After three glorious days in The City of Light, we boarded the high speed Eurail/LGV train for Avignon in Central Provence. What a way to travel! Gliding on silent air through the idyllic French countryside at a cool cruising speed of 180 miles per hour, makes flying coach seem like the torture that we all know it to be. I have often said that the Europeans can teach us Americans a thing or two about long distance travel. Their trains are clean, sleek, fast, extremely comfortable and, best of all, cheap! Now if they could only figure out a way to build an LGV from Paris to Atlanta. But I digress.
Known as the City of Popes, with seven Pontiffs having resided there, Avignon was the center of the Papacy from 1305 to 1378. That is important because it defines the essence of this urban center in the southeastern region of France known as Provence. Located in southeastern France on the Mediterranean, Provence is the Tuscany of France. It is full of rolling hills, vineyards and stunning coastlines as it stretches to the Cote d'Azur, knocking on the door of the famed playground of the rich, Monte Carlo. After studying the history, the language and reading A Year In Provence, the witty account of a transplanted Brit, we boarded the train in Paris with great anticipation. As we road our magic carpet toward Avignon, through the countryside and small hamlets spread over this beautiful and rugged land of ancient and modern conflict, it made me appreciate the solidarity of French culture, which is quickly disappearing due to a variety of demographic and societal changes. Memo to le francais - Vous tenir mode de vie en France (Keep your way of life in France).
After arriving in Avignon, we picked up a rental car, planning to drive to Nice in the south, after our stay in Avignon, we promptly got lost. The good news was that we were able to "get the lay of the land" as we traversed the same spot via many U-turns and detours. One in particular will always be remembered by my BFF/wife as I headed down what I thought was a small road, that was actually a small sidewalk with very high curbs. As luck would have it , the car was just the right size (very small) to fit within the narrow curbs as if it were specifically designed for just that purpose. You know - like Space Mountain at Disney!! With my aforementioned BFF laughing hysterically, I did eventually extricate the car from the sidewalk. After much map study and stopping for directions numerous times, we finally found the street that Lumani Guesthouse was located on. Actually, it was an alley with parking at a premium. After finally seeing a very small sign next to a large painted wooden gate, we parked, got our luggage and apprehensively rang the bell. Elisabeth, one of the owners, answered and ushered us into an art filled courtyard complete with casual tables and chairs, sculpture, flowers everywhere and a serene fountain. All just within the original walls of the ancient city.
This blog is all about finding places that are different - that challenge our perception of what we find interesting. One of the attributes of hotel design in Europe is the willingness to combine different design motifs from different eras. American hotel designers rarely exhibit the willingness to create spaces that merge design "styles" like the Europeans. The Lumani Guest House , designed and owned by Jean, an architect and Elisabeth, an artist, manages to insert highly detailed, minimalist designed rooms with an eclectic array of furnishings, into an eighteenth century manor house. Upon arriving in our room, Suite Escale, we knew this was a place for discriminating Nomads. Complete with colorful, modern furnishings, a killer bed, expansive sink and counter, toilet and bigalicious shower - all topped off with views across the courtyard and a large terrace with hammock, it embodied everything on The Nomad Architect's list of requirements for the perfect place to lay our dreamy heads.
Since we arrived fairly early, we decided to strike out on foot and scrounge up some local food and drink. After a short walk, we came upon a local grocer with local cheese, bread and wine. We headed back to Lumani, ensconced ourselves in the dreamy courtyard, protected from the famous, purifying Mistral (wind) of the region, and enjoyed our Provencal wine, cheese, bread and other munchies in this green oasis of flowers, art, sculpture and water. And all in the midst of
the hustle and bustle of a busy city outside. One of the great benefits of staying at a highly unique and personalized hotel like Lumani, is the chance to talk to the owners about their world. Since Elisabeth is an artist and Jean is an architect, we were able to talk about, not only there beautiful enclave of domestic tranquility, but the larger world of history, art and culture as well. Fortunately, there English was better than our French. As we wandered around Avignon seeing the Palais des Papes, the Grand Chapel and other ancient architecture, it was great to come back to such a well designed home away from home while in this fascinating historic city. It also must be mentioned that the breakfasts that were served in the Guesthouse were delicious and afforded us more opportunity to enjoy the company of the owners and other guests.
Staying at the Lumani proves The Nomad Architect adage - It does make a difference where you stay when you travel. Complete with beautifully designed spaces, inside and out, and gracious and interesting hosts, staying at Lumani, in this little corner of France, makes travel worthy of memories that will never be forgotten.
Travel Quote of the Week - "Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe”… Anatole France
Video Artist of the Week - The French have loved jazz since the 1920's. This week's artist is the renown Ambassador and trumpeter of that uniquely American art form ... Wynton Marsalis.
Next Week - Bastide de Marie - Sleeping in a Vineyard.