The romantic village of Saint-Émilion

When we went to Bordeaux, we stayed in the town of Saint-Émilion.

Saint Emilion is an old wine town.   History dates vineyards there back to the second century.  Can you imagine?

Our hotel was Auberge de la Commanderie. We’d recommend it. The building was from the 12th Century.

The town is a UNESCO site.   Romanesque architecture and roman ruins are sprinkled throughout the entire village.

Church in Saint-Émilion

A street in Saint Émilion

 

 

Rock integrated into architecture

View from the steeple

 

I really loved the architecture of this hill town

The town seamlessly blended into the vineyards, and vice-versa

Small church on the hill, overlooking the vineyards

What a romantic city. Too bad the hubbies weren’t with us.

 

 

 

An Ode to Bordeaux.

Last week, a group of three of us packed our backpacks

and at 9am, jumped in S’s car, inputted Bordeaux, and got on track.

Our route

We were venturing through France on “Girls Trip”.

We figured we’d give the ole’ wine tasting a rip.

 

About four hours into our journey,

S’s car rumbled and smoked, like it needed a gurney.

Puy du Dome

As luck would have it, we were near an Aire

which is a “rest stop” in French, if you didn’t know where.

 

 

That part was quite lucky.  But since highways in French are privately owned,

just any tow truck couldn’t come help, with the way it was zoned.

 

To see what was the matter, the gals looked under the hood

they got an audience, a few men, who just stood.  (apparently this isn’t common in France)

A and I bided our time by taking advantage of the rest stop buffet

It included quarters of chicken, ratatouille, wine, – quite an array!

 

Wine machine at the rest stop. We didn’t partake. We wanted to.

Having fun with the coffee machine

 

After an hour, help did arrive.

In a big blue tow truck, he did drive.

 

He took a look, and I thought he said “Bon Voyage”

but really he said, “C’est la embrayage” (the clutch)

 

Thank goodness S spoke fluent French.

Without her, A & I would have been in quite a pinch.

 

We loaded up the car onto the tow truck bed

And drove along Puy de Dome, with concerns of Bordeaux in our head.

S, on the phone, in the tow truck.

 

 

In the little town, we waited and sat.

It took four hours to arrange a car, and to wait for a taxi at that.

The dog’s name was Festine. We stayed so long, we got to see her birth certificate.

Sick of waiting

 

 

The lady on the phone said the rental car location would be 4 kilometers.

After an hour backtracking and 100 euro, the error was hers.

 

We were at the airport of Clermont Ferrand

More waiting we did do, at the mercy of Europcar’s hand.

The airport we didn’t fly into

Finally, we jumped into our new car,

stopping at a Q-stop (like McDonald’s) before we got too far.

Yes, we’ll take a round of “Classique” meals

We drove again past the scene of the breakdown, the exact site,

and continued 5 hours to our destination, arriving at midnight.

Saint-Émilion at midnight. Thank goodness.

 

Before it was time to lay our heads down,

S bought us a bottle of wine, to have a “We finally arrived” round.

 

 

 

Provençal Hospitality at La Maison de Françoise.

While we were in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, we stayed at a very lovely B & B, La Maison de Françoise.   It is operated by husband and wife, Bruno and Françoise.   It is rare that I do a post exclusively on a hotel room, but this was a special place.

We really enjoyed the grounds of their estate.  Everything was thoughtfully done, from the gardens to the sitting rooms.

It was lovely chatting with the couple.

Lovely grounds of La Maison de Francoise

The pool…notice how all in Provence must be above ground due to the craggy rock soil?

Conversation areas

Our little room was on the top floor of this farmhouse

Our doorway

Rapunzel…let your hair down. Just kidding, he was upstairs working and I was beckoning him.

Breakfast was

Breakfast was coffee, fresh squeezed juice, and a basket of Provençal pastries and breads with confiture.

We’d certainly recommend this gem for your next trip to Provence.

La Maison de Françoise

60 avenue Albert Schweitzer

13210 Saint Rémy de Provence – France

Tél : 33(0)4.90.24.92.66

http://lamaisondefrancoise.com/presentation-anglais.htm

Diversity in Landscape

I wanted to share the diverse beauty of the South of France.  We drove through many regions to get to our destination of Provence, including Le Drôme and The Haute Alpes.

The slideshow includes a glimpse of some of the images I took from our car’s window that weren’t included in other posts:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I know that road trips sometimes get old, but this beauty always makes it a bit easier to enjoy being in the car!

Gratitude Friday: The Best Things In Life Are Free

 

I mentioned how much we liked D943 for the amazing lavender from Gordes to Sault.    I am happy to report the views didn’t stop after Sault.  We continued on our way home, weaving on small roads through some really cool gorges.

Driving home from Sault to Geneva

Cool rock formations

Lovely views

 

After a few miles, I noticed there was a river running next to the road.  Neat.

A glimpse of the water down below’

 

I felt bad for Gabe as he was driving and couldn’t see how pretty it was.   When we saw this view below, I exclaimed, “if you can stop, do it!”

Waterfall at the gorge

 

So we parked our car and took a better look.  Gabe commented, “It’s an adult water park!”

After our better look, we hiked back up, changed into our suits and headed down to give it a whirl.

Walking through the gorge

 

Playing in the rapids. The limestone below was smooth, like the bottom of a pool.

Taking a jump

Yup. It’s cold!

My turn

Another go for Gabe

 

We only jumped off the second platform.   Even I could stand right there.   We don’t know how the heck these guys weren’t killing themselves:

 

 

This goes to show you, the best things in life are free.   And we are grateful for that.  We’ll never forget the day we accidentally found the free all-natural “water park”.

If you want to check it out, it is called Les Gorges De la Méouge.  Below is a map of where we found it:

 

 

Bon weekend, everyone!

 

 

 

The Lavender Trail

As I mentioned, this trip was all about lavender.      However, I made a mistake when booking our hotel as I really didn’t know where the lavender was.  It ended up being okay for us since we enjoyed our time St-Rémy but if we were super lavender-serious, we would have been more disappointed to be 2 hours away from it!    Thus, I wanted to show you a few resources and maps so that when you are planning your lavender adventure, you will do better than me.

The best place for spotting purple fields we saw on the entire trip was the D943 road from Gordes to Sault, above the green national park area.

The top part of this drive near Sault was the best….

There was no one around, and lots of beautiful fields.   Here are a few:

Awesome field with Mt Ventoux in the background

Gorgeous fields

Having fun traipsing through the lavender

More fields on D943

Pretty landscape from our table on the terrace at Le Promenade in Sault.  It looks calm but its windy from Le Mistral.

View from the village of Sault in mid July

Leaving Sault, we continued to see lavender on D943

More wild looking fields….

Hills near Sault

Sigh…..do we have to go back to Geneva?

We also really enjoyed the Abbaye de Senanque because of the beauty of the abbey.  I’d like to say it was peaceful but a tour bus arrived just before us so it took some of the tranquility away.   Check out my post from yesterday to see the photos.    The Abbaye was hard to find in our GPS.   When you approach Gordes, there are signs, but wanted to provide a map, just in case:

How to get to Abbaye de Senanque

We also enjoyed Valdition, but it was just one field and very far away from the others.  However, if you are near St. Rémy or Arles, this would be a good choice.  Valdition is the name of region as well as the major estate winery there.   The field is at the Estate winery so look for that and follow the signs for parking to see the field.

We heard that Valensole is a super place.  That was our Plan B vs. Sault & Abbaye de Senanque.  We ultimately went the way we did based on the topography and wanting to see it both up close and the fields from a distance.   If you’ve been to Valensole to see the lavendar, I’d love to hear how that is!

When we were driving back to Geneva, I glanced down at our tour books and noticed that we hit the two covers!!   It wasn’t intentional, but feel relieved that maybe we did see the best spots!

If you haven’t gotten enough lavender yet, here are a few driving video outtakes as well:

Abbaye de Sénanque

Abbaye de Sénanque is located near Gordes, France.

The view as we descended into the valley

The abbey is 850 years old.  In the 13th and 14th centuries, it owned and managed several farms.   However, in the Wars of Religion, the abbey was ransacked and eventually owned by a private individual.

It was repurchased in 1854 to be occupied by Cistercian monks.   Nowadays, they raise lavender and make honey.

Cue…the lavender.  Nope, I can’t get enough!

 

When we arrived, a tour bus was just leaving.   As you can imagine, the setting became a lot more peaceful after their departure.

 

The Abbaye de Sénanque

I asked Gabe, “I wonder what the monks think?”.    After all, aren’t they supposed to have peace and quiet and solitude to pray?    I imagine that it must be hard with all the tour buses.

Lovely rows of lavender, the monks’ livelihood. 

I only hope the donations they make from visitors make up for the distraction.   Anyhow, I am grateful that they allow guests.

He was a good sport.

 

This is a beautiful place to visit in Provence.

 

 

Gorgeous Gordes

We didn’t put Gordes on our Provence list, since we had plans to stay there this Fall when we were to meet up with Mom & friends on their wine trip.    However, we found out we had to drive past it on our way to Abbaye de Senanque and we thought it would be neat to pull over for the view.

And…wow.

This town was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen.  In fact it wins designation from France as “Le Plus Beaux Villages de France“.

Our first glimpse, lookout #1

Second glimpse….ooo la la!

We found someone to take our photo.

Enjoying our little long weekend honeymoon.

 

 

 

Isn’t Gordes gorgeous?

I can’t wait to go back this Fall!

 

The hilltop villages of Bonnieux & Lacoste

After Oppède-le-Vieux, we continued onto the Luberon Valley.   An article from jet setter had recommended Menerbes, Lacoste, Bonnieux, and Gordes to be nice stops while in Provence.   We knew we  would hit Gordes later in the Fall with my Mom so chose to pick from the remaining.

Image courtesy of miniplan-Luberon

We settled on Bonnieux as it was supposed to have excellent views of the countryside and lavender fields.  We didn’t have time, but it is supposed to be an excellent place for pain au chocolat.   They also have a museum of bread-making.

Since we wanted to see the view, we drove right through town, up to the top.

Approaching Bonnieux

Vineyards surrounding Bonnieux

The town of Bonnieux

 

After driving through the adorable streets, we parked at the top.   There was an old passageway that was quite beautiful.

The passageway to the top

We found the most peaceful hilltop.   It was adorned with trees, permanently bent by Le Mistral.    There was a single cross and a few benches.   One fellow was meditating at the top, and we were the only others.

These trees had been shaped by Le Mistral, the strong wind in the South of France

 

The view was very calming as well.   Note the lavender fields in the distance?

View from the top of Bonnieux

 

We enjoyed taking in some of the architecture and panoramic views.

Provençal architecture in Bonnieux

View from the other side of Bonnieux, where La Terrace restaurant is located

 

As we were driving out, we got some views of Lacoste.   No, this town isn’t the namesake of the alligator brand.  But, an interesting fact is that Pierre Cardin has dedicated much energy to restoring and improving this little Provencal gem.

A few of Lacoste across the small valley. The towns are 4km apart.

 

Lacoste, France in the distance…

 

By the time we left Bonnieux, we decided we had had quite a full day of Provencal adventures so we returned back to our hotel pool for some relaxation.

 

Related links:

Schwingen in Switzerland:  Breaking Wind – Le Mistral

 

A nice view at Oppède-Le-Vieux

Bruno also recommended Oppède-le-Vieux.

In French, when a town is old, they put the word old right in the title.   So, while there is a regular Oppède, we searched for Oppède-le-Vieux to find the old town.  This is the same as Annecy-le-Vieux, and also in Geneva, we have Vieille Ville, old town.

The town is located against the Petite Luberon mountains.  You park about 1km from the town since it is perched high on the ledge.   A fifteen minute walk has you into the town.  It is super small little village but still adorable.  The day we were there, they were hosting a local arts festival.    Another fifteen minute ascent on narrow cobblestone streets has you at the very tip top at the site of 16th-century Notre-Dame-d’Alydon church.

Below are a few photos we took of the town, the hike, and at the top.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.