Get Thee to a Gite

View of the Cevennes foothills from the front steps of the Salamander gite

What we call a “rental condo” in America, the French more musically term a “holiday gite” (pronounced jheet).

The Salamander gite, way up in the tiny mountain village of Usclas-du-Bosc, in the southwestern Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, creates its own music. The song involves rainbows, a grass-ruffling breeze and the crackle of a woodstove…just in case you like those kinds of things.

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Barging Your Way Through Southern France

“Barging” is a strangely aggressive term for enjoying gentle, tree-lined waterways with a glass of rosé in your hand. Sadly, though, we have no better word in English. 

In French, barging is called peniche (pen-EESH), which I feel more aptly conjures a sense of joie de vivre…with a glass of rosé in your hand.

This past spring on the Canal du Midi in Southern France, I stayed on a barge named the Peniche Oz, and now have an even deeper appreciation for a cozy room with a view of the water. I feel I could make it work for just about the rest of my life.

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The Most Romantic Toy Store in the World

While tooling around southern France on a sunny day in May (as one does), my dear friend Christine and I stopped off to explore her home turf,  the small city of Montpellier. Her boyfriend, Cal, greeted her with kisses and proudly squired us around, showing off the highlights of this magical town that few foreign tourists ever see.

I had no expectations that while I was there, I’d fall deeply in love — with a toy store.

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Images of Avignon

Avignon's Palace of the Popes, the 14th-century seat of the Roman papacy

Wrapped in ancient walls, I was surprised to find that the old city of Avignon, France is a surprisingly busy metropolis in Provence, a region best known for its vineyards and sun-drenched fields of lavender.

But here in the rural heart of the South of France, Avignon provided me with a cultured escape, and a romantic, delicious trip back in time. 

A trip by train or car, that is — no time machine required. 

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Hotel d’Europe: A Sure Thing

Ever been semi-lost and increasingly late on unfamiliar roads in a foreign country in the dead of night, then taken a random turn into the walls of an ancient city, found yourself warmly welcomed at the vine-draped former residence of a marquis (while, by this time, you’d be more than content with a ratty roadside motel), and were simply agog at how sumptuous the place is before you’d even seen your room?

No?

Well, then — welcome to the Hotel d’Europe.

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