26 October 2007

Anniversary in the Provence

K and I finally had our belated honeymoon and celebrate 10 wonderful years together. It was only fitting that this event be celebrated in the south of France. It all started on the way to the Dominican Republic last March. I was heading to the DR for an assessment trip with the Engineers without Borders Kansas City Professional Chapter. The movie on the trip down was A Good Year with Russell Crowe; a romantic comedy set in the south of France based on the book of same title by Peter Mayle. The scenery was beautiful and I was hooked on the Provence. I highly recommend reading the books Peter Mayle has written about the area. They are well written and filled with humor. We immediately began making plans to spend two weeks in the Provence. We looked online for rental homes and settled on a small apartment (named La Joliette) in the small town of Goult.

23 September 2007

We arrived in Paris after a long day of flying from Kansas City to Chicago to Boston to Paris. There was a significant layover before our high speed train (the TGV – a masterpiece of engineering and efficiency) left to Aix. There was an earlier train to Aix, but it left from the Gare de Lyon. We decided to get on the subway and head for the Gare de Lyon. We turned our tickets in for the earlier train and waited patiently to find out which track we would be departing from. It was funny to see other people looking expectantly at the TV monitor waiting for that little piece of information. We were soon on the train and on our way to Aix. I slept most of the way down. If you have never experienced the TGV I would highly recommend it. It is fast and the best way to get a feel for how fast you need to see one moving. There are some things like wine, cheese, bread and trains that only the French know how to do.

We arrived in Aix and found our way to the small rental station. Now the TGV station at Aix is remarkable. The two tracks are protected by a large canopy supported by laminated wood beams. I am not much for modern architecture, but this structure was naturalistic; it was beautiful. It reminded me of a number of trees set in a row, something that we would see often in our travels through the towns of the Luberon.

We ended up renting a VW Golf TDI. I liked the little car and we would find that little cars are very good for the tight turns and small alleys some roads would lead us to. If you are worried about getting lost in France you only need three things: a good map, a sense of adventure, and a good navigator. We had all three. I knew there was a reason I married K – she could read a map.

With our sense of adventure and map in hand we drove out into the unknown. We found Goult with little difficulty. Opa C had also helped us out by printing out a small blow up of a map around Goult. Goult is a small town and not one on the typical tourist map or guidebook. It has one baker (with suspicious hours), two butchers, one grocer, one café and three restaurants. It was the sight of a small castle of the family Agoult hundreds of years past. The castle still remains.

We met our landlord, Eva Parmelee, met us at the town square and showed us to La Joliette, a small two bedroom, one bathroom apartment. It was perfect. We felt like we actually lived in the town for the two weeks we were there.

The entry is cloaked in a grape vine. Eva bought it many years ago when the area was just beginning to be put on the map. Below is a cellar that doubles as a large dining room. Back in the day the home owners would keep their horses or donkeys down there. The apartment was very quiet as was the neighborhood. We were well off the main drag to the top of the town.
There is something about having a home base on vacations like this. We could cook when we wanted to (which we did because it was expensive to go out to eat). It was nice not having to unpack all the time. I learned from our vacation to Germany a couple of years ago that this was the best way, in my opinion, to enjoy the area and have a relaxing vacation.