Slow Travel with Kids in the South of France – When we flew into Nice, we already knew the city pretty well. Travelling with youngsters we didn’t fancy the flashier towns of St Tropez or Cannes so we discovered some gems off the predictable tourist trail. [And they were all surprisingly buggy friendly too…]
Base – Frejus – Yelloh Caravan Park
Staying at a Yelloh mobile home near Frejus, the kids had swimming pools and baby discos at their disposal. A great base, although the kids’ toilets were miles from the pool (when you’re potty-training that is!). Apart from that, they loved it and I’d recommend it as a low key location.
Beachlife – free
As we’d based ourselves on the French Riviera, when we fancied a change from the caravan site, lots of little beaches were at our disposal. Tiki Plage was one example.
Perfume – FREE tours at Fragonard in Grasse
Rather than hit the key tourist towns, we nipped to Grasse. It’s known as the resting place of Napoleon, but it’s more famous as a perfume town. Many perfumers are located here. We took the boys on a tour of the Fragonard factory because it offered free tours – love a bargain, me. Thankfully the children lurved sniffing things – who knew? – from scented soaps shaped like pastel-coloured eggs, to perfume sticks and perfumes, they were unexpectedly in their element. Partly because the tour was free, I did some damage in the gift shop. When I wear the lavender and rose perfume people regularly ask where I got it from.
Abbey de Thoronet
I know that my kids are quite happy rambling and running around a ruin. In the heat of the sun Thoronet Abbey was a hit. Cooling interiors, picturesque olive groves, dark cloisters and rooftop explorations, Thoronet was popular but far from overrun with tourists. Chasing the crickets under the olive trees proved a past-time that I simply didn’t see coming. The village of Thoronet itself reminded me of a film set – dainty and unspoiled.
Base 2 – Maison du Midi Guest House in Lorgues
Then we moved to the small town of Lorgues to a small guest house called Maison du Midi. It had a restful garden where breakfast was served, and an (unheated – brrr) outdoor pool. We discovered this chic establishment in the Telegraph. After a static caravan it felt like pure luxury to have a proper bed and actual armchairs, but our kids were the only mini residents at the guest house, so naturally I felt pressure for them to behave, which they generally did. The town itself had a little funfair where the tots went loco on the loco trains.
Wine Tasting – free – Chateau d’Astros
France is renowned for its wine so we took the kids on the child-friendly exploit of wine tasting. The Chateau d’Astros vineyards in Vidauban worked because we spent most of our time walking the grounds with the kids, and then a swift 20 minutes tasting the wine! [We packed the tots some OJ cartons.]
Villecroze Grotto and Park – free (except for the caves)
I loved this place, feeling I’d stumbled on a site that most tourists overlook. A lush green garden with an unexpected cave complex to explore. Waterfalls, elegant planting, random totem poles and a playground – there was something for everyone here.
Verdon Gorge – free
If you want a view of epic proportions be sure to stop at the Verdon Gorge. It’s vast – you can picture the glacier slicing through the land. Various viewing points allow for great pictures. Thankfully our tots both fell asleep in the car so we could venture VERY close to the edge without worrying about their safety. (Take care with little ones).
Active visitors can take to the water, but a v civilised option is to grab a drink or meal at the Hotel du Grand Canyon du Verdon. They are very used to people ordering a coffee simply to drink in the views. When we visited, a Police Helicopter was fearlessly sweeping through the gorge like something out of the A-Team. My heart was in my throat, and I had no idea what they were looking for. Needless to say, the kids loved it. This is a stunning natural site that is a privilege to experience.
Our final stop was Antibes. As far as the best known towns along the coast, Antibes is our favourite. It has wealth, but it also has a little soul. Lovely streets to wander along, beautiful and very expensive boats in the mariner and small public beaches with showers, it was an easy stop on our way home.
We flew to Nice direct from Scotland and picked up a hire car. We booked the holiday home and guest house independently.