There are two kinds of families: those who want to choose their own adventure in authentic locations with unique experiences, and those who want only to relax together with no need to think constantly of their next move or meal. At the iconic and reinvigorated Club Med Opio in the hills of Provence, France, just a short ride from the beaches of Nice, these two ideas merge to create a magical all-inclusive family vacation. A recent week at Club Med Opio in Provence allowed me to rediscover the magic I had experienced almost 20 years ago when I last bore the identity of a GM (“Gentil Membre”).
Since 1950, the Club Med brand has been a pioneer in creating the ultimate vacation resort experience by being the first in a locale to claim the best beach or most dramatic ski slope. They have also set the standard for family-friendliness, focusing as much attention on children’s vacation experience as that of the parents.
Upon visiting Club Med Opio after such a long hiatus, I immediately reconnected with idea that everyone should achieve their own vacation goal their own way. The foundation of a Club Med stay is creating your own adventure. Guests want for nothing onsite, yet they feel free to relax in peace or depart the friendly confines of the resort for an adventure outside its doors. The latter is actually encouraged, as each Club Med maintains a very strong bond to the community in which it operates.
Throughout the day, the GOs (“Gentil Organisateurs,” as the resort’s employees call themselves) go out of their way to engage with you in a meaningful way, sitting with you at lunch or chatting with you by the pool to learn more about what you want to get out of your vacation. By the end of a stay, you may regard them as old friends whom you are sad to leave but promise to come back and see again soon.
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Another hallmark of Club Med is the expansive kids’ club options, with children as young as 4 months able to enjoy their own authentic Club Med experience. Kids are not simply lumped together to sit in a room and color or watch XBox — in fact, there isn’t a single video game in the Opio complex. Instead, kids are grouped by age, then taken throughout the resort to enjoy the same fun activities as their parents, from archery and golf to guided walks and circus activities.
At Opio, kids’ club participants often help tend to the children’s garden, where the local bounty will ultimately feed guests via the resort’s amazing buffet. Childcare extends later into the evenings as well, to allow parents alone time for a dinner on the terrace or dancing with their favorite GOs. Mini Club Med, which accommodates children from 4 to 10 years, and Junior Club Med, for children 11 to 17 years, are included in the Club Med package; Baby Club Med, for children 4 to 23 months, incurs an additional cost.
One of my favorite moments at the resort was seeing a young family dance in the theater to an amazing band, choosing to milk all of the fun out of their day together. The two young girls’ genuine smiles told you everything that you needed to know about their time at Opio.
At every all-inclusive resort that I have experienced, the food is the place where costs are cut and the need to please a crowd leads to simple foods or bland options. Not at Club Med. The food on the expansive daily buffet, Le Provence, is an extension of the resort’s respect for the location and its bounty. Given that we were in Provence, the buffet was full of local treasures like lavender-infused honey next to the creamiest of French cheeses. My personal favorite were the large juicy local tomatoes, sliced and rolled up with bursts of arugula, cut into pinwheels and doused in the resort’s own olive oil. Yes, there was escargot, and no, I didn’t feel the need to be that authentic.
One of the newest ventures for Club Med is their partnership with Cirque du Soleil on CREACTIVE, a training ground for guests to tap into their inner daredevil and come away feeling invigorated and brave. Guests can participate in up to 25 activities; at the encouragement of the GOs, I stepped out of my comfort zone to partake in the Aerial Bungee and found it beyond thrilling. Children are encouraged to participate with their parents, making lifelong memories that only Club Med can offer.
Outside the gates of Club Med Opio, you’ll find amazing beauty both near and far. One morning, I joined the daily power walk with fellow guests, venturing into the nearest local village. It was a lovely jaunt through the countryside and fun to get a peek into the amazing homes on the outskirts of the resort, which blends effortlessly into the local landscape. Another day, I traveled to Antibes, the seaside city between Nice and Cannes on the Cote d’Azur. Antibes showcases the best the French Riviera has to offer, including a celebrated outdoor marketplace, luscious beaches along the Mediterranean and rich history and culture. A can’t-miss attraction in Antibes is the Picasso Museum, which houses one of the most thorough Picasso collections in the world in a castle that used to be his private workspace.
Another unforgettable stop on this excursion was the walled medieval town of St-Paul-de-Vence, whose claim to fame is the rich history of artists who have lived within. It’s easy to see why it would attract such a wealth of talent: The hillside is a convergence of olive trees, orchards and grapevines abutting medieval walls that have stood for centuries. Just a 30-minute drive from the gates of Club Med Opio, St-Paul-de-Vence feels like a secret gem.
Many families are reluctant to explore the all-inclusive vacation model, but Club Med works hard to persuade them otherwise. Unwind, enjoy your family and experience the local thrills, I was told, but most importantly, be free to be you and be happy. What more does any of us want from a holiday?
Editor’s Note: Katy was hosted by Club Med Opio in order to review the resort for families. As always, our thoughts and opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Katy Hanagan except where noted.
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