Monthly Archives: July 2011

Our place in Provence

It’s just gorgeous. Everything they say about Provence is true: it’s picture perfect, charming and full of good food. We arrived at our rented farmhouse on our third day of travel and even though we’d enjoyed a leisurely pace, we were thrilled to get out of the car. And settled in. Just as pretty as the photos online, we were excited when we drove up. The yard was shabbier than expected and the interior resembled a classic summer rental full of much-used not-precious furniture BUT it also included two high chairs, a booster seat, a baby bathtub and tub toys. We were not the first family to enjoy this place. It was brimming with kiddie stuff. It took Phoebe less than 10 seconds to spot the sand box (again with toys) nestled right on the patio covered with grapevines. An idyllic way to start for sure.

(Double click on the collage above to see much larger)

 

We knew the house was big, bigger than we needed for our family of four, but it was the only thing we could find with its own pool in a country setting. It turned out to have six extra beds that weren’t used once–including a refurbished attic space that Phoebe still doesn’t know existed. My friend Barbra joined us for a couple of days from Paris, occupying yet another en suite bedroom, seeing some sights with us and getting shanghai-ed into to manning the grill, but more on that later.

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And on to Monaco

I have one word to describe Monaco. Fancy. But it also reminded me of Disney with its picture perfect buildings, clean streets and manicured flowerbeds. Fancy Disney? Whatever you call it, the place is clean. This sovereign state is like the Vatican in Italy, its own city and state in one–otherwise it would be France. But instead of a pope in a cathedral, Monaco has royalty in a palace. So sets the tone for the most unique place I’ve ever seen. Carefully tended and lovely, it seemed to be a playground for the enormously wealthy but one that insists upon following the rules. We actually saw an impeccably dressed policeman cite someone for jaywalking, and escort him back to the curb where he started from. While I glanced around I kept thinking, I can see why Grace Kelly would have agreed to this.

We took a train tour around the city-state, followed by a stroll in the open-air market. Surrounded by Europeans of extraordinary wealth–yachts, Lamborghinis, bedazzled cameras and thongs (both kinds I don’t know, I mercifully only saw one)–we couldn’t help but laugh at our most visible accessory: the Baby Bjorn. But as we walked around, we started to notice something about Monaco. There are tons of babies there. I haven’t seen more Bugaboos since our last trip to Amsterdam (Bugaboo is a Dutch brand, and a fancy one.)

Visible from our hotel balcony (yes our hotel was very posh indeed) was the harbor, teaming with shiny luxury liners and ocean-view condos…and a little playhouse nestled in amongst it all.

At night there was music, techno music pulsing through the marina no doubt as a backdrop for several parties and nightclubs . We even saw fireworks. But things were much quieter in our neck of the woods. Sort of. Phoebe and Estelle actually had a hard time settling down in the hotels during the first couple of nights. We joked about the inverse proportion between the cost of the hotel room and the amount of actual sleep we got–but no matter, our days were so leisurely that there was plenty of time for naps later on. Plus our fancy hotels allowed for two things: an extra room and room service. Both luxuries when traveling with two babies.


In the morning Phoebe enjoyed a pot, and a I mean a pot, of hot chocolate at the fancy hotel breakfast. It was our first taste of the French way of doing things, and we liked it. Which is good because our next stop was Provence.

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A trip to Provence that started in Tuscany

(There were simply so many amazing PM photos that collages were the only way to do this trip justice. To see them bigger, double click on each collage.)

What a gorgeous trip. Our biggest getaway this summer was a trip to Provence, the south of France. And because we have two little girls now, and all the accessories that come with, we decided that driving would be more comfortable than flying. Plus it’s just so fun to say. “We’re driving to France.” So Paul plotted out a route where we’d drive no more than four hours a day, split in two parts. I found lunch spots to mark the midway point for each day’s travel. Two days there, one week in the country, two days back.

Tuscany was our first stop. In Pienza we ate the first of many expensive but decadent meals at an outdoor spot overlooking the Tuscan countryside. Not bad. Then a stroll through a village, complete with gelato.

Back in the car and off to our seaside hotel for the night. Speaking of decadence, Paul booked us a Junior Suite and it did not disappoint. Two bedrooms, one huge bathroom, one huge terrace plus a pool overlooking the sea. The two little travel cots, as they call them in Europe, looked slightly out of place in our fancy rooms but Phoebe and Estelle fit right in and especially enjoyed the giant buffet breakfast. A handful of breakfast cookies this was not. And then they were off…

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Summer style

This video was taken in Lecce during our recent trip to Puglia and marks two things. One, is the beginning (middle?) of her “I do it myself” phase. Note the upside down sunglasses. The other is the up before the down. And by down, I do mean tantrum. Shortly after Phoebe’s happy stroller ride came a wailing wallop of no-way attitude when we asked her to do something pretty reasonable: get in the stroller.

We were on our way to one of the very few restaurants I’d looked up ahead of time to try on vacation. The New York Times and Chowhound, two of my most used sources, had mentioned Trattoria Cucina Cassareccia as the place to try. So we did and it was delicious. However, it was this episode that prompted our latest parenting decision. We’re not taking kids to dinner anymore. We’re a lunch-only group now. Dinner is reserved for those who can eat after 7pm without crying, a category that I sometimes don’t fit into either, but Paul doesn’t make me stay with the sitter.

Note: no babies were harmed during the making of this video. Estelle is safely tucked in the Bjorn, it’s “Mena” that you see in the seat here.

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Estelle update: 5 months

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Happy Birthday Paul!

We had a sweet surprise waiting for him at home…with a secret ingredient.

Surprise!

Peanut butter chocolate chip bacon cookies.

We cooked, we sang, we ate…we celebrated. Hope it’s a great day PM.


Also involved in today’s birthday celebration: a finger painted masterpiece.

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