trip report: provence
For Parma, click here.
The last leg of our European adventure brought us to France, specifically the Baux Valley in Provence. Our good friends Nick and Alex were getting married at the gorgeous Chateau d'Estoublon and Avvie was their flower girl. Squee.
We initially thought about driving from Italy, but renting cars between countries can get complicated and very expensive, so we decided to fly instead. Luckily Bologna has a direct flight to Paris and you can catch the TGV (fast train) straight from the airport down to Avignon. From there, it was less than hour to the region. We stayed at Baumaniere, one of the properties Nick and Alex recommended (and which is pictured above). It being a Relais & Chateaux, I knew that I'd probably love it, but their website seriously does not do this place justice. When you think of the South of France, this is probably what you're picturing in your head: beautiful farmhouse buildings scattered amongst manicured gardens, gorgeous pools, and the scent of lavender wafting in the air. And if that's not enough, there are swans, miniature goats, kitties, and a two-Michelin star restaurant.
Our room was in the above building; that's our private terrace on the left. It had its own sitting room as well, which we basically turned into Avvie's room. After four nights of pretty cramped quarters in Bologna, I was ecstatic to not have to whisper after 8PM.
For our first night, since we'd just had a full day of travel, I made us a reservation at the less-formal restaurant on property, La Cabro d'Or. We walked Avvie around the gardens in her stroller right around her bedtime so that she was fast asleep by the time we sat down to eat. We opted for the tasting menu, because ... France, and it was superb: fresh produce from the area, inventive dishes and not too heavy.
Above is my tuna tartare, which was prepared with Parmesan inside and foie gras mousse on top. It was unlike any tuna dish I've ever had, but the flavors worked so well together because of the umami component. [I'll get down off of my foodie soapbox now.]
The next morning, we took advantage of the incredible breakfast spread at the hotel (fig yogurt! fresh croissants!) and then drove about five minutes to Carrières de Lumières, a series of old stone quarries that now project famous art onto the walls accompanied by music. It's a wonderful spot to cool off and it's also pretty kid-friendly. It definitely gets crowded though, so I'd advise getting there early.
For lunch we took my friend Stephanie's recommendation and drove to Bistrot du Paradou, a highly recommended French restaurant where they only serve one set, four-course menu per day. On Fridays, it's aioli, which, to this American is more of a sauce than a whole entree, but I underestimated how seriously the French love their garlicky mayo.
Observe the aioli. Respect the aioli.
OK, but yes, in case you were wondering, I didn't just eat a bowl of the stuff (although I could have). They brought us fish, potatoes, and most important, tons of escargot. Perfect vehicles for mopping up this creamy spread. The main course was followed by the cheese plate to end all cheese plates:
They bring you ALL the cheese and then you eat what you want and they take it away. Dessert was a choice of a bunch of different mousses and puddings, which, if you know me, is by far my favorite category of sweets. We opted for one chocolate and one chestnut, both of which were perfect.
After another perfect meal at Cabro d'Or that night for the rehearsal dinner, the next day was wedding day! It was Hollywood-perfect and Avvie made it like halfway down the aisle before deciding she didn't want to walk anymore, so I'll call that a win.
Obviously if work weren't a thing, we'd be moving here immediately. There's a reason why everyone, both locals and travelers alike, love this region of France. And don't we look just perfect outside this chateau?