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The art of travel: art holidays in the South of France

Many holiday brochures boast "stunning scenery" but few destinations have attracted as many aesthetic devotees as the South of France. Many artistic greats have had homes in the area: Picasso, Matisse, Leger, Bonnard, Chagall, le Corbusier, Van Gogh and that's just for starters.

Other parts of the Mediterranean also play host to sprawling vineyards, sandy beaches, cliffs, quaint villages and fabulous food but there is an almost indescribable quality of light in the South of France which has attracted a regular parade of artistic greats over the years, all of whom appreciated the amazing beauty that such light can cast.

The region is also home to some of the most amazing beaches in the world so you could do worse than build a holiday around visiting the South of France they knew and looking at their creations punctuated by some dips in the sea, lounging by pools and fabulous food and drink for sustenance.

Your tour might start in Nice. Don't expect beach, it's all pebble here but Nice has a lot of points of interest including both Matisse and Chagall museums. The Matisse houses a number of paintings and sculptures but don't miss the prints, include a fabulous Blue Nude. Chagall's museum is dedicated to his Biblical paintings but also includes some of the stunning stained glass for which this Russian emigré became famous.

A big city in the heart of an area with amazing natural produce and a mix of cultures is bound to have some fabulous restaurants and Nice does not disappoint. Le Merenda (close to the market) has no phone so you have to book in person but if you can get in, you will experience some superb regional dishes.

If you want a blow-out meal try two-Michelin star "Le Chantecler" in the very grand Hotel Negresco. The décor may be oldy worldy but the menu is modern with head chef Jean-Denis Rieubland who defines his cuisine as "inspired by Provence, with the respect of its products and traditions".

Try travelling west from Nice towards Cannes and Cap d'Antibes. Just outside Nice you can stop at Renoir's home in Cagnes-sur-mer before going on to Biot, home to the Fernand Leger museum as well as Les Arcades, a hotel and restaurant with superb traditional food and a very modern art gallery showing some new, young artists.

But as you wind down the Corniche, a la Cary Grant and Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief, you will arrive at Antibes - quintessential South of France - where there is not only a Picasso Museum but one of the best fish restaurants in the region, Bacon.

The Bonnard Museum in Cannes is a treasure trove which houses masterpieces by Pierre Bonnard as well as some Picassos and Gauguins. Stay at the famous art deco Hotel Martinez, a Grand Hyatt right on the beach - it's the place of the dreams of film-makers and artists alike - or the grand Carlton which is an IHG or the Majestic Barriere which epitomises the Cannes Film Festival.

The Bonnard is a jewel but the surprise winner might be the Museum of Classical Art in Mougins, a pretty hill town north of Cannes well known for its food festivals, restaurants and galleries. The museum, which pairs antiquities with interpretations by masters from Rubens and Dufy to Matisse and Picasso as well as France's famous chocolate chef-sculptors, is the collection of British hedge fund boss Christian Levett, and was opened only a couple of years ago. Certainly mérite un detour.

If you fancy a trip round the South of France, talk to the Portman Executive Leisure team on 01355 578 290 or by email.