Europe Part 1 – Southern France

This kicks off a series of posts about our recent two week vacation in France and Italy. We truly had the time of our lives on a trip we planned with our best friends for more than a year. Sean and I are so thankful to be fortunate enough to have jobs that enable us to take this trip. I’m also very thankful to have two whole weeks with Sean – even more time than our honeymoon. This was my trip to Europe and Sean’s second – he has been to Istanbul previously. I can’t wait to share the story of our adventures – so here goes!

Friday, July 26 and Saturday, July 27, 2013

We flew from Atlanta to Paris while our best friends Cal and Blanka flew from Chicago through Dublin to Paris. After a few hours waiting in the airport, we all met up and spent the next five hours in Paris at the pyramids outside the Louvre and eating lunch at a nearby cafe before catching the train to Avignon. Luckily, the hotel we would be staying in at the end of our trip stored our bags for the day.

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Catching the train to Avignon was no easy feat; we were exhausted, hot, sweaty and the train station was huge. Only two workers at the window who could validate our Europass for the first time worried us that we would miss our train, but luckily we built in an extra hour because we were all unfamiliar with the process. Three hours later with a little shut eye on the train and we arrived in Avignon, Provence.

Uncle JF & Aunt Diana greeted us and drove us to their home in Bouisson, where we were welcomed with sparkling wine from the village and an appetizer. They cooked us a wonderful meal: pork, roasted new potatoes and a salad. Then, lamb sausage, and finally, a cheese course followed by key lime tarts for dessert. We stayed up until 3am! We took a stroll through the village after dinner in the dark – it was so much fun and felt like something out of the movies. We swam in the pool to cool off before bed time. This was the perfect way to end a long but exciting day.

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

After a leisurely French breakfast consisting of bread, cheese, fresh croissants and fruit, we drove to another nearby templar village. First we stopped at a local winery for a tasting and to fill up our rose gallon for the picnic. The rose is so good here – dry and not too sweet, like in the states. It is also cheaper than gas!

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We drove through the winding mountain roads and stopped for some pictures of the beautiful views. Here is Sean with Aunt Di.

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We had a drink at La Poterne on the mountainside. The wind was so fierce, it knocked down the umbrellas that were providing shade.

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Then it was off to set up our picnic by the Roman Bridge. We ate, drank, skipped rocks, swam and just lazed around in the shallow river water for hours. Everyone (except Cal and Di) fell asleep on the banks after a while. You can see the bridge here:

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Next, we went to another nearby village called Vouisson to walk around, shop, and take in the sights at an outdoor restaurant. We freshened up at home and then it was back out for dinner. We tried to have a casual dinner but a food truck set up shop for the night and closed the entire plaza so none of the other restaurants would serve. We had to scurry to find another place that was still open on a Sunday night at 9:30. We dined alfresco and were the only talbe there. The food was good but I think we all had our first “I don’t know what I’m ordering” experience. Luckil,y our hosts were patient with us and helped us navigate the menu. An insane thunderstorm rocked the house all night, causing us to end our card game early when the power went out. It was such a treat to sleep with the windows open and the thunder and lightning at our feet.

Monday, July 29, 2013

We slept in until 10am and had a long breakfast of bread, cheese, eggs, meat and strawberries. Think the jet lag was finally catching up with us. We toured Chateau Gragnan, a beautiful castle from the 1300s. Marine Fontaine restored it in the 1800s.

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We had dessert for our lunch at a tea room. Sean discovered the wonders of flavored syrup mixed with soda water. Here are our loving and gracious hosts for the weekend.

DSC02461After we arrived home, Blanka and I laid out at the pool while the boys found wifi to double check the following day’s train schedule. We showered and dressed up for dinner at Domaine du Grand-Pere-Jules. There were no menus and they serve all the tables the same food – whatever they have decided upon for the day. Only 4 tables all night. We ate for four hours:

Anchovie tart with white cheese and herb dipping sauce for bread

An egg souffle in four flavors: spinach, tomato, olive and plain egg

Roasted bell peppers with white fish and melted white cheese

Chicken and crawfish stew

Cheese course was goat cheese with tomato confit

Dessert was an apricot tart

I was getting used to having cappuccino after dinner too – it was so creamy and delicious this night.

This was a perfect dinner set in the middle of the family’s vineyard with true Provencal food. Great memories and lots of laughs were shared over a wonderful dinner. We could not have gone out on a better note.

(Sidenote: I learned the hard way that our camera battery would not last all day – so the food photos are on Blanka’s camera. I’ll add them to the post later this week!)

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Mark Daniel

     /  August 14, 2013

    Bravo! Sent from my iPhone

    Reply
  2. Libby Turner

     /  August 15, 2013

    Wonderful travel story. I think I could almost taste the food you described! Keep on writing. I love reading these.

    Reply
  3. Honora Quinn

     /  August 17, 2013

    This actually brought me to tears to know you got to experience the magic of Provence and the warm loving hospitality that JF and Di share. I want to go back so bad. Nice way to start off your trip!

    Reply

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