It had been a long few months of confinement here and with our moving date to return to the US approaching quickly we had hoped it might be possible to travel a little more before leaving France.
As soon as the French Government finally announced that effective June 2, they were lifting the travel restrictions from the requirement to remain within 100 KM of our address we hopped onto Air BNB and started looking around.
Living in central France, we have beautiful volcanos and hiking trails but we are far from big mountains and the sea and there isn’t much in the way of ideal places to visit within 100 km…
So we hadn’t travelled at all during this period, in hopes that if the government opened things up and extended the radius within which we could travel, then we could go further, maybe even to Provence!
We were so ready for a change of scenery and we were tempted to just book something, even a house in the middle of nowhere. But we forced ourselves to wait and take a chance. It was so nerve-wracking, knowing that this might be our very last chance to travel before we left France and moved back home to America.
But it was a rare opportunity to “school” and work remotely. And besides, we had our birthday week coming, where 3 of us have birthdays, and we were really hoping to celebrate it somewhere outside of Clermont-Ferrand.
We got the word at on the very last day in May that on June 2, restaurants throughout France would be permitted to re-open, as well as travel throughout France. We couldn’t have been more thrilled! We took a chance on a home with a pool in a little Provençal village called Robion.
add a pic here
We arrived and were greeted by the nicest couple who owned the property and lived next door. They showed us around the property and we were happily surprised at how much space there was for us to spread out and enjoy the countryside. They had done so many little things to get the house ready for us and make us feel welcome… like a bowl of tasty cherries in the fridge!
The view was unforgettable.
And though the “heated” pool that led our Air BNB search initially turned out to be non-heated, it took Wells 2 minutes to dive into his suitcase, throw on his suit and hop into the pool.
Our first evening up on that terrace being able to see for miles and miles was really our first taste of feeling free again after so many days in our apartment.
The next morning, we had 2 birthday boys to celebrate! We were up early- we couldn’t wait to wake up and have coffee/pastries out on the terrace.
The swallows overhead were unbelievable. They were right overhead, swooping and diving, chirping and singing like they were playing a game of chase with each other. All day long and late into the evening, they dive deep and climb back up, soaring down and back up. These birds have been really special to me throughout my time in France for so many reasons, but most notably because they are the same birds that fly up and down all day long outside of my kitchen window in Clermont against a backdrop of beautiful pink cotton-candy-ish skies in the am, cloudy, damp rainbow-y afternoons, and violet evenings.
I first learned more about these birds when I was down in Lagard-Hachan at my friend Marie-Sophie’s home in the country in that first full summer we spent in France (2018). There we were in the countryside, surrounded by silence and respite from the busy city noise that we had become accustomed to so quickly in our daily city apartment life. It was in that early morning silence that I noticed the song of this particular bird and she told me it was an “hirondelle”… the French word for swallow. These birds starting showing up everywhere in my life. It is the iconic symbol of Portugal and it was during our travels Lisbon and wandering through the city that I couldn’t get enough of the image of this migrant bird’s black silhouette… “andorinha”…
The gardens throughout the courtyard villa were magnificent. I had never seen a more collection of plants and flowers and had no doubt that Nathalie, one of the owners, was the most talented master gardener I’d ever seen!
Unfortunately, that first full day, Chuck had lots of work and the boys had school, so we stayed at the villa and took a few study breaks to swim in the pool!
We drove into Isle Sur la Sorgue, a town that we’d been to last May with our friends Ella and Jeff. A cute little town that sits on canals, it’s been nicknamed the “Venice of Provence”.
As we returned to Robion, the sun was reflecting on the hillside up above the village…
Ice Cream Sundae bar!
The next day, it was cloudy and rainy in the morning, so we hung around and finished up some school/work and then we drove to Isle Sur la Sorgue, a town that we’d been to last May with our friends Ella and Jeff. A cute little town that sits on canals, it’s been nicknamed the “Venice of Provence”.
If you are someone that loves to wander through big old furniture/antique shops, this town is FULL of them! In fact, it is one of the prime antique towns in Provence. There are so many shops to explore, if only we had brought a U-Haul…..
On the way home, we stopped at the only pizza shop that was open and grabbed dinner, which was not bad! If it’s even possible, we have eaten so much pizza in our 3 years in France that we have determined the cheese makes the pizza. A lot of times, restaurants use Emmental cheese (which is like swiss cheese) which is literally EVERYWHERE, in every grocery store, on every sandwich, but it doesn’t have much flavor. Because it is harder to find, we would get pretty excited about pizza with mozzerella cheese because THAT is what makes pizza.
As we returned to Robion, the sun was reflecting on the hillside up above the village…
It was one of THE most memorable sunsets I’ve ever seen during our time here in France. I snuck up to Charlie’s room, climbed up onto the bed and watched that beautiful sun slowly sink down behind the horizon. It was so breathtaking that it brought me to tears…
As I gazed out at that sinking sun on this last day of my 43rd year, I was awash with gratitude for the life God has given me. For all the ups and downs and in-betweens that He has woven into my life and especially these last 3 years, that for every difficult period, he has always shown up, so faithful to never leave my side, our sides… When I ran down to show the boys and Chuck, I couldn’t believe what I saw.
We woke up early on my birthday and rather than go for a run as we’d discussed, Chuck surprised me by getting the bikes out from the garage and suggested we hop on bikes and head out along the long trail that ran through Robion and wound its way up further north from tiny village to tiny village.
It started out sunny and cool but as we got going, the sun tucked back in behind the clouds and the temperature dropped. It was so cold! In June! But the views were beyond magical and it definitely distracted us from a missing extra layer of clothing 🙂
As we rode, we saw tons of beautiful lavender fields in their earliest stages of bloom… since the best time to see it is end of June/early July, the boys are usually still in school back in Clermont, so it’s the one thing we haven’t been able to do since living in France…
We were so happy to even be able to see a little of it. It was absolutely beautiful. So willowy and delicate.
The sun came back!
We rode through some small towns but our ultimate goal was to find a bakery for coffee/pastries. THE best breakfast in the world. And we were running out of time to enjoy French pastries!
We scored on the food (no fancy packaging here!) but the coffee conundrum here in France is one that we still struggle with, even after 3 years! As much as it is an integral part of the morning routine here in France, it is next to impossible to find anything you can take with you that is bigger than a tiny paper cup of espresso.
One place I had really wanted to visit in provence was Abbaye de Sénanque, a beautiful abbey near Gordes. The monks here grow lavender and raise honey bees, both of which they sell in their gift shop. It is one of the best sites in Provence to photograph lavender…. something about the way the bright, vivid purple sits against the stone gray architecture… This is what it looks like during prime lavender season…
Despite missing the beautiful shades of purple, the abbey itself is beautiful.
Because of Covid, much of the abbey was closed off from visitors and the available tour times were few, so after we took a few pics (lavender-less 😦 ),we drove up to Gordes, a beautiful village that is embedded in the side of a plateau of the Vaucluse Mountains, part of the Luberon Valley. The views were incredible!!
This was SUCH a beautiful village. Sadly, most things were closed, but we did find an artist who had just opened up her gallery right off the middle of the village square and found a beautiful painting of Provence to bring home with us.
The boys had fun running around the village. I’m sure the locals thought we were crazy.
It was time to get home for some afternoon pool time while the sun was high up in the sky and might just warm the pool up a tiny bit…
Chuck surprised me with an icy cold bottle of Veuve Clicquot Rosé. It was almost too pretty to drink! Almost.
Chuck cooked dinner so it was so nice to just sit at the table with my guys and admire these beautiful birthday cards they made for me!
The next morning was Saturday and in Provence, this means that there are tons of markets to go explore. After researching the markets in the surrounding towns, we chose the one in Apt, it was rated one of the biggest and best for local finds.
Since it would be our last one in France, we went armed with a list of souvenirs and gifts that we wanted to bring home with us.
It’s hard to appreciate the scale of this market in these pictures, but there were tons and tons of streets full of vendors. It was really our first time in a crowded space since Covid had arrived in France, so we kept our masks on. I think this was our first time wearing masks in public! Which honestly sounds crazy considering we had been locked down for almost 2 months. But up until the week prior, it was next to impossible to find masks anywhere, so better to be safe than sorry and stay away from people and crowds until we could mask up!
We found soaps, lavender, wood boards made from olive trees, salt, table linens, and of course, croissants 🙂
That afternoon, the boys wanted to hang at the house so Chuck and I made one last 30 minute trek to Avignon. Since the only other time we had visited was a holiday in France, all the stores and most restaurants were closed, so we’d never really had a chance to really explore this great city!
One of the things that I love about Avignon is that it is still a walled city, meaning that the town center is still surrounded by these ancient medieval walls. It amazes me how intact it still is…
We passed this adorable bakery with the same name as my niece, Violet.
And with these heart-shaped pretzels hanging in the window… I could barely stand it.
Coffee in the square…our first coffee at a café in 2 months!!
Purple wild flowers in this window…
Every tiny detail….!!
I had a hard time capturing these with my camera, but had never seen draping vines of succulents…. beautiful!!
Now it was time to get back to the boys and the pool for one last night of swimming!
Ugh it was so difficult climbing in the car that last morning and driving away from Provence for the last time… Our hearts were filled to the brim with all the special places we got to visit during our time here! We know we will return to this special place again. Until then, Provence…..
One thought on “Robion (Provence)-June 2020”
Hi honey – Wow!! What an amazing trip you captured in your words & pics in this posting. I seems so surreal that you actually got to experience the adventures and witness the absolutely magnificent natural beauty that you did and so much more… You did an amazing job of documenting your life those 3 years in France, and your boys will always love to go back and read about that time. Thank you for sharing this particular trip. I’m jealous! xo♥️
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