Passion abounds in Provence, from the red-lipsticked perfumier who creates fragrance for top designers, to the glamorous blonde who ditched London to run a hotel and ended up engaged to a French chef.

No surprise then that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie recently chose to tie the knot in their vineyard estate Chateau Miraval in the west of the region, making a visit there even more of a hot ticket.

But if you want more than the lavender fields of A Year in Provence and Ridley Scott’s A Good Year, then head east to discover some real-life love stories.

Effortlessly stylish Swedish hotel owner Camilia Richards has entertained everyone from Courtney Love “after three weeks I packed her bags“ to Bob Geldolf at Le Manoir de L’Etang, a beautifully restored, 19-room manor house in Mougins, where Pablo Picasso spent the last 12 years of his life and which is a hot spot for celebrities during Cannes Film Festival.

The story of her husband losing everything on the stock market in 2008, firing all the staff and taking on the hotel themselves in 2011 and her husband then leaving her, is told in snatches as she whisks between us laying down plates of langustines wrapped in vermicelli pastry, rabbit pie, handmade ravioli and Grand Marnier soufflé made by chef Mathieu Soler, with whom she has found her happy ending.

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But it is not just the people. Even the horses have an almost insatiable hunger for life, the sturdy little mount Solei I rode on my trek had to be muzzled to stop him enthusuatically chomping on too many trees and bushes.

And all this passion is just a few hours away thanks to flight from Gatwick to Nice and then an hours drive to Montauroux. It is best to hire a car to get the most of your visit, but be warned some of the roads taking you up the hills are very windy and tight especially driving to the medieval village of Fayence, which boasts a buzzing market with food, jewellery, fashion and even mattresses!

If the shopping and heat (it reached 28ºC during our stay in September) tire you out then take a stroll up one of the charming streets and stop in at Le Bis for lunch. Opened four years ago in a section of the town which has a wall dating back to the 11th Century, it serves up a two or three course lunch menu with the freshest ingredients including tomatoes from the owner’s garden and an amazing chocolate fondant.

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With the array of food and wine – the area is renowned for its rosé – you may feel the need to burn off some extra calories during your stay.

One of the Var’s popular activities is horse riding and Les Pouns en Herbe riding centre offers treks of various lengths. Our teacher Jesse has plaits flowing down her back, and a huge smile and is undeterred by the terrified faces of our group of novices. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride as we emerged from the labyrinth of pathways all clinging desperately to the reins.

For an evening meal with a difference, head to the Institut de Gastronomie Riviera in Seillans where charming French chefs will show you how to cook a three course meal from scratch. We even learned how to de-bone and prepare a lamb shank for our menu of tuna tartar, roast lamb with vegetables and raspberry macaroons.

During the meal we were treated to a wine tasting by British expat Betty-Ann Cundall who left London to run the Chaberts vineyard in France after being widowed. “When I came originally they all thought I was crazy to be a foreigner and a woman, but all through my life I haven’t planned things they have just happened,“ she says pouring the palest of pink rosé into my glass.

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On Sunday, we wake up to find the stunning view at Picholine villa is shrouded in a magical layer of mist with the sun just breaking through and growing ever brighter as we head over to meet some friends at Rose de L’Adrechs villa, which has a wonderful canopy of leaves over the patio.

Both are part of the hand-picked Affinity Holidays France collection, managed by Marion Edwards on behalf of owners, who prides herself on adding a personal touch. If you are due in on a late flight she will stock the fridge for you or provide high chairs, bibs and other items so you don’t have to lug these over on the flight.

She hands me a glass of champagne, which I sip in the jacuzzi, as I look out over the sun-soaked view. I can just see the ocean which is a 45-minute drive away, and in the other direction it’s a 60- minute drive to the ski slopes.

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Next, we are off to experience another of the regions famous activities – perfume making. Grasse is the town which featured in Patrick Suskind’s novel Perfume and the film adaptation was partly filmed in Provence. Our impossibly chic teacher at Galimard, Delphine Roux, has worked with some of the world’s top brands – but kept her rouged lips tight as to which ones – and I start to feel like some sort of magician as I waft dozens of scents under my nose choosing which are worthy of ending up in my creation.

I name it Le Weekend, a little sentimental I know, but whenever I spriz it on my wrists I shall be reminded of those glorious two days I spent soaking up the rosé, the history and the stories of this dream-like location.

Facts on Provence

Monarch Airlines fly to Nice from Birmingham and London Gatwick.

Hire car from

Affinity Holidays France has a portfolio of more than 40 villas in the south of France.

A one-hour horse trek at  Les Poun's en Herbe costs £14.

Institute Gastronomie Riviera offers a dinner time course for £93.

A two-hour perfume making class at Galimard Perfumery costs £35.