|Subject: re: South of France|
I second whole heartedly Felice's recommendations. The SE of France (Provence)
is a vast area and you'll have to make some choices.
A few things I want to add, particularly in the Var, where I live. Saint-Tropez is in my opinion a must, despite the hordes of tourists in the summer. But if you arrive early you have no problem with the access road. Tuesdays and Saturdays it has its market on Place des Lices, one of the best markets in the region. Afterwards, a stroll through the old section, La Ponche, and then a coffee or otherwise at Sénéquier in the old port for a theater of people and boat watching will not disappoint you. You can see and read an article on Saint-Tropez (and other places mentioned by Felice) on our web site.
Port-Grimaud, close by, is also a favorite of mine. It's a Venice-like resort of second homes with yachts parked at the front door. Each house is different. The architect, Spoerry, based his design on the old fishermen's houses in Saint-Tropez, particularly La Ponche. A visit is therefore quite interesting after Saint-Tropez.
For more glitter, megayachts and perhaps stars you might want to spend time on the spectacular beach of Pampelonne, very busy in the afternoon, but surprisingly quiet in the morning. Everyone thinks it's the beach of Saint-Tropez, but it actually belongs to Ramatuelle, a perched village not far away, also worth a visit.
Then the road along the coast from Croix-Valmer to Hyeres is spectacular, much more interesting, imo, and quieter, than the corniche d'Esterel which leads to Cannes. Off the coast you will see three islands which you can visit per ferry. Porquerolles is the best known, where you can rent bicycles to cross the island to beaches and bays with Caribbean-like water. But, avoid them in July and August, the crowds are just too much.
Farther north, in between the Var and the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, are the Gorges du Verdon. Felice already wrote about them. They are a must! Whenever I have visitors, and these months it's pretty constant, I save the Gorges for last; I wouldn't know how to top it. Surprisingly so, as Felice remarked, the roads are not jam packed. Just a few days ago I took a few friends along the Canyon on a very hot day. But because of its altitude (1300 m at the highest) it's comfortable. There are two roads, one along the southern bank, one along the northern. Most of the time, I take the northern route, with the loop of the Route de Cretes that leads close to the canyon, with spectacular views. The only problem is that one should take the road from east to west, as most people do. The road is so narrow and winding that any car coming from the opposite direction gives you an instant heart attack. Most people know this, except for a few Dutch.. A Dutch travel writer has recommended the opposite direction. Every time I pass such a car with millimeters to spare on either side (especially the hard rock walls on the right) I curse this writer and vow to write him a note.
Moustiers-Ste-Marie, the place to buy faience, lies at the western end of the Gorges. Felice mentioned it. This is my only point of difference. I wouldn't recommend devoting all the time to find a parking space and the headache mingling with the other tourists in this town. It's a disappointment after all those efforts. Very touristy and low quality. Les Baux-de-Provence in the Vaucluse is even more crowded, if that were possible. But there I find that the efforts of walking miles to the village still has its rewards.
Hope my long story has helped a bit,
Frieda Lekkerkerker http://www.aboutprovence.com