Thoughts of Our Un-Vacation in the South of France:
Here's a list of places we did not visit on our recent trip to Provence: Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Les Baux, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Orange, Pont du Gard, and except for a rest stop at the beach on Antibes, nothing along the French Riviera . . . and likely many of the others that people in the know (like my pal Rick S.) would expect us to visit. It's just that all that driving is, well, not very exciting, not very relaxing, not very much how we want to spend a week of vacation . . . because that's what we long for about now, mid-April each year -- vacation. A chance to take it easy. Forget the pressures. Gear up for the busy months ahead. Sleep late. Nap. Linger. Drink too much with friends into the late hours of the night. Provence and her fresh air and glorious sun is perfect for just that.
We didn't purposefully visit one Roman ruin (gasp!) -- for God's sake, I don't need to ever see another! And though we had big plans, we made it to only one winery, where we bought (BIG GASP!) vin rosé in a box.
Now, we did get out of the house for several hours each day, but only once did we go to bed with a solid plan for the next day in mind.Thanks to our Francofile friends Pat and Mo, who have visited the area annually for nearly twenty years, we had instant access to any needed information, to include history lessons for me. We even had the chance to ride through the countryside in their very French, Renault Kangoo.
We did linger in little towns and grocery stores, and meandered through one French market after another. We did have fresh croissants and baguettes in our pj's each morning. (Thanks Richard!) We enjoyed the variety of French breads and consumed much chèvre and other stinky cheese. We lunched in the sun at the home of Jean Francois and Diane near Vaison and then played rounds of Boules on their court. The Young One drank cool water flavored with violet sirop, while we enjoyed (again) the local vin rosé -- apparently it's what you drink when the sun is out and shining brightly. Shoot, we played Boules out on the rocks of our gîte.
We made aioli for our artichokes, compared tapenades, sipped our first pastis, savored mousse de canard, and shared tarts after dinner. We welcomed colleagues from Spain for an evening of seafood and laughter. We smelled soaps and examined linens. We bought one too many market baskets. We dined with meals at home each evening prepared with the local products. (Okay. . .not my idea. . . admittedly. . . but the local products are indeed superb.) And did I mention the cheese? Ah Provence. . . Ah fromage.
We did make it to Avignon at the beginnig of the week where we three toured the Palais des Papes and walked to the edge of the Pont d'Avignon. (Scary.) Based in L'isle sur la Sorgue, we also lost ourselves in places like Rouissillion, Gordes, Vaison-la-Romaine, Serguét, Fontaine de Vacluse, Bonnieux (sweet, sweet Bonnieux). On our way home we took the scenic road and meandered through vineyards and orchards of blooming fruit trees, where we saw Lacoste and the famous Château de Sade. We even took a detour to Antibes for a break at the beach during the journey home.
Many probably think that we wasted time or don't get "the full experience." That could not be further from the truth. Have you ever tasted a baguette in France or an olive from a market stall in Provence? Have your felt the sun? Have you lingered over the smell of fresh lavendar or verbena? One sip of the vin rosé, and you would get it. I promise. Besides, there will surely be more visits to come in the near future. And if nothing else. . . for God's sake -- have you tasted the chevre? I'd do it over again for the love of chèvre, and ahh. . . the chèvre chaud. (hot!)
Heaven on earth.
(Pictures to follow.)