Many of us dream of visiting France, especially Paris, the most visited tourist destination in the world, and Provence, high on the wish list of places to visit for so many, we talk to a lady whose dream came true…
We meet Carolyn Ansky from Queensland, Australia who says “for years I played the Marianne Faithful song ‘At the age of 37… she realised she’d never been to Paris”. I felt that at the age of 54 it was now or never for me.
What inspired your trip to France?
French Chefs, my love of art, architecture and history and the French way of life and culture. I studied French cooking with a French Chef named Laurent Villoing in Sydney from The Paris International Cooking School. It fuelled my dream to come and visit France one day to see how it was really done! I have a love of fine art and worked in an art gallery.It was also my artist mother’s wish for me to see Monet’s Garden should I ever have the opportunity to travel to France as she believed it to be one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. So I planned to go to see Monet’s garden and then I thought I might as well go to Provence and try and see the lavender and sunflower fields and of course, you have to go to Paris first to get to Provence.
When I won a book in a The Good Life France competition which arrived with a Monet postcard – it was like fate…
Why Paris and Provence?
My brother and his wife visited Paris and I got involved, studying everything on France and its culture, but I still never really thought I’d go there. When my brother came home he was full of enthusiasm and just said “Paris, France – you’ve just got to go there!”
I read a lot of books about France and went to a talk by author Fiona McIntosh who was launching a book about Provence. When she asked “who would like to come with me to Provence next year” I put my hand up. I forgot about it after a few weeks though the lavender sprayed book reminded me of my wish and one night after reading the book I dreamed of Lavender fields. It felt so real – green hills and lavender in Provence. I could smell the Lavender, I could see it.
I contacted Fiona and told her about my dream and she said “Well, you know you can still come with me on my Lavender Keeper Tour to France” And, so I did!
Did your trip live up to your expectations?
I loved visiting France in the summertime. The lavender fields in Provence were in full bloom and the sunflower fields and even some poppies were still to be seen. The cherries, raspberries, peaches, apricots and apples were rich in abundance… Summer is a beautiful time to visit.
I hadn’t expected Paris to be quite so big a city! I absolutely loved the fountains, the historical monuments, and all that gold. I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Paris fountain.
I loved The Opera Garnier with its magnificent Grand Foyer, Saint Chapelle, Monet’s Garden, Hotel Baudy in Giverny, the Arc D’Triomphe, and the Museum D’Orsay with such beautiful paintings and statues and that iconic clock. Dining there was magnificent – all painted ceilings, mirrors, gold and chandeliers. It is also where I found all the famous Monet paintings of my childhood memories and was lucky enough to see Vincent Van Gough’s ‘Starry Starry Night’ exhibition.
I adored the Museum Orangerie where I saw Monet’s Water Lilies paintings, and the rose Gardens at the Rodin Museum. Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, Montmartre, the Marais district, Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées, Tuileries Gardens, Luxembourg Gardens. Stopping for coffee at Angelina’s Tea Room and Les Deux Magots was wonderful. Laduree was very special – the macarons were the best I’ve ever tasted
What did you love most about Provence?
St Remy – the entire village; all the cafés and restaurants, beautiful gardens, rustic rooftops, window shutters and friendly people.
Avignon and the Palace of the Popes; the Village Square; the cafés; the carousel.
Saignon which had such beautiful lavender and Oraison where I saw lavender with sunflowers – what a beautiful sight.
L’Isle Sur la Sorgue with its lovely river and village square. Gorgeous shops and cafés, especially the Café de France; the ice-cream parlour where I had ‘meringue ice-cream’ and the patisserie which had the best home-made quiche and fantastic meringues.
Gordes with its beautiful hilltop village on a cliff and cute little village shops & cafés.
Sault – the best and absolutely most beautiful of all the trips to the Lavender fields.
Abbaye de Senanque, the famous abbey in the lavender fields and visiting lavender distilleries as well as The L’Occitane Factory.
I loved France and it was certainly a trip of a life time…