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Friday, July 25, 2014         

SUNDAY TRAVEL


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Enjoying France's sights and tastes doesn't require a step-by-step itinerary

By Ross Werland / Chicago Tribune

POSTED:


There are two kinds of travelers: the type who plan things and the type who have vague notions. My wife is A; I am B. I knew, for example, that I wanted to go to France. She read four guidebooks on the subject.

For five days in Provence, we followed most of her itinerary until I knew I couldn't bear another tourist herd on the Riviera. So I declared The Day of Ross. I had a vague notion that I wanted to drive out to the mountain near Aix-en-Provence that so transfixed Cezanne he couldn't stop painting it. Thus we set out for Montagne Sainte-Victoire at tiny Vauvenargues on a winding road a half-hour east of our rental home in Aix.

There was scarcely anyone there other than a few quiet townspeople and what remains of Pablo Picasso, buried in the yard of a chateau he bought in the late 1950s. With perfect temperatures, a sun-dappled forest and absolute peace, we climbed a mountain trail. The still air was such joy. We lingered.

Back in the car, we headed to nearby Rians and found a hotel restaurant (Hotellerie de l‘Esplanade, tinyurl.com/8cndgv2) with outdoor tables overlooking the countryside. The 14-euro plate of the day would be our best meal in France. We lingered.

The last stop had to be a winery. Chateau Vignelaure (vignelaure.com) presented itself west of Rians. Those three bottles lasted three days. The memory owns much better shelf life. And just around the corner from there, someone had dropped a poppy bomb. Those fields of poppies mandated in every Provencal painting really exist. We lingered.

In six hours we experienced the best of France. Next time we'll plan more vague notions.






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