Thursday, June 17, 2010

Happy Campers

The year we lived in Provence, we had a silly little expression every morning, when we would open our shutters to clear blue sky, bright sun and the scent of lavender oozing from every corner: “Oh just another boring beautiful day in Provence,” yawn, yawn.

Provence So that’s how I feel about the trip that we just completed at Les Murets with six fabulous, dynamic and beautiful women, mostly from Baltimore: “Oh just another wonderful week with a sensational group of incredibly fun women,” yawn yawn.

Lovely Ladies I never doubted for a second that this would be a great trip but I don’t think I ever suspected it to be THIS much fun. Looking back on my emails from the group’s ring-leader, Ann from Baltimore, it’s pretty clear that it had all the right ingredients from the start. Then when you add six women who not only travel well and get along, but are all equally fun and interested in new experiences, and you throw in some delicious long lunches, some exquisite shopping and lots of exploring by a chauffeur driven van, followed by long dinners with a “sampling” (in case my insurance broker reads this) of delicious, sulfite-free wine, you’ve got the makings of a pretty wonderful week and the essentials for lifelong friends.

I’d like to introduce you to my new found friends:

May 2010 012

Je m’appelle Laurie, with a wonderful contagious laugh.

Sandra Sandra, who embraced every experience with a sparkling joie de vivre.

Cheryl Cheryl, whose dry wit had us all bursting at the seams.

Karen Karen, whose quiet dignity certainly belied her ability to attract men with onions.

Denise Denise, whose dramatic storytelling had us on the edge of our seats.

Mme Ann And of course Ann, the ringleader and culprit, who knew just what she was doing when she brought us all together.


Like all of our trips, this one had a bit of culture, a lot of shopping, a ton of dining, and a sampling of exercise (and wine!).

Here we are in some of our favorite Provence haunts:

May 2010 016 Laurie, in the garden of Bonnieux where they filmed one of her favorite movies, “A Year in Provence.”

Laurie & Karen, Cassis Laurie and Karen in Cassis, overlooking one of the Calanques.

Hiking The group, minus Karen (whose leg is being tended to by two well-meaning would-be doctors using half an onion on her open bite wound), hiking up to the church in Oppede.

Karen & the drs Karen, with her would-be doctors (who are plotting her cure).

Laurie, Denise, Sandra

Laurie, Denise and Sandra, windswept in Cassis.

Ann, Karen, Cheryl

Ann, Karen and Cheryl, windswept in Cassis.

Laura a la bistro

Laurie, at the Bistrot du Paradou, who is smiling because of …

Cheese! … the cheese platter! (OK, there was another reason too, but we’ll keep that private).

Ann, La Mirande Ann, in the gorgeous garden at La Mirande, following the tour of the Palais des Papes in Avignon.


These were my commentaries. Now let’s hear what they had to say …

“I loved being with women who were intelligent and whose sole purpose was to embrace a new place …and I also liked dancing! However, I could have used not being locked in the toilet – twice!”

May 2010 147 “As much as I liked all the villages, I loved the dinners, sitting outside, getting to know people and looking at everyone’s finds ….”

Sandra La Mirande “I’m a planner and a researcher and this is the first time that I said this is it, I’m not doing it this. I’m so happy that I didn’t do any research because everything you did was what I would have picked it. I couldn’t have done it no matter how much research I’d done. It was perfect. “

May 2010 525 “I’m not a planner when I travel and that’s what I wanted to do. I really wanted to do it this way, and not plan a thing. Also, I feel like I’ve been living inside a painting. The light and this house and all the little villages and markets and cafes, I’d read about and kind of pictured. But when you go and see it in real life, it’s like Oh wow, they really captured it. It hasn’t even changed. Oh, and I loved the long dinners and lunches too!”

May 2010 422 “I have to say that it is your heart and soul that has made this trip so comfortable.”


“My whole goal on this trip was to have no preconceived notions. I loved that I was able to recognize where we were, after spending so much time looking at the topography and picking out landmarks. And I loved just being present and opening up my senses. For me, it was all about the experience of the walls, and the smells, and look, and being open to it. It really made the trip so multi dimensional and comfortable. I loved it.”


“I really liked having different one-on-ones with people and being a part of such a wonderfully dynamic and independent group.”


I think these three photographs pretty much sum up our trip:

May 2010 021 Christophe, our fearless driver, struggling with all the cameras, after a delightful lunch in Lourmarin.

May 2010 020 …preparing for the final beauty shot …

May 2010 005 … and Ta Dah! “Happy Campers” says it all!



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