We have a little joke around here that the real reason I went into business with Ann is because she comes with a couple of wonderful assets: namely an insanely charming and rambling farmhouse in Provence (and now a jewelbox of an apartment in Paris…) Now, that’s not entirely true…in fact, we are excellent business partners, wonderful friends, adore what we do and always have a ball doing it.
But, truth be told, Ann’s Les Murets in Provence really is a little slice of heaven and when I was there recently with a group of eight women, we were all collectively praising and thanking Madame for her love of all things French, especially her real estate.
Through the gallery, we’ve offered these trips many times before (this was our sixth trip) and it never fails to amaze us how warm sunshine, soft light, lavender-scented breezes and plenty of good local rose can work its magic on one and all.
The formula is not complicated: we have a busy agenda that runs the gamut from shopping the dozens of local markets (that are part of the French culture and lifestyle) to visiting galleries, gardens and cultural attractions. We add some delectable and leisurely lunches and top it all off with some downtime by the pool and festive dinners on the terrace.
The cheesemonger’s truck – complete with marketgoers meandering past.
Everything is always mouth-wateringly appealing.
“How is this going to fit in my suitcase?”
One evening, we came to the 12th century Abbaye de Senaque and heard vespers. Heavenly.
One of the best treats that always occurs on these trips: we’re always bowled over by the simple and gracious ways our French friends treat us.
On Sunday, September 11th, we were enjoying a warm morning at one of our favorite markets…ooohing and aaahing over the huge array of just picked produce and fruit; tables groaning with organic honey and jams; neighborhood vintners pouring generous samples of their wine and all whole party atmosphere that goes hand in hand with French markets. Everyone was a little jet-lagged. One of our group stopped to buy something from a friendly vendor. “You are American?” he asked. “Yes, we are,” we answered. To which he replied “Today is a very sad day for your country. I want you to know that all of France is thinking of you.”
There wasn’t a dry eye at the dinner table that night when we had a little sad moment of silence and thought about that terrible day and how, despite all the politics and posturing, nice people are just nice people everywhere.
For the rest of the week, we shopped, explored, ate, drank, hiked, laughed, ate and drank some more, and collapsed happy at the end of each day.
Overlooking Gordes after our lively hike there.
The picture perfect terrace where we lunched one day…
Every day was a huge treat, but Thursday may have been the highlight. Our adorable driver, Christophe showed up bright and early and drove us quickly down the autoroute to Marseilles where we happily sat in traffic and took in all the sights, smells and colors of Marseilles’s famous Vieux Port.
Then, it was on to Cassis for a little exploring and lunch. Here we discovered another universal truth: no matter where you are in the world sunshine, water, boats and clean sea-scented air will bring out the best in everyone. We strolled, shopped and ate heartily at a wonderful restaurant (where we inhaled la soupe de poisson – a heavenly concoction of sinful seafood broth served over a dollop of garlicky rouille and a crusty slice of baguette. Mmmmmm.)
Sunshine, boats, water, lunch…pure paradise in Cassis.
The beach at Cassis.
Anxiously waiting for our Soupe de Poisson…
The good news is that we’re already planning next year’s trips – and one of them even includes a stop in Paris before arriving in Provence. (click here for all the info.) So don’t worry: it’s never too late to experience the magic and friendship that Provence so effortlessly offers.