A week in Provence for my 40th birthday. We arrived on Saturday, May 31, bursting with excitement as we were to meet up with Mum and Robert for a week of birthday celebrations.
Lourmarin, in the Luberon region, is the name of the town where we had decided to spend the week and it turned out to be absolutely my favourite little French village during all of myexplorations in France. It must be said, though, that we did arrive in the thick of all the Summer buzz and I doubt that it would have been nearly as much fun even a month earlier. That said, upon our arrival in the town, we noticed that it was extremely busy, without so much as a spare parking spot. We quickly ascertained that we were to expect the fête de vins to begin in just a few hours time – only Mum could have chosen such a place!
The weather was warm and daylight was long and it was therefore not long before we were sat in the square at long tables, drinking wine and eating steak/ moules frites. Only my very favourite way to spend a Summer’s evening! It was here that we met up with Mum and Robert and after nearly 5 months, it was a lovely reunion. We ended up staying the night in the carpark in Frosty, as the camping spot where we had planned to stay was 2 kms out of the village and not anywhere near the action. As it turned out, we spent the whole week parked up here, with 2 nights staying in a B+B… more of that to follow.
So Mum and Robert joined us the next morning for banana pancakes with fresh strawberries and nutella outside Frosty – our first guests for a while. Having not seen my Mum in a while and having had a severe drought from the shops, we very quickly parted ways from Dave, Robert and the kids had a lovely long browse of the shops and a lunch out.. Divine!
Meanwhile, the men took the kids to a festival in a nearby town. Oh and I should have mentioned that it was a Sunday and EVERYTHING was open! Until 7.30pm! Unheard of! The next day we met Mum and Robert for a stroll around the Chateau de Lourmarin, which was so beautifully decorated and presented as a museum. The kids were eah given an excursion activity sheet to complete which engaged them enormously. We enjoyed a picnic lunch at a table on the terrasse, as we so warmly invited to do by the staff working there.
Then it was time for a geo-cache, which meant time for Mum and I to continue our shopping adventures. We met up with the others later at Mum and Robert’s place for a roast chicken (our first roast in months as Frosty’s oven is broken!) and a game of Rummykub and Panini sticker time.
By the next day, we were ready to venture out for the day. So we went to Avignon, one of the definite must dos for me! Robert, who had kindly hired a 7-seater car for the week, braved the French roads and took us on the 40 minute drive. Avignon is much bigger than I had ever imagined – I had ignorantly expected a lavender enveloped little village with a rickety old bridge running across the middle, but alas nothing of the sort. To start with, there is no lavender in Provence until end June ( boo-hoo) and the bridge (le Pont d’Avignon ) was made from concrete and only went half-way across the river.
Additionally, you had to pay to cross it, which of course didn’t get you anywhere and so you would have to just turn around and come back! So in the end, we didn’t pay and therefore never got to dance sur le Pont d’Avignon. But that of course didn’t mean that Robert and I refrained from singinig very loudly in unison! We had a lovely lunch in the main part of town and a stroll around. Didn’t come across one L’Occitane shop though ( l’Occitane en Provence ….?!)
On the way back, Mum and I went to the supermarket to gather charcuterie, cheese, bread, beautiful melon and lots of al fresco yumminesses for dinner. Another hot day today took us to a little village called Fontaine de Vaucluse ( see post by James). It was here that Mum fell in love with all the shops selling home decorations and beautiful fabrics and so she kept disappearing into them. Dave and James braved the gorge. We came back earlyish as we were transferring to our B+B.
My gorgeous husband had booked us in for 2 nights to the best place to stay in town, with a huge big wooden door. We were excitedly waiting outside with all of our goods and chattels (Cadiz in tow) for the owner Christine to open, but as she greeted us, she very quickly then slammed the door in our faces! She soon after reopened the door to our amazement and said that she was terribly sorry but she had a huge aversion to hamsters! So off went Cadiz to Mum and Robert’s for the night. The room we had was simply stunning. With French lace bedding and a beautiful armoire Davie couldnt have chosen a lovelier place to wake up to on my birthday. Between us and the kids room ( yes, the kids were separate!) there was a huge bathrom with a stand alone BATH and a huge shower. No other adjective but luxurious will befit. Out for dinner tonight with the kids, Mum and Robert and I had LAMB! ( another luxury!)
The big 4-0! I awoke this morning to Dave and the kids crowded around, full of excitement and BRIMMING with presents. I even got a pressie from Molly, Oscar and Cadiz! Went down for breakfast, in Christine’s kitchen, where we had the most delicious breakfast, including breads, croissants, cheeses, hams, fruit and a home-made salmon and leek tarte. Christine sat with us duirng breakfast and we had a delightful chat in French. We met Mum and Robert for coffee and more pressies ( thanks Mum!) and then decided to go for a geo-cache hunt with the kids. It was boiling hot, but we found ourselves right in the thick of the country-side, where I could have envisaged Jean de Florette to be.
The country-side was dry and crisp and a little yellowed but there were beautiful colourful carnations and roses everywhere. Unfortuately, after some searching, we admitted defeat and by this stage I was very ready for a glass of champagne. We had lunch in the square and then I took Mum back to see our B+B, where we bumped into Peter and Lesley; Dave’s Uncle and Aunty from Hertfordshire, who we were expecting. Of course, this then found ourselves sitting at the outdoor café with a pichet or two, before I went off to the hairdresser for a French ‘do’. Christine had kindly offered to mind the kids for the night ( first babysitting in 5 months!) and so we got ourselves ready ( I even had a new dress!) before meeting the others again at the bar and then moving on to the restaurant.
The restaurant was called Numéro 9, where we were treated to a delicious 4 course meal, with my favourite dish being the foie gras filled brioche. The night ended with a cake that Davie had pre-arranged and the restaurant singing Happy Birthday – did I feel special! Then a quick unexpected dance with the patronne and Mum (!) before heading off to a bar for a glass or two of Get ( mint liqueur). So my day involved moving from breakfast, to coffee, to lunch, to the pub, to the hairdresser, to dinner and then to the bar ( with a quick geo-cache in between). A perfect day!
Friday marked Mum and Robert’s last day with us. We spent the day exploring the local market, which included everything you could imagine, including fresh produce, roast chickens, fresh seafood, cheese, charcuterie, clothing, fabrics and amazing hats!
We stocked up on a yummy selection of things for dinner, which we had al fresco in Frosty. Accompanied by a bottle or two of chilled rosé of course! (nothing is impossible in Frosty!) t was boiling hot and a three day concert had begun today, meaning that there was music playing everywhere and finished off with a concert in the chateau de Lourmarin, directly opposite from Frosty. We ended up being joined by a German couple and their dog, Flopsy. A delightful evening.
After saying goodbye to Mum and Robert on Saturday, we spent a few extra days with Peter and Lesley. This involved an antique brocante in the local square, a day out exploring the Gorge de Verdun and a pedalo ride for Dave and the kids, more al fresco concerts and a lovely dinner out thanks to Peter and Lesley.
We certainly had a very nice time catching up with family and we so appreciated them coming all this way to help celebrate my big occasion.
As for spending it in Provence, well I couldn’t have been luckier.