10 Provencal activities not to be missed!

 

Holidays are about relaxing, but that doesn’t mean sitting around sunbathing all day long. Provence is such an incredibly varied region and we are spoilt for choice when it comes to the range of activities available. From cooking to mountain biking, there is something for everyone in this most glorious area of France.

Cookery classes at the Bastide des Saveurs

If you’ve always wanted to cook like an expert then what better way to learn than in a fantastic cookery class led by a Michelin starred chef? That’s exactly what is on offer at Hostellerie Brard’s Provencal cookery classes. Led by renowned chef Ren Brard, you will be taken on a gastronomic trip through Provence.

With courses ranging from one day up to a full 4 day Art De Vivre en Provence experience you are guaranteed to come away buzzing with new ideas and ready to transport the flavours of Provence into your kitchen at home.

Wine tasting experience

Following hot on the heels of your cookery course, what could be better than a day’s wine tasting at one of the region’s premiere vineyards? Moulin de la Roque near Bandol offers a 1 day wine tasting course conducted by Jean-Luc Poinsot who has 10 years experience in this fascinating field.

You will learn all about the history of this vineyard, what the different stages of wine tasting involve, take a trip around the vineyard itself and of course, taste a selection of wines. Lunch is included in what is guaranteed to be an enjoyable and informative day.

Visit Ile de Bendor

A short seven minute boat ride from the seaside town of Bandol will deliver you to Ile de Bendor. A small island purchased by Paul Ricard (of the drink Ricard Pastis fame) in 1950 as a plaything. At just 15 acres, this diminutive island is home to several restaurants, boutiques and a hotel. With some lovely little beaches and plenty to sightsee, it makes for a great day trip for all the family. Described as straight out of a fairy tale book you’ll come back with lots of great photos. Just make sure you visit in shoes suitable for walking as this is the primary mode of transport on the island (no cars are allowed!).

The Calanques

On a gorgeous sunny day, a trip to the Calanques is a must. Towers of limestone with descents of up to 400m form the marine valleys (which shelter magnificent natural coves) that make up this truly beautiful area. Stretching for 20km, these sheer cliffs are interspersed with small beaches, some of which can only be accessed by kayak.

From October to June the best way to see the Calanques is on foot. There are lots of trails which can be followed with maps available from the Marseille tourist office. Due to fire risk, the trails are closed during July and August, which means you will need to take to boat. It’s well worth carefully planning your trip and some effort will be needed to reach the more inaccessible areas, however you will be well rewarded and pleased to have made the trip.

Circuit Paul Ricard

If you are a petrol head or simply interested in racing and adrenaline fuelled activities, then a trip to Provence wouldn’t be complete without stopping by the Paul Ricard Race Circuit – one of the most beautiful racing circuits in France and home to numerous racing events throughout the year (check their events calendar). This biggest addition to their calendar will be the F1 which is due to grace the tracks in 2018! In addition, visitors can take to the track on certain days for a racing experience like no other. And for those who want to hone their racing skills (or are too young to take the wheel of a car) then the Paul Ricard Go Karting circuit is incredible fun. Just watch out, you will surprise yourself at how competitive you become when you’re actually out on the Karting track!

Mountain biking

For keen cyclists, Provence offers an incredible array of off-road biking opportunities. With miles and miles of dry trails, great weather and a variety of terrain, it is the perfect place to test your mountain biking skills. Enjoy cycling down easy trails through fields of lavender to high alpine paths which will test your technical skills to the max.

There are also dedicated bike parks across Provence, which offer downhill mountain biking with gondolas which will lift you swiftly to the top of the trails. With the crisp clean air at higher altitudes, combined with the stunning views, this has to be a mountain biking paradise.

Europe’s Grand Canyon: Verdon Gorge

Said to be the most beautiful canyon in Europe, it should come as no surprise that Verdon Gorge is a magnet for tourists who love to walk or climb, particularly in the summer. At 25 km long, its depth varies from 250m to 700m. A spectacular ravine has been cut by the river through the most popular segment situated between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

Whether you’re happy to spend a day hiking through the incredible scenery or just want to stop by for a look at one of the many viewing points you really should make Verdon Gorge part of your itinerary when visiting Provence.

Horse riding in the Camargue

For the equestrians amongst you, a days ride in the Camargue is an absolute must! What better way to see the incredible scenery of this region than on horseback? There are numerous reputable riding schools which will pair you with a suitable horse (depending on your experience) before taking you out to explore the wetlands of this fabulous area of Provence.

With the warm sun, a cooling breeze and unparalleled views this is an experience which is hard to beat.

Paragliding

Known as ‘parapenting’ in France, there are a number of clubs in Provence that organise tandem flights making it an ideal place to give this purest of air sports a go. With lots of warm thermals, it is possible to glide for 20 minutes or more enjoying the incredible sensation of being airborne, especially when flying amongst Provence’s breath-taking scenery.

No particular level of fitness or experience is required to give this a go. If you can run 10 metres or so during take off then you should be able to undertake a tandem paragliding session. Just don’t forget your camera!

Bungee jumping

To round off our list of activities I have got one for the really brave – bungee jumping! We’re heading back to the Gorge du Verdon, for this location is home to the highest bridge in Europe for bungee jumping! Not for the faint hearted, it takes a certain kind of character to launch off the bridge into the gorge below.

Nonetheless, it’s a hugely popular activity and you may well have to queue for your turn. Doubtless for those brave enough to jump, the experience is one you wont forget in a hurry!

Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines.

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