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The South of France on more of a shoestring than the Ecclestones!

Finally made it there last August! We took advantage of the BA short haul £35 BA Club Europe offer and kicked off with another nice afternoon in the galleries lounge.  Better still our outbound was on one of the lovely BA Dove planes and the return leg was on the Firefly that carried the Olympic torch.  Pleased to report that it is possible to make the trip without needing to re-mortgage, although we did also find some 5 star treats along the way!  The flight to Nice is just a short hop but long enough for a little meal and drink.  Car claim is pretty slow and humid; we went with Alamo, but eventually the queue subsided and we had our convertible wheels.  The first time I’ve hired more than the cheapest option, but made this trip really enjoyable – we’ve got a convertible in the UK so it seemed ludicrous not to have one on a trip to the Mediterranean coast. We chose to stay in Eze.  Eze is a place that has to be seen to be believed.  It is a quiet and relatively understated corner of the beautiful Cote d’Azur.  I had never heard of it but wanted to get off the beaten and nouveau riche track and this village very much delivered. Eze Hermitage Hotel Other European hotels we’ve stayed at have been a tad bland and so we went a bit off the beaten track to find something rustic and chose the Eze Hermitage Hotel, just up the road from Eze village. The rooms are small, but clean and smart. WiFi is good and so is the air con.  The hotel has a bar and restaurant and large gardens with a lovely (tres froid) pool. We ate at the hotel one evening and dining in the garden was really rather lovely indeed – very pleasantly surprised!  We went off the set menu and enjoyed some fizz and choosing from their wine list. The hotel was busy while we were there, but not in a way that felt cramped.  There isn’t a great deal of space around the (tres froid) pool; however there is ample garden space to enjoy.  The hotel isn’t walking distance to anywhere else so you do need to plan your evenings out.  We dined at Chateau Eza one evening which was just amazing – a memorable experience. Chateau Eza The hotel sits alongside a nature park and we picnicked there a number of times, enjoying plenty of shade and tables. There is a little Spar in the main Eze village that sells all you will need for this – and the standard Spar rosé was surprisingly good, but this is France and this is rosé country! Eze is well worth a daytime visit; it’s steep and cobbled but the view from the gardens right at the top is quite something.  I think I am correct in saying it harks back to medieval times and it’s the first of this sort of place that I visited – very quirky, beautiful flower boxes and shutters and lovely views.  Wear flat shoes and maybe take some water, there aren’t many shops but there are restaurants dotted around. Other perched villages to visit are Peillon, Peille and St. Paul de Vence. The first 2 don’t have much apart from staggering architecture and views, but I entirely preferred this to the slightly pompous St. Paul de Vence which was teeming with tourists and overpriced hotels and shops.  Peillon and Peille are quite a drive into the mountains, but well worth the hassle to get away from the humdrum.  Peillon seemed to be predominantly full of self-catering holiday cottages, but was a ghost town when we were there.  Climb to the top of the hill and enjoy the view over the Alpes Maritimes.  Peille is slightly larger and has a few bars and restaurants – even an absinthe bar, so the sign said.  This is much more ‘real’ with local residents and we really enjoyed a very reasonable lunch in one of the cafés in the village square (whilst the locals laughed as we moved our table continuously to try and keep it in the shade!).  Rosé was great here too; the menu choice was limited but it was the quintessential French country experience with gingham table cloths and locals “chewing the cud” and smoking some full-fat French cigarettes.  St. Paul de Vence is a little different – tourism has really reached here; there is a massive multi-storey car park for starters.  It is lovely and is prettied up nicely as a result of the tourist interest.  Plenty of places to eat and shop and probably the largest of these 4 villages I’ve just mentioned. We treated ourselves to the menu degustations at Chateau Eza one evening – a massive splurge but our visit coincided nicely with bonus time at work, so why not!  A very small hotel and restaurant, it was all rather memorable and outstanding.  There is another 5 star hotel/restaurant in Eze which is far more heavily advertised and known, but it does have more choice of price as they have a number of restaurants. Drive over to Monaco and enjoy a spot of people watching.  There are plenty of places to park and surprisingly it isn’t extortionate.  We started our afternoon in Café de Paris and it just has to be done; unsurprisingly the rosé here is good too, not too expensive, and people watching does not get better than this!  They also have fans that  spray mist and so it is a very refreshing place to sit!  It is located next to the casino and so aside from the people, you’ll also see some rather fancy wheels come and go.  We ate away from the main tourist area and it wasn’t expensive.  With hindsight I think I would like to visit here late afternoon and early evening, I think the spectacle of the place would be even more heightened in the evening light.  We walked a bit of the Formula 1 track as well – I recognised the swimming pool complex from the TV, but it wasn’t as obvious (red and white road markings aside) as I thought as to which famous corner was which, so do your research!  We stopped here and there on the way to and from Monaco – there are so many little towns and villages that all seem to have views out across the Med.  We also drove up the hill past the Monaco golf club – that vista from there was epic, and the air was refreshingly cool too even if the car’s clutch wasn’t! Café de Paris Sadly we didn’t find any vignobles that did wine tastings; however we did enjoy the views over the vines and olive groves – particularly good on the route up from Eze to St. Paul de Vence if you head off the main ‘A’ road up there. We shunned hotel breakfast on this trip and made the most of cooler early mornings!  One morning we ate in a café in the village – great coffee, great croissants and whilst I’d hate the smell of cigarettes at home, locals smoking Gauloises added something very French to the breakfast. Another morning we picked up orange juice and croissants from the Spar and went down to the beach at Eze-sur-Mer. I think this part of France would be lovely in the Spring or Autumn when there is some snow on the mountains – the dream trip I think would be to go back to somewhere like this but then extend it with a trip further inland and perhaps fly home from Lyon.

Anna Parker

I am happiest when travelling in style with my husband, enjoying the outdoors and taking photos to keep the memories! On the lookout for luxury and unique stays. Based in the UK. Find me on twitter @aeparker81 or at www.travelwithpenelopeandparker.com

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  1. South France is definitely on my bucket list. I really want to visit this country and experience the life of living in a European country.

  2. South of France is one of the best destination. Famous historical monuments, impressive architectural masterpieces, stunning natural wonders. But never tried hotels like this. So am adding this in my travel index for next visit in South France.

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