Last April we took a train from Paris to Avignon where we met our parents. Though the lavender wasn’t in bloom, the poppies were, and they grew along the roadside, peppering the dusty curb with their gentle red petals. For three days we wandered by rental car through small stone towns and fragrant farmlands, tasting the most exquisite rosé wines and observing the local life.
Day 1: Cathedrale D’Images, Les Baux de Provence and Arles
This is probably the most spectacular and moving man-made attraction I have seen in my entire life. Within a vast, cool, cavernous space, colorful Van Gogh paintings and images from his life are projected onto huge limestone walls. Meanwhile the music of Erik Satie and other classical composers from the late 19th century, when Van Gogh made his home in Provence, fill the air. Truly magical.
Hungry, we drove twenty minutes to the nearby town of Arles where we ate enormous salads at a restaurant overlooking the ancient Roman arena.
Day 2: Gordes and Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt
The next day, after an energizing breakfast of toast and homemade jams at our bed and breakfast, Mas des Vertes Rives, we journeyed sixteen miles east to Gordes. An enchanting medieval town, Gordes features a castle, several pretty churches, and lots of little shops and restaurants. We wandered for a while before ducking into La Pause, one of the most charming restaurants ever, just as the rain began to fall.
Continuing on another ten miles, we made our way to Saint-Saturnin-les-Apt, a historic village full of 15th century homes with beautiful old wooden doorways surrounded by carved stone. We climbed up to the top of the chateau ruins where a 9th century chapel offered a peaceful place to rest.
Route Neuve, Gordes
+33 4 90 72 11 53
Read National Geographic Traveler’s review.
Day 3: Aix en Provence, Villefranche-sur-Mer, Nice
En route to Villefranche-sur-Mer we stopped at Aix en Provence to see what all the buzz was about. The city was larger than any of the places we had yet been, but despite the bustle, it was beautiful. Full of students and tourists, the city streets give way to active piazzas. We found a table at an outdoor café and watched as the remnants of a market were washed away by a fireman’s hose.
As evening approached we made our way to Villefranche-sur-Mer. Our first glimpse of the Mediterranean stunned as always, and after an afternoon fighting traffic, we surrendered to the enchanting hush of this French fishing village.
After dinner we said our farewells and boarded a train to Nice. Our tiny, inexpensive hotel room came with a balcony that looked out onto the fancy pedestrian street below.
Le Petit Trianon
11 Rue Paradis, Nice
+33 4 93 87 50 4