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One might think St. Tropez in early June would be jumping the gun a bit when it comes to summer vacations, but I have to say, it’s a great time to be in the South of France. Our travel plans during the summer of 2017 kicked off with my partner Debby’s daughters showing in the Jumper Class of the Longines Global Champions tour, a prestigious equestrian competition on the Cote d’Azur.
While in town for the competition, we spent ten days traveling through some of the most beautiful countryside and coastlines: Les Baux-de-Provence, Aix, St. Tropez, and to finish up, Cannes.
We curated an ideal getaway for the adventurous couple, visiting the hotel sanctuaries recommended to us by friends who grew up vacationing in the area.
The biggest challenges we faced were eating healthy and staying balanced and happy amidst all of the excess that surrounded us.
Let us start with the food. We were consistent in our quest to blend the deliciously indulgent choices with healthier ones. While we definitely caved to the warm, homemade bread with butter, numerous variations of cheeses from Fromagerie du Marché, and sweet, rich slices of Tarte Tropézienne, we also spent hours walking through towns, happy to be burning off the calories we had consumed. On the first day alone we may have logged over 15,000 steps, working off about two cheese wheels each. The key to staying healthy while vacationing in a city where food equals fun? Walking, walking, and more walking.
In St. Tropez, we typically stay at the Byblos, which we love for its proximity to town and fun pool vibes. This trip, however, we decided to venture to Ramatuelle and experience La Réserve Hotel (scottdunn.com). Sprawling grounds and award-winning architecture make this location extremely photogenic. The rooms are incredible, and the bathtubs for me offered the best moment of every evening. We powered up each day with an espresso or cappuccino from the local cafes. The restaurant in the lobby served the most amazing, foamy cappuccinos.
If you want to venture out and people-watch portside with the yachts, definitely go and grab a seat at Sénéquier (senequier.com), where new owners have created a lively vibe and fantastic menu for lunch and dinner. The hotel offers a shuttle service to town at no charge, allowing you to save that 50-euro taxi fare for more rewarding purchases.
As travelers who prefer to be in bed by midnight, we enjoyed the nightclub vibe in the hotel gym. They feature all types of equipment for any fitness enthusiast. Deb taught the girls her version of Brugal Body Moves, while I enjoyed the outdoor spin bike and free weights. One thing that will keep you motivated and happy when you travel is spending at least ten to 20 minutes in a well-curated hotel gym. If there isn’t great equipment in the gym, at least sneak in push-ups, sit-ups, and jumping jacks with a view, as this will keep your metabolism kicking during all of your calorie consumption.
For a healthy daytime snack, opt for juicy watermelon triangles at our favorite beach club, Club Les Palmiers. (Ask for Jerome; he’s a seasoned pro with the friendliest disposition and the brightest blue eyes—and it doesn’t hurt that he speaks six languages). He will arrange your chair by the hour, tilt your umbrella to the perfect angle, and bring you any drink you desire. For Deb it was the rosé on ice, for me my trusty Pellegrino in a champagne bucket full of ice. Their lunch menu is full of delicious, healthy French options, and you’ll be inspired to shop by the gorgeous ladies modeling the gift shop’s unique, beach-chic clothing in and around all the tables.
If you’re spending some of your summer living it up in St. Tropez, trust us and take a few days away for the sublime splendor of Provence. The drive alone is exciting and the landscape and light of the countryside is beyond any expectation. The aroma of fresh jasmine and lavender and the sounds of simple quiet amidst nature’s orchestra will leave you spellbound. Remember to bring lots of euro, as some local spots don’t accept U.S. credit cards. (We learned this the hard way when stopping to fuel our BMW Mini convertible.)
While in Provence, The Baumanière in Les Baux and Villa Gallici in Aix are both full of perfectly manicured French-style landscaping, from fountains and sprawling old trees to rose bushes and unique sculptures. Calming the spirit is just as valuable as burning calories, and we promise there’s no better place to do that. Walking the grounds you’ll find plenty of alcoves to read, hang out, stretch, or have a little bite. You can also walk into the villages (pro tip: pack sensible shoes) and do some shopping. It always feels good to come back to America with some French summer style, after all.
If you're into unique serving pieces for your dinner parties, pull off A8 autoroute into Aubagne (just south of Aix). Known for its local clay, it's the pottery capital of France. On the advice of a La Reserve concierge, we fell in love with Poterie Ravel's chic pieces in beautiful earth tones and traditional yellow, red, and blue Mediterranean hues. (Ask for Patrick; he speaks English and is a whiz with a trolley in the sprawling showrooms.) The best part? They'll pack and ship to the U.S.
We ate a delicious lunch at Le Chastel (lechastel.com), a great little restaurant recommended by our cool salesman at First (a must-see shop in Aix). Another favorite shop in Aix for menswear—Stacey’s favorite—is Etymology. It’s run by the très chic Herve Simon, and his best friend who used to work at the local Hermès.
Finally, if you need a little pampering after all the walking and “working out,” visit the spa at any of these hotels. They have long lists of enticing treatments, soft fresh towels, lovely fragrances, and relaxing settings. A spa visit is always a great way to calm the mind, body, and spirit before starting all over again on your next adventurous day.
We enjoyed every moment, but we must admit, we are missing our Soul Warriors, and we can’t wait to get back to you soon. We won’t have these views, but we do have lots of new music to look forward to.
Stacey Griffith is a member of the American Express® Platinum Collective, an advisory board that helps create experiences and benefits for Platinum Card® Members.