By now, if you have been following my blog you know I have a never ending love affair with Italy. If I had to pick a close second place to give my heart to, it would be the gorgeous region of Provence, France.
We arrived in Nice and headed to our drive to Provence. But, after finding out that none of my bags made it to France, we made an unexpected pit-stop at a few boutiques. A shopping spree later, we made it to St. Remy, a small town in the commune of Bouches-du-Rhone with a population of only 10,000 inhabitants. It was late at night and pitch black out. It took us a few unexpected detours and getting lost a few times to find our gorgeous hotel Chateau de Roussan.
Built in the Eighteenth century, the charming Chateau de Roussan was the home of Irene and Philip Roussel. The romantic charm of the bedrooms – each decorated differently – and the beautiful library, outdoor patio, reflecting pool and serene atmosphere make this hotel a “one of a kind” find. On the evening we arrived, we had no idea what a treat was in store for us. With a bag full of fresh baguettes we had picked up in town, local cheeses and fresh prosciutto, we settled in the outdoor patio at a quiet table with a beautiful bottle of white and then called it a night.
After the most restful night of sleep, listening to the mistral and the sound of crickets and cicadas, we woke up to the most delicious home made breakfast. Imagine the freshest baked breads, croissants, juicy fruits, cheeses and local honey… it was an absolute feast. It soon became my favorite meal of the day. And the scenery? It doesn’t get much better than that… we sat in the backyard, where you could not hear a sound other than nature itself.
Time moves fast when you’re on vacation, so we headed out to explore the beauty of the area. We visited the Monastere Saint Paul de Mausole – a must see historical center, where Van Gogh lived from 1889 to 1890. Originally build as a convent and monastery in the 12th century, it was later converted to an asylum in the 19th century. Fortunately, Van Gogh’s room was preserved, and we actually peered out the precise window where Van Gogh found inspiration for many of his famous paintings, such as The Irises.
One of the highlights of St. Remy was the food. One of our favorite restaurants was located at the gorgeous hotel, Le Vallon de Valrugues & Spa. The hotel was beautiful – a completely different vibe from where we were staying, which was a very “classic chateau”, full of charm and history. Contrasting that, the Le Vallon is your typical stunning 5 star hotel. That being said, we decided to try its very acclaimed restaurant and boy… Was it Fantastic!
The next day we ventured to the town of Avignon, which is not far from St. Remy and is considered a must-see in the area. Avignon is a medieval town with about 90,000 inhabitants and surrounded by medieval ramparts. The city center, the home of the Palais des Papes, the Cathedral and the Port d”Avignon, became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.
Avignon’s city streets are famous for the hundreds of posters for art shows, music festivals, plays and other performances. Posters are in every corner and everywhere you look. There are tons of small restaurants al fresco, so you simply can’t go wrong. Order a nice bottle of white, sit back and enjoy watching the city life. You might be surprised by actors performing scenes from a play or even an opera right on the street in front of you.
We also visited a traditional confectionery store La Cure Gourmande. There, you can sample anything from biscuits, chocolates, nougats, caramels and all manner of other sugary treats. You can find this store all over Europe, including Paris. Everything there is delicious and you won’t be able to leave empty handed.
On the second day in St. Remy, I finally received the good news that my lost bag had arrived! Immediately followed by that good news, I also learned the airline could not deliver it that day. I was going to have to pick it up at the Marseilles International Airport. A small change of plans is not the end of the world, so off we went on another adventure to Marseilles. We had not researched Marseilles, but I knew it would be a gorgeous town to visit.
We had rented a car – which I strongly recommend when traveling to Provence. The roads are very well signaled and if you have any form of navigation system, you will do just fine. It took us a little over 1 1/2 hours to get there, and the bag retrieval process was not bad. We then headed to the beautiful coast of Marseilles for dinner. What was supposed to be a simple trip to pick up my lost luggage, became an amazing evening. I wish we had had more time to explore this beautiful town during the day as it seems there is so much to see.
The south of France is an area full of charm, delicious food, amazing wine and I could honestly spend a whole year traveling around to explore all the little villages and Provencal towns. On my next post, I will review the second part of our trip that was equally amazing, traveling from Aix en Provence to the stunning Gorge du Verdon. Stay tuned and leave me a comment if you have ever been to Provence and would like to share something amazing from your trip! A bientot!