Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer in Provence

I finally went to Provence. Going to Provence is something I've dreamed about for a long time - I mean, hello, it's Provence!  There is something inherently romantic and wonderful about the idea of Provence.  And while we had a wonderful trip, I have to be honest - I was underwhelmed.  The landscapes were drier than I expected (yes, it was late June and quite warm), and the larger towns we visited (Aix-en-Provence and Arles) simply did not stir any real feeling of excitement, discovery, or that sense that you will just have to visit a place again (like Copenhagen, or Lisbon, or Normandy).  One theory is that we are over-traveled.  Obnoxious, I know, but it is possible that if we hadn't been all over Italy and to Denmark in the four weeks preceding this trip, perhaps it would have seemed more fabulous.

We traveled with my in-laws, and rented an adorable little house in the village of St Cannat, about 25 minutes northwest of Aix.  It is the kind of place you want to stay in - virtually no tourists, absolutely no Americans, three boulangeries, and easy access to everywhere you want to see.  One night we called the take-out pizza place (which is only open for three hours a day, an amazing business model) and we didn't even have to give our names, they just had the pizzas waiting for the Americans. 

The best part of Aix, in my opinion, was this:

Which I didn't even get to eat, but I really love the idea of a chocolate sandwich. Or giant chocolate cream puff.  Either works.

Everyone's favorite day of the trip was the day we spent visiting little towns up in the Luberon, a small mountain range farther north of St Cannat.  Gordes was classically beautiful in that hill-top town way, but Roussillon was the stunner.  The hills surrounding Roussillon produce clay in the most amazing shades of orangey-browns (technically, 17 shades of ochre), and the buildings in the town are all painted in a similar palette. 


And when the opportunity comes to drive just a few minutes out of the way to visit the place on the Provence guidebook cover, you go there.  Which in our case was the Abbaye de Senanques, a lovely 12th century abbey framed by even lovelier lavender fields. 

I wish that Provence inspired me to more profound, or at least more interesting things to write.  It didn't.  But it was still a great trip, and not just because my in-laws would take charge of Baby Oil no matter what ungodly hour he awoke at. Though that aspect should not be undervalued.
Baby Oil ready for the warm weather, and clearly enjoying Provence!