Where's Tim been tripping?                                        Provence, France




If you’re planning your next vacation but feel handcuffed because the strong euro is preventing you from going to Europe, repeat the following phrase while clicking your heels: “There’s no place like Provence. There’s no place like Provence. There’s no place like Provence.”

Unless you own one heck of a pair of Pradas, you’re probably still at your desk. However, there is hope. With the help of JohnnyJet and the Provence Board of Tourism, you can have your fairytale vacation without spending a fortune.

Located in the south of France, Provence is divided into six regions that cover much of the south of France. Many people think that to finance a trip to Provence you must take out a second mortgage. Not true! Here’s how you can do it.

The Provence Board of Tourism is creating exceptional, easy-to-use websites that allow users to create an entire trip via the Internet. In collaboration with Logis de France you can book your hotels and dining reservations, at the same time seeing the many historical sites Provence offers.

The Logis de France chain was created in 1949 and now represents 3,138 hotels with roughly 60,000 bedrooms in France (18% of the French hotel business). In the region of Provence the Logis has 296 hotels with over 5,500 rooms. It was established in 2006 as the leader in Europe’s independent hotel business.

The chain was created with the aim of making the rural independent hotel business more dynamic. The Logis de France brand introduced a concept unique in Europe. It is a hotel business, in a rural setting, that gathers together independently owned hotels and represents them under the same quality label (Logis de France). The chain consists of family-run hotels, often with restaurants, where each guest is sure to receive a warm individual welcome. The average price is 57 to 80 euros per room, and 18 to 33 euros per meal.

What’s best about the Logis de France chain is that all your days and nights will be enjoyed at a very fair cost. With so many hotels and restaurants, it’s now easier than ever to plan your entire trip from beginning to end, without wasting time once you’re there.

I had the good fortune of visiting Provence on a press trip, so our days were mapped out for us. However, I was impressed that we visited so many different regions for such a low price. Think of it this way. If you decide to take a trip inside the United States, chances are you’ll have a great time (depending, of course, on your traveling companions). But for the same amount you might spend on a vacation in the States you could explore a new country and all its offerings, including history and culture. And while America does possess some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, I think you will find Provence to be a wonderful, eye-opening experience. You can drive though vast fields of lavender, then stand in the same studio where Cezanne painted many of his great works. Afterward you can visit a charming restaurant with breathtaking views, while sipping wine during a fantastic lunch. The only additional cost is airfare. When you look at the “big picture,” that’s a small price to pay.

I arrived in Provence late on a Wednesday afternoon. I went straight to the Hotel Auberge de Carcarille in Gordes to check in. The family-owned hotel was all I hoped it would be: quiet, clean and friendly with a fantastic restaurant, all on a farm surrounded by vineyards. After a great dinner consisting of goat liver, rack of lamb and tiramisu with Fabienne Marcin and Stephanie Maisonnave from the Vaucluse Logis de France, our amazing guide Jamie Hardman from the Provence-Alps-Cotes d’Azure Regional Tourist Board, and the other writers on the trip, I was ready for bed after a long day of traveling.

Early the next morning, the farm’s roosters provided an un-requested wakeup call. But my comfortable bed had provided a good sleep, so I felt rested as I headed out to investigate these early risers. Camera in hand, I marched through the morning fog and came across two dozen chickens near the back of the hotel grounds. It was almost surreal. There I was in the middle of Provence, overlooking miles of beautifully manicured farms at 6 a.m. I even managed to humor the owner who, on his way to work, overheard me commenting on the views to the only living creatures there to listen: the chickens.

From there it was off for breakfast, which in France is a bit different than the States. For example, few eggs are used. With all the chickens running around, you might think omelets are an option. They’re not. Instead, I was fortunate to have fromage blanc. That’s right: white cheese. It’s a bit like yogurt, and is served with jam and a good piece of fresh French bread. If you have a sweet tooth, you’re in luck. Chocolate is often provided too, to spread on a croissant or roll. The morning at The Hotel Auberge de Carcarille was a favorite time for me. In fact, the high-test coffee got me so hopped up, I looked forward to my un-requested wakeup calls.

Because we arrived late the night before, we were not able to spend much time at our first stop in Lourmarin. We literally pulled in to the village, I hopped out to take a few photos, then we headed again to our next destination: Roussillon. I realized almost upon arrival why this is regarded as one of France’s most beautiful villages. The ochre pigment extracted from the stone that Roussillon sits perched atop illuminates this hilltop community. Our first stop was the Conservatory of Ochre and Applied Pigments. It was amazing to see how the early process of extracting colors worked. The colors of ochre are radiant, and to be there in Roussillon seeing them first hand was great.

From there we headed to Ochre Park, where we walked though the valleys and among the ochre cliffs. Because ochre is such a fine pigment consisting of many colors the park is easy on the eyes, but rough on the shoes. Try to imagine walking on rocks covered in red baking powder. Be sure to wear a pair you won’t mind losing.

After the park came my favorite part of the day: lunch. We ate at a great place: Restaurant David. With views overlooking Provence we drank a bottle of wine and enjoyed foie gras, lobster rolls and lamb. Can anyone ask for anything more?

After lunch we made several quick stops en route back to the Hotel Auberge de Carcerille. Our first was a visit with Mme. Benoit, the owner of Carreaux Vernin. If you ever need one-of-a-kind tiles for your home, I highly recommend her work. It was so educational to see what it takes to operate a tile and terra cotta factory. Moving from the simplest form of clay to a finished product truly takes a lot of work. And the people behind the scenes go at it all day, to make things perfect.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but at the Confierie Saint Denis it’s hard not to enjoy a little sugar. The process of preserving fruits may seem complex. However, our guide managed to fill in many blanks. The guy knew everything imaginable about preserved fruits. I’ve never heard anything like it. He really took pride in what he did. I may never need to answer a question regarding preserved fruits, but if I do I will know who to call.

While on the topic of being well informed, let’s move ahead to our next stop: the Musee de la Lavande (“Lavender Museum”). After our experience with the preserved fruit guide, I was dumbfounded to realize that our next guide knew more about lavender than I thought humanly possible. I had flashbacks, as though I was watching Forrest Gump. He told us about lavender soap, lavender oil, lavender tea, lavender incense -- it was astonishing! When I left I couldn’t decide which I craved more: cocktail sauce or a shower. Until visiting the Musee de la Lavende I wasn’t really sure what lavender was. I certainly do now, and it makes sense why every woman I know insisted I returned bearing gifts made from lavender.

After another great fish dinner and some after dinner cheeses we called it a night. The next day we checked out of the Hotel Auberge de Carcarille, and were off to Saint-Remy de Provence. I was really looking forward to this stop, for two reasons: First, it was home to one of the world’s most celebrated artists. We’ll get to the second reason later.

Vincent Van Gogh was institutionalized at the cloister of St. Paul de Mausole. It was there that he painted some of the world’s most sought-after pieces, which fetch millions of dollars at auction. It’s mind-numbing to think that with the exception of two paintings he sold to his brother, the guy died penniless.

The cloister was our first stop, so after picking up our guide, Heidi Becker, we made our way. It was chilling to stand in the same church where the great Van Gogh stood, and look out of the windows from where he worked. Our guide painted great word pictures. She placed us in a corner, and told us to gaze in a certain direction out a window. We then held copies of one of his paintings in front of us, to see exactly what he saw. It was remarkable. The same walls, sheds, lavender fields and mountains are all still in the same spots.

After the cloister we headed to the Roman site of Glanum. Though it was only a short distance from where Van Gogh resided, I don’t think he ever saw it. That’s too bad, because it really is worth seeing. I am not sure when it was constructed, but Julius Caesar seized Marseille for supporting his rival, and around that time (49 B.C.) the Romans rebuilt Glanum. To have a tour guide explain all this while walking through the fallen city is remarkable. From the forum the Romans used as a commercial center, to the temples dedicated to Emperor Augustus’s adopted sons, the Roman ruins at Glanum are full of incredible history.

After the Roman ruins and the cloister we headed into Saint Remy to walk along the streets before lunch. This brings me to the second reason I was looking forward to going to Sainte Remy. We came across a remarkable chocolatier that had perhaps the best chocolate I’ve ever tasted: Joel Durand Chocolatier. If you forget to bring the name with you to Saint Remy, there is one way to know you’re in the right place: Try the chocolate. After some chocolate and a couple of smokes we headed over to Auberge De La Reine Jeanne for lunch with M. Jean-Louis Bayol, president of the Logis de France Provence-Alpes-Cotes d’Azure et Bouches-du-Rhone. It was entertaining to listen to the French enjoy one another during lunch at this charming little outdoor restaurant. And the food was great too. The lamb course was so delicious that I was eager to help one of the other writers (a vegetarian). With just a touch of truffle, the flavor of the lamb melted in your mouth.

After lunch we left for les Baux-de-Provence. This is the most dramatic fortress site in Provence, so it is suggested if you choose to arrive in the summer try going in the early morning. Walking along the stone streets of les Baux is remarkable. Built totally out of stone, this 10th-century village still stands strong. There are many great shops on both the main paths as well as the side streets, so don’t be afraid to venture off. The stores are full of handcrafted items and souvenirs. There is also an amazing church that gave me the chills when I imagined it full of the people of les Baux during medieval times. After exploring the streets, head to the top of les Baux and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views in all of France. Of the many must-see places in Provence, this is at the head of any list. And don’t miss an awesome limestone quarry just down the street.

The Cathederal d’Images in les Baux de Provence is an exhibit like no other. In the quarries where the Romans extracted stones to build empires there remains a cavern, where images of Cezanne are now projected on the walls and floors. It is astounding to see these images on the same walls where Romans once extracted limestone. A 30-minute show exhibits a new artist each year. We had the good fortune to view the Colors of Cezanne. Following our day at les Baux de Provence and the Cathederal d'Images, we headed for the Castelas olive oil mill. At the base of the mountain that houses les Baux rests this little mill that produces some of the world’s best olives and olive oil. We popped in for a brief tour, which was great -- but wait until you try the olive oil! (If you ask around, you can find it for sale in the States). With a big day ahead of us we called it quits, and headed to the Hotel Le Vallon De Gayet in Mouries.

After checking in we went straight to the restaurant for dinner. If you like truffles, you’re in luck at Le Vallon De Gayet. They use truffles in many courses -- and they’re extracted from a grove right on the hotel grounds. I had the good fortune to meet the dogs that sniff them out. As at the Auberge de Carcerille, the rooms are terrific here too. But what I found truly exceptional was the wine cellar/after-hours drinking lounge built into the side of a mountain. This serves as a little getaway for family and friends.

The next day, after some fromage blanc and more high-test coffee, we were off to Aix-en-Provence. This city is home to many famous artists, but one in particular I was eager to learn more about. Not only did I become more educated about the life and work of Cezanne, but I also had the opportunity to learn way more than I ever hoped for. I was aware that his family was from Aix-en–Provence, but not until I stood in the actual studio where he painted many of his works was I really overwhelmed. I was there, surrounded by all the original items he painted in absolute awe. As with Van Gogh, I stood in Cezanne’s studio with our guide Caroline Bernard, holding one of his images and looking at it while resting on the actual table he used. It was remarkable. Between being in his studio, at the home where he was raised and in the cabin he rented at the quarries of Beaurecueil where he painted his favorite subject matter, the mountain Saint Victoire, I found myself scratching my head in wonderment.

In Aix-en-Provence I also recommend walking though the colorful markets of Aixois. Located in the center of Aix, they bring a whole new meaning to the phrase “Farmers Market.” It’s not that the produce is fresher than elsewhere, but rather the environment that makes it so special. The light reflecting off buildings, the children picking fresh flowers and the charm of the farmers fill the air with tranquility.

After spending some time shopping, take a walk along the “in the footsteps of Cezanne” path. This brought us right to the Musee Granet, where we had the good fortune to see some behind-the-scenes action leading up to the Cezanne exhibit arriving shortly after our departure from Provence. The curator painted replicas of the Cezanne images, and placed them throughout the museum. They acted as a blueprint for where the images would later be mounted. It was interesting to see what goes into making a show.

From there it was off to lunch at the Brasserie Les Deux Garcons, where we had delicious sea bass. The restaurant could have been a great opportunity for timeless photos. However, management was not keen on me photographing the patrons. (That’s understandable -- I often have a hard time when paparazzi follow me while trying to find a place for lunch!) Cheers to Les Deux Garcons, a fun spot for lunch and people-watching.

Le Relais Sainte Victoire in Beaurecueil was the last hotel. What did I enjoy most about this hotel? Chef/ owner Rene Berges is a Maitre Cuisinier de France award-winning chef who cooks like nobody else. He’s willing to go the extra mile to make your stay memorable. For example, he drove from Paris (where he was attending a conference) to join us for dinner and again the next morning at breakfast.

After breakfast, but before hopping on the TGV super train to Paris, we made one last stop at the Chocolatier Puyricard. Just when I thought I couldn’t eat another thing, there I was stuffing my face with chocolate. Best of all, it was for breakfast. Only I don’t smoke before noon.



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  • Special thanks to everyone at the Logis De France Provence-Alps-Cote d’Azure, Jamie Hardman from the Provence-Alps-Cotes d’Azure Regional Tourist Board, Air France, Our tour guide and driver Delphine Segret of Transfer Service Roch Voyage (I highly recommend her services) and the people of Provence.


    Comité Régional de Tourisme Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur
    B.P. 46214 – F-13567 Marseille cedex 02 - France
    T 33 {0}4 91 56 47 13 F33 {0}4 91 56 47 01

    Fédération Régionale des Logis de France Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur
    Domaine du Vergon - 13370 MALLEMORT
    T +33 (0)4 90 59 49 26 - F +33 (0)4 90 59 16 75
    - logisdefrance@visitprovence.com

    Contact : Caroline OLIVIER

    Comité Départemental du Tourisme Bouches du Rhône
    13 rue Roux de Brignoles, 13006 Marseille - France
    T 33 {0}4 91 13 84 16 F 33 {0}4 91 33 01 82

    Association départementale des Logis de France Bouches-du-Rhône
    Domaine du Vergon - 13370 MALLEMORT
    T +33 (0)4 90 59 49 26 - F +33 (0)4 90 59 16 75

    Comité Départemental du Tourisme Vaucluse
    B.P 147 - 84008 AVIGNON CEDEX 1 - France
    T 33 {0}4 90 80 47 07 – F 33 {0}4 90 86 86 08
    Daniela DAMIANI, Promotion - Communication

    Association départementale des Logis de France Vaucluse
    BP 193 - 84009 Avignon Cedex 1
    Tél. +33 (0)4 90 86 29 16 / Fax +33 (0)4 90 85 25 16

    Transferts Service Roch Voyages
    Contact: Delphine Segret

    Auberge de Carcarille
    (Les Gervais, sur D.2 route d'Apt) - 84220 GORDES
    Tel: +33 (0) - Fax: +33 (0)

    D 104 - 84220 Roussillon
    Tél. / Fax : 04 90 05 66 69

    Carreaux Verin
    RN 100 – Bonnieux
    Tél. 04 90 04 63 04 – Fax 04 90 74 00 47

    Confiserie Saint Denis
    RN 100 - 84220 Les Beaumettes
    Tél. 04 90 72 37 92 – Fax 04 90 72 10 44

    Musée de la Lavande
    Route de Gordes - 84420 Coustellet
    Tél. 04 90 76 91 23 – Fax 04 90 76 85 52

    Hôtel / Restaurant 2*
    Logis de France : 2 cheminées
    12, Boulevard Mirabeau - 13210 Saint-Rémy de Provence
    Tél. : 04 90 92 15 33

    13210 Saint Rémy de Provence
    Tél. : 04 90 92 05 22

    Mas de l'Olivier - Quartier Fréchier
    13520 Les Baux de Provence
    Tél. : 04 90 54 50 86

    Domaine de Manville - 13520 Les Baux de Provence
    Tél. : 04 90 54 40 20

    Hôtel / Restaurant 3*
    Logis de France : 3 cheminées
    Route de Servanes - 13890 Mouries
    Tél. : 04 90 47 50 63

    Maison du Roy - Rue Porte Mage
    13520 Les Baux de Provence
    Tél. : 04 90 54 34 39

    Brasserie Les Deux Garçons (Les 2G)
    53, Cours Mirabeau - 13100 Aix-en-Provence
    Tél. : 04 42 26 00 51

    Logis de France : 3 cheminées
    13100 Beaurecueil
    Tél. : 04 42 66 94 98

    Chocolaterie Puyricard
    Route de Ste Réparade – 13540 Puyricard
    T 04 42 28 18 18

    *Please tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

    Pictures From

    The Trip


    Village of Gordes


    Village of Roussillon



    Tour Guide In St. Remy




    Cezanne Look Alike



    Beautiful Countryside


    Entrance of Hotel Auberge de Carcarille


    Truck At Ochre Factory


    Ochre Cliffs


    Ochre Plant



    Cutting Tiles


    Confierie Saint Denis


    Lavender Fields


    A Starter


    From Window Cloister St. Paul



    Roman Ruins



    Joel Durand Chocolatier


    les Baux-de-Provence


    Figurines In les Baux-de-Provence


    Breathtaking View


    Truffel Finder



    Where Cezanne Was Raised


    Open Market


    Open Market Veggies


    Cezanne Cabin


    Musee Granet


    Les Duex Garcons


    Castle Owned by Pablo Picasso

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