France Women’s Adventure 2017: Provence & Paris – May 5 – May 23, 2017


Imagine yourself strolling through streets in villages in the Luberon Valley of Provence.   Goult, Gordes, Lourmarin. Imagine sipping a lovely wine from the region, crumbs of a fresh croissant on the tip of your tongue. Imagine the smell of lavender, herbs de Provence, the baked goods waiting in the shop on the corner. Antiques at the market in Isle de sur La Sorgue. Visits to castles, abbeys, picturesque towns in the Provencal hills. Cafes and shops abound.

Roussillon DSCN1658

The red cliffs of Roussillon

We will begin with a week at a beautiful Provencal villa in Roussillon, with swimming pool, and garden benches, patios overlooking the Provençal hills. Day trips to Isle-sur-le-Sorgue, Aix-en-Provence, St. Remy, area wineries, Gordes and Goult. Springtime in Provence brings wildflowers, and the cherries are in season. Day-markets are in every town. Longer daylight allows for an evening’s relaxation outdoors with a glass of wine. Delicious meals are prepared with ingredients fresh from the village markets, enjoyed at area restaurants or by a personal chef at our own villa.

On to Gigondas and ParisThen three nights at Les Florets, a favorite and beautiful little inn just outside the town of Gigondas, north one hour from our villa. As we depart from the villa, we will stop in Sault, the lavender capital of Provence, and though it will be early for the lavender, it is in the air, everywhere.   A drive over Mount Ventoux affords us a spectacular view all around the valley from above.

Les Florets’ owner, Thierry, will serve us wine his family makes on the property, cheeses to die for, and dinners that will leave your palate watering for a week. Though we can certainly explore the village, this three-day respite from day-trips allows us to sit, read, write, become even cozier with our cameras, and relax into our next week in Europe’s great jewel, Paris!

At the end of our time in Provence, we will board the TGV, the “fast train” to Paris, one of the most stunning cities in Europe. With museum passes and Metro passes, you are free to wander wherever you want, whenever you want, visiting some of the most famous paintings in the world, or finding the tiniest galleries in back streets. Paper stores, button stores, bookstores, artwork sold on the Pont Neuf . . .  Just sitting outside the Louvre transports you to a different world. We will choose some sites to see together, including two walking tours of specific areas of Paris, the Montmartre and the Marais Districts. A trip to Monet’s house and gardens in Giverny is spectacular with all the flowers in bloom.


We will stay in a beautiful boutique hotel in the Rue Cler district, the 7th Arrondissement. The owner, Catherine, and her daughter, Charline, always welcome our group! From there, your feet or the metro or a cab will take you anywhere you want to go. Our hotel is just a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower. Sometimes lit in red, sometimes blue, the tower is an especially spectacular vision at night, walking through the park from our hotel!

Our trip will include AIRFARE FROM DENVER, 17 nights’ lodging**, train from Paris to Avignon and back, rental cars, gas and tolls, transfers to and from our Paris hotel, a 6-day museum pass, a 6-day metro pass, nine exceptional dinners, eight breakfasts, Paris Street-wise map, two Paris Walks walking tours, travel journals, and ME, your planner, guide, and all-around fire-extinguisher!

Cost for above, (including airfare from Denver) is $6450.00** A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your space. An early bird OR referral discount of $250 is yours for paying your deposit before August 31, 2016 OR for bringing a friend not on my list.

For questions, please contact Joannah L. Merriman, Lifeprints, 970-481-6339. E-mail me at and check out my travel blog, for samples of previous trip adventures!

**Double occupancy. Single occupancy available for additional cost.

Travel insurance is a must, I’ve found, but I will offer a policy for the full cost of your trip as well as for lost luggage, trip delays, medical coverage etc. Details about that upon registration. Bon Jour!



Market Week in Provence: Part 1

May 7, 2012. When I created the schedule of activities for most of our week in Provence, I didn’t deliberately choose to visit my favorite towns — Cassis, Gordes, Roussilon, St. Remy, Aix-en-Provence — each on the day of the local market, but four days out of five, that’s what happened.  I must admit that Sunday’s outing (see the previous post) was a deliberate market choice, and our timing was better than in the past.  Earlier in the day, the colorful booths explode out of the pathways around the Sorgue river, full of everything from tableclothes to shawls to baskets to cheeses, olives, roasted chickens, antique threads and tapestries, furniture, and schlock souvenirs (though thankfully there isn’t much of that).

Monday’s journey was to the Cote d’Azur, the French Riviera, specifically the beautiful little town of Cassis.  The U-shaped harbor is lined with cafes and what else . . . shops.  And at the water’s U-shaped edges are rows and rows of sailboats and motorized touring boats, which carry their passengers in and out of the Riviera’s calanques, fjords, the watery fingers of this part of the coast.

Since I have a strong tendency toward motion sickness, and have braved the waters the first time I traveled to this part of the area, I choose to send my traveling ducklings down these beautiful passageways without me.  The turquoise sparkling surface of the water reflected a magnificent sky today, and in my mind, the weather was perfect.

While my travelers cruised the calanques, I scouted out a restaurant where I could sit down and have my favorite boat-waiting meal . . . steak tartare!  Glass of red wine, basket of delicious French bread (there is NO bread like French bread from France, no matter HOW much I love Italy!), and a plate of fresh raw beef, parmesan cheese shavings, arugula in the center.  An on-shore meal to die for . . .

When the cruise boat returned to the dock, everyone was hungry, so of course we scouted restaurants and menus again until we found a place that offered something for everyone in our group.  I was happy with a glass of ice water and lemon, but the women had their fill of delicious soups, salads, and sandwiches after their time on the water.

Getting out of Cassis is always a challenge, and even with a GPS, the first few turns are very tricky  Who knows where we might end up?

After returning the women to our villa to enjoy the late afternoon sun (and a glass of wine, of course!), Anne and I went to the neighboring town, Coustellet, to find a Super U grocery store, to stock our barren refrigerator and cupboards.  Cheese, fruit, bread, coffee, salad greens, roasted chicken, fig jam, a bottle of Port, among our goodies, and accompanied by the wine we purchased at the Caveau de Luberon, a wine-tasting bar and wine store, we were set for at least half the week.

Back at our villa, we arranged our food purchases from the Sunday market and those from today’s grocery outing onto platters and carried everything out to the table in our courtyard, set to relax until bedtime.

More of Our Villa Week in Provence

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Ah, the best laid plans . . . I know, I’m behind on my Provence details, because we’ve been having such a lovely time, though the weather hasn’t been as warm as we had hoped. Yes, we’ve been eating, drinking, talking, reading, walking, laughing, etc. Wonderful villages, beautiful countryside, not any real progress learning any French. We try, but it’s a hilarious effort!

I left you in St. Remy on Monday, walking around with the Van Gogh “stations of the cross”. Tuesday, we drove to Aix-en-Provence to the market, met our Chef Daniel and walked around the mouth-watering stalls of food, while he carefully chose the ingredients for our dinner that night. Small shiny aubergine, my favorite color. (Eggplant, that is). And zucchini. Girolles and sep (mushrooms to die for), some sea bass, goat cheeses, pears, and honey. Then he went off to the villa to begin preparation for our evening meal while we found a lovely restaurant for lunch (I’ll get the card from my stash and enter the name here soon) and agreed to do a bit more market looking/shopping before we met at the cars at 3:30 to return to the villa.

Later that afternoon, Daniel set out cutting boards and sharp knives for each of us and we chopped and sliced, stirred and tasted, according to his direction, finally sitting down to our evening meal, accompanied by sparkling wine, white, rose, and red.

Of course we again went to our bedrooms stuffed to the gills, I with a cup of tea in my hand.

Wednesday, October 13. The winery St. Esteve de Neri, owned and operated by our villa hosts, Allan and Alexandra (Alex) Wilson, was our destination today. This morning we didn’t have to leave very early, and we took the opportunity to lounge around the kitchen table in our pajamas before heading to St. Esteve. The winery is located outside Ansouis, so we drove through a charming two-level village called Bonnieux, then Lourmarin, and finally approached Ansouis and turned into the vineyard property.

Allan was awaiting our arrival and we got a short tour of the lower levels, where the enormous stainless steel vats hold the wine before it is bottled. We then had a bit of a lesson in tasting, with one white wine, one rose, and three reds. Just as we finished our tasting, Helen, Alex’s sister and our chef from last Saturday evening, rang the tasting room to say that our lunch was waiting for us on the patio of the Wilsons’ home.

Walking from tasting room to home patio, we passed the vineyard again, complete with turning leaves, garden cats, and that smell of the countryside nothing else can duplicate. Our table was set with delicious fresh tomatoes from the garden, olives, fish cakes, roasted chicken and fingerling potatoes, and the richest chocolate mousse I’ve ever tasted. Since I’m not a chocolate fan (I know, I know . . . ) I bestowed my portion of dessert on a chocoholic fellow traveler!

Later in the afternoon we stopped in Rousillon for a short visit, and marveled at the red and ochre cliffs surrounding this picturesque village. We decided we’ll have to return tomorrow.

Dinner on this night was light, since our lunch stuck to our ribs nearly until bedtime. Sle
ep and a new day of adventures tomorrow, this time to the seacoast!

Thursday, October 14, all but one of our group headed south again, this time in brilliant sunlight, toward Cassis, a small town on the French Riviera. The coastline is gifted with calanques, the fjords of this area. You can take a boat ride to visit the calanques or just sit on the boardwalk at a restaurant and watch the water. I chose to do the latter because I’ve seen the calanques from the water, and I’m a bit motion sick to say the least. So while the women embarked on a five-calanque ride, I sat at an outside table with a delicious plate of boef tartare, its presentation deserving of a photo or painting, but alas, I dug into it before I remembered that I had a camera.

I took out my Kindle, sipped my red wine, and savored the most delicious tartare I’ve ever eaten. It came as a ground up raw patty of beef, with a trio of minced onions, capers and parsley surrounding it. A raw egg topped the beef and I mixed all the ingredients into a most tempting mess on the plate. Then lovingly slathered bits of the tartare on fresh crusty bread and closed my eyes, savoring every bit of my light lunch. The waiter asked about dessert and I began to shake my head, but then asked what he had to offer. In the list of possibilities, the words “flan caramel” caught my attention and I ordered a slice. Exquisite!!! With a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream, drizzled with the same caramel sauce that bathed the flan.

When my traveling companions returned on their boat, THEY were hungry, though I was now completely stuffed, and happy. So I sat with all of them while they had their share of real French Fries, crepes, and salads. Another hour of exploring shops through the harbor walk, a cafe au lait with Kay, and we were back in our cars, negotiating the roads from Cassis through Aix to our sleepy town of Goult and down the long dirt road toward our villa.

No one was famished that evening, but I made a huge pot of chicken vegetable soup, with herbs de Provence right from the source! Salad and some of that incredible crusty bread and we were full, warm and happy.

More later.

Bon nuit!