France Women’s Adventure 2015: Provence and Paris, April 28-May 16, 2015

SPRINGTIME IN FRANCE: PROVENCE AND PARISImagine 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.

We will begin with three nights at Les Florets, a favorite and beautiful little inn just outside the town of Gigondas, north one hour from our villa. 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 SPRINGTIME IN FRANCE: PROVENCE AND PARISweek. As we depart from Gigondas, headed for our 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.

Then a week at a beautiful Provencal villa awaits you, with swimming pool, and garden benches in the courtyard. Day trips to Aix-en-Provence, St. Remy, area wineries, the red hills of Roussillon. Springtime in Provence brings wildflowers, and the cherries are in season. 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.

At the end of our time in Provence, we will board the TGV, the “fast train” to Paris, and spend the next week immersed in the beauty, excitement, tranquility (and food!) of 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 sTO PARIS AND PROVENCE!treets. 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 small hotel in the Rue Cler district, the 7th Arrondissement. 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, all lodging (double occupancy), train from Paris to Avignon and back, rental cars, gas and tolls, transfers to and from our Paris hotel, 5-day museum pass and metro pass, nine dinners, eight breakfasts, Paris Street-wise map, two Paris Walks walking tour, a day-trip to Giverny, travel journals, and ME, your planner, guide, and all-around fire-extinguisher!

Cost for aboLago d'Orta - Our Final Three Daysve, (including airfare from Denver) is $6200.00** A $500 non-refundable deposit holds your space. A referral discount of $250 is yours for paying your deposit by December 31 OR for bringing a friend not on my list . . .

For questions, please contact Joannah L. Merriman, Lifeprints, 970-481-6339. E-mail me at jetlost@lamar.colostate.edu and check out my travel blog, www.woodswomanabroad.com for samples of previous trip adventures!

Bon jour!                                                                                                                                                                 **Double occupancy. Single occupancy available for additional cost. If you are located somewhere other than Denver, I arrange a deep discount for you getting your own airfare to coordinate with the rest of the group.  Travel insurance is a must, I’ve found, but I will offer good policies for the full value of your trip as well as for lost luggage, trip delays, medical coverage etc. Details about that upon registration.

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Our Group Is Nearly Complete . . .

May 22, 2014

It’s the middle of the night, and I have been checking out the menu for each of my favorite Tuscan restaurants, in preparation for our Italy Women 2014 adventure!  We have had a health-related cancellation, and that woman is one sad puppy . . . will YOU be the person to fill this recently re-opened final space in our fabulous Tuscany and Cinque Terre Italy Women trip??  . . . September 4-23, 2014.

Check out the November post on this website, the one that has ALL of the details!  Drool, and then let me know if you are interested in being that last lucky person.  We’ve got a great group already!

Week One – Busselton, Western Australia – October 26 – November 2, 2012

Wine tasting . . . that is what brings us to this little town, not a bustling one, despite its name.  But Busselton, nearly four hours south of Perth, “in the West”, as they say, is the gateway to the wineries of the Margaret River Valley.  It’s also a perfect spot from which to launch oneself onto the rocky coastline of the southwestern part of this continent.

Busselton Grand Mercure Resort

One of the best parts for us is that we managed to snag a three-bedroom time share condo right on the Busselton beach . . . the only cost was the $150 Interval International exchange fee.  Now THAT speaks to some strange convergence of planets, grapes, sand, and our best intentions for our Eclipse 2012 trip.  More on that plan later.

Morning Beach Walks

So launch ourselves we did, indeed.  Each morning we walked on the beach. Nearly each day we lined up three wineries to visit, interspersing our tasting with a picnic at the nearest set of coastal rocks, or a burger in Margaret River itself, or a paired food and wine tasting at one of the fancier wineries (Leeuwin Vineyards for that one).

Leeuwin Tastings

Traveling with Ashley and Justin was a real lesson in meal efficiency, and we enjoyed most of our dinners at our condo, grilling steaks one night, stuffing ourselves with Justin’s tacos another, pasta on two different evenings, and always, always . . . some of the wine we had purchased after our daily tastings.

Wine tasting in Nannup at a food festival . . .

Not that we were only enologically focused . . . we did visit one brewery, where I, the non-beer drinker, began my soon-to-be-habit of ordering hard cider (YUM!).  We also set out one day to see only galleries . . . no wineries.  However, when we got to the Happ’s Pottery Gallery, we discovered that a tiny tasting room was tucked away across the entry from the artwork, and there we had some of the tastiest varieties of the week!

Happy campers are we . . . always a great beach with crashing waves against the surrounding rocks, always a beautiful sunset dipping below the blue waters, always a great glass of wine awaiting us, and always a decent bed to crash into when the day is done.

Sunset at Busselton Beach

So goes Week One in Australia 2012 . . .

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!