It's time to leave the city of Paris... the City of Lights.
Though Paris is enchanting, four days in the city is about all this
country girl needs...
and then, I need to see the countryside - where I really feel at home.
We took a high-speed train from Paris to the town of Aix En Provence
which is very close to Marseille.
From the train, as it exits Paris, you see suburban housing and then industrial area...
quickly followed by rural farmland.
Here you see a patchwork quilt of farm fields, mountains, and cattle grazing.
All of the cattle that we saw were pure white... quite lovely.
When we arrived in Aix, we rented a car and set off to find the little medieval hill-top town
of Bonnieux, which would serve as home for the next 5 days.
Driving in France took a little getting used to.
Highways are easy... no different than here in the States...
however, signage, at first, is a bit mysterious.
Toll roads are also plentiful and puzzling...
with toll plazas that are each different from the one before
(so much to figure-out... but once you've worked your way through it all... quite easy).
Non-highway roads are narrow; and signage can be confusing.
Luckily, cars are small and trucks are few.
Google Maps was our saving grace and kept us always on course.
One of the most refreshing things about the roads was the absence of billboards.
In short, by the second day we were quite comfortable zipping around the countryside by car.
Although if it had been just a little warmer, we would have tried navigating a lot
of the roads by bicycle.
Enough about driving... let's talk about life in the villages.
So many of them had their beginnings in medieval days and therefore are built
on the top of hills for protection.
The narrow, cobblestone streets of the original villages are a reminder...
that nothing but foot traffic, horses, and donkeys used these original streets.
Because of this, many of them are closed to automobiles.
You may have noticed that all of the buildings are uniformly colored...
built from the stone of the surrounding area with terra-cotta roofs.
I found that this served to only make these towns more quaint.
Towns are surrounded by farmland, where grapes and lavender are grown.
Fields are separated by hedgerows, which, when we were there
were filled with red or orange berries.
Our home base for the time in Provence was in one of these ancient hilltop towns.
We stayed in an adorable, extremely old house that was four stories tall,
(three stories in front and four in back)
with exterior walls that were easily a foot and a half thick.
Windows everywhere have a wood shutter on the outside and glass on the inside...
Perched on the edge of the hillside, the views were spectacular.
The uppermost portion of the house was a rooftop terrace...
the perfect spot for a home-cooked meal or happy hour.
The village was small and we could easily walk to everything.
A grocery store with an outdoor produce stand, a bakery, and a butcher
provided all you could possibly need for making scrumptious meals at home.
Each village had it's own shop keepers, making village life quite convenient.
There were also several excellent restaurants and bistros.
These are villages filled with charm and warm, welcoming people.
The best part of any week here is definitely Market Day.
On Market Days, the narrow streets are lined with vendors
selling produce, meats, fish, cheeses, sweets, lavender, olive oil, clothes,
accessories... just about anything you could possibly want.
We visited as many of the neighboring villages and markets as we could.
It's just impossible to tire of these perfect little towns!
One of my favorites was the town of Roussillon.
You'll notice that the buildings here are a slightly different color.
The hills of Roussillon provide the pigment "ochre",
and it is used to color their village in its own unique hue.
It was my favorite of the hilltop towns.
I loved this handmade sign hanging on this building...
and dubbed it the "Love Shack".
Tomorrow I will try to finish up a few things that I missed and also our visit to the