Castles, rosé on the beach, wine tasting, and late nights laughing and singing with friends. Despite it being the hottest summer in the history of France, it was a memorable trip!
My amazing and talented friend Monique Crine invited us to stay with her at Château de La Napoule while she hosted an art workshop. Would you like to stay in a historical castle in the south of France? Yes, please! Château de La Napoule has a long history dating back all the way to the Roman empire 2000 years ago. In the 19th century it was ultimately restored by Henry and Marie Clews, a couple from New York who dreamed of bringing a fairytale aesthetic to the property, and they certainly did. Henry Clews was a sculptor and his wife, Marie a musician. Henry unfortunately died early of illness in 1937 but his wife Marie stayed in the Château during WWII disguising herself as a maid when the Nazi's raided. She buried his sculptures so they would be protected from the Nazi's and overlooked the chateau as a maid until they left. Fascinating! The Château is now a historical art museum used to host artists from all over the world for workshops and inspiration as well as weddings, concerts and more. They even provide children's workshops and partner with low-income schools in order to expose children to the arts at an early age.
We stayed in the Villa Marguerite. A 17th century villa located on the property and once the home of Princess Pless. When we arrived we were of course extremely jet lagged. But the first rule of traveling abroad is to STAY AWAKE! So we headed to the beach located just feet away from the Villa. This quant little beach was the perfect start to our French adventure. Here you could buy a bottle of rosé for 8 euro! Naturally, we bought 2. We basked in the sun until sunset then headed back to the Villa for dinner. By 8pm I could not keep my eyes open any longer and fell fast asleep.
The next day we explored the town of Mandelieu. The town center was just steps from the Château. Markets full of rainbow colored fruits were a vegan heaven. We then had our welcome dinner at the Château terrace overlooking the sea and a tour of the castle.
Castle tour and welcome dinner
Not the best photos but the food was very veg friendly! On the left is ratatouille, squash stuffed with mushroom tapenade and asparagus. On the right is polenta, creamy mushrooms, sun dried tomatoes and of course more ratatouille!
Monks really know their wine! The next day we visited the Abbaye De Lérins on the island of Saint Honorat. Here Monks have been making wine on the island since the Middle Ages. Wine making is very ritualistic and requires discipline. From tending to the vines through the seasons to every step of curating a delicious wine, viticulture can be an empowering mind, body and spiritual connection to the earth. The monks work on a schedule where they pray 7 times per day and work 7 times per day. Every step is carried out by hand including pruning, harvesting, and sorting. On the island they have approximately 125 acres of vineyards. And only 20 monks tending to them! Talk about some serious labor of love. They produce Clairette, Chardonnay, Viognier, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Pinot Noir. And naturally, it’s all natural, organic and vegan. We had a private tasting right in the vineyard.
Wine Tasting Grocery Store Rosé and Women's World Cup
That night the Women's World Cup happened to be France vs. USA! So we went to our favorite restaurant across the street and watched USA take victory. To pre-game I hosted a wine tasting with our group! The region we were in, the French Riviera, is known for their rosé. So of course we did a rosé tasting to compare the variations. I went to a wine shop and tried to convey that I needed a “fruit forward rosé.” The woman didn’t speak English and sadly the only French I know is merci and bonjour! So I ended up just picking an assortment of colored rosés. One of the wines had a giant grapefruit on the label. I almost passed this one up because at first sight the label looked tacky. But I wanted a citrusy rosé so I grabbed it. And it was a winner! Everyone loved it! Just goes to show never judge a wine by its label.
The following day happened to be our 6th year wedding anniversary. So what do you do in France while it's your anniversary? You go to the most romantic city in the world of course! Our son stayed behind with my mother in law while we ventured to Paris to celebrate. It was the quickest 24 hours in Paris and it left me wanting more! We first started out with a tour of the Eiffel tour because obviously...when in Paris! We then had lunch at a restaurant with views of the tower and then made our way to the fashion district. We learned it is literally faster to walk in Paris than to get an uber/cab. Traffic was crazy! In the fashion district we were offered champagne while we shopped. I was VERY close to buying a Chanel purse until I learned it was made out of lamb! I should have known those materials where not vegan.
After that we ran across to the 5th adornment for a wine tasting. This was my favorite part of the Paris visit! I totally geeked out with the sommelier. Wine tasting was followed by dinner at Les Climats. Our waiter was the quintessential Frenchman. Mustache and all. I told him we wanted a 2015 Pinot Noir from Burgundy. He looked at me puzzled and handed me a book the size of a dictionary and said "All of our wines are from Burgundy." Clearly, I came across as a newbie. We ended up just asking him a recommendation and it was delicious! I later learned that "Climats," is a Burgundy region term representing the many different climates that wine grapes grow in Burgundy.
Wine Tasting In Provence Wine Country
A trip to France wouldn't be complete without a wine tasting in one of the many wine regions. We drove to the country side of Côtes de Provence and took in the views. Our favorite place by far was the last winery we went to owned by a sweet couple with 3 boys. Their winery was so quint and we had a private tasting in their "garage." One of the rosés we tasted was mouth watering good. A friend later looked up the cost in the USA and it was $100 bottle! At the winery we got it for 8 euro! So naturally we all bought about half a case each. But we ended up drinking most of it that night on the patio of the villa while playing music roulette.