For most visitors to France, the place they wish to see after Paris is the Provence and Côte d'Azur. Many have read Peter Mayle's "A Year in the Provence" or are simply keen on seeing the historic towns of Avignon, Arles, Vaison la Romaine and elegant Aix en Provence. Perhaps they want to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous in Cannes, Antibes, Cap Ferrat or Saint Tropez. Many come here year after year to enjoy a peaceful vacation in the countryside with its picturesque historic villages. In any case most agree that one should visit the Provence at least once in a lifetime.
Does the Provence really live up to its reputation? Frankly, it depends! Most guidebooks tend to describe the Provence as being close to Paradise. We'll let you be the judge of that.
The Sights section is divided into 6 subsections, each covering a specific area and introducing you to the towns, villages and countryside. The Provence is one of the 26 regions in France. It is officially called Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur or in its abbreviated form PACA. France is a very centralized state and the buck normally stops in Paris. In 1790, during the French Revolution, the country was divided into 83 départements. Today there are 100 départements including four overseas (Guadeloupe, Martinique, Guyana and Réunion). In order to decentralize France these départements were grouped into 26 regions and in 1982 they received limited autonomy.
The PACA, the Provence-Côte d'Azur Region, is subdivided into six départements:
- Alpes Maritimes, bordering Italy, a densely populated area with Nice, Cannes, Antibes, Saint Paul de Vence and the exclusive coast between Villefranche and Menton with the tiny principality of Monaco in between.
- Alpes de Haute Provence, where the Alpes start, with Digne les Bains, Sisteron and the Grand Canyon du Verdon, the Verdon Gorge, Europe's deepest.
- Bouches du Rhône, meaning the mouths of the river Rhône, with elegant Aix en Provence, chaotic, colorful Marseille, Saint Rémy de Provence known through van Gogh, ancient Arles and the Rhône's delta, the Camargue.
- Hautes Alpes, a thinly populated area with Gap at its center, Alpine landscape, great hiking during the summer and skiing in the winter.
- Var, named after a small river, is the area between Aix en Provence and Cannes with a beautiful coastline, including famous Saint Tropez and remote villages in the Var hinterland, the Haut Var.
- Vaucluse, one of the most historic parts of the Provence, with Châteauneuf du Pape and the Southern Côtes du Rhône vineyards in the north, Mont Ventoux and the Luberon ranges further east, Orange with its Roman theatre and Arc de Triomph and Avignon with the Palace of the Popes.
- Drôme Provençale, an area which historically was part of the Provence. It is the region between Montélimar and the Alpes, a country of quiet beauty with green hills, tiny historic villages and the castle of Grignan.
About us: It started some years ago: A bunch of us - expats living in the Provence - got together for a Sunday morning brunch in l'Isle sur la Sorgue. It was Sunday November 6, 2005 to be exact. A crisp sunny morning - blue sky, late autumn. Talking about our "Provence" experience we decided to put the combined "wisdom" on a website. Provence-Hideaways was born!
By the way, the name Provence, comes, you guessed it right, from province. It was one of the first areas outside today's Italy settled by the Romans around 150 BC. They called their new province "Provincia Narbonnensis", after its capital Narbonne. The name was too complicated and soon became Provincia Nostra (our province) and finally Provence.
The term Côte d'Azur, meaning the blue coast is used for the coastal area stretching from Menton on the Italian border to Cassis near Marseille in the west. It is also called the French Riviera. In France we always use the term Côte d'Azur. The people in Nice and Cannes insist that "Côte d'Azur" must only be applied to their coast, that is from Menton to Cannes. The coast further west should be called Côte Varois, the coast of the département Var. But they have not been able to convince the rest of France.
B&Bs and Vacation Rentals:
Our website will help you to acquaint yourself with the different regions of the Provence first so you can make intelligent decisions in choosing your accommodation. As always in real estate - it's location, location, location. It pays off - you will experience the "ideal" Provence! Please be aware that many choice B&Bs and self-catering vacation rentals are often fully booked for the summer by December/January.
By the way: None of us owns or operates a B&B, in the Provence - a question we are frequently asked.
It's fair to say that next to Paris, the Provence offers the widest and deepest choice for gourmets in France. From village gastropubs to medium priced restaurants serving delicious meals to the top-notch eateries with one of more Michelin stars. We refrain from lenghty reviews and comments about the menu. The simple fact that a restaurant is recommended by Provence-Hideaways vouches for an acceptable dining experience, after all one or more of our team members and contributors reviewed the place in person. We are a bit short on restaurant recommendations in some areas of the Provence. But over time we hope to fill the voids. Any suggestions by our readers will gladly be followed up.
Where to start?
A click here or on Travel Destinations on the top right menu will lead you to an introduction of the top vacation areas in the Provence & Côte d'Azur. Enjoy!