La Ferme aux Lavandes in Sault

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It’s lavender season in Provence! And what better way to enjoy it than to incorporate a visit to a lavender farm in the stunning fields around Sault, the capital of lavender.

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For quite some time, I have been enjoying the beautiful posts of charming villages, lavender, and adorable rabbits and cats from la Ferme aux Lavandes. So last week on our way to explore the villages around Mont Ventoux, we decided to make a stop at the lavender farm, the source of inspiration for so many of our travels in the area.

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Upon arriving we were greeted by the lovely owner Catherine, who apologized over and over that she couldn’t show us around since a bus of 45 people were about to arrive for a tour. We reassured her that we came not expecting anything but a look in the boutique and a chance to meet her to tell her how much we enjoy her beautiful posts of the region. Kindly, she invited us to sit down and have some tea and cookies and to make ourselves at home as we wandered around freely while she attended to the bus tour. Upon leaving, I tried to pay for our tea and cookies, but the gracious Catherine said, “No, you are my guests,” and she even gave us a gift of soaps, asking us to come back so that she could spend more time with us.

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For those who love lavender, a stop at the farm to learn about the different types of lavender, especially the fine lavender around Sault, would be quite interesting and educational.

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After buying some lavender and Herbes de Provence to relish back home long after we are far far away from such a dreamy place, we got a peak at the rabbits.

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Now we are ready to move on to see the charming villages of Aurel and Brantes, thanks to la Ferme aux Lavandes posts. (Also see http://www.la-ferme-aux-lavandes.com/.) Be sure to make a reservation if wanting a tour.

IMG_3966.JPGÀ bientôt!

The Most Enchanting Walk on Skye

The Isle of Skye is a place of raw, stunning beauty. It is truly a feast for the eyes. Though I still prefer the feast found in Provence, Bourgogne, Dordogne, Alsace, and really all of France, Skye is beautiful, remote, peaceful, and calm. It’s a part of us now.

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On the last day of a trip, we usually repeat our favorite thing. And the decision was easy—Talisker Bay.

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The Talisker Bay walk is an easy 20-minute walk that takes you on a path surrounded by mountains and sheep to a gorgeous waterfall at the sea, making an impression that will stay with you.

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If in the area, you might as well combine the walk with a tour of the Talisker Distillery beforehand. The tour was fascinating. As the saying goes, “Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky.”

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The bay walk must be done in the evening in order to see the sunset, as it will be enchanting indeed.

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À bientôt!

Where to Eat in Gordes

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Gordes—a stunning village indeed. Yet, there never seemed to be a memorable place to eat in the village—until now. Perched on a cliff, across from the village, lies a small boutique hotel called le Mas des Romarins.

We just happened to discover it and its beautiful view of Gordes one day. So we decided to reserve a table for lunch at l’Esprit des Romarins. We were not disappointed.

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Though we usually prefer something more rustic and casual, we certainly didn’t mind the royal treatment. At least it felt like that to us as several people attended to us throughout our meal. Delicious food!

And dessert was a work of art.

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Though somehow our lack of French language skill caused us unknowingly to agree to a 16-euro cheese course at the end of our meal. C’est la vie!

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Peaceful, stunning, and delicious food at le Mas des Romarins. I can only imagine how magnificent it would be at night to sit outside on the terrace and watch the sunset over Gordes.

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À bientôt!

Avernish Lodge—Stay Somewhere Extraordinary

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Extraordinary is the theme at Cool Stays, a site that makes looking for a vacation rental nothing but pure enjoyment. Instead of having to search through endless accommodations to find that special one, every accommodation is something special. Thus, we chose the Avernish Lodge for our stay in Scotland.

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Located on the banks of Loch Alsh, a mere eight miles from the Isle of Skye, lies the stunning, secluded Lodge.

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From the bedroom windows, you can even see the iconic Eilean Donan Castle.

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Oh if only we could live here.

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DSC00220À bientôt!

Gordes—The Jewel of the Luberon

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Placed in a commanding position with all her majestic glory is a village that shines like a jewel above all others. She wears her crown well as visitors flock to capture her image from the valley below.

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The best time to see Gordes is when it’s calm in the early morning or in the evening as the sun is setting and the light is magnificent for photos. It’s never been too busy when we have visited, since we always go slightly off season. But I would stay away in the prime of summer or only visit in the early morning or in the evening when the tourists are off having dinner and you can have the place all to yourself.

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Wandering the narrow cobblestone streets and taking in the simple charms of flowers in terracotta pots, colorful shutters, and sparkling pools high up above the valley is the best part of slow-pace travel, immersing oneself in the moment.

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It’s also relaxing to sit and people watch at le Renaissance, a very classy café/restaurant, where there are often musicians playing in the square.

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And, of course, the nearby notorious Sénanque Abbey is a photogenic dream.

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There’s no denying that Gordes is the jewel of the Luberon. Stunning indeed. There are other villages though that call to me more, having that special je ne sais quoi that is the essence of French village charm. But I always make time for Gordes.

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À bientôt!

The Old Man of Storr—A Scottish Icon

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There’s a reason why this hike is one of the most popular and photographed sites on the Isle of Skye. With massive rock pinnacles towering amid rolling green hills, valleys, and mountains, no wonder this has been the site for many science-fiction films, as it looks as though you are on another planet! Yes, stunning scenery and dramatic landscapes set the stage. Located on the Trotternish Ridge, just north of Portree, the Old Man of Storr hike begins.

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We were considering skipping it, thinking it may not be all it’s cracked up to be. So glad that we went! It wasn’t overly crowded on a mid-October day. But I hear it is unbearable in the summer, as Skye has become more discovered. The walk is rated medium in difficulty. With good hiking boots and a raincoat, it’s suitable for anyone with average fitness. There are plenty of spots to stop and catch your breath if needed. The path does get quite muddy and slippery from the rain of course; so caution is needed. We had a fair amount of sunshine on our October day but did encounter a heavy rain shower once we reached the top. While waiting it out for 10 minutes, the sun came out.

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It probably takes about an hour and a half to reach the top. Once you make it, the last section is a bit of a rock scramble. You can stop here or crawl a little on all fours like I did. After this, it’s a must to veer off on the path to the left of the Old Man as you are facing it. Follow the path down a little and then back up for breathtaking views that will make you think you are in Switzerland. This path eventually reconnects with the main path to take you back down.

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We were originally torn between the Old Man of Storr hike and the Quiraing. We chose Storr, being that the Quiraing was rated difficult. Now that we conquered the Old Man, we are ready—boots and all—for the Quiraing because the scenery looks even more amazing. Check out this family’s beautiful photos of Storr and the Quiraing for inspiration.

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And at the end of our hike, the Tea Pot was waiting in a parking area nearby, where we had the most delicious sandwich that I was skeptical about at first—Scottish cheddar and raw onion in a hot dog bun. Crazy good.

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DSC00643À bientôt!

It’s Not All About the Villages

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Though I love writing about charming villages and discovering what I call “charm-for-days” places, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to write about the most charming village, the delicious food, or the enchanting ambience. Sometimes I just can’t write about such frivolities when there is so much suffering in the world.

Yesterday, I met the sweetest family who have two small children with the disease Progeria—a disease that makes children age rapidly. As I looked at these tiny children with aged faces, who probably won’t live past the age of 13, I was numb with sadness as I continued on with my work for the day. Suddenly, charming villages, vineyards, and cobblestone streets didn’t seem so important.

Though I hope to continue to explore such charming places, I must take a moment to acknowledge the suffering that so many experience and that it’s not all about the charming villages but about showing kindness and compassion and reaching out to help others.

À bientôt!

Villa Ephrussi—Am I in France or Italy?

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Located on the gorgeous Cap Ferrat peninsula, overlooking the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, is an Italian-style villa built during France’s Belle Époque by Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild. The mansion, with its nine exquisite gardens, was bequeathed in 1934 to the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France. With its priceless works of art, the villa is a site dedicated to art and gardens. While walking the grounds, one can’t help but stop and wonder if they have somehow crossed the border into Italy.

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Being that we only had an hour before continuing on to explore the peninsula, we spent our time wandering the gorgeous gardens and gazing through vistas that beautifully framed the blue water of the Côte d’Azur.

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The Cap Ferrat peninsula and the stunning Villa Ephrussi are well worth a trip when exploring the French Riviera.

À bientôt!

Escape to the Rolling Hills of Perthshire

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Just a mere hour from the Edinburgh Airport in a misty land of rolling hills with sheep and cattle grazing about awaits the Hayloft—the most charming, high-quality, peaceful retreat one could find to stay for a night or two! On our way to Scotland’s Isle of Skye, we spent a night, and I was ready to move in. Though I love the sun of Provence, I immediately felt like I could live in this beautiful place. Another place that feels like a world away, like something out of a Jane Austen novel.

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The Hayloft Bed and Breakfast, just outside of Pitlochry, is composed of two independent cottages—the Hayloft and the Barn. We stayed in the Hayloft, a beautifully decorated room with the most gorgeous high-quality fabrics and peaceful views. I couldn’t stop staring out the window at the sheep grazing on the hill or at the charming, rustic outside terrace, which reminded me of  le Clos de Rohan in Provence.

We had the most peaceful sleep in this quiet location. And our morning breakfast basket delivered to our room was a delight—yogurt, berries, croissants and honey, and freshly brewed coffee. Do we really have to leave? I still can’t stop thinking about this place.

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Before we headed out to the Isle of Skye, we took a little walk down a misty lane.

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Serious charm for days! Why is everything so cute?

À bientôt!

An Enchanting Evening at Hôtel Crillon le Brave

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Tucked away in a small hilltop village overlooking a landscape of vineyards and olive groves, lying in the shadow of Mont Ventoux, and practically bordering the villages of the Côtes du Rhône appellation is an intimate gem of a resort intertwined in the streets of the village. Hôtel Crillon le Brave consists of just 36 rooms tucked away in 8 old village houses connected by secret alleyways and hidden courtyards, along with two beautiful restaurants, terrace lounges, and a small yet gorgeous spa.

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While not staying there ourselves, we sure don’t mind stopping in for a glass of wine, a cup of tea, a massage, or a special meal under the Provençal sky. Bistrot 40K hit the spot! Our evening unfolded as with an artist’s stroke the color of the sky changed moment by moment over the valley.

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Bistrot 40K and its gourmet neighbor, Restaurant Jérôme Blanchet, are passionate about using local, seasonal produce. From the fresh baked bread to the tapenade to the amuse-bouche to an amazing bottle of local Ventoux wine, we were off to a good start.

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From there, we enjoyed appetizers and a delicious le côte de cochon du Ventoux rôtie along with gratin d’aubergine and a cherry tart for dessert.

For an enchanting evening under an intoxicating Provençal sky, we recommend a meal at Crillon le Brave. Other options for extreme ambience are la Bergerie in Maubec and le Petit Café  in Oppède-le-Vieux.

À bientôt!