I dedicate this Road Trip between the coast and the hinterland to aficionados of modern and contemporary art. Two lines of landscapes which inspired great artists like Matisse or Picasso via Renoir and Chagall, before today hosting important artistic foundations. Saint-Paul de Vence, Porquerolles, Provence, the Alpilles: this backdrop bathed in colors and light so special, has given birth to many major works. A setting that invites contemplation and a relaxed lifestyle.
It will seem unbearable, but to roam the most beautiful roads in this region, I opt for a convertible – Yes sir – it will be the BMW 8 series in pearly white – Yes madam.
It integrates with character the family of BMW luxury models, with a contemporary, successful and confident design. Steering wheel in hand, this captivating sports convertible seduces with its performance, dynamic qualities and technologies. The BMW 8 Series Convertible is a form of affirmation of driving pleasure for me. So I assume my choice!
7 DAYS / 6 NIGHTS
NEAR. 350 MILES
I have an appointment with Maya, who is accompanying me on this trip, she comes back from a quarter in Los Angeles and she wanted to recharge her batteries. She sends me messages saying that the weather is really bad, that she cannot wait to get there and she hopes the trunk of the car is big enough. Obviously, I answer to her that the weather is great here and we will be on board in a van such as the one used during her parades, so she was in joy!
After finding the beauty at Nice airport and two hours after finding the algorithm that allowed us to put all our suitcases in the 8 series, here we are on the way for our first step. The first moments on the road are the most precious and everything is conducive to live it in the present moment. The air of Provence, the crickets and the music in the background, I feel she is here with me, we do not talk much, we look at each other, we sketch some shy smile.
DAY 1 & DAY 2NEAR. 13 MILES – NEAR. 41 MIN
Eze, medieval village perched on a spur rocky above the Mediterranean, captivated by a beautiful exotic garden and the ruins of a castle, it offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the Côte d’Azur. Matisse, Renoir, Picasso, Chagall drew inspiration from it.
This village with its particular geography which revolves around the cornices that connect Nice to Menton: Eze-sur-Mer and its restaurants along the lower cornice, Eze village at the level of the average cornice. It is in the latter that our itinerary begins and with a first visit in the footsteps of the great masters of the 20th century who have succumbed to the scene as well.
The mild weather prompts us to extend the walk on the path to Nietzsche which begins near La Chèvre d’Or, at the entrance to the village. It is sport, but it is worth it. The stars are well aligned, this ride opens our appetite and we head to Eze-sur-Mer for a lunch in a typical atmosphere of the French Riviera. My advice! Papaya Beach is an institution here. Its semi-bohemian, semi-trendy decor and its location by the sea make it the ideal place for lunch facing the sea.
On the menu: lobster roll, mixed salad, beef tartare, grilled lobster… All the classics of beach restaurants the Côte d’Azur is there. For dessert, Maya prefers a gourmet champagne instead of coffee. We are relaxing, we tease, we are happy to meet again.
Where to sleep at Eze?
A few words are enough to describe the Cap-Estel hotel in Eze: a dazzling and majestic establishment of only 28 rooms with huge suites, very creative gastronomic catering and service worthy of a palace… Continue reading
It is 3 p.m., we land on Papaya Beach before taking up our quarters at the Hotel Cap-Estrel. She has the Jet-Lag, we will have dinner at the hotel restaurant.
The Most beautiful village in south
Imagine walking past a charming church, where you sit in the sun at the edge of a small square, or climb a virgin vine. The villages of the south of France compete in beauty… Continue reading
DAY 3NEAR. 88 MILES -NEAR. 3h23
SAINT-PAUL DE VENCE – RAMATUELLE (SAINT-TROPEZ)
I take advantage of his few miles to take more control of the car – without telling him anything – I accelerate. I expect brutal and I am not disappointed. Maya can see that I am playing a little, nothing bothers her – she even takes pleasure in listening to the engine reworked with the hood down. It looks smaller than it is! So much so that you can quickly become too self-confident. This Series 8 has an efficient and precise behavior.
When we arrive in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, we are immediately struck by the charm of the old town. Built in the 9th century, the heart of Saint-Paul-de-Vence is an adorable set of cobbled streets and stone buildings. We start with a visit to the Maeght foundation.
A museum cradled in nature, the place brings together one of the most important private European collections of paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works of the 20th century: Bonnard, Braque, Calder, Chagall, Giacometti, Léger, Miro… An expert reveals the history of these artists, their works and the Foundation. In the afternoon we visit the Folon chapel, artistic and poetic refuge of the Belgian artist. During your strolls, do not hesitate to cross their threshold and discover the works presented. The most famous galleries are the Frédéric Gollong, Bartoux and Di Allure galleries. They are all located on Grande Street.
In the neighboring town of Vence, there is a secret corner that will delight art lovers: the Matisse chapel. We owe this discreet and refined construction to the hard work of Henri Matisse for 4 long years. The artist is fully invested in the realization of the chapel.
After this day, we hit the road to reach our evening address, in Ramatuelle, in the shelter, at the hotel Épi 1959. Maya decides to drive – obviously – that is good, I am knocked out.
Where to Sleep at Ramatuelle?
In Pampelonne, glamor always sticks to the skin and more precisely in a shed of the legendary Épi Plage – renamed Épi 1959 and revamped without losing its casual elegance of the sixties… Continue reading
Tropezian day. The mythical refuge of glamor Tropezian day. It is also a plethora of artists from yesterday and today. Contemporary art galleries are blossoming: Richard Orlinski, Paul Janssen, Caroline Dechamby are among the essential stops between a lunch on the beach and an evening on the port.
Indie Beach House
Spend a day on Indie Beach Alternative boho at Club 55, Indie Beach is the new hot spot for Pampelonne beaches… Continue Reading
DAY 5NEAR. 83 MILES – 1h49
RAMATUELLE – PORQUEROLLES
Boarding for Porquerolles by private water taxi. This enchanted island, the largest of the three that make up the Hyères archipelago, bordered by turquoise waters and coves of fine sand, a true Provencal natural conservatory, is now home to a center of contemporary art: the Carmignac Foundation.
Simple farm until the 1980s, it was transformed into a villa by the architect Henri Vidal, before Edouard Carmignac, supported by several artists, installed a place dedicated to art. 2000 m² discreetly integrated into the protected nature of the island. The great part is given to the great American artists of the 60s to 80s with among others, some iconic works of Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein and Jean-Michel Basquiat. The young emerging scene, plastic photography and photojournalism complete this unique space in which art dialogues from rooms to gardens, with a series of sculptures scattered in the vegetation.
DAY 6nearly 86 miles – 1h49
PORQUEROLLES – LE PUY-SAINTE-RÉPARADE
We have an appointment at Château La Coste. The estate cultivates together biodynamic wines, architecture and modern art. Between the vines and the Jean Nouvel winery, stands an art center created by another star architect, the Japanese Tadao Ando. Outside are the works of Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Frank Gehry, Ai Weiwei and other great non-Provencal artists. Curious, we stay overnight. I reserved a table with Francis Mallmann, an artist who works Charolais beef over a dome fire.
Time is luxury at Chateau La Coste and it is worth taking it. This place is a perfect combination of the brightest ideas and minds of art and architecture – while being in harmony with a green environment, leaving the landscape unscathed. The Chateau La Coste is a unique place, but also a perfect representation of the hotel of tomorrow.
DAY 7NEARLY 50 MILES – NEAR. 1H23
LE PUY-SAINTE-RÉPARADE – ARLES
It is 11am, we hit the road with Maya to head towards our last stage: Arles. As a sign that our journey is soon coming to an end, a delicious silence is settling down, we are back precisely to this present moment forgetting where we are going, this gene of the beginning leaves room and accomplice looks. It is no longer a matter of arriving somewhere, but thinking of nowhere…
It is a city of inspiration for artists and creators since Roman Antiquity, Arles is considered one of the great cultural centers of the South of France; its role as a platform for transport, industry and the arts, positioning it as a true jewel in the crown of Provence. During the heyday of the neo-Gothic style, vacationers strolled along its Promenade des Alyscamps, a Roman necropolis where Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin both went to paint. Resolutely cultural and romantic at the same time, Arles has not changed since Antiquity. So there is a real relationship and a real balance, like a mirror, between the ancient city and the modern city.
Things to do Arles
It was impossible for me to leave the region without showing Maya, the Hameau des Baux is a hotel like no other located at the foot of the magnificent village of Baux-de-Provence, in the heart of the Alpilles. At the same time a luxury hotel, an art gallery and a high-flying restaurant that brilliantly handles all the ingredients for a successful weekend: comfort, culture, gastronomy, but also and above all a soul. And all this, in an absolutely magnificent environment.
The Hameau des Baux revives a very private village in the pure Provençal tradition: a path that crosses olive groves, terraces with majestic views, different buildings that immediately immerse you in a typically Provençal hamlet, with its village square, its chapel and its mill… A retreat in the heart of Provence, quite simply!
We stroll in the large bathroom preparing for dinner. It is an intoxicating place, where relaxation and calm also go through decoration. Inevitably, we sleep here as in a cozy nest: tearing oneself out of the big bed is almost a mission. Breakfast time!
Our trip is coming to an end, Maya has a plane to take, she is booked for a new shoot… A few days later, I receive a message from her. Just a photo of her and few words:
“Hello happiness, we were for 1 week on the other side of the world without going too far – Oscillating between the Azure and the ocher, this trip takes us to discover of our beings and the major artistic foundations of your country. Bathed by the sun of Provence, this pause necessarily makes the movement that follows richer in density and intensity”. Love 🌴❣️ Maya