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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-Pyrénées, Languedoc-Roussillon to Provence-Alpes-Côte 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-Can̩da, Dordogne РPhoto 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.

Dordogne

The venerable ancient county of P̩rigord Рtruffle country Рis happily under the radar in south west France. Dordogne, a d̩partment of 400,000 people in Aquitaine, is home to a UNESCO World Heritage prehistoric cave system in the V̩z̬re Valley, medieval hilltop monastic and bastide towns like Rocamadour and Monpazier, and a spectacular ensemble of grand ch̢teaux.

Where to dine: Le Moulin du Roc in Champagnac de Belair, Le Grand Bleu in Sarlat and L’Imaginaire in Terrasson. All Michelin étoiles.

Where to stay: The elegant Château Le Mas De Montet Riberac, 48 km outside of Périgueux, is a find.

Bordeaux

Bordeaux is without peer in Europe. Victor Hugo, alert sage of Les Misérables fame, was a fan: “Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux”. When Baron Georges-Eugène 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 7ème Péché.

Where to stay: The Château Grattequina Hotel Bordeaux is a lavish property.

Aix-en-Provence

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 Provençal 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 Provençal food is famous and has august ambassadors in Pierre Reboul, Le Clos de la Violette and La Table de Ventabren.

Where to stay: The Exclusive Château de la Pioline is a standout among hotels in Aix-en-Provence.

Avignon

The Historic Centre of Avignon РPapal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge Рis 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 Rh̫ne. Every summer, over 100,000 people attend the Avignon Festival.

Where to dine: The Michelin-star Christian Étienne, 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.

Nice

Photo credit

So nice, they had to name it Nice. Niça (or Nizza if you drove in from Genova) is the Côte 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.

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