Provence-Alpes-Côte-D'Azur, a secretive land
The Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region is synonymous with sunshine, cicadas, warmth and lazing around, but the charms of this region do not stop there. Blessed with both sea and mountains, you will be pleasantly surprised by what the region has to offer. "In Provence-Alpes-Côte-D'Azur, you get the whole history of humanity: prehistory, the ancient Romans and Greeks, Medieval times... These different civilisations have all left their mark here," says Mr Krajecki, director of INTER-HOTEL Souléia (in photo on right).
"Avignon has an unusually rare architectural and cultural heritage," confides the hotelier. Everyone has heard of the Cité des Papes and the famous theatre festival, the largest of its kind in the world. Still in Vaucluse, at the foot of Mont Ventoux, the highest peak in Provence, you will find the town of Entraigues-sur-la-Sorgues, not far from Avignon. Further towards the Alps, Cavaillon, a town famous for its melons, is the gateway to the Luberon Massif. Here, it's all about colours and flavours, a land of yellows and ochres, a region known for its lavender meadows.
< City of Avignon
"As you cross the Alpilles range of mountains, you will gradually come face to face with the mountains. Gap has a generous nature," adds Mr Krajecki. The town is located near to one of mainland France's six national parks, the Parc des Ecrins. In Tallard, where the Alps meet Provence, you will love the unspoilt countryside of the Hautes-Alpes opposite the mountains. But the PACA region, often thought of as the European Sun Belt, is known mainly for the French Riviera: Grasse, the world perfume capital (near Mouans-Sartoux), Beaulieu-Sur-Mer, Antibes and its nearest coastal resort Juan-les-Pins, Villeneuve-Loubet, Cannes-La-Bocca and its palaces, Nice and its historic centre... So many towns for you to discover along the famous Route de la Mer. A panorama of breathtaking landscapes where the mountains run into the sea.
Since the 19th century, the region has always attracted the rich and famous with huge palaces, casinos and international festivals that light up the coastline! Further west, the Var coastline seems to go through a transition. The small fishing port of Saint Raphaël acquired the status of holiday town and seaside resort in the 19th century, enjoying a fantastic location at the foot of the Esterel Massif. For many years seen as an industrial town, Toulon is now open for tourism and boasts many natural assets. Let's not forget that it bears the colours of the sun and sea on its coat of arms! The spellbinding and magical "calanques of Cassis are not to be missed" on your visit to Bouches-du-Rhône. If you head towards Marseilles, you will encounter the enchanting Mediterranean landscape of the Calanques Massif with its turquoise waters surrounded by rocky mountains, in the shade of the pine forest. The paths will take you on a journey "filled with fauna and flora" adds the hotelier.
The Marseille calanques
This little bit of paradise also has a rich seabed, perfect for diving. Although some of the coves can only be accessed from the sea, the small port of Cassis serves as a welcoming base for a short cruise to discover the natural treasures of the calanques. Provence is overflowing with flavours and scents: lavender, olive trees, honey, truffles, Aix calisson sweets, Brignoles plums... As you walk around, you will more likely than not come across one of the many Provence markets. Give in to the temptation of this myriad of flavours, enough to dazzle the senses.
As you get closer to Provence, Aubagne, the capital of the 'santons' and the birthplace of Marcel Pagnol, opens its doors. The town invites you to discover Pagnol's birthplace, now a museum that looks back at the history of this local boy. Just like Biot, known for its ceramics, Aubagne is also famous for Provence pottery, particularly common in the town's many workshops. A few minutes away stands the small village of Le Castellet. This "picturesque and medieval" place at the top of a mountain will win you over with "its typical Provence charm, its narrow streets and its craft shops..." says the hotelier. The village is proud to have been used as the filming location for Marcel Pagnol's La Femme du Boulanger. The typical, singsong accent will emerge when you mention the ports of Martigues, the Venice of Provence or Salon-de-Provence, the town famous for Marseilles soap.
The PACA region is the perfect place to practice your favourite sports, whether hiking and skiing in the Alps and Alpine foothills or water sports on the coast. Or perhaps you just want to take it easy! Party lovers will enjoy the Arles festival and appreciate "the warm, welcoming smiles" of the southern people. It is a destination not to be missed, offering something new every time you visit, an awe-inspiring region.
"With 300 days of sunshine a year, its hills, its coast and its singsong accent, the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region is an "incredibly welcoming" destination, concludes Mr Krajecki.