Your staycation guide: the South of France
Author: Sophie Thorpe
Pack your imaginary suitcase, because we’re whisking you away to the South of France. Virtually, of course. You may not be strolling amongst the lavender fields, cobbled streets and sun-drenched beaches of the Med, but you can easily bring a little bit of France to you.
So grab the corkscrew and an appropriate bottle, line up Edith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg on the sound system, and start planning for your staycation. Below is our starter for 10 on what to read, watch, eat and listen to on your week “away”.
- Jean de Florette: We couldn’t not include this tragic classic – with both superstars Gérard Depardieu and Daniel Auteil. Go all out for a marathon with the sequel Manon de Sources.
- Amélie: Ok, it’s not set in the south of France, but allow us that for this feel-good classic.
- Visages Villages: An enchanting yet poignant film that follows Nouvelle Vague director Agnés Varda and photographer/street artist JR on a jaunt around rural France.
- Les Choristes: The sort of heart-warming film we all need right now.
- Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan: You can practically feel the sunshine (not to mention the teenage angst) in this evocative summer tale set in the French Riviera
- Tender is the Night – F. Scott Fitzgerald: Tragic, romantic and transportive, make time for this classic from one of the 20th century’s most talented writers.(A dose of Hemingway with The Garden of Eden would be an equally excellent choice.)
- A Year in Provence – Peter Mayle: Savour this frank and witty memoir about moving to France – with all the highs and lows that come with rural life in Luberon.
- Swimming Home – Deborah Levy: Dive in with this unsettling but superb novel, with its pinpoint descriptions of rural France.
- Cette année là – Claude François: A feel-good track guaranteed to get you imitating his iconic dance moves (a rival, surely, to any Joe Wicks workout?)
- Le Sud – Nino Ferrer: Just add a chequered tablecloth for a backyard bistro set-up.
- Nina Simone: She spent her last decade near Aix-en Provence, moving there the same year her album A Single Woman was released. Settle in with some serious soul music.
- Je Suis un Rock Star – Bill Wyman: Doubtless the French are sorely missing our linguistic prowess; practise your Franglais with this classic.
- Salade niçoise: Feel virtuous with a generous bowl of this glorious salad in the sunshine. Glass of Provence rosé rarely optional. We like David Lebovitz’s recipe.
- Cassoulet: It may not be particularly seasonal, but – often – nor is the English weather. Plus, what holiday to France doesn’t come with a tin of cassoulet, possibly only savoured once back home? You can make it (go all out with Julia Child’s classic if you must), or you can buy some from Waitrose: your call.
- Moules marinières: Clichéd maybe, but clattering pots of steaming mussels doused in garlicky goodness are guaranteed to bring a French feel to any day. You could serve them with crusty bread, but we don’t consider the frites optional.
- Madeleines: Savour a Proustian moment with a freshly baked madeleine (or two). A la St John, with a glass of Madeira, there is little better. We suggest their original recipe, found in a dog-eared version of Justin Gellatly’s book for us (but available online here). (For an alternative sweet treat, we’re also particularly fond of our Head Chef’s canelés.)
If you’re after a dose of culture, you can do a virtual tour of the Royal Academy’s Picasso and Paper exhibition, gaze at Van Gogh’s vibrant paintings or explore some of the Centre Pompidou’s current offerings.