France Travel Update: Provence

Ben and I spent three wine, olive oil, and garlic-soaked days in the Provencal countryside. The entire trip, I felt as though I had fallen into the pages of a storybook, and—provided the four bottles of wine I shoved into my suitcase survive our train ride to Paris—I could not have asked for a happier tale.

Luberon Countryside

We are officially THIS ridiculous. Amazing what gorgeous scenery and a handy portable tripod will inspire.

Provence is a region in the south of France known for (among many things) its lavender, herbs, olive oil, and generous application of garlic. It’s also home to one of France’s largest and most affordable wine regions, the Cotes du Rhone, as well as a smattering of hill-top villages that seem too picturesque to be true.

Roussillon

The town of Roussillon. At this moment, I asked myself: “Is this my real life?”

Because the area is fairly spread out and remote, it’s not accessible by public transportation. We opted for our own set of wheels, and Ben connected with his inner Formula One driver on the miles kilometers of windy mountain roads. (FYI for anyone looking to do something similar: I booked directly through Hertz and it was a breeze.) Here’s our noble steed:

Aioli plate

We spent our first two days in the Luberon mountains, an area of Provence that stole my heart when I ready Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence years ago. We spent a day and half cruising from village to village, breaking for wineries, two-hour lunches, and to snap photos of the breathtaking views.

Winery Visit-after Font Vert

Just after leaving Fontvert Vineyard, where we received an impromptu tour (and picked up a little souvenir.)

Gordes - Jump for my love

Jumping for joy outside of Gordes.

We spent a night in Roussillon, a pink-hued village that was positively peaceful, in the home of the sweet Madame Cherel (highly recumbent, so feel free to email me if you’re heading to the area and would like her info.)

Roussilon - Painted Door

Along the streets of Roussillon + How I plan to paint the garage doors of Ben and my future home.

From the Luberon, it was on to Vaison-la-Romain and the Cotes du Rhone for a wine safari. The Hotel Burrhas in Vaison-la-Romaine made a fantastic home base for exploring, and at each winery we visited, the enthusiasm and sincerity of the attendants was tangible.

Domaine de Mourchon Winery-2

Domaine de Mourchon Winery

Both of the above pictures were captured at Domaine de Mourchon Winery, a vineyard that blends old-school practices with new-age technology.

Maison de la Truffle et du Vin

Maison de la Truffle et du Vin in Menerbes (where A Year in Provence takes place.) This treasure of a shop stocked wines from all over the Luberon, at vineyard prices. We loved the wines from Tara and picked up a white to bring back to Paris.

At one point in our journey, Ben was called from above to drive to the top of one of the highest peaks in the region, Mount Venoux. This mountain is actually a part of the Tour de France. Driving it was relatively exhausting, so I can’t even imagine biking to the summit!

Mont Vernoux

At the summit of Mount Ventoux. I totally biked this, Lance Armstrong style…in a cardigan.

Arles was our final stop. This is the city where Van Gogh fled to escape a lonely life in Paris, and—like Ben and I—he was overwhelmed by the vibrancy of the region and its people. Unlike Ben and I, Van Gogh churned out a slew of masterpieces. We retraced his steps, visiting the scenes of many of his most famous works.

Van Gogh Trail-Les Arenes d'Arles

At the site of Les Arenes D’Arles

La Cafe La Nuit

Sipping a glass of wine at the actual cafe that inspired this familiar piece:

Cafe Terrance at Night - Van Gogh

Cafe Terrace at Night, by Vincent Van Gogh

La Cafe La Nuit (the modern cafe that sits in building Vincent actually painted) might be a  tourist-trap (ahem, an absolute must-visit for a cheesy Impressonist art-nerd like myself), but it taught me a very valuable lesson: even the French are not above putting ice cubes in their white wine to cool it down. Our over-priced, room temperature white was served a glass of ice. We all may be classier than we dare suspect.

Ice in the White Wine (!)

I loved the vibe of Arles itself—a little rough around the edges, sparkling with history, and ice cream every two feet (we’ve been eating it after every lunch and dinner, so Ben’s French ice cream vocab is now fantastique). We stayed at the Hotel Regence, which was nicely kept and within reasonable walking distance of the train station and major sites.

Throughout our entire trip, we have also been making a point to choose local restaurants with authentic regional cuisine. Here are a few of the highlights:

Les Coquelicots Lunch

Omelettes and fries with a vineyard view at Les Coquelicots in the tiny town of Suzette.

Roussilon-Dinner at Le Castrum

A simple Provencal dinner at Le Castrum, a Roussilon restaurant situated in what must be the most charming town square in all of Provence.

Bar:Restaurant de France in Lacoste

A gorgeous marinated veggie salad with a view to match at Bar/Restaurant de France in Lacoste.

Muscat

Muscat, a sweet and shockingly delectable white wine at La Bartavelle in Vaison-la-Romaine. I am NOT a sweet wine girl, and I could not sip enough of this apricot-flavored nectar.

Aioli plate at Hosterllerie de la Reine Jeanne

My favorite meal in Provence: the Aioli Plate at the Hosterllerie de la Reine Jeanne in Les Baux. Freshest of fish, lightly sautéed vegetables, soft-boiled eggs, and a fabulously monstrous serving of garlic-celebrating aioli to smear over the whole shebang + a refreshing glass of local rosé. This photo does not come close to justice. I adored every colorful bite!

The only meal we didn’t particularly care for was on the main square in Vaison-la-Romaine at Le Festival. It was located directly next to our hotel, and we selected it for convenience, but the food was overpriced and lacked flavor. I much would have preferred another round with this guy:

The Whole Fish at Au Brin de Thym

The catch of the day, a.k.a. French food gets real at Au Brin du Thyme in Arles. In case you were wondering, I was not expecting the fish to be so…whole. C’est la vie. It was almost as good as the escargots I had as an appetizer. When in France!

Thanks for joining me on the latest leg of my French adventures! As this post goes to print, we are heading to Angers, where I first studied abroad and fell for this country. I cannot wait to be reunited with my host parents! From Angers, we are off to Burgundy, another of France’s most celebrated wine regions. Since I squeezed four bottles of wine into my suitcase in Provence, I’m sure I can handle five in Burgundy, right?

Cotes du Rhone

A la prochaine!

For more French travel updates: Like The Law Student’s Wife on Facebook (don’t forget to double click the “Like” button and select “Get Notifications”), where I’ll be posting quick blurbs of what we are up to each day. I’m also sporadically posting on Instagram when wireless connections cooperate, so you can catch a few shots there too.
Still hungry? Don’t miss these other French travel posts:

About Erin Clarke

I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food taste incredible. Wearer of plaid, lover of bourbon, and firmly convinced that sweets and veggies both deserve a place at the table. MORE ABOUT ERIN...

22 comments

  1. Wow..you are just busting out the happiness! What a trip..It looks amazing and I love those little village places out the way of all the hustle and bustle!

  2. SImply gorgeous photos! You and Ben seem to be having such a fabulous time! And after looking at your photos … France just moved to the tip top of my must-visit list! I’ve always wanted to go, but now I neeeeed to go!
    I giggled when I saw the fish … I wouldn’t have expected that either! :)

  3. wowowowowowow. it looks absolutely gorgeous there, and you both seem so happy. can’t wait to hear about the rest. soak it up. love you!

  4. Diane Siniscalchi Reply

    I love that Ben joins you with genuine exhuberance! Loving seeing France through your eyes!

  5. You are SO gorgeous Mrs Clarke! Love seeing you and Ben biking/eating/jumping up a storm all over the French countryside! The photos are so beautifully idyllic. Cannot wait til the next travel post! xx

  6. Love the update Erin!!! Looks like you lovebirds are having a blast! :)

  7. Haha love these photos – you two are so cute :) So glad you guys are having a blast so far :)

  8. This is inspiring me to enjoy every day to the fullest. Thanks for sharing!
    DH

  9. Such fun you are having! I can’t wait to read your Paris update—more than just the Facebook blurbs—as Paris is like no other city in the world!

  10. I love those photos of you and your husband! A sweet and happy couple.
    Thanks for sharing, Erin.

  11. First of all, Erin, love those cute outfits of yours!
    Secondly, I think you are forgetting that you produce plenty of ‘kitchen masterpieces’ for this blog!
    Looks like you’re having a wonderful time!

  12. Simply beautiful! I am pondering how you got inside that fish to eat it! You and Ben are adorable! Your outfits are too cute, too! Love you both!
    Love,
    Mom

  13. You two are seriously the cutest! It looks like you’re having an absolutely fabulous time! Can’t wait to hear about the rest of the trip! :)

  14. LOVE THIS POST! You guys are seriously the cutest.

  15. Looks like you guys are having such a fantastic time, I’m totally in love with the cheesy photos :)

  16. consuelohoneyandfigs Reply

    Awh you guys are adorable! Glad to know you’re having such a fabulous trip! xx

  17. So glad you guys are having such a great time — you deserve every minute of it! Please have an extra helping of ice cream and a glass of wine for me. :)

  18. So jelly of your adventures, looks like you kids are having a brilliant lovely amazing fun filled time. Go you! :) PS: Fab pictures, and I adore your look, so funky and cool!

  19. You two are my favorite! And so dang adorable!! I love reading about your trip! Keep it comin’ :)

  20. Wow! Looks like SO MUCH fun! I love all of your awesome pictures!

  21. You two are so cute. Living vicariously through your photos!

  22. Ahhh I love all of these updates and your instagram pics! I’m super jealous yet excited and happy for you…keep the pictures coming! Also, your mom is adorable commenting on here. But she’s right…your outfits are sooo cute!! Share your closet? :)

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