Our arrival in Provence was everything I could have hoped for: a gorgeous view, a slight summer haze in the hot sky, and a crisp glass of local rosé to welcome us. On the recommendation of friends we stayed at Crillon Le Brave, atop a hillside village in the Vaucluse region of Provence. We overlooked vineyards as far as one could see, with views of imposing Mont Ventoux (a legendary stage in the Tour de France) in the distance. Crillon Le Brave is somewhere that I would enthusiastically, wholeheartedly recommend visiting and would love to return to some day.
I realized when starting to draft this post that I would need to split our time into Provence into two posts to really do it justice. Read on for more about Crillon Le Brave, our absolutely lovely home base, explorations of towns in the surrounding area, and our excursion to the Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine region, which is a longtime favorite of my family. Next week, I'll share our adventures in the nearby Luberon, an area that's increasingly attracting visitors.
Above: the main reception at Hotel Crillon Le Brave.
Below: Breakfast on the terrace each morning was a treat. We also had enjoyable meals at both of the onsite restaurants, Restaurant Jerome Blanchet and Bistrot 40K. We found that we generally preferred exploring during the day and returning to the hotel for a late dinner since it got dark relatively early and we found ourselves winding home through hilly country roads on more than one occasion.
We ventured across the town square in the town of Crillon-Le-Brave one night just before dinner and were treated to the sunset seen above and below.
The hotel provides bikes for your enjoyment, and while the setting is idyllic the ride is tough - it's hilly and we had a very hot day for it.
Above: Twilight outside the tiny town of Caromb, where we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner at Le 6 a Table, an excellent family-run restaurant on the town square. As we finished dinner, we were treated to an outdoor summer concert in the same square featuring contestants from France's version of The Voice. It was one of those fun moments on vacation that are extra memorable because you could never plan it so well.
When we chose to stay in the Vaucluse, Doug and I were thrilled to have the opportunity to visit Chateâuneuf-du-Pape. It's a wine region that my parents introduced us to and that my family has sought out for many years. For some reason it still came as a pleasant surprise to me that Chateâuneuf-du-Pape is also a place we could actually visit!
We visited three tasting rooms right in town, and Domaine du Banneret was the absolute highlight. We got to spend quality time with the winemaker, Jean-Claude Vidal, and his wife, who was an absolutely lovely hostess explained the peculiarities of the Chateâuneuf-du-Pape designation and the difference between traditional and modern winemaking methods. Domaine du Banneret is a family affair, and the Vidals' daughter Audrey is also heavily involved in making their wines. We didn't get the chance to meet Audrey because she was away, but she was infinitely helpful in planning our visit.
We also got to watch Jean-Claude put the label on a bottle which we purchased, creating an extra memory in the process. Domaine du Banneret is located just outside the gate to the historic walled city of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Having too much fun amongst the vineyards. You may recognize my outfit which was featured in this post - it ended up being the perfect thing for hot summer days in Provence.
Vineyards with rocky soil under a hot Provençal sun, with Mont Ventoux in the background. The plentiful sun and dry climate spur the grapes to produce more sugar, leading to a slightly higher alcohol content (around 13.5%) for Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines.
Getting into the spirit with an aperitif. Can we all agree that we're going to make that moment a thing in the U.S. too? It's such an enjoyable way to transition from day to evening.