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Ah Provence! My recent visit to the Luberon Valley (Little Luberon) didn’t disappoint despite only having three days to tour the region. There is nothing quite like getting lost in the French countryside, visiting markets, truly eating farm to table, and sampling some seriously good wine. Oh, and the olive oil!
LA BASTIDE DE MARIE in Menerbes was our home base. I think I cried when we arrived, it was so beautiful. Think old world French country with clean, modern updates like glass shower doors, heated floors, flat panel TV’s, etc. Set in a valley among vineyards (visit their winery) and under a blue sky, the setting is sublime. www.labastidedemarie.com
When we arrived at La Bastide de Marie, they asked us if we wanted the meal package that included breakfast, tea and dinner daily. We declined, saying we wanted to experience the region. So much for that! After dinner there the first night, we jumped at the package, looking forward to one exquisite meal after another, all walking distance from our room. Upon arriving to dinner, guests help themselves to hors d’oeuvres like tapenade, jamon iberico, radishes and cherry tomatoes from the garden, and are encouraged to sit by the fire and have an aperitif before dining. Dinner is served on the glass enclosed terrace with the daily menu written on a blackboard. Local cuisine with some Spanish influences. We learned that people come from all over the region to dine there, and I understand why. www.labastidedemarie.com
LE BISTROT DECOUVERTE in St-Remy-de-Provence was a wonderful spot for a traditional Provencal lunch outside on the terrace. Superb. www.bistrotdecouverte.com
Of course you must rent a car and tour the region. We didn’t get to see as much as we would have liked since we only had three days, but what we saw was enough for me to want to book another trip next summer!
A visit to CHATEAU D’ESTOUBLON in Fontvieille offers tours of their olive grove and vineyard, as well as tastings and shopping. www.estoublon.com
Visit the markets. You could go to a different market each day in Provence and never get bored. We went to an antique market in L’Isle-sur-la Sorgue where I actually found the most beautiful smocked dresses for my daughter. Set along canals with lots to do, I could easily while the day away here.
The farmers markets are abundant with olive oils, spices, wines, olives, produce and straw bags. We went to a smaller market in Coustellet where I bought straw market totes and spices. The market in Apt is bigger, but be sure to check which markets are happening on which days of the week so you can hit as many as possible. For me, the markets are the best part of visiting here!
A trip to the old town of LES BAUX-DE-PROVENCE will give you a workout as you climb up narrow stone walks that wind to the top, revealing a gorgeous view of the valley below and all the way to Arles. Considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, you can easily spend a day here visiting the castle, the church, seeing many of the shows they offer, and of course shopping. www.lesbauxdeprovence.com
We returned with olive oil from Chateau d’Estoublon. It comes in a very sexy bottle and I thought it was a great gift. We brought some home for ourselves and my stepfather. They also make a spray bottle version so you can just spritz your salad or bread. And did I mention it’s delicious? www.estoublon.com
I also went nuts buying Provencal straw market totes. Mine has both top handles and shoulder straps!
Of course I had to buy a tablecloth and agonized over which pretty stripe to get….red, turquoise, yellow. I settled for a French blue thinking it was the most authentic.
Wine! I can’t believe we lugged home three bottles of red and rose. We would have brought more of course but we had no room and our luggage was seriously overweight. Shipping isn’t an option (for multiple cases only), so next time we will think ahead and bring another bag! www.labastidedemarie.com
Fun fact: It seems almost every town we went to in France had a carousel and each one was more beautiful than the next.
Floaty linen dresses, full leg linen trousers, cotton tees, comfortable sandals and shades. Don’t forget your Stephanie Johnson Hamptons Sea Jenny Train Case! http://bit.ly/ox5v7O
Read: A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
For more must-pack items, check out my Destination Provence collection on ThisNext.com! http://bit.ly/jKLv8S