A TRANQUIL AFTERNOON IN CHARMING PROVENCE
As Blogger-at-Large, I recently had the opportunity to visit Provence, a popular stop for the ships of Oceania Cruises thanks to the charms of the port of Marseille and numerous other towns throughout the region. On this trip, I decided to join the shore excursion called Charming Castellet. I will try to minimize my use of the word “charming” here, but let’s just say the excursion was aptly named.
It was about an hour and a half by motorcoach from the port of Marseille to Castellet, and the drive through Provence was gorgeous. Along the way we passed vineyards, olive groves and quaint towns and farms.
When we arrived at the base of the town, the views were stunning. As we began our walk up the road into the village, I knew I had picked the right excursion to try out my new camera. In the French countryside, I’m not sure it’s even possible to take a bad picture.
Beautifully restored, brightly colored old houses line the streets and are accented with gorgeous flowers, vines and bright green foliage. It was everything that I had imagined a French country village would look like.
Castellet is a popular tourist town, and delightful little shops can be found around every turn. Art galleries showcase local artists, and artisan workshops sell local pottery, ceramics, candles and leather crafts. Gift shops offer all the icons of Provence – lavender, herbes de Provence, olive oil, pastries – so I purchased all of my gifts for family and friends here! There are also plenty of adorable cafés and restaurants in which to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
As we meandered the streets, every corner unveiled another spectacular view of Provence.
Near the church stood the Castellet castle built 2,500 years ago. The views from its position atop the hill made this castle ideally suited to keep a close watch on transportation routes thousands of years ago. Today the castle houses government offices, and in an era in which invasion is no longer a constant threat, the location now provides the perfect opportunity to simply relax and enjoy the scenery.
I have seen sprawling ancient cities, grand historic churches and renowned museums on my European travels, and these are certainly experiences not to be missed. But there is another European experience that is equally enjoyable – leisurely exploring the charms of the little towns that dot the countryside, chatting with the locals, sampling their wares and savoring the extraordinary views under the warm summer sun.
Life tends to move at a hectic pace, and even when on vacation, we sometimes forget to slow down. So if your travels with Oceania Cruises offer the chance to meander the streets of one of the many quaint villages to be found along the shores and throughout the hillsides of Europe, I would encourage you to take that opportunity. I imagine you will be smitten as I was with the charms of Castellet.