Greetings dear readers and friends. Summer is here! And let me just say, thank goodness… this is by far the most exciting time of the year in the South of France. In our little corner of Toulon, the beaches are not quite full yet in the morning which makes for great strolls along the seaside and early-morning dips in the Med for the brave of heart! Plus, festival season is up and running. This is my absolute favorite thing about living in Provence… the summer food festivals. In past years, we’ve attended several fish festivals (the freshest of the fresh!) – many in Toulon but also in neighboring Saint Mandrier-sur-mer, an Aïoli festival in the village of La Crau, a soupe au pistou festival in Ollioules, and by far my favorite… a rosé wine festival in Pierrefeu (August 6th this year), yum yum yum. These are only a small sampling of festivals taking place around the region, and I’ve included several others below, plus links for where to find other fêtes taking place around Provence.
Whether you’re a seasoned South-of-France traveler, or this is your first trip “down south” I hope this list will give you a few ideas of how to best spend your summer in la belle Provence!
What to do in Provence in the Summer:
1. Take a ferry to the Île de Porquerolles and spend the day hiking, biking, or simply lying around la plage.
2. Make a picnic from goodies bought at the market and have it along the sea – good spots for this are Toulon, Bandol, Sanary-sur-Mer, & Cassis…just to name a few!
3. Attend a lavender festival, dates available from Routes de la Lavande.
5. Spend the afternoon on Cours Mirabeau in Aix-en-Provence… enjoying a glass of wine and doing absolutely nothing.
6. Visit the Calanques at Cassis and treat yourself to a gelato along the port at Amorino.
7. Take the train from Marseille to Nice for fantastic scenery – or cut it short and have lunch in Antibes, taking in the views of old town and the giant yachts parked along the quay.
8. Eat a heaping bowl of bouillabaisse, or the catch of the day, at the Vieux Port in Marseille.
9. Take in a theatre performance, or two, at the Festival d’ Avignon.
10. Go on an antiques splurge, or just browse till your heart’s content in picture-perfect Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. The bi-annual antique fair takes place the weekend of August 12-15, find all the details here.
11. Visit the Provençal markets as much as possible… they’re at their absolute prettiest during the spring and summer months. (Don’t forget to arrive early!)
12. Splurge and get a “thalasso” (spa) treatment at the Hotel Ile Rousse in Bandol.
13. Escape the heat in the “Tivoli of Provence”, Barjols – the village of “100 fountains” and a stone’s throw away from beautiful vineyards which you can visit and sample local wines. (Brad and Angie’s place is just around the corner)
14. Attend the Toulon Jazz Festival – a series of free concerts hosted all around the city.
15. Visit the “garden of the Mediterranean” at Domaine du Rayol.
16. Do nothing at all (far niente) … spend your days at any of the beautiful beaches along the coast.
17. Cool off with a visit to the Fountain de Vaucluse.
18. Pick-up your favorite guidebook and do any number of self-guided walking tours – my favorites are in Aix-en-Provence, St. Rémy de Provence, & Nice.
19. Dig into a plate of Aïoli, a regional summer specialty… for fish and garlic-lovers only!
These are only a few of the fun ways to spend your summer in Provence… please feel free to share your own ideas in the comments below and, as always, bon voyage!