August 12, 2008

Ahhh, Paris, feels like home

We took the TGV from Avignon back to Paris on Saturday AM with only a small hitch finding the TGV station in Avignon. But, on the plus side we did see many of the small streets in the center of Avignon that we would not have seen without the detour, of course nerves were not so long and there were some short words exchanged during the debacle, but after 16 nights with the three of us being together I think we did quite well.

We arrived in Paris around noon and got quickly settled in our VERY SMALL hotel room by the train station. We realized upon check-in just how lucky we had been with our accommodations throughout this trip - this "quad room" was TINY. There were 2 double beds (hence quad as four people could have laid down there), and literally NO place to walk or stash bags or anything else and the bathroom was no better. After "settling in", we tried to make determinations of what we were going to ship back to the states vs. try to cram in our suitcases, then headed off to find the one and only FEDEX office in Paris. We jumped on the metro with our bags of stuff and found the FEDEX fairly quickly with help from our hotel front desk man.

We didn't quite understand how "shipping" from a foreign country works... Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork - and oh by the way, nothing flammable (like perfume) can go in the box, and food items need to be "sealed and packaged" yada, yada, yada... And, customs may decide to take anything out of the box and you will never see it again... Yikes! Plus, we had ALOT of stuff and with Mighty Hunter's account we couldn't ship such a big box with a discount - HOLY EXPENSIVENESS. But, we were tired, hot and ready to just get on with the day so charge us whatever and let's get out of here! Hopefully it will all be intact in Colorado in a few days.

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Bonnieux, it ends as it begins...

Geesh, it is now August and I am finally opening this back up to finish our trip. We've been home for 3 months and it already seems like so long ago that we were in France. I miss it already, heck, I missed it right away. Guess I better start saving my pennies!

So, on with the story, where did I leave off? I think I was rushing on Friday evening to go and meet the Wood's for a drink. Sandy and Shan said I didn't move that fast the whole trip, but of course I didn't want to be late for my first "very mini" slow travel GTG. It was great meeting Kathy and Charley, they are a very nice couple and we wished we were staying just a couple more days to meet their incoming tour group. The Woods have a business organizing trips for small groups (up to 12 I think) to tour the Luberon - it is called the Luberon Experience and you can search for it on this website. They have a welcome dinner for each new group and like to invite other slow travel travelers and local Bonnieux friends to join them - bummer dinner would be Sunday night and we left Saturday.

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May 2, 2008

Quick and Dirty

Sorry peeps, but just wanted to do a quick post to bring you up to date and then I am unsure if I will be back online until possibly Chicago airport. I can't remember if our hotel for the last night in Paris has internet, but even if it does I think it will be a whirlwind day there trying to send some stuff FedEx and getting last minute gifts and having our last French meal!

Last nights dinner at Capelongue de Bastide was amazing - and tres French! If you can believe it when all was said and done it was 11 courses and even Shannon was finally full! I will write soon about the complete experience and post some pictures from Shan's camera. But, suffice it to say it was a really cool thing to do and a LOT of food. We also enjoyed two good bottles of wine and had the cutest sommelier - not in looks necessarily but in personality! Man did I ever wish then that I spoke better French so I could have had a conversation, since his English wasn't great and my French wasn't great we did as much talking as was possible but was very little!

This morning was Bonnieux's market day and it was a quaint market and we found lots of last minute things on our list to take home - great stuff! I won't indulge with the details since some of the purchases were gifts and I don't want to ruin any surprises! The cash machine here in Bonnieux was out of money, suffice it to say it was probably a good thing and we treated it as our destiny and stopped buying when we were out of money - I'll let you decide if the amount we started with was big or small!

From there we were off for a hike on the Lioux Falaise. A Falaise is like a butte for all intents and purposes, so we hiked up around to the back side and then out on the falaise itself and down the other end of the cliff. We had brilliant views of Roussillon, Gordes, and Bonnieux and La Coste in the distance along with views of all the vines, orchards and farms directly around the falaise. It is a very nice day again and it was a nice hike and not too long or taxing. We had lunch in Rousillon, but I don't know the name of the restaurant, it wasn't too exciting one way or the other, but the beers were cold and tasted good after our time in the hot sun.

We made a stop at the Bonnieux Cave (wine cooperative) and purchased a few bottles of Rose to bring home - we ultimately decided that we have liked some of the white and red wines of the region, but nothing "wowed" us with those, but since France produces some great Rose wines that we just don't yet seem to have in the US, we focused our effort on Rose - so yes, we are bringing home pink wine! I'm sure it won't last very long when we get home, but if nothing else we have learned a bit more about French wine and which regions and/or chateaus we like, so it should make buying more French wine from home a bit easier if not cheaper! I don't know if I have mentioned, but wine here (good, decent wine) is CHEAP! I'm talking $6-$10 a bottle, not euro mind you, dollars! The shelfs have many good wines for 2 to 4 euro a bottle and most less than 10 euro unless you are at a boutique wine store! It has been great, and even with that we only had 8 empty bottles on the counter for 6 nights here so far - for the three of us together that is an excellent feat!

Well, gotta run, exciting news - Charley and Kathy Wood, slow travel old timers and bloggers have arrived in Bonnieux and we are going to have a get-together (GTG) tonight before we leave town! I'm psyched since I spent hours combing Kathy's blog about the area before we came and I actually feel like I know her already!

May 1, 2008

Biking in the Luberon

Today we picked up our rented bikes, had a wonderful breakfast of fresh baguette with ham, cheese and fried fresh eggs compliments of Sandy and hit the road with the intention of tasting some wine and getting some fresh air and exercise. We left Bonnieux headed for the Pont Julien and two wine chateaus along that route. The first chateau was closed (today and only today), as the first of May seems to be some kind of holiday around here? I sort of remember that, but not really to tell the truth. It doesn't seem to be affecting the restaurant and such in town, but none the less, ferme (closed), so on down the road we continued. The next place on our stop was the chateau that had furnished our wine at the Le Tinel dinner on Tues night, Epyceries, I think... We stopped, rang the bell and had a nice tasting of the wine we had at dinner and all their others. They had a nice variety and we all walked out promising to come back tonight or tomorrow with the car to buy some wine - we each wanted at least 2 bottles.

One problem, we still haven't figured totally how we are going to get any wine home, let alone a fair amount of wine. Guess I better check FedEx while I'm here on the internet to see if there is a location close, our plan is to send back the majority of our clothes (that we severely overpacked by the way) and check the wine in our suitcase. The issue is that United has changed their rules about wine in checked luggage and it needs to be in packing material like it would be in boxes, no worries though as the French seem to pack their wine laying down with formed pieces in between that is much more compact than our standing up styrofoam way. We can each easily take 6 bottles, and could probably do a case with some creativity and strong muscles - never the less time is waning and we need to figure it out soon - guess that is my job to think about and figure out...

After our tasting we continued on to the Pont Julien, a roman bridge remaining completely intact here in the Luberon. It is pretty amazing to think how smart the Romans were and the engineering feats that they accomplished as a society. This bridge is pretty small, but impressive none the less due to its age and still working order. After a quick break at the bridge to take some pictures and get Sandy in the wild poppies we headed out towards La Coste a town ~ 4-5 km from Bonnieux depending how you go, but our way was likely 10-11km. It was bordering lunch time and everything except the resaurants closes down, we weren't hungry yet, so we continued on to the Abbeye St Hilaire.



Shan had tried to get to this abbey on her walking tour on Sunday, but had made a wrong turn and never did find it, so we set out to correct her mistakes on a faster mode of transportation. First, we had to climb up to La Coste (another perched village), then climb up and out of the village, then climb some more, whew I knew it was hilly here, but as usual on a bike it takes on a whole new perspective. We finally started the descent to the turn off for the Abbey and I was thinking... for every down there will be another long up... guess I better enjoy it while I can.

We found the abbey and had a nice walk around and look, and then I checked the map for a way back to Bonnieux hoping for not too many hills. This is a past time of mine in Colorado Springs, how to get home on my bike, climbing the least amount or least grueling hills. Unfortunately my map is not a topographical map, and therefore I couldn't really tell, but the road below the abbey appeared pretty flat!

We climbed up the gravel road from the abbey to our original road and continued on down the hill, and down and down and down to meet up with my "flat road" back to Bonnieux! Silly rabbit tricks are for kids!

At the turn for my "flat road" Shan and Sandy thought they wanted to ride more than the 11km back to Bonnieux so we parted ways and I started climbing my flat road - turned out to be a nice steady incline for 7 of the first 11km back, then a nice downhill reprieve which only meant I would have to climb (more steeply this time) back up to my perched village.


I was only home 20 min when in came Sandy and Shan, they had gone a ways then changed routes to come back here and had ridden about the same as I had by the time it was done. Sandy was pooped - she hasn't done much riding with Shan on the open road and didn't know what she was really getting into...

So now, after a snack of baguette and cheese on the terrace, I'm at the cafe blogging so I can finally feel somewhat caught up. Tonight is our michelin restaurant night at Bastide de Capelongue, and we are all saving our appetites to eat and eat and eat! So, I will be done, need to put on some makeup and finally put on a dress after two weeks of carting them around and not using them!

Cold Rain - Warm Sunshine

We woke up to a cold, rainy, windy day with plans to go for a hike and then hit some of the other perched villages in the region. We bundled up, to the best of our ability, in our “hiking clothes” and I set off for Henri’s with computer in hand to see if I could get a signal from the café on the corner – Henri’s company is much better than the guy at Cesars! We got our croissant, pain au chocolat etc… I tried the computer – but no luck we were still too far away – so I wrote my blog for the day in word and got some pictures ready for posting while sipping tea and eating my delicious chocolate breakfast treat – they were fresh out of the oven this morning.

The girls took off to walk the town in the rain, life is a bit more back to normal and they can’t sit still for long periods of time, and I headed to Cesar’s Café to get my internet fix. I spent a good hour to 2 hours posting, reading comments, posting pictures, downloading new pictures etc while I drank some tea. Sandy and Shan found the bike shop and reserved our bikes for tomorrow and then found a specialty food shop to get some gifts.

Finally it was noonish and still cold and blowing and raining and we were hungry, and I found the girls researching winerys (chateaus in French speak). So, we ditched the hike due to the rain and jumped in the car to head south to Loumarin for lunch and then to some of the southern Luberon chateaus. We had sandwiches at a small café in Loumarin then wandered over to a big castle (also chateau in French) that we saw on our way into town. Turned out the chateau had been purchased by a man in the early 1900s when it was intended to be torn down, this man then restored the entire chateau and furnished much of it. When he died in 1927 ish he left the chateau to the arts college or museum in Aix en Provence and they keep it as a museum and a place for young artists to board and to display their art. Anyways – it was really cool and we decided to go in and check it out along with checking out an artist that had an exhibition that day – too bad the dollar is so crappy because she had some beautiful things that would have been somewhat affordable if we weren’t paying 1 ½ times. So, we grabbed a couple of the cheap reproductions…



Amazingly when we popped out of the chateau, the sun was starting to shine and it was warming up. I grabbed the good camera, loaded with black and white film, and started to take some shots – well tried, but the camera was flashing error. I tried to figure it out, but ultimately we had to call Rocket back in the US to try to remedy the situation. We figured it out and I hopefully got some good shots!

Next we were off to do some wine tasting and were able to stop at 2 on the list Chateau Constantin Chevalier and Domaine de Fontenille. Sandy and Shan liked the first one best and I liked the second one best. After our second tasting it was time to be headed to Velleron for the night farmers market. This is a unique market that is every night but Sunday and is mostly only produce, and I believe it is mostly direct from the farmer, so there is only for sale what is in season and it is extremely fresh. We picked up some strawberries, asparagus, baby potatoes and biscotti (not on the list), then quickly popped into the center village of Velleron to grab some chicken, bread and dessert. We had chicken thighs and legs with a provencal rub roasted with the new potatoes and my special asparagus a la the microwave! Of course preceded by cheese, strawberries and champagne and dinner accompanied with a bottle of white wine Vin de Bourgogne; Macon-Villages -2006 made with the Chardonnay grape and it was quite good. These simple whipped up meals at home with the fresh market ingredients have been so tasty and made for nice nights to just relax.


About Me

I live in Colorado with my husband and our black lab Maggie. This is my first blog, inspired by the slow travel web community to allow friends, family and acquaintances a glimpse into our girl's trip to France!

May 2011

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