In 2005, Dutch-born Sophia van Woensel-Mose left behind her life as an international corporate lawyer in London and moved to the south of France with her family. She lives in Aix-en-Provence and runs Provence Search, a private client buyer’s agency within The French Property Finders network and covers the Aix-en-Provence area, the Alpilles, Avignon and the Luberon. She writes the “Life en Provence” column for France Today. Here she shares French travel recommendations, and more…
What’s your perfect day in Aix-en-Provence?
This is an imaginary day because I never have the time for an entire day to myself: on a balmy September day when the light in Provence is at its best, I’d first go to the farmers’ market on the Place Richelme, followed by a long lazy lunch on the terrace of l’Epicurien (located on the Place Forum des Cardeurs). Then some shopping and a gallery visit in the picturesque streets of the historic centre and finally a glass of champagne on the Cours Mirabeau, before heading home for a dip in the pool and an al fresco dinner with friends and family.
Your favourite restaurant in Aix?
That changes all the time with new discoveries and also depends on the time of year. At the moment (winter) it’s super cosy Le Zinc d’Hugo on the rue Lieutaud. They do the best beef in town, have a fantastic wine list and a very friendly sommelier.
The most sublime meal you’ve ever had in France?
Ferme Auberge Aux Delices de la Serpt, in the deep countryside of Frayssinet-le-Gelat in the Quercy. Just 27 euros for six delicious courses including a generous cheese platter and homemade tarte. Most ingredients are from their own farm, as is required for all “fermes auberges“. You don’t go there for the décor or the chic clientele; it’s all about the food and it’s an unforgettable experience.
Best travel memory in France?
When our son was five months old we spent two weeks in September in a rambling farmhouse near a tiny village in the Lot. We were exhausted corporate lawyers and the Bouriane countryside and untouched medieval villages we saw on that holiday left such a deep impression that we had no choice but to drop our legal careers and move to France.
Favourite French region to travel?
I don’t have one favourite region – that is too hard! France is so varied and there is a region for every mood and season. I’ll pick four if that’s alright: the Haute Savoie for skiing; the Luberon and Mont Sainte Victoire for hiking in spring; the Lot and Perigord for the incredibly friendly people, excellent food and enchanting medieval villages (summer); and the Var coast for its beaches in autumn.
Top museum in France?
Château la Coste just north of Aix. It’s an outside “museum” combining hectares and hectares of vines with architecture and art. I go there for long walks among world-class art installations and far-reaching views of the Luberon.
Favourite French film?
Intouchables (2011; Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano)
Souvenir for friends back home?
Calissons and everything else from Chocolaterie de Puyricard.
Boutiques where you shop during the semi-annual soldes?
The soldes are not really my thing. Instead I try to avoid the lovely clothing boutiques of Aix during this period!
A destination in France that you’re dying to visit?
Bretagne. It’s almost the opposite from Provence in every way, yet – as far as I understand – as stunningly beautiful.
Tip for first-time visitors to France?
Don’t try to do too much. In order to truly experience France, its food and its people, you can’t see seven different places in one week. Some people “do” Paris, the Luberon and the Cote d’Azur in one week. Afterwards they’ll vaguely remember some names, pretty villages and fantastic food, but they won’t have experienced France.