Paris

21 Jun

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Given everything that’s been written about this city, we’ll keep the commentary to a minimum except to say it’s been an incredibly special couple of days for our little family. Paris in summer with our little boy. We really couldn’t ask for a better end to this trip.
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À bientôt Arles

19 Jun

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After three glorious weeks we are leaving Arles tomorrow. We could not have asked for a better holiday. We have explored almost every inch of this spectacular town on foot. We’ve inhaled the scent of jasmine deeply, marvelled at vines heavy with fruit dripping from balconies and rounded a corner to stumble on Roman ruins. In short we’ve lapped up summer in Provence.

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We have eaten so well. Not the heavy confits and bourgignons of the north but oysters and baby shellfish laced with garlicky aoili finished off with melons and strawberries and ice cream. We have fallen into the rhythm of daily bakery visits, twice weekly market shops and aperitifs in sunny squares. We have watched the World Cup with locals in what was once a Roman forum.

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With the exception of one summer storm the weather has been blissfully sunny. However the benefit of June is that you aren’t paying peak summer prices or battling crowds of school children on holiday. We both feel the most relaxed we have in years and couldn’t think of a better introduction to travel avec un bébé. It is all too tempting to do like the French do and pencil in an annual holiday here. Or at least we can dream…

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Isle Sur La Sorgue

15 Jun

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Our visit to Isle Sur La Sorgue had an air of Antiques Roadshow about it. Every Sunday market stalls sell everything from much loved copper pots to a horse drawn carriage. In addition to vintage wares along the perimeter a lively food market takes over the town centre. And what a town it is! Criss crossed with canals and riverside restaurants it is named after the Sorgue river which dominates its landscape. Moss covered wheels tower over the waterways and were once integral to the town’s silk and paper mills. The river itself also fed the economy quite literally with upto 35,000 crayfish being caught daily. Today although the waters are crystal clear the only inhabitants seem to be teal feathered ducks who put on quite the show for Crumpet.
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Life in Arles

14 Jun

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With all this day tripping we realise we’ve spent little time in Arles. We have daily rituals like the morning boulangerie trip for baguette, a long evening stroll and a cool drink in the square but those hours in Arles generally bookend our explorations elsewhere in Provence. We decided to correct this and stop to smell the jasmine for a few blissful days.

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After the flurry of travel we embrace the stillness of sitting in squares for hours or rolling around on the grass with Crumpet at the park at the foot of Roman ruins. We meander through the town stopping to visit churches, to buy some cheese or new music. We make simple meals from market asparagus and eggs and Crumpet takes to French yoghurt with relish.

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It has been a joy travelling with Crumpet but especially here. Babies and children are everywhere from restaurants to galleries and if anything having him in tow has made us feel more a part of the town than we would otherwise. No one will raise an eyebrow if you bring your bébé into even the fanciest establishment. However nor will they serve you any more quickly and as dining is taken seriously it can be a multi hour affair. Luckily as summer dining is often on outdoor terraces overlooking bustling squares and Crumpet’s favourite hobby is people watching, he’s been quite content. While high chairs are rarely seen, the waiters here have a great knack for amusing les enfants, so much so that we are yet to witness a crying bébé or toddler tantrum. Children sleep later here, perhaps due to the summer sun. We pass dozens of families out for post dinner strolls and children playing in the lanes until bedtime. Along with the dog population, Crumpet is very taken with the local enfants.

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Our previous holidays have always involved country hopping, wasting hours in airports, getting lost finding new hotels and packing up every few days. Having Crumpet has forced us to slow down and it’s been unexpectedly delightful. Mrs D has always been an advocate for getting to know just one region well instead of sampling a whole continent in a holiday. While the latter is tempting when you’ve travelled all the way from Australia, this has been so much better. It has been an easy and deeply relaxing holiday and perhaps one that won’t require days to recover on our return. With one week to go until we make our way to Paris we’re going to savour it.

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Aix-en-Provence

12 Jun

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We had received a strong recommendation to visit Aix-en-Provence from a colleague of RC’s who knows the region very well. As much as we’d loved exploring the villages of Provence we were ready for a day in a buzzing town and elegant Aix was just the thing. Aix has a high brow reputation and local lads include Emile Zola and Paul Cézanne. We were able to view a few works by the latter at the Musee Garnet while seeking air conditioned comfort from the 38 degree heat.

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Although we were grateful for a choice of museums and galleries, the beauty of Aix lies in its grand tree lined boulevards, sparkling fountains and bustling market. It is what you imagine Paris was like a century ago. The facades of the 17th and 18th century town houses are beautifully preserved and untouched by the pollution of a big city. The laneways are lined with tempting boutiques opening onto humming squares. The locals are seemingly effortlessly well dressed. We picked up a handful of outfits for Crumpet but were horrified to discover at one shop that a onesie in Aix can set you back 70 euros. Luckily Crumpet doesn’t have such expensive taste… yet. He was rather taken with a brochure of local real estate. We found a shady spot to end the day with iced black coffee.

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Chateauneuf du Pape and Orange

11 Jun

 

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On the advice of a Melbourne wine guru we pay a visit to the medieval village of Chateauneuf du Pape. Once home to the Pope’s Summer Palace the chateau itself is now but a shell towering over the village built into a hillside. Below is a sea of vineyards but like most visitors we bypass these as Chateauneuf is one giant cellar door. The winding lanes are dotted with ‘caves’ where you descend into cellars for tastings. We were rather restrained but nevertheless taken with this charming town. We stopped for a lunch perfectly suited to a 36 degree day; gazpacho with plump prawns and citrusy lightly smoked salmon tartare.

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In the afternoon we ventured onto Orange, home to Europe’s best preserved Roman amphitheatre and now home to ABBA tribute concerts. The town itself is a vibrant mix of pastel tinted structures and cafe lined open squares. We stop in one such square for a thirst quenching citron presse (lemon water). On a blistering hot day it is everything you imagine a summer in Provence would be. The sunlight bounces off the stone surfaces, children and adults splash in the fountains dotted through the town and villagers retire for late afternoon sleeps before emerging for the aperitif hour.

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Pezenas

10 Jun

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We make the journey into the Languedoc region again, this time deeper in, past Montpelier. Unlike the still sultry heat of Arles, a Mediterranean breeze provides some relief as we delve into the Languedoc finally arriving in the medieval town of Pezenas.

The town is striking in its contrast between golden sunbaked open squares and shadowy lanes. Shutters and doors adorn the stone structures in every shade of green from faded olive to deep moss.

Only a couple of hours from Barcelona you are as likely to see tapas as terrine. We have a rather spectacular lunch including asparagus with truffles and a prawn and chorizo bisque. We wind our way through the lanes stumbling across a fantastic wooden toys shop to Crumpet’s delight then stop for a cool drink and make some progress on our holiday reading while he naps.20140610_152001_120140610_151647_120140610_152131_1
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