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Provence, September 2006

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The beautiful region of Provence was this year's trip and John, Beth, Janice and Jean joined me for 10 days. We arrived in Paris and took the TGV down to Avignon. We stayed at a wonderful hotel, Le Domaine de la Petite Isle, located on the Sorgue River in Isle-sur-la Sorgue. This town is well-known for its Sunday market which takes over the whole town, winding through the small streets in an array of color from beautiful tablecloths to colorful baskets, fresh produce displays and local artwork. Even when it is not market day, the town is charming with its working water wheel covered in moss and its quaint restaurants, cafés and boutiques.

Everyday was a new adventure. We spent our first day in Avignon, at the Palais des Papes and the garden area overlooking the Rhone River and the Pont St. Bezier (which everyone knows from the song "Sur le Pont d'Avignon, on y danse..."). We had an afternoon goûter of a slice of Tarte Tropezienne.

We visited the hilltop town of Gordes on market day when the town truly comes alive. We stopped to see the Abbaye de Sénanque on the way, and even though the lavender was finished blooming it was still an impressive sight. The road to the Abbaye is narrow and steep, but well worth the trouble. Not far from Gordes is Roussillon, another stunning hilltop town where the earth is a brilliant shade of red-orange and seen from miles away, it appears to glow.

We strolled through Les Baux de Provence and climbed to the top of the rocky plateau where the view of the village and the countryside, a patchwork of olive trees and vineyards, is well worth the climb. Then we drove a short distance to a most amazing place, La Cathédrale des Images which is a daunting, high-ceiling deep cave, where a slide show of Cezanne's paintings were projected onto the gigantic walls, accompanied by beautiful music. It is an absolute must for everyone to see. Nearby we visited Le Village des Santons in Paradou. It was an amazing diorama setup of old Santons in various activities. For Santon lovers, it is a must to see.

We took a round-trip cruise down the Rhône River from Avignon to Arles and passed through a loch, which for several of us was a new adventure. (One of the photos shows the boat behind us, with its wildly-painted smile on the front).

We toured Marseille with Isabelle, a French friend of mine, and had lunch near the quaint little port on the Corniche, across from Chateau d'If. Then we drove around the Mediterranean coast side into Cassis, where we strolled through the town and dipped our feet into the sea.

We spent two nights and a day in Aix-en-Provence, where everyone ventured out on their own shopping, strolling, and people watching. We had dinner at the home of my friend Isabelle and her husband Thierry outside of Aix. We had olive tapenade hors d'oeuvres, lamb, chicken and mergez couscous, 4 wonderful cheeses, a chocolate cake and a raspberry tart. It was all delicious and beautifully served.

The day we were all waiting for ... Sunday marché in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. Unfortunately, Saturday evening and Sunday the south of France had one of its biggest rainstorms. The marché still went on, but with fewer vendors and much less color, as they are unable to display the colorful tablecloths and other fabrics as they do on sunny days But we ventured out despite the rain and were able to purchase a few local treasures.

On our last day we drove to the Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard. What a glorious sight it is when you come around that final corner after a short walk to see this beautiful wonder! There you are standing overlooking the Gard River with the aqueduct as your backdrop. Seeing is believing! Finally we drove to the nearby medieval town of Uzès. What a charming find this was for all of us. The small pedestrian cobble-stoned streets kept winding through narrow passageways, past beautiful old doorways, laced curtain windows and various carved stone fountains.

Provence was a wonderful adventure for all of us, and this was a terrific group to travel with. The French were wonderful and gracious, the food as always was delicious no matter where we ate, and the sights were all amazing. If you click on the pictures they will change and you will have a mini slide show of our trip. Until next year's trip!


Contact me at sara@villat.org or at (925) 691-4559.