48 Hours in the South of France: A Luxury Guide
Synonymous as a cradle of luxury, the mere whisper of the South of France is enough to stir hair-trigger daydreams of yachts, Champagne and caviar. The vast, amorphous area has a rustic side, indubitably, from Aquitaine to the Midi-PyrÃ©nÃ©es, Languedoc-Roussillon to Provence-Alpes-CÃ´te d’Azur. Our express aim here, however, is not to indicate the salt of the earth spots but, rather, where to sprinkle fleur de sel on your foie gras.
Sarlat-la-CanÃ©da, Dordogne – Photo credit
You have 48 hours in the South of France. You need help. Where to go, where to dine, where to stay? No sweat. Read on and discover the luxe side of five terrific destinations.
The venerable ancient county of PÃ©rigord – truffle country – is happily under the radar in south west France. Dordogne, a dÃ©partment of 400,000 people in Aquitaine, is home to a UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric cave system in the VÃ©zÃ¨re Valley, medieval hilltop monastic and bastide towns like Rocamadour and Monpazier, and a spectacular ensemble of grand chÃ¢teaux.
Where to dine: Le Moulin du Roc in Champagnac de Belair, Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat and L’Imaginaire in Terrasson. All Michelin Ã©toiles.
Where to stay: The elegant ChÃ¢teau Le Mas De Montet Riberac, 48 km outside of PÃ©rigueux, is a find.
Bordeaux is without peer in Europe. Victor Hugo, alert sage of Les MisÃ©rables fame, was a fan: “Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux”. When Baron Georges-EugÃ¨ne Haussman undertook to refashion Paris in the mid-19th century, the UNESCO World Heritage city was his model and muse.
Where to dine: As a wine capital par excellence, Bordeaux is far from bereft in the culinary orbit. Try Le St-James, Jean-Marie Amat, La Cape and 7Ã¨me PÃ©chÃ©.
Where to stay: The ChÃ¢teau Grattequina Hotel Bordeaux is a lavish property.
Market in Aix – Photo credit
From the uncanny limestone cliff architecture of Moustiers-Sainte-Marie to the Arles of Vincent of Van Gogh, we adore Provence. To confab with venerable ProvenÃ§al charm and culture is to delve into the city of Aix-en-Provence. Yes, indeed, Aix marks the spot.
Where to dine: The estimable legacy of ProvenÃ§al food is famous and has august ambassadors in Pierre Reboul, Le Clos de la Violette and La Table de Ventabren.
The Historic Centre of Avignon – Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge – is one of the pre-eminent UNESCO World Heritage areas in all of France and reason enough to visit the handsome Vaucluse department city on the RhÃ´ne. Every summer, over 100,000 people attend the Avignon Festival.
Where to dine: The Michelin-star Christian Ã‰tienne, next to the Papal Palace, is a triumph. Also, the organic menu at La Mirande, beautiful al fresco ambiance at D’Europe, and hush country charm of Le Diapason.
Where to stay: Easy. For pure luxury, the Auberge De Cassagne Hotel & Spa Le Pontet Avignon.
So nice, they had to name it Nice. NiÃ§a (or Nizza if you drove in from Genova) is the CÃ´te d’Azur’s dynamic hub and jet set polestar. No luxury tour of the South of France is complete without a visit.
Where to dine: Flaveur, where two lively brothers run the show in the kitchen. The chef-owner of L’Aromate is a Michelin fave. The Japanese fare at Keisuke Matsushima, another Michelin star table, has Riviera flair.
Where to stay: The best luxury hotel in the city, bar none, is the Negresco Hotel Nice. A landmark icon, the 5 star property is a swish and opulent grande dame in the heart of the action.