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Bonnes Vacances

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Are you planning a vacation?  The best vacations are to beautiful places where you can learn, exercise, eat well and recharge your energy. The last thing you need is a tiring vacation! Last month my husband and I spent two weeks in France. We traveled through Provence for most of the trip, going from Avignon all the way down to Nice.

Lavender in Bloom

Provence is a paradise for walking, biking, hiking, and kayaking, all active ways to experience a region, local culture and meet local folk. The countryside is just so gorgeous! The heavenly scented lavender fields and bright poppies are in full bloom.

Baux-de-Provence has spectacular cliffs that offer majestic hiking. On this trip we didn’t bike or kayak but confined ourselves to hiking. Because we hiked over both rocky terrain and smooth country paths we got a good workout everyday.

As you probably know, Provence provides the majority of fruits, vegetables, and herbs for France. And if you have ever wondered why French food is so good, the reason lies in Provence. With rich soil and mild climate the abundance of produce from the region is stunning. At the town markets, the beautiful displays of freshly picked fruits and vegetables offer an irresistible bounty – we made a point of shopping for our picnics here.

Local cheeses, from goat’s or sheep’s milk, are unusual and delicious! Olive groves are prevalent and the oils produced are often combined with herbs. Food in the region is lighter than other parts of France and centers on the fresh produce. Olive oil is often substituted for butter.

We dined in a variety of restaurants; all (with one sad exception) served fresh, delicious and exciting food. At the high end of the food spectrum was the elegant Hotel Ousteu de Baumaniere in Baux-de-Provence.Here, the evening meal begins with champagne, served in the exquisite garden filled with the scents of roses, lavender and honeysuckle. Once seated in the dining room you are served haute cuisine with four or five courses. Although this may sound like a lot of food, the portion sizes are small and showcase locally grown fresh vegetables. Desserts are not overly sweet. Even more simply prepared meals were delightful - in Arles, I just could not resist photographing my lunch of quiche and salad. 

At the end of our trip we spent several days in Paris, where we walked everywhere. In fact, one of the many reasons I like Paris so much, is it is just as much a walking city as New York. In early summer, with its plantings in bloom and mild weather, Paris beckons you to skip le taxi, put on comfy shoes, and embrace her!  Or you could rent one of the ubiquitous Velib bicycles – Paris has the largest network of public bicycle rental in the world. Top off your French vacation with a climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower!

In Paris, our food choices were guided, in part, by Christine Muhlke’s travel article of new, inexpensive but creative restaurants – we loved the two that we tried: Yam’tcha and L’Agrume. (I’ve included the link for you.) Visit these restaurants, eat their well-prepared food (but not too much), then enjoy an evening stroll on the magical streets of Paris.

We all love to take vacations; our goal should be to return home healthier and invigorated! Pour votre santé! Bon appetit!

Link: Where Paris Chefs, Not Prices, Rise by Christine Muhlke - New York Times (April 18, 2010)

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