After a whirlwind of a week in Paris, my mother and I appreciated the more laidback lifestyle found in southern France. During the second half of our holiday, we traveled through Provence and the French Riviera—a more colorful side to France. The first night away from Paris was spent in Arles, a small Provence town dotted with Roman archaeological sites and the birthplace of Van Gogh's many prized paintings. Though it was only a few hours away by train, Arles stood in stark contrast to Paris. Where the muted colors of Paris so beautifully matched the rain-streaked skies, the bright reds and blues of Arles complemented the warm sun and radiant demeanor of the residents. The streets of Arles were made for walking, as they meandered throughout the old city, encouraging pedestrians to stroll leisurely through the web of cobblestone paths.
It was an instantaneous love.
Where Paris had been difficult to love, Arles was effortless. My mother and I ate pear sorbet through the streets, wondering how many women had broken their ankles walking in heels on the rough stone paths. We dined with a guitar serenade in the most charming restaurant of the trip, enjoying pockets of warm goat cheese with olive tapenade. The rush of Paris had dissipated and the slow moving lifestyle of Provence had filled its place. Arles was the change of tune I needed. When the time came, it was difficult to leave.
Aix-en-Provence was next on the list, a larger city than Arles, filled with restaurants and outdoor markets. We used it as a base to tour Cassis and the Luberon Villages of Lourmarin, Roussillon, and Gordes. Even though each town was a short drive from the next, each location was so vastly different in architecture and history. I found it astounding.
Roussillon was painted in reds and oranges, each building an homage to the rouged dirt beneath. The white cliffs of the small fishing town of Cassis contrasted against the brightly colored yellow and pink buildings. The tight-knit community of Lourmarin made me imagine a simpler time and place. Truthfully, all of these cities felt like a pull back into the past, a glimpse of life hundreds of years ago.
The last stop of the trip was in Nice. A sunny city on the Mediterranean, it was a lovely place to spend our last few days in France. We stayed with a friendly host who prepared fantastic breakfasts from fresh, local ingredients and helped us find our way around the city. Everything about Nice was pleasant, from the maze of small streets in Old Town to the Promenade des Anglais along the Mediterranean sea. Full of Italian pasta, we laid on the rocky beach, took a nap in the sun, and did plenty of people watching.
We found little to complain about, enjoying the slow speed life seemed to move at here.
From Nice, my mother and I took one last day trip to Villefranche-sur-Mer and Monaco before our trip came to a close. While Monaco was my least favorite stop of the trip—in part due to the industrialized look and feel and a case of low blood sugar—Villefranche-sur-Mer was one of the most treasured. The multicolored umbrellas lining the sandy beach made for a beautiful sight and an even better place to spend an afternoon. Looking back, the memory has a warm, fuzzy haze around the edges, a dreamy feel for a dreamy moment.
Overall, the trip to France was a wonderful holiday. I loved getting to spend time with my mother, who was (and will always be) a great travel companion and friend. The pastries were rich and sweet, the sights were larger than life, and the people were friendly and kind.
Someday, someday, I'll come back and do it all again.