Vive la France!
A Week in Provence
Fast off the heels of our six jam-packed weeks of travel through the Balkans and Central Europe, we quickly shifted gears as we settled in for a much-needed week in Provence, full of markets, home-cooked meals and domestic routines. Much like previous stints of downtime in our trip, we found Airbnb an invaluable resource in uncovering the gem of a villa, part of a local family’s historic Aix-en-Provence estate. The quiet space to rest, read, cook and catch-up on writing was a heaven send at this point in our journey. When we weren’t discovering all of the beautiful products and delicious produce of the local farmers’ and handicraft markets in Aix-en-Provence, Gordes and Lourmarin—and subsequently gorging ourselves on our finds of fresh food—, we were exploring the incredible natural beauty of the region.
One of the regional highlights for us included the local parklands in France’s diverse southern landscape. We were surprised to learn that flamingos (sadly, no photos) call the Camargue coastal parkland home, along with a host of other maritime wildlife, including the (somewhat obviously named) wild white horses. Camargue also happens to have some exquisite, rugged beaches—reminiscent of the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island—that we made good use of for daily walks. On the eastern edge of Marseille, we took in Calanque National Park for a windy afternoon of coastal hiking to the idyllic fishing village of Calanque de Morgiou. The stunning vistas of the undulating, verdant hills of the Luberon mountain range culminated in an afternoon at the iconic Provincial village of Gordes for their weekly market. While in the area, we also made the requisite stop into Senanque Abbey, an 11th century Cistercian abbey, famous for its abundant and fragrant lavender fields (harvested the month prior) and tastefully appointed gift shop (we fell in love with the frankincense inspired candle that reminded us of church).
Les Amis en France
Fully recharged (and absolutely full of delicious local fare), we were so fortunate a week later to be joined by a jovial gang of New Yorkers, some of our closest friends. Our hearts were filled with gratitude that they would make such a long journey, and we soon fell back into old times, catching up over exquisite French cuisine with more market shopping and more home cooking—this time in the hills high above the French Riviera (a wonderful find by expert planner, Julien). One mid-morning, we all attended a perfume-making class at Fragonard Perfumerie in Grasse, the epicenter of fragrance, and after testing our noses and creating our own eau de parfums, we strolled through the old town before making our way to one of the most charming medieval towns in the French Riviera, St. Paul de Vence. Our home for the weekend had a well-stocked kitchen and grill, of which we made great use, preparing the largest cowboy cut of côte de bœuf we’d ever seen and later grilled to perfection by Leah, our villa's resident nonna. Our final day was spent in the blissful calm of trés chic Paloma Beach Club taking in the last rays of sunshine on the Côte d'Azur. Thanks to Julien’s French heritage and organization, we enjoyed a truly fabulous weekend with friends!
Our time in the South of France was one of renewal and fellowship, which carried us on to Spain, the last leg of our journey through Europe.