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… 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:

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.

A True Provençal Experience in Eygalières

The next stop after Les-Baux-de-Provence on our Provence adventure was Eygalières.   Bruno had mentioned to take the small roads, direction Destet.   Our GPS didn’t recognize Egalières, or Destet, so we pulled out a map of Provence that he loaned us and did it old school.

During the drive, we saw some lovely Alpilles countryside.

Driving through the Alpilles countryside.   Very arid.  It looks like Italy and Greece. 

Jagged rocks in Provence

Vineyards abound.

Olive groves. Who knew France had a big olive oil production?  I sure didn’t until this trip. 


We parked the car and decided to head up the hill to check out the view.


Starting our climb.

The top afforded clear views of the Alpilles range

Remains of a church

After our hike, we walked down into the small little town.  There were three restaurants open as well as a bustling grocery, even though it was a French holiday, Bastille Day.

Restaurants ready for Bastille Day celebrations

We settled upon Café de la Place.   We ordered planchas – smoked salmon & goat cheese for me and cheese & meat for Gabe.   This was truly a local place.  We didn’t hear one word of English in this town.  Good thing our French is getting better!

It was fun watching all the townspeople come in and greet each other.  Our waitress knew every single person who walked up.  Poor thing couldn’t get much done for all the double cheek kissing she had to do with the passing friends.

We counted the number of baguettes that passed.   Everyone was out and about doing their shopping.   And typically, a person would have 3-4 baguettes tied in a bundle.    This is another common sight in France – lots of baguettes being purchased.

Le Café du Place was a nice choice for lunch

As we left, we drove past Chapelle Saint Sixte.

We really appreciated the recommendation from Bruno.   We were the only tourists in town and it was nice to get to see a true glimpse of small town life.

If you are traveling to Eygalières, make sure to pack a good map!!

St. Rémy and the Running of the Bull

We have just returned from a lovely trip to Provence.   Don’t tell Italy but the South of France is quickly climbing up my all-time favorites list.    As you recall, we traveled to Provence & Cote d’Azur back in April with Gabe’s parents.   However, this time, it was one of our honey funds – a long weekend “honeymoon” that people had given us for our wedding present.

Little did we know that the weekend we selected was actually a French holiday.  Saturday, July 14th was Bastille Day.   This ended up being a plus as we got to experience another culture’s way of celebration.  What’s not to love about that?

We arrived into Saint-Rémy-de-Provence around 9:45pm after a four hour drive from Geneva.  Gabe unfortunately had to work a little bit when we got there but I occupied myself with exploring the grounds of our lovely little B & B, La Maison de Françoise.

Around 11:00, we headed into the town square to grab a drink and check out the nightlife.

Streets of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence

The city was quite romantic at night

We passed a view nice cafés, but decided to continue to walk along  to get our bearings with the size  & layout of the town.    It became easy to select which way to go as we heard music playing.  We eagerly walked towards it to find out what was happening.

We noticed some barricades between where the music was and where we had approached the square.   Hmmm.   Some people were even sitting on the side of the barricades.   Perhaps a parade had just happened?    Some people walked through them so we followed, squeezing through the gaps.

Hmm. What are the bars for?

A lively band was playing fun music in the square.    It was fun to watch the expressions as they created the melodies for all the townspeople. They were certainly very much into their performance and delighting the crowd.

The band was a fun surprise.

After listening to the music, I noticed that the streets had cleared a bit.   A loudspeaker announced something in French that I interpreted as “stand back”.   Gabe laughed at me and said I was being silly but I pointed to everyone who was lined up behind bars.   We only saw a few teenage guys lingering in the streets.  Maybe troublemakers?

We moved back behind bars and then I noticed this sign:

Our second clue.

Wait….were the barricades for…bulls?

I was excited.  I had always wanted to see the running of the bulls!!   I was imagining the scenes I’d seen from Spanish photographs of bulls stampeding around the streets and people running.

Sure enough, they came over the loudspeaker again (this time I was able to translate better) and announced that everyone should get behind bars.  The few teenage guys continued to stand in the street, looking macho.

The same band, whom had ascended into a conveniently located flat-bad truck, continued their music, safely out of range.  Revelers strategically selected their photo positions.   And, Moms put their pack-n-plays on the roofs of concession stands:

At least the kid was safe on top of the concession stand

We awaited the appearance of the bull…

Gabe says I don’t look pleased in this photo. I was just ready for the bulls…

And then……………

……………………….one bull.

Yup, just one.

He ran around town while the guys taunted him.   We kept waiting for more to be released and something else to occur, but it never happened.

This will go down as the day we saw the running of the bull.  Singular.

For the video, check out:

Other St. Rémy recommendations:

We loved La Maison de Francoise, our little B & B.   More to come on the blog about this lovely little estate.

Dinner at La Maison Jaune was fabulous – provençal cooking with fresh organic fruits and vegetables

The parade on Bastille Day was quite cute.  Check out tomorrow’s post for more.

Gratitude Friday: Lots of Profits

In physical therapy this week, my physio asked if I was going to the pool or beach that evening.  I replied I had lots to do.  Ironing.  Laundry.  Grocery shopping. Some marketing work.  To which he responded, “Il fait beau…profitez!”

The verb profiter in French sounds like it would mean profit.  My American perception immediately associated it with money / business.   However, the French tend to use it like “Enjoy” “Benefit” or “Thrive”.   Which is in fact, a better definition of a profit.

I love crossing things off my to-do list.  So doing things spontaneously can be challenging.  But, I was inspired and started thinking about where’d I’d go jump in the lake.

Unfortunately, the stormy skies rolled in which prevented a dip that night.   However, I took his advice to heart and decided I would profiter that week.    At the women’s club welcome coffee on Wednesday, I announced I’d like to see the sunflowers up close.  We had gotten a glimpse of them on the train to Montreux. Miles of them. And they looked marvelous to behold up-close.   A friend replied, “Ooo. I have wanted to do that as well.  I’ll drive”.   And that was that.   We were set to profiter of this glorious Geneva summer.

We set off at 7:30 from Geneva armed with my iPhone map but no real plan.  We had asked around to find the best place for sunflowers but our initial recommendation for Collonge Bellerive didn’t yield any yellow quite yet.   In driving out to Jussy though, we were overwhelmed with beautiful fields, dozens and dozens.  The best was across the street from Château du Crest, a winery we’ve been too a few times.   We tried to head back to Geneva twice but got deviated by even better fields & vantage points.

Here is evidence of our profiting :

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So, I ask you….how do you plan to profiter this week-end?    Bon weekend, everyone!

*If you decide to go take photos of any sunflowers or any crop, it is wise to wear long pants.  Just take it from me.  My legs didn’t profit too much after traipsing through the fields 🙂

Bella Burano, Mediocre Murano

When I return to a city I’ve been before, I like to try to do some completely new activities to keep it fresh.    For our trip to Venice, I researched the possibility of taking an excursion to the neighboring islands, Burano & Murano.

Image courtesy of Christopher’s Expat Adventure

It is nice that the 48 hour vaporetti pass we bought enabled us to take the boats out to the islands for free.   Line 12 goes to Burano, and there are 3 vaporetti that go to Murano, Line 3, 4.1 and 4.2.

We decided to start in Burano.  Burano is known for it’s lace-making and colorful buildings.  It was about an hour trip from Ferrovia Station in Venice, which was right beside our hotel of choice, Boscolo Bellini.   We were both hot messes when we docked in Burano, since the temperatures were in the low 90s with 90% humidity.

It was worth it though.   I soon forgot it was hot as we kept uncovering more colors.  There were lots of audible gasps from me.  Gabe commented that if my aunt A had come, there would have been ten times the number of gasps.

In fact, tvery alleyway was adorned with a bright splash.  Check out the slide show below to see a sampling of the colors:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In Burano, we stopped at an adorable restaurant, Riva Rosa, for a delicious fresh sea bream lunch.  They grill the whole fish, along with vegetables, and filet it for you table side.  The service was very good and we were happy with our selection.    It was perfect way to recuperate from the temperatures for a bit.

After lunch, we continued to Murano, which is known for glass.  We were both exhausted and hot after a half hour, so it didn’t get the same attention from us that Burano got.  Which could be a function of doing it second, but honestly, the Murano glass shops seem to blend together after while.

One benefit of visiting the islands, is that aside from the crowded vaporetti, these places were less crowded than the streets of Venice.  Venice can make me claustrophobic with its hoards of tourists.   Not that I am suggesting Murano or Burano aren’t frequented by the tourists….it just seems to be more peaceful* than centre city Venice.

We did happen to get one shot in Murano with a piece of art in a main square

We started a new habit of buying a small thing for our home from the places we travel so that we can remember the trips we did during our time in Europe.   We ended up with a beautiful Burano lace piece that is used for serving bread, as well as 6 Murano cocktail glasses (one of which is orange/maroon — Hokie colored!!).    We hope to have you over some day to enjoy them with us.


*If you go to Venice, please make sure to try to visit the quiet neighborhoods off the beaten path.  They are much more quaint and you can get a feel for how the Venetians live on a day to day basis.  There are also lots of shady alley ways that can provide some relief from Italy’s scorching summer sun too.


More Summer Fun at Montreux Jazz Fest

We went to Montreux this weekend for the 46th annual Montreux Jazz Festival.  Even though I had taken Twin & Solid while they were here, I still wanted to go back.  This marks my fourth time and Gabe’s 3rd time going to the festival.

A round trip train ticket from Geneva costs 25 CHF each for us to go, but it is a fun summer activity.

A very pleasant ride from Geneva – an hour total and 25 CHF with your half fare card and 10% SBB discount for attending the JazzFest (no ticket required).

Everyone thinks we are weird that we don’t buy tickets for the shows.  My physio gave me a very quizzical look.   But, the free music is lovely.   You just simply show up to the park, find a spot and listen to your heart’s content.  The shows start about 3:30 on weekdays and 2:00 on the weekend and play back-to-back with 1/2 hour or hour breaks in between.

Taking in the scene, listening to a South African band.

Pants optional. Dogs are allowed. As demonstrated by this gentleman.  To his credit, the lake is right there.


If you feel like walking around, there is plenty to see and do.  There are a ton of vendors selling handcrafted goods.

Also the food is pretty yummy.  Gabe and I justify our expenditure on 25 CHF train tickets + festival food = cheaper than a low end restaurant in Geneva.

Image courtesy of Henry Birmingham from last year. The paella guys were back again this year.


Some people wander to the end of the festival to enjoy the swimming.  This is one of my favorite docks.

Lovely dock on Lake Geneva – Montreux.

This year, you could watch the gliders come in and try to land on the orange pad.

Coming in for landing….




Freddie Mercury even enjoyed watching them a time or two.

Freddie Mercury tribute statue in Montreux.

The festival runs until this Sunday, July 15th – I’d encourage you to check it out!

Venice, Italy

I went to Venice for my first time with R, back in 2007.   We were only there 24 hours, but definitely was glad we made a stop to see the elegant architecture falling into the canals.

My mom had wanted to go to Venice, so we added it to our list of things to do when they were visiting us.  It was Gabe’s first time as well.

I wanted to share some of our favorite photographs from the weekend:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I am trying out the WordPress slideshow feature…how do you like it as a reader? Yay or Nay?