The Porquerolles Cup, highlight of a Mediterranean week of sailing races and parties during Pentecost, celebrates a moment of 18th-century history that seems straight out of a Hollywood swashbuckler. In 1726, pirates captured a French naval vessel off the island, but agreed to release the ship’s crew … if the pirate ship lost a race to another French vessel. History says the navy sailed to victory (although the fate of the pirates is a little vague). To honor the tradition of the original race, today’s competition gets off to a running start – literally, with the sailors running to their boats.
Ah, the pleasures of the Provencal table … bouillabaisse thick with shellfish, aioli (garlic-flavored mayonnaise), ratatouille (eggplant, squash, and tomatoes with olive oil), and, to highlight the meal, fine wine from a trio of island vineyards. The rose is best known (Porquerolles produced one of the first recognized Cotes de Provence wines), but the reds and whites also have a distinctive character.
Levant is roughly the same size as Porquerolles, but it’s an even more low-key island. Pack light, because it’s a steep but scenic 20-minute walk from the ferry landing to the small village of Arbousiers, where cafe-lined terraces are set against the backdrop of the sea. North of the village, follow a series of nature trails through the Mediterranean maquis to the rocky coast. You can pack even lighter for this hike, because two of the beaches here, Bain de Diane and Plage des Grottes (the island’s only sandy shore), are nude beaches.