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Provence Movies: How to Live Like a Provencal Star

Elizabeth Gabay | Tuesday, Apr 12th 2016
Provence movies

Provence Movies: The Provence – Hollywood Connection

The world of film will have all eyes focused on Provence for the 68th Cannes Festival of Film (May 11-22, 2016). Film addicts flood the streets of this seaside resort to spot stars walking the red carpet, or perhaps with the hope of being spotted by visiting casting directors.

Want to join in on the Hollywood and film fun in Provence, or watch Provence movies? Here’s how:

Monaco

  • Visit the Principality of Monaco and its capital, Monte Carlo.
    • There are helicopter services between Nice and Monaco available for the ultimate film-star feel. When Oscar-winning actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956, this small principality became a real life Hollywood dream.
    • Her presence is still evident throughout the principality and the palace, where she once lived.
    • Stroll past the Casino, look out for the amazing cars parked outside. Imagine James Bond and car chases around the winding city, out onto the Grand Corniche road from Monaco to Nice.

Palais Princier de Monaco open March 26-October 16 2016

NiceNice

  • Nice is home to the once teeming, Studio Victorine (behind the city’s western station St. Augustin), founded in 1919, where many French films were made.
  • Now only available for receptions, its heyday can be appreciated in the film Day for Night by François Truffaut.
  • The movie won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1973 and when the studios were in full activity.

CannesCannes

  • It is best to visit Cannes outside the film festival.  At that time security makes it difficult to walk or drive around.
  • During the rest of the year, there is  plenty of Hollywood glamor. There are designer boutiques, the red carpet and the chance to sip champagne at hotels and bars along La Croisette.
  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie escaped the Hollywood crush by renting Domaine Miraval, two hours away from Cannes. They ended up buying the estate and making award-winning rosé wine.
  • Take a short boat ride out from Cannes to the nearby group of islands of Lérins. The fort on the Lérins island of Ste Marguerite is home to the prison where The Man with the Iron Mask (1998 movie with Leonrado di Caprio) was imprisoned. The neighbouring Lérins island of St Honorat has a medieval monastery with a restaurant, La Tonnelle, and vineyards.

St. TropezSt. Tropez

  • Along the coast is St. Tropez. The port was made famous when the young Brigitte Bardot starred in Roger Vadim’s film And God Created Woman (1956).
  • St. Tropez is most boisterous in the summer months. During this time it is flooded with film and pop stars, royalty spending holidays at 5-star hotels and on their yachts, and with young hopeful starlets.
  • The best way to visit this seaside resort (and avoid the nightmare of limited parking) is by boat from St. Raphael. Villas of the famous are pointed out while you journey along the coast (Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis had a villa in the hills above the town).
  • Then you dock off among the millionaires’ yachts in the harbor. People-watch while sipping a glass of wine from one of the many excellent local vineyards. Enjoy a slice of the local specialty, tarte tropezienne, a luscious cream-filled cake, at one of the harbor side cafés. The most exclusive hotel in town is the Byblos.

CassisCassis

  • Carry on westwards to Cassis, a beautiful fishing town, where the Lumière Brothers made some of the first films in the 1890s.
  • They showed their films at the Eden Cinema in nearby La Ciotat. It opened in 1895, and is the world’s oldest cinema and it is still screening films!
  • Cassis has a car-free policy, allowing visitors to enjoy the full beauty of the town. Dine on locally caught fish and the excellent local white wine, while overlooking the sea.

MarseilleMarseille

  • The neighboring city of Marseille has been the setting for many films, including Laurel and Hardy’s final film Utopia (1951), French Connection II (1975) and the political thriller The Statement (2003).
  • Just off-shore is the famous Chateau d’If where the Count of Monte Cristo was imprisoned (latest film 2002). Boat rides can take you out to the island to visit the castle.
  • Marseille is the home of bouillabaise.  This famous fish stew made from the catch of the day and served a with garlicky aioli sauce. A fresh Provence rosé is ideal with this dish, balancing the fish, saffron and garlic beautifully.

Though Provence is known for its glitz and Hollywood glamor, it is equally known for its simple, rustic idyll that continues to capture visitors’ imaginations. The stories of Marcel Pagnol turned into film – Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring, My Mother’s Castle (filmed at the vineyard Château d’Astros in Vidauban) and My Father’s Glory  based on Peter Mayle’s book A Good Year (2006) – show Provence in all its glory. Sun-baked fields of lavender, shimmering olive trees, blue skies and rustic stone farmhouses.

Leave the film settings and wander through the countryside. Buy fresh bread, goat’s cheese, summer fruit and a bottle of rosé wine. Then enjoy a picnic out in the hills accompanied by the sound of the cicadas.

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