Provence is one of the most beautiful and most varied regions of France that stretches from the Mediterranean Sea to the mountains of the Vaucluse. It makes for a great variety of geography and climates and that is reflected in its culture, produce and craftsmanship. Each town seems to have its own idiosyncrasies and specialities making it a wonderful shopping destination.
Kate Comer starts her journey in Nice, once the winter residence of Europe’s upper crust where she admires the fine art and architecture of the Negresco Hotel that caters to an exclusive clientele to this day. The market gives her a taste for the region’s craftsmanship, such as the colourful Provencal cottons that depict the local countryside in their unique designs. Nature’s abundance is a recurring theme in Provencal craft, including pottery.
Vallauris is a beautiful potter’s village that counted Picasso amongst its illustrious residents and potters. Some of his works can still be admired in the town’s Musee Picasso and, only a stone’s throw away, in the fashionable seaside resort of Antibes, it is even possible to buy some of his creations, at a price. Antibes has been an exclusive destination since the roaring twenties when intellectuals and writers flocked to hotels like the Belles Rives to enjoy the summer sun.
In the hills the climate is slightly milder with rolling green hills and flower fields that supply the local perfume industry. The medieval town of Grasse is at the centre of it and it is where the world’s best perfumers still make their creations today and it is even possible to have your own unique scent created.
After a short visit to a glass factory in nearby Biot Kate visits the Musee Fernand Leger, an artist who insisted on bringing art to the public space, creating amongst other things a great oeuvre of colourful glass panels.
Art and crafts are ever present in the Provence, but local expertise extends to food, wine and general savoir vivre. In Carpentras, the Garden of France, candied fruit are produced using techniques that haven’t changed for centuries and it is even home to its very own invention the striped candy berlingots.
For more savoury tastes Richerenches is the best destination where in mid-November the first truffle market of the year offers the best in Perigord truffle products – and no one should leave without tasting the famed truffle omelette.
The Provencal love the outdoors and while some of is rather rustic it also caters for those who prefer nature in style – living in their own see through bubble – an experience not to be missed in Allauch, where Kate ends her journey.