Last updated on June 25th, 2021
By Patricia Sands, Author, Love in Provence Trilogy and Drawing Lessons (Sponsored)
I first fell in love with France when I was 21 backpacking through Europe after university. I became enchanted with everything … scenery, food, wine, people. But it was time spent on the Côte d’Azur that truly fueled my passion. I found the lure of the Mediterranean lifestyle simply irresistible.
The love affair continued to grow as I visited often during my busy life. After 1996, I began spending part of each year in the south of France writing stories set in villages along the Côte D’Azur and in Provence.
Drawing Lessons takes readers to Arles and the surrounding countryside, including the Camargue. Arianna, the main character, has come from Canada to join an artists’ retreat and paint amongst the fields and villages of Van Gogh in the hopes of rediscovering the artist she once was. The series can be found here.
In the past few years, it’s been my pleasure to lead small groups of women on tours following in the footsteps of the beloved characters of my novels. In 2018, Deborah Bine, aka the “Barefoot Blogger” joined me leading the tours that include Uzés — a place she now calls “home.” Deborah discovered her dream-come-true life in France when she left South Carolina and a 40-year marriage. She travels and stumbles through the country, where she doesn’t speak the language, sharing her fun, adventures, and inspiration along the way. Deborah loves to show off the marketplaces and cobblestone streets she writes about living in Uzès. A list of Patricia’s novels can be found here.
To make your visit to the south of France one to remember, here are a few of our favorite spots.
- Meander through the cobblestone streets of Saint Paul de Vence, filled with history, galleries and charming shops. One of my favorite places for lunch is the famous Colombe d’Or where a reservation is highly recommended. Watch a game of boules from the terrace of Café de la Place on the legendary Place du Jeu de Boules, or join in!
- Discover the breathtaking views of Eze and climb to the hilltop castle ruins through the tropical Exotic Garden.
- Tour the extravagant Villa Ephruzzi de Rothschild and roam through the gardens where an exquisite musical performance of the water fountains is a highlight.
- Explore the ancient harbor town of Antibes, Patricia’s home away from home. Stroll narrow lanes, visit the colorful and lively daily Provençal market, and discover the wealth of art at Musée Picasso.
- Walk in Cézanne’s footsteps in Aix en Provence, browse the downtown shopping district and visit the historic Cathedral. Enjoy a cup of tea or café au lait in the courtyard of the Caumont Mansion; or simply people watch on the busy Cours Mirabeau. Weekend markets in the square are a must!
- Stroll along the boat lined canals of Sete, the Venice of France, Enjoy the vibrant central indoor food market and sample oysters and sea delicacies from the Mediterranean fishing capital.
- Visit a female-owned and operated olive mill in a small provençal village in the heart of the Alpilles. Through four generations the Sourdon family has produced olive oil, preferred by countless Michelin chefs, in a traditional 12th century moulin.
- Relive the days of the Romans and Van Gogh in Arles, a city filled with treasures that include an actively used Roman arena and amphitheater. In sharp contrast, view the new Franck Gehry’s Luma Arles Tower, a stainless steel, 56-meter high center for multidisciplinary contemporary art.
- Experience a safari through the Camargue, a UNESCO biosphere reserve where you view white horses, pink flamingos, Camargue bulls, and stand atop mountains of salt from rose-colored marshes. Stop back at the walled city of Aigues-Mortes, at the entrance to the Camargue, and see where Crusaders departed on their numerous religious wars.
- Roam through a typically provençal weekday market in romantic St Remy de Provence. Visit St Paul de Mausole, the asylum where van Gogh painted some of his masterpieces, including “Sunflowers” and his last “Self-Portrait.” Experience the spectacular digital sound and light show, Carrières de Lumières, in a cavernous bauxite quarry near Les Baux de Provence.
- Peek into Uzès and be enchanted by the maze of small walkways and shaded plazas, quaint shops and cafés. Greeks, Romans, Dukes, and Bishops left remnants of their influential lives n this medieval town, including the Château de Duchè where the family of nobles still reside
- Travel through time as you walk across the first century roman aqueduct — Pont du Gard — the most visited ancient monument in France. The UNESCO world heritage site is a marvel of science and architecture that reveals an unparalleled view of the history of Gaul.
Interested in learning more?
To enjoy the fun and experience these beautiful south of France sites, join me and Deborah for our third edition of the “Memories You Promised Yourself” tour in September. We will share our contagious love for the region, and guide you through our favourite places with a spontaneous sense of adventure and ‘joie de vivre.”
We’ve partnered with our good friend, tour designer Nancy McGee, founder of the locally based custom travel agency Absolutely Southern France. We’ve planned an itinerary that includes a combination of active time and leisure. You’ll form friendships among like-minded women and return home with treasured memories to last a lifetime. I promise you this!
Visit our website here.
Learn more about Southern France through Context Travel’s expert-led courses
Modernist Masters and Their Legacies–Cézanne, de Chirico, Duchamp, and Picasso: A Four-Part Course with Dr. Jennie Hirsh
March 5 – 26, Fridays at 3 pm ET
In this course, we will consider the work and influence of Paul Cézanne, Giorgio de Chirico, Marcel Duchamp, and Pablo Picasso. Each session will focus for thirty minutes on the work of a key modern figure and then examine the contemporary legacy of each artist for the remainder of the meeting.
Cézanne and Van Gogh in Provence with Pamela Morton
Jan 25, 2021 01:00 pm – 02:30 pm EST
Cézanne and van Gogh have shaped our visions of Provence, with its blue skies, sea, mountains, parasol pines, olive trees, and sunflowers. What moves us most, however, is the expressive power of their paintings. These are visionary works, artistic evocations not only of Provence’s bold light and landscapes but of ideas and feelings. It was in Provence where the two founders of modern art came into their own.
The Discovery of Landscape Paintings: From Cézanne to Constable
For centuries, nature in art functioned solely as a backdrop of religious or historical scenes. This changed in the early seventeenth century when artists like Cuyp and Claude began to appreciate the landscape for itself. And it did not stop there… This conversation will explore the unearthing of landscape in art as we follow a select curation of landscape painters.