How can a word on its own bring such different but strong emotions depending on the individual? For some, roadtrips are remnants of family holidays: car packed to its limits, carefully choosing an array of snacks for the road, falling asleep to the familiar and rhythmic sound of the engine to wake up to unknown landscapes. As adults, we remember these family outings with sweetness and attempt to recreate the excitement and sense of wonder by going on our own roadtrips. And though the experience is now completely different, there is still a sense of adventure and independence in taking a car and just driving.
This September, we decided to take our first family roadtrip in years and make our way from Asturias to Provence. I had been dreaming about this southwestern area of France since my flash visit to Montpellier and Marseille two years ago. We were missing the Lavender season, but that also meant leaving the majority of tourists behind. For me, September is the perfect month to go travelling, at least in most places in Europe. The weather is still benevolent to allow beach swims and long walks in the evening.
And I fell in love. With Provence. In September. To be honest, I think I will love it in any of its glorious seasons. We stayed just outside a tiny village south from Avignon, Mausanne des Alpilles. It is made exactly how you would expect a provenzal village to look: ochre stone houses with mint green and sky blue doors and windows, local grocery sporting an insulting variety of local fruit and veg (small black grapes are to die for), town square filled with tables and chairs from surrounding cafes, filled with both french locals and foreign locals drinking wine or cafe au lait in the morning. It sounds like the cliche image we all have of Provence but it is exactly how I saw it, or how my brain has kept the memory of it.
Our apartment, La Chapelle, is the dream of anyone who loves classic architecture with white interiors with antique pieces of furniture co existing with modern necessities. A restored 17th century chapel, La Chapelle boasts quiet design with understated luxury. Surrounded by Les Alpilles, a low mountain range and natural park, the atmosphere is quiet and the air full of nature scents from rosemary to olive trees and pines. The swimming pool on the back overlooks this southern slopes as well as a small garden. Dipping into the turquoise waters after a long day of visiting Saint Remy or Les Baux is still one of my favourite memories from the trip.
As usual, the roadtrip was long but the actual stay short. We took things slow and only visited a handful of villages from the surrounding area: St Remy, Les Baux, Gordes, Senanque and Avignon. Our days passed with leisure walks through paved streets, plenty of browsing in shops filled with Savon de Marseille, olive oils and linen homewear. At the end of the day, we would religiously stop by the grocers to pick up a different cheese for dinner. Fresh goat’s cheese is the speciality from the region and you can find it plain or with mixed herbs, truffle and a strange variety of red berries. This along with stone baked bread, olive oil and the aforementioned grapes was all I needed.
November has just begun and in London, and with temperatures dropping faster than the Sterling pound I find myself daydreaming of Provence and its grapes, sunsets over never ending olive groves and the smell of freshly baked bread. It might not be a roadtrip, but my next visit to Provence is not far ahead.