Wednesday, August 1, 2012

TPThursday: ‘Un Petit Cadeau’ in Provence

Un Petit Cadeau; a small gift.  That’s how we recall that night in Haute Provence. . .


Nice, France was the place we would end our road trip through Provence and from where we would set sail on a Mediterranean cruise on the Windstar’s Windsurf for Rome.

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Because our trips begin from the U.S.West Coast it take a full day, or night, of travel to reach European destinations. So, we pack as much into a trip as we can – that means a land excursion either before, after or at both ends of a cruise.

On this trip, we tacked 'land time' onto the front of the cruise, beginning in Paris.

Eiffel Tower

We headed to Nice with six nights to spend on the road, taking a meandering route through Provence without set direction or plan. That’s how we happened upon a magical place set high up in the mountains of Haute Provence, (High Provence):  Moustiers-Sainte-Marie.

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This tiny commune, that blends into the limestone cliff on which it was built, had a population of 1,955 back in 1765. In 2008 the population was 710.

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Below the town stretches a valley so intensely picturesque it was almost difficult to absorb it.
 
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The valley floor was a checkerboard of homes, fields and pastures. We drove slowly through it hoping to find ‘just the right’ place to spend a night. And we did. . .

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But it was more than a place, it was our petit cadeau, “Le Clos des Iris”.  Its name, The Closed Iris, seemed particularly fitting as the flowers in its many beds had closed long before our October visit. It was late afternoon and we hoped there would still be a room available in this nine-room hotel. Despite the owner’s inability to speak English and our inability to speak French, we used broken bits of both and lots of sign language and smiles, and secured a room for 65-euros a night.

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Our room was small and charming.  As we snuggled in between the lavender scented line-dried sheets I recall pulling them over my head, inhaling deeply and suggesting that we skip the cruise and never leave this place. 

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The cheery breakfast room  felt more like someone’s private kitchen than a hotel restaurant.   We were sorry our scheduled arrival in Nice allowed us only one night here. We left vowing to return one day.
 
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Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is considered a gateway to the Gorges du Verdon. And leaving our charming hotel we traveled the two-lane paved highway with sharp twists and turns – not for the faint of heart  - along the rim of the Gorge. There are great views along  the 25-kilometer-long (15 mile) stretch into a canyon that in places reaches to a depth of 700 meters (2,296-feet). The Gorge is popular with outdoor enthusiasts – especially kayakers, hikers and rock climbers.

Have you found un petit gadeau on your travels? If so, where did you discover it?

If You Go:


Le Clos des Iris, Chemin de Quinson, 04360 Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, 04-92-74-63-46 phone; o4-92-74-63-59 fax. Nine rooms with en suite baths, located 400 meters, or a quarter mile outside town.
Click this link for information about villages and activities near The Gorges de Verdon.

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31 comments:

  1. Oh how it makes me sad to think that you were so close yet so far to me here in Arles! Ah well. Next time! And it does seem like you found a real little bijou. Hotels in that area are often very pricey as the Gorges du Verdon is one of the most visited places in France. Thanks for the address!

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    1. It was several years ago that we did this magical journey. . .trust me, I will let you know of my whereabouts in Provence, the next time for sure. We must have a glass of rose together.

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  2. Isn't it exciting when you find a great little place such as your 'petit cadeau'. We visited Moustiers a couple of years ago and loved wandering around this cute little town before checking out the amazing view of the Gorges. If I ever head back there, I'll certainly try and remember your B&B.

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    1. It is exciting. We had several such 'petit cadeaus' on this excursion, and I love it when that happens.

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  3. Your little gift sounds absolutely wonderful. We'll be in Provence for the school autumn break, so will check out this place - both Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and the little inn.

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    1. Another very tiny place we stayed was the town of Murs. . .you might like it as well. Enjoy your autumn break in Provence whereever you end up.

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  4. Wow, you did fit a lot in! I still haven't been to Provence yet despite living in Munich. Looks lovely.

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    1. Provence really is as beautiful as the tourist publication photos show it to be.

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  5. What a charming memory - Provence will always be one of my favourite places in the world!

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    1. Doing this post made us want to return again to this Land of Lavender - soon!

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  6. I love heading out without plans to see where the road takes us! I need to do more of that. I haven't been to Provence but would love too. That would include the beautiful Gorges du Verdon!

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    1. Debbie, I think you'd love the Gorges and all the fantastic scenery around it.

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  7. Wonderful bookends for a journey -- Paris and Nice. A driving trip through Provence has been on my list forever. I hope that I'll find a petit cadeau aussi!

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    1. Cathy, What a great image: bookends for a journey. I am going to use that in the future and it will be in the back of my mind when I travel as well.

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  8. Road trips in France are the best! Great memories. And that little hotels looks charming!

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    1. I checked TripAdvisor before writing the post just to see if our experience might have been out of the ordinary; it wasn't according to those other travelers - some who've been repeat guests.

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  9. Provence sounds great! Look what you can find when you aren't planning on finding anything in particular!

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    1. I've learned that some of our best travel memories are made when neither of us set out with preconceived notions, 'must-sees' or other confinements.

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  10. How beautiful! We visited Provence in 2007 and we fell in love with the area!

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    1. I can't imagine not falling in love with Provence once you've been there.

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  11. Whar a beautiful trip! This is one area of France we have yet to explore and would love to visit soon. I can imagine how relacing it must have been to sleep in those lavender infused beds.

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    1. Mary, I've tried all sorts of ways of washing sheets at home in hopes of infusing that same smell and it has never worked. Guess it was the magic of the place. . .

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  12. Mmm, what a delicious, delightful find, Jackie! I could really picture your trip through your descriptions...wonderful!

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    1. Andi, I think you and I have similar criteria for places we stay so I am certain you'd be charmed by this place as well.

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  13. I never knew France was so varied. I tend to just think of Paris and forget how different the rest of the country is.

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    1. That's what I love about travel. . .shattering my preconceived images about a place and usually finding it more spectacular than I ever imagined. Thanks for visiting Evan.

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  14. I love it when you don't have a real agenda and you land up in an inn like you described. And there is nothing like line dried sheets to set you off to sleep. I'd love the chance to explore the Gorge one day too.

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    1. Lavender acented sheets. That alone is a petit cadeau.

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  15. What a beautiful place. I could hibernate here for a few days with a smile on my face.

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