Sam and I have (by complete accident) landed in one of the most picturesque towns in Southern France. Call it beginners luck or maybe divine guidance, but Utzé (we pronounce it utsey like cutesy) and its neighboring village Monte Arena (where our little castle is, ooo-la-la!) remind me of a small Siena, Italy. Cobblestone streets, towers, little markets and shops and cafes galore – the people are beyond friendly and the heat is bearable only because of the breeze. Sam and I wander around taking pictures and arguing about which way to go. We stop every few hours to eat and drink wine: Lunch is at 4 with wine, Dinner is at 11 with wine. We wake up and do it again.
Today we drove to Arles and drove right back out again. It was not what we were looking for – way too crowded. We apologized to the city and the city paid us back by letting us drive in the wrong direction out of town. 30minutes later, just before we hit the city Nimes, we finally encountered an exit off of the freeway. We made our way, slowly but surely towards St. Remy de Provence, the birthplace of some of Van Gough’s most memorable works while he lived there in the asylum.
The most exciting part of driving the back roads besides not knowing exactly where we were going, was the roundabouts. Every few miles we hit one and Sam and I are swept up into the Griswald’s European vacation. We hurl around, searching frantically for one of the small, white markers that will show us which spoke on the wheel we’re supposed to take. We’re becoming pros at it, but I would be fibbing if I told you that we haven’t gotten stuck going around more than once.
St. Remy was teeny-tiny and full of high-end shops (linens, wine, olive oil, truffles) that would fit nicely in Martha’s Vineyard or Montecito. We thought we had found heaven until we got into the car and landed in Fontvieille. Hello, charming, hop into my postcard. And then we were off again, launching out little Zorro car around the roundabouts and through the sunflower covered fields. We tossed the map onto the floor and took our trip to a whole new level, freestyle. Gorgeous chateaus whipped past us as we took winding, tree covered lanes into the abyss of beautiful. The noisy cicadas beat a tune so unbelievable, Sam was sure it was a problem with the tires.
Finally we climbed up into the sky and found ourselves in Les Baux de Provence, a town seemingly built right into the mountains. We tried not to hop. We tried not to skip. Sam even covered my mouth when I went opera and began singing Ave Maria, but it was futile. Les Baux had stolen our hearts. At midnight, out stomachs full of food and wine and stoney streets laden with treasures, we headed the Zorro back home. Of course we got lost yet again, but we found ourselves in the midst of an occasion not to missed…Manu Chao was playing at the Ponte Gard. Thousands had rammed their little European cars around and onto every roundabout within miles. Voila! It was brilliant.
And now at 2 or 3am, I climb wearily into bed with dreams of becoming a polygamist. My fifth husband, Jean Luc lives in Provence and is a gourmet cook. He is quite a catch…even Sam likes him.
In the wine cellar of the Duke’s palace in Utzes…one of the duchess’ mothers was the heir to the Veuve Cliquot fortune. As one heiress to another, I enjoyed her decorating scheme. Gothic chic is always a classic.
We go freestyle…Provence take cover. We’re in your fields and we’re getting crazy!
Sam is cool as a cucumber at the Ponte Gard… I on the other hand, keep flashing everyone and can’t do much about it because I’ve got my hands full eating an ice cream cone.