Simon Marshall is one of our expert campsite finders. Here he tells us about the glamorous hotspots of his favourite region, the Côte d’Azur.
How long have you worked for Canvas Holidays?
I started working in the Canvas Holidays warehouse in Nantes in February 2005. I worked as an Area Manager in Brittany the following summer, then took up a post in the Dunfermline office in November 2006.
What are the top ‘must sees’ for families visiting the area?
Definitely St Tropez. If you’re on holiday in July or August the roads can be crowded, so taking the boat across from Fréjus or Port Grimaud is a good plan. Aqualand is a huge water park in Fréjus and is a great family day out however old your children are. If you have teenagers, visit the Gorges de Verdon (1.5 hours inland) where you can try kayaking downstream or even canyoning .
And what about couples – is there plenty for them to do as well?
On a clear day, head inland to visit the old town of Grimaud which has winding cobbled streets and a hill top medieval castle. The views are great – you can see all the way up the coast past Fréjus, as well as inland to the Provencal hills. If you’re after a more adventurous holiday, there are plenty of places along the coast where you can try activities like windsurfing and paragliding. For a more cultural day out, head to St Paul de Vence – there are 20 art galleries in the town. Nice and Monte Carlo are a little further afield but well worth a day trip!
When you get time off, what do you like to do in the area?
I head to Port Grimaud to enjoy a Lemon Meringue ice cream – it’s out of this world! I’ll eat it while checking out the expensive yachts moored around the ports. I also like to find time for a dip in the Mediterranean at one of the small coves around the St Raphael area.
Tell us about the regional specialities
If you get the opportunity, the Pissaladière (French onion tart) should be on your list of food to try. It is a simple savoury pastry topped with slow cooked onions, black olives and sometimes anchovies. Definitely best enjoyed on the terrace of a bistro, soaking up the late afternoon sun with a chilled glass of local rosé, as you watch the world go by!
Do you have a favourite restaurant? Why is it your favourite?
For lunch, I recommend La Licorne (The Unicorn) in Port Grimaud. It offers a really good value ‘plat du jour’ – usually fresh fish cooked in the Provence style – and dessert for around €13. In the evening, La Ciboullette (The Chives) in Gassin offers good, inexpensive food, great service and even better views – the sun settings over the hills in one direction and the bay of St Tropez in the other.
What type of holidaymaker do you think the Côte d’Azur holds the most appeal for?
It really is a tale of two seasons in the Cote d’Azur. Low season is much quieter, making it the perfect time to visit if you want to get out and about and spend time exploring. Families with toddlers will also enjoy this time of year – the weather tends to be a bit cooler than during the scorching summer months. The weather in high season is generally hot, and it’s a great time for families to visit – the campsites really ramp up the amount of activities on offer and evening entertainment programs. In July and August, the region is a good choice if you are looking for a pool and beach holiday!
What is there to do if the weather is bad?
To be honest, the weather is usually pretty good! However, if you do get a wet day, spend some time exploring the Provence towns which are a bit more off the beaten track. Grasse is the home of France’s perfume manufacturing. It’s where they grow the plants and flowers which give brands like Chanel their distinctive aromas. You could also spend the day celebrity spotting in Cannes!
What’s the best souvenir for people to take home?
Along the port in St Tropez you’ll find lots of local painters who set up their easels and paint local scenes, landmarks and everything you will have loved about the region. For €30 upwards, you can take home an original painting – the vivid lavender, sunflower and sky blue tones will get you through the long UK winters!
Can you sum up the region in five words?
Lives up to its expectations!
Canvas Holidays offers six campsites in the Côte d’Azur.