A Journey of the Senses
France truly is a journey for the senses. The culmination of breathtaking
sights, the smell of lavender in the village shops, the unbelievable tastes at
every meal, the feel of the earth walking the countryside, and the sounds of
nature all make Provence an unforgettably joyful experience.
Out of all the destinations I have been blessed to travel, I cannot deny France is one of the most special places in the world and I ended up being here by accident this year.
LOL On my return flight home from a hiking pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain this past May, I traveled through Paris, as it was my only available option that day.
When I deplaned in Paris to transfer to another gate, it brought so much joy to just be
surrounded by all things French—the French language, French chocolate and macaroons, French music, French clothes and cosmetics…. I immediately started scheming to come back. After months of planning, we are now offering a Provence Countryside Adventure in September 2023. While I have hiked throughout the Provence region with groups in the past,
I am here again to finalize a few details for next year. I’ve always felt blessed to do the final “site inspection” prior to bringing a group. This time is no different.
My Delta flight (my airline of choice these days) left JFK non-stop for Paris, and upon arrival, I took the TGV train to Avignon. What a beautiful city along the river. This was home to the Catholic Popes in the 14 th century before Rome. From Les Baux to Gordes, the adventure began while walking through some of its more beautiful landscapes and villages.
Saint Remy is one of the must-sees in Provence. Visiting the Monastery St Paul where Vincent Van Gogh was treated in 1889 and painted some of his best paintings was one of the highlights for me, along with the side walk cafes and shopping.
The village of Eygalieres is surrounded by the superb landscapes of the Alpilles, with olive groves, green valleys and vineyards. A stop at Isle sur la Sorgue, an “island city” with a walking canal surrounding it, had so much to offer. It was a fun village to explore and had a yummy stop meeting the famous chocolate maker at the Court of Flavours.
The success of the village, Fontaine de Vaucluse, is essentially due to the impressive emerald green spring, which flows out of the high cliff. The spring is the most powerful one in France and the fifth in the world. It was a delight to stay in this very small village and walk around at night.
Last, we headed to Gordes, one of the most beautiful villages in France with its narrow cobblestone streets sitting up on a hill. The spectacular 5- star Hotel Bories and Spa, just outside of Gordes, was a true haven after all
the hiking to this point and a lovely spot to truly enjoy the ambiance of the Provence countryside. The pool, sauna, steam room, and a massage followed by an incredible dinner had me ready for my last full day of
exploring. Instead of heading out by foot, electric bikes were brought to the hotel for the trip to Roussillon, famous for its magnificent red cliffs and ochre quarries. A big smile stayed on my face all day as I rode through the countryside.
Now I’m on the TGV once again heading back to Paris then on to JFK for my return flight home. I have had conflicting thoughts this past week about offering such a challenging hiking trip when there are so many villages to explore. In the end, there was time for both. Wine at a sidewalk café or browsing in the quaint shops were always on the daily agenda. I am over the bus tours that I enjoyed and led for decades when exploring a new country. For those who want to walk and have time to contemplate or
talk to other hiking buddies, this is a great way to go. France appeals to all the senses. It’s a place to be present and mindful of every step or view along the way.
Au Revoir, France. Until we meet again, I’ll keep working on my French.