If you read my blog you will know I follow Vicki Archer’s French Essence blog – she writes so enticingly and informatively about life in Provence. At the moment, we are planning our next trip to France (May 2014), and are actively seeking and selecting places to stay on our drive down from Paris. So, imagine my delight when I saw Vicki’s current post in which she is giving away a week’s stay in her beautifully restored house (Le Petit Bijou) in St Remy de Provence, to celebrate the fifth year of her blog. Of course I have entered, so why not you too! Go on over and check it out. If you want to see more of the lifestyle on offer, you can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest, or you can check out her captivating book My French Life …. my well worn copy is below:
Having had a delicious breakfast in the light and airy dining room at Domaine de la Petite Isle in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, we set off early for Fontaine-la-Vaucluse along a wondefully scenic route. We encountered very little traffic and were able to take in the countryside. Beautiful Provencal homes set among fields of lavender, a magnificent Roman aqueduct and much more … It was fine and warm as we set off and before long, we were entering Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, keen to see the biggest spring in France and enjoy relaxing by the sparkling clear waters.
Our first stop was a riverside cafe for a tasty morning tea of coffee and pastries, as we listened to the waters flowing by. Feeling refreshed, we set off to find the famous deep spring, passing Restaurant Philip, much to my husband Phil’s delight. Set in a picturesque area on the riverside, it would be a wonderful place for a relaxed lunch, though we didn’t have time to do that ourselves. An ancient ruined castle overlooks the town – a place we found thoroughly enchanting – it has a Second World War history involving the Resistance complete with museum (Musée d’histoire 1939-1945 – L’appel de la liberté), which sadly was not open, and also has the Petrarch Museum, which was absolutely fascinating. If you are doing the Lavender and Luberon trip, I can highly recommend the excursion to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse.
Even more highly recommended is the side trip to the fabulous hilltop town of Gordes – what stunning place that is. It makes for a long day on the bike (9am-5pm for us), and ride itself is much more challenging, so be prepared for 6 kms of deceptively steep incline, but every pedal stroke is worth it… This is one of the most striking places we saw on the trip, and that first glimpse of the old town perched on the craggy hilltop, will remain with me forever. Not only that, the French Air Force seemed to be on some sort of practice manoeuvres, doing several low flying passes over the town. This was an absolute payoff for my husband, who works for an airline and loves his planes! Unusually, he had struggled with the long slow climb in the heat, having to stop and re-gather himself in a shady spot, part way up. We later discovered that this was probably the first indication of 3 blocked arteries which made themselves known two years later, on a couple of hill rides here in our own lovely home suburb of Titirangi. While he had no heart attack, the niggly chest pains were an indication of a problem, and now he has three stents, but was back riding very soon after and he continues to do, in preparation for our next cycling adventure in 2014.
Having taken in the amazing view, we set off to find some well deserved dejeuner. The town was very busy, but we found a lovely little cafe, where I had the most delicious and enormous Salade Nicoise, and my husband a tasty pizza. We took our time, enjoying the ambience, the hustle and bustle out in the town, and beautiful food.
After lunch we walked through the town, and decided we must go on a little further to see the twelfth century Cisterician Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, (Sénanque Abbey) famous for its lavender fields. While we would have loved to visit the Abbey, we decided to simply view it from on high as we had a long way to go to return to our hotel in Isle-sur-La-Sorgue in the afternoon heat. The view from the top the hill overlooking the Abbey is magnificent – the architecture looks impressive and the lavender fields are huge. On our return in 2014 we intend to return to visit the Abbey itself.
The trip back to the hotel was of course easier and uneventful, and we were so looking forward to having a meal at Cafe Bellevue on the riverside. The riverside cafes in L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue are very enticing – the residents are so lucky to be able to sit and dine in the summer evenings in any one of the many attractive cafes on the water. It is such an enviable lifestyle .. and one I still hanker after. So much so, that I have just bought another book on the Provencal lifestyle, this time My French Life by Vicki Archer, whose blog French Essence, is one of my favourites.
I should mention too that on this particular tour, France-Bike gives you the option to cycle down Mt. Ventoux, leaving from l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Intially we had booked for this, but thought better of it, and France-Bike happily refunded that part of our fee. For those of you who are more adventurous, you may like to try it – France-Bike will take to the top of and you can cycle down at your leisure!
In my previous post I commented that I would not be culling my personal library any time soon. French Essence, one of my favourite blogs, has given me reason to add yet another title to my collection. How I missed this one I do not know. I was immediately drawn to the stunning cover, recognising it as Manarola, on the Ligurian Coast, which I had visited in June this year – not however on a such a richly coloured, blue-sky day as depicted on the book’s cover. On the day we were there, I snapped a photo of the same promontory, shrouded in mist, from train station in Corniglia:
But I digress – the book is well reviewed- not only by Vicki at French Essence but in other reviews too, like this one at the New York Times by Helen Schulman. Needless to say, I have placed my order for the book…..
After reading Vicki’ Archer’s mouth-watering post via her French Essence blog on the nougat from La Pâtisserie Sénéquier in Saint Tropez, I suddenly thought I was sure I had been to Sénéquier, when we were in St Tropez in June – and sure enough I had. What a missed opportunity! We had a very expensive but oh so worthwhile breakfast there, while we watched the more affluent visitors at work on their amazing boats, moored directly opposite Sénéquier – and so totally missed the Pâtisserie beside – now I have another good reason to go back! If you are not convinced, take a look at the photos of the delicious sweeties on Vicki’s blog here
I loved my recent visit to St Tropez…. I wasn’t sure what to expect – perhaps to feel a little uncomfortable in such a playground for the rich and famous. Thankfully, I didn’t feel out of place at all – it is actually hard to describe the effect it had on me. I guess I just let St Tropez wash over me – the ambience, the vibrance – it all felt right ….. and as for the local French women? They are so easy to admire with their casual chic – it seems so innate and effortless.
Australian Vicki Archer’s blog “French Essence” gives a wonderful glimpse of life in France, and her two recent postings on St Tropez describe its essence and allure so much better than I can – take a look here and enjoy :http://vickiarcher.com/
Here is a taste of St Tropez for you – at dusk