Christmas in Provence
Destinations in France
AquitaineFrance’s south-westernmost region is a lush, green pocket of land caught between the mountains and the windswept Atlantic coast.
BordeauxBordeaux is a city of grandeur and sophistication, of old money and legendary vintages, where connoisseurs can take the time to savour wines and cuisine perfected over generations.
BrittanyRugged, windswept Brittany in north-west France is the coastal twin of Cornwall, and its happy-holidays charm matches its UK sister’s in buckets and spades.
BurgundyLocated in the heart of France, Burgundy is a region of peaceful canals, well-tended vineyards and rural charm – the epitome of la vie Française.
CorsicaCorsica is the ultimate short-haul adventure, tightly packing in all of the natural world’s best bits. It’s got mountains, fields and shimmering coastline. And it has a wild side too: wild boar wander and tortoises totter freely by your feet.
Côte d'AzurOn the coast that defined seaside glamour, you can never be too rich or too brown.
DordogneIn the warm valleys of southwestern France, where the Dordogne, Isle and Lot rivers wriggle their way to the Atlantic, the lush landscape, sunny days and mild temperatures combine to produce perfect conditions for grapes and truffles.
GersWhen it came to the natural lottery, the Gers won the biggest prize: a tapestry of colour-rich fields, shimmering shores, lush forests and fertile vineyards.
Languedoc-RoussillonSprawling from the chestnut-dotted Cévennes Mountains to a flamingo-flanked Mediterranean Coast, by way of magnificent ancient cities and rolling winelands, this region has reason to puff out its chest when declaring its geographical and metropolitan offerings.
LyonOften described, even by the Parisians, as being like Paris but without the crowds, France’s second city, Lyon, is a chic metropolis but with a style and frenetic pace all of its own.
NormandyA vast rural region of castles, Camembert and clifftops, Normandy is as rich in history as it is in mouthwatering rustic produce.
ParisParis is a dream project for pedestrians, with endless secrets hidden away from all the wonderful clichés.
Poitou-CharentesTopped by the Loire valley, tailed by Bordeaux, cooled by Atlantic breezes, Poitou-Charentes is the home of cognac, and a coast-to-country destination par excellence.
ProvenceThe south-west area of Provence is a land of light and colour, where the languid river Rhône winds its way through fruit orchards and fields of lavender before melting into the watery maze of the Camargue.
Rhône-AlpesNamed for the river running through it and the mountains at its edge, Rhône-Alpes is a region of vinous valleys, mighty peaks, lakeside spa towns and scenic drives.
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Stocked up on designer finds and stuffed full of steak tartare, ditch the city in favour of the verdant olive groves and limestone villages of the southern French countryside. Wind your way along Rhône, through the fruit orchards and fields of lavender, to Alain Ducasse’s romantic hillside hideaway, La Bastide de Moustiers. Make like Cézanne and hike up the nearby cliffs for dramatic views, then return home to nap in a hammock in the garden before a pastis aperitif on the patio and dinner at Ducasse’s restaurant. Spend your days on private food tours of the region and learning to press its famous olive oil. Visit artisan pottery and textile workshops, and join winemakers on private tasting tours of local vineyards. It won’t take long to slip into the relaxed Provençal lifestyle.
We’ve have to admit it: whenever we need a picture of a bedroom that radiates sensuousness, we reach for this photo of the Orangerie at Château de Saint Paterne in Normandy. But we make no apologies – this light-infused suite is as sexy as they come. Set apart from the main château building, among the 25-acre grounds, this beguiling boudoir is fantasy incarnate, in part thanks to the 19th-century theatrical backdrop that adorns the wall behind the bed.
Where better to start your honeymoon than the City of Love? An intimate ville of boulevards, boutiques and brasseries, Paris is the ultimate in style and cuisine. Get your first taste at Philippe Starck’s surprisingly restrained Le Royal Monceau, a sophisticated, art-inspired Haussmannian hôtel at one of the city’s prime addresses. Meander down the street and find the Arc de Triomphe towering over you, or head the other direction and get lost among the elegant stone buildings, neighbourhood cafés and tempting boulangeries and pâtisseries. Skip the queues to see the world’s greatest art at the Louvre, and dine at the table of honour at such landmarks as Benoit on exclusive Mr & Mrs Smith-arranged outings. Get private appointments at the trendy designer boutiques of the Marais, learn the secrets to baking a true Parisian baguette at an artisan boulanger and channel Hemingway with a wander through the Latin Quarter.
Cap Estel could easily be mistaken for an elegant wedding cake, with its cream and white tiers, candy-stick balconies and curved contours. This hotel boasts the unabashed, in-your-face glamour of a big-screen siren; it’s a Riviera retreat fit for the likes of Grace Kelly or Marilyn Monroe – apt really, given Èze’s proximity to filmstar-fabulous Cannes and Monaco. Built as a summer residence in 1898, the Cap has a private beach, and those lucky enough to land the Junior Suite 210 will enjoy uninterrupted views of the Mediterranean from their beautiful balustraded balcony.
This very French – et très charmant – country hotel just outside Avignon has all the vineyard views and wine-and-cheese tastings you’d expect from a Provençal stay. In Room 4, a Deluxe, the traditionally understated decor makes for a serene spot that’s ideal for breakfast in bed. The air of relaxation and tranquility extends to the inviting outdoor pool on the hotel’s terrace.
Turrets on the outside, Timorous Beasties wallpaper on the inside, this luxurious 12-room château retreat combines contemporary flair with traditional comforts, all put together by inpired interior designer Birgit Israel. Luxury room 16 is a knockout: guests are treated to huge south-facing windows which look onto a private terrace and the fountain in the courtyard below. Besides, it happens to be Birgit’s favourite room, which is reason enough for us.
The Périgord's vine-sprinkled terroir is a no man's land for vegetarians and calorie counters: with creamy offal-filled pâtés, duck every which way and vin de pays on tap, only bons vivants need apply…
Known for ubiquitous foie gras, golden-hued goose roasted in its own fat, crusty pain, creamy chèvre, walnut wine and cake, plump strawberries and fungi worth as much as a car.
There's little Parisian-style frippery here; expect earthy andouillette sausages and confit de canard slathered in cèpes-flavoured sauces with a side of Sarladaise potatoes. Foie gras with something fruity and strawberry-strewn tarts too…
• Mediaeval pilgrim-resting-point Collognes-la-Rouge is hosting a new wave of sustenance-seekers. Ferme de Berle dishes up Limousin beef, cabécou smeared on walnut bread (studded with locally grown nuts) and comforting choucroute. Don't be squeamish, the 'veal-head' and 'pig-trotter' menus are excellent; La Grange aux Oies, close by offers a great modern menu, too.
• There's black gold in the Périgord noir: try your hand at truffle prospecting – and seek out wild saffron – in the Natural Park of Quercy. Slim pickings? Head to self-proclaimed truffe central Sorges, where Auberge de la Truffe's dishes are dappled with black-diamond shavings, and die-hard fungi fans can go follow a truffière trail and visit Musée de la Truffe.
• Home to the Truffle Festival, foie-gras fiesta Fest Oie and Les Journées du Terroir (where tastings and cookery demonstrations take place), Sarlat is the premier destination for Périgordine produce. There's a market every day too, alongside the organic night market (every Thursday from June to September) and the Truffle and Foie Gras market (Saturdays from December to February).
Stay at Château les Merles; the new-Périgord cuisine at La Bruyère Blanche – whipped up with veggies from the hotel's organic garden – is colourful and creative; Bergerac's wine and Sarlat's stonking food are nearby for top-notch guzzling, and the cookery school gives you something to do in between gorging.
For many of us, travel is what we eat: new flavours, local delicacies and relaxing al fresco feasts. Grade-A gourmands tend to love things Gallic and, when it comes to getaways, Provence’s Alain Ducasse-owned Hostellerie de l’Abbaye is the cerise on France’s rich gâteau. Nearby Baumanière is a Michelin-star-spangled stay hugged by abundant vineyards. Cross the Med to Castiglion del Bosco and you can learn the secrets of the Tuscan cucina at its renowned cookery school. Thirsty? California’s cinematic wine country – valleys Napa and Sonoma – will sate you in style.
If you like your holiday to be an excuse to flaunt designer resortwear and your ritziest accessories, then we've got your A-list. Perfect your red-carpet poses and make a beeline for Cap d'Antibes Beach Hotel on the Côte d'Azur for a showstopping seaside stay. Decking clad, day-bed-dotted Maçakizi is the place to be seen on Turkey's Bodrum peninsula – pull up a chair at the Aegean-facing bar or settle in for some sea-fresh fare at its destination restaurant. In Vietnam, The Nam Hai is a shoreside style icon on Hoi An's China Beach with an OMG infinity pool, a serene spa and seductive, butler-serviced, oceanfront villas.