From Paris to Provence

When you hear the word Paris you instantly think of love, and why wouldn’t you, it’s known as the city of love, last year, 23 million people arrived into Paris to either find love, fall in love, to receive epic proposals or to rekindle love, so what it about Paris that send us all mushy and loved up?  I had to find out, so off I went to find out what all the fuss was about.

Paris in Summer is magnifique. The warm European sun and long summer nights make for a great holiday to escape the winter of Australia.  There is something about the history of France and the Kings and Queens who lived here that send us down a regal path. We want to walk in the footsteps of the greats, we want to inhale the beauty and grandeur of their castles and estates and some, even want to explore the region of Reims where the champagne flows and where Moët & ChandonVeuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon have stood for centuries.  

While visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris or the Arc de Triomphe are all well and good, it’s the unique experiences away from the hordes that makes Paris a special place to visit.

Now don’t get me wrong, please do spend time visiting these above wonderments as it wouldn’t be a trip to France if you didn’t get the obligatory Eiffel Tower shot, walk up the Champs-Élysées Or visited Mona Lisa at the Louvre.  

I’d like to tell you about the other amazing experiences to be had while visiting France.

One excursion to do is a food tour or cooking class.  The Montmartre Food and Wine Tour. There is nowhere more emblematic and picturesque than the Montmartre quarters.  Dozens of cobblestone streets, lots of sumptuous hidden mansions, hundreds of warm and lively Parisian cafés, charming terraces everywhere, some typical little squares and adorable stores of all types.  You have probably heard of Montmartre as the residency of some famous painters of the 19th and 20th century, such as Pablo Picasso and Van Gogh. Montmartre has a great gastronomical heritage. You can tell by the several mouth-watering window shops along the way, full of elegant and delicious cakes, appetizing chocolate candies, and of course, shelves full of generous cheeses, cured meats and French wine!  Your guided tour will take you to the breathtaking Clos des Vignes, which happens to be the only vineyard in Paris. This incredible spot will make you forget about where your are, thanks to its timeless setting that literally throws you back a century ago.

Hire a Lime Bike for the morning a ride around the city of Paris like a local, maybe even grab a baguette from a bakery, some cheese and wine and find a picturesque grassed area under the Eiffel Tower or along the Champs-Élysées.

It’s the only country in the world that is officially allowed to call their champagne, champagne as it is grown in the region called champagne.  Before you head to France, be sure to pre book a day trip to Reims to visit Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon. These tours book out fast and to avoid disappointment I would urge you to book well in advance.  If you don’t want to do a tour with a group, that’s ok, still book your tickets, you will just need to get up early and catch to train to Reims which is about 1 hour by train or 3 hours by bus.

The most popular of tours is Madam Clicquot’s Mansion and the Vineyards, second to that is Moët & Chandon, and that is where I was headed.  On this tour you will Discover the secrets of how the king of champagne is made. Moët & Chandon was established in 1743, and their champagne became famous in the 1750s when King Louis XV demanded sparkling wine. Today, Moët & Chandon is a world famous champagne producer, and operates an excellent champagne house in France.  The wine cellars of Moët & Chandon are located under the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay. They are an exceptional part of the company’s heritage, and offer a unique chance to witness several centuries of champagne production. This treasure trove, the largest network of underground wine cellars in the Champagne region, preserves the memory of the talent and work of generations. Enter the 28 km of underground tunnels, the oldest of which dates back to the foundation of the company in 1743.

Discover endless underground galleries, filled with history, and round off your visit with a tasting of champagne!

When you head to France I urge you to add additional days onto your itinerary to head south.  While Paris is a must see city, so is Provence. Board the fast train, which see speeds of up to 300klm and has you in Provence in just under 3 hours.  You are stepping into a whole other world with rustic charm homes with floral abundance, Juliette balconies and distressed wooden doors. The colour, old world charm and cobblestone streets will have you snapping your camera in every direction.

Hidden away in the narrow streets of the Provence region of France is a little village called Sault. It’s nature at its best and blooming with lavender fields, Sault is situated on the border of a great wooded plateau.  Though at the hub of no fewer than six main roads, Sault remains an utterly isolated market town floating on a stony hilltop in a valley of lavender. This rustic, stone built town is virtually untouched with it’s old painted storefronts and the scent of honey and lavender wafting through the good clean air.

Next must see destination is Giverny, which was put on the map by Claude Monet. Monet came across this quaint town one day when he was on the train.  While staring out the window, this town peaked his curiosity. He was so enthralled with the town that he rented a house with some land, which he eventually purchased and the rest is history. 

Giverny is at the gateway to Normandy, the village is located on the right bank of the River Seine, at its confluence with one of the two branches of the River Epte lined with willows and poplars.

The village consists of two streets on the hillside lined with low houses in a pink or green roughcast with slate roofs, their walls covered with wisteria and Virginia creeper. These streets are crossed by narrow lanes running down the hill. The Claude Monet Road runs straight to the village.  Visiting the mansion of Claude Monet is an absolute must. You literally walk in the footsteps of one of the world’s most famous impressionists. You can see why he loved this property so much and why a lot of his paintings were inspired by the beautiful surrounds of the gardens and house. The house is still as it was in 1883 although Monet extended it to fit his growing family and added a barn with sleeping quarters.  While the mansion alone is awe inspiring and the gardens and grounds breathtaking, the village of Giverny is one to set out on foot to explore. With it’s rustic old world charm and colour schemes to make any instagrammer excited, Giverny is a must to add to your travel itinerary. 

There is one town that took my heart away and had me peering through the real estate windows in the hope I would find a little villa just waiting for some renovations, somewhere where I could spend 3-4 months of the year just soaking up the Provence summer, indulging in the French food, walking the cobble stones streets and visiting the bustling markets and that was St Remy.  Bathed in sunshine for more than 300 days a year, you’ll realise why so many people have loved this little town and come back to it each and every year. Wednesday is a major market day in Saint Rémy-de-Provence. The market spreads across parking areas and squares around the northern and western parts of the Boulevards ringing the old town of St Rémy. If you like markets, crowds, and an active experience, Wednesday is a great day to visit. 

Provence will have you never wanting to leave and you may even find yourself peering into the local windows of Real Estate offices looking at your next holiday home purchase.  I know I could do with a little villa in southern france, a place where I could come for 3 months of the year, how about you?

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