Train stations in Europe are heavily used travel hubs with many services. I departed from Hamburg, Germany for an eleven hour countryside journey to the south of France. Sounds like an uncomfortably long voyage, but frankly I looked forward to it.
Enjoying a cold pilsner on a German train is a nice treat while you zip across the beautiful landscape.
The next day after having arrived in Aix-en-Provence. This is the central fountain at the base of Cours Mirabeau, the grand boulevard at the heart of the city.
The lovely market along Cours Mirabeau.
This is the entrance to the American University building where I took classes in 1993.
This is the very spot in Parc Jourdan where I often went to relax and read Tolstoy.
The notable feature of a typical vineyard in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is the presence of large stones that cover the soil, known as “galets,” which serve to trap the sun’s heat at night.
I spent an afternoon with winemaker Rodolphe at Chateau Montfaucon, across the Rhone from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, tasting his wide variety of impressive Cotes-du-Rhone blends.
A view of the Rhone from Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a quaint little village with steep and charmingly narrow streets.
This is another village ruin during a tour of the Luberon, a small area just north of Provence.
Another day I drove to Marseille in search of the dreamy turquoise calanque swimming holes. These are strictly word-of-mouth locations, very hard to find, yet packed with locals. There are no signs, only a network of miles of unmarked trails across a barren scrubby landscape between the main road and the coast. I knew they would be a challenge to find.
This photo shows the only sign I found, right at the beginning. Funny thing is after this sign there were no more signs (ha ha!), just crisscrossing paths and unmarked intersections. I ended up wandering around desperately lost for at least two hours in the baking heat. Eventually I found two maintenance men who saved the day and showed me where to go. Turns out in another section of this peninsula, there was a big path with lots of people, which seemed obvious in hindsight, but I would have never found on my own.
Of course one of the pleasures of France is reliably enjoying a beautiful meal. The prix fixe is usually the economical option, it includes a main course and a dessert. I also have here a glass of a local and simple red and rosé.