That is exactly what it is like and if you get the chance you should absolutely grab a few friends, rent a house or a chateau, and enjoy this amazing region. I was very lucky to go for the third time this summer and since I've visited a few of the regions' picturesque towns in the past, I was looking forward to just soaking up the sun and catching up with friends.
I flew into Paris CDG, upgrading to Delta's Economy Comfort section which was good for the money but not great, and caught the TGV train right from the airport to Avignon. It couldn't have been easier. Friends Nicola and Luke had generously invited me to come and join the fun at the house they had rented for the month of August when they heard I'd be visiting Forest in Paris.
Forest and Thibault picked me up from the station and we drove the short distance to Villeneuve les Avignon. I hadn't even really asked where the house was and it was funny to see that it was just outside the small town that we had lunch in the last time we were down there. Also staying at the house were Clidhna and Declan who I had heard about for years but somehow always seemed to miss them while in Paris.
It was hot as blazes and as soon as I was given a tour of the crazy house we'd all be sharing, lunch was served with chilled rose on the back patio. This was the first of a week of meals outside and it was fabulous.
I had planned to eat lunch and then take a nap to make up for the lack of sleep on the plane but one glass of rose turned into two and the cool pool was a stronger lure than the bed. That night we grilled hamburgers for dinner. In the south of France. Funny!
The rest of the week was spent very much like that first afternoon. I'd sleep in and get up to 90+F degree weather and immediately put on a swimsuit. Make some tea, have a croissant from the bakery down the street and then dive in the cool clean pool. We'd all lounge around while the cicadas made quite a din. There were races in the pool, diving contests and many trashy magazine swaps. We'd make a little salad for lunch, break out the rosie wine and return to the pool.
In the evenings Forest would make cocktails and we'd have them with an assortment of delicious cheeses and saucisson sec, the boys would fire up the grill or Nic would roast a chicken, Clidhna would put together a fabulous tomato salad and then we'd all stay up much too late chatting, drinking and sometimes singing with Dec acting as DJ (turns out the Irish love a good duet!).
I think in the week at the house I left it 4 times. Once, I walked to the grocery store for more wine. It was across the street. Another time Luke dropped Forest, Thibault and I off in the town center of Villeneuve les Avignons to enjoy a bottle of wine at a really good little olive oil producer, while he took the kids to a playground.
On my second day in town Nic had planned a girl's wine lunch in Chateaneuf du Pape at Chateau des Fines Roche. Declan was a gem and drove us giggly girls, which was about a 30 minute ride thru crazy, twisty, turny, tiny roads in Luke's car which drives on the wrong side! The chateau had an incredible terrace with stunning views of the surrounding vineyards and far off in the distance, Avignon.
We spent the next four hours tasting thru a few bottles of the regions best. The lunch was good but the wine was fantastic. We started with a pretty blanc and then moved onto the reds, the manager actually asked me who was driving as I ordered the 5th bottle. When I explained that we had a "driver" coming he was all too happy to grab another bottle from the cellar, the lunch service long over.
Dec arrived with Naoise and after a dish of icecream for the tot we made our way back to the house, now even more giggly with wine! If ever there was a perfect afternoon...
And the last time I left the house was the end of our time in the south. Forest, Thibault, Nic and I went for a lovely lunch on the banks of the Rhone River before 3 of us headed back to Paris. Thibault picked a great restaurant with a fantastic terrace and wonderful views of the partial bridge and the river. Le Bercait has a very traditional menu with all the southern flavors such as tapanade, ratatouille, artichokes, etc. It was the perfect ending to an incredibly relaxing and fun week.
Thanks to my friends for their generosity!! Until the next time!
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