The recent wave of stylish new luxury hotels and restaurants in Provence and the Côte d'Azur has proven that it’s not just the region’s stunning landscape that draws visitors in. Given the area’s superb vineyards and flavorful varieties of terroir cuisine, it follows that the emphasis is on healthy cuisine, including organically grown grapes and garden produce. Beyond these simple pleasures, visitors to the area can also stroll through forests of oak, cypress and pine trees, experience cutting-edge art and tee off in a specially designed eco-friendly fairway set in a rolling green valley—all in one day. This season’s hot spots include a heady mix of southern French authenticity and true innovation, reflecting the spirit of the place.
The five-star Villa La Coste, tucked away in a tiny village north of Aix-en-Provence, is part of a superb 600-acre estate devoted to contemporary art, architecture and award-winning biodynamic wine. Surrounded by gardens atop a peaceful pine-shaded hill, the property has 28 stylishly minimalist cubic rooms—some with private pools—and sweeping vistas of the jagged grey-blue peaks of the Alpilles. Guests can also visit the outdoor sculpture trail, a wine-tasting café and bistro, the hotel’s elegant glass-walled gastronomic restaurant and the spa.
About 30 minutes from Aix, in the small village of Lauris, the Domaine de Fontenille (www.domainedefontenille.com) offers a different take on vineyard retreats: this newly opened 17-room hotel is housed in an 18th century bastide and offers sumptuously furnished suites, a pool and spa, a bistro headed by Michelin-star chef Jerome Faure and a cutting-edge art gallery.
The sleek renaissance of the elegantly refurbished 27-room Château de Berne (www.chateauberne.com), a wooded 1,235-acre wine estate, includes a sprawling Cinq Mondes Spa and a private, 17th-century–style cottage with a pool and full butler service, hidden away in the vines. Along with endless views of the surrounding vineyards, the château’s new look offers pared-down, chic interiors and artfully designed gardens.
Ideal for families is the 250-acre Domaine de Manville (www.domainedemanville.fr) near Avignon, a kind of rural palace–meets-resort. The 30-room hotel has nine private stone villas that are designed as five-star farmhouse–style retreats. Also appealing is the eco-friendly, Thierry Sprecher–designed 18-hole golf course, the relaxing spa with its lavender and olive oil–based treatments and the Kid’s Club.
Art Deco design aficionados, foodies and wine lovers will enjoy the five-star Hotel de Tourrel (www.detourrel.com), located on a quiet corner of the Old Town in St. Remy de Provence. This five-room hideaway in a restored stone 17th-century palace has spacious rooms decked out with gorgeous Eileen Gray replicas of ClassicCon furniture. The small rooftop pool has a panoramic view of the village, and the downstairs hotel bistro is the place to be for the well-heeled summer crowd.
Visit some newly awarded one Michelin-star restaurants beginning with Jan, a stylish tiny bistro on a backstreet behind the Old Port of Nice, where young South African chef Jan Hendrik dishes up exquisitely prepared deconstructed modern French cooking using a creative mix of ultra-fresh ingredients, inspired by his grandmother’s recipes (2 Rue Lascaris Nice; 33-4-97-19-32-23). For a big night out on the Cap d’Antibes, book a table on the dreamy terrace of La Passagère at Art Deco Hotel Belles Rives (www.bellesrives.com), where F. Scott Fitzgerald and Zelda once lived. Headed by talented chef Yoric Tièche, the menu is a refined mix of Mediterranean fare. The view here is the most romantic of the coast.
If you’re looking for a lunch stopover on the way to St.-Tropez, La Promesse (www.restaurant-lapromesse.fr) in Ollioules, a tiny village in the Var near Toulon (90 minutes from St.-Tropez), is a brand new venture by chef Valerie Costa. Situated in the middle of a vineyard, the restaurant serves original takes on Provençal classics like an artichoke millefeuille with parmesan or lobster in a shellfish sauce and a great choice of local wine.
At the elegant Jardin de Benjamin in the Château de Berne (www.chateauberne.com), chef Benjamin Comballat excels in creating Mediterranean dishes with subtle touches of Asian or Indian spices (trout with honey and ginger, freshly plucked garden vegetables with Szechuan pepper) and refreshing classic desserts like Menton lemon sorbet with basil.
Celebrating its 15th anniversary, notorious hot spot Nikki Beach in Ramatuelle has a new menu featuring healthy southern French specialties (think zucchini blossom fritters, socca, freshly grilled fish), plus a jazz brunch served in a spruced up lounge area. The detox organic juice bar will help guests prepare for the evening festivities.
For over a century, an international mix of artists has been drawn to the south of France by the dazzling light, pure colors and gentle climate. Others, like British artist Francis Bacon, who chose Monaco as his main residence (from 1946 to the early 1950s), are drawn by the festive glamour of Monte Carlo. This summer’s spectacular show, Francis Bacon, Monaco and French Culture at Monaco’s Grimaldi Forum, features over 60 rarely seen works. Aficionados should also visit the recently opened Francis Bacon MB Art Foundation (www.mbartfoundation.com). The private foundation housed in a Belle-Époque villa is devoted to research and boasts a fascinating collection (July 2-September 4).
Starting in June, the newly-opened site of Eileen Gray’s landmark villa E-1027 (www.e1027.org) and Le Corbusier’s cabanon beach hut in Roquebrune Cap Martin will host guided visits, a new exhibition on Le Corbusier plus an on-site brunch on certain Sundays (June 5 19, and July 3). Reserve a table for dinner and fireworks on July 25 and 30 and August 6 and 13, in conjunction with the Monaco Pyro Technique Festival.
This summer’s show at the Fondation Maeght in Saint-Paul-de-Vence is devoted to Christo and Jeanne-Claude and includes a colossal nine-meter-high Mastaba of stacked oil barrels set up in the gardens and a collection of sculptures, photos and drawings (June 4-November 27).
In Aix-en-Provence, the recently opened museum Hôtel de Caumont Centre d’Art celebrates J.M.W. Turner with the impressive summer show, Turner and Color. Expect to see over 130 works by the early 19th-century Romantic “painter of light,” including 36 outstanding canvases on loan from the Royal Academy of London (May 4-September 18).
Only a 15-minute drive from the center of town, the arts center at Château La Coste in Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade is hosting a show by renowned Korean artist, Lee Ufan, his first solo exhibition in France since his presentation at the Palace of Versailles in 2014 (May 29-September 24).
The multi-media show at Les Carrières de Lumières (carrieres-lumieres.com) in Les Baux de Provence is Midsummer Night’s Dream, devoted to the life of Russian artist Marc Chagall, and projected in a spectacular cave-like setting made up of 5,000-square-meters of 14-meter-high limestone cliffs (through January 8, 2017).
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