Top 15 "Gîtes de France" in Provence
Summer is here and it's time to toss away your keyboard and savour the joys of a traditional siesta cradled by cicada song and nights under starry skies in Provence… That's all very well you might say, but where? Hippy-style on the beach? Trapper-style in the woods? Duvet-style at a campsite? No, no, no. In a nice warm (or cool!) "Gîtes de France" self-catering holiday home. There are exactly 464 of them in the Bouches-du-Rhône: most are out in the country, but you'll also find special "Gîtes Vertes" offering sustainable turnkey services, "Gîtes Santé" to recharge your body and mind and "Gîtes Terroir", flying the flag of local produce. We've chosen 15 of them, all with one thing in common: their owners love receiving guests and sharing their Provence with them. Sweet dreams, dear holidaymakers!
As rural as they come !
Le Domaine de Villemus, Jouques
Oh, the delights of the farm ! The smell of freshly-cut grass and bees buzzing in the hot summer air... After all, we all hanker after a taste of farm life from time to time, right ? Well, thanks to Michel and Nadia, you've come to the right place ! But beware ! Standing amid vines, olive trees, almond trees and lavender fields, this exceptional gite-bastide (for 4 guests), complete with terrace and pool, may just make you never want to return to city life again...
Le Réal Tordu, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
If Provence's sizzling summer temperatures make you want to hide indoors, read on. Here, the stream offers a peaceful, refreshing atmosphere, out of reach of the sun's claws. The gite is a gorgeous house with a large garden and pool. You'll find horses in the kingdom of the farm's owner Camille Poulet too and in summer, you can enjoy savouring her home-grown cherries, apricots, courgettes and lettuce. Yum! And all that just a stone's throw from trendy Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.
Relaxation for the body and mind
Gites Les Amandiers and Les Cyprès, Le Mas d’Eymard, Arles
In the caring hands of the Derot family
This fabulous country house in La Crau is a genuine family affair. There's Sylvie and Dominique, who manage the 3 gites and 5 B&B rooms. There's Sylvie's 87 year-old mother, the "Queen of Macaroons". There's Charlotte, one of the daughters, in charge of reception. Her husband Damien, who works on the farm. And then there's Pauline, another daughter, at the head of an astonishing rural beauty salon. Look no further if health and beauty are your goal. Simply opt for a holiday in the country !
Jacuzzi on the rocks
Gite Au Havre de Paix, Vauvenargues
The setting: pine and olive trees, vines and lavender... Set at the foot of Sainte-Victoire mountain, Franck Constant's gite boasts a very privileged location. The wow effect is there as soon as you push open the door – sunshine, a contemporary wood and metal decor and, especially, a large, deep blue jacuzzi at the perfect temperature, just waiting to get you back on top of the world with its 40 massage heads (yes, we counted them). What else ?
A (huge) cabin at the end of the garden
Gites Mas des Pampres, Cabannes
Plane trees, a pool and seven top design rooms... And you can rent it all at once! Up to 14 guests can set down their bags at this gorgeous bastide located 200 metres from the village. The owner, local-born Mireille, is simply adorable. After a married life dedicated to tree growing "I wanted to open this gite for families with children. I wanted it to be lively", she says. And lively it is, whether around the billiards table or at aperitif time, when Mireille also serves up some local produce. The guests are enchanted.
In a cool, tranquil valley
Gite Entre Mer et Collines (Roquevaire)
Set in the Aubagne area at the edge of a bubbling brook, this gite can welcome up to six guests and is the perfect choice for families and small groups. The decor ? Sharp, limestone peaks, three bedrooms, a luscious garden, summer kitchen, boules court (remember to keep your feet together when you play), chirping birds and scurrying squirrels. Christine has inherited the art of woodwork from her native Jura region and now offers introductions to sculpture and painting for children. Meanwhile, parents are as free as the birds...
Not weird, simply novel !
A la Maison Gite & B&B, Saint-Marc-Jaumegarde
A home from home... but better !
As you drive through the wrought iron gate, get ready to be thunderstruck by a 19th-century bastide ! 17 years in the hotel trade have made Christophe the perfect host. He and his artist partner Cristel fell head over heels in love with this house; although its architecture is Provencal, the decoration definitely isn't. Inspired by Seventies pop art, industrial workshops and Fifties vintage, every room is unique. Oh yes – there's a private screening room too with red velvet armchairs. Out of this world.
Heart of Camargue
Gîtes Le Château d’Eau, La Pergola and La Cabane de Gardian, Arles and Les Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer
Ever fancied sleeping at a real "manade", those Camargue ranches where they raise bulls and ride horses like we drive cars ? You can make your dreams come true at the Manade Mailhan ! Simply choose one of the gites set inside the typical old country house, or the "Cabane de Gardian" - a Camargue cowboy's cottage by the sea. Claire will be delighted to give you a tour of the ranch and you can help distribute hay and lucerne to the bulls or enjoy a horse ride too. Did you say a holiday ? More like a voyage to exotic climes…
Go green ! Eco-friendly holidays
Gites Les Cigales and Les Oiseaux, Ceyreste
The information panels dotted around on the pine trees say it all: 83 year-old Jean-Jacques Centino is a fanatic plant and animal lover! Home to frogs, chicken, goats, rabbits and birds, the garden is a hub of biodiversity and a refuge for butterflies. Jean-Jacques, a former history & geography teacher and Suzanne, an ex-primary school teacher, offer a special welcome for wild species. And they do a pretty good job when it comes to humans too ! "Welcoming people allows us to connect with the peaceful side of human nature", muses Jean-Jacques.
Gite Le Micocoulier and Le Merlot, Lambesc
Sylvie Pellegrin offers a warm welcome to her two eco-gites set inside a vineyard. And seeing as she is the founder of the Gîtes de France "Ecogîte" label, what could be more normal ? The gites - Le Micocoulier and Le Merlot – are insulated using hemp, have wooden roofs, are heated with a pellet boiler and cleaned with organic products. This eco-friendly site also boasts full accessibility for disabled guests ("Tourisme & Handicap" label). An admirable environmental approach Sylvie enjoys sharing with her guests over a glass of rosé.
Apartments La Suite des Accoules and L’Appart, Marseille.
After the Panier quarter's usual hustle and bustle and washing hanging from balconies, you head up the street stairway, the door opens and you enter a whole new world: that of the smell of old stone and the silence behind the thick walls of the ancient "Couvent des Accoules", one of Marseille's most ancient monuments. The ancient bell tower now harbours two refreshing, colourful and light-filled apartments, decorated by dynamic entrepreneur Béatrice Cimino. There is even an interior garden, invisible from the street. One of the city's most original places of stay.
Zen in the city
Villa Maredda, La Ciotat
Claude Peretti is one smart guy. By renovating this building located a stone's throw from the historic quarter of La Ciotat, this sparkling Corsican offers his guests a genuine refuge in the heart of town. The little lanes, beaches and restaurants are within arm's reach, as are the footpaths and "Calanque de Mugel" fjord. A boat ride to Ile Verte island ? Easy ! Simply abandon your car in the car park and rediscover the joys of walking... Villa Mareda offers 5 apartments for a different kind of urban vacation, all benefiting from the garden planted with plane trees, perfect for an aperitif or barbecue. Nice!
La Maison de la Place, Eygalières
"I designed it as though it was for me." Amaury de Turckheim sums it up in a single sentence. The welcome is warm and simple and Amaury delights in introducing guests to his beloved Alpilles. Making people feel at home is an art, and that's just what you feel when you set down your bags at this quaint village house built in the Thirties, set facing the town hall and café on the village square. The front garden overlooks the street and Friday market, while the back garden overflows with 2,800 m² of olive trees to get you in a country mood.
Gîtes L’Aglantale and La Berruguette, Istres
Some gites are trendy, chic and urban style while others are just... gites – the kind that don't make a big fuss, but are the epitome of how we imagine a holiday home to be: simple, a bit rustic, spacious and very welcoming. And those are definitely words you could use to describe L’Aglantale and La Berruguette, near Etang de l’Olivier lake. These semi-detached gites run by Annie Girot-Lambert and her hubby are set in beautiful grounds planted with olive trees.
Sea, village and hills... the 3-in-1 gite
Le Margouillat, Carry-le-Rouet
"Haven't you noticed we're in a better mood when the weather's good ?" We certainly have, Madame ! And that's one of the reasons why Claudine set up a gite inside this house, bought after she fell in love with the Côte Bleue during a weekend break. "All you need is good humour, relaxation and the spirit of the South: holidays, sunshine and heat!" And with the town and port of Carry right next door to boot, you've hit the jackpot ! The sea and coastal footpath (perfect for walkers) are there too. And the rocky hills... And what about the gite itself ? Loft-style, airy and modern. The promise of a sunny break !
The "Sentier Provence, mines d'énergies" (Provence Energy Mine Trail) is a new GR® long-distance footpath crossing 14 towns in the Pays d’Aix and Pays d’Aubagne areas. The trail is divided into 3 itineraries (42 km, 45 km and 66 km) and also includes 13 local loops.
From the producer to the bag
What's the best thing to bring back from your holiday in Provence? And what souvenir from the South should we take if we're visiting friends or family elsewhere? We won't be offering you a classic little tour of the souvenir shops this time, so let's head off to meet the local producers and craftspeople instead!
" Place your bets ! "
Las Vegas, Monaco and Atlantic City are simply overrated. On the other hand, Carry-le-Rouet, Cassis, La Ciotat and Aix-en-Provence all have lots of sightseeing attractions - plus casinos!
Whether it's served hot with a salad, used to crown a cheese platter, or savoured fresh with honey or olive oil, goat's cheese is an absolute culinary must. Provence's dry, sunny climate is perfect for goat breeding -and that's lucky for us!
A gourmet treat…
Provence has been famed for its candied fruit from time immemorial. In the early 16th century, the region was fairly impoverished. Fruit grew here in abundance, but much of it was lost every year.
In a sauce or salad, red is the colour!
Not having qualifications doesn't mean your life is ruined
Can anyone resist an almond? Everyone raves about these little nuggets of happiness you can savour every which way – fresh, dried, whole, grilled, sliced, ground or made into a cream or milk!
The Gourmet's New Eldorado
It had all but disappeared from the markets, but then – perhaps as a result of Halloween arriving in France – squash made a big comeback on our stalls just over a decade ago
It all starts with a crushed clove...
Provencal cuisine simply wouldn't exist without garlic
Francis lived happily close beside his tree...
Picked ripe from the tree, figs are simply to die for. They can also be scattered on trays and left to dry in the sun for 3 days: "That's the best way to keep your figs all winter – we serve figs at Christmas as one of Provence's famous 13 Desserts," smiles Jacqueline Honoré.
A story that will make you turn to jelly...
As yellow as sunshine and as warm as a winter fireplace... The quince isn't very pretty, but the people of Provence love it. You could even say that a passion has been born between this irregular-shaped fruit, somewhat resembling a dented, rustic pear and our lovers of jams, jellies and pastes.