I am back reminiscing about my travels to Provence during a bit of a winter blues funk. My travel partner, Jenn, kept saying during the trip that the memories would help to get us through a long winter, and as always she was right. In my last post on this little and slightly neglected blog (stocking season rolled around and that kept me quite busy) I talked about the two days in Paris that I spent leading up the tour in Provence hosted by French Larkspur. I have never traveled with a tour before and I am not sure that tour would be the right word for this kind of trip, because when I think of tour, I envision a massive tour bus with a guide using a megaphone. This is experience was the opposite of that. Tracey the owner of French Larkspur keeps her trips small, she only accomodates up to 4 travelers per trip. You basically are experiencing the most charming hilltop towns with a small group of friends and you don’t have to plan or worry about a thing except if you are wearing appropriate shoes. I am just like every other parent in the world, where I am rarely in a situation that doesn’t require me to be in charge or leading the way in one way or the other. I completely welcomed the opportunity to travel without even the tiniest bit of responsibility.
Tracey curated an amazing experinece that began each day with a delivery of fresh croissants to our apartment door so we could nibble on them while getting ready for the day. We had full days soaking up the beauty of this magical part of the world. This wasn’t a trip that was dictated by a list of tourist attractions we had to check off. We wandered cobblestone streets and our eyes feasted on all the treasures along the way, big and small.
True to the French experience we ate leisurely long lunches in some of the most stunning settings, always accompanied with a delicious meal.
The cathedral in Gordes is one of the most beautiful places I have walked into. The combination of colors, whimsical details, architecture, and it all being aged over centuries made for a truly remarkable place.
The Blessed Mother statues have always been a source of peace for Jenn, when we started the trip she would point them out to me. I quickly caught on, there is a lot of love communicated in them, and I always saw them as a good omen.
We would return to our apartment in the early evening and had this time to ourselves. Tracey always made sure that we stopped by a grocery store and bakery to get enough fixings for a dinner in. We could make the couple minute walk into town to eat a restaurant if we preferred. But we ended up really enjoying our dinners in our apartment. These were some of my favorite meals. We ate fresh bread with goat cheese and figs and grapes. And also the very best olive tapenade, which came with a story…Jenn and I stopped by a stall in a street market with a man selling various types of olives and tapenade. The truth of it is that he was very handsome and charming and his tapenade was delicious. He had us trying all the kinds, and we kept adding to our purchase. In the end we spent 20 euros on tapenade. EACH. Okay. We didn’t expect that. I guess I am not complaining because it was very yummy, it did last us nearly 3 dinners, and then there was the whole experience of buying it. C’est la vie. Sweet but not budget friendly.
This down time in the evenings was the perfect way to complete a full day. It gave me chance to look and edit my photos from the day which helped me to soak up the entire experience more. I also read some, and caught up with what was happening at home. A couple evenings I went jogging on a bike trail close to the apartment. I have run all of my adult life and there is something pretty special about jogging in a new area while on vacation that lets me experience it in a slightly different way.
One of the biggest advantages to this trip was that transportation was completely provided and taken care of courtesy of Tracey and her husband Steve. I am not afraid to travel and I can handle figuring my way through public transit in most places. Visiting the towns we did, would require renting a car. It gives me a little anxiety thinking about renting a car in a foreign country, and then to be responsible for navigating the tiny streets and parking. I am not discouraging anyone from trying it, and if I get to travel to all the places I hope to travel to, one day I will be doing this. But holy moly, it was so nice to have a chauffer in Steve that knew what he was doing. I am sure I would have seen less than half the places we saw if I had been in charge of finding our way and finding parking once we arrived. There were times when Steve would drop us off to start exploring while he circled to find parking. This was made it a first class/stress free experience.
I loved my travelmates on this trip. I suppose its a bit like the Bachelor, where you are doing these amazing things in this incredibly beautiful place of course you are going to start to love the people you are with (and in my case not romantically like the Bachelor, just as friends 🙂 ). Jenn and I planned to go together, so I knew I loved her, even though we had only known each other for a couple months. She is a really easy person to get to know well. The other woman who joined us came on her own from Boston, Jean. Before the trip she was stranger. Jenn and I both felt like we had hit the jackpot with her coming. She is one to love. I hope to travel with her again. I think we would survive real life friendship, not just one viewed in the rose colored glasses of Provence.
mon amie, jean, avec le chien 🙂
Tracey is an excellent guide. She is very much a perfectionist and hard worker. She will do everything in her power to make sure you are shown an amazing time. Also if you peek at her website or IG page you will notice her incredible photography. She has an eye for beauty and the ability to create an environment for you to enjoy it.
Our final visit was the tiny town of Oppede-le-Vieux. It had been a rainy day, our only rainy day, and the sun came out just in time to wander this town. It was a lovely parting gift from the area.
I am glad that I was able to experience each hilltop town that we did. Although they have a lot of similarities, there is something unique about each one. If I try to pick a favorite, I remember something special that stood out to me from each one. I am not sure I can even articulate those special qualities to classify the towns, often times it was just the feeling of the town or a moment when I turned a corner and saw something that was inspiring. It is such a gift that I got to experience this and hope to carry a piece of it with me.
Stay tuned for a post coming soon about the other important aspect of my stay in Provence. SHOPPING.