“When the Good Lord begins to doubt the world, he remembers that he created Provence.” -Frédéric Mistral
Provence is often described as having the magical ability to slow down time and amplify the senses. Everything tastes richer, smells sweeter, sounds more pure in the sun-swathed hills that have inspired artists and writers for centuries–from Cézanne and Van Gogh to Marcel Pagnol and Frédéric Mistral. Provence isn’t so much remembered in film slides in our mind as it is in the ambrosial sweetness of a just-picked bing cherry or the heady incense of wild thyme crushed underfoot. To recall a visit there is to hear the crunch of gravel pathways, to feel the salve-like warmth of the sun on your skin, to taste the very best wines served welcomingly in glass carafes upon the table. Provence is magic, and its effects are lasting.
Our home for these golden hours was Bon Vallon, a charming renovated farmhouse on 17 acres of picture-perfect land within a few minute’s drive of La Garde-Freinet. (See the farmhouse here!) We swam, we sunbathed, we gorged ourselves on perfectly-ripe cherries, we hiked the rosemary-scented hills, we wandered the ancient curves of Tourtour and La Garde-Freinet. We ate slowly and strolled freely. It was heaven.
There’s something incredibly beautiful about the way things age in Provence. The buildings only seem to gather more character over the centuries, lifting their plaster at the heels to show, coyly, the bricks beneath. Even the inundation of the modern world seems to surrender at the first flush of lavender, the first sun-bleached linen curtain. We stepped into a charcuterie built into a centuries-old brick tunnel, visited Le Chateau Sainte Roseline and its fresco-splashed chapel, and drank bottle after bottle of exquisite Côte de Provence Rosé.
Our visit to Provence included a short stay in St. Tropez as well, which afforded us a relaxing lunch and day on the beach at Club 55 and another lunch at Eléphants. Whatever tension wasn’t addressed by the hills was certainly mended by the salt spray and delectable meals in St. Tropez. Before we knew it, it was time to board the train and trade the tranquility of Provence for the excitement and thrill of the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco. (You can read about our trip to Monaco in another post, coming soon!)
If, by your good fortune, you find yourself in Provence, remember to embrace the unhurried pace. Let it soak in. And for goodness sake, be sure to drink some of that fabulous rosé.
“And, as for the oil, it is a masterpiece. You’ll see.”
Before dinner that night, we tested it, dripping it onto slices of bread that had been rubbed with the flesh of tomatoes. It was like eating sunshine. – Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence
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