Travel has always been an important part of my life. While growing up, family vacations included road trips throughout the United States and parts of Canada. As an adult, I expanded my horizons traveling for work. While I saw my share of airport and convention hotels, when time permitted, I visited special places such as Washington State’s San Juan Island and California’s Napa Valley.
These experiences helped whet my appetite for further travel, especially when work took me to the British Isles. I was in Scotland for a week with several days in Edinburgh and then three days in London. It was my first time in Europe and I knew it would not be my last.
In addition to travel, I have always been drawn to the visual arts. I have a special soft spot for the Impressionists. Over the years, when traveling, I visited many art museums and galleries. For years, my dream vacation was to visit Provence, combining my love of travel and art. That dream became a reality in the 1990s with my first trip to the Continent.
We flew to Paris and stayed at a small hotel with a lovely patisserie next door. We did the usual sightseeing: a barge trip on the River Seine, went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, visited Notre Nome and enjoyed delicious crepes on tiny Isle Saint-Louis. Special highlights included visiting Musée Rodin and seeing his magnificent indoor and outdoor sculptures plus going to the Musée d’Orsay with its exquisite Impressionist collection.
We took the train to Claude Monet’s home, Giverny. I got goosebumps as we walked the grounds where the artist painted and gardened for nearly forty years. His house and gardens have been restored to their original beauty complete with Monet’s famous water lily ponds and rowboat.
Next, we boarded France’s high-speed train, the TGV, at Paris’ Gare de Lyon station and were off to Provence. We arrived in Avignon, rented a car and drove to the small village of Flassan in the shadow of Mt. Ventoux, of Tour de France fame. We stayed at an apartment we found online complete with small wood-burning fireplace to take the chill off in the evening and an outdoor patio for sunny morning breakfasts. Our hostess told us the building had once housed livestock before being transformed into an apartment.
Flassan’s only grocery, not much more than a produce stand, is open three mornings a week and the post office is open two days. If we needed to make a call, there was a phone booth near the village fountain. Those were the days before cell phones. Many villages we passed through had markets to pick up fresh veggies, meat, chicken, eggs, bread and cheese so groceries were not an issue.
While traveling in Europe, I enjoy stopping at village markets. It’s a time to visit with locals and learn more about the area. Our first day, we drove to L’Isle sur la Sorgue, formerly a fishing village, but now famous for its antique shops and Sunday antique market. Fortunately for us, it was Sunday. We nearly blew our whole “gift budget” that day and still smile when we pull out our colorful Provence tablecloth.
It is easy to see why artists are drawn to Provence. The color — morning, noon and evening — is spectacular. It’s a wonder in the mountain village of Roussillon, famous for its red cliffs and ochre quarries. And the hilltop villages like Gordes with its stone houses and terracotta roofs. Then there’s the turquoise blue of the Mediterranean at Cassis, a coastal village carved out of steep white limestone cliffs. Most memorable is Provence’s sunsets. The sky blazes with wide swaths of purple, blue, salmon, orange and gold.
The Takeaway: Travel provides me with many special experiences. What experiences have you had that have enriched your life? Share with us and let’s start a conversation. Please include your name and email address or phone number so I may contact you for clarification or if I have a question. I will not publish your name. Contact me at [email protected]