Well, 24 hours of travel with the strangest transfer in China and we finally landed in our favorite city… Paris! Even if only there for a day, the second we got a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower we were immediately re-energized and excited to be back in Europe.
It just so happened that one of my good friends from camp (15 years ago!) was on her honeymoon in Paris the day we arrived, so our first day there was solely focused on spending time with Sara and her new husband Scott. We’re so glad they let us crash a day of their honeymoon! To be running around Paris on a gorgeous spring day with friends is exactly what we needed after our sweating through 2 months in Asia and a long horrible flight.
We stayed near our favorite stop on the Metro, Cambronne. Our favorite not only because it’s home to our favorite croissant and Kebab shops, but because it’s on line 6 which is the direct line to most of the main sights in Paris. We went to Tracaderro to see our beloved Eiffel Tower, got kebabs at our favorite place and up to Montmartre for the perfect view of Paris. The best part of the day was hanging out with Sara and Scott and congratulating them on their nuptials.
Not only did we get to see Sara and Scott, but friends from Colorado were in Southern France during this time as well. How could we be so close and not make it down to see them?! And so, we picked up our car and headed down. First, a quick stop in Couchey, our (okay, Deans but inherately mine now!) namesake town. Every time we’re in this area of France we have to stop by, take pictures with the towns name sign and drive through the picturesque little town. It used to be a sign on a pole stuck in the ground without much thought, but this time however we noticed it got a major upgrade! Now it sits on a beautiful stone planter proudly displaying the name. They probably realized that every few years random people come and take pictures with it and it was due for an upgrade!
Steph and Sean were visiting his family in Lauris, a town about 30 minutes away from Aix en Provence. Aix, for short, is a fabulous city. Big enough to have tons of shops and restaurants but small enough to walk the whole thing. The downtown area is filled with little alleys that wind in and around. Each corner opening up to a new courtyard with fountains and cafes. It gives the true Provincial charm. Since we were there on a Tuesday, there was a market going on that lined the Main Street. Clothes, jewelry, fruits & veggies, blankets, handmade plates and bowls, the list goes on and on. The 4 of us strolled the street for hours catching up and reveled in the fact that we were spending time together in France. A delicious and relaxing lunch after shopping topped the day and we were back to drop them back off in Lauris. Fortunately they were able to show us around their town a bit before they had to get back to Sean’s family. The town of Lauris is built on the side of a mountain and the charm is off the charts. Such a gorgeous little town that shows off its beauty around every turn. The perfect end to a great day with friends.
A day drip from Aix led us to Avignon. Dean had been here before and couldn’t wait to bring me back. The center of Avignon transports you back into a different time. Our exit from the carpark dumped us right onto the Place de Papes, a square with a humongous catholic church that was moved from the Vatican to Avignon as its focal point. Sitting right next to the church was the most serene garden area. A short walk up a windy path and you’ve reached a grotto with ducks swimming all around, hoping for scraps of food. There was also the most gorgeous view of town from this vantage point. You could perfectly see the Rhone River and the Pont d’Avignon, a half collapsed bridge that spans the river. After checking out the gardens and having a laugh at the cute duckies, we walked down the Main Street to the wall that surrounds the city. A leisurely afternoon exploration. To top it all off, on our way back to Aix we stopped at an Artisan Boulanger (fun fact, they can only be called artisan if they make their own breads and pastries!) for a baguette and found the most amazing dessert, a Tarte Saint Tropezienne. This was perhaps the best thing we’ve had our entire stay in France. After the perfect meal of rosé wine, Brie and goat cheese and various sandwich meats we indulged in pastry cream and fresh whipped cream sandwiched between two layers of orange blossom brioche cake. We’re still dreaming about it!
After Aix we were off to Antibes, a town on the French Riviera. Every town in France has its own unique French feel and Antibes was no different. A walk from one end of town to the other takes about 10 minutes and you arrive at a wall that plummets down to the Mediterranean Sea. After walking through the town and enjoying a gorgeous spring evening, we arrived just before sunset and the sky put on quite a show for us.
From our hotel in Antibes we took a few day trips. One to to Cannes and the other to Cassis. It just so happened to be during the Cannes film festival so the town was filled with people looking their finest, although it’s probably like that regardless. There were high end fashion boutiques on every corner and each person who walked by us was more done up than the one before. Cassis was another tourist hot spot on the Rivera. The harbor was filled with restaurants and shops. A quick turn around the corner and you’re on the beach. We had high hopes of sticking our feet in the water and feeling oh so refreshed until we realized the beaches here are filled with rocks instead of sand! The water was cool but our feet screamed at us to get back on smooth land.
Our last stop along the south of France was in Nice. We’d been there before and did not have the best experience so we thought we’d go back again and give it another shot. We’re not sure where in Nice we were before, but were so glad we decided to go back. We strolled up and down the Main Street in old town, had beers and snacks at a cafe, checked out the Promenade de Anglais and sat and watched people playing in the sea.
It all made for a glorious relaxing week in France. We can’t wait to get back later this summer and see and explore more. For now, off to Morocco! Marrekesh to Casablanca, Fes, Chefcouchen and Tangier… Africa here we come!