Monday, June 1, 2009

Another Great Day or Two in Provence

I know my poor Mom was growing weary of our "See-It-All-As-Fast-As-You-Can" travel style. But she was a trooper and signed on for another day with us out and about in Provence! This next day we declared as a "Cotes du Rhone Day" (a day to discover the vineyards, wineries and magnificent scenes along the sunny Cotes du Rhone wine road). Kirk let Connor practice her driving skills (with the car parked of course)...and somehow flash forwards of age 16 sent my heart racing!But before I get ahead of myself - the very first sight we took in was a true highlight. We explored the remarkable town of Les-Baux-de-Provence. It was a hop, skip and a jump from our hotel (literally just a block or so) and we were fortunate we got there just as the town was stretching, yawning and opening up for the day. The picturesque place really does "crown the rugged Alpilles Mountains with a rock-capping castle" just as Rick Steves describes it. It is hard to explain the unusual architectural feat that is Les Baux, but maybe the pictures will help....But beware. I read and indeed it was true - that to really enjoy Les Baux you must arrive ahead of the tourists. It is a tiny town with narrow streets and when it fills up it is overflowing. We beat the cruise ship mobs and shopped around and skipped in the streets. Yet as we were leaving we saw the masses arriving and breathed a sigh of thanksgiving we were on our way out. It was the perfect little French town though that beckoned us to shop and be girlie!Kirk - in an effort NOT to "shop and be girlie" - took Connor and they discovered the open spaces in Les Baux. Connor loved to run! They found a chapel where of course they had to locate "Baby Jesus" and all the sheep and donkeys in the frescoes. It is one of Connor's favorite things to do. And an instant pacifier when she gets antsy. THANK YOU Baby Jesus!We ventured from Les Baux to the Cotes du Rhone and started with a stop in the small town of Vaison la Romaine. It was full of stone streets and walls popping with color from red geraniums and green vines. There were a few quaint galleries and stores to make us happy and the views overlooking the vineyards were particularly intriguing.We drove Rick Steves' recommended Cotes du Rhone loop through the Provence countryside and all around the Dentelles de Montmirail mountain range. We were spoiled with the views - I tried to concentrate hard so I wouldn't take for granted the immense beauty. We stopped in Puymeras for lunch in the enchanting courtyard of La Girocedre. Then off to the town of Suzette where we sampled the famous rose wines of the region and even took a walk in the vineyards. On our way back to our hotel we saw the Roman theatre in the town of Orange........and then to St. Remy to pick up a pick up pizza for dinner and of course to let Connor take a couple of spins on the merry-go-round! She was so hilarious as each time she spun around and saw Kirk with the camera she would call out and flash her million dollar smile shrieking with glee!Mom took care of Connor while Kirk and I went out for a rare date night out in the town of Arles. We ate at a place called "A Cote" near the Roman arena. The night was sunny and chilly. It was romantic to let go of the high speed travel and always anticipating Connor to enjoy each other. We sat outside and took in all the streets of Arles could give us! The next day Mom and I sent Kirk back home to work while we continued on our Provence adventure. On the way to the airport we stopped again in the pretty town of St. Remy. This place is where Van Gogh was institutionalized after cutting off his ear. It was Mom's very favorite and she relished wandering the streets. I wonder what is was like when Van Gogh was there so many "starry nights" ago!

After dropping Kirk off we drove to the town of Uzes. This sun-dappled town of maze like streets and squares proved to be my favorite. We ate lunch, Connor laughed, Mom and I connected and the sun beat down on us. Doesn't get much better than that, right?
And at long last we finished the day in Arles where we spent our last night. Kirk and I dined here the night before so I had the lay of the land and we set out to discover Van Gogh's old tromping grounds. We found where Van Gogh painted "The Yellow House" know, this one....Van Gogh is one of the greats. I am so happy we were able to discover the inspiration and landscape for many of his masterpieces in the bustling town of Arles. It certainly puts new perspective on the movement and color of his paintings.

In France the old men love to "boul" or bowl. There are wide courtyards set for this very sport. They bring their own balls and polishing cloths and it appears to be as much social as strategic. We found eavesdropping on it all pretty amusing!

After a long day we had drinks and food from the market for dinner. We felt very FRENCH!

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