Provence – the dream destination in the South of France
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Provence is the dream destination in southern France. Inevitably you think of hilly landscapes and lavender, swaying easily in the wind. You think of sunshine, French way of life and maybe last, but certainly not least also of good wine. To get to know all this, I had the opportunity to go on a five-day tour, an experience I want to share with you here.
This text is part of my series of Provence blogpostst. This post is more about the general overview, like our itinerary, where to stay and other topics that will give you a good first impression of our trip. In further blog posts, I will get into deeper insigts of our tour on some specific topics. You will find all posts of my Provence series linked at the end of this post. So here we go!
Our trip started on Monday. We came from Dusseldorf and had to change the planes at Charles de Gaulle in Paris to finally arrive at our destination airport in Marseille. Since it was September, and it was getting cooler in Germany, I was very much looking forward to spending a few more days in the warmth of the southern late summer.
Something always gets lost
Despite the size of the Paris airport (and believe me, this airport is really huge!), and thanks to good labeling, it was really easy to change airplanes there. As in many major airports, massages are offered there in the transfer area. I can hardly resist a good massage, so I decided to make use of it on my return trip. About an hour later we were standing in Marseilles at the baggage claim. What did not come was my suitcase. We learned from the staff that it was still in Paris and that it would be delivered to our hotel in Aix-en-Provence the next day. What is alright if you spend five days at a time in the same hotel on vacation. But for us, however, the trip should go on the next morning to the next stop.
So I needed to go shopping to have at least a toothbrush, toiletries and a few T-shirts to change. To be honest, I did not really believe in a quick delivery of my baggage. We spent the rest of the first afternoon on a guided tour through Aix-en-Provence, where we stayed for the first night .
Aix-en-Provence is a city to fall in love with immediately. Warped, pastel-colored, densely packed houses, moss-covered fountains, a bustle of people in the farmers’ markets and a lot of sunny days – who would not love that? The university town is bursting with energy. The streets and squares of Aix-en-Provence are always busy. The city is the embodiment the southern French way of life – and, unfortunately, is one of the most expensive cities in France.
An art museum and a church
Definitely worth a visit is the Granet Museum. This art museum is one of the oldest and richest in France and is housed in a priory of the Order of Malta. If you visit the Granet Museum, make sure to make a detour to the Eglise Saint-Jean-de-Malte. The church is not one of those stunning cathedrals, such as the Notre Dame in Paris, more like one of these Gothic cathedrals, of which you can find many in France and Italy. But visith it anyway, because she is beautiful! You will be rewarded with the sight of a huge painted glass window behind the altar, with intense colors and the Maltese cross in the middle. A side trip that is worthwhile, even if you are not religious.
Provence is also famous for its Calissons, a traditional sweet that is also popular as a gift. The confectionery with almonds, candied melons and oranges has the shape of a weaver‘s shuttle. Every year in the first week of September, the “Fête de la Bénédiction des Calissons” takes place in honor of this specialty.
The Place d’Albertas, with its dilapidated facades, fountain and mossy stones, appears to be a movie scenery. In any case, to us the place had a very special appeal.
We would also have liked to visit the farmer’s market, but unfortunately we were too late, because this market closes at noon.
No place for high heels, and a nightly visit
Since I had made the mistake not to travel with flat shoes (after all, you always want to look good) and there is cobblestone pavement in Aix-en-Provence, my feet hurt pretty much after the guided tour (in high heels!). And since it had been a long journey to Aix-en-Provence for all of us, we were so tired that we went to bed early on this first day. In the middle of the night … suddenly …I heard a loud knocking on the door of my hotel room …. – and there it finally was … my suitcase !!!
A journey full of new impressions
The next four days our journey took us to different places and we had the opprtunity to try out so many exciting things. Believe me: it never turned out boring!
In my next blog posts, I will tell you in full about the details. Here’s just a brief overview of our tour, which will allow you to follow our itinerary, if you like to.
Art, chocolate and soap
On the second day we went to the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, where we visited the Château La Coste in Le Puy-Sainte-Réparde. Who now thinks of a classic castle, as one finds them in France along the river Loire, will be surpised. This castle is both a winery and an important center for contemporary art, which you can enjoy while you go for a stroll in the castle’s park.
It was also all about manual production, this time of soap, on our visit of the „Savonnerie Rampal Latour“ in Salon de France. I never expected that soap making could be that interesting!
The second night of our round trip we spent in a nice little hotel in the romantic village of Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, which is really worth a visit.
Creating our own wine
The third day took us to the department of Vaucluse, one of the most beautiful corners in Provence. We first visited the wine-growing company “Maison Lavau“. Equipped with a white coat, test tubes and wine tasting glasses, we created our ideal wine, blending typical varieties of the Rhone valley. Everyone could try to match his or her individual taste. And of course we were allowed to take it back home.
In Tarascon we had lunch at the Michelin Star Restaurant MEO (Moment Emotion Osmosis).
As last item of this day’s agenda, we learned in a baking course how to make the traditional French pastry “Pompe à l’ hulie” and “Fougasse aux grattons”.
After that, we were completely exhausted by the many tastings and were glad to arrive at Vaison la Romaine with its idyllic guesthouse „Chambre d’Hôtes Le Jour et la Nuit“, our accommodation for the third night.
Cooking with the herbal witches
On day 4, after a trip with wonderful views over the mountain landscape, we ended up in the really small mountain village Brantes (hardly more than 80 inhabitants). After we arrived at the “Aventuriers du Goût“, we first took a walk and collected (with guidance) wild herbs . I never would have thought that so much edible and really tasty herbs grow just along the way. Finally we went back into the kitchen of the “Aventuriers” with well-stocked baskets and prepared a delicious lunch from what we had found.
Next we went to Entrechaux to visit the “Laboratoire Centiflore Huile & Sens“, which specializes in essential oils and organic cosmetics. In a workshop we manufactured homemade balm.
The picturesque Vaison La Romaine was our next stop. We visited the most extensive archaeological field in France and explored the medieval old town with its 14th-century ramparts.
With our feet almost aching from walking around, we finally drove to Caderousse to stay at “Chambre d’Hôtes La Bastide des Princes“ for the last night of our tour. The guesthouse is owned by a chef with international recognition, and also has a restaurant. On this evening we enjoyed a fantastic gourmet dinner accompanied by the appropriate wines.
Rendezvous with the top chef
On the 5th and last day we had the pleasure and the honor to take a phantastic and exclusive cooking class with this chef, Pierre Paumel. The kitchen alone was worth seeing!
With many new impressions and certainly a few extra pounds on the hips, we started back for home. This time my suitcase did not get lost, and yes, I had the massage on the return trip at Paris airport. 😉
Although the trip was sponsored by the France Tourism Development Agency, I assure you that I only recommend places and things that I really liked, and that I would recommend to you even without this sponsorship.
This post is part of a series around a 5-day-trip to Provence: