Planning a honeymoon wasn’t as easy as I thought. There are many factors at play, most importantly time and money, but also factors such as the novelty factor, the relaxation factor, the weather factor, the distance and other logistical issues, and also taking into account that it there is some expectation that it will be the MOST special vacation EVER…because it is your honeymoon after all.
Alastair has been to so many places around the world already, that it was difficult to find somewhere new for him. Also, after calculating all the time we had to take off for the wedding and travelling back to London for the UK party, we realized we only had just over a week to take for our honeymoon. My dreams of returning to my birthplace, Hawaii, or possibly visiting somewhere exotic in Southeast Asia, were curtailed due to the distance and our time window.
I started looking around Europe since we would be leaving from London and, taking all of the variables into consideration, my mind landed on France. And, once I started researching Provence, my mind was set. Although Alastair has been to France on a number of occasions in his youth, he has not been to the Provence region, which is the southeastern province of France. The region is known for its lavender fields, vineyards, Mediterranean climate, historical architecture, mountains, and picturesque villages. Even more appealing, was the availability of the high-speed train from Avignon to Paris. I had to see Paris, at least once in my life! With the location decided, planning fell into place, and we were both excited for our French honeymoon.
Alastair and I flew from London to Marseille, which is an easy and quick flight. In Marseille, we picked up our rental car, an adorable little Fiat, and began to navigate our way around. We drove towards the town of Noves, where our B&B was located, but stopped in the quaint city of Aix-en-Provence en route. Surprisingly, we managed to navigate the roads of France easily enough. Aix-en-Provence is a pedestrian city known for its fountains and history of art. We found a café for lunch and I experienced the first of many French meals (it was pretty exciting for me).
We eventually reached our B&B, Villa Mas St. Jean, in Noves. Surrounded by vineyards, the property boasted olive and palm trees, lovely gardens with oleander and lavender, and a charming house.
The estate is owned and run by a Dutch couple, Christine and Ruud, who are exceptional hosts, along with their dogs, Duran and Luna, with whom we became fast friends.
We were met with some celebratory champagne, and our room overlooked the gardens below.
I honestly couldn’t believe how beautiful the place was. It was quietly tucked away from the town center and felt like a secret garden as each turn gave us a new place to sit and enjoy the warm sunshine. There was an enormous barbecue area, a heated outdoor pool and a large court to play Boules.
Every morning we indulged in a delicious breakfast of croissants, fresh orange juice, hot coffee, fruit, home-made jams, and warm breads from the local boulangerie. I usually avoid butter in my everyday life as it doesn’t hold much appeal for me, but French butter is in a class all its own, and I was slathering that stuff on anything I could find by the end! My daily diet in Sierra Leone is almost completely vegan and wheat free, and my daily diet in France was almost completely bread, butter and cheese (and wine)! Hey, you’re only on Honeymoon once, and I wanted to take advantage of the French cuisine.
Alastair and I had four lovely days and nights at Villa Mas St. Jean, enjoying the delights of Provence. Having a car allowed us to drive to different sites, and take long meandering walks exploring towns and through the countryside between villages. We often had picnics of fresh bread, local chevre and the acclaimed local Rose or other regional wines.
I only wish I was able to speak French, beyond the odd catch-phrase, because I find it to be an incredibly romantic language that has a sing-song nature to it. Alastair had to do most of the conversing for us, and he even surprised me with some of the French that he pulled out.
We certainly never went hungry with boulangeries around every corner.
Not surprisingly, the countryside of this region inspired many Vincent van Gogh’s most famous paintings, even this little view of the mountains.
We went to the town of St. Remy-de-Provence on market day and weaved our way through hundreds of stalls with items such as handmade crafts, fresh produce, cured meats and cheeses, and sweet macarons. We also visited vineyards and sampled the local wines.
We spent a day touring the grand city of Avignon, referred to as “The City of Popes”. The city center is walled-in and contains the historical palace of the Pope. Also, we walked along the bridge of Avignon, that now only extends only partially across the River Rhone.
And, of course, we stopped to smell the roses :)
On more than one night, Alastair and I cooked dinner for ourselves, preferring a relaxing evening in and taking advantage of the outdoor patio and barbecue area. Our furry friends were never far away.
Provence exceeded all of my expectations of a French honeymoon. Alastair and I didn’t have much of an itinerary and we took each day as it came, exploring with our little Fiat, and enjoying what the region had to offer us. We also loved staying in, with the beauty of Villa Mas St. Jean, we would lounge by the pool in the afternoon, or by one of the enormous fireplaces in the evening. A few times we played Boules and even went for a swim.
Provence was extremely relaxing and the pace of our days was perfect. I would love to go back someday and spend some more time roaming all of the little towns and trying all of the boulangeries!
Sadly, after four perfect days, we said goodbye to our new friends, both canine and human.
We drove back to the city of Avignon, where we were dropped off our little Fiat, the trusty honeymoon-mobile, and awaited our train to Paris.
Au revoir Provence et bonjour Paris!!