The end of September is usually a time when we resign ourselves to putting away the flip flops and facing up to the fact that it is going to get colder, darker and wetter, with Christmas too far away on the horizon to start getting excited about.

This year my family and I discovered the perfect antidote to the end of summer blues, hopping on a plane in Bristol and less than two hours later stepping out into the warm golden sunshine of Nice on the French Riviera.

From there it was a 90-minute easy drive to Port Grimaud, just seven kilometres from both St Tropez and Sainte Maxime.

Port Grimaud rose from sand dunes around the River Giscle in 1966 thanks to architect Francois Spoerry who wanted to create a town built in the style of Venice with Provençal-style houses on a network of canals. There are now more than 2,000 houses at the ‘Venice of Provence’, each different and painted in soft pastel colours.

My family and I stayed in Villa Bella, a beautiful three-storey property, which has a prime location on the bank of the River Giscle, only two minutes walk from the shops, waterfront restaurants and cafes. It is also close to Port Grimaud’s beach, with its gently shelving swimming area, sparkling golden sand and restaurant.

Villa Bella has three double air- conditioned, en suite bedrooms and my daughter claimed the spacious master double bedroom on the second floor, which has a stunning sun terrace overlooking the Giscle to the hills beyond. We soon found this was the perfect spot to enjoy our breakfasts of chocolate and raisin croissants, bought daily from a local cafe. My son’s double bedroom also had a river-facing balcony, where we could watch the stunning yachts passing by on the Giscle.

We all immediately felt at home in Villa Bella, which is beautifully decorated in a Provencal style, and welcoming with its cosy sofas and all the mod cons you could possibly need, including TV, DVD, fully-fitted kitchen with an ice-maker and dishwasher, plus a separate cloakroom with a washing machine and tumble dryer.

There was a folder chock-full of information about the area and another with brochures for all the household appliances. It was that sort of thoughtfulness by the owners of Villa Bella that made staying there such a pleasure.

The main attraction, however, was the rear garden with a swimming-pool, which looked stunning lit up at night, sun terrace with table and loungers, and a private mooring for boats. We hired a small family dinghy to explore the waterways from local boatman Noel, who welcomed us to Bella Villa and was always available to help with any queries. Noel also kindly arranged for my husband to join him as crew on a 55ft yacht taking part in Les Voiles de St Tropez, the sailing regatta, which takes place annually around the start of October.

The whole Port Grimaud area is haven for yachties, with countless yachts visiting or based in the resort, and the St Tropez regatta attracts even more, with around 300 of the world’s most stunning modern sailing yachts as well as some exquisite classic yachts, including the magnificent J class, taking part in the event.

We spent a couple of days in St Tropez, just a short boat trip across the bay, watching the yachts race. Just the ferry trip itself was an amazing experience as it weaved its way through some of the most opulent mega-yachts in the world moored in the bay for the event.

After browsing the many designer shops, we found the perfect spot on rocks opposite the finish line to sit and enjoy an ice cream in the sunshine while watching these magnificent vessels do battle in the bay.

After the hustle and bustle of St Tropez, it was nice to return to the more tranquil Port Grimaud and our lovely home-from-home Villa Bella at the end of the day. In fact, our favourite days during the holiday were spent exploring the resort’s winding waterways in our dinghy. It was a real treat to forget the car and go everywhere by boat, which made it easy to find volunteers even for a trip to the supermarket and also to soak up the atmosphere of the area.

If we fancied stretching our legs we would walk to Port Grimaud beach, just eight minutes from the villa, and relax there on its golden sand overlooking the beautiful bay of St Tropez.

We would either have lunch there under the palm trees at its restaurant or catch one of the free water taxis that run throughout Port Grimaud, to the main square for lunch, and spend the afternoon on the other, larger and busier beach.

Having hired a car it seemed a shame not to use it to see more of the French Riviera, so we drove along the coast to Antibes to visit Marineland, where we were blown away by the performing dolphins and killer whales.

Judging by the size of the arenas surrounding the pools, during the summer season the attraction must get extremely busy but there were no crowds at all when we visited, which was a real advantage. And with temperatures averaging 24 degrees in September and 19 in October, it seems the perfect time of year to visit this area, especially with the added attraction of the St Tropez regatta.

More than 70 per cent of visitors to Villa Bella return for another visit. We will definitely be among them.


Villa Bella can be booked through website (number: 180093) which offers more than 3,200 privately owned French holiday homes. You deal directly with the owner, which means you are offered a real insight into the property and the area from the people who know it best.

The nearest towns are St Tropez and Ste Maxime. Nearest airport: Toulon (approx 30km)
All bedrooms have air-conditioning. No smoking/no pets. Linen and towels included.

A seven night stay from Saturday September 27 to October 4 2014 is £1,450.