day 5 ::: provence

If you've been following along on our vacation recaps, you know that we had four tremendously lovely days in Paris.  On our fifth day we made our way to Provence, where our pace decreased and our wine intake increased.  Our time in Provence might be my favorite; what a beautiful setting to relax and enjoy the quite life of the French countryside and our time with Al's parents.  It gives me chills just thinking about how special it was.  Take a look...

We took an 8:45am train from Paris Gare train station to the Avignon TGV station.  It was about a three hour train ride and if you've been following you know we bought our tickets ahead of time.  For those of you a little rusty on french geography, you can see how far we traveled in just three hours. High speed trains are awesome (although we were travelling just a few days after that tragic high speed train collision in Spain so part of me was a little nervous).

Why Provence you ask?  Well we knew we wanted to spend some time in the countryside where we could also do some wine tastings and visit some vineyards.  Rather than go to the Champagne, Bordeaux, or Burgundy regions, we settled on Provence since we also knew we'd be headed further South afterwards to Saint-Tropez.  The Provence region includes the Riviera and is known for it's lavender and olive fields, cotes du Rhone wines, bright sunshine, and French-Mediterranean cuisine.

We rented a car at the Avignon train station, although it was definitely possible to just take a cab from the train station to the little village in which we were residing.  We wanted to be able to have a car if we needed it to do some other exploring of the area (more on that on day 7.).  

NOTE:  Check with your car rental company to see if you'll need an International Driver's Permit (IDP) in order to rent a car.  All car rental places we called said we would need one for any location in France.  We were able to easily get one from a AAA office.  All you need is a valid US drivers license.  Now, did they ask for our IDP when we checked in? No.  But it would have been really terrible if they did and we didn't have one.  Also, almost all cars in Europe are stick shift.  To get an automatic will cost about three times as much and not all rental car locations have automatic cars on site.  If you don't know how to drive a stick, you REALLY need to double check that an automatic car will be onsite for you. 

Okay, enough chatter.  Lets get to the pretty stuff.  We stayed at Le Prieuré hotel, tucked away in the hills of a small village (technically, commune) called Villeneuve lez Avignon (rough translation: 'new village of Avignon'), about 20 minutes outside the walls of Avignon. 

You guys.  If I am told I have only one day left on Earth, I will spend it here.  It is the most peaceful, quaint, and elegant place.  It feels magical.  The hotel encompasses several buildings, the oldest of which is a former priory (and thus the name Le Prieuré) from the 14th century!  I'll say it again for effect, the 14th CENTURY!  That is way old.  And now the photos...

The main building.

^^ I can't get enough of those shutters.  Aren't they the perfect color of turquoise? 

The beautiful gardens...

 The gorgeous pool set among the trees...

This is the little building where our rooms were located.

Even our room key was cute!

Are you in love yet?  Just wait until I tell you that there is a five star restaurant as part of the hotel.  We had the epitome of an elegant lunch (see more in the What We Ate Collage towards the end of the post) under the vine-covered canopy with a view of the gardens.  I felt like I was in a movie or something.  The food was spectacular and knowing that we had a dinner reservation for our final night made me giddy with anticipation. 

After unpacking and showers, we took a cab into Avignon.  While it's possible to walk  to Avignon from Villeneuve lez Avignon, there are some narrow streets and small foot bridges you have to cross - something that we weren't feeling.

Avignon is a walled city which I just thought was the neatest thing.  It seemed like out of Game of Thrones or something.  We wandered around and shared some wine outside the Palais des Papes (translation 'Palace of the Popes').  You know, just chilling out, drinking wine outside a castle.  Standard Tuesday evening.

The Palais des Papes was once home to the Papacy during the 14th century.  I bet you didn't know the Pope wasn't always in Rome.  Crazy, right?  And then I learned how to use the panorama function on my iphone...

After our wine we headed to dinner at La Fourchette.  Great service from the owners here and the place was packed with locals by the time we left.  Everyone was so darn friendly!  Oh, and I had escargot again, this time they were out of the shell already and baked in garlic and breadcrumbs.  Mouth. watering.

Here's what we ate on Day 5.  Sorry about the lunch photos, that tree canopy made for some lighting troubles (#FiveStarDiningProblems).
What We Ate Day 5:  Breakfast: croissant at Paris Gare train station.  Lunch (at Le Prieure): foie gras and spring rolls, cauliflower mousse, craw fish over puree of carrots, cod fish with baby leeks, filet of pork with beets, apricot mousse with sugar "straws".  Dinner (at La Fourchette): Escargot and Avignon beef stew with "macaroni".
Oh, and of course Deacon and I ended the night with ice cream.

A bit blurry, but look ma, we're at a castle!

The Palais des Papes at night.  I think I'd be able to live here comfortably.  I wouldn't even have to Space Bag my out-of-season clothes...

And so ended our first day in Heaven in Provence.  
It gets better too.  The next day we went vineyard hopping!  
More on that on Monday's post.


Follow along on our journey!  

{photos by me}
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