The holiday that made me fall in love with Provence
There is something magical about taking a road trip across France. As the scenery changes from flat to mountainous, from chilly to gloriously warm and sunny you can feel your cares melting away. So it was for us on our drive to the South of France last week as guests of James Villas Holidays again, this time in the gorgeous region of Provence.
Enroute I had time for some planning for our stay at the Chateau de Camiole Resort and Spa including some of the day trips that I wrote about looking forward to before we left. And thanks to our two in-car DVDs the two little ones were (almost) as good as gold for the 12 hour journey. Copious snacks and an easy-to-eat packed breakfast and lunch helped too! (Take a look at my top tips for villa living and travelling with kids here.)
When we arrived at the resort the stunning scenery took our breath away! Nestled in a valley in between the hills of Provence, the Chateau de Camiole Resort and Spa is small but perfectly formed with pretty villas and a wealth of facilities including a restaurant, laundry, beautiful outdoor infinity pool with amazing views, a spa and gym. There are gorgeous flowers everywhere and the perfume of jasmine and roses fills the air as you walk around.
MY TOP TIP: If you’re driving to your villa as we did bring a home-made frozen meal with you for the first night – you can’t legislate for traffic jams and there’s nothing worse than arriving late, tired and with hungry children to feed. Pop in a bottle of wine – or something more sparkly – and you can toast the start of your holiday in style!
Set in its own little garden with a garage for our use, a pool and wooded area for the little people to explore, our villa was so pretty with shuttered windows and tiled floors throughout, perfect for keeping cool in the summer months, and with air-conditioning (and heating) included in the price plus free WIFI which was so useful for researching our day trips.
And I could smell the pretty jasmine at our door every time we went outside – so lovely!
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t quite warm enough for us to brave our unheated private pool (wimps) but I can imagine that in the hot summer months it would both be perfect for a cooling dip. The little ones enjoyed climbing on the rocks around the poolside anyway – as children do!
The villa had three bedrooms and was the perfect size for us with both Curly Girl and Little Man having their own room complete with ensuite bathrooms upstairs while our master bedroom and ensuite was downstairs. The kitchen was compact but fully equipt with everything you might need for family meals and importantly a good coffee machine!
The amazing produce in Provence – and spacious living/dining area in the villa – meant we loved cooking for ourselves and only ended up eating out a couple of times. With two little ones I find it’s often easier to do that anyway as they tend to be hungry early and way before evening meals get going in local restaurants.
Both our two fell in love with French bread and ate copious amounts every day along with delicious pain au chocolat that Daddy bought for them first thing each morning in the local village. (For more about the food of Provence take a look at these fabulous guest posts from Le Coin de Mel and Lou Messugo. Yum yum!)
For shopping we drove the short distance to Monteraux where a large LeClerc supermarket was stocked with everything from buckets and spades to children’s clothes, a plethora of spanners and wrenches (yep, the husband did browse that aisle!) and delicious fresh fruits, vegetables, cheese, meat and bread. There was even an ‘expat’ aisle just in case we forgot to pack the Marmite (we didn’t).
But most of the time we ate simply, letting the beautiful local ingredients speak for themselves.
The decor in the villa was modern and crisp with bright paintings I wanted to bring home with me! I loved the headboard in our master bedroom which mirror the window shutters you can see everywhere in Provence. With our bedding and towels included in the price (except pool towels) and a free cot and high chair for the Little Man we didn’t have to bring our whole house along with us which is a real bonus.
MY TOP TIP: Whether you’re driving or flying bring a pack of balloons with you to your villa. They take up no space in your case and you can blow them up when you arrive for some simple, fun entertainment on lazy afternoons or rainy days, with the added bonus that they won’t cause any damage.
The living room/dining area was bright and spacious with comfy sofas, a large table and chairs, a flat screen television and plenty of room for playing… and striking a pose!
On our first morning at the villa, after a lazy morning eating baguettes and croissants which we ordered from the resort restaurant, we took a short five minute drive to the pretty hilltop village of Callian.
Dominated by a feudal castle, apparently restored by a private owner, the village has stunning views over the countryside, winding cobble-stone lanes and charming narrow streets. We shopped at Le Petit Casino convenience store for some provisions before just letting our feet guide us around, listening to the babbling fountain on Place Bourgignon and breathing in the Jasmine and bougainvillea which added splashes of colour and perfume – we literally just mooched around drinking in the sights and sounds of a wonderfully slower pace of life.
Just to one side of the main square, behind the tables and chairs of the pizzeria and bar and next to the beautiful fountain created by overhanging plants, we found this enticing doorway which led up some steep steps to a hidden courtyard.
The courtyard was almost entirely stone with ledges just perfect for some more posing…
… and for jumping off!
The cobbled back streets contained treasures at every turn from tiny restaurants with pickled vegetables and baskets of flowers in the windows to colourful gnomes guarding potted gardens.
It felt so great to be in the sunshine!
Just past the police station on the right hand side is a car park and another flight if steps up to an impressive tourist office and a children’s playground that our two were happy to let off some steam in for a while.
In my opinion Villa Camiole is a great base for a family exploring the South of France with all the comforts of home. In the hot summer months the pool and large air-conditioned rooms would certainly provide a welcome respite from the sun and the Cote d’Azur with all its glitz and glamour is right on your doorstep – Monaco, Cannes, St Raphael… of which more soon!
Most of all we loved just hanging out as a family, reconnecting with each other and exploring all that the beautiful region of Provence has to offer. I certainly fell in love with it and can’t wait to go back!
For more information about holidays in one of the fabulous villas at the Chateau de Camiole Resort and Spa visit the James Villas website. We drove to Provence but James Villas are also able to put together flights with a villa plus car hire and airport parking for the complete family holiday.
Disclaimer: We were kindly gifted our time at Villa Selina by James Villa Holidays in return for an honest review.