Jenean and I admit that scouting for future tours is our most favorite part of our jobs. Driving around, visiting villages and towns, locating hotels and restaurants and other unique places to take our future clients is an absolute joy and never feels like work. Of course, we are working, but it’s deliciously fun. We started this most recent road trip by leaving a dreary and rainy Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Germany, our home base) behind on July 27. We had just completed some scouting in the northern and central parts of Germany but the weather was just terrible for most of that, so we were anxious to get to the sun. A quick check of the forecast showed nothing but clear skies and sunshine and temps in the high 80s and low 90s for the next week. Before venturing into France, we stopped for a night in the hamlet of Gleiszellen, near the border with Alsace. This is a favorite stopover of ours due to the fabulous food served at the inn, “Zum Lam,” run by the Ball family.
After our night of wine, flammkuchen and rest, we continued on to the south through Lorraine and bypassing Metz on the small roads, on to Dijon, where I’d booked a night at what I thought was a nice hotel a few minutes away from the center of town. The three star Hotel Jura turned out to be just a couple notches above a dump, with our “Superior” room being on the top floor and of course, the next morning the elevator was broken. I’d hate to see what one of their “Standard” rooms looks like. Anyway, at least it was quiet as our room faced the backs of neighboring buildings and not the busy street at the front.
The next day, we left early and drove the back roads in the direction of Beaune, through gorgeous vineyards and with a sprinkling of villages off to our right, against the hills. It was a bright and warm day and we were in much brighter spirits, heading for the sun of Provence. First, we checked out a couple of hotels for future stays in this region. One of them, a two star, surprised us with its big rooms, pool and lovely surroundings in a picture-book hamlet surrounded by vines. It beat the daylights out of the three star we’d just endured in Dijon. See – professional travelers make mistakes, too.
Arriving at our B&B on the edge of Gordes around 5:45 we were looking forward to checking in for our three-night stay. The innkeeper seemed surprised to see us. Guess she had a reason – we had no reservation! It turns out that Jim’s acceptance of their offer of July 22 was never received. Here we were, a full week later, and our room had just been rented two days before. There was not a room in the inn for us. Jenean was devastated, Jim was too tired to move. The owner got on the phone and found us a room in a nice B&B on the other side of town. The price was a little higher, but at least we had a room during this extremely busy time for tourism in Provence.
A reader writes:
That is not just an old bridge, it is Pont Julien, an ancient Roman structure that is remarkably intact after 2,000 years of use. Fortunately it’s now closed to traffic.
Nearby is a charming if modest restaurant of the same name, Le Pont Julien, where you can take your clients for a pleasant fixed-price lunch complete with local rose wine and personal service from Madame. In the courtyard, weather permitting.
Well, the inn found for us turned out to be magnificent. Jim loved the sweeping view from the terrace looking out over vast tracts of the Luberon as far as Roussillon and beyond. The room was large and beautifully appointed. We had plenty of fresh air due to the double balcony doors and the amazing force of the “mistral,” a strong north wind which comes through this part of France from time to time. At night, the lack of light pollution meant we had a spectacular view of the stars and the half moon rising yellow over the mountains to the east. If this was a mistake, then it was a mistake in our favor. We loved this place so much that we plan to take two special guests there in 2011 for a four or five night stay while we explore the region.
(We usually don’t divulge the names of our finds, as they are our finds, and we like to keep them special and private for our clients)
Fro the next couple of days we explored various regions of the Luberon. More about this in a later post.