11 January 2016

Road Trip - Provence

Provence and Beyond (http://www.beyond.fr/villphotos/baux-photo-gallery)
Moons ago, first side trip to France from England. Fly London to Nice. Destination: Les Baux de Provence. Gourmet Magazine had published a mouthwatering feature on Hôtel Oustau de Baumanière. Of course I no longer have the article, nor do I have personal photos. The hotel website provides some, as do Mr. and Mrs. Smith (mrandmrssmith.com) and other travel websites.

Provence and Beyond
Les Baux is a steep and picturesque village, fortified since the Middle Ages, perched in scenic Provence. The old cobblestone streets on the rocky ridge seem unchanged since then. Exposed rock formations in the region have provided defensive positions throughout history dating at least to Roman times; even ancient Celtic artifacts have been found here. Magnificent views from the crowning chateau-fortress ruins look in all directions to Avignon, Arles, St-Rémy, and Aix-en-Provence, all of which made great day trips. Somewhere in that landscape between Les Baux and St Rémy was a particular, quiet, shady village of the kind that makes you think, I could stay here; how closer to perfect can it get? A passing magic moment. Alas, the name slipped into the fading files of my mental filing cabinet. 

The town was almost secondary to the hotel and its Michelin two-star restaurant. Oustau Baumanière backs against the spine of rock and at the time we were there, was not as extensive as it is now.

 This photograph comes closest to how I remember our room.

Our first dinner night was a bit intimidating, having to struggle with French in translating and ordering for two. If only I could recall more of it (actually, more of any meal there) other than the failure of receiving kidneys instead of boeuf tournedos. For which I shall never be forgiven, and undoubtedly have mentioned more than once. However, some comforting things can never be misinterpreted: RHONE WINES!

I remember the other ignorant failure too: plugging my North America curling iron into a French socket and burning off a chunk of hair. Again, no photo; be grateful.

The point being that even as a first French culinary/wine-tasting venture, it was an introduction to the chateaux et relais network for travel to come. No less consequential, it rekindled a serious travel bug for historical and archaeological sites.

© 2016 Brenda Dougall Merriman 

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