February 24, 2009

Europe In 30 Days - Our First Day In Provence

Because yesterday was such an exhilarating yet exhausting day we decide that today we would take it easy and stay close to home with as little driving as possible.

Home for the next 4 days is Venterol France and it is an absolutely beautiful little village nestled on a foothill just above a vineyard. The sun is shining and the temperature is perfect.

The house is also perfect! The 3 floors consist of a living/dining area, a full bath and a bedroom on the main floor, the kitchen, a small bathroom and an eating area with french doors leading onto a terrace on the second floor and a huge bedroom on the third floor.

After a little breakfast we enjoy the sunshine from the terrace and get our first glimpse of what we will be experiencing over the next few days. Breathtaking! Well believe it or not we are ready to take a little drive! We take a look at the books on Provence that we have and decide to visit Valreas. It wins our vote because it is only about 10 miles away! So away we go, but of course we spot a little village on our way to Valreas and we must explore. Right? This little village is called St. Pantaleon-les-Vignes and is surrounded by vineyards. We park at the Town Hall and start to walk towards a little square. We come upon this bridge that is crossing over a river and the view is amazing, so we stop to take pictures.
We spot a bell tower and start to walk towards it through the cobblestone streets, passing Provencal homes that are surrounded by low stone walls. After seeing the church we decide to head back to the car but on the way Stijn spots a sign and informs me that it reads "Wineries". Cool! I'm in France and I'm going to get the chance to do some wine tasting! Then I am reminded that today is Sunday. You see in Europe pretty much everything is closed on Sundays and I do remember this from my previous travels to Europe. But hey, doesn't hurt to go check it out, right? So back to the car we go and we drive in the direction of a winery. The first one we see is Domaine Gigondan so we pull in and park. I want to at least take some pictures of the winery and the vineyard and the added bonus of a lavender field, even though I'm not going to get to do any wine tasting. There is a dog barking in the yard of this magnificent villa and when I turn my attention in that direction I see a man standing on the balcony. So I wave hello and he waves back and goes inside and within a few seconds he comes and greets us. Of course now Stijn must do all the talking because I don't know a lick of French. Well I can say Bonjour! So they are chatting and I said to Stijn, "ask him if we can do a wine tasting". Stijn asks, and we are walking through the doors of a winery in France!!! I am a happy girl!
The tasting room was a little part of the whole operation tucked in one corner along with gifts to purchase while cases of wine covered the floor in the center of the building and the production was at the back. Our host, the vintner was magnificent and answered all our questions. After spending about an hour tasting all the great wines we decide we better head out to our original destination.

We arrive in Valreas and follow the signs to the historic city center, park and start our next walk through some more cobblestone streets. As we walk along the Grand Rue we pass several beautiful homes built in the 17th and 18th centuries. We are impressed with the Norte-Dame-de Nazareth built in the 12th century and the Chateau des Simiane built in 1640 which now houses the Town Hall.

The sun is setting and it is getting a bit chilly so we decide to head back to Venterol. But not before stopping at a little bakery, which by the way will become the first stop of many bakeries during our time here in Provence.

So what do we get? A great looking meringue dotted with some strawberries. This thing was huge. I think this was a good choice.

We head home, start a fire, pour some wine and plan for our next adventure tomorrow.

Click on the albums St Pantaleon and Valreas at Wheres Debbie to see more pictures of our day.

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