Saturday, May 30, 2009

First Impressions of Provence

When my Mom planned her trip we wanted to get out into the European countryside and to enjoy the experience without having a million city sites to see. So we thought Provence, France would be the perfect spot. We stayed in a country town called Les Baux-en-Provence nestled in the enormous rocky faces of Alpilles mountains. Our hotel, Mais d’Aigret, was a wonderful spot in the middle of nowhere and we adored our ‘family room’ with 2 separate bedrooms and an adjoining bath. The walls were stone and very fitting of the Provencal motif. I was shocked by Provence. Not sure what I was expecting but the huge stone mountains were indeed inspirational and made me want to pull out my paintbrush and do what Van Gogh, Cezanne and so many did here – capture the changing light all over the landscape in a painting.
Day One and we explored many of the Luberon Hill towns in Provence. Breakfast in the charming town of Lourmarin started us off right. We picked up bread and pastry at a boulangerie and absorbed the foggy start to what was to become a hot, blue sky day. I love this photo. I mean does it get any more "French" than this? Buying bread on a Saturday morning with Mom in a pink princess dress...Next we traveled through Bonnieux, over the remaining Roman bridge of St Julien Bridge, and into the photographer’s dream town of Roussillon. Rick Steves calls Roussillon the "Santa Fe of France", and indeed with the brilliant red rocks against the adobe type architecture it is easy to see the comparison. Mom found a tablecloth for a bargain price and I loved the dramatic colors of the village. What a find! We also drove to the Abbey de Senanque which is pictured in so many postcards with purple lavender fields all around. The lavender is a month away from blooming, but we could see a tiny hint of the purple hue. We drove through the bustling town of Gordes and it looked like a fun place to linger longer too - but you know us, we had to keep pressing on. Next up was a visit to Avignon. This walled city was literally built into the rock and beside a river that was once the home for the Popes…another Vatican and the home of Christendom. In the 1300s the Vatican moved the entire headquarters of the Catholic Church to Avignon. I gather from our books that a French pope was elected and at the urging of the French king, Pope Clement V decided he'd had enough of unholy Italy. So he loaded up his carts and moved to Avignon. The Catholic Church literally bought Avignon and popes resided here until 1403.
We enjoyed crepes for lunch in the cloister area of the Palais des Papes and then wound our way through the shops to the medieval Avignon bridge, made famous by a French nursery rhyme. Every week in our French music class we sing this song with a chorus of :
Sur le pont, d’Avignon
On y danse, On y danse

(translated "on the bridge of Avignon, one dances there, one dances there")
So of course we had to dance and dance in the bright green grass in front of the famous Avignon bridge of our French nursery tune!
We finished out the afternoon with a visit to the large Roman aqueduct, Pont de Gard, and then on to a sushi dinner in Aix-en-Provence along the grand avenue of Cours Mirabeau. Aix-en-Provence (pronounced “ex”) is a city nicknamed “Sex en Provence” because of all the wealthy, well-dressed, sexy people there. Indeed the people watching proved tons of fun. The market produce in Aix-en-Provence was unbelievable. I mean check out those artichokes and the tomatoes!Connor wasn't so sure about the sticky rice at the sushi place. It stuck like glue to her hands!I couldn't wait to figure out the Provencal treasures the next day had in store for us after such a full, fun start!

Click here for all photos of our Provence adventure with Kirk (Full Album)

1 comment:

Louise said...


What a fun and full day! We visited many of the same towns during a two-week trip in '07 (We stayed in Gordes with day trips to Roussillon, Les-Baux, Avignon, Aix and the Pont de Gard on our way to the Riviera from Dijon). It's so much fun to see all your photos! I can tell you all are having a ball. I hope you're all well.