A Valentine’s mini break in Provence

Another year, another Valentine’s Day! So, if you want to do something really special for the one you love, consider a weekend in Provence, one of the most beautiful regions in that most romantic of countries, France.

Provence is not just for Summer. In fact, February, a month offering daily temperatures of around 13-15 degrees and averaging up to 6 hours of sunshine a day, is the perfect time to enjoy this area, steeped in romance, without the jostling packs of tourists. Provence is also a region with something for everyone. You can opt for a break in bustling city, tuck yourself away in a tiny village, or enjoy the sounds of nature with miles of Mediterranean coast to explore. So, what shall it be? Whatever base you choose, all of these temptations can be found within an hour of each other.

Marseille

This ancient port town, with its eclectic mix of history and influences, will offer plenty for those wanting a “buzz” along with romance. Dynamic, vibrant, colourful, all rolled into one, it has a wide selection of hotels, alongside tiny, intimate cafes, Mediterranean views and those, not to be missed, French markets.

Marseille

Pass your weekend wandering the old town (guided walks can be booked….) and absorbing the shear variety of vistas offered by Marseille, from the classic elegance of Boulevard Longchamp to the contemporary vision of Mucem located along the renovated waterfront next to Fort de Saint-Jean. Take a romantic walk along La Corniche, a 5km long roadway running next to the sea. Picturesque views include vintage villas, bay side scenes and the offshore islands of the Iles du Frioul. Wherever you head, cafes abound in which to share those intimate moments. And for those all-important Valentine’s Day flowers? Head for Saturday’s Marché Square Stalingrad for a selection of gorgeous blooms.

Roses

For accommodation, try the Sofitel Marseille Vieux Port.  Although lacking the intimacy of a small boutique hotel, a wonderful rooftop terrace featuring restaurant Les Trois Forts, more than compensates with views over the Med.  It also offers features a spa offering hot tub, hammam and sauna.  If you really want to indulge, what could be more romantic than the contemporary elegance of Le Petit Nice-Passedat. Set on a rocky outcrop, with glorious views over the sea, it boasts its own 3 star Michelin restaurant or, if you would like less formal dining, there is the hotel’s Le Bar 1917.

Fine dining can also be found at L’Epuisette with its unsurpassed waterside location and gourmet “Cesar” 9 course tasting menu offering locally sourced produce. Alternatively, Le Cafe des Epices, with its glass veranda terrace offers typically French, intimate dining with its quirky décor and romantic wax draped candelabra.

Aix-en-Provence

It’s hard to beat the timeless elegance of picturesque Aix-en-Provence, with its tree lined streets, ancient merchant houses and cafe lined squares. The city was also the birthplace of Paul Cezanne and there is a walking trail which you can follow to find his childhood home.

Aix en Provence

Wherever you stroll, there is a feast for the eyes and senses, from the St. Savour cathedral with its cloisters, to the bubbling fountain of Place des Quatres Dauphins with its water-spouting dolphins. Cours Mirabeau epitomises the timeless elegance and romance of Aix with yet more fountains, Renaissance buildings and street cafes.

Water Fountain

Having strolled the streets and absorbed the sites, indulge in a luxurious and romantic afternoon tea at Patisserie Weibel, 2 Rue Chabrier. All-important Valentine luxuries can be purchased at Saturday’s flower market (currently located at Place de l’Hôtel de Ville) and the most sumptuous of chocolates are provided by Patisserie Philippe Segond at 67 cours Mirabeau.

A great choice for a romantic getaway, Hotel le Pigonnet provides 5-star luxury with 18th century elegance. Set in 2 acres of beautiful gardens, the hotel offers a hammam for ultimate indulgence. Glorious Villa Gallici is decorated in traditional, French romantic style with swagged beds, sumptuous fabrics, traditional bathrooms and a romantic terrace for outside dining, weather permitting. Another excellent choice for your stay is Maison d’Aix which offers boutique luxury together with an intimate pool and hammam. After your pampering, you can sip champagne in the hotel’s eclectic Salon Rouge.

And for a little more variety…

Cassis with its quaint fishing port and ancient château, narrow inlets and pastel coloured buildings makes for a wonderful location for a romantic stroll, with plenty of cafes and bars to sample the local Cassis wine. Heading inland, the little hilltop village of Le Castellet, near the famous Circuit Paul Ricard racetrack, with its tiny winding, cobblestone streets is the perfect location for intimate moments. This fortified town offers wonderful glimpses of its medieval past with beautifully restored buildings.

Cassis

Just outside the pretty resort of Bandol, you will find the glories of the Hotel Berard at La Cadiere d’Azur. The hotel offers not only the luxurious indulgence of the La Cadiere Spa, but also the ultimate in fine dining at the 1 star Michelin restaurant, the Jean-Francois Berard, together with Le Bistro de Jef, where you can dine under stars protected by the Bistro’s glass canopy roof.

Calanques

And last, but by no means least, the Parque National des Calanques will provide you with the most breath-taking views of cliffs and sea plus, in February, you will have this amazing landscape almost to yourself. The perfect location to hold hands and profess your undying love!

Su Stephens is Owner of Olives & Vines. Olives & Vines is a luxury holiday company based in the South of France offering stays at their beautifully designed holiday house and boutique hotel in Le Castellet.

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