We are KIPP Infinity, and we are a team and a family! Not only was vacationing in Provence like being in a postcard the entire time, but I also got to prance amongst the poppies and sip rose wine with some of my favorite people on the planet.
I was greeted at the Avignon Train Station by Mr. Glenn K. Davis, Caitlin Emery and J9! I seriously couldn’t stop smiling and we were only in the car park at this point. We drove to the Papal Palace in Avignon to meet up with the other two cars. Admittedly, the first place to visit, after being reunited with my friends, should not have been a historical palace. I passed every placard, didn’t watch a single film, and was too giddy to learn anything in the galleries. Jules (our representative from the non-KIPP world) was trying to tell me about the history of how a Pope might be in two different countries at once, but I was bouncing around from friend to friend giving out hugs as if it was everyone’s birthday. It didn’t help that Ev told me she was pregnant right outside the ticket counter!!!
To give some context, there were enough of us to fit into three cars, which meant that folks could pick and choose their own adventure as long as they could convince a driver to go along with their plan. Some of us hit up the Pont d’Avignon bridge while others stayed in the marketplace or courtyards to do some shopping and snacking. We danced a ‘ring around the rosie’ type step on the Avignon bridge, led by Caitlin singing ‘Ponte de Avignon’.
The drive back to St. Saturnin Les Apt was breathtaking- valleys and vineyards with short shrubs, red poppies, and rock formations staking their claim amidst it all. The little villages seemed to grow out of the hillsides as we wound about the curving roads. Of course, TravelAgent Ad booked us a ridiculous vacation home. It was our own chateau in the South of France. First things first- inspecting our kitchen! Full of cheeses from the local markets as someone brought home at least a wheel a day. Peter generously stocked the place with bottles of red and white wine from his travels in Italy. It was unreal! We poured glasses for wine o’clock right away, dove into baguettes with cured meats, and tested the rounds of soft white queso.
Each night, someone made magic in the kitchen as well. On the first evening of my stay, Peter whipped up a veggie pasta with red sauce paired with a yummy salad. Zach deftly set up our ‘table scape’ and we cracked open more bottles of red. Was this the night that we wrapped ourselves in Turkish towels and sat outside to gaze at the stars and sing musicals at the top of our lungs? Oh yes. We started with tunes only set in France. Clearly, classics like Beauty and the Beast, and Les Mis to name a few. I’ll always remember Addie questioning if one had to be able to sing to join the Infinity family, as Glenn and Caitlin can really put it together! The rest of us joined in mainly because you can’t help yourself when Disney is queued up on the playlist. Our poor neighbors! Was this also the night, as we retired to our rooms, that I’d be talking Evie’s ear off while she was trying fall asleep? Yes times ten. She was such a good sport about it.
The next morning, Peter, J9, Caitlin, Jules and I took off for a market in the super cute town down the road. The village was perched on the side of a small hill, and it was a quiet walk amongst the stalls. We got a bit carried away with our Provincial photo shoot and then couldn’t help ourselves at the local patisserie.
Our main goal of the day was to find rose lovely enough for Janine’s scheduled rose tasting later that afternoon at our chateau. She found two spots in her wine of the month periodical. Yep, she’s got wine vintage running through her veins. The first spot, Domaine de La Citadelle, included a cork museum, full of wine openers from around the world. The gentlemen at the front desk insisted that we tour the cellars on our own before we started our tasting! Just us… breathing in the barrels of vino. Que Romantica! Our tasting here was top notch because we were the only people in the whole joint. Plus we had expertise from Peter, J9, and the gentleman pouring for us. Did I mention I felt like I was in a daydream and that I couldn’t stop smiling?
As we were on a mission to collect bottles for our rose tasting, we needed to hit another winery before returning to our house. Our second stop was also nice, but included a few more American tourists who must have read the same vintage magazine as Janine. The wine here was a bit peppery but tastings need variety, so we bought a couple of bottles here, too.
Then this happened…I still pinch myself.
J9 actually led on dinner this night as well. Veggie frittatas and salad to follow up our amazing afternoon. I seriously love the people we love.
Friday was the final group trip as it was Glenn’s last day. We caravanned to a large market full of food, crafts, scarves, and miles of stalls. We really couldn’t help ourselves here. Then we hit up Aix, a college town with some beautiful tree-lined shopping lanes. I took off after Jules who always has locations mapped out at each stop, usually churches or notable architecture sites. Traveling with Jules means you get a first class masters course in these two areas. I laugh out loud when I remember our trip in Prague together. After about two full days of Jules leading us through churches, Corey exclaimed “Jules, did you like study this or something?!”
I have to describe our next move, as we had to make some logistical decisions when heading out of Aix. In true KIPPster form, we created a bar graph to determine which car would take Glenn to the airport, who would return back to our accommodation, and who would drive to Marseille for sightseeing. Then imagine us all lining up to physically create the bars of the graph to vote for to ride in each car. Peter drove Glenn. Addie drove home. Perri was a trooper and drove our group all the way to Marseille to do a bit more sightseeing. We saw an abbey which would have been a bit more exciting if we hadn’t sat through rush hour traffic to get there. We hadn’t predicted that part and this experience in the large seaside port felt miles away from our sleepy, dreamy Provincial town. And it was miles away. After parking illegally in a Lido lot, and getting stared down by the parking attendant, we did get some beautiful shots in the dimly lit abbey by the blue waters of the Mediterranean.
For Friday’s dinner, we quickly found out that our NYC lifestyle of late meals and drinks didn’t really align with the lifestyle of the folks of St. Saturnin Les Apt. All restaurants closed by 8:30pm. But we did luck out when the local pizza joint still had its lights nearing 10pm. Just spending the last evening with my dear friends, doing things like we did back in NYC, made me feel on top of the world. How lucky to be traveling together in Europe. I loved hearing the stories about work, and I loved being caught up on the jokes and on the adventures. Was it really time to go home the next day?
Saturday: I was dropped off in Avignon to catch a train back to London. I took a leisurely lunch in a posh restaurant, Etienne, surrounded by my backpack, numerous wheels of the remaining cheese and the eight leftover bottles of wine from Peter. Since everyone else was flying back, I was the only one who could take these items, which I could not complain about one bit!
I’m pretty sure I ate my weight in croissants, baguettes, and baked goods each day in the South of France. I enjoyed my 03s (one-on-ones) with each friend on the trip, and I can’t wait for the next travel dates to be released.