Arles, France circa 1888: If you were to peek through the window at 2 Place Lamartine about this time, it’s likely you would’ve seen Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh at work in his studio. Van Gogh lived in Arles for about one year, spending part of that time in a building that’s since been called the Yellow House.
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I’d read about Provence’s unforgiving mistral wind, and now I was battling it in the Ancient Roman theater in Orange, France.
The sky was a clear, brilliant blue on this autumn day, but frigid gusts grew stronger the higher I climbed. Struggling to maintain my footing, I tried to channel lessons learned from years of doing balancing poses on a yoga mat. I could taste a grit in my mouth, the dust of limestone ground down over the millennia.
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We do not remember days, we remember moments. – Cesare Pavese
Taking to Saint-Émilion’s cobbled lanes not long after sunrise, I felt as though I’d gone back in time a few decades, perhaps even a few hundred years. In the early-morning light, the graceful wrought-iron signs appeared in silhouetted form. Though the establishments’ names were in shadows, the contours of a sign’s grape leaf, baguette, or sausage hinted at what activity would soon be taking place inside those marchands de vins, boulangeries, and boucheries.
On a main square, waiters dressed tables with linen cloths, and merchants set out pots of grapevine plants for sale. Another shop’s proprietor rolled out a weathered, caramel-colored barrel, carefully arranging bottles atop it for a shop display. Hordes of visitors had not yet descended upon the 8th-century city, and I felt a bit like a local, even though my camera undoubtedly gave me away.
It was during this morning that I would first become acquainted with Saint-Émilion’s steep roads, known as tertres. There are four of them in the city, and as I found out on a subsequent evening following dinner, they make for a lively walk – especially after you’ve enjoyed a glass of the area’s esteemed wine!
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Nestled in French Basque Country, Saint-Jean-de-Luz is a fishing port and resort town just minutes away from France’s border with Spain.
We book-ended our two-week stay in Bilbao, Spain with day and weekend trips to Bordeaux and Rioja Alavesa wine country, elegant Biarritz, France, and seaside Saint-Jean-de-Luz.
When Shawn, his parents and I weren’t tempted by what was in Saint-Jean-de-Luz’s ground-level windows – most notably the tempting tarts of golden-brown known locally as Gâteaux Basques – we focused our attention upon the buildings’ upper-level windows, and their delightful flourishes.
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Enclosed by vineyards producing some of Bordeaux’s most esteemed wine, it’s no wonder that the village of Saint-Emilion is one of the region’s most alluring destinations. During a weekend there earlier this year, I found myself effortlessly charmed by Saint-Emilion’s graceful limestone buildings, its window-boxes brimming with beautiful blooms, its almond-flavored macarons, and elegant wine culture. By day, Shawn and I ascended the 196 steps of the village’s church-tower and explored its vineyards, and by night, we shared exemplary bottles of wine with Shawn’s parents. One night, a generous winemaker sitting at a table beside us even invited us to share a glass of one of this creations. What a way to welcome us!
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Georges, a regal French Bulldog, stands guard at a wine shop in the village of Saint-Emilion France, situated in Bourdeaux wine country. We recently met Georges, who spends his days sunbathing and greeting wine tasters at his master’s shop. A firetruck-red likeness of Georges also sits in the entry way, but laid-back Georges garners most of the attention of the passersby.
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Shimmering like a radiant jewel box, Sainte-Chapelle is often overlooked by visitors to Paris, who instead opt to tour Notre Dame Cathedral. I’d long read how Sainte-Chapelle is a must-see and favorite among shutterbugs, yet it took me several visits to the City of Light to see this Gothic masterpiece.
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Artist Claude Monet‘s name is synonymous with his dreamlike paintings which were inspired by his graceful gardens in Giverny, France, where he lived for 43 years. In 1980, his home and garden were opened to the public allowing Monet’s canvases to come to life.
Today, visitors to Giverny can see Japanese-style footbridge that spans the property’s small pond, clusters of water lilies wearing faint pink flowers, and pathways studded with clusters of vibrant blooms.
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