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For many people, the pastoral landscapes of Provence are a French fantasy come true. Provence seems to sum up everything enviable about the French lifestyle: fantastic food, hilltop villages, legendary wines, bustling markets and a balmy climate. For decades, it's been a hotspot for holidaymakers and second-homers, inspired by the vision of the rustic good life depicted in Peter Mayle's classic 1989 travelogue, A Year in Provence.

For the quintessential Provençal countryside, the best place to begin is inland around the valleys and hills of the Luberon and Var. Further inland rises Provence's highest peak, Mont Ventoux, and beyond it, the snow-capped peaks of the Hautes-Alpes. Meanwhile, along the coast, the rough-and-ready port of Marseille, the tourist honeypot of St-Tropez, the dramatic cliffs of the Calanques and the flamingo-rich wetlands of the Camargue are all worthy of a detour.

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