Think Provence for your next holidays in France

For centuries Provence has been a region associated with art, fine food, finer wines and high-brow culture. For many British visitors, it's their first choice for their holidays in France.

For a quick introduction to the art obsession in the region, follow the trail of the artist Cézanne in the town of Aix-en-Provence.  This is an elegant Provençal town seemingly designed for wandering from chic pavement cafe to smart restaurant.

Let Cézanne's favourite drinking establishments, the Café Des Deux Garçons, the Café Oriental, the Café Beaufort and the Cafe Clement help you soak up the atmosphere of 19th-century post-Impressionism.

You'll have discovered by now that the wine of the region is world-class. For confirmation it helps to pay a visit to Château La Nerthe (www.chateaulanerthe.fr), an imposing establishment just outside the village of Châteuneuf Du Pape. A tour and tasting  reminds you that the Rhone is one of the elite wine-growing regions of the world. Check your credit card limits before you start ordering cases.

Fast TGV trains from Aix take you to Avignon, an impressive medieval city that was an independent state until 1791 and was once the centre of the Catholic Church. Its international theatre festival (www.festival-avignon.com) takes over the cobbled medieval streets and squares in summer.

After the heady culture of Avignon, the earthy port city of Marseille comes as a sharp contrast. This is a melting pot of a place, soaking up influences from North Africa, Italy and the Middle East. It has an urban buzz that you won't find anywhere else in Provence.

The tourist thing to do (no less enjoyable for that) is to head down to the old port, and order a bowl of Marseille's greatest culinary invention, bouillabaisse. This superb fish soup may well turn out to be the best thing you've tasted on any holidays in France.

For further information on the region, and news of events, exhibitions and cultural highlights, consult www.visitprovence.com.


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