Traveling in troubled times can feel frivolous, but to us, it is essential. We break away to the south of France where we hope to to recharge our creative spirits for 2023.
We arrive in Nice. La Rachel is waiting, as promised. We pile into her espresso-colored Fiat and rumble into town into fetch Theater Boy and Wendy — there they are! Life is suddenly very, very good.
Overjoyed, we revive in Place Garibaldi with truffle scrambled eggs, boeuf tartare and greedy sips of Champagne. All five of us begin to decompress — we lean in, delighted.
Provence with a View
We arrive at our roomy digs in San Tropez. We toast ourselves and the stunning views over a cheese candelabra and the “intangible cultural heritage” that is baguette. We loll, laugh and linger.
Evening falls and the candles burn down, yet our feast continues with a deep, dark Boeuf Bourguignon a la Rachel, densely flavored and satisfying. We five agree that this is indeed the life.
Sip, Savor and Explore
And so this is Christmas! We begin our exploration of St. Tropez with a stroll through narrow streets of buildings in 50 shades of yellow. We lunch at Cafe de Paris overlooking the blue Mediterranean.
Our Champagne-fueled excess continues with a feast of marrow bones, delicate shrimp, and beautiful, deep yellow squash velouté. Ah.
Wine Country I – Les Arcs
We decide to explore the wine-soaked countryside, starting in Les Arcs, a quaint little town with clusters of ancient stone homes along steep, winding pathways to the historic clock tower.
It is easy to get lost among the charms of this tiny village. I wander away from our group, distracted by quirky medieval flourishes along the tangle of narrow streets.
Les Arcs is serene and quiet — a thoughtful place. A fleeting sense of being lost recalls the wisdom in the famous phrase, “Not all those who wander are lost.”
Wine Country II
The trusty espresso Fiat carries us through the mountains into the verdant hills of Font du Broc winery.
The enormous estate of organic grapevines and olive groves shares its magical terroir with wild horses, visitors and wine enthusiasts. The grounds are beautiful and the wines, delicieux!
Interior and exterior spaces are generous, full of light. We discuss whose next major event is most worthy of celebrating at Font du Broc. We leave with dazzled smiles, several bottles of rosé, and a vow to return.
Ah Provence. It’s a quick drive to St. Maxime, an ancient town with more patisseries than supermarkets. This humble village is a great place to shop — more cheese, please! — and bathe in history.
We admire the tenacity and gravitas of the thousand-year-old olive tree rooted in the square. Amazing.
San Tropez Histoire
We devote a few days to the local wonders of San Tropez. We climb Citadel Hill, built in 1602 to defend the coastal harbor against Spain. Overlooking San Tropez to the east, water views are vast and mighty.
Citadel is home to the Musée de l’Histoire Maritime Tropézienne. Revel in sepia photos of weathered fishermen, and films of posh transatlantic transport in the 1920s — boozy, glittering and dancing wildly.
Don’t miss the wild peacocks in lustrous blue! The canny birds direct us down the hill to a jolly prix-fixe lunch of chicken tagine, squid and local wines — a banner day of touring in our seafaring home-away.
A morning walk leads to the open market in Place des Lices and a taste of “vieux” San Tropez. We sip robust and bitter coffee at Café des Arts, watch a game of pétanque, and let the world go by.
To Italophiles like us, pétanque most resembles bocce. It is played passionately, competitively and lazily — a beautiful and mysterious combination.
Hoping to catch some “Cannes Cool,” we motor along the winding waterfront to the the historic heart of Cannes. Despite a reputation for glitz and glamour, her ancient harbor shelters both fishing and luxury vessels — impressive egalité!
We make the vertiginous climb to a glorious 12th century cathedral, where, along with gorgeous paintings of saints and martyrs, there is a corny and creepy diorama of Santa’s workshop. Oh, well.
We lunch in a sunny waterfront bistro, and decide that despite the movie-star mojo and glam reputation, Cannes is a grande dame with a heart.
En route, we detour to Antibes for an informative and delicious tasting of biodynamic wines at Entre 2 Vins. We savor local cheeses, paté and conviviality. Ten thumbs-up for Entre 2 Vins.
In Antibes, I stumble across some of the best advice I have ever received:
Another stupendous day for Epicurious Five!
Sea, Sand and Smoke
A short drive from San Tropez takes us to Ramatuelle, a serene cove with craggy Mediterranean views and soft sandy stretches — perfect for lazy, non-hiking enthusiasts like me. I bask — they hike.
As usual, the beachy beauty makes us hungry. We indulge in a ridiculously flavorful seaside lunch at Chez Camille, starting with chilled rosé, of course.
Sweet grilled peppers appear alongside salty anchovy spread. Dense and flavorful Bouillabaisse featuring an abundance of local seafood is wood-fired and gorgeous. Chorus: More rosé, yes!
We power through tangy tartes citron and bitter espresso. All this beachy indulgence is of course followed by a nap.
Art & Soul I
Back home in San Tropez, we devote a whole day to the arts with a heady visit to L’Annonciade museum in the heart of town.
Here we find wondrous works by Matisse, Derain, Gromaire, Vuillard and more. I fall in love with Van Dongen’s “Femmes a la Balustrade,” above. I could gaze at her for the rest of my life.
We recognize our local harbor, “San Tropez, Le Port,” by by Albert Marquet, 1905. Beautiful! And the waterfront still looks much the same.
Theater Boy and I are mutually stunned by the power of this hidden gem.
As always, all this art and soul makes us hungry. As the day wanes, we head to the twinkling red awning that is Senequier, one of San Tropez’s most crowded, popular and delicious destinations.
Here we enjoy enormous escargots, and briny salmon fumé. Plates of veal, shrimp, and chicken paillard. We eat and eat and eat, washing it down with white burgundy and a few Campari spritz. S’wonderful!
Senequier is also a cultural landmark: Sartre honed his writing chops right here in this venerable café.
Art & Soul II
We stumble onto an exhibition of contemporary works by Paul Richard Mason, whose quirky black and white sculptures and colorful paintings express a wise, joyous and playful spirit.
Born in Chicago and raised in London, Mason now lives and works in San Tropez. He speaks highly of his life here, “We have a great woman mayor!” he says. I am honored to meet this local, working artist.
Don’t miss the city’s trademark treat, Tarte Tropezienne — soft brioche with vanilla cream, topped with chunky sugar crystals. Yum. Served with glass of local rosé, of course.
Brigitte Bardot tasted Tarte Tropezienne and declared she was in love. I get it.
And suddenly, it’s New Year’s Eve. A balmy night, people strolling the waterfront, sipping drinks and greeting friends. We circle back to Cafe de Paris, where we first began our holiday, for a dazzling celebration.
This must be France. There is a knockout prix-fixe menu featuring mushroom tart with truffles; foie gras with pear; lobster with coral butter; seared turbot with white caviar butter; roasted venison with parsnips; more truffles … and on and on and on. Delicious, decadent and abundantly appropriate!
Rachel says, “This is wild!” and it is. I am wide-eyed. Le Café is jam-packed. In the wee hours, we spot three beautiful women dancing on tables. The scene is epic, mind-blowing, magnifique!
Theater Boy and Wendy depart early the next morning — surely, slightly hung-over. We bid them a bleary, “Au Revoir!” It has been a memorable and wondrous recharge, and we are deeply grateful. •
Can’t wait for Nice to continue down memory lane with you recollecting my travels to those places. Enjoy it all!
What an amazing trip! All that good WINE and good FOOD (and apparently, great COMPANY)—je suis très jaloux. Rachie looks great and happy! ♥️
Très jalouse ! De très belles photos… surtout de vous tous.
Best vicarious thrill I’ve had in ages! Your NYE dinner- those were oysters too, non? Mon dieu.