While I was living in Prague, I took a long weekend getaway to the South of France. I divided my time between Provence to see the lavender blooms and Grasse for perfumes and Cannes for the coastline views. Everyplace I went looked like it was out of a storybook. It really was like living a dream amongst the rolling green hills, luscious lavender fields, and villa after villa climbing with vines.
I flew into Marseille and took a short bus ride to Aix-en-Provence. Aix en Provence is the city of poets or at least that’s what the locals like to call it. It has a romantic yet bohemian energy to it and I could have spent weeks there getting lost in its cute streets or studying at their culinary school.
The city is also known for its famous markets. You can buy anything from linens and handcrafted jewelry to vegetables and freshly baked treats. It was probably the market of my dreams! I also had to buy a cantaloupe because I heard they produce the best-tasting variety in the world. I’m not kidding when I say these melons’ flavor speaks volumes, and I ate some every chance I had. Cantaloupe and prosciutto salad, anyone?
I spent a few hours in the stunning Hôtel Gallifet to view the impressionist art exhibitions and lush gardens. If you love art, I also recommend a visit to the studio of Aix en Provence native, Paul Cézanne, as he settled in a little country cottage to produce art and live out the rest of his days there.
From Aix, I went to Château La Coste for an afternoon of wine tasting and to explore the art and architecture (my three favorite things!). The vineyards’ vision was conceived to create a world-class setting for contemporary art and architectural structures along with good wine. The permanent installation includes the likes of grandmasters; Calder, Goldsworthy, Matisse, Shannon, and Scully. The grape varieties planted at the vineyard are suitable for the production of red, white and rosé wines. Rosé all day! They have several dining options to choose from including one from Argentinian chef Francis Mallmann. Although they have gotten some pushback being an Irish producer in the area over a traditional French, I still thought the wine was excellent.
After a full day of small-town visits, I went to L’Esprit de la Violette in Aix to wind down with fine dining. The tasting menu was creative and it was a nice farewell to my few days in Provence.
From Provence, I traveled to Grasse for the perfume and more natural beauty. The town of Grasse is nestled on the Cote d’Azur with its luminous light and the stunning, dramatic Alpes d’Azur looming above the Mediterranean. Coastal and cliff-edge roads called corniches zigzag through perched outcrops and small villages all along the stunning hilltop town.
They claim it is the most fragrant town in France, and it certainly produces nearly a third of all of France’s natural aromas. The Musée International de la Parfumerie traces 400 years of perfume-making history. Unlike many chemical-based perfumes, Grasse uses only natural raw materials. There are forty or so perfume manufacturers, some such as Fragonard, Galimard, and Molinard. I booked a one-of-a-kind experience at La Villa de Parfumeur at Molinard and created a signature scent.
To change things up a bit, I went to Cannes for an afternoon of beaches and shopping. First things first, I had to visit the infamous InterContinental Carlton where one of my favorite old movies, To Catch a Thief, was filmed. One day, I will have to stay at the Grace Kelly suite there! It’s a Hollywood-ish city because of the Cannes Film Festival and is usually in full force with A-