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France travels at cobblestoneandvineyards.com

The 42-Euro Omelette at la Maison de la Truffe et du Vin du Luberon!

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At the top of the dreamy village of Ménerbes within a 17th-century mansion is la Maison de la Truffe et du Vin de Luberon. Year after year upon visiting this village, we would peer curiously through the iron gate of la Maison de la Truffe into the most beautiful, intimate garden on the side of a cliff and would wonder what it would be like to dine there. Yet, we always walked away feeling intimidated by its elegance.

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This time we did it! And to our surprise, the restaurant, which is called la Cantine des Gourmets, even has a plate of the day at lunchtime that comes with dessert and a glass of wine for just 20-25 euros! The day we visited, it was cochon du Ventoux, which was excellent. My curiosity though was fixed on the 42-euro omelette. Why was it so pricey? The black truffle of Provence, which is also called the Périgord truffle and nicknamed the black diamond.

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The omelette was indeed delicious, and we would definitely return for the truffle-inspired dishes and the elegant setting at la Maison de la Truffe et du Vin de Luberon. There is also a cave for tasting the local wines of the Luberon along with a beautiful gift shop with books on Provence, truffles, and all kinds of regional products.

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But don’t forget that for just five euros you can get just as delicious of an omelette or a quiche just a one-minute walk down the hill to Chez Auzet.

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À bientôt!

Crestet—On the Route de Charm

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Crestet can be described as what I like to call Burgunesque, a word I made up for places that remind me of the rural charm of Burgundy that I first fell in love with. This village is not in Burgundy but in the gorgeous Provençal countryside with a view of Mont Ventoux and the Dentelles de Montmirail.

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Winding streets, vaulted passageways, cobblestone steps, flower boxes, and stone archways lure you in to have a wander.

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After an ordeal getting to Provence, with a ten-hour delay in Munich that caused us to arrive at our rental in the mountains at 2:00 a.m., I was coming down with a cold on the day we visited Crestet. My husband, however, persisted on having me climb these narrow, steep steps, which I couldn’t resist myself.

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If visiting the nearby most-stunning village of Brantes, be sure to stop off at Crestet as it really deserves to be on the Route de Charm. In fact, there’s a collection of small villages in this area of the Vaucluse that have that specific charm factor: Aurel, Brantes, Monieux, Séguret  and, of course, many more to be “discovered.”

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À bientôt!

Chez Auzet at the Top of Ménerbes

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Hungry during the afternoon when restaurants and grocery stores are closed in Provence? Then head up to the top of Ménerbes for the most delicious quiche for just five euros! If you want to splurge, you can spend seven euros and get salad with your quiche.

There are two choices—either quiche Lorraine or quiche Provençal—along with a selection of croissants, pain au chocolat, and biscuits to choose from.

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After two weeks of frequenting Chez Auzet, I guess we were accepted as locals. Each day, we saw the owner cooking omelettes and other delicious looking dishes for his family. So on our last day there, my husband decides to ask if he can have an omelette even though it is not on the menu. A young cook of the family who was cooking that day says, “OK.” My husband asks for champignons, but the cook says, “No champignons.” He comes back in a few minutes and says, “We have onions.” So for just five euros, we receive an award-winning onion omelette from a kitchen that looks like it is right out of a cooking school.

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Little did I know till now, the owner, Gerard Auzet, has been a famous baker for quite some time. He had a bakery in Cavaillon with a cult following for years, which was written about by Peter Mayle in his first book. Because the bread was that good, Mayle and Auzet joined together in publishing a book all about breadmaking called Confessions of a French Baker

The village of Ménerbes, where Chez Auzet is now located, is a village of dreams. Here is some of what you will see as you make your way up the hill to this salon de thé.

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I know I write a lot about omelettes. But the French omelettes are just that good! So soon I’ll have to tell you about the 42-euro omelette. Yikes!

À bientôt!

Brantes—This Is the Village to Beat!

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Suspended across from the mighty Mont Ventoux is a village that can only be described as jaw-droppingly stunning, as it is surrounded with breathtaking Alpine scenery and filled with rustic charm.

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Brantes has been on my list for years to visit, as it was described as a place of total peace and serenity and a home to artists and craftsmen. And I have to say, it is the most stunning of them all. So much so that we went back a second time.

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This quiet village has two wonderful casual places to eat. On our first visit, we ate at la Poterne, which has a stunning view of the village and Mont Ventoux. The omelettes were delicious, the kind of French omelettes we crave when we are back in the States. What a deal to have a delicious omelette, a grain and carrot salad, and local beer and wine—all with a view to die for—for under 15 euros! I’ll take it over any Michelin-starred restaurant any day. Again, it doesn’t cost a fortune to eat really good in France with the focus on fresh and local ingredients.

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As we meandered the streets, we stumbled upon a local artisanal beer brewery—la Géante de Provence la bière du Ventoux—owned by a couple from London who craved the slow-paced life of rural France and left behind the hustle and bustle of the city to start a business of their own and raise their daughter in a remote village with a school of just 11 students. Both restaurants in the village serve this local beer, or you can taste and buy some from the brewery.

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As we continued to wander the cobblestone passageways, we saw an interesting stone bridge off in the distance to go investigate. We found ourselves at les Gorges du Toulourenc and enjoyed cooling off with a wade in the river before heading back to the Luberon.

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If you are looking for a remote place with breathtaking views and the rustic and charming character of rural France, this is the place. This village and the surrounding villages, especially Aurel and Crestet, are remote and peaceful and of course just filled with charm.

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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.

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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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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!