on the road

Provence – Part 1

Ah Provence. You are so beautiful!  I could leave it right there and not say another word.  For me, that’s enough. But for you, maybe you are not familiar with Provence and would like to know a little more about it.  I knew it!  Thankfully, I have lots to tell!

We arrived at the Avignon train station (careful to travel only on the correct train cars) and picked up our rental car, a 2014 Mercedes Benz E250.  My first thought? Niiiice!  Reeeeally nice! My thoughts after the first half hour “WHO would drive something this big on such ridiculously narrow roads??” I was reeeeeally grateful that Scott was driving and not me!  With the GPS set, we headed to our first stop, an absolutely beautiful B&B in a 17th century farmhouse outside Avignon, near Pernes Les Fontaine.  We were not disappointed with our accommodations at all! We had a gorgeous room.  Our hosts were delightful. Jacques was always willing to talk and share stories!  We learned that he was just 13 when WW2 ended and he had such fond memories of Canadians during that liberation time.  Of course, that made us feel pretty special – and proud of our country too!.  Jacques’ passion was growing roses.  On the property he said he had over 100 different varieties of rose bushes.  I love roses!  I admired about every one I could see.  He told us that they were really beautiful in May and June. Of course I think that meant we were supposed to come back another time to see them in their full splendour.  IMG_0116Regardless, the roses were gorgeous!  One morning at breakfast, Jacques came by and handed me a bouquet of beautiful red roses that he had cut that morning, just for me. I was so moved!  It was Jacques’ daughter Isabelle and her family that ran the B&B and it remains one of our favourite places!  Here’s why: the family was very friendly.  The breakfasts were scrumptious – fresh baguette, croissants, other yummy pastries, homemade fresh yogurt, fresh fruit, cereals, and really yummy coffee!  This would be set out for us at a small table for 2 in their garden each morning.  We would walk into the garden and Isabelle would appear out of nowhere and say, in her beautiful lilting voice, “Good morning!” and bring our coffee and juice to us immediately. After we finished breakfast she was always available to help us decide what to do with our day.  Thankfully, we had an excellent guidebook from “France, Just for You” that outlined the BEST of the area.  We stuck pretty close to the book.

But I’m getting ahead of myself1  The day we arrived, we got settled in and then asked Isabelle where we should go for dinner, what her suggestions were.  Isabelle gave us directions to the little town of Pernes Les Fontaines.  I must say, it was absolutely adorable!  THIS is what I pictured France to be like!  We settled on the Gallery Cafe for dinner.  From our table, Scott could sit and watch the townsmen play Pétanque.  This is a game where… oh nevermind… I’ll just quote Wikipedia here:  “is a form of boules where the goal is, while standing inside a starting circle with both feet on the ground, to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (literally “piglet”) or jack. It is also sometimes called a bouchon (literally “little bowl”, from the occitan bochon) or le petit (“the small one”). The game is normally played on hard dirt or gravel, but can also be played on grass, sand or other surfaces. Similar games are bocce and bowls.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A9tanque  accessed September 8, 2013)

Local men playing Petanque
Local men playing Petanque

The food at the Gallery’s Cafe was wonderful.  We weren’t too sure about the place at first, but it turned out to be great!  As the sun went down, and the candles and candle lanterns were lit, it morphed into a very romantic setting!

view from our table at the Gallery's Cafe
view from our table at the Gallery’s Cafe

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After dinner, and a late night stroll through the narrow streets of Pernes Les Fontaines we headed back to the farmhouse, praying that on the extremely narrow and unfamiliar roads we would be safe! Whew, quite stressful.

What we didn’t know before we left for dinner was that waiting for us in our room was a bottle of chilled Champagne from the operators of France Just for You, Emillie and Guillaume. This trip was to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary, and they had provided a bottle of Champagne for us to help celebrate and to welcome us to France.  We were so touched!  More about “France Just for You” later.  From here on in, I’ll just refer to it as F-JFY.

In our personalized guidebook from F-JFY Emillie had laid out several routes for us to take so that we would see the best of the area.  We were overwhelmed at the absolute beauty and uniqueness of everything we saw.  For instance, on Sunday we went to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. We spent most of Sunday there roaming the market tables, buying some fruit to snack on, checking out antiques, picking up a little olive-wood scoop for my home kitchen.  We stopped and had Cafe Gourmand at Cafe De France, afterall, this place was featured in our guidebook so we HAD to try it!  It was worth it!

Cafe at Cafe de France - yummy!
Cafe at Cafe de France – yummy!
Serenaded! :)
Serenaded! 🙂

We were even serenaded there!  How could we go wrong?  Of course lots of my time was spent looking at little girlie things for our brand new granddaughter.  Couldn’t find what I really wanted – well, not true, found lots but wanted to find something that was (a) made in France and (b) I wouldn’t need to take out a bank loan to buy!  Didn’t find it here!

From L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we ventured on and came to Gordes.  Another amazing place!  We didn’t actually go into Gordes, but rather took pictures of it from across the way.  That was the best view.  Scott joked on Facebook that he wanted to put an offer in on a place there but couldn’t find one in the colour he wanted.  Here’s what it looked like:

Gordes
Gordes

We had such a great time in this area, going from Gordes to the town of the ancient Roman ruins. It was interesting to see and experience.  Ruins of buildings that had been around during the time of Christ really affected me!  We have nothing remotely that old in Canada so seeing this was something!

Back at our B&B, with chilled Champagne, we popped the cork and enjoyed a quiet evening in.  Felt blessed.

Here are some randomly placed pictures….

Our ivy and rose covered farmhouse B&B. Beautiful!
Our ivy and rose-covered farmhouse B&B. Beautiful!
Crazy narrow steep farmhouse stairs - the first of LOTS of stairs in France.
Crazy narrow steep farmhouse stairs – the first of LOTS of stairs in France.

...and the rest of those stairs.

…and the rest of those stairs.

We were also fortunate to have had Emillie (F-JFU) arrange a cooking class for us while in the area.  That’s in a separate posting. Suffice to say, YUM!

Our final morning at the farmhouse, we said our goodbyes and loaded up the car. F-JFY had arranged a visit to a vineyard and we were eagerly looking forward to this!  So, off we went in search of “Domain de Marotte”.  Beautiful!  We had a tour through the facilities and the actual vineyard itself, plus some tastings. But the best part, that  je ne sais quoi, was the picnic we had in the vineyard itself.  Our hosts at the winery had prepared a very large picnic basket for us filled with different cheeses, local meats, spreads, olives, fruit, two baguettes, and of course our own choice of a bottle of their wine.  Complete with dishes and glasses, we headed out to the vineyard, found a beautiful spot and set up our picnic.  One word: Delicious!

We lingered over the wine, talking about our day, discussing life, and just enjoying each other’s company.  I could have stayed all day!

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But staying all day would have meant we would have to skip seeing Avignon itself before heading to our next destination of Aix-en-Provence!  So, off to Avignon, and the bridge, where we sang…. ya, we’re tourists!  You’ll just have to use your imagination to hear us sing:

Sur le pont d’Avignon,
On y danse, on y danse,
Sur le pont d’Avignon,
On y danse, tous en rond.

Sur le pont D'Avignon.... wait...he's not dancing!
Sur le pont D’Avignon….
wait…he’s not dancing!

Off to our Medieval Castle and Aix!

 

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