View from a luxury villa in Saint MaximeSee that 'Part One' mention?  Mm, yeah that means I'll be sharing a lot of snaps from this month's return to the South of France!  As a general rule, while exploring other cities/climates, I do my best to put down the tech and see the world first hand.  However, the Côte d'Azur really doesn't encourage that - every other second you're faced with new picture-perfect views of sprawling landscapes, glistening pools of water and clusters of tropical plants!  Balancing living in the moment and capturing it for later is an art and one that I'm only now beginning to learn; instead of 'snap, snap and move on', I've been taking the time to capture and then... sit.  I've been sitting, watching and appreciating.  So, scroll on knowing that a lot of love has been poured into each and every one of these moments!
View from my bedroom in Sainte Maxime villa
Villa decor in South of France
Sainte Maxime villa breakfast view
Bowl of pastries for breakfast in FranceFor this month's visit to the South of France, I had the pleasure of staying in a drop dead gorgeous villa at the heart of Sainte-Maxime with family.  Having stayed in the area a few times over the years, it's always a pleasure to return and soak up the summertime vibes of the French Riviera!  After a couple of days spent lounging around by the pool (and eating my weight in madeleines), itineraries were drawn up and a full day of touring lay ahead.  

First up, the Monastery of La Verne, a spectacular site located well and truly off the beaten track (includes 15 minute mandatory walk after parking - wear flats!).  The Carthusian monastery was founded in 1170 and went on to amass over 3000 acres of forest/pastures, partly through donations.  Over time, the monastery has suffered multiple fires and attacks from raiders/neighbouring lords, before being classed as a historical monument in 1921 and going on to have major refurbishments from 1969 to 1982.  Present day, it stands proudly in the depths of the thick forests of Collobriéres, having had a 99 year lease signed in 1983 between the French state and monastic Family of Bethlehem.  The site's tranquility is something worth visiting for alone; nuns can be found praying in modest chapels, lavender grows in masses within the boundaries of small courtyards and the views are spectacular.  Go for the history, leave with a sense of calm.   

Monastery of La Verne
La Verne
83610 Collobriéres 
15 minute walk to Monastery of La Verne
Travel blog review of Monastery of La Verne
Canon EOS 100d flower photography
Travel blogger visit to Monastery of La Verne
Collobriéres is a commune in the Var department in the Côte d'Azur, buried deep in the Maures Mountains.  Though the monastery is a half hour drive away from the sleepy village, the air of calm and tranquility is very much the same.  It's the kind of location that springs to mind when considering where a retired actress or in-demand author would retreat to for some peace and quiet, y'know?  Arriving at lunchtime, the streets were stripped of visitors, as most could be found dining at the popular 'floating restaurants' - those that occupy bridges over the river Réal Collobrier.  Needless to say, we followed suit.  Was it dreamy?  Uhuh!    
Collobrieres tourism french flags
Côte d'Azur Collobrieres village in summer
Travel blogger visit to Collobrieres villageI'm not entirely certain whether the rows of french flags are a permanent fixture in the village, or whether they were strung up to acknowledge recent events; sadly, while in the South of France I had tuned into the news to find dozens upon dozens of people had been killed in the Nice attack.  In a place filled with so much kindness and beauty, it was horrifying to think something so terrible could happen.

Before leaving the small village (less than 2000 inhabitants), a visit to Confiserie Azuréenne was squeezed in, a gated business dedicated to making candied chestnuts (marrons glacés).  The traditional market town is famous for its chestnut trees, to the point of one of its main exports being chestnuts.  Confiserie Azuréenne has a small museum available to check out their creative process of turning them into something sweeter, as well as an outdoors, sheltered ice cream shop. Though, you'll have to let me know how the chestnut ice cream tastes, because never in the history of time have I ever turned down the opportunity to enjoy a caramel scoop!

Confiserie Azuréenne 
Boulevard Kœnig
83610 Collobriéres
Collobrieres confiserie azureenne ice cream shop
Caramel ice cream held in the air
Ice cream shop in collobrieres
Côte d'Azur driving tour villages
The day ended in a very different way to which it started; from the thick and quiet monastic-owned forests of Collobriéres, to the colourful and borderline-sumptuous village of Port Grimaud.  The village is another commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in southeastern France, however is visibly more popular thanks to its status of 'seaside town'.  On the map, it's located just 4.3 miles from Saint-Tropez and was created in the 1960s by architect François Spoerry in a Venetian manner, though with ''Fishermans'' style houses resembling those in Saint Tropez.    
Port Grimaud boats and fisherman style houses
Travel blogger visit to Port Grimaud
Port Grimaud colourful architecture fisherman style housesWhile wandering past the various colourful buildings of Port Grimaud, one restaurant close to the waterfront stood out thanks to the infusion of nature into the front's decor.  Oh and the oversized ice cream cone helped too - because who doesn't love giant foods?  Le Relais des Coches proved to be a pleasant, modest stop.  The staff were wonderful, a soft breeze blew through on a boiling hot day and although I was brought the wrong plate of food, it seemed like a great opportunity to try something new.  Long gone are the days of rejecting cheese in my crêpes!
Port Grimaud restaurant le relais des choches
Port Grimaud restaurant review le relais des choches
Boat on the lake at Port Grimaud travel bloggerThere's only one real way to cool down entirely - hit the water!  Or uh hit the boat in the water.  The tour was in French, though in all honesty that suited me just fine.  My grasp of the French language sits somewhere between beginner and intermediate level, the perfect level to tune out the tour guide and tune into the water...
Summer boat ride through Port Grimaud
Travel blogger in the south of france
Balcony view of Sainte Maxime in Côte d'Azur ... and then back to the villa for a good night's sleep!  One thing I'm already missing is the incredible views from the villa to both start and end the day.  By morning, you could see the yachts speeding across the sea in the distance and by night, the skies were covered with smatterings of deep orange and red shades before the stars emerged.  Anyway, more of that in part two - keep your eyes peeled!

With love,

Gabrielle x