Last weekend, in the quiet of an autumn afternoon, my husband and I went for a drive into the mountains, searching for our own private Provencal home. The rain was light and drizzled, as if not rain at all but condensation hung in the air, tiny transparent pearls of water. Just enough to moisten your skin were you to venture outside.
We had been entertaining the idea of moving to the country for some time when we stumbled across an advertisement for a beautiful, hand-built stone house. The pictures made it look like it was taken straight out of an Enid Blyton fairytale; it was dusk, and the lit windows made it feel warm and homely, a safe haven from the dark forest outside. In person, it lived up to our expectations. The property was in the middle of Watagan Forest, the only entry via a narrow mountain road, curving in and out of the treescape. It was built on acres of land – so well outside of our price range – but it made for a pretty Sunday drive.
It was also the moment we realised how much we are “mountain people” — and how much we craved to be back in Provence.
What I remember most about Provence was the thin, crisp mountain air, like the cool comfort which slivers of after-dinner mints bring to a heavy belly. The sun on my shoulders that warmed but never burned. The way each and every home looked as inviting as my own, regardless of how aged or weathered the stone exterior. The sense of open space and freedom one doesn’t find within the city limits. The simple pleasures. Fields of lavender, lakes to swim in, friendly locals.
The pretty, Mediterranean town of Nice, with its pebbled shore and brilliant blue waters, may not be known for a famous landmark or a world-class attraction akin to Paris’ Eiffel Tower, or even nearby Monaco’s grand casino, but it does make a great base if you intend to explore the region. It’s close enough for day trips to Cannes, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, Eze, Menton, and more. But it also has it’s own little personality, which makes it the perfect place to stop along the coast for a couple of days, if you can afford the time. (If you’re the sort of person to travel for long stints of time, like I am, you’ll know how important a well-planned rest stop is!) I’ll stick to Nice in this article, but please check back soon for more on the rest of the Cote d’Azur!
Just let that sink in. Amalfi; the word itself evokes an excitement that comes only with the anticipation of a glamorous, coastal holiday. Close your eyes and imagine the expanse of blue ocean, sparkling under craggy cliffs that act as ancient diving boards. You can practically feel the breeze caress the back of your neck, sending tremours through your body until the tiny, sea-salt crusted hairs on your arms raise in salute.
Yes, it truly is the most magical place in the world. No wonder so many people speak of it as the perfect honeymoon destination – and for us, it quite literally was. We spent four days on the Amalfi Coast during our honeymoon in September 2012. Smack bang in the middle of shoulder season, we enjoyed cheaper prices while the Mediterranean sun was still sultry enough to wear little summer dresses and big holiday sunglasses.
What I’ve described below are the places and experiences that made it so special for us – as well as our top tips to ensure you create your own, perfect Amalfi story. Enjoy!
Rome has long been the center of the Christian church, but before that, it was a pulsating hub of pagan worship. The few temples and relics that were spared from Christian marauders were must-visits for our trip to Rome: the Temple of Vesta, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon.
The ancient, pagan Roman deity “Ocean” is the centerpiece for the Trevi Fountain.
I’m not a deeply religious person. I know that there is definitely something out there, but I don’t have a name for it. At the very least, I celebrate the Hindu festivals that my parents taught me as a child, and will pass on the traditions and legends to my children, but I don’t feel any inherent fear of an invisible deity, nor do I believe in any Christian denomination mythology.
All the same, I found myself at the center of Christian Religion, at the Vatican City in Rome. My husband and I were dubious about going at first – with only two days in Rome we were strapped for time (we had originally planned for three days, but after giving Florence a second chance, and then an extended adventure through Tuscany, we sadly ended up losing a day in Rome). But I’m glad we spared a morning for the Vatican. If you – as an Agnostic, Athiest, or Non-Christian – can ignore the mundane collection of repetitive Christian art, there is enough on offer to intrigue even the most staunch of heathens!