SoCal photographer Karen Bianchi took a family trip to Italy but first made a detour through France. She reports back with stunning photos and effusive love for a tiny vacation rental in St. Remy-de-Provence.
So, what brought you to Provence?
I had originally planned a family trip to Italy to try out a few villas in Veneto Umbria. But I adore France, so I decided to tack on a couple of weeks for a little road trip with a friend before my family vacation.
How did you get there?
My friend and I flew into Paris from Los Angeles via Air France. We rented a car when we left Paris and drove down the A-6 to the Bourgogne area for a few days and continued to St. Remy. I then flew out of Marseille to Venice.
Two nights in Paris at Hôtel Bourg Tibourg, three nights at a friend's farmhouse in the Buorgogne region, three nights in St. Remy-de-Provence at the most beautiful VRBO called Le Petit Bijou. St. Remy was our homebase from where we made day trips to Gordes, Goult, Sault, Aix-en-Provence, and Cassis, and one last night in Marseille before I left for Italy.
In Italy, my family stayed at a farmhouse in the Veneto region called Frassanelle. We stayed there for a week and took day trips to Padua, Verona, Venice, Modena, Monfumo. Then we drove down to the gorgeous Castello di Reschio in Umbria for another four days. We took a day trip to Cortona and hung out at our villa at Castello di Reschio because, well, who would want to leave? Then off to Hotel Raphaël in Rome for two nights before our flight back to Los Angeles.
This was especially great:
Driving gave me the freedom to go at my own pace and schedule.
But this wasn't:
I don't mind driving on the little village roads but the highways are another story. You better be a Le Mans driver! And there are so many toll roads. Carry cash!
This was touristy and worth it:
A quick stop for lunch at Le Grand Bleu in Cassis.
What's the local specialty?
Provence is stunning, with its beautiful landscape and views from the hilltop villages. Of course, the food and wine are incredible. A little Cotes du Provence rosé is a great starting point for any afternoon.
Let's talk about stuff:
1. Glad you packed: An extra duffel bag rolled up in my suitcase to bring home things I bought.
2. Didn't need: My workout clothes. I was gone for a month with good intentions but, oh well.
3. Brought back: French baskets, antique silver from a brocante, clothes.
Speed round of favorites:
1. Meals: Dinner at L'aile Ou la Cuisse in St. Remy. La Trinquette in Gordes. Drinks outside at Hotel Le Pigonnet in Aix-en-Provence.
2. Site: I loved the market at St. Remy which happens every Wednesday. I found the most amazing cheese, olives, spices, and other food. Also great antiques and clothes.
3. Cafe: Le Renaissance in Gordes. This is where they filmed the movie A Good Year with Russell Crowe. Great place to have lunch and people watch.
Were you there for the right amount of time?
I could always stay longer but then there is always somewhere new to explore. I am always contemplating the next trip while on a trip; the idea for this one was thought up last year while I was in Turkey.
One place you didn't get to visit, but wanted to:
You can't stop thinking about
Le Petit Bijou, the perfect little VRBO we stayed at in St. Remy. It was beautiful and the location was a perfect ten. Walk out the door and you are on a quiet little street but just two minutes from the center of town.
The Kodak moment:
Driving up the winding road and seeing the hilltop village of Gordes.
What's the #1 tip you'd give a friend who wanted to go?
There are so many great little villages to visit in close proximity that you can stay in one place and really get the feel of the city and still take quick day trips.
Would you go back?
In a tiny second.