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When I first heard about this trip back in the fall of 2016, my heart sank because I knew that this trip would be a life changer for me on two levels:  professionally and personally.  Professionally, because of the itinerary of where we would be going and who we would be seeing and personally, because it would be the first time for me to return to France since my divorce.  This trip would be the final closure for me as well as a new beginning.  Closure to a way of life that ceased to exist and rebirth of a life that was ready for new possibilities wherever they may lead.

But why the sinking heart?  Because back in the fall I knew I couldn’t really afford it since the first two quarters were very slim although the last two were gang busters.  I also knew I couldn’t afford NOT to go either.  But I stayed resolute in telling myself that another year, another time, just not this time.

As the first quarter of 2017 was nearing it’s end, I was already well ahead of the game compared to the year before, so on a Sunday in March I made the decision to go!  And I made all my reservations that evening: plane, train and hotels.  I knew I needed to arrive a couple days early so the jet lag would not be so hard when we hit the ground running on Tuesday which is when the tour started.  I also knew I needed an extra day in Paris at the end of this tour to help with the closure of a past life, all the while starting over with new memories I would be making on my own.

Day one – Tuesday

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the plane trees

My welcoming to Provence was the D99 and the row of plane trees on either side of the road.  There’s something so ethereal to this part of the drive that is comforting and beckons you to make it through to see what’s on the other end of the road.

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As the six of us arrived in Avignon at the train station, the first stop was to have lunch in the square at Maussane-les-Alpilles.  We had a lovely table under the trees and umbrellas to protect us from the sun and it was to be the first of many meals together.  It was a first time for meeting one another too.   There were two gals from Canada, a mother and daughter, then myself and Beth, in addition to Deb and Susan who put this trip together.  From where I was sitting at the table, this was my view of the fountain.  My traveling buddy Beth Hodges and I posed for a picture.  The weather was perfect!

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After lunch we went to the house to get settled in, unpack and unwind.  These beautiful gates are what greeted us and it was a magical moment, not that magic had anything to do with it mind you, but the first impression is so important and I knew I was going to love this place and how it would help me to put the remaining pieces of my life in order.

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This is the front door of which we entered and exited in addition to a side door at the kitchen.

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A section of gardens off the side of the house where we dined al fresco almost every evening.

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Another area with four curved benches around this reflecting pool.

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The pool area where we gathered some evenings and had morning swims…not me, I don’t swim in the morning..it was all I could do to wake up!

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A beautiful water feature with lillies behind the pool.

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And this!  As soon as I saw it I ran up the steps, turned around, faced the pool and sat down.  I knew this was where I would be spending my mornings drinking coffee, eating my pain au chocolat, listening to the chorus of birds and the water fountain in the pool, and giving thanks for the beauty around me and the opportunities that lay ahead of me.  My morning meditation.

morning zen

And here was my view!

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Here is the view of the outside of the house and my bedroom was the second floor with the windows to the right.  A beautiful view of the gardens below to wake up to every morning.  It was under the trellis at this table that we had our 2 hour French lesson to help us get by for the rest of the trip.  Even though I speak French, when you don’t use it you tend to lose it.  While I understood the teacher well, there were little grammatical errors I was making that she corrected me on and I was very grateful for that.  All these years, my family was telling me the wrong way to say some things in French, who knew?  I’m glad that the teacher was confident in her mastery of the language to not feel intimidated by my confidence…..she teaches French through Skype and I like her method so I plan on taking some more lessons with her to keep up and progress in my mastery of a language that is foreign to me.

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This was my bedroom for the next week.  I loved how I felt cocooned in this alcove where the bed was situated.  I would lie there at the end of my day that first day with a smile a mile wide, thinking, what did I ever do to deserve this?  And this surely feels like a dream!  I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really there.  I was swallowed up in feathers, linen bedding and lots of pillows to prop me up.  Thoughts came of how it couldn’t get any better than that, and yet, each day would prove that it could get better…and it did!  Yet, it’s not a dream, this is real, and I DO deserve it!  I work very hard at supporting myself and keeping my business moving in a progressive manner.  My business allows me to keep up a home, keep up a lease where my 2000 sq ft studio is, and keep myself comfortably…..wine, massages and eating!

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A beautiful fireplace with a closet to the left, before Tornado Tammi blew in.

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And this!  I love baths and this was an awesome one of which I availed myself to.  Again, that mile wide smile on my face as I soaked.

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After we got settled in our rooms and toured the grounds, we had a welcoming cocktail made by Susan that was so refreshing and so good.  And for the life of me I can’t remember what all was in it, but there was vodka, watermelon and I think rosemary at least.  A true aperitif before we sat down to dinner, feeling very French and very ready.  Me and the two gals from Canada enjoyed our aperitifs together 😉

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And this is where we dined most evenings.  Beautiful food, beautiful ladies with a common interest in design, and beautiful conversations.  This table was to share much laughter and yes, some tears as we all “brought something to the table” with our personalities!  And the chef who prepared our dinners, Herve, was delightful and such a good cook.  His dinners never left me wanting more, I was truly satisfied!

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Good morning to a new day!  Wednesday, from my view in bed.

To be continued….

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