After a seven night voyage along the Côte D’Azur, it has become obvious why France equals love.
Villefranche-sur-Mer — Photo courtesy of Stephen Bartels
At every corner, in every port along the southern coast, the charm of France is discovered; all one has to do is indulge the senses.
We embarked on the Azamara Quest in Barcelona for our voyage, spending our first 36 hours in Europe in the Spanish city known for the architecture of Gaudi and a stunning Gothic quarter. We loaded up on fresh almonds and dark chocolates at the Mercat St. Josep la Boqueria - the splendid open air market filled with vendors offering fruit, meat, fish, candy, and pastries.Photo courtesy of Madeline Davies
The charm of Azamara cruises is more about the destinations than the ship. Azamara calls it 'destination immersion': each itinerary featuring longer stays in port, more overnight stays, evening touring, and an exclusive evening event on every voyage created especially for guests, at no additional charge. Dubbed ‘AzAmazing Evenings’, each experience takes place after hours and features a cocktail party with locally produced wines, cuisine, and entertainment.
About 500 spectators from the Quest huddled together on a chilly April evening on the main canal in Sète to watch the ancient sport of les joutes natiques – water jousting that’s been a tradition in Sète since 1666. Photo courtesy of Madeline Davies
Following the contest, we were escorted back to the ship for a dockside cocktail party featuring wines and cuisine from this region of France; the icing on the day came at 10 p.m., as we departed port under a brilliant fireworks display.
We sailed into Marseille early morning, watching the sun reflected off the Cathédrale de la Major - the Byzantine style church that seemingly rises up from the shoreline. We traveled to Aix en Provence, the university town where cafes were filled with well-dressed students, busy professionals and chic women; shopkeepers were forgiving of our limited language skills and terrible pronunciations.
Photo courtesy of Madeline Davies
When we arrived in St. Tropez, a handsome guide named Jean Jacques brought our group to Ramatuelle - a perched village about 30 minutes from the port and a world apart from anything we knew. It was Sunday, and the market was just opening - the flower man pulling his heavy cart filled with colorful, fresh blooms through the narrow cobblestone pathways in the historic area of the village. We bought handmade soaps of lavender and mimosa and rosemary, and browsed through local pottery and linens. Ramatuelle quickly became our favorite village, an idyllic hideaway we knew we would have to return to one day.
As we continued our journey – from exploring the market and the shops along Rue Meynadier in Cannes, gawking at the yachts and at the casino in Monte Carlo, watching a game bocce at Le Café de la Place in the medieval village of St. Paul de Vence.
Azamara delivered on its promise of allowing us to become immersed in each destination visited; we had full days and many evenings in each town along the Côte D’Azur, and ample opportunity to explore on our own or as part of a tour.
Azamara Club Cruises
The evening in Sète is part of a new offering from Azamara Club Cruises, which was our home ship for this voyage. Dubbed AzAmazing Evenings, a special event just for passengers is now part of almost every Azamara voyage, at no additional charge. Azamara’s two ships can accommodate 694 guests (double occupancy) and 400 crew members each.
Both ships offer a casino, full service spa and salon, health club, swimming pool and jogging track, shops, and a varied lineup of on-board entertainment and activities.