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Provence is a dream destination of picturesque villages, glorious landscape, fabulous food and wine and much much more. With sunshine more than 300 days a year, it’s an ideal holiday destination year-round. If you’re looking for a break with beautiful landscapes, fabulous gastronomy, and local wines, untamed countryside, and sun, the Provence might just be the destination of your dreams.  

Here are a few towns that are top of our list:

Ravishing Roussillon

The hilltop town is enchanting. There’s a large car park from which the views over the ochre coloured cliffs are stunning but take the short walk into the town to discover its delights. Pretty cafés, flowers cascading from window boxes, quirky art and wine shops and cobbled streets that wind around offering the most spectacular vistas.

Gorgeous Grasse

The roads around Grasse lead to tiny picturesque villages via hair pin bends and mountain passes. The perfume capital of France is pretty but the real lure is being able to visit the perfume markers and being assailed by the extraordinary scents they create. Get off the beaten track and head to nearby Cabris. This authentic Provençal hilltop village overlooks the Mediterranean Sea will delight you with the smell of lavender and rosemary in the air and old stone villas with worn blue shutters.  The locals gather in the square drinking pastis and playing pétanque and allow time to just pass while they enjoy the moment. 

Magnificent Mandelieu

Quiet roads, long sandy beaches and just a few miles from Cannes, this lovely place is simply intoxicating and very relaxing.

Exquisite Eze

Credit: Office de Tourisme d’Eze

For breath-taking views, the perched village of Eze fulfils all your dreams. Close to the sunny city of Nice, it’s famous for its stunning panoramas over the Mediterranean Sea, gorgeous gardens and pretty streets. It’s also very close to Monaco, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer and a whole host of southern French beauties.

Stunning St Paul de Vence

Another hill top beauty, in fact, one of the most beautiful in France. It’s inspired artists through the ages who have fallen head over heels for the special light, the wiggly cobbled streets and ancient fountains. 

Head on over to our search pages to find the holiday home that suits you in Provence – we love helping to make your holidays dreams come true…

If you’ve been glued to the TV-loving Escape to the Chateau and Escape to the Chateau DIY – we’ve got some great recommendations for you to have your very Escape to the Chateau holiday, but without the work!

Escape to your own Chateau

Who hasn’t fallen in love with turrets reaching up to the sky, moats sparkling in the sunshine, views from shuttered windows over vineyards and gorgeous gardens? Chateaux come in all shapes and sizes in France, from the grand fancy castles of the Loire Valley, fairytale castles in Burgundy and thick stone castles in the south, guaranteed to stay cool in hot summers. Oozing history, filled with atmosphere and decorated with style, a chateau stay is inspiring and special, a great way to channel your inner aristocrat.

At French Connections, we’ve got loads of chateaux holiday homes, from B&B to self-catering, across France. Some are huge, some are Bijou, all of them are fabulous.

Just click here to see all our chateau holiday rentals

Fancy being the King or Queen of your own castle?

It might only be for a week or so, but we all deserve a little bit of luxury in our lives and there’s nothing ordinary about these chateau holiday homes.

We’ve picked a few we think you’ll love but click on the link above to see a whole load more.

Charming chateau picks in France

Great for the whole family: Le Castel du Plessis Gerbault in Indre-et-Loire is perfect if you’ve got kids. It has a swimming pool, huge garden, well-equipped kitchen, barbecue area and comfy rooms. It’s just 2km from Chinon in the heart of the Loire Valley, aka the Valley of Kings thanks to the number of gorgeous chateau there are. This is a self-catering rental and sleeps up to 7.

Celebrating a special event and want all your friends there? Then the Chateau et Gites Saint Gervais in Normandy might just be perfect…  This is a charming castle with typical Normandy style annexes from the 12th, 15th and 16th century. The castle and two-holiday homes are surrounded by a park of 70 hectares, with views over the 'Vallée de la Calonne'. The beach of Deauville is just 30 km away and the D Day sites an hour’s drive. There’s something in this area for everyone from castles and horse riding to beaches, culture and gorgeous towns and villages, even Monet’s Garden at Giverny and stunning Honfleur to name just a couple of highlights. Sleeping up to 35, this chateau is great value too.

Oh so romantic and perfect for two in the Loire Valley: The Chambre Bleu is a king size room with luxurious decoration in this family chateau owned by the Count and Countess Vanssay in Sarthe. Furnished with silk fabrics, antique oil paintings and precious Louis XV antiques. There’s even a Juliet balcony overlooking the garden and park. A truly spectacular area of France with loads to do and see year-round. What’s not to love…

Luxurious and truly special: The Chateau de Saussignac in Dordogne offers a gorgeous 17th-century apartment in the right wing of the castle. Antique tapestries, rugs and stunning Baccarat crystal chandelier complement the rich, wooden paneling in the salon. Tall French windows on both sides of the building allow all day sun to stream through. The 4-metre ceilings with exposed beams, large working fireplaces and mirrors add an elegant and inviting feel to the downstairs living area, while upstairs there are two well-appointed bedrooms with antique furniture and modern beds, a bathroom, toilet, laundry and TV area. There is also a sunny south-facing private garden. Self-catering sleeps 6 and set in the heart of a small village surrounded by vineyards… you won’t want to leave!

See more fabulous chateau rentals here

Check out our gorgeous Manoir houses for rent here

Want more – these lovely Maisons de Maitre will melt your heart! 

Amboise in the Loire Valley is a historic town and well worth a visit. It’s dominated by a grand chateau, the turrets reach high into the sky, its windows look over the town and country. It holds a lofty place in French history and was lived in by the Kings of France from the 15th to the 19th centuries. It’s also where you’ll find the tomb of the great Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci…

The Chateau du Clos Lucé

A few minutes’ walk away from the royal Chateau d’Amboise is a much smaller chateau, far less grand. It was the home of an artist who changed the world with his art and his designs – Leonardo da Vinci.

The 15th-century Chateau du Clos Lucé where Leonardo lived, has been wonderfully restored. It looks just as it did when he arrived, aged 63, in 1516 at the invitation of King Francis I of France.

In his homeland Italy, he was considered old, past it, with the much younger Michelangelo taking centre stage. Francis I offered him his dream job “First Painter, Engineer, and Architect to the King” plus a home for life and a huge pension.

Leonardo had always been a bit of a nomad, he had no home to call his own and moved from town to city – wherever the work was. He wasn’t rich and jumped at the offer from the French King. He made his way from Italy to France, crossing the Alps, on a donkey. Among the belongings, he carried with him were his precious manuscripts and an almost finished painting of a woman he called La Giaconda or Mona Lisa. It was to become one of the most famous paintings of all time.

Leonardo’s genius extended to several areas and the opportunity to do as he wished was just what he wanted.  It was an innovative prospect at the time when a painter was a painter and an engineer was an engineer. Leonardo was an accomplished musician, wrote poetry, and was, in fact, a sort of Medieval rapper. He was an architect, botanist, and engineer – a man of many skills.

Leonardo moved into the Chateau du Clos Lucé and here he stayed until his death on 2 May 1519.  The miniature castle has a homely feel to it and a definite feeling of the past. The rooms have been restored with the help of specialist historians and it’s easy to imagine Leonardo in his long gown moving through the castle.

This bijou chateau (at least by the standards of Amboise) is light and airy – perfect for an artist. In the former studio, there are paintings in progress and a desk which looks as though the great man is still at work but popped out for a break. It’s quite astounding to know that he worked on the Mona Lisa in this room.

Leonardo’s Legacy

His cabinet of curiosities was filled with oddities and is somewhat macabre. But, you don’t get to draw the insides of bodies of humans and animals by looking at the outside so it’s not a surprise to discover such bits and pieces.

His notebooks record the minutiae of his day and his thoughts. Some notes are poignant, everyday things like what he had for dinner. He wrote about his feelings on life advising that older people shouldn’t drink more than one glass of wine a day and should become vegetarian for better health. The last entry in his diary reads “I have to go now my soup will get cold”…

In the basement, dozens of Leonardo’s designs have been brought to life with models and film.

There are magnificent gardens at the chateau. They’re filled with designs by Leonardo, such as his tank and paddle boat. There is a lovely café and restaurant where you can take a break and enjoy the scenery. You can even do wine tasting in the underground passages of the Chateau, it gives you goosebumps to know that the great artist and the great King once traveled along this route to meet each other in secret.

The Chateau du Clos Lucé is one of the most atmospheric da Vinci sites in the world and makes for a truly fascinating visit.

The Chateau du Clos Lucé is open year-round (except 25 December and 1 January). See the website for details: www.vinci-closluce.com

French Connections has lots of gorgeous holiday rentals close by including chateaux – pop on over to our search pages to find the home from home of your dreams in the Loire Valley…

If you’re a lover of gorgeous gardens then you’ll be truly spoiled for choice in France. From the gardens of chateaux to public parks, private gardens open to the public and even an entire village awarded “Remarkable Garden” status, you’re sure to find a garden to fall in love with wherever you go.

Here are just a few of our favourites:

Monet’s Garden Giverny

The artist Claude Monet’s house and gardens are open to the public from April to October and entice around 500,000 people to the little town of Giverny in Normandy each year. Visitors flock to admire the pretty pink house where Monet lived until his death in December 1926. All fall in love with the magnificent gardens that everyone will recognise from his luminous paintings. Whatever month you visit during that time, the garden is an absolute feast for the eyes and the scent is dazzling. This garden is an exquisite patchwork of colour, almost like stepping into the heart of one Monet’s paintings. Go early in the morning or late afternoon in summer months to avoid the crowds.

Details: fondation-monet.com

The gardens of a Queen and a Mistress at the Chateau de Chenonceau

The Chateau of Chenonceau is famous for its floral displays. Every room is exquisitely decorated with scented, utterly stunning bouquets made by a master florist in the Chateau’s floral workshop.

It wasn’t until the renaissance days that flowers were grown simply to look good and to decorate the interior. Previous owners Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II, both loved to have flower displays in the chateau. Records tell us that some of them were “monumental” taller than a man, flamboyant, colourful and showy.

Diane’s Garden, as it’s called, is on the right-hand side of the chateau. Catherine’s garden is on the left-hand side. Exquisitely maintained by head gardener Nicholas Tomlan, an American, and his team who grow 130,000 plants each year.  

Details: www.chenonceau.com/en

Mystical, magical Prieuré d’Orsan

One of the most beautiful gardens of France is to be found in the grounds of an ancient abbey in Berry Province, Loire Valley. At the Prieuré d’Orsan, the medieval monastic style layout are based on 12th century records. Every year the gardeners grow 2,500 saplings to make the gorgeous and inspirational wooden structures that are peppered throughout the gardens. Visitors can enjoy the gardens from April through September, and there’s a charming shop on site, full of covetable gardening paraphernalia.

Details: www.prieuredorsan.com

Kew Gardens meets Chelsea Flower show at Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire

The equivalent of the Chelsea Flower Show in France is The International Garden Festival at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire.

Each year a series of conceptual gardens are created chosen from hundreds of submissions from designers from all around the world and put on show in the Chaumont Festival over a period of six months. More than twenty amazing gardens – the most innovative, original, beautiful and sensational designs are brought to life in this fabulous part of the Loire Valley.

There are also permanent gardens open year-round, set off by a stunning chateau in which art installations enhance the ancient décor.

Details: www.domaine-chaumont.fr/en/international-garden-festival

Chedigny, Loire Valley – a village with garden status

Chedigny is a sleepy little village that gently resides in the heart of Touraine in the Loire Valley. You might miss it if you blink as you go through even though it is incredibly pretty and quintessentially French. However, every year the tiny town bursts into life and becomes one of the most popular places for rose lovers in the Loire thanks to the ravishing roses that fill its streets and gardens.

Chedigny is unique, the whole village is a classified “jardin remarquable” (remarkable garden). In May the roses bloom and on the last weekend of the month the village holds a 2-day ‘Festival des Roses’ that draws thousands to its streets to relish the fragrant fete with its workshops, artists and even to buy some of the beautiful rose bushes.

Next time you’re in the Loire Valley, drop in and smell the roses in this lovely village.

Details of the festival of roses in Chedigny: www.chedigny.fr

We’ve got loads of lovely villas with gorgeous gardens all over France – helping you make your holiday dreams come true.

 

Image Copyright: Imogen Windsor

Batz-sur-Mer is a typically French village on the south-west coast of the Loire-Atlantique region, close to the bigger and more stylish harbour town of Le Croisic. The region boasts lovely beaches, historic towns and extensive, very flat, salt marshes, the produce of which is a huge source of regional pride.

After an easy 75-minute flight from Bristol to Nantes, followed by a 90-minute drive, we arrived in Batz. We were charmed straight away by its quietness and lack of pretension. Cheerful bunting was stretched across narrow streets lined with rows of colourful houses, their traditional shutters flung proudly open.

In the village centre is the Church of Saint-Guénolé, with impressive views from the top of its imposing tower, over the village to the picturesque harbour at Le Croisic, across the salt marshes, and far beyond out to sea.

Image Copyright: Imogen Windsor

Batz also has a chapel ruin, two museums (one devoted entirely to salt farming!), and some lovely beaches. We spent time at the gorgeous Valentin beach, then scrambled over rocks to reach some much smaller bays, though fortunately there’s a coastal path for those less keen to clamber. The village is well served by shops, boulangers, restaurants, and markets, but everything seemed very expensive thanks to Brexit and the poor exchange rate.

In the region, English isn’t widely spoken, except in the bigger towns, which forced my husband and I to practice our limited French. Our children, aged 10 and seven, were delighted, giggling uncontrollably when I actually spoke French to a policeman at airport immigration. He managed a smile!

With patchy weather limiting our beach days, we took the opportunity to explore the area. The historic town of Guérande, with its medieval ramparts, has an attractive centre with good shops, restaurants, and a lovely church.

To keep the children happy, we took them to Pornic Adventure forest, where mixed-ability zip wire challenges were brilliantly rigged between trees and over lakes. The children absolutely loved it; my husband, scared of heights, bravely participated. I just watched.

Image Copyright: Imogen Windsor

Determined to see some French castles, we visited the impressive Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes, where you can walk around the fortifications for free. The ruin of Château de Ranrouët in Herbignac was interesting, but the privately-owned Château de Pornic you can only admire from the outside. Pornic itself was pleasant to wander around, with galleries, art studios, shops, and cafés aplenty.

In need of some glamour, we spent a day at La Baule, a chic and affluent resort with just a whiff of Côte d’Azur about it. With a beautiful beach stretching for miles, and clear - though chilly - water, it was great for a spot of people-watching!

The region has much to offer. It’s accessible from the UK, and people were generally very friendly. It’s easy to understand why it’s a popular holiday destination for the French.

The small city of Orange in Provence has bucket loads of charm that has been built up over the centuries quite literally - for the Romans were here 2000 years ago and the town is proud of its ancient legacy.

The Roman Theatre at Orange

You can’t go to Orange and not see the UNESCO open-air Roman theatre. It has a 37-metre high wall and a stage facing a rounded auditorium of stone benches, the top seats gleaming against the azure blue sky.

When Louis XIV visited Orange, he said of the theatre that it was “the most beautiful wall in my Kingdom.

High up is a statue of Emperor Augustus – looking down on everyone. From the ground, you’d never know that he’s actually 3.5m tall.

In the 19th century, in some areas of France, town architects began pulling down ancient buildings to make way for new. The Roman theatre survived when Prosper Mérimée, an inspector with the newly formed Monuments Historiques, implemented an extensive restoration campaign. The Roman theatre was finally restored to its former glory and wowed the public.

If only these Roman walls could talk

To this day, the theatre at Orange continues to inspire and delight audiences - just as the Romans intended.

Many of the concerts at the theatre are free and it’s an experience that shouldn't be missed if you're in this lovely town. You can get tickets during the day at the theatre reception desk.

In 1869 the theatre hosted what was then called “Fetes Romaines”, the theatrical performances were an immediate success. This became an annual summer event renamed Chorégies and it attracts internationally-renowned artists to perform in front of crowds of thousands, all squished in on those ancient stone benches. The acoustics are stunning, the location is wonderful, the ambiance is exquisite. Classical music, ballet, opera, pop, rock and more, definitely an experience not to miss.  

You can also take an audio guided tour of the theatre.

Details of events and tours: www.theatre-antique.com

What to see and do in Orange

Next to the Roman theatre is the Roman museum de cadastre. It's a great little museum with an eclectic collection and a very famous map. The Roman survey map of an area between Orange and Nice dates to the second century AD.

The Roman Triumphal Arch of Orange

A short distance from the theatre is yet another souvenir of the Romans - a grand triumphal arch. This immense 2000-year-old monument was until recently, a place that cars drove Thankfully the authorities have seen sense and have begun a programme of preservation, placing the arch in the centre of a roundabout and directing traffic around it as well as creating a way for visitors to get close to it as it deserves.

Orange town for relaxing and gastronomy

The centre of Orange is an easy place to get around on foot with plenty of shops, restaurants and places to while away hours in the sun. For a Roman vibe, try La Grotte, a restaurant built into the Roman Theatre wall, it’s very popular with the locals. And for people watching, Au Salon du Charlotte is just right.

Orange is more than its Roman legacy, the town is lovely too and great for spending a day relaxing, spoiling yourself with fabulous food and enjoying sitting in the sun watching the world go by.

Pop over to our holiday home search pages to discover loads of lovely holiday rentals in Provence – we love to help make your holiday dreams come true…

Sunny Nimes is one of those cities you just fall in love with. Deep blue skies, wonderful restaurants, Roman architecture, beautiful green spaces and a laid-back lifestyle make this one of the most fascinating places to visit.

The Roman Connection

The famous Roman arena is the beating heart of Nimes. Built at the end of the first century, in its heyday, this place would have seated all 24,000 inhabitants of what was even then a vibrant city. Today it seats 17,000 and there’s plenty of entertainment from festivals, concerts, opera, theatre, bullfights and more.

One of the most famous annual events held here is the Roman Games held each spring. Rent a toga for a few Euros, do up your sandals and channel your inner Roman as you enjoy the spectacle – gladiator fights, chariot races, and parades.

Just a few minutes’ walk from the arena you’ll find the magnificent temple called Maison Carrée a white stone building that was once a part of the Roman forum, now an art gallery.

In the gorgeous Jardin des Fontaines are the ruins of a Roman library. As well as of Roman baths. Today the park is perfect for relaxing under the shade of the beautiful lime trees or enjoying a game of boules.

Tour Magne is the last of 80 towers that were once embedded in the city walls. You can get a fabulous view of the city from here.

Tip: Buy a combined ticket with entry to the Nimes Arena, Maison Carrée, Tour Magne and the Roman theatre at Orange, it’s valid for a month and saves you money and queuing.

Eating out in Nimes

In the summer people here eat dinner late at night when the air has cooled down – it gets very hot during the daytime. Try the Brasserie Le Napoleon which opened in 1813 and is an institution in Nimes. Fabulous interior, cool pavement tables, and a fabulous menu.

For lunch, locals love the shaded terrace restaurant of the Carré d’Art Museum which offers spectacular views of the city and a great, seasonal menu.

Don’t miss

2018 sees the opening of the brand new Musée de la Romanité. It’s one of the largest contemporary architectural projects in France and will reveal the history of Arles from the 7th century BC through the Romans to the Middle ages – it promises to be one of the coolest cultural visits in Provence.

Nimes Tourist Office website for more details

French Connections has hundreds of wonderful holiday homes in the south of France – pop on over to our search pages to find the holiday home of your dreams.