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Tails From the Vienna Woods

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Provence

Provence, the iPhone photos.

There’s some fun stuff here!
Never far from home. In the Verona parking garage, advertisements for the other garages managed by APCOA. (Only Döbling friends will appreciate this photo.)

We were so BORED driving through Switzerland that the local Swiss folk music actually entertained us.

 Alas, we missed the running of the bulls in our Provence village by one day. Perhaps next year.

 Meringues in the window of the village boulangerie.  Only €2,50 for all that sweet, airy goodness.

 Our street.

 Jack struggled with the French version of “coffee.”

An old French Monopoly game kept Jack and Anna Grace amused on pool breaks. Spending 50.000 French Francs on a hotel was fun!

 Downtime in the yard.

 Interesting journal in one of the paper and book shops we browsed.

 Ours is not, but the sign was cute nonetheless.

A few scenes from Avignon, home to the Catholic Church before the smack down Pope-Off with Rome.

Way too many of these signs everywhere we traveled. At least the Austrians have a sense of humor about road construction.

A point of commentary. One day, in one of the markets, Tony and I overheard a slovenly, overweight and obnoxious American husband speaking to his friend on the sidelines: “I bring her to France and all she does is effing shop.” Okay, then. 
The following day, in a different market, we overheard Mr. Evolved again offering this theory to his friend. 
“We haven’t evolved too far from our hunter-gatherer time. Look at the women. Just like in the days when men hunted for food and women gathered nuts and seeds, our wives are just picking through the linens.” 

Tony recognized Mr. Evolved, too, and grabbed my elbow to steer me away before I could respond to the asshat’s statement. 
Finally, Clayton Theodore’s sad face on the evening we had begun to repack the car, sensing that his days of napping on the terrace and chasing lizards in the yard were coming to an end.
To Provence. Until we meet again.

Switzerland and the Tirol. Homeward Bound.

So, a 13 hour drive in one direction means a 13 hour drive in the return direction. By design we routed northernly through Switzerland into Austria rather than back through Italy. I am sad to write that Switzerland was BORING. We were stopped at the French/Swiss border and questioned as to where we were coming from and as to why we were transiting through the country. Really? And, we were made to purchase an annual vignette (€40) for the cross country driving pleasure.  Sorry, Switzerland, your lame driving maximum speed of 120 km/hr and your BORING, BORING, autobahn (where did you hide the Alps?) did not inspire us to return. Ever.
Four miserable hours across Switzerland (and some terrible, no good, and horrible rest station sandwiches) later we crossed into the Principality of  Liechtenstein, and then into Austria where we all enjoyed the views that Switzerland had hidden from us.
Obsteig, Austria, and our Landhaus for the evening. The food and the scenery were unparalleled. Be jealous.

Later in the evening the storm clouds moved in.

 The morning journey home through the Tirol and Salzburgland.

We paused in Salzburg for petrol. Abbey Road, Auf Deutsch?

 Homeward bound and a beautiful finish to one of our favorite European holidays ever.

Provence. We came for the food.

The Provencal market days were special. Medieval villages sprinkled like the lavender fields across the south of France erupt once or twice a week to showcase the French’s occupation with food. I already believe that I am secretly French given my own preoccupations; more affirmation came this week, when even the children did not complain about waking early to drive an hour across the Vaucluse for a market.
Seasonal products were the headliners, along with so. many. aged. cheeses. At each of the markets I ordered a small wedge or a round or two of whatever a French grandmere was requesting. We learned quickly that French grandmeres know their cheese. 
The charcuterie, terrine, and fresh meat and seafood selections were dizzying. 
Anna Grace said, “Non!” to fresh bun-bun on the grill, but watched eagerly as the Poissonerie cleaned and prepared our squid tubes fresh from Marseille for dinner one night. 
But whatever we brought home from the market, my guy was always ready to grill.
One vendor thoughtfully provided a decoder sheet for his vast and aromatic display. No donkey sausage for us; the wild boar and two rounds of cheese made for perfect pool break nibblies instead.
Provence is proud of its Mediterranean heritage, evidenced in small part by the paella available at just about every market. The paella was on par with that we’ve enjoyed at Spanish restaurants, too; and we tussled like unruly children over the fresh steamed langoustines in each take-away portion.
I have this piece of Le Crueset in my kitchen, and can only hope that someday it bears such beautiful scars.
This sign at a restaurant in one village market caught my eye.  Only the French would refer to their best chefs as “disciples” of Auguste Escoffier.
The markets offered more than food, of course. There was brocante and bric-a-brac to be had for all tastes…

…and in the case of these gorgeous seltzer bottles, I discovered my taste was “expensive.”
Savon de Marseille. “Au Lait” is my and Anna Grace’s favorite scent, and many, many blocks were tucked into the luggage home.
No surprise that the majority of my souvenirs were èpicerie. And, no surprise that I eschewed the traditional Provencal mass-produced patterns for embroidered linen from a small vendor. My only indulgence? New Laguiole to join my old Laguiole.
As for my secret French heritage? Well, I do think the lavender complements the Czech crystal and Polish ceramics nicely…

Yes, Provence is beautiful.

As the OCD travel planner for member of the family, I researched and researched and researched the “best” lavender driving routes for this holiday. A Provence tour has been on my proverbial list for an inordinate amount of time, and by gosh, I was not leaving the south of France without seeing lavender.
Well, plans be damned. The insolent lavender across Provence does not all flower at the same time (as in the “postcard” photo at Abbaye Senanque that we’ve all seen a million times). We quickly learned to be happy about this minor detail. Given the gross number of tour buses streaming about, being a week or so ahead of the summer crush was good.
Sometimes, to our delight, though, the fragrant buds presently themselves perfectly. Can you hear the bees buzzing about?
As we learned on our day drive, there is no true “lavender route.” We discovered fields of lavender here, there, and everywhere; up close and in the distance as we motored around the Luberon. Wherever we paused, though, the heady aroma of warm lavender welcomed us.
We exchanged pleasantries with fellow lavender lovers from all over Europe along our drive, too, taking turns snapping family photos. Lavender lovers are a friendly bunch!
Baby lavender!  The plants should be in full bloom next summer, and we may just have to visit beautiful Provence again.

A Grand Canyon, Ochre Cliffs, and a Tour de France Summit Point

In planning our Provence holiday, more attention was relegated to the quintessential Provence tour of lavender, quaint villages, and driving distances (returning to the villa to spend the afternoon at the pool being a high priority, as well). Little did we know, then, that our drive through the lavender fields would astound us with stunning topography…
Driving through Gorge de la Nesque. 

 Mont Ventoux in the distance, a summit point along the Tour de France route.

One of at least four rock tunnels we passed through on harrowingly narrow cliff-hugging roads. We approached this particular tunnel at the same time as a Belgian driver in a camper van, and in order that we all safely passed, mirrors were tucked in and breaths were held. One more spray of clear coat on the Volvo and we would have been in trouble. Quite the Fahrvergnügen.

How the Belgian camper van cleared these tunnels we do not know. We do suspect there were words between the Mr. and Mrs. when all was said and done, though.
And later, just before these cave cliffs we nearly collided with a tour bus. I had to reverse our vehicle a good distance back along the winding roads in order to find a space for the bus to pass without scraping our car, and came within millimeters of scratching against a rock cliff. Scary driving. We think the bus was not supposed to be on the road, as it would have been impossible for two buses to pass anywhere along the route.

Toward the end of our afternoon we spied the ochre cliffs near the village of Rousillion, spectacular against the afternoon light.

None of us could find the words to describe our day in this part of France. The photos are merely reminders; the memories will be forever. 

Shakespeare would agree: it’s a tragedy

School broke for the summer last week so the pace at home naturally slowed, as well. The children and I played tourists, watched a bit of the anti-Erdogan demonstrations across the city, and otherwise lazed around. Not quite the routine we desired for the entire summer (we were bored by Tuesday), but we knew the scene would soon improve.
By Friday, viola!  We were on the road to Provence, a last-hurrah of sorts family holiday before Jack heads to the US. ViaMichelin insisted the drive from Vienna to “only” be 13 hours, but we have experienced enough of the 8-turned-12 hour drives to Cape Cod to know that we had to parcel the travel into two days. Plus, with an almost 13-year old daughter in the house who liked the movie, Letters from Juliet, Verona seemed the perfect overnight.
The scenery changes against the blue summer sky made for an exquisite travel companion, and in good order we arrived in Verona.

Verona is an ancient city that UNESCO has on its heritage list because of its architecture, which did not disappoint. The city is compact, making it relatively easy to see the major architectural highlights in a few hours.
Did you know there are over 200 Roman amphitheaters of varying architectural integrity across Europe? This is Verona’s contribution to the tally.

Verona, some will note, is also home to a certain 14th century brownstone tucked into a courtyard with a famous balcony. Not any of these balconies, lovely to look at as they were…

…but this one at Casa di Guilietta. Though entirely a Shakespearean creation, it is believed that he was inspired by Verona to compose his tragedy, Romeo and Juliet.  Lovers and tourists flock to Juliet’s balcony; some even pay to relive the famous scene.
Truth be told, our visit to this “mecca” horrified us. The beautiful covered archway into the courtyard has been terribly defaced with “messages” to Juliet.
Railings put in place along the courtyard are dedicated to lovelocks, but of course.

For some, to our disgust, their eternal love is better expressed by a wad of chewing gum stuck to another of the courtyard walls. Ewww. The “security” people in the courtyard seem unable to stop this, for some reason.

Band-aids for the betrothed? We were incredibly disappointed in our visit, Anna Grace especially. 
Overall Verona was a charming Italian city worth our overnight stop. We found a garden pizzeria for dinner and settled in with the other restaurant goers to cheer on Italy in their World Cup match against Costa Rica. Things did not go well for Italy, though, and soon one could hear a pin drop in the garden.
Between the awful state of Juliet’s balcony and the Italian football loss, even Shakespeare would have to agree: it’s a tragedy.

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