SS Catherine
SS Catherine
Image: Gillian McLaren

This floating boutique hotel, with custom-designed interiors, has original Matisse, David Hockney, Miro and Picasso works on display. With butler service for in-suite guests, a knowledgeable sommelier and an enthusiastic 
well-being coach masseur, service is impeccable. 

Where’s the party? The new Confluence area in Lyon has vibrant bars and outstanding restaurants. Try the hip Docks 40.

Eatery loved by the locals? Les Cinq Mains is a small restaurant in the heart of Lyon, where locals would never miss an opportunity to dine. Difficult to get in, but it is one of those magical places that will make you feel part of the community.

Martin Jancovic
Martin Jancovic
Image: Gillian McLaren

An outdoor activity worth doing? A kayak ride in the Gorges du Gardon with relaxing scenery is unforgettable, especially as you pass under Pont du Gard.

Unmissable architecture? Pont du Gard and the Pope’s Palace – located very close to each other – are the highlight of Provence.

What’s on at the opera? L’Enlèvement au sérail, at the beautiful Opera of Lyon in June and July. 

A new, high-end restaurant? La Mère Brazier, a reopened restaurant in Lyon. 
The chef, Mathieu Viannay, managed to get the glory days back in only a year and was awarded two Michelin Stars. With one of the best menus in Lyon and an amazing selection of wines, this is the place to eat, even if you have only a day to spend.

Gilded statue of Mother Mary above the Papal Palace in Avignon
Gilded statue of Mother Mary above the Papal Palace in Avignon
Image: Gillian McLaren

Unmissable city-specific event? During Fête des Lumières in Lyon, at the 
beginning of December, the whole city of Lyon is lit up by residents who put candles in their windows. Magnificent light shows take place.

A great local band? Héloïse Letissier, known by her stage name, Christine and the Queens, is the new hot band in France. With her worldwide tour, you might be lucky to see her in your home town.

A cultural event or celebration you shouldn’t miss? Theatre festival in Avignon in July attracts locals and tourists, for a month of nonstop theatre shows, music, street artists and crafts.

Any special markets? Arles market on Saturday offers a vast selection of top-quality vegetables, fruits, local dishes and French sausages. Macon in Burgundy has an artisanal market where individuals bring their homegrown fresh produce and cheese.

Preparation of a field for planting lavender
Preparation of a field for planting lavender
Image: Gillian McLaren

Best locale for authentic local products? Jules Verne Street in Avignon offers a great variety of local French brands, designers and artists.

What is the signature dish of the area and where can the best example be found? Bouillabaisse, a perfect combination of fish and seafood that has “the taste of heaven”, as the French say. You can find this dish all over Provence, but it is most famous in Marseille.

Best contemporary art gallery? Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon has a great variety of exhibitions.

Best local spa? La Bastide de Gordes & Spa atop 12th-century fortifications on the edge of downtown Gordes.

Frenchman selling artisanal products in Marcon Saturday Market
Frenchman selling artisanal products in Marcon Saturday Market
Image: Gillian McLaren

You can’t come to Provence without experiencing? Les Baux de Provence, a little town on the side of a hill, will make you fall in love with Provence if you haven’t already. Dramatic, fragrant lavender fields blooming June-August. Cuisine at Paul Bocuse L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, three-star Michelin, near Lyon. uniworld.com

View from Les Baux de Provence
View from Les Baux de Provence
Image: Gillian McLaren
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