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Arts and flowers...

When daydreaming of holidays away, there are few terrains that warm the cockles as quickly as the mention of the South of France. Glorious sunshine, world-class restaurants and fabulous hotels are a given, but there's much more to the South of France than its glamorous Medside merits - each patch of this precious vacation spot has its own distinct personality.

The Vaucluse provides an earthy alternative to the show-off glitz of the Riviera; tasty produce is showcased daily in the local markets and the sunlight alchemises vineyards and villages into instant art.

Stray southwest, where the languid river Rhône winds its way through orchards and fields of lavender before melting into the watery maze of the Camargue and you'll find its pleasures aren't all rural. Arles, and its laidback neighbour Nîmes in Languedoc-Rousillon are a beguiling blend of Roman amphitheatres, Provençal cuisine, café culture and sun-dappled boulevards.

For a concentration of culture, head east to the inspiring town of St-Paul-de-Vence, where the legendary La Colombe d’Or hotel and restaurant was frequented by artists such as Picasso, Rouault and Léger, who paid their bills in paintings. Your appetite for artworks whet, poke your nose into the nearby Maeght Foundation Museum, a treasure trove for pieces by Kandinsky and Chagall.

Or if that all sounds too much like hard work, just find your own shaded corner from where to admire the masterpiece-inspiring landscape and enjoy another bottle of the delicious apricot-hued local rosé.

To find out what hotels in France Mr & Mrs Smith recommends, click here.

Château de Massillan
Uchaux, Vaucluse, Provence, France - Rates €170–€625.

This centuries-old château near Avignon and Orange combines contemporary luxury with historical charm thanks to the design nous of Peter Wylly and Birgit Israel. Antique mirrors, crystal chandeliers and chic furnishings from their London shop grace the interior, while a swimming pool and lavender-filled grounds makes lazy days irresistible. Not just a pretty space, the modern French delights at dinnertime are another excuse to take things slowly, as is stargazing from the sculpture-enhanced courtyard.

For more info or to book a stay, click here.

Jardins Secrets
Nîmes, Languedoc-Roussillon, France - Rates €190–€260

This charming four-bedroomed boutique hideaway is a tranquil oasis in Roman Nîmes. Cages of songbirds, acres of sophisticated chintz and a just-so attention to detail help create the most romantic of rendezvous. If you weren’t in such a charming city-break destination, you might never leave the confines of the leafy walled garden, the jade-green pool or the pretty antique-filled sitting rooms.

For more info or to book a stay, click here.

Toile Blanche
St-Paul-de-Vence, Côte d'Azur, France - Rates €140–€225

This modern art-filled family-run chambre d'hôte is as laidback as stylish stays can be, and it is the perfect base for R&R on the Côte d'Azur. In the summer months Toile Blanche is famed for its homemade suppers served on the terrace overlooking palm and fig-filled garden, pool and sundeck and across the verdant valley to the postcard-perfect village of St-Paul-de-Vence.

For more info or to book a stay, click here.

All images by Adrian Houston
Text by Juliet Kinsman & Jim Whyte, Mr & Mrs Smith
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