Hi guys! Happy Wednesday!
I don’t know what the weather is like where you live, but today in Colorado we are having the most beautiful fall day. It’s 80-something degrees, the sun is out and the sky has never looked more blue against those bright yellow leaves. I’m in love 🙂
Anyways, today I’m telling you all about the first half of our stay in Provence, France and I don’t know if it’s a combo of today’s weather, the fact that it’s Wednesday (mid-way through the week, yay!) or being able to relive our honeymoon by writing this post, but I’m feeling pretty happy today.
After a few hours on the train (for the first time ever!), we landed ourselves in Nimes for a 3 hour layover before our second train took us on to Avignon. After being in crowded and touristy Barcelona, Nimes was quite a shock to the system. It was clean and quiet and felt so authentically French. I was instantaneously in love. We had to drag our suitcases around with us and it was hot, but you know what, I didn’t even mind. Everything was straight out of a picture. We stopped and had lunch at a little place where no one spoke English and that was the beginning of when I started to realize that the less English spoken, the better the experience!
One train ride (and many pages of The Sun Also Rises, which I loved for the record) later, we picked up our FIAT (Joey was soooo excited!) and made it to our hotel in Avignon <— our “home base” for the first four nights. We spent our first full day in Avignon, exploring, dodging the rain, becoming obsessed with this one duck that was twice the size of the other ducks, eating cheese (duh!) and discovering our favorite lunch time drink, kir.
We read that France takes drinking and driving pretty seriously (rightly so!) so even if we took a day trip we always had dinner back in Avignon. I wasn’t sure what to expect language-wise in restaurants but I figured my rusty French could at least get us a bottle of wine and dessert 🙂 Turns out a lot of the smaller French towns don’t speak as much English as in Barcelona (where you sit down and are given a menu in English…).
I won’t lie, it’s kind of intimidating to go somewhere that doesn’t speak the same language as you. I won’t even tell you how many times we just wandered around hungry until we got up the courage to ask for a table in French. But! It was also kind of fun to decode menus or you know, just make a guess and see what comes out (which is how I ordered duck on our first night — I ended up loving it)! By the time we got to Paris, we were old pros 🙂
^^^ Best bacon of my life. P.S. That’s fried phyllo stuffed with goat cheese.
I died and went to heaven that day.
One night (our first), we ate at a little place that was being manned by one chef and a brother team of two waiters (I swear the one who was waiting on us was 12 years old…). And on our last night, after almost going to that first restaurant again, we ended up at a tiny little place where a young girl was doing EVERYTHING herself. As in serving, cooking and entertaining! I was blown away. Also, she served us what we’re pretty sure was squid but looked and tasted different than any squid I’ve ever had. It was so amazing in that creamy sauce. Oh and shots of rum to help us digest our 3-course meal. P.S. Lots of multi-course multiple-hour meals in France. Which is totally fine by me 🙂
As far as day trips go, one day we went to Les Baux, which is an old castle town with a little cobblestone town below. We got a workout in that day. Note to self, do not climb old stone steps in wedges and a dress… But the view from the top (over endless fields of olive trees) was pretty cool. Afterwards, we drove to St. Remy for lunch (and an obligatory “cafe”), a stroll through the picturesque (those blue shutters!) streets and a visit to the mental hospital that Van Gogh stayed in after cutting off his ear 😛 I adored St. Remy. It was that perfect combo of upscale and quaint.
On our last day before we drove up the the Cote du Rhone region, we took a trip into Arles. I won’t lie, it was not our favorite day trip destination. We caught it at the end of market day, and there seemed to be a lot of trash leftover from all the vendors, but! We did have probably our best lunch of
my life of the trip. Hello, thick salty slices of bacon, plentiful goat cheese and peach kir. I die! I will say that once we wandered off the main road into some of the more back alleys, things got much prettier.
Overall, this part of our trip was such a dream! Sure, we sometimes accidentally ended up in restaurants surrounded by other English-speaking Americans (not as fun as being surrounded by beautifully-spoken French locals), or broke a wine glass at dinner (oops…) or had a hard time reading road signs and maps but the scenery was breathtaking, the kir was delicious, our hotel felt like home — we stayed at Hotel Colbert and loved it! — and we just had so much fun! I would go back
forever in an instant.