The selling points for the Côte d'Azur's golden lifestyle need little introduction: long, hot summer months, sun-soaked beaches, colourful rural markets selling everything from hot roasting chickens and creamy brie to cashmere and shabbychic homeware; the pleasure of a glass of chilled rosé in a shady village courtyard beside a golden stone wall heavy with wisteria. The south of France is a siren's call of gorgeousness.
The only unappetising thing about this part of France is the property prices. The rumblings of draconian tax changes have driven even their own citizens away — Gérard Depardieu heading to Belgium for example — as François Hollande, in his first year as president, has seemed determined to derail foreign property buyers.
To put this in perspective though, Mark Harvey of Knight Frank's French desk says: "Buyers have examined the details and realised that they are fairly benign. The wealth tax threshold has been raised from £690,600 to £1,122,250 which is actually far better than in the buoyant times of 2005. The changes on capital gains tax and the introduction of the social tax are more dramatic but we live in an era of low capital growth and most buyers would agree that any growth is good."
Buyers should be aware that Mr Hollande has left the door open for further change, but it is the strong euro that is making non-euro buyers most cautious at present, pushing up the cost for Brits buying with pounds. Despite this, Knight Frank reports a 20 per cent increase in sales in France in the year to this month.
The western Côte d'Azur
St Tropez is gearing up for the start of its season, which peaks in August when the harbour fills with celebrities aboard glamorous yachts.
For the rest of the summer, St Tropez is closer to its pre-Brigitte Bardot era as a market town and fishing village, albeit one selling Dior and Cartier in pretty narrow alleys and whitewashed courtyards.
Kenneth and Pamela Saunders from central London know St Tropez well. They own a home locally, adore the long summers and have lived there half the year for 14 years. "St Tropez is known the world over but when people visit it they are struck by how charming and village-y it is," says Kenneth.
"People who went there as young lovers in the Sixties return as grandparents and see very little change. "There is one of the best markets in the south of France every Tuesday and Saturday with some good bargains.
"After doing the food shop I always take my paper and have breakfast at Clémenceau on Place des Lices, or walk down to the port and have a coffee at Sénéquiers or Café de Paris."
The couple are handling the private sale of a family house six miles from St Tropez at Les Rives de Beauvallon, a stunning location opposite the beach and next to the golf club.
It is a pretty three-bedroom bungalow with garden and pool on a private, guarded estate with access to a private beach and communal pool. The bungalow is for sale at £750,000 (call 020 7584 0030 or 07769 684295).
"Beauvallon has an excellent golf course and tennis club with views from the beaches across the bay to St Tropez," says Kenneth. "There's beautiful countryside and vineyards nearby including the totally perfect I can never get over how perfect it is — hilltop village of Grimaud four miles inland."
Across the bay
In Sainte-Maxime, Knight Frank has a 200-year-old townhouse with three bedrooms that has been reduced by 30 per cent to £861,540. Nearby Erna Low has a resale three-bedroom villa and pool in a small complex for sale at £662,990 and new, freehold one- to three-bedroom modern apartments at St Raphael further east, less than 200 feet from the beach, with a communal pool, from £248,620.
The eastern Côte d'Azur
"The most liquid market in the south is from Cannes inland to the villages of Grasse, Mougins and Valbonne," says Harvey. "This is the least-seasonal part of the coast with genuine year-round interest from restaurants to shops. It's excellent for families who use the international schools there or work at the technology park at Sophia Antipolis."
Greater affordability with prices down 25 per cent from their 2007 highs — and motivated sellers who are finally realistic about prices — have seen "considerable activity", especially below £863,430.
Knight Frank is selling a three-bedroom townhouse in the centre of Mougins for £854,630 and a renovated two-bedroom stone house nearby for £453,220.
* Les Rives de Beauvallon house: firstname.lastname@example.org (020 7584 0030/07769 684295).
* Knight Frank: knightfrank.com (020 7629 8171).
* Erna Low: ernalowproperty.co.uk (020 7590 1624)