There’s a reason Hollywood A-listers like the Clooneys and Brad Pitt have homes in Provence: The region unfurls across the southeast corner of France in a dreamy patchwork of vineyards, lavender fields, and medieval villages. Anchored by the historic cities of Aix en Provence, Avignon, and Arles, Provence is dotted with award-winning wineries, 265 Michelin-starred restaurants, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. But a recent flurry of new eateries, hotels, and museums—as well as Pitt’s recently opened Miraval Studios, which draws the world’s top musicians to his sprawling 15th-century wine estate—has turned this once sleepy corner of France into a thriving cultural hub. Come for a weekend or a month, a girls' getaway or a family vacay, but Provence is likely to seduce you with its charms and you’ll want to make like Amal and stay forever.
Where to Stay
Set in a refurbished 11th-century winemaking hamlet about an hour from Avignon, Coquillade Provence Resort & Spa serves up the kind of experience French dreams are made of. Sixty-three rooms and suites are scattered amongst 90 acres of sun-dappled vines and olive groves. All the rooms are exquisite, but in early summer 2023, the hotel will unveil five new luxury "Nymph" suites, which have direct access to the spa, as well as a private pool and garden, making for the perfect spot to pop some bubbly and watch the sun sink low behind the golden hills of the Luberon.
The property feels more like an authentic French village than a sprawling resort, and features its own winery, award-winning spa, three restaurants, cycling center, two pools, a gym, and pétanque court (the French version of bocci), so there’s no reason to ever leave, but it’s also centrally located, making it the perfect launching pad for exploring Provence.
What to Do
Days at Coquillade Provence start with a heavenly breakfast spread of croissants, baguettes, and pain au chocolates made daily by one of the region’s top pastry chefs. This is best followed by a visit to the property’s 21,575-square-foot spa and its state-of-the-art fitness center. Take a yoga or cardio-training class, then indulge in a myriad of treatments that draw on beauty and wellness traditions from around the world. We suggest the Coquillade Signature Beauty & Bodycare Ritual, which incorporates a scrub of grapes and lavender grown on the property. Follow that up with a visit to the resort’s tasting room for samples of the best wines from Coquillade Provence’s vineyards. Then, dance the night away at Le Bar, the property’s chic cocktail lounge, which serves up sexy drinks, a Thai-inspired menu, and, come summer, a DJ on Friday and Saturday nights.
No trip to Provence is complete without sampling some of the region’s legendary wines and the best way to do this is atop a bike. Coquillade Provence serves up a not-to-be-missed Vineyards and Vines cycling tour in which you’ll explore local vineyards atop an e-bike (cycling has never been this easy), sip wines, and learn about their production, all while riding through miles of vineyards and experiencing the pleasures—lavender fields at peak bloom, villages lost in time—of the Provençal countryside up close. A van—and charcuterie— await at the last stop to whisk weary, over-served cyclists home.
If cycling isn’t for you, spend the day exploring Provence’s rich art scene. Once home to Picasso, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, Provence is an art aficionado’s dream, made even more so by the 2021 addition of Luma Arles, a cultural hub designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry that delivers world-class contemporary art, 27 acres of beautiful gardens, sculpture installations, a skate park, and lively events. After a morning at the Luma, head to the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation, which celebrates the legendary artist, who spent 15 months in Arles, and his impact on contemporary art. Then top the day off with a visit to the Atelier de Cezanne, the studio in Aix where Cezanne spent his final days painting— and capturing the magic of—Provence.
With Roman ruins, ancient papal palaces, and medieval city centers, the historic heavyweights of Arles, Avignon, and Aix en Provence draw throngs of visitors every year, and rightly so, but much of Provence’s charm lies in its quaint countryside villages, which come alive on their weekly market days. Vendors sell everything from locally-made jams, olives, and cheese to antique jewelry, colorful skirts, and silk scarves. Head to Apt Saturday morning and grab picnic fixings from its market, then head to Rousillon for a short hike on the Sentier des Ocres, which meanders through the town’s famous ochre-colored cliffs. Finish the day with a visit to Gordes, deemed one of the prettiest villages in France, and explore its quiet cobbled-stone streets and one-thousand-year-old Sénanque abbey. Round out the day with tea and macarons at the Ladurée outpost in the Airelles Gordes, La Bastide hotel.
What to Eat and Drink
Situated on the remains of a 12th century castle atop the village of Saignon, Un Jardin Sur le Toit serves up tasty French dishes with international flare like tuna tartar and truffle risotto as well as jaw-dropping views of Provence, which spools out in all directions below you. Snag a reservation at dusk and watch as the sun sets the Provençal countryside ablaze.
Unveiled in the summer of 2022, La Table d’Estoublon is one of the most exciting additions to Provence’s culinary scene. The restaurant sits on the magnificent grounds of an 18th century chateau owned in part by Carla Bruni, former model and first lady of France. Chef Wim Van Gorp trained with Jean Georges Vongerichten and draws on fresh, local ingredients—produce from the chateau’s vegetable garden, pork from Mt. Ventoux— to serve up classic French dishes with eclectic influences. The cote du boeuf (rib roast) and vegetable tarte are standouts.
Provence is not known for its nightlife, but lucky for Coquillade Provence’s guests, they will not have to travel far to find fun. The property’s Aureto winery and tasting room hosts outdoor movie nights, live music, and themed parties throughout the year. Further afield, sample award-winning rosés from Pitt’s Chateau Miraval at the Famille Perrin tasting room, which also puts on a fun music festival every October. Or head to Chateau d’Esclans, an estate dripping in hydrangeas and grenache grapes, to see where Whispering Angel, the world’s most popular rosé, is made.
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Kelley Manley is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, Vogue, Marie Claire, Departures, and other national and regional publications. Follow her on Instagram @KelleyMcMillanManley.
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