, the main residence of the hotel, dates back to 1853 and has original thick stone walls and vaulted ceilings set against traditional terracotta floors. Each building has a Mediterranean vibe, with antiques and decorative pieces giving a real sense of Corsican history.
Sunny terraces filled with birdsong lead you to the two swimming pools, the Jacuzzi and organic Spa Intimu©. And for lunch or dinner there’s Les Américains, where simple plates using local Cap Corse suppliers are at the heart of things.
Back on mainland France, Val-d’Isère calls: fly into Chambéry or Lyon and then up into the mountains to Le Refuge de Solaise. Situated in an enviable scenic position perched at an altitude of 2,551 metres, this is a premier ski-in ski-out location in wintertime, with access available via cable car. But it’s not just somewhere to hit the slopes: come summer, there’s hiking and cycling to enjoy, amid breathtaking landscapes.
As the highest hotel in the Alps, it offers guests a unique experience and perspective. The rooms are categorised across classic, superior, family and suites, plus a dormitory and a selection of apartments – something for everyone. On-site, there’s a spa with a swimming pool, a gym, a ski shop, a bar, and two restaurants with glorious Alpine panoramas. What a spectacular spot to end our armchair journey through France.
Main image: guenter m. kirchweger on Free Images