About Cheryl

France travels at cobblestoneandvineyards.com

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 three favorites: Bistrot la Terrasse in Joucas, la Bergerie in Maubec, and le Petit Café  in Oppède-le-Vieux.

À bientôt!

Scotland’s Mesmerizing Fairy Pools

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Most visitors to the Isle of Skye plan to visit the popular Fairy Pools. And you should too! Rain or shine, I was going. And it was mesmerizing to say the least.

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After leaving the parking lot and walking the trail a little ways, you come to a gushing river crossing with three slippery rocks overflowing with water that you must cross in order to proceed. First thought. Now, what could possibly go wrong here? Yes, it is treacherous! After searching for some time for another way across and studying the strategy of others in how to do it without falling, we said: “Let’s go! Make it quick and get it over with!” Thankfully, we escaped a fall and were on our way. Though on our way back, it was sad to see one young person down while the Mountain Rescue team was making its way down the trail to carry him out. Here’s a thought. How about a small bridge instead of  rocks covered in gushing water? Or is there no fun in that?

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After the treacherous water crossing, the rest is easy. It is a moderate walk—with good hiking boots—amid beautiful glistening pools of water and ominous mountains lurking behind.

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When we got to the end of the Fairy Pools, my husband naturally wanted to keep going despite the sign.

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So we continued on a little further until the only way to continue was to wade through water. Seeing the rain clouds coming and being the mountain “experts” that we are, we decided it would be best to make our way back. After all, we still had to cross the treacherous rocks at the end.

For more information on the Fairy Pools, located near the village of Carbost on the road to Glen Brittle at the foot of the Black Cuillins, the Isle of Skye.com has a wealth of information.

À bientôt!

Les Bories & Spa Hidden in Gordes

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Secluded in a 20-acre aromatic park of olive and cypress trees, lavender, rosemary, and thyme is a hidden little retreat called les Bories, which is located on a quiet road across from Gordes. Les Bories is a five-star luxury hotel with a beautiful spa that offers extensive treatments.

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So in keeping with my tradition of getting a massage while my husband is biking away in a cyclist’s paradise, I just can’t get enough of les Bories! Being able to wander around Gordes afterward is a plus.

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Funny story though. My first time to les Bories, I felt a little out of place since I wasn’t use to luxury resorts and had never even had a massage before. In fact, in our early travels, we use to travel on $30 a day for two people. Now on $30 a day, you can still eat like a king in France—the outdoor markets, the bread, the cheese, the everything!

So I am dropped off at les Bories, planning to meet up with my husband later in Gordes. My plan was to walk the hotel’s gentle fitness trail that takes you from the resort right into the village. Graciously, the five-star resort offered to drive me to the village after the treatment, but I didn’t want to inconvenience anyone since I already felt out of place. So I said: “That’s okay. I can just walk the trail down. No problem.”

Problem! With my inherent lack of sense of direction, somehow I got off the short trail and was completely lost. Perhaps it had to do with my not understanding French signs. So after just enjoying the most relaxing massage of a lifetime, I am now wandering around in the intense heat of Provence completely lost in the garrigue on a very secluded dirt road. On top of that, bees are swarming me as I am covered in honey and other concoctions from my massage. I walked and walked in the blazing sun, occasionally passing gated mansions and thinking that sooner or later I would have to ring someone’s intercom for help. Somehow I kept going. After quite some time, I made it out onto a main road. At this point I sensed I was well above the village and started to make my way down the road, relieved that at least I had made it to a main road. Long behold, a happy biker goes whipping by with delight. Yes, my husband is having a grand old time while I am now a disheveled mess of sweat and dehydration and terror!

Yet, none of that has stopped me from returning to les Bories—a beautiful, secluded retreat with treatments such as the Egyptian Beauty Therapy, the Greco-Roman Therapy, and the Coeur de Provence Therapy that will keep you coming back again and again.

IMG_5381IMG_5386À bientôt!