by Karen Tyrrell
A No-Frills, Understatedly Glamorous Vacation to Escape the Florida Summer
Summer is right around the corner, and for all you folks new to Florida, here’s a spoiler alert – it gets hot, and the humidity is unrelenting. For those of us who have been here, we know what to expect. Either way, if you’re looking for a new summer adventure to escape the oppressive Florida sun, might I suggest a relaxing trip to the small towns in the famous Provence regions in the South of France. While everyone else is battling the crowds at the Parthenon, the lines and screaming motorbikes around the Colosseum, and the pickpockets at La Tour Eiffel, you’ll be elegantly strolling quaint, lavender-scented winding streets in sandals and a sun hat.
Ideally, you’ll want to plan your trip to Provence during the “shoulder seasons”: Spring (April to June) and fall (September to October). The weather is pleasant, and you’ll avoid the peak tourist crowds. But since it’s summer and you are, in fact, a tourist, you may not mind these smaller crowds because it’s nothing like the congested canals of Venice. The good news is, however, even in the summer you’ll be able to wear that adorable mariner’s sweater in the evenings when the sun sets and feel super French. But for the love of all that is chic, leave the beret at home, please.
The whole point of this leisurely Provençal trip is to explore the many picturesque and diverse villages for which Provence is clearly famous, without feeling pressed for time. Would I suggest renting a car? Yes, I would, and it’s easier now than ever before with the pocket-sized computer/navigation system we carry with us everywhere. So don’t fear driving in France! Follow the arrow-shaped signs and your google maps, and you’ll thank me for not booking that bus tour with 22 other strangers from a quilting club in Cleveland. I’m sure they are lovely, but let’s think outside the box for this vacation.
One of my personal favorite destinations is Lourmarin – a tiny town that boasts some of the most precious children’s clothing stores and swoon-worthy home decorating shops full of stunning linens, tableware, pottery, and glassware. Not to mention cafés and restaurants that seem like they could only exist in a Hallmark movie where the small-town American girl meets the handsome undercover prince from Maldoviaberg over “un chocolat” and they ride off on his Vespa.
Make your way to Gordes to tour the Chateau and Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque, then shop for artwork in the small galleries. Swing by Avignon which was home to the Papacy for a “brief” period in the 1300’s. While there, be sure to stand on the Pont d’Avignon and sing the famous song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”. I guarantee someone around you will join in. I know because I’ve done it – twice. It’s not weird.
And why not spend an afternoon in Grasse at the famous Parfumerie Fragonard where you can buy all the nice-smelling things to bring home for the folks who weren’t able to join you on your vacation, but who totally expect nice-smelling gifts from Provence. And another absolute must-visit is the waterfront town of Cassis. Wander through narrow streets, admire the colorful buildings and boats in the harbor, buy lots of adorable French clothes, and eat the ice cream from Amorino.
Wine enthusiasts? I have not forgotten about you! There is a myriad of venues to choose from if you’re eager to learn more about the Côtes du Rhône. From the Instagrammable lavender fields of Luberon, to the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, there are wineries throughout the area to satisfy even the snootiest of self-proclaimed amateur sommeliers.
Looking for a more “granola” experience? There are loads of opportunities for hiking and kayaking! Discover the outdoor beauty of Provence in places like Calanque de Sormiou near Marseille where you can hike and then cool off in the azure water, or hike in the Luberon Regional Natural Park. Warning – the drive through Les Calanques is harrowing, to say the least, but it is totally worth the white-knuckles.
Feeling artsy and historical? Immerse yourself in the rich art and culture of Provence which has inspired many artists, including Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne. Visit the Van Gogh Foundation in Arles and the Roman ruins in Orange. Or spend a weekend in the effervescent university town of Aix-en-Provence where Cézanne was born, touring his studio and the local museums. The nightlife isn’t too bad there either!
There you have it! The perfect stress-free getaway in Provence is waiting for you. Call your travel agent, book your plane tickets to Marseille, and rent that car. Be sure to pack light, airy clothes, sandals, comfy shoes, and a swimsuit. It’s all you need for a no-frills, understatedly glamorous vacation to escape the Florida summer.
About the Author
Karen Tyrrell, a resident of Ponte Vedra Beach since 2005, attended Ursuline Academy, Texas A&M University and l’Université de Paris La Sorbonne graduating with degrees in Economics, International Business, and French. Karen has a love for photography and yet is dialed in to all the neighborhoods of Ponte Vedra Beach and the surrounding areas as a Realtor and team member of The Volen Group.