Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Final few pictures from Provence

As I did with the Barcelona part of our trip, I'm going to do one final catch-all post to try to finish up our Provence trip stories.  

On Saturday, after we finished poking around the market in Arles, we walked around the town a bit.  While it was chilly and windy, the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day.  

Place de Forum 

Arles was beautiful and one of my favorite towns that we visited.  It's definitely a must see.

One of the main things to see while in Arles is the Van Gogh tour.  We had the Rick Steves' Provence book on our iPad, and were able to follow his suggested tours around town.

Van Gogh lived in Arles for many years, and some of his most famous paintings are of different scenes around town.  You can do the walking tour, and see 10 different paintings along the way.  It was really neat to see literally the spaces that appear in the paintings that we all know so well.  In the one below, you can see the tall building on the left that's behind the little yellow house in the painting.  He lived in the yellow house, which has since burned down.  You can also see the bridge in the background if you look closely...

The easel below is showing the painting Cafe Terrace at Night in the Place de Forum.  Today it's been renamed the Cafe Van Gogh.  This is one of my favorite Van Gogh paintings, and to be standing in the very spot that inspired it was really cool.

This one is the gardens of the hospital that he was in after he cut off his ear.  There are 10 total throughout the town that you can see, including Starry Night over the Rhone.  Being a Van Gogh fan, this was a really interesting thing to do, we both really enjoyed it.

Of the towns we visited, Lacoste was one of the prettier ones but very quiet...we were practically the only people out and about!

This was the only place open!  And there were about 10 people there, including the bartender.  We stopped for a beer and espresso and to enjoy the amazing view...

(note that the trees behind me are in focus and not me...thanks to my personal photographer for that one.)
Lourmarin was one of our other favorites of the small towns that we visited.  It was busier with shops and restaurants around town.  We found a fantastic cafe for lunch - La Place de Delices.  The menu de jour was again just delicious.  

We ordered one of each and shared the dishes, which is totally the way to go because you get to try it all!  Everything was fantastic - and we really loved the concept of a long, filling and leisurely lunch.

We love rose, and really took advantage of it's popularity in Provence.  It was fantastic how much 'house wine' was around.  It's very afordable, and they just serve it in carafes. 

One afternoon we took some time to do a nice hike and get some exercise - we had to work off all the food we ate! We hiked up to see Fort Buoux, which was built in the 13th century.  The ruins and views were great...and the 'steep staircase' was very steep!

So many of the towns were up high on the side of a mountain, which provided amazing views of the valley and the Rhone river.

We drove to the top of Mont Ventoux one morning - it was beautiful and so clear, it seemed like you could see for days.  You could even see the Alps in the distance!

Gigondas was a quiet but beautiful town.  We had another big lunch at L'Oustalet, which was just amazing.  We really didn't have a bad meal while we were in France.  Their mushroom risotto was possibly the best dish we had the entire time we were there.  

The town of Apt was very nice, and where we had our apartment.  It was much larger and more vibrant than some of the other smaller mountain towns.  It was pretty dead in the evenings after about 7pm, but when we took the time to explore the shops during the day, it was lovely.  The streets were just wide enough for our car...

The main street had lots of beautiful stores, including these two that I wanted to buy everything from!

Our apartment was fantastic - it was on the first floor of this building.  It was part of the La Madone Inn, which was just stunning.  

The other apartments within the inn were a couple of blocks away across the canal in the main building, but we were right in the center of the town.  It was very reasonably priced, and we had a full kitchen.  We bought a bunch of vegetables and other food so we were able to make our own dinners.  It was great to have a light salad at night, relax, and not eat too much after our big lunches.

The owner invited us over one night to have an aperitif of pastis and rose.  She invited everyone staying in the inn that week.  The other groups included a mother-son pair from Canada and 2 older couples from Australia.  I'm not sure she and her husband expected us to stay so long, but we got along so well with the Australians that we were there all night!  The evening concluded with a tour of the apartments in the house - and each was just so different and stunning.

We had an absolutely fantastic time in Provence, and in Barcelona.  I tried to share some of my favorite things and places, but that turned into a month of posts!  I didn't even cover it all.  If you're planning a trip to either, please let me know - I'd love to talk to you about your trip!  

And now back to your regularly scheduled program!

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