Pretty Provence

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Provence is like no place I have ever been. Having experienced Paris three times, I was excited to venture outside the city to get a taste of the other France, and it didn't disappoint! It's so beautiful and old that my new world brain can hardly wrap itself around it being real and not something created for say Disneyland. It's truly magical. 

Prior to our trip I read at least three of Peter Mayle's books on Provence and listened to/read/watched everything Rick Steves on the area.  It was hard to choose a town or village as home base, but we settled on Arles.  A three hour train ride from Paris and we arrived in Avignon and then rented a car and drove 45 minutes to Arles.  Actually, we were starving and in France you can't just get "lunch" all day.  Most restaurants serve lunch from 11-2 and if you don't make it during that time frame you are out of luck. 

We'd read about the charms of St. Remy and we thought we had a chance of getting some lunch if we found a restaurant quickly.  We barely made it and were turned away at several places before finding a friendly restaurant owner who let us get the last serving of the day. I was excited to finally experience Provencal food after reading Peter Mayle's books and listening to Rick Steves describe the unique and flavorful cuisine unique to the area. 

Maybe it was that we were starving or maybe it was just that the food and the atmosphere were so truly beautiful but it was a lunch I will never forget.  The food was simple and uncomplicated compared to the foie gras we had in Paris the night before, but it was just as good.

We sat in a courtyard and watched couples coming to a hotel for their wedding receptions.  It then started to rain and we were entranced by the mood, the food, and the excellent cheap wine. 

After strolling St. Remy in the rain we loaded up and drove the remaining distance to our our Airbnb in Arles.

After the tiny cramped apartment in Paris our home in Arles was both charming and peacefully quiet.
Several of the beams in the house had dates inscribed in them and it's likely the original house was built around 1859.

Arles is famous for several Roman ruins that are arguably better than any you will find in Rome.

Arles is also famous for being an inspiration for hundreds of Van Gough paintings. You can actually go to the places where he sat up an easel and painted many of his most famous works of art.

We spent our days traveling outside of Arles to other Provencal towns like Isle Sur La Sorgue for it's huge outdoor market. If I had the luxury of bringing it all back I would. Olives, olive oil, salt, herbs, lavender, soap, linens, cheese, meats, the most inexpensive wine.  It's truly incredible. 

We also visited Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape, the world famous wine commune in Provence. It was Sunday so most things were sadly closed but we happened upon a tasting room set back into a wine cave where we enjoyed a complimentary tasting of their world famous wine.

Another highlight of our trip to Provence was a visit to the ancient roman aqueducts at Point Du Gard.  The history here was fascinating and breathtakingly beautiful.

After walking around the acquedoct we ate lunch at the outdoor cafe. It was surreal to be sitting in Provence eating lunch in front of one of the world UNESCO world heritage sites.

Also, a bucket list type moment was getting to eat at a Michelin star restaurant.   Although we opted for the cheaper of Jean-Luc Rabanel's two restaurants in Arles it was a memorable meal. 

And, because there are just too many pretty pictures to post I'm going to wrap this up with a few more. Oh what a life it would be to live in a country home in Provence. One day I would like to try. 

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