Getaway to the “Parc Naturel du Verdon” – First Stop: The Town of Riez

The car was packed. The snacks needed for the road were purchased the night before. We were ready for our getaway to the “Gorges du Verdon” in Provence.

I spent time in the area when I was a kid traveling with classmates on a week-long camping trip. My memories were clouded but the feeling was still vivid. The smell of the lavender fields, the aqua color of the water, the steep hikes down the Gorge (Canyon). Memories cherish to this day and ready to experience them as an adult.

We hoped in the car and headed south on the “Autoroutes du Soleil” (The Sun Highway). It was a cloudy day but knew we would found better weather passed the town of Valence. Three hours later we had reached our exit at Aix en Provence. We started driving on a two-lane road towards the mountain. We were surrounded by the smell and sound of the south and memories of a simple time came rushing out.

We entered the little village of Riez (1,600 people) that sits in the middle of two small rivers. The village is located in the heart of the “Parc Naturel Regional du Verdon” (Natural regional park), on the fringe of the Provence Region and the beginning of the southern Alps. We had reserved a small B&B in the heart of the Village “Hotel des Colonnes”. We first drove by without seeing it. We turn around, parked the car and walked towards the direction highlighted on our GPS. We found it! The outside looked like a private house in the village, and in faded letters we could read Hotel des Colonnes on the building. We knew it was the place. A large wooden door located in the center of the facade was, what I assumed to be, the entrance of the hotel. I rang the bell and waited a few minutes. I thought we made a mistake. Then I heard noise coming from inside. A young lady opened the door and introduced herself “Hi, welcome to my house, I’m Geraldine your host. Let me show you around and get you comfortable”. We stepped in. The characteristic smell of Provence embraced us: Lavender. The entrance was dark and cool, perfect on a warm summer day, the breakfast room screamed Provence with its bright colors and large French windows opening to the outside garden. The grand staircase led to the four rooms of the hotel. We rented room #3. The room features a charming and comfortable bed. The bathroom sink created the surprise behind an antique closet door. Additional antiques were spread around the room to create a romantic space for a short getaway.

Hotel des Colonnes

We dropped our luggage, got settle and walked to town for drink and dinner. Geraldine had recommended a few places. We checked them out but decided on a little pizza place. I know what you are thinking, we are in France and eating at a Pizza place. First, you need to remember, Provence is close to Italy and has strong Mediterranean cuisine influences. I ordered a pizza while my significant other went for the pasta carbonara, the restaurant specialty. In the middle of the small restaurant stood a large Parmesan wheel. The pasta arrived, the server poured a local alcohol inside to flambé the wheel. The flames went out. He dropped the pasta into the Parmesan wheel and covered the dish with melted cheese. The taste was amazing, each pasta was delicately covered with cheese giving it a sublime taste. After dinner, we walked down the street to a “Creperie” (crepe restaurant) that just opened 3 weeks prior. The experience was a treat to the palette too. All recipes are made with local ingredients from ancient times. We shared a crepe stuffed with chestnut cream covered with hot chocolate, ice cream and served with apple cider. Delicious!

La Table Toscane
Creperie du Vieux Riez

We got some well deserved Z’s and woke-up the next morning to the smell of coffee and fresh croissant. We ran down the stairs to breakfast. A bountiful spread of breakfast breads, jam, teas and honey was set up on the table for the two of us. Geraldine was such a gracious and thoughtful host. We would have loved to take our breakfast in the garden but the morning sun had not warmed up the air enough yet to enjoy breakfast outside. We devoured our meal.

We were now ready to explore!

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