So much to see and to do.
Bonjour and a smile, goes a long way!
With no French, I had a few concerns about travelling with a group of golfers in Provence. I found that a smile and friendly “bonjour” went a long way. Some miming and charades along with a smile and somehow I was understood. Sure it’s much easier if you do speak some French, but it can be done.
Every course we played was totally different. We played the only Seve Ballesteros course in France, Pont Royal on a cool and windy day. The views of the Luberon and Alpilles were stunning. We expected a tough course based on the course rating but we were all surprised that it played easier than anticipated.
The Ronald Fream designed Fregate was a firm favourite - a challenging and technical course with extraordinary scenery and numerous viewpoints over the Mediterranean. We were all well prepared for the challenges of the Fregate course, having played a practise round on the Fregalon course.
Golf de Servannes was another picturesque and challenging course where olive trees tend to find wayward shots. The greens were fast and consistent, just the way we like them! The sixth was one of the stand-out holes.
Golf at the beautiful Domaine de Manville made for an exciting final round. It's the only course we’ve come across with a geometric theme - rectangular bunkers and greens of various geometric shapes. The tee-boxes had interesting and hard to find locations, some required climbing and orienteering skills to find.
Be prepared to eat well
Consider losing a kilo or two before a trip to France as you’re bound to gain weight, rather rapidly! The food was truly magnificent, from the baguettes to the numerous Michelin star restaurants we ate at. More fabulous food than our waistlines could cope with. It is worth noting that French golfers walk and either carry their bag or use a push buggy - it’s no wonder that most looked like they were fresh from a fashion shoot - stylish, fit and trim.
A highlight of any trip to Provence is at least one visit to the open-air markets and the explosion of colour, scents and sounds that await. They’re fun to explore even if you’re not there to shop. You’ll be amazed at the different cheeses, breads, chestnut creams, truffles, oils, olives - anything that goes in a picnic basket, really. And the fabrics, tableclothes, clothes and gifts and so much more.
The French love their dogs. They accompany their owners to restaurants, shops and can even be spotted on golf courses. Some work for their treats, hunting for truffles! Somehow the dogs tend to match the owners - burly men with bulky breeds and stylish ladies with impeccably groomed tea-cup size dogs in tow.
High up on rocky crags, many with a castle and the remains of fortified city walls, you can’t miss the perched villages dotting the countryside. We wandered through so many narrow cobbled streets with stone-built houses, shops, a church or two, an art gallery or three, a trebuchet, a fountain in the square and pavement restaurants. Don’t be surprised to see famous art works in the local Musee, maybe a chapel designed by Folon or an art show projected on quarry walls. There is so much more to see and do than just golf!
See the calanques
Calanques? A series of rocky limestone cliffs and bays between the city of Marseille and the town of Cassis, which we saw from the sea. Basically inlets that have been formed in the limestone cliffs, leaving behind a series of beautiful little bays with clear water and secluded beaches.
So many iconic artists are associated with Provence, Cézanne especially. We visited his favourite painting spot in Aix, and its spectacular views of his biggest love, Mount Sainte-Victoire - he painted it 87 times. Cézanne’s work inspired many later artists, particularly Picasso, who called Cézanne ‘the father of us all’. Saint- Remy is home to the clinic where Van Gogh was treated for depression in 1889, during which time he spent many hours painting. We followed his trail to discover the places in his paintings, like the Quai du Rhône which is in ‘The Starry Night’ and ‘Pont de Langlois’. We were especially fortunate to catch the Thannhauser Collection on show at the beautiful Hotel Caumont in Aix.
We spend a brilliant afternoon hunting for truffles and drinking endless glasses of champagne and truffle treats. A winner with this group of golfers!
Truly the ultimate trip for golfers with a passion for the arts and a love of fine food. On The Tee trips are so much more than just golf - we aim for the complete experience each destination has to offer.
Get in touch if you’d like to join us in Provence in 2020.