Today, my office is a hotel balcony on the Cote d’Azur in southern France. There’s a view of a palm-lined promenade and the glittery Mediterranean—it’s as forget-me-not blue as the sky. Back home in Ireland, my neighbors are enduring unexpected April snow showers.
It’s a wonderful place for a vacation, but I’m here working. Part of last week’s workload was lounging on a sunny terrace in a little Provençal hill town and eating grilled magret de canard (duck breast). As food and drink stories always sell, I also felt obliged to sample some lavender honey ice-cream…
On this latest jaunt through southern France, “the work” hasn’t stopped. And with so many appellations of Rhone Valley red and rosé wines from Provence to try, I’m laboring well into the night…
Although I call what I do work, others might call it indulgence. They’re not altogether wrong. Being a travel writer doesn’t only allow me to escape the long winter, it also lets me indulge many of my own passions.
For example, one day-trip last week was to the wine village of Chateauneuf du Pape. The surrounding vineyards produce one of the classic Rhone reds.
The only hardship about wandering around the village was the fact that I was driving. Being sensible, it meant passing up numerous free tasting samples. (Lesson learned: next time a wine village is on the itinerary, stay overnight.)
Travel writers get the chance to buy all kinds of lovely things from around the world. I haven’t a clue how much brightly patterned Provençal tablecloths sell for in North America. But I’d guess that if you find one, it’s more than the $13 I paid at St Cyr sur Mer’s Sunday street market.
Another southern France stopover where I could combine story material with shopping indulgence was Grasse, the world’s self-styled “perfume capital.” I joined a guided tour around the Fragonard parfumerie. I diligently took notes, then hit the factory shop to dither over which of the wonderful fragrances to buy.
Redolent of roses and gardenia, Belle de Nuit was irresistible. It’s pure perfume, not eau de parfum or eau de toilette. In the States you’ll pay around $113 for a 1fl oz bottle from an online retailer. In Fragonard’s Grasse outlet, the cost is an equivalent $48.
If I was in this part of southern France for a vacation, both St Cyr sur Mer and Grasse would be on my day-trip list. So when you know you’re getting paid to visit such places, it always intensifies the pleasure.
I always enjoy wandering around art towns, so I didn’t need much excuse to put the medieval hilltop village of St Paul de Vence on my itinerary too.
Chagall, Matisse and Renoir are only a few of the renowned painters who spent time here. Today, artists’ ateliers and galleries are around every corner of its labyrinthine stone streets. It’s a fascinating place to come if you’re seeking some original artwork.
If you’re new to travel writing, one way to build a story is around a theme—and every destination you visit should reward you with plenty of themes. And if you can combine a theme with a personal passion, all the better.
As Provence’s artistic heritage is staggering, I already have my theme.
Just for starters, Arles and St Remy inspired Vincent van Gogh; Renoir had a home in Haut de Cagnes; Picasso lived for a while in Mougins; Cezanne’s home town was the lovely harbor town of Antibes.
Art is woven through the fabric of this place. I’ll do the same when I write about it.
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