France - The Provincial Life
The next stop on the fortieth adventure was Provence, specifically our home base would be a house we rented in Aix-en-Provence. After my first trip to France in two thousand and fourteen, I stopped by a French bakery once I arrived back in Denver called Les Delices De Paris. The woman who owns it is French and I told her I just arrived back from Paris, she said "Pfft, Paris. You go to France, you go to Provence". Hence Provence was added to my list.
We rented a house and it was gorgeous! Just what I wanted from my provincial experience. I was looking out of my new bedroom window at the ancient aqueduct when my brother and his girlfriend cycled up to the house, bonjour I beckoned from the window. I ran down to greet our newest additions and show them the house, they had been on a bike tour for the week prior. Now the group was complete. It was my birthday and I was surrounded by people I love in France, I couldn't ask for a better day. I decided on that day to launch this blog, April fifteenth on my fortieth birthday, a day I will never forget. We went out to dinner in Aix-en-Provence that evening in celebration of my birthday and had fondue, it was delicious. We ended the evening at a cafe for dessert and an espresso, my sweet choice was creme brulee. The day was now complete.
Our second day we went to L'Isle Sur la Sorgue for lunch. It was a cute little town with all the things I like; a river, bridges, cafes, shops and French charm. At lunch we were shared the news that my brother and his girlfriend got engaged the week prior! We immersed ourselves in the good news and had a lovely lunch. After we went to Carrieres de Lumieres just outside of Les Baux. I wasn't sure what to expect of this old limestone quarry turned art exhibit. We saw some pictures online and read good reviews, but I still didn't know what to expect. I've never experienced anything like it, the quarry was huge and the ceilings seemed endless. It was dark and when you go in, there is art projected on all surfaces, walls, floors, the gigantic pillars, everywhere the eye could see. All of this while music played and the art continually changed. It was like being inside of a canvas or a song, or both. It was one of the most surreal and magnificent things I have ever experienced. Picasso was the main event while we visited the quarry and I know that it changes from time to time. I would strongly suggest if ever near this area to make a point to come see the Carrieres de Lumieres. I will never forget it. Afterwards, we explored the small village of Les Baux, built into the cliff side. It was gorgeous.
The next day we decided to explore the market and town of Aix-en-Provence. Markets are so pleasant and everything is so fresh it is hard not to buy one of everything. We got all of the makings of a great meal as we were going to eat at the house that evening; asparagus, potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, apples, greens, radishes, carrots, cheese, baguettes, tapenade, chicken and pork (for the meat eaters). I bought some fresh peonies for the guests of honor, which they didn't know yet. My parents, friend and I decided to turn our dinner into an engagement celebration. We decided to sneak away to buy some champagne, but discovered by the nice gentleman in the wine shop that it is actually only champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne, France. We were actually just looking for sparkling wine and it didn't necessarily need to be from Champagne. The guests of honor were biking back to the house and as such we had plenty of time to clean up and set a lovely table by the pool. They were shocked when they came to dinner and my dad popped the sparkling wine in celebration. It was a perfect evening as we sat behind the aqueduct in Provence celebrating new beginnings.
On the forth day, my brothers fiance had to return to the States and now it was five of us. We went to a cute town of Arles. My brother had a meeting and the rest of us explored the cute town. In the middle of town was a protest. We believe it was the railroad workers striking, there were a lot of people, a flare burning and chanting. It didn't seem threatening, but more theatrical and organized. We went to the store and got some picnic items to snack on later; cheese, baguettes, fruit, chips and cookies. Then we wandered to the Van Gogh museum, he lived in Arles for a period of time in the late eighteen hundreds. Once we met back up with my brother we explored the rest of the town and went to see the Arles Amphitheatre which was built in ninety AD by the Romans. That is a hard date to wrap my head around. After finishing our picnic along the Rhone we ventured to Camargue to see flamingos. I learned of the flamingos less than a week before going on this trip and wasn't sure if we would actually see them. They said that April was the best time to see the flamingos but I didn't want to get my hopes up even though I was very excited at the anticipation. We arrived to the Parc naturel régional de Camargue and I asked the monsieur in the ticket booth were to see the flamingos, he said "yes flamingos here". We entered the park and started out to follow the numbers as directed and there they were...hundreds of flamingos. HUNDREDS! They were everywhere, it was stunning. They were light pink but when the extended their wings they were lined in black with bright pink in the middle. They were breathtaking. This was my favorite experience of the trip and I was overjoyed. We went into Aix-en-Provence for dinner that evening and got to go crepes from Frenchie's, which is the name of my Fiat. Yes, I named my Italian vehicle Frenchie.
Our fifth and final full day in Provence was full of village hopping. We started in Bonnieux, walked around for a bit, stopped in an antique shop and got some pastries for the drive to Menerbes to go to the market. Menerbes was very cute, we explored the market and then walked around the town. My mom and I got a coffee at a very cute place perched high on the mountain, the view was stunning and you could see for miles. We then had a picnic that we packed before venturing to Gordes. I liked Gordes very much, it was a very cute town, again we shopped around and explored. We took a walk through Senanque Abbey which was tranquil and beautiful. I couldn't imagine how breathtaking it would be with the lavender in full bloom. The next stop was Roussilon. This town had very different coloring than the other villages because of the ochre pigments in the clay surrounding the town. It was cute as well, we repeated our pattern and shopped around, then stopped for a cafe. On the way to the next stop we walked onto an ancient Roman bridge built in three BC, again a date I have a hard time wrapping my head around. Our final stop was Lourmarin where we had reservations at Pizzeria Nonni, a place that we found online and that my brother and fiance checked out on their bike tour. This town was adorable, they all were, but I especially liked this one. We wondered around, got a drink and then strolled to dinner. It was delightful and a great last meal in the lovely Luberon.
The next day my friend had to take a train back to Paris for the trip back to the States. And now there were four. We would be taking a train ourselves to the next destination on the fortieth adventure. I was saddened to be leaving Provence, but looking forward to the adventures to come.