36 Hours in Provence
If the Barefoot Blogger didn’t live so close to Provence, I’d stress about where to go and what to see if I had only 36 hours to visit.
Cousin Judy from Arizona spent two weeks with me this summer, allowing me to figure out some new road trips from Uzes. Touring Provence was high on our priority list. When I got down to planning, 36 hours — spending two nights on the road — would give us time to enjoy each stop. Digging deeper into the plan, the trip began to take on a theme: “36 Hours of Wine and Roses in Provence: “wine” in the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, and “roses” at La Bastide “Rose,” home and boutique hotel of Poppy Salinger, wife of former White House press secretary, Pierre Salinger.
Hope you enjoy following our trip!
Morning tour of Avignon
Lunch and tour Chateauneuf-du-Pape
Overnight at Bastide Rose
Morning touring St. Paul de Mausolee and the “Trail of Van Gogh”
Lunch and shopping Saint-Rémy-de-Provence
Dinner and overnight at Bastide Rose
L’Isle sur la Sorgue Sunday Antique Market
Drive back to Uzes
Itinerary: Avignon, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Thor
To get anywhere from Uzes, you almost always have to go through Avignon or Nimes. For this jaunt into Provence, Avignon was the direction to take. Plus, it is a city I wanted Judy to see, even briefly.
Our travel plan for the first day was to visit Avignon in the morning and then have a late lunch in Chateauneuf-du-Pape. We would wander through Chateauneuf-du-Pape, the town famous for wines, stop for a few tastings (degustations), and end up at La Bastide Rose, where we stayed for two nights.
Avignon – Morning
An early morning wakeup in Uzes got us to Avignon in time for our second cup of coffee. Since I had taken the tour of the Pope’s Palace on an earlier visit, we opted to stroll around the main tourist area and then take a mini-train to view the rest of the historic landmarks. The timing was perfect for us to get to the second stop of the day, Chateauneuf-du-Pape. For a Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) tour, add another 1 1/2 to 2 hours to your morning in Avignon.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Lunchtime
Just over 30 minutes up the road from Avignon, the wine district of Chateauneuf-du-Pape was waiting for us. In English, the name of the town and region means “Pope’s new chateau.” The once glorious chateau in the village, which was the summer home of Pope John XXII, the second of the popes who resided in Avignon, is now in ruins.
While part of our mission in Chateauneuf-du-Pape was to taste wine, we also wanted to see Chateau Des Fines Roches and have lunch on the terrace of the elegant hillside resort. I wish we enjoyed the meal as much as the scenery, but the food and service were disappointing. Perhaps it was a bad day for the chef and staff because I’d seen rather good reviews by others who have been there to stay and to dine. You should go there anyway… even if it’s for a cocktail. The view is fantastic, and the poolside dining spot is elegant.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape – Afternoon Wine Tasting
After lunch, it was on to wine tasting. A little research reading online wine magazines helped identify some of the world-famous domains to seek out. We would be happy if we could hit just one of the well-known places for “degustation” (wine tasting).
The first place we stopped was Chateau Cabrieres. The wines we tasted were very typical of the Côtes du Rhône region, filled with flavors of figs, cherries, and berries. Quite nice.
Our second stop was at one of the domains on our list — Paul Avil’s Clos des Pape. The centuries-old domain consistently ranked high in wine publications. The tasting room was unassuming, and the host was friendly and helpful. Needless to say, the wine was superb!
Thor – La Bastide Rose – Overnight
A friend told me about La Bastide Rose, a boutique hotel located centrally in the area of Provence we were planning to visit. The Bastide is owned by Poppy Salinger-Le-Cesne, wife of the late Pierre Salinger, press secretary to President John Kennedy. My friend also told me there was a museum on the property filled with memorabilia from Salinger’s days in the White House. Since I was a huge fan of the Kennedys and a journalist, I could think of nothing better than visiting Salinger’s home to learn about his life and career. Perhaps I would learn some secrets about the days of “Camelot.” Cousin Judy agreed that a stay at La Bastide Rose would be the crown jewel in our tour of Provence.
Pierre Salinger lived at La Bastide Rose with his family for four years. Less than an hour from Avignon, the private property is hidden away among groves of apple trees and acres of vineyards. The seventeenth-century home and adjoining structure, converted from a paper mill, is along a section of the Sorgue River. At one time, the property was a production facility for Italian marble objects.
The comfortably elegant estate includes an outdoor garden with massive contemporary sculptures and art pieces. Beside the garden is the river and a park-like island that is part of the property. Hammocks, swings, benches, and sunchairs are arranged throughout the island, where visitors can relax and hide out. The peaceful ambiance is complete with a waterfall that sends rippling sounds throughout the place.
On our first night at the Bastide, we enjoyed a light tapas meal as we sat on the terrace. Then it was early to bed. Day two was going to be very busy.
Itinerary: Saint- Remy, Le Baux de Provence, La Bastide Rose.
Even though I had been to Saint-Remy, I was anxious to see it again. My last trip was in the springtime, and I knew the surroundings would look much different in the summer. Of course, who can resist shopping and lunch in the beautiful town of Saint-Remy? In Les Baux de Provence, we were headed straight to see the famous light show (Carrières de Lumières). A wine tasting at Cave Vignoble Sainte Berthe was conveniently nearby. Next, dinner and overnight at La Bastide Rose.
St. Paul de Mausolee in Saint-Remy -Morning tour
St. Paul de Mausolee is the hospital asylum where Van Gogh self-committed himself just before his death. The well-maintained site is faithfully preserved to remind visitors of when Van Gogh was a patient. From the bedroom where Van Gogh’s wheelchair and desk sat to the courtyard below, everything was just as he would have left it. Since my last visit, a new addition to St. Paul is the kitchen, restored to perfection.
The morning market in Saint-Remy was coming to a close when we arrived; nevertheless, plenty of shops were open and ready to serve up everything Provencal. From olive oil to configures and calissons — a new sort of candy famous in Provence. Cans of sardines, Camargue rice — red and black — and flavored salts were my finds of the day.
Carrières de Lumières in Les Baux de Provence- Late afternoon
Not too far down the road from Saint-Remy is Les Baux de Provence. The village atop a hill in the southern part of the Alpilles mountain range is a sight to see. During the summer, the hilltop village is packed with tourists, so we opted to skip the steep climb and visit only the Carrières de Lumières. Neither of us was prepared for the experience. First of all, the cave was mammoth. Second, the presentation of art and music was mind-blowing. Hundreds of tourists filled the aisles between the illuminated walls of the cave, yet it seemed as if we were the only ones there. Visitors sat around the perimeter of the vast space just so they could take it all in.
Coming out from the light show, we were happy to run into Mas Sainte Berthe, a winery, on our way out of Les Baux. Yes, more wine! These are some of my favorite tastings of the trip.
Bastide Rose in Thor -Dinner and overnight
Discovering that Bastide Rose had a fine restaurant on site was an added reason for staying for two nights. The mastermind of the kitchen is Poppy’s son, Emmanuel de Menthon.
Emmanuel and his chef create imaginative dishes from local and home-grown products along with his son, who serves as wine host and waiter. Guests appear at La Bastide Rose from far and near to enjoy a meal and the beautiful surroundings.
Itinerary: L’Isle sur la Sorgue and return to Uzes
My Aunt Rose was one of the reasons I grew to love collecting things, so I knew her daughter Judy would love L’Isle sur la Sorgue. The small town has a Sunday antique market that is well-known in this part of France. There is also a Sunday “everything” market, similar to the Saturday Market in Uzès. It was a perfect last stop for our tour, only a few kilometers from the Bastide. After our “goodbye” to Poppy, we set out to see what we could find.
In the tiny town lined with canals and shopping stalls, we walked through throngs of people and stopped only for a late lunch at one of the busy cafes. With full stomachs and happy hearts, we were ready to head back to Uzes, ending our 36-hour tour of Provence. We had “been there, done that” … and had a ball along the way!
For more information about places we visited, check out these blog posts.