Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Asia. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to explore a continent upon which I otherwise would have never set foot, given my limitations and priorities. But after 2.5 years of exploring the nooks and crannies of the Orient, I found myself craving Western Civilization. I needed to get back to Europe…
The Huffington Post is launching a series showcasing wisdom from around the world — traditions, daily rituals, philosophies, and lessons of history particular to each country — featuring a post each day, translated into English, from one of its international editors. I loved the first in the series, on how the French can inspire us to love life. For instance:
“In 2010, the French gastronomic meal was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, which honors cultural traditions.”
I can totally believe it!!
“In 1982, France’s Culture ministry had the crazy, brilliant idea to tell everyone in the country to go out, play music and dance for one night. Happening every first night of summer, the “Fête de la Musique” is now one of the greatest nights of the year.”
Food, music, and dancing. The French really do have it right. Read about the other 4 cultural and philosophical tidbits here!
Since I have the worst memory, I was going to record what I did each day in England and France. That was obviously a big fat failure (and now I don’t feel like scrounging up that much detail), but I still want to share the highlights of our 10-day journey to see a slice of Western Europe…
This was my third trip to London, and I still don’t care for it much. However, it did have one major highlight: I saw my friend Beth for the first time in many years! She just got married this past December, and I was able to meet her delightful hubby James, as well. She hasn’t changed a bit 🙂
If I had to choose one other thing about London that I really liked, I’d have to say it was the spring blooms in Hyde Park. Beautiful!
I love Oxford. Always have, and I think I always will. I was happy that Chuck liked it too! I was able to visit my old campus at Pembroke College, and I was delighted to see that the Alice in Wonderland shop and Ben’s Cookies are still there. Seriously, if you are ever in Oxford, go get a Ben’s Cookie. Amazeballs.
Also, I can’t forget to include that Chuck and I enjoyed a pint at the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien brainstormed some of the greatest stories ever told, the Eagle and Child. I’m not even a LOTR or Narnia fan, but it was still pretty cool 🙂
Oh my goodness! Where do I even start? I fell in love with Paris. Every positive stereotype is completely true, and every negative stereotype completely untrue. Highlights included:
- The entire first day & night – walking the historic Ile de la Cite and Ile St. Louis, lunching at Au Bougnat around the corner from Notre-Dame, eating Berthillion ice cream for dessert, sipping evening cocktails on the roof of Maison Blanche (where staff called Chuck Captain America!), watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle, feasting on the giant wheel of cheese at Philippe et Jean-Pierre, and watching burlesque at the iconic Crazy Horse (even if I did drink too much champagne in the end.) It sounds cheesy, but the misty, ethereal haze that hovered over Champs-Elysees on our walk back to the hotel added to the magic of that first evening in Paris… But sigh… moving on…!
- Meeting with friends at Versailles and being the first to hear of their engagement
- The fact that art and beauty are EVERYWHERE.
- Our poignant, emotional visit to Belleau Wood (where countless American Marines and soldiers lost their lives fighting the Germans in WWI).
- Monet’s Water Lilies at L’Orangerie
- THE FOOD. And trying beef tartare, even though I had no idea it’s a raw ground beef patty with a raw egg on it…
Provence & the South of France
Growing up, I used to watch Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence with my mom and sister. I’ve always romanticized the region, and have long wanted to visit. I was worried that between the film, things I’ve heard, and the copious amount of dreamy Provencal images I found on Pinterest, I was setting my expectations a bit too high. I shouldn’t have been so concerned – Provence exceeded every whimsical expectation!
We started our trip in Gordes, un village perché in the Luberon Valley, and enjoyed the luxury of one of our splurge hotels with a series of killer views. Gordes is full of adorable nooks and crannies, and I met THREE cats while I was there 🙂 Also, it must be noted that I had the most delicious chocolate dessert ever in Gordes, and I can’t stop obsessing over it. I only wish I had a photo, or its exact name. Oh man. So delish.
Over the next few days, we explored the villages of Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Aix-en-Provence, Cassis, and Arles. Cassis and Arles were my favorites (after Gordes!) At Cassis, we took a boat tour of les Calanquesand dipped our feet in the Mediterranean under a warm, sunny sky. In Arles, we ate delicious quiche, eclairs, and brioche in the courtyard of the building where Van Gogh sliced off his ear, and then explored Roman ruins. I did a few ballet spins and took a bow on the ancient stage at the amphitheatre… Chuck thought I was a fool 🙂 Honestly, I didn’t think I’d like Arles – I had heard it was a little “dirtier” than other Provencal towns – but I actually enjoyed its artsy, antique intrigue and mystique.
We ended the Provencal adventure with a visit to Glanum, an ancient archaeological Roman site near St. Remy. The history nerd in both of us was tickled pink, and I met my final French kitty snoozing in the middle of the museum…
Anyway. I heart France. And I have to give myself credit – I plan a good trip! It cost more than our honeymoon did, but I think it was worth it. Every night I have a dream about being back – sometimes in a spot we already visited, sometimes in a place I wish we could have seen. It’s kind of pathetic really…!
The only mementos I brought back (besides the memories and 1,587 photos) were a magnet for each city, a jar of lavender honey, and a little bottle of lavender liquor. I can’t wait to break into the latter two 😉
All in all, a very bon voyage!
Catching a little #lunch on the #Mediterranean before our boat tour of the #Calanques! #cassis #provence #cheese #zucchini #cotedazur #france (at Calanques de Cassis)
I can see why artists were so inspired by this region. The lights, the shadows, and the interplay between the two… not to mention the soft, whimsical colors. Le sigh!
J’aime beaucoup Paris, Mais je pense que j’adore le Provence… #view from our window in #Gordes! #france #provence #countryside #hilltop #village (at La Bastide De Gordes & Spa Hotel)