The region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (or “PACA”) covers the southeastern part of France. Provence, the picturesque region known for its rolling hills of lavender and scenic hill towns, spills down into the French Riviera on the Mediterranean coast.
The French Riviera (Côte d’Azur, “Azure Coast”, in French) is a beautiful stretch of coastline from the Italian border to the area near Marseille. For hundreds of years, this stretch of coastline has been the playground for the rich and famous, but there are still natural wonders and sleepy cliffside towns, and outside of summer the area is not as inundated with tourists (especially avoid July and August). The Riviera is very close to Italy, and has much in common (friendly people, seafood, warm Mediterranean climate). Indeed, most of it was once part of an Italian city-state (Italian hero Garibaldi was born in Nice). However, it's with a French accent: you can still get amazing baguettes and croissants, and a wonderful array of French cheeses (the area is known for its goat cheese, or chèvre). For information about the French Riviera in English, see www.rivierareporter.com, a newsletter designed for expats.
Menton is the closest town to Italy, and thus has the most Italian influences; most shopkeepers speak Italian as well as French, and you can walk (or more comfortably, bicycle) to the border. There isn’t a whole lot to do in town, but it has a reasonbly nice beach, a cute (but small) old town, and some great nearby hikes.
Things to do
- nice post about Menton in general: http://easyhiker.co.uk/menton-is-the-prettiest-town-in-france/
- Artisanal Jam Factory on Herbin 2
- gardens (Val Rahmeh, Fontana Rosa)
- Saint Michel-Archange
- Amandine - sweets on 24 Rue St-Michel
- Les Images de Provence - 21 rue St-Michel, soft goods, rec’d in Petit Futé
- Meomaly - housewares 3 Avenue Félix-Faure, closed Sun, rec’d in Petit Futé
- La Cigale (Fabrice Leroy) pastry shop (esp. tarte au citron, pâte de citron) - 27 Avenue Carnot → closed Tues, rec’d in Petit Futé, NYT, etc.
- L’Arche des Confitures/Confiturerie Herbin - guided visit 10:30 on Mon of candy-making, closed Sun (first one also closed Sat) www.confitures-herbin.com, rec’d in Petit Futé
- Beaches nearby: Go to Les Sablettes in Menton and/or Plage du Buse/Golfe Bleu in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin http://www.plagesmed.fr/plages/alpes-maritimes/menton/plage2.html and http://www.plagesmed.fr/villes/alpes-maritimes/roquebrune-cap-martin.html
- hike up the hill from Menton: http://easyhiker.co.uk/part-1-french-riviera-winter-walks/
- drive the Moyenne Corniche (cliffside twisty drive with gorgeous views of the coast) to La Turbie, Èze, and beyond
Where to Eat
- Paris Rome - rec’d Michelin, closed Mon-Wed
- Le Petit Prince - rec’d Michelin, “traditional and nice”
- La Cantinella - rec’d Michelin, closed Sun eve, Mon
- Méditerranée - rec’d Michelin www.hotel-med-menton.com
- Le Bistrot des Jardins - 14 avenue Boyer, open every day, rec’d in Petit Futé, “peaceful haven” in their garden, rec’d Michelin
- La Terrasse des Logettes “traditional, family run, typically Mentonaisse restauarant”
- Cote Sud - opened 2007, “superb food” says TripAdvisor
- Mirazur (2 Michelin stars, 2 CHs rec’d, one of whom says “Mirazur in Menton is one of the best restaurants I have ever been to.”), closed Mon/Tues (except July/Aug: open Tues dinner but not Wed lunch), great post by Lebovitz: http://www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/09/mirazur-mauro-colagreco-menton-france-restaurant/ “best restaurant” in town, Argentine-Italian chef
- ?Braïjade Méridiounale - old town, Provençal favorites, closed Wed, bagna calda, aioli de poisson, etc - regional specialties, dinner only?, rec’d Lonely Planet, flambé skwers? www.abraijade.fr
- ?Le Midi - 103 avenue de Sospel, closed Mon/Wed eve, Sun, only 30 tables, all filled by regulars, Menton specialties: cochon de lait, aubergines en beignet, petits farcis aux blettes, rec’d in Petit Futé
- Saveurs d’Eleanoire - epicerie but also mentonnaise plates (pichade, farcis, begnets de courge, socca) www.saveurs-eleonore.fr
- La Topia - menton specialties in park with olive trees, with some italian twists, (mixed TripAdvisor reviews)
- Restaurant du Petit Port - 4 rue du Jonquier, open every day in summer, typical regional dishes, rec’d in Petit Futé
- Restaurant Le Nautic - 27 Quai de Monléon, open every day for lunch, fresh seafood, bouillabaise, paella, good quality for price, rec’d in Petit Futé
- Le Petit Prince - 69 Promenade du Soleil, open every day, nice ambiance, menu changes with market, good bouillabaisse, rec’d in Petit Futé
- l'O à la Bouche restaurant - rec’d NYT “it is everything that a good, middle-class French bistro should be, and specializes in fresh seafood” ...but bad recent TripAdvisor review: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g187231-d2657868-Reviews-L_O_a_la_Bouche-Menton_French_Riviera_Cote_d_Azur_Provence.html
- Gorbio (up the hill from Menton): Le Beauséjour, 14 Place de la République, +33 (0)4 93 41 46 15 - nice place (very "cute", with nice dishes that have fancy presentation) with gorgeous view
- Sainte-Agnès is another nearby hilltown, which was part of the Alpine Line; you can walk there from Gorbio: http://easyhiker.co.uk/hiking-french-riviera-hinterland-gorbio-to-st-agnes/
Close to Menton (~11 min drive, ~40 min walk, ~6 min train ride) has a nice medieval castle with a nice view and part of the Alpine Line (the southern version of the Maginot Line); read more about the town here: www.beyond.fr/villages/roquebrunecm.html
- 1000 year old “millenaire” olive tree: http://www.mentondailyphoto.com/2007/12/roquebrune-village-5.html on Rue de la Fontaine on road leading to Menton
- Sainte-Marguerite (open 3pm to 5pm)
- Hiking map: IGN 3742 Ot Nice, Menton (~$20 amazon) http://www.beyond.fr/sports/hiking-gr51-route.html
- hike from train station: http://easyhiker.co.uk/roquebrune-french-riviera/ castle photos: http://easyhiker.co.uk/roquebrune-castle-french-riviera/
- more info: http://www.explore-the-french-riviera.com/2009/06/walk-around-vieux-village-of-roquebrune.html
- Le Picadilly, fixed price mussels, meat dishes, etc.
- L’Hippocampe, rec’d Michelin, NYT, nice view
- Les Deux Frères, rec’d Michelin
- Le Roquebrune, rec’d Michelin, pretty expensive
Named for a triumphal statue erected by Julius Caesar after his conquest of the Gauls, this cute town has nice views of the coast.
- Café de la Fontaine (Hostellerie Jerome) → 4 av. du Generale de Gaulle (note that the Hostellerie Jerome is a fancier restaurant in a different location), 04 93 28 52 79, Michelin bib gourmand and rec’d by Auntie Gail, open every day, lunch 12-2:30, dinner services at 7:30 and 9:30, ~30 euro/person lunch www.hostelleriejerome.com/pages/le-cafe-de-la-fontaine.cfm delicous “bistro” fare in a cosy atmosphere
One of Europe’s tiny “micro-states”, the Principality of Monaco is completely sorrounded by France and the Mediterranean. Since it has become a tax haven, it has a bunch of densely-packed condos where rich tax-avoiders live. The famous Monte Carlo hotel (of James Bond fame) is a bit underwhelming, but high rollers might still enjoy it. You can also tour the Aquarium and the Cathedral (where princes and princesses are buried, including Grace Kelly). Probably not worth visiting for most people.
Antibes probably has the nicest sand beach of any on the Riviera (many beaches are more pebbly). It’s also home to the Pablo Picasso museum, since the artist lived here for many years.
The largest town on the Riviera, the waterfront is dominated by old, fancy hotels from the 19th century. There is a large university in Nice, so there are a fair number of students around the town.
- La Merenda (4, rue Raoul Bosio)
- Oliviera - local products/olive oil
- Fenocchio - ice cream www.davidlebovitz.com/2010/09/fenocchio-ice-cream/
- Ariane Magimel (jam shop)
- socca (chickpea crepes): Chez Pipo, Chez Thérésa www.davidlebovitz.com/2008/06/the-best-socca/
- Chat Noir, Chat Blanc ...chef is from Milan, closed Sat lunch, Sun, rec’d NYT
- Flaveur ...1 Michelin star, closed Sat lunch, Sun/Mon, rec’d NYT
Known for its famous film festival in May, it's sleepy (but still chic) the rest of the year. Wikivoyage has some travel tips and things to see; it's pretty easy to take a car, train, or bus to other towns along the Riviera. Also check out this NYT article
- Aux Bons Enfants - Michelin Bib Gourmand ("fine Provencal cuisine"), also rec'd Frommers (family run, seasonal ingredients), no credit cards or reservations, closed Sun/Mon
- La Table Du Chef - 5 Rue Jean Daumas, 04 93 68 27 40 (no website), closed Tues-Wed dinner and Sun/Mon, Michelin rec's this "low-key" place with great atmosphere, no menu; also rec'd by NYT, Frommers, Guide Gantié (updated in French),
- Bistro Les Canailles - Michelin says this is where "real locals" go for fresh, market-based dishes; also rec'd Gault Millau and Petit Futé
- Yo'mo Lounge - Michelin rec's for mix of Lebanese, Greek, and Italian cuisine; relatively inexpensive
- Caveau 30 - Michelin rec's for traditional dishes including seafood, also Petit Futé, also see this blogpost
- Côté Jardin - Michelin rec's for daily specials served (as the name implies) next to a garden
- L'Antidote Christophe Ferré - Michelin rec's for market-fresh ingredients and Mediterranean dishes
- in nearby Le Cannet (uphill from Cannes with beautiful view, ~4 km, 12 min drive, the Palm Bus takes ~15 min):
- Bistrot des Anges - the more casual (and much cheaper) sister to two-star Villa Archange, rec'd by Michelin (Bib Gourmand) and Petit Futé
- Bistrot St-Sauveur - Michelin Bib Gourmand, Petit Futé
- Le Tivoli - 25 Boulevard Sadi Carnot, +33 4 93 45 42 73, (no website), popular with locals for lunch
- La Sarbacane - rec'd Petit Futé
- Le Coin Gourmet - on Place Bellevue, rec'd Petit Futé
- Le Café de la Place - on Place Bellevue, rec'd Petit Futé
- Lou Miedjou - Petit Futé rec's for warm (if idiosyncratic) hospitality and fresh dishes, no credit cards
- Aux Anges - Petit Futé rec's for fresh dishes and beautiful terrace views
- Le Pézou - Petit Futé rec's this family-run place not far from Place Bellevue
- Rick Steves likes St. Paul, Vence, and Eze.
- Eze: Le Grill du Château panoramic view, French-Med cuisine, rec’d NYT
- Villefranche: La Mère Germaine (old school restaurant, bouillabaise), rec’d NYT
- Cagnes-sur-Mer (& Haut-de-Cagnes old part): Le Cagnard Michelin haut cuisine, Josy-Jo (“down-home, top-notch Provençal cuisine” with chef Josy Bandecchi €40 lunch menu www.restaurant-josyjo.com closed Sun/Mon, rec’d NYT
- Golfe Juan: Tétou - has good bouillabaisse? popular with film stars during Cannes festival, recent reviews suggest food is going downhill?, very expensive (>€130 per person bouillabaise), closed M/T lunch, Wed http://epicures.wordpress.com/2008/10/14/tetou-golfe-juan/
Sun-kissed vineyards, postcard-perfect small towns dotting every hill, rows of lavender perfuming the air...Provence is in many ways France’s Tuscany, a place popular with tourists looking for rustic chic. Summer months (especially July and August) bring big crowds, but other times are less crowded (and, just like Tuscany, you can find peace in some places even in the summer).
Anybody who took French in school probably remembers that nursery rhyme "Sur le pont d'Avignon"...well, you can dance on the famous bridge (not the original, but who cares?) in this sizable but cozy town. Home to popes in the middle ages, Avignon still has Papal Palaces which, unlike the "real" ones in Rome, you can tour. It's also not hard to make a day trip to the Pont du Gard, an impressive Roman aqueduct bridge spanning a wide valley.
Pronounced like the verb "aches," this university town is a bit inland and a hidden gem. There's also a large TGV (fast train) station nearby, so it's easy to get to/from Paris and other places.
- Nice summary list of places to east in Aix: http://www.provencelive.com/practical/eatdrink/eat/resto.html
- le Formal (rec’d boredough on CH), somewhat haute cuisine?, rec'd Lonely Planet
- Le Poivre d’Ane (rec’d jwnyc, boredough in CH, “rather inventive”), rec'd Lonely Planet for “affordable, creative, contemporary cuisine”
- l’Incontournable (rec’d boredough on CH for good deal 37 euro prix fixe)
- ? Le Millefeuille (rec’d Pammel on CH, “hidden and quiet setting”), also Provence Guru menu changes each service based on what is fresh, chef used to work at L’Oustau de Baumaniere; see LeFooding and Petit Futé “true market cuisine”
- ?L’Epicurien (rec’d Parnassien on CH, also Fodors for market-driven blackboard menus): rec'd Fodors, Occitane, LeFooding, Petit Futé; closed Sun/Mon
- ?Drole d’endroit Aix good review here: http://provenceguru.com/resto-review-wizard-dining-in-aix/ blackboard menus change daily, hidden location, organic www.droledesite.fr Tues-Sat lunch/dinner except Wed lunch http://www.petitfute.com/v33094-33227-aix-en-provence-13100/c1165-restaurants/c4-cuisine-francaise/501245-drole-d-endroit.html https://bloggingfromthemas.wordpress.com/2012/07/01/restaurant-in-aix-drole-dendroit/ seems very “hip”, maybe too much so except if we want organic?
- ? Chez Féraud (NYT rec’s as “grandma”-like rustic dining room, pistou soup, daube de boeuf, “farmhouse kitchen”, stewed figs with caramel ice cream, ~40 euro a person, also rec'd Lonely Planet, Gantie 2013 review (newer one in French), also Petit Fute and Visit Provence
- similar is Chez Grand Mère in the old town, frog’s legs, bouillabaisse if order 2 days in advance: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/provence/aix-en-provence/restaurants/french/chez-grand-mere
- Jardin Mazarin (rec’d jwnyc in CH), “peaceful”, “hidden” http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/provence/aix-en-provence/restaurants/french/jardin-mazarin (south of Cours Mirabeau) http://www.jardinmazarin.com/ closed Sun, orari continuari Thurs-Sat, a bit fancy/haute cuisine but relaxing/nice http://www.petitfute.com/v33094-33227-aix-en-provence-13100/c1165-restaurants/c4-cuisine-francaise/669477-jardin-mazarin.html
- Le Petit Verdot - braised meats, stews, market-driven, tabletops made from wine crates (communal tables) http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/provence/aix-en-provence/restaurants/french/le-petit-verdot rec’d leg of lamb: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jerry-lanson/15-top-tips-in-aix-en-pro_b_5388485.html
- Le Zinc d’Hugo rec’d here (esp. for grilled meat, magret de canard): http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jerry-lanson/15-top-tips-in-aix-en-pro_b_5388485.html
- Fanny’s Bistro http://slowlanetravel.com/archives/1086
- Amphitryon market-driven cooking http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/provence/aix-en-provence/restaurants/french/amphitryon
- Jacquou Le Croquant - southwestern France, “buzzy jovial atmosphere”, http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/provence/aix-en-provence/restaurants/tex-mex-southwestern-new-mexican/jacquou-le-croquant
- La Tomate Verte http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/provence/aix-en-provence/restaurants/french/la-tomate-verte green tomato tart, other “Provençal comfort food”
- Lavaut - stone cellar, foie gras http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/france/provence/restaurants/reviews/lavault-597151/
- Le Bistro Latin http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/france/provence/restaurants/reviews/le-bistro-latin-597064/
- [Les Deux Garcons: Fodors says food is “not memorable”]
- La Chimère Café - Fodors says crazy decor, lively atmosphere
- Charlotte - French classics, cosy http://www.lonelyplanet.com/france/provence/aix-en-provence/restaurants/bistros-brasseries/charlotte
- Côté Cour - Liz might like? http://www.restaurantcotecour.fr/restaurant_en/les_menus.php
- Le Grillon - restaurant in Aix-en-Provence (cours Mirabeau)
- Cafe Madeleine - cafe in Aix-en-Provence (near Palais de Justice)
- Outside of Aix
- ***Le Tholonet: Les Lodges Sainte-Victoire http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/les-lodges-sainte-victoire.en-us.html really nice setting/place (overlooking Mount Ventoux, like you're in a Cézanne painting), olive trees, good reviews, www.leslodgessaintevictoire.com Sainte Estève restaurant - chef Mathias Dandine, 1 michelin star, dinner €89 fixed price, €160 tasting menu, http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Restaurant/Le_Tholonet-13100-Le_Saint_Esteve-419591-41102 ...a couple tripadvisors say the view is better than the food; funny review: http://provenceguru.com/provence-resto-review-le-st-esteve-le-tholonet/ http://www.fodors.com/world/europe/france/provence/restaurants/reviews/le-saint-esteve-596762 --> we ate here in 2015 and it was probably our second or third favorite meal of all time
- Rousset: Domaine Terre de Mistral http://terre-de-mistral.com, open every day for lunch/dinner, chalkboard specials, terrace, mill/olive press/cellar, they make wine & organic olive oil there, “refined, authentic, simple Mediterranean food”, strawberry/olive oil/basil smoothie, menu changes every week, sometimes jazz at dinner, rec'd Petit Futé
- Abbaye de Sainte Croix http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/abbaye-de-sainte-croix-salon-de-provence.html super-nice, 12th C abbey, www.abbayesaintecroix.com article: http://honeymoons.about.com/od/southoffrance/ss/abbaye-sainte-croix.htm http://www.guidegantie.com/en/rooms/detail.php?id=511
- La Passerelle = casual bistro
- La Table de l’Abbaye = gourmet restaurant http://www.guidegantie.com/fr/restaurants/detail.php?id=634 http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Restaurant/Salon_de_Provence-13300-La_Table_de_l_Abbaye-13046-41102 menu: http://www.thefork.com/restaurant/abbaye-de-sainte-croix/7119
- Cabriès/Calas: La Bastide De Cabriès contemporary dishes in nice atmosphere, guestrooms http://www.bastidecabries.com/ http://www.viamichelin.com/web/Restaurant/Cabries-13480-La_Bastide_de_Cabries-261678-41102 http://www.petitfute.com/v33109-cabries-13480/c1165-restaurants/c1029-cuisine-regionale/c19-restaurant-provencal/398388-la-bastide-de-cabries.html $118 rooms at http://www.booking.com/hotel/fr/hostellerie-du-lac-bleu.html very nice, one of the best value places to stay? fixed price menus for 35, 45, 65, and 90 euro http://www.bastidecabries.com/pdf/Carte_Restaurant_La_Bastide_de_Cabries.pdf
This town is host to the remains of Mary Magdalene (or so it claims; another town named Vézelay also has relics). Nearby is the beautiful Grotto of Sainte Baume, where Magdalene supposedly lived; up the hill from the Grotto is a spectacular view from the ridgeline.
A cute village perched on a cliff, with interesting “faïence” dishwear. Just to the east is the beautiful Verdon canyon.
- Bastide de Moustiers - fancy Michelin-starred place with nice food, +33 (0)4 92 70 47 47
When most people think of “Provence”, they think of this region (it's where Peter Mayle wrote "A Year in Provence"). Now protected as a “park” (and thus from industrialization and development), it feels very much like the hills south of Sienna. It’s almost essential to have a car here (it’s pretty hard to get around without one).
Things to See
- Lavender Museum - nice look at the different kinds of lavender and how they are cultivated in Coustellet/Maubec (note: there isn't any "fine lavender" actually grown here, since it's not high enough elevation; for that you have to go up near Sault)
- Aroma’Plantes Lavender Tour - www.distillerie-aromaplantes.com, near the town of Sault, they have a great shop with not only lavender products but also other essential oils (for pretty reasonable prices), and you can go on a “lavender experience” where you can harvest your own lavender and make essential oils.
- Sénanque Abbey - www.senanque.fr a nice medieval abbey known for its lavender fields in front (alas, when we arrived in late July 2014, it was already cut!). The 1-hour tour (you must reserve in advance) is decidedly underwhelming and only in French—skip it unless you’re very excited about abbey life (yes, it’s the only way to see the cloister, but there’s nothing particularly exciting about the cloister). Consider going for prayers (e.g. the vespers at 6 PM). To avoid crowds, get there early, late, or lunchtime (since there are no tours between 10:30 and 2:30).
- More information: www.sacred-destinations.com/france/senanque-abbey nice photos/explanation: http://sablethouse.blogspot.com/2012/07/senanque-abbey-pastoral-setting-in.html
- Roussillon Cliffs - not to be confused with the region of Roussillon, this town is known for its bright-red ochre cliffs; you can enjoy the views from the town but to really experience the reddest cliffs pay a small fee to walk the Sentier des Ocres. Very popular with French tourists.
Where to Stay
- ***Beaumettes: Au Ralenti du Lierre (in Village des Beaumettes, W along main road near Goult) www.auralentidulierre.com - wonderful spot run by a very welcoming couple; it’s in a perfect location for exploring the Luberon since it’s right near the main road (there is a little bit of road noise but you can barely hear it). Breakfasts are delicious (including homemade yogurt), and there’s a nice (but unheated) pool.
- Ansouis: Un Patio en Louberon - www.unpatioenluberon.com nice rooms, 16th century, very cute, nice view, €80-115/night for 2 people with breakfast, €29 fixed price rustic dinner “La table de Stéf”, rec’d by Routard and Frommers, really good TripAdvisor Ratings
Where to Eat
- Coustellet/Maubec: Traiteur Maison Gouin - very nice take-away place; good for picnic, rec’d by boredough, Pudlo, Gantié
- Saignon: La Petite Cave firstname.lastname@example.org we had a nice meal here but it was marred by a rediculously stingy €26 main dish that consisted of only 3 scallops, which left Liz very hungry (the town is also very cute); rec’d by Michelin, Gault & Millau, and several chowhounds
- ***Siverges: Ferme Auberge Le Castelas +33 (0)4 90 74 30 81, email@example.com getting here is a trip (lots of twisty, windy roads) but once you get there it’s wonderful: an isolated farmhouse surrounded by nature, with absolutely delicous, country food. Probably our favorite meal on our entire honeymoon. The cheese plate alone brings back incredible memories. (Interestingly run by an Italian, Gianni Ladu!) Recommended by lots of folks on Chowhound and Routard.
- Bistrot de Lagarde d’Apt - http://lebistrotdelagarde.free.fr/ closed Mon/Tues, 12:30-1:30, 7:30-9, one Michelin star, inexpensive (€18 weekday lunch), reserve by phone at 04.90.74.57.23 or Lebistrotdelagarde@free.fr, converted from a former nuclear missile bunker (!), rec’d by Gault & Millau, Gantié, Routard; blogpost: http://tailsfromprovence.com/2013/09/25/thank-friday-its-lunchtime-le-bistrot-de-lagarde/...very good deal at lunch considering how fancy the food is
- Goult: Auberge de la Bartavelle - very nice restaurant with delicious, slightly inventive food; to make a reservation you must call +33 04 90 72 33 72 between 9 and noon. Rec'd by Chowhounds, Michelin, and Routard.
- Ansouis: La Closerie - rec’d by Slow Travel, Gault & Millau, and Peter Mayle, CH, Gantié, Routard, Modern Troubadors rec’d as “...a tiny restaurant with exquisite food. It is one of our very favorite restaurants. The prices belie the caliber of the food”, run by young couple, fresh flowers, roasted lamb with seasonal vegetables
- L’Art Glacier is an ice cream place outside of Ansouis (rec’d by Slow Travel, Modern Troubadors, Routard)...it takes a while to get there and it’s a slwo “linger on the balcony” place to while away the afternoon
- Le Paradou (near Les Baux): le Bistrot du Paradou - closed Sun/Mon, rec’d by several CHs and Michelin, “no choice” menu, nice cheese course, a bit expensive though, discussion on CH (many think it’s overpriced, at least for lunch): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/856876 although degustazione says “perhaps the best (and best value) meal of the entire trip” (for dinner): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/795442 blog post from 2011 says “perfection”: http://jdorefrance.blogspot.com/2011/07/perfection-le-bistrot-du-paradou.htmlhttp://www.guidegantie.com/fr/restaurants/detail.php?id=688
- St-Saturnin-les-Apt: L’Estrade - [no website] closed Mon, call 04 90 71 15 75, generous portions, run by 2 women, Lonely Planet, Routard rec’s the apricot tarte Tain (someone else the moelleux au chocolat), highest-rec’d restaurant in town on TripAdvisor, blogposts: http://provencetayls.blogspot.com/2013/06/lestrade-in-saint-saturnin-les-apt.html http://twoweekesinprovence.blogspot.com/2011/10/chevre-salade-lestrade-st-saturnin.html, various people staying here liked it: http://www.vrbo.com/411731ha/reviews
- Bonnieux: L’Arôme - www.laromerestaurant.com, closed Thurs lunch, Wed, Michelin bib gourmand, Gault & Millau, Gantié, Routard, “intimacy with the land”, fresh, 14th century building, €31-67, rec’d by CHs (datopone liked the rack of lamb, kurtis said it was “one of the best if not the best” meals but not memorable, ggow_12 says “satisfactory meal, with good, simple food” but pork was a bit dry)
- Buoux: Auberge de la Loube- closed Sun dinner, Mon, Thurs, 04 90 74 19 58, rec’d by 1 CH, Slow Travelers, Gault&Millau, Peter Mayle (spoken of lovingly in A Year in Provence), but another CH warns it’s not as good anymore?? http://www.theluberon.com/restaurants/auberge-de-la-loube beautiful photos: http://thepauperedchef.com/2009/05/auberge-de-la-loube.html, 1 CH (degustazione) says it’s “rustic but good”, kurtis says the appetizers/cold plates are the main draw, very memorable setting with horse carriages, datopone in 2012 says “very special lunch” with Provençal “feast” of veggies including “caramelized onions that tasted more like honey than onions” glowing yelp reviews: http://www.yelp.com/biz/auberge-de-la-loube-buoux ...everyone says main courses are blah, just order appetizers
- Beaumettes: Fleur du Sel - https://sites.google.com/site/beaumetteslafleurdesel/ very close to our B&B, most popular Gordes restaurant on TripAdvisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurants-g187248-Gordes_Luberon_Vaucluse_Provence.html ...menu looks a big haute cuisine but might be good?
- Gordes: La Ferme de la Huppe - www.lafermedelahuppe.com 18th-century dry stone building, lavender rooms, pool, restaurant (closed M/T lunch and Sun), run by husband and wife (Vivien and Fabien Ernandes), rec’d by Michelin, Pudlo, and several CHs (boredough, kurtis)
This riverside town was a major Roman trading city (and still has a number of old ruins, including a well-preserved amphitheater and theater), and connects inland Provence with the Camargue (see below). Its historic center is small and walkable, with cute shops and pedestrian-friendly plazas. Arles makes a great "home base" for exploring Provence and/or the Camargue.
Things to Do
- Theater and Amphitheater
- Van Gogh Museum - has works inspired by Van Gogh (not any works by Van Gogh)
Places to Eat
- ***Soleileis, 9 rue du Docteur Fanton, 2 - 6:30 PM rec’d Routard, *great* sorbets (stick to the fruit flavors...the "creamy" flavors are a bit icy...when we went here in 2015 she had wonderful pear and "wild plum")
- A Cote Bistrot - the more casual bistro "next to" Jean-Luc Rabanel's more fancy restaurant; Michelin Bib Gourmand; we had 2 great meals here in 2015; this guy had a bad experience but frankly it sounds like he was a pain in the butt about moving inside & outside
- L'Atelier du Jean-Luc Rabanel - 2 Michelin stars
- Le Jardin de Manon www.restaurant-jardin-manon.fr, member of Conservatoire Grand Sud Des Cuisines, looked nice
- Comptoir du Sud - delicatessen with sandwiches and other quick dishes (including take-away), inexpensive, rec’d Routard
- Cusine de Comptoir - tartine place (using Poliane bread), see these blogposts for more: http://theprovencepost.blogspot.com/2011/11/one-restaurant-i-love-in-arles.html http://www.thepauperedchef.com/2009/05/restaurants-we-werent-looking-for-provence.html
- La Mule Blanche - old blacksmith (maréchalerie), known for its great salads, nice terrace, inexpensive, rec’d Routard
- Le Bar à Thym - , rec’d Routard, inexpensive, terrace with regulars, fresh juice, salads, lunch fare every day except Sun until 7 PM
- La Bodeguita - rec’d Routard, small bodega with tapas and “sunny cuisine”
- L’Autruche - rec’d Routard, fresh cuisine with good products, closed Sun/Mon
- Le Plaza - La Paillote - rec’d Routard - “local institution”, young chef with French/Provençal traditions, nice terrace, closed We/Thurs lunch
- La Comédie - rec’d Routard, fresh-made pasta with seafood, simple but good Med cuisine, terrace on the street
- Le Jardin de Manon - rec’d Routard, “spirit of the south”, terroir/market driven, good value, closed Tues dinner, Wed
- L’Ouvre Boite - rec’d Routard, spice shop for the chef behind La Chassagnette, run by his younger brother, tapas (both Spanish & Japanese), vegetables from Chassagnette’s garden
- Le 16 - rec’d Routard, closed Sat/Sun, small menu + chalkboard, simple market/fresh
- Le Gibolin - rec’d Routard, closed Sun/Mon, cute wine bar with small plates run by couple
- Chez Félix - rec’d Routard, lunch only, closed Mon, all organic/Slow Food
- Fée Gourmande - rec’d Routard, Members of Conservatoire Grand Sud Des Cuisines, closed Tues/Wed, nice place
- Bistrot des Artistes - rec’d Routard, closed Mon-Th dinner, terrace, market produce
- A Côté - rec’d routard for fancy/gastronomic
- Outside of town:
- --> Raphèle-les-Arles: Ferme-Auberge de Barbegal - www.barbegal.fr near the Barbegal Roman ruins (an old mill/aqueduct), rec'd by many people (Petit Futé, Wine Travel Guides, parigi on Chowhound, etc.), dinner-only on Saturday and Sunday only (except if you have a large group)
- ...also see the Camargue section, below
The Rhône river ends in this marshy swampland that has been reclaimed for a number of purposes, including rice production, salt, and raising bulls for meat. Also known for a wide variety of birds (including pink flamingos) and a unique species of beautiful white horses, this is a strange region with cowboys and natural beauty. Be careful for mosquitos in the summer/early autumn, especially at dawn/dusk if there isn't much wind (we didn't have a huge problem in mid-June, but it was pretty windy...and we avoided dawn/dusk). This guy argues you shouldn't go, but my guess is he's not a nature lover. Creme de Languedoc has some great general info and lodging advice.
Things to Do
- Salt Works -
- Aigues Mortes - old walled city with some interesting stores and restaurants; get off the main streets to feel more atmosphere
- Saintes-Maries-sur-Mer - "les Saintes" is the major seaside town, and is almost 100% tacky tourist shops...but it also hosts an old church dedicated to Saint Mary Solomé and Mary Jacobé, who supposedly accompanied Mary Magdalene on a boat from the Holy Land to this spot (yes, 3 saints named "Mary" in one boat). In the crypt is the statue of Saint Sara, who is venerated by Roma (Gypsies). Also nice beaches. More at www.saintesmaries.com/en
- Horse Riding - it's a thrill to ride one of the partly-wild, partly-tame white horses in the Camargue—you really get a feel for the landscape getting off the main roads
Places to Eat
- ***La Telline - (22 min from Arles) rec’d by CHs (including mangeur), countryside “a true local favourite”, “isolated cottage restaurant” www.restaurantlatelline.fr cash only, also rec’d by Routard (“saved as a secret”, “rustic, intimate”, old farm with peaceful garden, fresh fish and tellines [a kind of shellfish], good desserts), member of Conservatoire Grand Sud Des Cuisines, rec’d Lonely Planet, LeFooding, Pudlo, Petit Fute, 04.90.97.01.75, closed Tues/Wed, and Thurs lunch...we especially loved their garlic-soaked tellines and delicious steak
- Mas d'Icard - rec’d Nancy Chang, “Not super fancy or super expensive, but we really enjoyed our meal there, and it was right near the Camargue places for horseback-riding. (That was amazing -- they might have even arranged it for us. Flamingos!)” www.masdicard.sitew.com €25/pp sans boissons...next to Mas de Frigoulès (which rents out horses, 1 hour €17, 1.5 hours €25, 2 hours €35...)
- Mas de Peint www.masdepeint.com near Salin de Giraud, rec’d Lonely Planet and Fodors as “the ultimate mas experience” although says pool is unheated and not all rooms have showers; member of Conservatoire des Cuisines de Camargue, reservations essential, somewhat expensive)
- La Chassagnette - www.chassagnette.fr pretty serious place with tasting menus, etc. fancy haute cuisine, also rec’d Lonely Planet and several CHs for beautiful (albeit pricey) vegetables, member of Conservatoire Grand Sud Des Cuisines
- Les Saladelles - Routard rec’s for “generous traditional cuisine”
- Chez Bob - closed Mon/Tues and Sun dinner, *must* reserve 1 week in advance, 04–90–97–00–29, www.restaurantbob.fr countryside institution, rustic Camargue cooking in “isolated stone farmhouse”, also rec’d by Lonely Planet, Fodors (“taste Camargue at its rustic best”), & Routard (describes the arbor/trees/old furniture with a fire to roast specialties) http://lefooding.com/en/restaurants/restaurant-chez-bob-arles-1 ...when we went here in 2015 we thought it was a bit overpriced
- Ô Pica Pica - SMM simple, fresh fish, rec’d Lonely Planet
- La Grange - SMM cowboy / bull meat place, rec’d Lonely Planet
- La Casita - SMM fresh catch of the day, run by a couple, rec’d Lonely Planet
- La Cabane aux Coquillages - seafood in SMM, rec’d Lonely Planet
- Mas des Colverts - rec’d Routard, chef Roger Merlin “is a magician...defending the true Camarguaise cuisine”
- Casa Româna - rec’d Routard, pizzas and traditional fare
- Hotel Mangio Fango - rec’d Routard, sea and land food with good products
- Hotel de Cacharel - rec’d Routard, casse-croutes with pool/panorama/horses
- Manade des Baumelles - rec’d Routard nice place, they don’t say much about the food though
- Aigues-Mortes/Petit Camargue:
- L’Atelier de Nicos - laid back, unpretentious, chalkboard menu, bull, pistou, etc., rec'd Fodors
- Le Tamaris → wikitravel says “most rustic – most likely to prepare food you absolutely cannot get outside of the Camargue” → actually in Petite Camargue, 13 rue Victor Hugo, 30740 Le Cailar, www.restaurantletamaris.com [also one in SMM at 4 place Remparts, but that’s not the one], also rec’d Petit Futé
(Marseille is in the region of PACA but culturally not really part of the French Riviera or inland Provence—it's it's own thing! Convenient air & train connections.)
This port town will remind you a bit of Naples: ancient history, beautiful scenery, but a bit rough on the edges. Marseille has a very active African quarter, where you can sample food and products from all over French-speaking Africa. The regional French food is excellent, too, with such favorites as tapenade and bouillabaisse. Among the historical sites is the Abbey of Saint Victoire and the Château d'If (made famous in The Count of Monte Cristo). Don't miss a hike (or bus/taxi ride) up to the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Garde, which has some awesome views. If you're in town for a while, take a drive down the "Calanques" (coves/cliffs) to Cassis. Some places to check out:
- La Passarelle - 52 Rue Plan Fourmiguier, 066-862-7787, closed Sun/Mon, a homey little restaurant where you can find real, delicious, "home-style" French food, with a hand-written menu that changes every day based on what is fresh--miles away from the overpriced, touristy restaurants a few blocks away! Check out this blog post review.
- Pan Quodietien - 18 Place aux Huiles, (+33) 491-335-500, awesome bakery/pastry shop...croissants to die for!
- La Cantine - 27 cours d'Estienne d'Orves, good place for lunch
- Hotel Relax - 4 Rue Corneille, (+33) 491-331-587, relatively cheap, no-frills but nice hotel, rec'd by Let's Go
These beautiful cliffside coves are just east of Marseille, between Marseille and Cassis. Introduction: www.marvellous-provence.com/other-places/sights-and-attractions/calanques/cassis
- Calanque En Vau = most photographed, near Cassis (on relatively difficult hike “Sentier du Petit Prince” from Cassis: www.calanques13.com/chemin-port-pin-en-vau.html ) www.calanques13.com/calanque-en-vau.html ...can also start from Col de la Gardiole (~40-60 min hike, not as steep?) fire danger level (check before venturing out on a hike): www.paca.gouv.fr/files/massif/ http://www.calanques13.com/acces-calanques.html longer hike: http://luberonwalks.blogspot.com/2014/03/les-calanques-from-col-gardiol-to-col.html brief guide: www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/mar/13/cassis-calanques-walking-beaches-france
- restaurants in Cassis:
- Le Jardin d’Emile
- La Bonaparte - 14 rue Gén Bonaparte (one TripAdvisor says “local authenticity, great food and service and their lunch menu is real good value for money”)
- Le Passage
- restaurants that allow patrons to park near (lower) calanque:
- http://lechateausormiou.fr/ (known for its bouillabaise → pretty reasonable prices too! ...no credit cards...the drive to Sormiou is apparently also nice)
- www.restaurant-lunch.com Nautic Bar at Cap Morgiou (Lonely Planet rec’s as “dreamy”)
- also not as impressive calanque but supposedly nice restaurant near Ciotat, Chez Tania, www.figuerolles.com
- Sugiton: can drive to town of Luminy, then ~45 min walk to water (but not as far to the Belvedere?) www.nomadtravellers.com/backpacking/99-hiking/169-les-calanques-marseille-hidden-fjords belvedere: https://500px.com/photo/87422577/belvedere-de-sugiton-calanques-de-marseille-by-arnaud-devigne http://lifeup.pl/en/2012/09/15/france-calanque-sugiton-and-calanque-morgiou/ great photos: http://jimandcindyinfrance.blogspot.com/2013/06/june-11-calanque-de-sugiton-another.html page with lots of random info (including the out/back to belvedere is easy): www.roberts-1.com/c/v/e/09b/ confirms ~25 min walk: www.calanques13.com/balade-belvedere-sugiton.html
- near Marseille are less-impressive calanques, but you can stay at the first one at www.lapetitecalanque.com etc. (good restuarant? Les Tamaris)