A Return to France
Paris is always a good idea. Even now though you might notice some COVID precautions, and some more bicycles thanks to new bike lanes, it’s as always an excellent time to visit Paris.
The process for obtaining a COVID pass is very simple if you’re fully vaccinated. The pass is your ticket into restaurants and shops. You’ll also need advance reservations to enter museums, which still have limited capacity.
The hotels — including the stylish Fauchon hotel, with iconic Mansard roof, Eiffel Tower views and proximity to the Champs-Élysées — are almost completely booked, so you’ll want to plan ahead.
In about three hours on the TGV, you can be in Avignon and immersed in the simple pleasures of Provence. Avignon was the home of the popes for most of the 14th century, and the medieval city center including their palace, cathedral and a 13th-century bridge across the Rhône forms a UNESCO World Heritage site.
About 25 miles to the south in Les Baux, the Carrières de Lumières is a former quarry that now hosts art shows, with famous paintings projected onto the ancient rocks and set to music (through Jan. 16 works from Cézanne and Kandinsky are featured). Just up the road is Saint-Rémy, where van Gogh was a patient at Saint-Paul Asylum and painted some of his best-known works, including “Starry Night.”
As you make your way to the Côte d'Azur, Relais & Châteaux properties such as Domaine de Fontenille and Château de Fonscolombe provide beautiful country respites to enjoy the sweet fresh air of the South of France.
The romance of the Riviera is impossible to escape in Antibes, especially if you’re staying at the Hôtel Belles Rives, where F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote “Tender is the Night,” and visit the castle Picasso once used as a studio and is now a museum showcasing his work. Art from many periods is on display in the collection at Le Negresco in Nice, itself a work of art and monument to the Lost Generation and others who have found solace in a stroll along the Promenade des Anglais.
With the sunshine on your face and the sea breeze all around, you’ll know for yourself that France is back, and it’s always a good idea.