Monaco, Cannes and St Tropez are all places which need little introduction such is their notoriety, but other areas of the French Riviera are equally spectacular without the crowds that are associated with the aforementioned glamour destinations of the Riviera. In terms of a relaxing retreat, there are few better locations and it is little wonder that it is a place that locals go to escape and unwind. Boutique Travel Blog and villa rental company Affinity Holidays France have partnered to help you discover this stunning landscape in the Var region of France.
Top Day Trip:
This varies depending on the season. The renowned lavender fields of Provence are just a short drive away from the coastal region of the Var, but are only really in bloom for two months of the year in June and July.
For a unique day trip and wonderful escape try the lesser known islands of the French Riviera. The Ile de Porquerolles is part of the Ile d’Hyères, situated a fifteen minute boat ride from the port town of Hyères and boasts what was recently voted Europe’s best beach for 2015, la Plage de Notre Dame. However, it remains relatively less well-known and is also a little mecca for nature lovers who will love the fact that the island is off-limits for cars and is a protected nature reserve. For the best possible island experience, rent a bike from the town when you arrive and discover hidden coves and the wilder east coast of the island. The pine trees provide protection from the hot Mediterranean sun and seem to cool the interior of the island down by a few degrees. If you decide against bringing a picnic with you, there is a three-star Michelin restaurant on the island.
If wine is your thing, this is definitely the destination for you. Provence and the South of France is one of the finest producers of rosé wine in the world and with the burgeoning popularity of the ‘pink drink’ the vineyards in the area offer a range of interesting tours. You can ride through vineyards on electric bikes or take the more traditional route and walk through before a tasting session. Wine has been cultivated for centuries in these parts, so it is safe to say that whichever vineyard you choose to visit, their offering will be superb. Vineyards in the region stretch from the coast to much further inland.
The beaches further to the west of the French Riviera are sandier and more open than their counterparts in Nice and Monaco. This allows for a wind to kick up off shore and creates the perfect conditions for water sports such as windsurfing and kite surfing. If you are travelling with children, there are a number of schools along the coast that offer lessons in English. The Giens Peninsula close to Hyères is a particularly good spot for kite surfing, though many places from Fréjus to Hyères have the open beaches associated with the sport.
Another point which depends on the season. French cuisine – and more particularly from the south of the country – is renowned throughout the world, so there are endless dishes to try. Pissaladiere, farcis and tapenade are just a few specialities that we urge you to try, however it is a larger meal you are looking for, there is one winner in winter and another in summer. In winter, Daube Provençale is a must. Braised beef is left to simmer with local herbs, red wine and onions for a number of hours, until it melts in your mouth and is served with pasta and a glass of local red wine. In the summer, the sea is king and there is a wide range of fish to choose from. Swordfish and tuna are two popular choices, but daurade (sea bream) is a local favourite, stuffed with rosemary, served with fresh local vegetables and washed down with a glass of rosé. If you are feeling brave enough, you can even try these yourself from the kitchen of your Provence villa.
Top Historical Site:
Whilst perhaps not so well-preserved as the historical sites deeper into Provence in Arles or Orange, the coastal town of Fréjus has several Roman sites to visit. From an aqueduct, to a Roman Theatre and even an Amphitheatre, it is a fascinating place to visit and understand the history of the area and clearly how important Fréjust was strategically at the time. At its height, the Amphitheatre could hold up to 12,000 spectators and whilst it is not in top shape anymore, it is still a fascinating visit for history buffs. As the town is not large, it is possible to visit all the sites in one day, leaving time for a dip in the sea.