Now that the high season is over, I can return to blogging on a more regular basis.
So many wonderful people have visited me this year. From old friends vacationing in the area to my dear Julia and her beautiful family and the usual suspects of course like Mimi.
Mimi came last month, this time with her husband Dave. We all hopped in the car and rushed off to Provence. What fun we had! Between the sites, the food and the lovely wines, we did not waste a single minute of the couple of weeks we spent in this unexplored corner of my French heaven.
When I say “unexplored” I am somewhat exaggerating. It’s just that I hadn’t visited Provence in nearly 30 years. One of my most vivid childhood memories was of getting lost one evening with my parents on the island of Porquerolles. Quite a nice memory actually. Fun, adventure, everything a 10 year old boy lives for.
This is only the first of two posts I’ll write about this trip. I just have way too many photos and memories to share. The second post will be more about the riviera itself…
But for now, let me tell you about the back country. We first stayed near the city of Avignon, in a little village called Boulbon. Our hotel was what we call a Bastide in the heart of the village. A bastide is basically a large house that, in the old days, would have been home to an influential person (in the 17th or 18th century). A doctor maybe or a rich merchant… What strikes you first when you get there is the way these buildings and the villages themselves perfectly fit in their environment. Everywhere you look is a different shade of green or beige. The trees themselves are all in the lighter shades of green. Olive trees of course but sycamores also and citrus trees. Sycamores are EVERYWHERE!
We visited Aix en Provence, Saint Remy and les Baux de Provence of course. In Baux, we visited an old stone quarry which is now used for an incredible light show. Paintings and drawings by Da Vinci and Raphael are projected on the walls to the sound of music. Absolutely mesmerizing! We were also very impressed with the Popes’ palace in Avignon. Most people forget, but between 1309 and 1415 (on and off) the popes resided in Avignon instead of Rome.
Two other villages “surprised” us by their beauty: Gordes overlooking the valley and Rouissillon where all the buildings are made of local ochres. The whole village is of different shades of red, yellow and orange. We visited the local open air quarries where the natural clay they used for the buildings came from. These quarries are quite famous as, in medieval times, the bright colored dust was used to paint all the interiors of our churches and royal castles throughout France.
But let’s talk about what’s really important: THE FOOD. Our two favorite meals in the area were at “La fourchette” in Avignon and “Le bistrot du Paradou” in the village of Paradou. La fourchette had the most exquisite traditional dishes, all cooked to perfection. Escargots, pieds paquets, grenouilles… While this gave us the traditional French dinning experience, the other place was even more fun. It had a set menu (roast chicken for us that evening) the best looking servers you’ve ever met and the greenest olives I’ve ever seen. Still don’t know which was the most delicious…
Next post: the riviera, Cannes, Bouillabaisse, old Nice, Menton…