The magical French Larkspur tour of Provence included a lot of shopping. Antique shopping. Which it is no secret that I think this is one of the very best things in the world. And this is the part of the world to do it in. Tracey has gone to great lengths to create a tour in which we stopped by some of the most charming brocantes and flea markets. In the hilltop towns we found stunning little shops like this one owned by Corrine Massat:
In this picture the shop owner held open the sheets for me to inspect. I brought a couple sheets home. The texture, condition, and quality of the linen sheets that I purchased in this shop was exceptional. I still have a bit of fabric left from these pieces and its nice to know they are there to play a role in future projects.
One day we wandered through the town of Menerbes. I really enjoyed this spot, there were several shops that were owned and run by creatives. One was a distributor of Annie Sloan paint and furniture artist, Atelier de Couleurs. Taking a peek at her studio was definitely worth the stop.
We also popped into a store, Petits Points de Provence, that was filled with handmade sewn items and in the corner was a sewing machine. I spoke to the owner and explained that I too sewed items for work. She was a lovely vibrant person. She proudly gave me a little tour of her shop. She explained her favorite kind of work to do is cross stitch.
She had some incredible pieces, one caught my eye of teacups, as I ooooed and awed at it she explained that it was done by her mother who had Parkinson’s disease, and the action of handstiching calmed her.
I really wanted to bring a treasure of from her shop home and to support the hard work that she does, so I purchased this sweet cross stitch of a little girl. I may frame it or turn it into a coin purse. But right now its nice to just come upon it occasionally in my stash and to be reminded of the visit.
We also spent some time in Loumarin, that is filled with all sorts of charming shops. One of the highlights was a shop, La Boutique de L’Antiquaire, owned by a very talented woman named, Nathalie. Her shop is tucked into a storefront off a small cobblestone street and is in a very old building. I will let the pictures of it do the talking.
She too is a seamstress and had her sewing machine in the back corner. Her thing is my thing, vintage linen. She does inspiring work with the fabrics. It was as if I caught a glimpse of the tres chic French version of who I want to be. To have a shop like that and to be able to create in that space would be my ultimate dream. It was a pleasure just to get a taste of it and to bring home some treasures from it.
Tracey knowing that I was on the hunt for textiles brought us to La Boutique de Francine in L’Isle-our-la-Sorgue. We actually stopped in twice on one day because the visit was interrupted by a lunch reservation. As you can see this place need dedicated time.
Then the following day we had two flea markets scheduled that got rained out, so we ended up shopping there again. It would take several more than 3 visits to unearth all the special fabrics in this place. I was so happy with each piece I got and I bought a lot. The shop owner Laurence (which is such a beautiful name, don’t you think?) was such a pleasure to shop from, she kept throwing in little pieces of fabrics I picked as “presents” in my haul. It has brought me a lot of joy working with these fabrics. I hope one day to return.
We made it to one flea market, and I am so glad we did. We went to the flea market in Villeneuve-les-Avignon.
I love my finds from this market. I got some beautiful linens, the highlights being some remnants of old quilts. I used some red and pink quilt fabrics for Holiday pillows. I have been saving some purple colored quilts for a winter/spring pillows, these will be for sale at this weekend’s sale.
I also found the French Soldier fabric here that I used for tiny stockings, the fabric was in the form of two small pillows, I am pleased that they ended up as stockings after being in my care.
There was a lot of art at this market, I found several paintings, and I have sold some but I haven’t been able to part with a couple.
Here are a couple of the paintings I purchased and I thought I needed to photograph them in our stunning Air B and B.
There was a large selection of dishes to be admired
Even though I was nervous about getting dishes home, I couldn’t resist this set of red and white vintage plates:
Lastly you should know if you travel with Tracey and Steve you will have first class service. Steve spends the entire time circling the market taking your purchases back to the van. Lugging around my purchases is a sacrifice I am surely willing to take for some good finds, but to NOT have to do it is nothing short of incredible. It is an immensely better flea market experience. I didn’t know flea market shopping could get better, because I love it so much, but it does with Steve managing your bags.
During the trip we visited outdoor markets here and there. These greeted us with fresh foods, beautiful flowers, sometimes clothing, sometimes fabric, sometimes vintage fabric and antiques. There was always something to be discovered.
I treasure the sweet memories that it has gifted me with. Also to be able to work with the fabric that is coupled with memories of this magical place has added special element to my creativity, this is hard to out into words. I indeed feel incredibly grateful for this enriching experience.
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.