Our first trip to Europe was a whirlwind. A month long backpacking adventure, we spent every other day in a new country or town, shared bunks with strangers in hostels, slept on trains, saw dozens of churches, museums, and more famous pieces of art than I can count, picnicked for almost every meal, and exhausted ourselves to the core, in the way that only someone in their early to mid 20s can do and live to tell the tale.
Our second trip to Europe, this time exclusively to France, was a bit more relaxed. Instead of a new town almost every day, we stayed put in each place for maybe three or four, reserving the “one night stands” for small towns we were just passing through on our way to somewhere else.
Instead of jam packing our schedules with museums, tours, and other big adventures like two back to back days of 10 mile hikes through the Swiss alps, we approached this trip at a much slower pace, drawing out a chocolat chaud or café allongé in a cozy bistro as we pored over a good book, or in damp cellars as we started our new hobby of learning more about french wine.
Now, here we are on our long-term stay, able to combine the best of both worlds. Some weekends are quick and busy, while others we do nothing but sit and read, take a long walk, or picnic for hours on end. After a quick and busy summer though, spent in Troyes and Dijon for the hub’s work, we knew we wanted to end it with a quiet getaway, enjoying a proper vacation in the south of France before our final return to Paris.
Not really having too many expectations for our time in Provence besides seeing sunflowers and lavender and drinking rosé, the world was our oyster when it came to deciding on a home base. Having some Airbnb credit to use, our decision really came down to what was available for our dates, and then everything else just kind of fell into place.
Our apartment was in the heart of Luberon, surrounded by vineyards and orchards and hill-top villages such as the popular Les Plus Beaux Villages de France frontrunners, Roussillon and Gordes. We were never more than a 20 minute drive away from the day’s market, and even less to new wineries to explore. The Côtes du Rhône region was just an hour away, and Avignon, where we visited one day to tour the impressive Palais des Papes, the same.
Each day was started early to beat the heat and the crowds. We’d be out the door by 8:00 or 8:30 and at the market by 9:00. Luberon markets were top notch, and each time we’d fill our basket with colorful produce, fresh local chèvre, the most delectable lavender honey, saucisson, herbes de provence, bread, tarts, rotisserie chicken, and whatever else we fancied for breakfast, dinner, or lunch.
We’d then explore whatever town the market was in that day, return home by noon, enjoy our market provisions on the patio with a glass of cold wine, and sieste until two when businesses opened back up.
Our afternoons were spent winery hopping in Luberon, Ventoux, and the Côtes du Rhône, where we stocked up on shockingly affordable, mouth-watering bottles of wine that aren’t even available anywhere else in France.
Some evenings were spent at home where we’d cook a meal with our market goods, or in a nearby town eating some of the best food I have had since we’ve been here. Others were spent lavender hunting, which should have been easy as there were lavender fields every direction we looked, however, as we were late in the season, most of these meadows looked like they were full of browned chia pet heads instead of the dreamy, vibrant clouds of purple I had been swooning over on my Instagram feed for weeks. We did find some nice dried crops, however, and our drive smelled divine. Even now as I write this it’s as if I can smell the fields again, or maybe that’s just the last of the lavender soap we brought back that’s lingering on my skin…
Outside of visiting the papal palace, we toured a handful of churches as well as the popular Sénanque monastery, hiked through a vivid ocher pigment quarry, fished the home waters of the French national fly fishing team, and were usually in bed each night by 10. Honestly, what more could one ask for from a relaxing, Provençal getaway?
Reluctantly checking out of our Luberon apartment on a Saturday, but not able to move in to our new Parisian home until the coming Monday, we decided to extend our getaway with a short stopover in the Beaujolais region of France – another breathtaking wine area that made me fall even harder for the country that I already so strongly adore.
In Beaujolais we took one of the best winery tours we’ve been on yet (made even better because Heidi was able to freely roam the property as well); enjoyed stunning views of the region, as well as of Mont Blanc, an incredible 300 miles away, from The Terrace of Chiroubles; drank some of the best wine we had on our trip in the cellar at our Airbnb (how fitting that our hosts just happened to make wine); and ended our vacation in the most perfect way, with our hosts, laying in the dark next to their pool, with Heidi and their young son, watching for a étoiles filante, or as we taught them to say, “shooting stars,” and making hopeless wishes that we wouldn’t actually have to leave the next day…