THE South of France has long been a playground for the rich and famous, with superyachts and chic bars, restaurants and vineyards.
But there is more to the Côte d’Azur than the chichi millionaire’s playgrounds of Cannes, Saint-Tropez and Nice.
Choosing the right destination is key to your overall budget. My base was Sainte-Maxime, just a short hop across the bay, but a world away from the film stars, superyachts and designer boutiques of Saint-Tropez.
The unflashy town has an authentic local feel with bakeries and intimate cafes taking the place of swanky restaurants and nightclubs.
The town grew around fishing. These days the fishing boats are largely replaced by an expansive marina.
We stayed in Les Restanques du Carré Beauchêne — a gated community of villas located in the hills above town.
Each of the modern properties has a private garden, pool and wifi.
The generous-sized villas sleep up to eight. Prices are from just £116pp per week.
MEGA-YACHTS DWARF SMALL DWELLINGS
Hosts Summer France have no fixed minimum stays or arrival dates.
A premium service includes cold drinks and refreshments on arrival, beds made, toiletries in bathrooms and pastries and flowers delivered on the first morning.
Nearby restaurants offer high-quality set menus of Provencal cuisine starting from £17pp.
Try Le Bistrot de Louis, a relaxed pavement cafe a few streets from Sainte-Maxime’s harbour with friendly staff and an ever-changing menu. The lamb stew was exceptional.
Or for a unique experience, a chef from the Restaurant La Badiane will visit your chalet and prepare a meal.
There are shops nearby and it’s only a 30-minute walk to the beach, but having your own transport is a good option for exploring further afield.
Alternatively, why not take to two wheels with a guided tour of the French Riviera on a MEIJS Motorman electric motorcycle (£27 for an hour) with La Guepe Mobile.
The retro-looking machines have a top speed of just 28mph.
Our guides led us up into the mountains to take in the stunning scenery before passing through medieval villages and back along winding tracks through vineyards.
For those preferring four wheels, the same trip can be booked in a classic chauffeured electric Citroen Mehari.
La Guepe Mobile also offers tours of St Tropez on Le Z-Scooter — a two-wheeled cross between a Segway and a Vespa.
Heading home, I took the ferry from Saint-Tropez to Sainte Maxime across the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.
At £11 return, it is a great way to feel like you are making an arrival without buying a superyacht.
The next day, for more of a taste of the high life, I strolled around Port Grimaud.
Once the home to sex symbol Brigitte Bardot, much of the delightful town was built in the 60s and modelled on Venice but with traditional French-style fishing houses.
Every house is on the water and has its own boat mooring but, because of the huge prices and planning restrictions, many of the mega-yachts now dwarf the relatively small dwellings they are moored alongside.
The nearby sandy beach also offers a range of watersports and diving if you’re feeling energetic — otherwise just lay back with a cocktail and soak up the beautiful view.
With a huge choice of airlines flying from the UK to Nice and Marseilles, it is easier than ever to live the high life in the Med without breaking the bank.
STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ self-catering in a Les Restanques du Carré Beauchêne three-bedroom villa is from £116pp based on eight sharing including the premium service welcome basket and extras. See sainte-maxime.com
GETTING THERE: Flights to Nice are from £28pp one way with no hold luggage and limited carry on. See ryanair.com
OUT & ABOUT: For more info on electric scooter tours see La Guêpe Mobile Electric – laguepemobile.com.
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