provencal vacation + our cottage

why, hello there. i think this is the longest i’ve gone without a post in the six year history of this blog. that’s owing to a culmination of a very busy june calendar, finishing the end of the school year and the

fêtes that go along with it + visa stuff + a long-planned ten day vacation to provence! believe it or not, i was on the computer, only ten minutes until we had to go trying to get a post out, but it would’ve been all rushed and harried and no one wants that. plus, we didn’t bring any computers with us! so there you go.

i know i talked a lot about the visa stuff in my bureaucracy post, but it just doesn’t stop – we’re still deeply mired in some big-time complications which i’m doing everything in my power these days to resolve. stuff much more serious than my problem last month, if you can believe it. funny how quickly my visa processes before went all compared to this one. yeesh.

in fact, today when we went to get ice cream at our favorite shop, even the ice cream lady was aware of our visa problems! (i think i live in a big village, or it seems like it!)

coming back to the czech republic knowing that i have to go and face these issues wasn’t the most thrilling thing but there’s no use to run from problems. besides, it’s nice to be back home after a week and a half away! there something about getting back home from a great holiday that just makes you want to clean, get everything in order – a general feeling of contentedness. for once, not feeling like you want to be on the road or anywhere else. it’s rather nice.

ohhhh, how lovely was it to be in beautiful provence.

we spent a week in a gîte (cottage) in the drôme provençale, northern provence which lies about halfway between marseille and lyons. this is not the part of provence you hear loads about – that would be the south and the towns near marseille, or perhaps the lubéron hills villages. but no – we were in the great “undiscovered” north and turns out, even though it was the end of june, almost no other tourists were there with us at all! the only tourists i noticed were french. this part of provence is really amazing, and can’t wait to show you more of the surrounding countryside and villages soon!

our cottage was so dreamy, situated right in the middle of lavender fields and miles and miles of vineyards. there was a great winery just down the road for all of our wine needs, and we spent our time visiting nearby villages (on foot and with our rental car), watching world cup matches while drinking my favorite belgian beers and snacking on chips and salsa (something almost non-existent here!), going on walks, having a boules match or cooking meals with delicious local produce and fruit and enjoying it on our terrace. not to mention the typical favorite vacation activities like hanging poolside and reading.

jus de abricot. olives saturated with oil and herbs de provence. fresh haricot verts. the most delicious fresh juicy melons. fresh, ripe strawberries. we took advantage of the plentiful produce stands selling

légumes pays.

(below, a bottle from our favorite winery)

i loved the different landscape in this area of the world – we constantly marveled at the humongous hedges of rosemary (a far cry from my puny little potted version at home!) or the groupings of cacti all over the place. the poppies were orange, in bloom, swaying to the strong mistral winds that graced the first few days of our stay. i can still smell the pine needles and lavender aroma watfting through the air on a typical calm evening… but that’s when the strange insects would come out! colorful beetles i’d never seen before, lizards, and my least favorite, the rubbery mantis-sized grasshoppers!
mornings are always my favorite anywhere, though.

(below, an honest-to-goodness fig tree! + our favorite winery)

oh, and did i mention – we brought our dog? our little travel-sized pejsek took his first flight! he is often stressed out by any non-normal situations but after a few days after we arrived, he became calmer. he is the perfect travel dog except for one big thing: he gets the worst motion-sickness from car and bus travel. he would throw up nearly every time we went anywhere by car, and riding shotgun, i had to constantly monitor him for signs of “looking a little green”. in one particularly poignant moment, he started showing the tell-tale “hork” signs as soon as the vehicle had come to a stop, and i held him, still leashed in, thrusting his head out of the vehicle at just the right moment. one of my proudest #dogmom moments, i’m sure.

one morning, we were planning to head to nyons to go to their famous market when ferdie started sneezing uncontrollably. eventually, it started looking serious and we rushed him to the nearest vet in saint-paul-troix-chateaux. something i didn’t think i would do: spend the entire morning at the french veterinarian! needless to say, we did not make that market and ferdie was all drugged up the entire day in nyon, sporting a little doggie cast.

besides the abundance of excellent wine, cheese and produce, one of the things i admired most about being in france compared to being in the czech republic is how, despite the language barrier, people are unafraid about socially interacting with foreigners. as i was hard-pressed to find anyone in the

drôme  region who could speak english with me, what would sometimes happen would be i am speaking in a mostly english/french hybrid, while they respond

unabashedly in french, and it worked! sometimes i feel like i grow almost fearful to speak to people in the czech republic as it seems clear they are worried about talking to me, but that wasn’t a concern at all.

it did help that i had been studying french using duolingo for a couple months beforehand. that, as well as learning some useful phrases helped so much! in fact, at our neighborhood winery, the woman asked if we would like the tasting in english or in french! it is such a lovely language and i wish i had more time or more of a reason to learn it. maybe someday!  the only english-speaking tourists i noticed while in marseille or arles didn’t seem to even try french at all, which put me in a state of disbelief. at least some pleasantries – it’s not that hard! but that’s just me.

(and yes – the only thing within walking distance of our cottage was the tiny but unbelievably stunning hill-top village of roussas… and in the other direction, a fantastic winery!) i’m saving that bottle of red we brought back for some very special time… with some french cheese, of course.

i have to admit that a trip to france was initially not the highest on my long travel wishlist. however. a vacation anywhere beautiful, european, and within striking distance of the sea was, and france certainly fit the bill. as i am an extreme planner, i’m so glad i was open-minded to this idea of a holiday in the beautiful countryside of southern france! i can highly recommend this sort of vacation to anyone looking to just get away in a beautiful setting with delicious food, drink, culture and relaxation.

we’re laying low for a few days during this week of public holidays before summer camps begin next week so i hope i’ll manage another french post or two! hope everyone has had a beautiful solstice and start to the (best) season! & happy fourth of july to my fellow american brethren.

à bientôt