We left the Spanish stage of our new adventure and moved into the French stage. Welcome to France! We stayed three days in the country, in Provence, in a wonderful little town called Bonnieux.
France, and Provence in particular, are the land of great pastries, great wine and wonderful stinky cheese (as Deb puts it). This was sort of the middle of our European adventure and after two weeks in Spain travelling among the cities and sights, we decided to step back and relax a bit in the country. No heavy agenda or travel, just relaxation with the young adults.
Our ride into France started a trend of great train karma. Travel was easy. Even leaving France today, we have made two connections simply by walking to the next platform. In one case, we only had 7 minutes (or an hour) to catch the next train and we smoothly caught it in 5. We hope this train karma lasts through Italy!
We arrived from Avila, Spain to Avignon, France, late Sunday and so spent the night in a hotel in Avignon. We didn’t get a chance to explore much but the young adult were up the next day bright and early for our hour car ride to Bonnieux.
Nev and Aidan Ready to Go
Deb found us a lovely old house in Bonnieux on Air BnB. It was centuries old but recently renovated, sitting 3 minutes from the town or a wonderful 20 minute walk.
According to our landlords, Ridley Scott shot part of his movie, A Year in Provence, in our back yard – which happens to be a vineyard. We actually didn’t know that until we arrived. It turns out that it was a TV mini-series and I couldn’t find any references to Ridley Scott. Nevertheless, now we have to see the movie.
Our House in Provence
All around the house are amazing vineyards and centuries-old waking paths. The weather was warm with a little bit of chill at night – almost like Seattle in September.
The Grounds Around Us
We also had a few additional residents at our house. Just so you don’t think that I can’t like some cats, here are Cleo(patra) and Pumbaa. Nev took about 30 photos of the cats and here are two of the best. Nev’s
Cleo and Pumbaa
The town of Bonnieux is several centuries old as you can see by some of the architecture. It’s one of those marvelous European cities where walkers outnumber cars and most everyone seems to be carrying a baguette. Really. You should taste the baguettes here.
The Town of Bonnieux…
Like tourists, we walked along the car streets at first – a long, winding, one-way, uphill road. Then we discovered the system of stairways and paths all criss-crossing the town, creating shortcuts and “secret passages” everywhere. We knew most of them by the time we left.
And in walking all of these stairs and passages, we discovered some charming rustic details. We could have taken photos here all day. Or just sat and sipped wine and read in an outdoor café. Or eaten wonderful French pastries. Wait, we did all that.
…and Some of its Details
Across the way from Bonnieux is the town of Lacoste. There is a castle there that I wanted to explore, but then I learned that Pierre Cardin owns it and often lives there. He also owns half of the town evidently.
Lacoste from Afar
We did a lot of lounging and relaxing the few days we spent in Bonnieux. Deb and I heard about a path leading to town and we had a great walk to get there. We didn’t know the way; that was half the fun. The path we followed must have been built by the Romans. It was very, very old and so were the walls lining the paths at points. If we didn’t see ancient walls or buildings, we saw many vineyards.
Deb on the Way to Bonnieux
Nev spent a lot of time taking pictures and learning photography. Deb and I read a lot. I taught Aidan how to play poker as well. We graduated quickly to Texas Hold ‘Em, which he likes a lot.
We also spent some “unschooling” time prepping for Italy. We’ve been trying to find inroads to get Nev and Aidan interested in the history and art available in Italy. One of our tactics, which worked (as if Michelangelo, Galileo, and Leonardo Da Vinci weren’t enough!), was having them watch Angels and Demons, the Dan Brown novel turned movie with Tom Hanks set in Rome.
Part of the plot involves a number of specific locations across Rome featuring places like Castel Sant’Angelo, the Pantheon, Saint Peter’s Square and the Vatican, Piazza Navona and more. It also featured a number of sculptures by Bernini and buildings by Michelangelo and Raphael. In the story, angels (statues) lead you from one place to the next. Part of what we will in Italy is follow that path, thereby hitting almost all of the key sights. Now the young adults are excited.
It has been a bit challenging really getting Nev and Aidan to understand how incredibly old and important Europe is. Unlike Seattle or even Costa Rica, there is nothing seeing art or buildings or even roads that are centuries, or millennia, old up close and personal. Spain certainly whet their appetite. I already see at least Nev having a different perspective on history. It is one of our goals for this trip and hopefully we can really immerse in Italy. This is sort of a “field trip” after all.
We expect to have a busy schedule in Rome, Florence and Orvieto and so that’s one of the reasons we wanted to relax for a few days before all of that in Provence.
I can’t leave Bonnieux without talking about the food a bit. As you might imagine, it was fantastic. Mostly. We thoroughly enjoyed the bread, the pastries, the wine, and especially the cheese. We tried some wonderful local dishes like duck with honey sauce. I even made dinner one night. There was one restaurant that was disappointing. Really disappointing. And it looked to be mostly locals there. We had various overcooked meats swimming in thick, unappetizing gravy. Our cure was going back to one of the other restaurants we found, ordering an entrée and several desserts!
Our time in France came to an end all too quickly. Deb and I, at least, could have stayed there a lot longer. It was completely relaxing and exactly what we had hoped for.
We are on the most complicated train journey now from Avignon, France, to Rome, Italy. It involves a 3 hour train ride, a 45 minute local train ride, another 3 hour train ride, and then an overnight in a sleeper car from Genova to Roma. We get in super early but plan to have a leisurely first day in Roma. And then the real adventure will begin.
We are hoping that among the secret passages, gladiator schools, catacombs, and churches that we find something truly incredible: a spark of an appreciation for living history from two digital natives who are still just beginning to explore this amazing world of ours. Pura vida.
PS: Stay tuned for a very different post next time: A Harrowing Evening.
PPS: Once again, more photos.