Click on title to view photo in large format. Palace of the Popes, here viewed from Pont d’Avignon Saint-Benezet in Avignon, France. During the 14th and 15th centuries, seven Popes and two schismatic popes took refuge in Avignon. Fleeing political unrest in Rome, Clement V was the first to arrive in 1305. He requested the hospitality of the Earl of Provence, who owned Avignon at the time.
Initially, the Popes stayed in properties owned by the church. However in 1335, Benedict XII decided that the papacy should be housed in a palace that was an appropriate symbol of the power of Christianity. Under his leadership, and that of his successor Clement VI, the Palace of the Popes was completed in less than 20 years. Today it is still the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe. Read More
Before even kicking off my shoes, I pushed open the bathroom door in my hotel room at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport. A bathtub! Thank you, God. After months of living in hostels and guest houses with tiny showers, a tub was a treat beyond description. I dug into my suitcase for my essential oil of lavender and liberally shook drops into the bath water. As I sank up to my neck into the hot water, the lavender began to work its magic. Ever so slowly, my aching shoulders relaxed and my mind stopped racing.
Many years ago, a friend gave me an aromatherapy treatment using essential oils. I’ve been passionate about them ever since, and perhaps none more so than essential oil of lavender. I apply it topically when my muscles scream from toting twenty pounds of equipment on my back. To sleep more peacefully, I sprinkle it on my pillow. I even use it sparingly as a perfume and apply it to my temples when one of my persistent headaches becomes too painful to endure.
My life of perpetual travel limits what I can carry. With no home base and only a carry-on size suitcase and a small backpack at my disposal, I never buy souvenirs, but I’m a sucker for anything lavender. At Pannonhalma Archabbey in Hungary, I purchased a bottle of essential oil that the monks distill from the fields they tend. I also couldn’t resist in Croatia, where the purple blossom grows profusely along the Istrian coast. And now I was about to fulfill my lifelong dream of seeing the lavender fields of Provence in full bloom. Read More
Click on title to view photo in large format. Every July, the Rue de la République in Avignon, France, is closed to traffic for the Avignon Theater Festival. Visitors flock to the city to attend performances and party along the main street in the historic center. Adding to the fun and craziness, actors roam the streets in costume, performing snippets of plays to attract customers. Read More
Click on title to view photo in large format. Posters of performances are plastered all over town during the Theater Festival in Avignon, France, held throughout the month of July each year. Though most of the plays are performed in French only, there are ways for a non-French speaker like me to enjoy the festival. Many are classics such as Shakespeare, which can be enjoyed despite language if the story-line is familiar. There are also Read More
Click on title to view photo in large format. The perched village of Gordes is a gorgeous hilltop village in Provence, France. Crowning a hill in the Luberon mountains, Gordes is visible for miles around. These days, tourism is the main economic activity in the village, thus this picture perfect location is today an asset. But it wasn’t always so. Throughout history, the wealth and prominent position of Gordes were coveted by everyone from the Romans to the Kings of France. As a result, the fortified castle was built to enclose the city hall and provide safety for residents during attacks. Read More
I tilted my chin up and let the sunshine warm my face. Day after day in Provence brought crystal blue skies and fresh breezes that kept the sweltering summer heat at bay. I had come to southern France for its sunshine, but not for the same reason as most sun worshipers. What drew me were the famous Charentais melons of Provence. In addition to making me sigh with bliss, the sunshine of southern France combines with the region’s pure water, rich soil, and Mistral winds to create the perfect growing conditions for this delicious fruit.
I’d been curious about Charentais melons for quite some time. In the wee hours of the morning, on one of those rare occasions when I was in the U.S., I’d watched an informercial with a Hollywood cosmetic surgeon who claimed he could reverse the aging process. His secret? A ingredient extracted from the melons of Provence, France. Read More