Secret France – Part 1: The South

Over a series of articles we intend to reveal to you our “Secret France”, the glorious, insider spots that are unknown and unspoiled by the crowds, the places with the best wines, the intricate architecture and the magical views. Read on and discover the Secret France of the South

Minerve

Beautiful, and the definition of secluded. Perched on a hilltop in the Occitanie countryside, the main bridge leading into the village is closed to all vehicles not owned by the residents, of which there are less than 200. Stroll along the banks of the River Cessiere at the base of the town or take some of the stunning cliff walks which provide panoramic views of lush green hillsides for miles around. Oh, and it’s oh so quiet.

Interesting Fact: 140 Cathars were burnt at the stake here in the 13th century, because they refused to give up their faith.

Secret France - Minerve

Menton

Found between the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains, Menton is the final French Riviera town before the Italian border on the Cote D’Azur. We love it for its authenticity, it is a true blend of Franco-Italian culture, not as glitzy as Cannes or Nice, confident in its traditional beauty, tranquil beaches and exquisite seafood restaurants. Beaches, mountains and restaurants aside its botanical gardens are a must see and its famed lemon based produce, a must try!

Interesting Fact: The Rolling Stones recorded their infamous double album “Exile on Main Street”, at Villa Nellecôte in Villefranche-Sur-Mer, which is around half an hour away in the direction of Nice. Legend has it that some of the band members used to take a boat down to Menton to procure the stuff that they couldn’t get on the supermarket shelves….

Secret France - Menton

Pézenas

Renowned for its connection with Molière, who lived and performed here for the Prince of Conti, this historical city has a great deal more to offer. It’s narrow cobbled streets are home to an array of delightful boutiques as well as some showstopping townhouses that span the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. It is also an ideal starting point to discover the emerging wines of the Languedoc region which is now at the forefront of experimental winemaking in France.

Interesting Fact: Pézenas locals are referred to as Piscenois, folklore dictates that there was once an enchanted lake full of fish behind the chateau.

Gordes

Springing from the foothills of the Vaucluse Mountains in Provence this sun drenched town looks as though it has grown rather than been built, in fact it’s such an inspirational spot that artists such as Marc Chagall and Pol Mara have stayed and painted.  As it is quite literally carved from the stone there are a variety of intriguing walkways and tunnels that wind their way around the pretty town centre, and needless to say, the views of the Luberon are immense.

Interesting Fact: Sénanque Abbey, established in 1148, is still home to practicing Cistercian monks today, who grow Lavender and tend to bees in order to sustain themselves

Secret France - Senanque-Abbey

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