Thursday, June 25, 2015

After sadly having to depart Provence, we faced a 600-km drive to our next destination of St. Emilion.

While hubby was driving, I had the task of selecting somewhere along the way for lunch. Though Toulouse was my first pick, the city seemed liked it would be too big to get in and out of quickly. A quick look online showed that the small town of Moissac, looked promising, and was located just a little ways off E72 highway.

We had no expectations for Moissac, but were pleasantly surprised to walk down one of the main cobblestone streets that led straight to a historic abbey and church. Yes, I think lunch in an outdoor café right in front of a church with nearly 1,000 years of history will do!
We enjoyed a casual, but delicious lunch at Le Louis Vins. Warning: restaurants are only open from 12-2 for lunch, but all stores are closed during that time. When the restaurants close at 2 p.m., the local stores re-open. Oh France!
After lunch, we visited Moissac’s Saint-Pierre Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998, and one that is located along the Routes of Santiago de Compostela in France. Moissac’s abbey, originally built in the 7th century, functioned as a Benedictine, Cluniac and Augustinian monastery in south-western France. In 1793, the French Revolution put an end to the monastic life here. A number of the medieval buildings survive including the abbey church, which has famous and important Romanesque sculpture at the entrance.
At the church's entrance, look up. The carved Tympanum is based on the Book of Revelations and includes a tetramorph, which usually depicts the Four Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) in animal form.
Our grandparents, who are very Catholic, enjoyed walking around the church and then we paid for the separate entrance into the abbey and its cloisters. With its intricately carved 76 pillars, depicting Biblical scenes and the lives of saints, I found the cloisters breathtaking!  
Yes, there are very few signs in English, but that didn’t matter to us. I didn’t need to know what every carving represented. I simply appreciated the beauty of each column.

“Architecture, of all the arts, is the one which acts the most slowly, but the most surely, on the soul.”
­-Ernest Dimnet, a French priest and writer

Unfortunately, some of the abbey grounds were destroyed, including the refectory, when the railway was laid through the town in the 19th century. Still, it looks like the main historical parts were saved, including the church and its spectacular cloisters.
If you find yourself driving through south-western France, definitely take the time to stop at Moissac. You only need an hour or two to enjoy this charming little town.

While vacationing, have you ever stopped somewhere that totally surprised you?

Moissac, France GPS: 44.105412, 1.084502
Restaurant: Le Louis Vins, 6 Place Roger Delthil
Click here to download a FREE guided audio tour in English for the Abbey.

My Traveling Joys

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Last year around this time, we were traveling with our grandparents on an epic French road trip from Marseilles to Provence, St. Emilion and then back to Marseilles.

Once we finally navigated our way out of Marseilles, we found the Provence countryside exactly as pictured in one of Van Gogh’s paintings. We passed by rolling green hills, flowering vines growing up all of the villas and fields of red poppies, lavender, wheat and grape wines. The scenery was lovely!


For two days, we based ourselves at Auberge du Vin, a small bed and breakfast located near the tiny village of Mazan that’s surrounded by grape wines. Not only is the scenery perfect, but we were able to sightsee in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas, visit the Sunday market in L’Isle sur la Sorgue and more. Auberge’s proprietor, Linda, organized a wine tour for us, provided tons of helpful tips and kept us supplied with rosé by the pool. What’s not to love!
In the morning, I strolled through the countryside taking photos of the beautiful landscapes. All this loveliness made me want to buy a château of my own and move here immediately!


The village of Gigondas has been making wine since the Roman times and its wine is a good value in the Rhone Valley. If you like Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine, then you’ll love wine from Gigondas and it’s often about half the price. The village center is dominated by the 11th-century St. Catherine's Church and ruins of some ancient fortifications.


We couldn’t miss stopping by the hilltop village of Gordes, which was once occupied by the Roman empire and has castle walls dating to the 9th century. I wish we would have had more time to explore this picturesque village!

Salon de Provence

On the way to Mazan, we stopped for lunch at Salon de Provence, which is known as where Nostradamus spent his last years and is buried here. The center of town is dominated by the Château de l'Empéri, a 9th-century castle which was the residence of the archbishops in Arles and the Holy Roman emperors. The castle, once was the biggest in Provence during the 12th and 13th centuries, and now hosts a military history museum.


On day 4 and 5 of our road trip, we stayed at Domaine de Cabasse located at the foothills of the hilltop village of Séguret. This village of 800 is one of the official “most beautiful villages in France” (Plus Beaux Villages de France) Séguret is a picturesque little village topped by the ruins of its feudal chateau and surrounded by the Côte du Rhône vineyards, near the Dentelles de Montmirail mountains. The narrow cobblestone streets of this medieval town made it difficult for exploring with our grandparents. Instead, we relaxed at our hotel’s pool and enjoyed visiting the Tuesday market at Vaison-la-Romaine with a fellow blogging friend.
As you can see, there’s so much to see and do in Provence. We barely scratched the surface before we had to get back in the car and venture towards Bordeaux in the search of wine for our 92-year-old grandfather.

Have you been to Provence? What villages would you recommend that we visit next time?

My Traveling Joys

Friday, June 19, 2015

Sometimes there’s just something about a city that makes you fall in love with it. This was the case with Lviv!

I loved walking around this Ukrainian city and seeing its faded beauty in the historic buildings dating from the 1700s-early 1900s. I wanted to take pictures of all the interesting architectural elements – doorways, windows and rooftops. I was enchanted!

And I did take tons of photos – 500 in fact! However, I finally narrowed the number down to about 350, so thought I simply share some more photos from Lviv.

Again, hopefully my photos will inspire you to travel to Lviv and enjoy it as much as we did!
We watched so many people try and climb on top of this horse in front of Atlas Café, located on a corner in the Market Square. 
At the 15th-century-arcaded gallery at the Armenian Cathedral, you’ll find the remains of an ancient Armenian cemetery with gravestones dating back 600 years.
20th-century mosaics inside the Armenian Cathedral in Lviv.
A chocolate factory/shop in Lviv.
The Citadel Inn, located in Fort II, was built by the Austrian government in 1850-1856 to defend the eastern ways to the Lviv Citadel. Today, the citadel features a boutique hotel and restaurant and offers great views over the city. Unfortunately, it was cloudy on the day we visited.
Inside one of the cozy cafes in Lviv.
One of the thousands of lions you'll find in Lviv.
Hazy view of the Market Square.
This photo was taken on Valentine's Day near the Opera building.
The medieval defense walls of Old Lviv.
Looking out from the Town Hall over the rooftops in Lviv.
Just one of the many pretty buildings in Lviv.

My Traveling Joys